Tag Archives: birds

You want to see hawks? Get thee to Estancia Basin pronto.

Merri notes, “After reading Judy Liddell’s bird report for the Estancia Basin, we headed to Clements Road just south of I-40 and just outside of Estancia. Wide-open ranches dominate the landscape out there. Driving and walking down dirt roads, we saw more than TWENTY ferruginous hawks, 4 rough-legged hawks, 2 red-tails, 2 golden eagles, some kestrels, a merlin, 2 shrikes, tons of horned lark, and 30+ antelope. We walked across ranch land and down a country road.”

I’ll add that we had never knowingly seen ferruginous nor rough-legged hawks, making these lifers for us both. In fact, we saw so many of each in so many poses that it was a field-lesson. It made for a beautiful day trip.

After seeing all those hawks on our main walks of the day, we looked for Cienega Draw on Willow Lake Rd, which seem to me imaginative, not descriptive, in this oh-so dry landscape. That detour did take us past the Thunder Chicken Ranch, a great name for an ostrich farm.

We drove farther south toward the two large-ish lakes that appear on the map south of the correctional facility. One lake was full of snow — surprising with the temp above 50 — but no liquid. Before we got to the second lake, a Cadillac Esplanade pulled up next to us. The woman driving asked if we were lost. No, I said, we’re bird-watching and thought the lakes might have something. She seemed surprised, then said sometimes they see cranes. I said I thought this was a public road and she said, yes, a little farther until the gate to the Wrye Ranch, which we saw the northern edge of at Clements Rd — quite a large spread. She drove on and immediately after her Mr Wrye stopped in his truck, "You need help?" he asked and I said, no, we’re just out for a drive. They were polite and offering help is neighborly but they were likely suspicious of strangers on "their" road. After they passed, we went on to the gate and turned around. If there is a second lake, it is behind a very high berm on the south side of the road.

Returning to pavement, we stopped where cottonwoods bordered what may have once been a house, now just some rubble. Mer saw a bird land. She got out and took photos of a merlin, yet another bird of prey to end our day. peace, mjh

PS- I recommend Judy Liddell’s blog, It’s a Bird Thing…, as well as her book, Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico. If you can’t join her on a weekly birding trip, you can walk in her footsteps, as we have several times.

PPS- Real birders or twitchers (in Great Britain) keep lots of lists, including at least one Life List. I’m a bird watcher, not a birder. My Life List only includes birds I’ve photographed.

You want to see hawks? Get thee to Estancia Basin pronto. is a post from Ah, Wilderness! . Let me know what you think. peace, mjh

Spike the roadrunner is calling

Spike shows off his tailWe’ve been interacting with Spike the roadrunner for about 6 months. We see him almost daily. He’s not a pet – he’s leery of us, as he should be – but we know each other.

Spike has recently started calling, a sound we’ve never heard before. We’re familiar with the roadrunner call that sounds much like a mourning dove only more mournful. This call is a loud whoop. You can hear it in the first short video. I took the second video immediately after the call.



Spike in the rainIt’s warm and rainy in Albuquerque today – to call that unusual is tragic understatement. Spike has hunkered down on his rock in the front yard in a pose that reminds me of green herons or black-crowned night herons – no neck.

Spike the roadrunner is calling is a post from: Ah, Wilderness!. Thank you for subscribing. Let me know what you think. peace, mjh

Spike: the Movie


Let’s begin at the end of the tale: Don’t watch these short movies if you live in Disneyland. The first one is shorter (40 sec) with more behavioral displays – pause to see the riot of feathers. The second one is longer (2 min) with more tenderizing (and traffic noise).

Spike’s continuing story:

Spike: the Movie is a post from: Ah, Wilderness!. Thank you for subscribing. Let me know what you think. peace, mjh

Spike the Roadrunner (an update)

DSC09837I wrote about Spike the Roadrunner a month ago and here’s a little update with a few new photos (of the hundreds I’ve taken – he’s very photogenic, as you can see).

We had quite a scare a couple of weeks ago. Mer had fed Spike his morning mouse. We were standing within arm’s reach of Spike, who was perched on the wall between us and the neighbor’s yard. Suddenly, Spooky the black cat leapt from the far side of the wall and landed on Spike. It was as startling as any horror movie. Spike squawked, Mer shrieked, and I exclaimed, “Son of a Bitch!” to my own great surprise. Spike managed to fly off. Spooky disappeared – lucky for him, because I was stalking him brick in hand. Spike ran down the road toward Indian School and its traffic. We watched him run around the corner, so we knew he was probably OK but feared we’d never see him again.

To our great relief, Spike clattered for food from the rooftop the next morning. He looked a bit disheveled but uninjured. He doesn’t return every day or twice a day, as he used to, but we hope that means better chances for his survival.


Spike the Roadrunner (an update) is a post from: Ah, Wilderness!. Thank you for subscribing. Let me know what you think. peace, mjh

Spike, the roadrunner

Of course, we should let wildlife remain wild. Failing to do so puts them and us at risk. However, humans are often captivated by a wild creature that shows curiosity and expresses a unique personality. I’ve been observing roadrunners for over 25 years and I’ve never known one like Spike, as I think a few photos will show. Although he isn’t really our pet nor do we want him to be, if you name a creature, feed it, and miss it when it doesn’t show up, someone is a pet. Perhaps we are Spike’s.

DSC09375Roadrunners often expose their backs to the sun for warmth. The feathers there are particularly thin and sparse. However, I’ve never seen the posture Spike assumes in these two photos. (It was late afternoon and over 90 degrees – I doubt he was cold.)



Spike showed up one morning when we were feeding a turtle ground beef. He rattled, which may be a call for food or an expression of curiosity. Mer has learned to imitate him and he comes when she calls. As his surrogate mama, Mer showed him how to find worms in the compost and fed him a grasshopper (I missed that photo op).

When we told a friend at Hawks Aloft that we were feeding Spike ground beef, she said it wasn’t nutritious enough. So, we bought a bag of frozen mice from Hawks Aloft (“chocolate,” ie, brown). Spike figured out what to do immediately – he swung it by the tail and smashed it on the ground repeatedly. Yum, tender.

Spike, the young roadrunnerNote the delicate eyelashes. Keep in mind these are feathers, not hairs.

Like the desert itself, the colors of a roadrunner shift in the light from drab to iridescent green and blue, plus blue and orange eyeshadow.DSC09245

Spike, the young roadrunner

I was a little alarmed when an adult roadrunner showed up and took the burger ball from Spike, but that only happened once. However, Spike had a young friend with him one morning – we called her Alice (after “Spike and Alice,” derived from a card game called Spite and Malice – hat tip to the Mullanys).

See more pictures and videos.

Read an update with new photos (10/02/12)

Spike, the roadrunner is a post from: Ah, Wilderness!. Thank you for subscribing. Let me know what you think. peace, mjh

Los Lunas – Belen – Bernardo Birding Daytrip

I took a day trip to various birding hotspots south of Albuquerque, but not as far south as Mecca (Bosque del Apache). My guide was Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico, by Judy Liddell and Barbara Hussey, plus GPS and some time spent with Google Earth beforehand. One trip is not enough to evaluate these spots – their inclusion in the book may be enough of a rating. Certainly, I will return to Bernardo, which is so much closer than Mecca but *almost* as beautiful and bird-full (no place is as beautiful as Bosque del Apache). I wish Bosque del Apache would mimic the blinds and overlooks at Bernardo, which has two fantastic trails through high bushes around a pond.

Highlights included quite a few kestrels, a northern harrier at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, lots of sandhill cranes and snow geese, a song sparrow, and several rufous-sided towhees, all at Bernardo.

Los Lunas – Belen – Bernardo, New Mexico

Note: Photos contain GPS data and can be mapped online.

I had not luck locating Belen Waterfowl Management Area off Jarales Road (a lovely drive). The official map of the area is dreadfully vague. Nor did I see any indication along the road of Casa Colorada WMA.

See Judy Liddell’s blog for much more information: It’s a bird thing…

Los Lunas – Belen – Bernardo Birding Daytrip is a post from Ah, Wilderness! . Let me know what you think. peace, mjh

The Rio Grande Bosque is a treasure we all need to visit more

We’ve walked in various parts of the bosque (riparian woods, primarily cottonwoods) within Albuquerque over the years. A year ago, our walk resulted in one of my favorite photos of the year (coyote with ducks, a prize winner). This year, we watched a Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk) stand in the river, one foot pinning its prey in the current. And there was a disheveled merlin, a handsome shoveler, a snipe, and a plethora of robins. I’ve added 9 pictures to the album (19 total).

A Walk in Albuquerque’s Bosque

The Rio Grande Bosque is a treasure we all need to visit more is a post from Ah, Wilderness! . Let me know what you think. peace, mjh