from Wheeler Peak Wilderness Yields Exciting Discovery, The Taos News, July 2018
In the rocky crags above Williams Lake, three intrepid birder-scientists confirmed the presence of a bird species not observed breeding in New Mexico for nearly 30 years.
Luke George, Jill Wussow, and Raymond VanBuskirk hiked into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, camped overnight near the lake, then spent five grueling hours the next day inspecting the bowls and talus slopes of New Mexico’s highest peaks. On June 13, VanBuskirk dispatched this report to eBird (an international database of bird sightings administered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology), and the news telegraphed around the state:
“We found ourselves above 12,000 feet in some of the highest reaches of the greater Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area. It was here, amongst unstable scree, alpine snowfields, and inaccessible crags, that we found a pair of brown-capped rosy-finches carrying nest material to a crevice high on a 90-degree cliff face.”
What may be most important here is that the finches carried nest material, so we leap to what is possible: the promise of hatchlings and the reclamation of this iconic landscape for at least one species. Spied from afar, the birds were mere specks upon a snowfield where they foraged for seeds and insects frozen on the surface.
“It’s like they’re walking along a dinner plate and just picking things off,” mused George, science director at Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. more
from Enchanting Burrowing Owls, The Taos News June 2017
Mr. J., a rancher who prefers not to be identified, said that when you stand on a tractor or a combine for eight hours a day, you see a lot of stuff, contradicting notions that numbers of burrowing owls are declining.
“Burrowing owls are all over Taos County,” he said. A no-nonsense kind of person, Mr. J. explained how he’s worked pastures up and down the county. On this particular pasture, he runs cattle in the winter and dryland farms in the summer.
But how can a farmer disc the land, blade over prairie dog burrows and not hurt owls? Mr. J. has an answer. But first, you need to know that folks have strong opinions about prairie dogs. more
from Trials and Tribulations of Rufous Hummingbird, The Taos News August 2015
Director of Klamath Bird Observatory and conservation biologist at Tuscon’s Desert Museum weigh-in on the conservation status of the Rufous Hummingbird. more
from Los Pinonjeros: Our Forest Planting Vecinos, The Taos News, January 2015
I opened the turquoise painted door of the Territorial-style building (home to Natural Heritage New Mexico on UNM’s Albuquerque campus), walked along slightly tilting floors, climbed a narrow staircase, and knocked at the office of UNM research biologist, Dr. Kristine Johnson. I’d come to learn about the Pinyon Jay, specifically what can us plain folk do to help stop its precipitous decline. more
from Birdwatching Magazine, March 2013
Eye to eye with a hawk is a singular moment. I settle into a gentle, firm hold. The feathers are surprisingly soft, the weight slight, the heartbeat a tender, rapid pulse against my thumb. An unblinking yellow-orange iris lasers me with a wild stare. I step closer to the canyon’s edge, lift my arms, and the young hawk is aloft. more
from “Boundaries,” Drinking From the Stream, Nighthawk Press, 2013
To stand at the source of the Rio Grande is a simple enough conceit, neither too long a journey nor too costly. Molly and I plan to drive along the river as far as we can, then walk. The drive never gives way to wildness. From Del Norte to Creede, the “Silver Thread Scenic Byway” is well traveled, pulsing with Broncos and Land Rovers and the hum of RVs. more
from A Springtime Miracle: Songbird Migration, The Taos News, April 2015
Surely, one of the most striking birds in the Americas is the Western Tanager. La Tangara capucha roja arrives in Northern New Mexico in large numbers by mid-May….How it makes such a long journey has been the subject of much debate and research. more
Birding has a lot in common with (ahem) fantasy football. There can be teams. Big days. Drama. Apps for smart phones. Winner and losers. Or… birding has nothing in common with fantasy football. Instead, there is companionship and solitude. List-making in small memo books. Brief, memorable sightings. more