Category Archives: birds

Black Canyon Campground near Santa Fe, NM

We camped near Santa Fe in a great little campground near the bottom of the ski basin road. Black Canyon CG has paved sites with great separation, clean outhouses, no hook-ups. It’s barely an hour from Albuquerque and near 8500 feet. There is a good trail out out of the campground and another to Hyde Park CG. There were lots of birds, lots of hummingbirds, even one magnificent hummingbird (twice the size of more common hummingbirds). See 20 photos.

our camper rig in site #14

hanging out at camp


Black Canyon Park Service webpage

CG details, site map, and reservations

What does the Keystone XL Pipeline have to do with billions of birds? | 10,000 Birds

You should read the entire blog entry, which strengthens my conviction that this pipeline — and the strip-mining that goes with it — must be stopped. Canada, how could you even consider this? peace, mjh

10,000 Birds | What does the Keystone XL Pipeline have to do with Birds?

All four major flyways in North America — the aerial migration routes traveled by billions of birds each year — converge in one spot in Canada’s boreal forest, the Peace-Athabasca Delta in northeastern Alberta.  More than 1 million birds, including tundra swans, snow geese and countless ducks, stop to rest and gather strength in these undisturbed wetlands each autumn.  For many waterfowl, this area is their only nesting ground2.

Birds and Tars Sands Oil Map

About three billion birds fly north to the Boreal Forest each spring to build nests and lay eggs. These birds arrive in the Boreal Forest after spending the winter in South and Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the United States. From the Boreal Forest Fact Sheet:

  • 325 bird species – that’s almost half of all the bird species in North America! – depend on the Boreal Forest.
  • About 3 billion of North America’s landbirds, 26 million of its waterfowl, and 7 million of its shorebirds breed here.
  • There are nearly 100 species of which 50% or more of the entire population breeds in the Boreal Forest.
  • Up to 5 billion birds – adults and their new babies – migrate south from the Boreal Forest each fall.

Back in 2008, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) wrote a report titled “Danger in the Nursery: Impact on Birds of Tar Sands Oil Development in Canada’s Boreal Forest” which covers various ways tar sand development affects bird populations including:

  • Habitat loss
  • Trailings ponds and oiled birds
  • Fragmentation of habitat from drilling
  • Water withdrawals
  • Air and water toxins
  • High emissions and climate change

10,000 Birds | What does the Keystone XL Pipeline have to do with Birds?

Stokes: Birding blog and new books

If you’re in the market for a photographic birding guide, check out the new guides from Lillian and Don Stokes.

I have The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America put out a few years ago. I like it a lot, although I was slightly disappointed that those photos aren’t nearly as dramatic as photos you’ll see on the Stokes blog. That may be different in the new guides. Be aware that there is an older version of the Western guide you don’t want — get the 2013 versions. peace, mjh 

To see the quality of Lillian Stokes’ photos, start by looking at the photos at the following link:

STOKES BIRDING BLOG: Swallow-tailed Kites have returned!

Then, check out:

Birding Is Fun!: The 10 Most Beautiful Birds

Finally, see the very detailed review of the books at the following link.

10,000 Birds | The New Stokes Field Guides to Birds, Eastern Region & Western Region: A Review of Two Books

I think these field guides will be a valuable asset to many birders’ field kits and libraries, especially if they have not yet invested in a photographic guide. Beginning and intermediate birders will find the abundance of clear, well-printed photographs of male and female birds, juvenile and adult, perched and flying, extremely helpful in the field, and the emphasis on shape a good teaching tool….

10,000 Birds | The New Stokes Field Guides to Birds, Eastern Region & Western Region: A Review of Two Books

Sam, Roady, and Hot Lips say we are not alone.

We knew others feed roadrunners. A neighbor feeds Spam or Vienna wieners to his pair, who could be Spike’s parents. They nest as close to his door as they can get and don’t roam far. Another neighbor fed “her” roadrunners raw chicken. But, we assumed we were the only ones foolish enough to pay for mice to feed to roadrunners — until we met Sam at Hawks Aloft. She has been feeding roadrunners for over 15 years. She believes Hot Lips, the crossbilled roadrunner, was over 20 years old. Roady lost a big part of his upper bill over 5 years ago, but with Sam’s help, Roady has raised several broods. Sam says she has hundreds of roadrunner grandbabies. Thankfully, she doesn’t have to feed them all store-bought mice. Even so, our rough guestimate of Sam’s running tab has us thinking twice. If Spike outlives us, do we have to provide for her? Maybe she’ll like Spam now and then. She gobbled up the mealworms we bought today.

Spike the Roadrunner

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.

Roaming cats kill up to 3.7B birds annually

Spike says, “Keep your cat indoors.”

Roaming cats kill up to 3.7B birds annually

Cats that live in the wild or indoor pets allowed to roam outdoors kill from 1.4 billion to as many as 3.7 billion birds in the continental U.S. each year, says a new study that escalates a decades-old debate over the feline threat to native animals.

The estimates are much higher than the hundreds of millions of annual bird deaths previously attributed to cats. The study also says that from 6.9 billion to as many as 20.7 billion mammals — mainly mice, shrews, rabbits and voles — are killed by cats annually in the Lower 48. The report is scheduled to be published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

“I was stunned,” said ornithologist Peter Marra of the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute. He and Smithsonian colleague Scott Loss, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Tom Will conducted the study.

Roaming cats kill up to 3.7B birds annually

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.

National Bird Day – 01-05-13

National Bird Day – Homepage

Why National Bird Day?

  • The beauty, songs, and flight of birds have long been sources of human inspiration.
  • Today, nearly 12 percent of the world’s 9,800 bird species may face extinction within the next century, including nearly one-third of the world’s 330 parrot species.
  • Birds are sentinel species whose plight serves as barometer of ecosystem health and alert system for detecting global environmental ills.
  • Many of the world’s parrots and songbirds are threatened with extinction due to pressures from the illegal pet trade, disease, and habitat loss.
  • Public awareness and education about the physical and behavioral needs of birds can go far in improving the welfare of the millions of birds kept in captivity.
  • The survival and well-being of the world’s birds depends upon public education and support for conservation.

This is the reason for National Bird Day. Join us!

National Bird Day – Homepage

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 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


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)