Nightmare on the High Plains Aloft, by Gail Garber, Executive Director

Please visit the Hawks Aloft Blog to read the article accompanied by numerous photographs. Visit our Facebook Page for detailed posts.

Imagine:  As dawn began its faint ascent on the eastern horizon, the young Bald Eagle roused atop a power pole, yanking one leg and foot back up into the warmth of his breast feathers on this chilly morning.  Soon, the prairie dogs that called the Navajo Agricultural Products (NAPI) fields would awake and the hungry eagle might find a meal. Suddenly, a loud pop reverberated and the eagle felt a blinding flash of pain in his left wing, falling to the ground in agony. As he lay there, not understanding the searing pain, two men hurried toward him. One held him down forcefully, and the other began pulling out his tail feathers one by one. Once finished, they left him there to die a slow death, no longer able to fly.

Fact:   March 16, 2018. This eagle, found by an unknown person, was driven to the Navajo Nation Zoological Park (NNZP), in what would become the first raptor rescue call that day. David Mikesic, Director, called to ask for transport help to get the eagle here. Larry and Kim Rimer drove the 3-1/2 hours to Window Rock to pick up the injured eagle, returning him to my home, where we transferred his travel crate to my car for the drive to Santa Fe. His next trip was to to meet Ty Horak and Nirankar Ambriz, who drove him to his final destination: Cottonwood Rehab in Espanola. There, Kathleen Ramsay, DVM provided critical triage, and examined his fractured elbow. Surgery followed the next day and it appeared to be successful. However, the unknown length of time the eagle lay on the roadside had caused a massive infection that later took his life. 

Imagine:  A few days later, a Golden Eagle waited for dawn, hoping for an easy meal of prairie dog at the massive colony adjacent to NAPI. BOOM!

Fact:  March 21, 2018. Another phone call from the NNZP, another shot eagle with tail feathers pulled. NNZP drove the bird to Albuquerque, where Arlette Miller, raptor rescue dispatcher, then drove the eagle to Espanola. Emergency surgery, again by Kathleen Ramsay, revealed the wingtip was already dead and would have to be removed. This adult Golden Eagle would have to spend the rest of his life in captivity, no longer able to fly. However; without his hunting prowess to feed his mate and nestlings, his 2018 nest certainly failed as his eggs/hatchlings would not be old enough to be left alone so the female could hunt. He is thriving under captive care and will eventually be returned to the NNZP, where his nightmare can be shared with their visitors.

Imagine:  A shot rang out at NAPI, pre-dawn, and the big female Golden Eagle fell from her power pole perch. Pain seared through her wing, while two men held her down and yanked out her tail feathers. Then, she was alone, in agony, unable to fly, and waiting to die.

Fact:  March 30, 2018. Shot on NAPI fields, a NAPI staff member found the eagle. Chad Smith picked the bird up and drove it to NNZP arriving at 10pm, where he and David Mikesic administered triage. Chad then drove her to Albuquerque, on March 31, 2018 and transferred her to Arlette Miller who took her to Petrogplyph Animal Hospital where Dr. Kariana Atkinson performed triage and took X-ray

April 2, 2018. Dr. Kari and her colleagues, Dr. Ray Hudgell and Dr. Mike Melloy, performed surgery to repair the humerus bone, inserting many pins and an external fixator device that will hold everything in place while the bone heals. There is optimism that she might be releasable, but it will be months before releasability can be determined and for her tail feathers to regrow if the feather follicles have not been damaged.

Both the US Fish and Wildlife and the Navajo Department of Game and Fish are investigating and rewards are offered for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator. 

It is taking a statewide and national community to help these birds and to search for the criminals who committed these barbaric acts. Thank you to:

Kariana Atkinson, DVM
Nirankar Ambriz
Eldon Brown, FWS
Cottonwood Rehab
The Daily Courier
Farmington Daily Times
The Grant County Beat
KANW Radio - Albuquerque
KOAT TV – Albuquerque
KOB TV – Albuquerque
KRQE TV -- Albuquerque
Ty Horak
Katrina Hucks
Ray Hudgell, DVM
Mike Melloy, DVM
David Mikesic
Arlette Miller
Lori Paras
National Public Radio
Navajo Agricultural Products, Inc.
Navajo Department of Game and Fish
Navajo Times
Petroglyph Animal Hospital
Kathleen Ramsay, DVM
Larry and Kim Rimer
Las Cruces Sun News
Santa Fe Raptor Center
Chad Smith
Katie Wade, FWS
USA Today
US News
US Fish and Wildlife Service, Law Enforcement
The 200,000+ individuals that commented, shared, or viewed the story on Facebook and Instagram
Saving the Eagle, by Katrina Hucks, Raptor Rescue Coordinator

I recently had the incredible opportunity to observe surgery on the female Golden Eagle that was shot near Farmington. As Dr. Kari Atkinson of Petroglyph Animal Hospital cleaned the area around the gunshot wound, I could see that it was swollen and bleeding. The shot had left her humerus broken with bullet fragments littering her wing muscles. What a terrible position to be reduced down to–an apex predator lying unconscious on an operating table.

As Drs. Atkinson, Hudgell, and Melloy scrubbed up to go into surgery, I watched from the window of the operating room. They placed a large pin in her humerus, joining the longest part of the bone to the small fragment. They placed smaller pins perpendicular to the inner pin, creating the framework for the external fixator device. After the pins were placed, they were affixed using a mixture that looked quite a bit like concrete. This mixture hardened around the pins, creating a splint-like device that will be used to keep her wing in the best place to be able to heal. Only time will tell if she will regain flight, but thanks to the caring hearts of Navajo Nation Zoo, the veterinarians at Petroglyph, and HAI staff and volunteers, she has a second chance at life.

Dr. Kari Atkinson holds the Golden Eagle as she wakes up from surgery. Image by Katrina Hucks.
Signs of Spring, by Julia Davis, Education Coordinator

Having lived in the Pennsylvania for the majority of my life, signs of spring, for me, included skunk cabbage peaking through the snow, wood frogs and spring peepers chirping, glittering fireflies, and rain ... a lot of rain. Spring is different in Albuquerque. Since I don’t ring in spring with the sounds of frogs, sight of fireflies, and the smell of skunk cabbage I measure it in a trip to Monte Vista, the end of Living with the Landscape school programs, and a sense of joy that the days are getting longer.
Longer days make it feel like we can fit in and do all the stuff we need to get done at Hawks Aloft, at least for me. It will be a full on sprint from now until mid-May with spring break being over. We finished up Living with the Landscape school visits but the program itself still has family nights and field trips before students fill out their post survey and move into summer vacation. April is packed full with weekend outreach events, including our first time tabling at the Gathering of the Nations at Expo New Mexico April 27 th and 28 th and a trip to Las Cruces for a new Harry Potter program. May is booked up solid, but we still have a few Tuesdays and Thursdays available in April. If anyone would like to schedule a spring program, please contact me to schedule.
Adopt-A-Raptor Today!
Help support our non-releasable raptors through our Adopt-a-Raptor program. Hawks Aloft houses and cares for 25 permanently disabled raptors (and one corvid!). Our Avian Ambassadors travel throughout the Southwest, helping us to educate the public about how to help protect these beautiful animals. We provide them with top-quality housing, food, and medical care for their entire lives. It costs an average of $2000/mo. just for their food. When you adopt a raptor, you help feed our birds, make home improvements, and provide veterinary care for one avian ambassador of your choice. Prices range from $35-$100 depending on the species.   

 Click here to Adopt a Raptor  such as Flame, our very tiny Flammulated Owl, photographed here by Larry Rimer. When you adopt a Hawks Aloft raptor you will receive:  

  • A one-year Hawks Aloft membership 
  • An Adoption Certificate 
  • An information sheet about the individual bird you have adopted 
  • Exclusive access to video updates about your bird 
  • Your choice of: 
A professional 8×10 photo of your bird, or  
A stuffed Audubon Bird with realistic vocalizations  
A Brief Update from the Office by Angela Green, Office Manager

It’s been a while since my last update, so I thought I’d write a little about what’s been happening around the office in 2018.

Our nine-year-old copier finally gave up the ghost—jams and strange noises plagued us on a daily basis. This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise; now we have a newer, faster copier that even prints in color! Needless to say, we’re thrilled with this piece of office equipment.

As our vehicles also continue to age, we are finding that an ever increasing portion of our resources is dedicated to repairs. During the last week in March, Bari Lee Silver donated Saturn station wagon with only 124,000 miles for education programs. What a gift that was!

Speaking of gifts, have you checked out our online store lately? We’ve been adding new merchandise this year. A couple of our finds are larger stuffed animals (a hit for the kids!) and gorgeous boxed notecards. We are also looking into selling bird-themed artwork from local artists at events. If you needed a reason to visit our booth at an upcoming event, now you have it!

We’re currently working hard on the New Mexico Wildlife Rehabilitators Alliance’s first symposium. It should be a great day, and we look forward to seeing some of you there.
Raptor Handling Class

Raptor Handling classes are the perfect time to hone your raptor handling skills. Get to experience one-on-one time with various educational birds, learn their personal stories, and the biology of their species. Become one of our 'expert' handlers at outreach events.
Raptor Handling Class:
Saturday, April 14
10:00 a.m. - Noon
At the Hawks Aloft Office

No walk-ins allowed, as we plan the agenda and birds according to registrations and staff availability. Please call 505-828-9455 to reserve your space in the class, or e-mail Julia
Attention all rescuers!

We will hold a special Raptor Rescue training session for rescuers of all levels of experience:
Wednesday May 2, 2018
5:30 PM
At the Hawks Aloft Office

For new rescuers, this will be a valuable opportunity to learn how to capture and transport raptors and learn from others. For seasoned rescuers, this would be a great time to brush up on your skills and teach any newcomers about tips and tricks you’ve found helpful on rescues.

In this session, we will cover:
  • Materials needed
  • Secure Raptor holds
  • Capture techniques
  • People skills – informing and connecting with callers

Please join us for this valuable learning session. Pre-registration is required!
Contact Katrina to sign up.
When Field Work Does Not Go According to Plan, by Amanda Schluter, Biologist

This spring has me believing that the weather may be conspiring against Hawks Aloft’s field studies. During December and January, when our field work took place in Albuquerque, the weather was sunny and warm. As soon as we begin to schedule trips to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and El Segundo coal mine to begin monitoring for breeding raptors, the weather turned cold with a chance of precipitation. The week of March 19 th, the raptor monitoring crew spent a few nights camping in very cold weather in the Upper Rio Grande gorge. There was one point while hiking out to a Golden Eagle nest in the cold wind and rain that it began to hail, hitting us in the face; I quietly thought: This is not such a good idea.

Sadly, that was not the only occasion this month that I had the same thought. On the last Tuesday in March, while driving out to El Segundo mine, located northwest of Grants, it began to snow. The snow began to get deeper and deeper, forcing Katrina and I to turn around.

Despite the field crew and I having to brave the severe elements, we all agree that we would not trade this work for anything else in the world! We get to see some of the most beautiful places and wildlife out there. Seeing the Golden Eagle sitting on their active nest makes up for the weather trying to thwart our efforts.

Image of Golden Eagle nest by Larry Rimer
Support Hawks Aloft by Shopping at Smith's!

Many of you have long been Hawks Aloft supporters, and a good number of you have also been longtime Smith’s shoppers. For those not in the know, the grocery chain has a program that provides a small kick-back quarterly to nonprofits when their supporters link their shopper’s cards to the organization.

The company recently changed their policies regarding the program—so even if you’ve signed up in the past, you may need to do it again! The good news is that it is easy to do.

1)      Go to Smith's Foods
2)      Either create an account or sign-in to an existing one
3)      Once logged in, click on “Account Summary” on the left sidebar
4)      From there, scroll down to “Inspiring Donations Program” and click “Enroll”
5)      A searchable list will come up, you can either search for “Hawks Aloft” or enter our ID number for the program, GL430
6)      Shop using your card and now that every time you do so, you help out Hawks Aloft!

We appreciate your ongoing support in this, and so many other capacities!
Guatemala: Birding the Highlands and Lake Atitlán
with Hawks Aloft and Holbrook Travel
January 26 – February 5, 2019
Passerini's Tanager. Image by Kristin Brown

Guatemala is a richly diverse cultural center and a lush and vibrant paradise for birders. On this 10-day journey, you'll have the chance to explore a variety of habitats, seek out rare and endemic species, and meet with locals who are part of the Audubon bird-tourism initiative in Santiago Atitlán, a hub of Maya culture.

Here, at high elevations in the heart of Central America, Hawks Aloft is partnering with Holbrook Travel and Flyway Expeditions to bring our friends an experience like no other. We’ll seek out rare and native species in this region of Guatemala, which is nestled in the middle of one of the world’s prime migratory corridors. Birders will also have the opportunity to connect with locals who care about conservation through Audubon’s bird-tourism initiative, Santiago Atitlán. A portion of the proceeds of this excursion will be donated to conservation efforts in Guatemala.
See a detailed description on our website , or check out a full itinerary and register for this epic trip on Holbrook Travel’s website . We can’t wait to experience Guatemala with you!
*Check out an upcoming calendar of events, as well as thank-you's after the Photographer's Gallery*
Photographers Monthly Gallery - Doug Brown

This month, we feature the images of Doug Brown, an internationally recognized photographer, and a long-time contributor to Hawks Aloft.

When not knocking people out (he's a cardiac anesthesiologist by day), Doug Brown is a BBC prizewinning photographer best known for images of birds in flight. Doug is a moderator at in the Avian: Image Critique forum. You can see his photos in the smartphone application iBird. His work has been published in 'New Mexico Magazine,' 'Western Birds' and 'Aloft' and his photos are utilized extensively in 'A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque' and the new book 'Raptors of New Mexico.' Doug enjoys leading photo tours in the US and to Costa Rica, his favorite international destination for bird photography. His last two workshops were sold out.

Doug and two of our other favorite photographers, Keith Bauer andd Greg Basco , are leading a workshop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Visit Doug's Website to view his spectacular images and to learn more about upcoming workshops.

Below are four Central American specialties, photographed during Doug's most recent trip and workshop in Costa Rica. Images Below:

  1. King Vulture
  2. Red-legged Honeycreeper
  3. Chestnut-headed Oropendula
  4. Scarlet Macaw
Upcoming Events - Please Join Us!
Wednesday, April 11
Bel-Air Elementary School
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Living with the Landscape
Family Outreach Booth

Wednesday, April 18
Grants Agricultural Day
8:30 a.m. – 2:15 p.m.
School Outreach Booth

Saturday, April 21
Thomas Branigan Library
Las Cruces, NM
Single Visit Birds of Prey

Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28
Expo New Mexico
9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Gathering of the Nations

Wednesday, May 2
Bel-Air Elementary School
Elena Gallegos Open Space
10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Living with the Landscape Field Trip

Saturday, May 5
Bernina Open House
9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Community Outreach Booth

Monday, May 7
Mountain View Elementary School
Rio Grande Nature Center
10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Living with the Landscape Field Trip

Tuesday, May 8
Lowell Elementary School
Elena Gallegos Open Space
10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Living with the Landscape Field Trip

Thursday, May 10
Matheson Park Elementary School
Elena Gallegos Open Space
10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Living with the Landscape Field Trip

Friday, May 11
Valle do Oro NWR
7:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Mountain View Field Day

Saturday, May 12
Location TBD
1 – 2:30 p.m.
Single Visit Birds of Prey

Tuesday, May 15
Lowell Elementary School
Elena Gallegos Open Space
10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Living with the Landscape Field Trip

Thursday, May 17
Matheson Park Elementary School
Location TBD
10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Living with the Landscape Field Trip
Thank you to our March Donors!

Angela Anderson
Joan Armer
Janet Beasley
Charles Brandt
Douglas & Kristen Brown
Mary Bruesch
Cheryl Cathcart
Niels Chapman
Vickie Dern
David DeWitt
Christine Ford
Nancy & Bryan Hall
Tom Hora
Kathryn Karnowsky
Connie Kelley
Greg Knussmann
Richard Lutz
Michael Lynch
Mary O'Nette Productions
Jan Mathews
Arlette MIller
Dr. Michael & Sheri Milone
Damie Nelson
Dave Parsons
Jeff & Chellye Porter
Michael & Cheryl Quaintance
Rhonda Rivera
Sam Sanborn
Virginia Sillerud
Thomas Stewart
Byron & Joyce Sutter
Daisan Taylor-Glass
Debbie Weissman
Joseph White
Christie Wilcox
Vicki Wilmarth

March's Rescue Intakes

Cooper’s Hawk – back or pelvis fracture

Cooper’s Hawk – humerus fracture

Great Horned Owl – wing injury

Cooper's Hawk – hit by car

Great Horned Owl – endoparasites

* If you have any information about the following birds shot at the Navajo Agricultural Products Inc facility, please report to the Albuquerque USFWS Law Enforcement Office (505-346-7828) or Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife (928-221-9114)

Bald Eagle (juvenile) – shot in wing, all tail feathers pulled

Golden Eagle (male) – shot in wing, all tail feathers pulled

Golden Eagle (female) – shot in wing, all tail feathers pulled

Our Veterinarians and Rehabilitators

Kariana Atkinson, DVM

Linda Contos, DVM

Cottonwood Rehabilitation Center

Mikal Deese, A Wing and a Prayer

Desert Willow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Eye Care for Animals

Ray Hudgell, DVM

Gavin Kennard, DVM, DACVO

Daniel Levenson, DVM

Mike Melloy, DVM

New Mexico Wildlife Center

Bob Peiffer, DVM, PhD

Petroglyph Animal Hospital

Kathleen Ramsay, DVM

Santa Fe Raptor Center

Southwest Veterinary Medical Center

Sammue Uhrig, DVM

Ventana Animal Clinic

Raptor Rescue Team

Nirankar Ambriz
Donna Borowsky
Sophia Borowsky
Charles Cummings
Julia Davis
Mikal Deese
Tim Florence
Maggie Grimason
Bill Houston
Kaiti King
Jeannine Kinzer
Dean Klassy
Maurice Mackey
Arlette Miller
Lisa Morgan
Chellye Porter
Larry Rimer
Emiliano Salazar
Amanda Schluter
Anita Sisk
Sue Small
Mary Smith

Field Survey Teams

Amanda Schluter
Jeannine Kinzer
Bob Kipp
Everett Ogilivie
Larry Rimer
Tom Ryan
Wendy Brown
Ed Clark
Charles Cummings
Vicki Dern
Trevor Fetz
Gail Garber
Fred Hashimoto
Joan Hashimoto
Kay Jackson
Maurice Mackey
Arlette Miller
Dave Parson
Chellye Porter
Renee Robillard
Allison Schacht
Diana Schlies
Mary Smith
Mary Walsh
Christie Wilcox
Chuck Brandt
Mary Bruesch
Ed Chappelle
Gill Clarke
Roger Grimshaw
Jerry Hobart
Bonnie Long
Donna Royer
Susan Russo
Sam Sanborn
Martin Schelble
Steve Youtsey
Education and Outreach

Sophia Borowsky
David Buckley
Chuck Brandt
Mary Bruesch
Ruth Burstrom
Ed Chappelle
Mary Chappelle
Niels Chapman
Dagny Cosby
Charles Cummings
Rebecca Ezechukwu
Tim Florence
Angela Green
Ava Gutierrez
Bryan and Nancy Hall
Jerry Hobart
Bill Houston
Jennifer Jeffery
Karen Jeffery
Karen Kennedy
Dean Klassy
Kaitlyn King
Jeannine Kinzer
Robert Kipp
Molly Lord
Maurice Mackey
Evelyn McGarry
Arlette Miller
Chellye Porter
Marnie Rehn
Elizabeth Roberts
Dianne Rossbach
Allison Schacht
Rebecca Szymanski
Bruce Sisk
Anita Sisk
Sue Small
Cindy Treme
Who We Are

Gail Garber, Executive Director
Trevor Fetz, Lead Avian Biologist
Julia Davis, Education Coordinator
Angela Green, Office Manager
Maggie Grimason, Senior Editor
Katrina Hucks, Biologist and Raptor Rescue Coordinator
Everett Oglivie, Statistician
Amanda Schluter, Field Biologist
Our Board of Directors

Carter Cherry, Chair
Mary Chappelle, Treasurer
Terry Edwards, Director
Alwyn VanDerwalt , Director
Jim Findley, Emeritus