Change is in the Air, by Gail Garber, Executive Director

Interestingly, this was the title of my article last month, extolling all things positive. By now, if you are a Hawks Aloft member, you will have received your copy of Aloft magazine, that features the lengthy article, "Corrales Drainside Vegetation in Peril ," by Trevor Fetz . There, he details the decline in avian density and species richness within the Corrales bosque, with emphasis on the drainside vegetation threatened by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), and the powers that be in the Village of Corrales. Despite extensive restoration of large swaths of this bosque by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), bird numbers continue to languish to lows found in the drought years of 2011-2014, although bird numbers are recovering in other reaches beyond Corrales.

Perhaps part of the answer can be found in the ever-present, small clearing of patches of this bosque - Death by a Thousand Cuts - endless fragmentation of what had been the premier bird habitat within the 79 miles of riparian corridor adjacent to the Rio Grande and our study area. In April 2017, MRGCD, the Corrales Fire Department and NM State Forestry determined there was an urgent need to clear the southernmost section of their bosque, the land immediately adjacent to Alameda Blvd. Representatives of MRGCD verbally assured me that this essential fire reduction clearing would not extend beyond the southernmost set of jetty jacks, about 100 meters.

The scene above was photographed today, a newly cleared area, extending northward from the previously cleared area, doubling the size of the original project. The two cleared areas combined total a nearly 1/4 mile patch that now supports only a monotypic cottonwood stand with zero understory, the habitat component essential to healthy bird and wildlife populations. The clearing encroaches even further into the USACE habitat restoration site that includes both willow swale and upland restoration.

Apparently, whoever decided upon and authorized this new clearing, accomplished their task with no transparency, no notice to USACE, no notice to the public and no communication with the Corrales Bosque Commission as best as could be determined on short notice.

It's no wonder that, if Corrales management continues on this path, that their bird numbers will fall to levels found in the Rio Rancho bosque, where management decisions have have resulted in the lowest avian density and richness levels of any land management area within our 79-mile long Middle Rio Grande bosque study area.

With a Chop-Chop Here
And a Chop-chop There
Here a Chop
There a Chop . . .

And, the Winner Is ...?

We drew the winning raffle ticket for our 2017 quilt on December 2, at our annual Holiday Party, hosted in grand style by Niels Chapman. Unfortunately, we have so far been unable to reach that person. A second ticket also was drawn and, if the first person cannot be contacted by January 2, it will then be awarded to the second winner. Stay tuned!

Volunteer of the Year - 2017
Chuck Brandt
At our annual holiday party, hosted again
by the inimitable Niels Chapman, we recognize one volunteer who has demonstrated outstanding contributions to Hawks Aloft. This year's recipient, Chuck Brandt, has been actively involved in the organization since its inception in 1994, when he was one of the founders. Chuck contributes in many different arenas, from raptor monitoring to education and outreach, raptor rescue, and he also is one of our monthly contributors! Thank you Chuck, for all that you do!
Thank you to Niels Chapman too, for organizing and hosting another incredible party!

Welcome Katrina Hucks, Our New Naturalist and Raptor Rescue Coordinator!

My name is Katrina Hucks, and I am the new naturalist and raptor rescue coordinator for Hawks Aloft! I grew up primarily in eastern Oklahoma and loved being outside. My passion for birds began the summer before my freshman year of college, after holding my first hummingbird, while participating in an undergraduate research program at the University of Central Oklahoma. lt was so tiny! I was sold from that point on, and I did all I could to learn the common birds of Oklahoma. I conducted undergraduate research with marshbirds and grassland sparrows throughout my four years at UCO. I graduated in 2014 with a BS in Biology, then went on to receive my MS in Biology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2017. My thesis project consisted of mapping and modeling the distributions of waterbirds and marsh habitat in an extremely vulnerable ecosystem. I’ve been involved in various things since then, including working at an environmental education facility in the Great Smoky Mountains as well as conducting an annual raptor migration count in Panama. Now I’m at Hawks Aloft, and I’m excited to be here.

At Hawks Aloft, my work consists of songbird and raptor surveys, as well as coordinating
volunteers for raptor rescues. I had a busy first week at Hawks Aloft, starting off right away with learning my routes for songbird surveys and seeing some new patients. A Great Horned Owl with a severe wing injury was brought in after being struck by a vehicle but, unfortunately, did not survive. Our next patient was an American Crow with no apparent injuries, however, its condition is still being assessed. A Northern Saw-whet Owl also came in last week after being found in a Christmas tree lot! Thanks to our awesome volunteers for bringing the birds in: Larry Rimer, Dean Klassy, and Eric Hoke. Charles Cummings also went out on a call about an injured owl alongside I-40, but was unable to locate the bird. I was able to help coordinate the transfer of two Red-tailed Hawks and a Ferruginous Hawk from our Mikal Deese, a local rehabber, to the Santa Fe Raptor Center, allowing them to continue their rehabilitation journey there.

As the season goes on, we will get more calls for raptor rescues. If you’re interested in helping out with raptor rescue by picking up injured birds or managing the Raptor Rescue Hotline for a few days, please let me know by contacting me at We are always in need of a friendly voice or helping hand. I look forward to working with the Raptor Rescue Team and getting to know the other wonderful people that support Hawks Aloft.
The Winter Field Season is Here,
by Trevor Fetz, Lead Avian Biologist

As November comes to a close, preparations are ramping up for the Middle Rio Grande Songbird Study's winter field season. Most of my month was spent in front of the computer working on data entry and data analysis. But, I spent several days in the field trying to reclaim our transect routes from the massive vegetation growth of last summer. The kochia growth in the bosque this year was particularly large and well beyond anything that has occurred over the past seven or eight years. Most of the routes needing maintenance that Amanda, Gail, and Katrina will survey this winter are ready to go. But, I didn't get to any of my own routes. Thus, there are a number of transects where I will be bushwhacking while surveying in December.

Amanda, Larry Rimer, and I led an enjoyable, but not very productive raptor tour during Bosque del Apache's Festival of the Cranes. The tour participants seemed to enjoy themselves, but we were disappointed in the diversity of species. Cranes and Snow Geese were, of course, plentiful. But, we only documented six raptor species (American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier). Duck diversity also was very low, as we primarily encountered Northern Pintail, Mallard, and American Wigeon. Our most exciting duck was a single, male Canvasback. Songbird diversity was miniscule. We did have a flock of Wild Turkeys cross the road in front of us, which was a highlight for many of the participants. The unseasonably warm weather throughout the fall likely allowed many birds to linger in areas they would normally vacate, resulting in lower numbers in traditional fall hot spots. It will be interesting to see what bird density and diversity is like in the bosque when we start winter surveys in December. 

Dark morph juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, photographed by Larry Rimer.
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  

The Snowy Owl,
by Angela Green, Office Manager

As winter draws near, thoughts often turn to snow; however, my thoughts have turned to the striking
Snowy Owl.

The Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus, is a primarily white owl which is largely found in the arctic tundra.
Males tend to be all white, while the larger females are white with darker markings. It is a rather unique owl in that it hunts primarily during the day. This is due to the abundance of summer sunshine in its arctic habitat. Also, because of this behavior, its eyes are smaller than other owl’s eyes. It is interesting to note that, because these owls live on the tundra, they hunt from and nest on the ground.

Although the Snowy Owl will eat a variety of mammals and birds (even birds as large as geese!), one of its favorite foods is lemmings, which are small rodents similar to mice. When the lemming population is high, the Snowy Owl population tends to be high as well. In fact, in years with abundant lemmings, Snowy Owls have been known to raise twice the number of offspring.

Every four years or so, lemming populations drop, and this nomadic bird must travel in search of food. During these times, they can be found in northern and central parts of the U.S. Snowy Owls have been found as far south as Oklahoma—and a few years ago, one was even spotted in Hawaii! From its snow-white plumage to its diurnal lifestyle, this is a truly fascinating bird.

Snowy Owl, image by Doug Brown.
Birds of Bosque del Apache, by Amanda Schluter, Field Biologist

This was my first year helping out during the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. On Tuesday, November 14th, I helped Gail Garber lead a bus tour of the Wildlife Refuge and again on Wednesday, November 15th with lead biologist Trevor Fetz and volunteer Larry Rimer. Both tours went well, and each of our groups were able to observe a variety of raptors and songbirds. Tuesday's tour was even lucky enough to observe a Bald Eagle eat its favorite prey during the winter, an American Coot.

On Saturday and Sunday, I had a lot of fun helping identify birds and sharing more information about Hawks Aloft with visitors on the flight deck of the wildlife refuge. Volunteers Ruth Burstrom, Niels Chapman, Chellye Porter, Chuck Brandt, Allison Schacht, Arlette Miller, Jerry Hobart, and Ed Chappelle traded shifts throughout the day to help out as well. Saturday brought high winds, but Sunday was calm. The species most commonly observed were Northern Pintails, American Coots, Pied-billed Grebes, Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, and various songbirds along the shore. On both days, an adult Bald Eagle ate a prey item on the nearby snag and, while eating, it was joined by an immature Bald Eagle perched above and hoping for a bite. Eventually, the juvie gave up and went in search of its own meal. We also briefly observed a gull that was believed to be a 3rd year California Gull. Many others observed an American Bittern around the flight deck but it did not make an appearance while I was on deck. Despite missing the American Bittern, I had a really great time at the Festival of the Cranes birding with my fellow enthusiasts.

Bosque del Apache NWR at dawn, photographed by Keith Bauer.

Valle de Oro NWR, a Wonderful Community Resource, by Julia Davis, Education Coordinator

Albuquerque is lucky to have such a wonderful resource in Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is located in the South Valley and was established on a former dairy farm. When the land went up for sale, the surrounding community worried the land would be sold off and developed. The community pulled together to preserve that land, purchasing it with the intention to turn it into an Urban National Wildlife Refuge, the first of its kind in the in the United States.  

We have partnered with the refuge in different ways over the years. Annually, we take students to the refuge on field trips, where we use the expansive outdoor classroom complete with nature trails, bird watching by the river, stumps for sitting, and plenty of forest and field for students to explore. We introduce many students, teachers, and parents to the refuge each year through Living with the Landscape field trips.  

We also participate in events throughout the year, like Valle de Oro birthday parties, Environmental Justice events, and Mountain View Elementary School field days. This year we also were invited to the Music and Migration event. The refuge staff were kind enough to set up a shade tent for Hawks Aloft so the birds would not overheat in their boxes. The music was a nice way to celebrate the Migration of the Sandhill Cranes with the community. 

For future events, our education team could really use our own shade tent. It would be nice to create a self-sufficient outreach kit that would allow us to drive to any event and set up for ourselves. Since this is not the case right now, I am grateful to the extra support organizations like Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge give to us. Please contact Julia if you have the ability to donate a shade structure for Hawks Aloft outreach events. The birds and the community will thank you!

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, January 13
10:00 a.m. – Noon
Saturday, February 3
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
The Faithful Turtle Dove, by Maggie Grimason, Senior Editor and Educator

There’s a reason why turtle doves come in pairs of two in that famous holiday song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” it’s because the European Turtle Dove—the bird we’re actually talking about here—mates for life. Similar to the Mourning Dove that we have here in New Mexico, the small, slender dove has earned a great deal of notoriety, even outside of music, much of it related to the “faithfulness” that keeps these birds paired off during their short life spans.

In fact, the turtle dove is mentioned in all sorts of popular media, like Home Alone 2: Lost in New York City, wherein the character of Kevin is gifted one half of a turtle dove pair ornament as a symbol of friendship. Humanity’s affinity for turtle doves goes much further back than the ‘90s, however. These common birds show up in the poetry of Shakespeare, Shaker hymns, in Roman mythology, and, in the Bible.

It was perhaps the Bible that kicked off the Turtle Dove’s storied role in human culture. They show up in an especially well-known verse in the Song of Songs, and in the New Testament, turtle doves are mentioned as a customary offering during the presentation of Jesus at the temple—a feast day now celebrated as Candlemas on February 2. It is that tendency of the European Turtle Dove (which, is actually found in the Middle East and Northern Africa as well) to mate for life that has made the bird such a powerful symbol of faithfulness, love, and fidelity in human literature and culture. With such a long history, when you sit down to sing carols this year, perhaps lines about the turtle dove will give you pause.

The image above, of a European Turtle Dove was obtained from Wikipedia.
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
Green Honeycreeper, image by Kristin Brown

Guatemala is a richly diverse cultural center and a lush and vibrant paradise for birders. Set in the heart of Central America, it is one of the New World’s prime migratory corridors. See firsthand many of the species Audubon hopes to protect through its ongoing conservation efforts. Experience National Audubon’s Asociación Vivamos Mejor program based in Panajachel on Lake Atitlán, including a training program for Guatemalans to become birding and nature guides. Under their guidance, you’ll 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. Birders who choose to take this tour will enjoy the vast, natural riches while supporting the community and protecting a diverse ecosystem.

Tucked into the beautiful highlands of the Sierra Madre range in Guatemala is beautiful Lake Atitlán, whose name is derived from the Nahuatl language, meaning “at the water.” 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. During this 10-day journey, 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.
Check out a full description and register for this epic trip on Holbrook Travel’s website .
We can’t wait to experience Guatemala with you!

Upcoming Events - Please Join Us!

Tuesday, December 12
Lowell Elementary School
9:45 a.m. –2:30 p.m.
Living with the Landscape

Wednesday, December 13
Double Eagle Elementary School
Time TBD
Single visit Birds of Prey

Thursday, December 14
Bel-Air Elementary School
9 a.m.–2:40 p.m.
Living with the Landscape

Saturday, January 6
Rio Grande Nature Center
10–11:30 a.m.
Hawk Talk

Thank you to our November Donors!

Coca-Cola Foundation

Carter & Susan Cherry

Keith Bauer/Greg Basco Photography

Lisa Crooks & Mike Hartshorne

Festival of the Cranes

PNM Resources Foundation

Niels Chapman

Denise Fligner

Sue Lyons

Kathryn Karnowsky

Charles Brandt

Janet Beasley

Amazon Smiles Foundation

United Way of Central New Mexico

Jerrett Koenigsberg

Tony & Davedda Thomas

Nick & Kris Nicolaus

Gayle Vance

Brandt Magic

Dave Parsons

Bruce & Anita Sisk

Sue Lyons
November's Rescue Intakes

Sharp-shinned Hawk - fractured radius or ulna

Great Horned Owl - Electrocution

Red-tailed Hawk - unrepairable wing injury

Common Nighthawk - emaciated

Red-tailed Hawk - Not flying

Western Screech-Owl - Injured wing

Common Poorwill - Severe wing injury

Great Horned Owl - Electrocution

Western Screech-Owl - Found in building of construction site

Cooper's Hawk - Unable to fly; possible pelvis or back injury

Great Horned Owl - Hit by train

Common Raven - Shot and unable to fly

Great Horned Owl - Hit by car; fractured wing

American Crow - Not flying

Northern Saw-whet Owl - Trapped in Christmas tree lot

We thank all of our rescuers who donate their time and mileage to ensure that these birds are delivered to the best facility for their care. To inquire about the status of an individual bird, please contact Katrina.
Thank you to Last Month's Volunteers!

Chuck Brandt– Outreach

Mary Bruesch–Raptor Mews Cleaning,Outreach

Ruth Burstrom– Outreach

Ed Chappelle–Outreach

Mary Chappelle–Outreach

Niels Chapman–Outreach

Dagny Cosby–Outreach

Charles Cummings - Raptor rescue; donated sheets

Angela Green–Outreach

Ava Gutierrez–Outreach

Bryan and Nancy Hall - Essential office and bird care supplies

Jerry Hobart– Designing and building the display cage for Flame; Outreach

Karen Kennedy–Outreach

Dean Klassy - Raptor Rescue; medical supplies

Allison Schacht–Outreach

Bruce Sisk–Outreach

Anita Sisk–Outreach

Sue Small–Outreach

Dianne Rossbach–Outreach

Molly Lord–Outreach

Evelyn McGarry - Mews Cleaning, Outreach

Arlette Miller–Mews Cleaning, Outreach

Chellye Porter–Outreach

Marnie Rehn–Mews Cleaning

Photographers Monthly Gallery - Editor's Choice

With so many outstanding photographers who generously donate their images for our use, we now host a photo library with nearly 100,000 images of all kinds. We so appreciate these donations because we never know when we will need an image of some obscure species, and thanks to you, we can nearly always locate one! This month, we've selected four of our favorites, in no particular order.

Are you a photographer? Are you interested in joining the Hawks Aloft photography team? We can promise you that we will always be sure to credit you for the use of each image and also abide by any other specific requirements of our agreement. Contact Gail if you are interested in participating.

Images in Order below (top to bottom):

Idaho, our educational, intermediate morph Swainson's Hawk, photographed by Keith Bauer.
Sandhill Crane at Bosque del Apache NWR, by Jim Keener.
Galapagos Penguin, photographed on Bartolome' Island, Galapagos Archipelago by Frank Dobrushken.
Cactus Finch, photographed on South Plaza Island, Galapagos Archipelago, by Rob Stambaugh.

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, Field Technician and Raptor Rescue Coordinator
Jeannine Kinzer, Raptor Rescue Dispatcher
Everett Oglivie, Statistician
Amanda Schluter, Field Biologist
Our Board of Directors

Carter Cherry, Chair
Mary Chappelle, Treasurer
Nancy Brakensiek, Secretary
Terry Edwards, Financial Advisor
Jim Findley, Emeritus