Darien: Under the Cuipo Tree!
by Gail Garber,
Executive Director

Ten strong, all of us New Mexico True! We set off for the adventure of a lifetime, at the end of the road and beyond! Our quest was a search for the elusive Harpy Eagle, the national bird of Panama, a powerful bird of prey and one of the largest in the world. Its rear talons are 3-4 inches long, comparable to those of a grizzly bear and its legs as thick as a human’s wrist. With a wingspan of up to 78 inches, it is found only in the rainforests of southern Central America and South America. They are tolerant of habitat disturbance and can persist with a mosaic of pasture and forest fragments. Unfortunately, the greatest threat to Harpy Eagles is direct persecution. Although they can breed close to human settlements, if left undisturbed, they often are shot, either to satisfy curiosity or because of the perceived threat of a large raptor to livestock. It is classified by BirdLife International as “near threatened”. It already is very rare or extirpated from the southern, and, especially, from the northern limits of its range.

Gifted with a long tail, and broad, rounded wings, like many forest raptors including North America’s accipiters, the Harpy Eagle’s wings are well suited to the forest canopy, enabling it to maneuver through dense vegetation with ease, where it hunts for medium-sized arboreal mammals such as sloths and monkeys. Their preferred nesting substrate is the cuipo tree that can reach heights of 40-60 meters (235’) found only in lowland rain forests. Like the Harpy Eagle, the cuipo is listed as “near threatened” due to habitat degradation, and forest clearing where it is overly harvested and illegally logged for lumber, canoes, and the production of rope. One of the largest remaining populations of the cuipo occurs in the Darien province. 

Following hours of relentless rain (it is the rain forest after all!), we set off for the end of the Pan-American Highway where it terminates at the village of Yaviza and boarded the small boat that would take us up the Rio Chucunague. We landed at the home of a native family who worked the expansive ranch and guarded the Harpy Eagle nest that they had found earlier, reporting their find to The Canopy Family as well as researchers at the Peregrine Fund. One of the conservation measures undertaken for this species is to fund locals to protect the species especially near the vulnerable nest sites. 

From there, we walked, slogging through the slippery, boot-sucking mud that challenged our abilities to remain upright. We were offered horses to ride on the journey, but only two of our group accepted that offer, meeting us atop an isolated hilltop overlooking the vast tract of rainforest ahead. Then, we all slogged through the mud, up and down hillsides, beneath the dense canopy. Heat and humidity added to the challenge, and by the time we reached the vicinity of THE cuipo tree, sweat poured down our backs. The view was abysmal! Branches and leaves obscured most of the view toward the nest as we crowded together on the trail, looking and searching for the elusive bird. And then, she materialized, or rather, the lower half of her body including the massive legs and feet did, while her head was obscured among the copious greenery! The nest that held her progeny, the diminutive Harpy Eagle nestling, was nothing short of massive, and the chick was invisible among the branches. 

Our most excellent guides, Eliecer Rodriquez and Oscar Fria, left us to scout for another location where she might be more visible, not an insignificant task given the density of the rainforest! We moved to a new location and there she was, in all her glory, head plumes blowing in the breeze and seemingly oblivious to our presence. The only possible photography was via digiscoping, using cell phone cameras through a spotting scope, thus the poor quality of the image that accompanies this article. We were careful to keep our voices to whispers and to not overstay, thus potentially disturbing the female on the nest. One quick photo of the group, and we began the long slog back to the homestead of the local family, this time with the brutal heat of the full sun bearing down upon us.  As we departed, two vultures flew too low for the eagle’s comfort; thus we thrilled to the reverberating scream of the Harpy Eagle, sending chills down our collective spines. We earned this sighting through sweat and hard work, a memory to last a lifetime. 

Of course, there were many other adventures and stories on our trip, but I will save those for the next issue of the HAI Flyer!

Panama Adventurers: Darlene Benedict, Charles Cummings, Meg and Bruce Peterson, Chellye Porter, Mary Raje, Patti Rosin, Kathleen Ramsay, Sami Sanborn, and yours truly! It was a grand adventure indeed!

Who Won the Quilt?

We drew the winning ticket at our festive, fun and well-attended holiday party on Saturday, Dec. 7. But, so far we have been unable to reach the winner. We'll keep trying but if 30 days pass with no response, we will draw another. Thank you for your patience!
Evelyn McGarry
Volunteer of the Year 2019

We thank all of you who contribute so much to Hawks Aloft. This year, special thanks goes to Evelyn McGarry who tirelessly donates her time and expertise to our nonprofit. Evelyn is our official East Mountain Representative, working with residents in the more rural communities east of the Sandia and Manzano Mountains spreading the word of Hawks Aloft. Evelyn is our 'go-to' person for all raptor rescues in that expansive area where often the injured and orphaned birds not only larger, but often more severely injured due to highway speeds on rural roads. Sometimes, she even drives the rescued bird directly to Espanola or Santa Fe for care at either Cottonwood Rehab or NM Wildlife Center. She conducts school programs one day a week at Bellehaven Elementary alongside Maggie Stein. And, on each Monday, Evelyn spends her afternoon taking care of our educational ambassadors, cleaning and repairing their flight cages.

Thank you, Evelyn, for all that you do!
A Happy Return
by Amelia Thompson, Educator

Hello Hawks Aloft members, staff, and volunteers! It’s been a long time since I have written something for the newsletter, but I am thrilled to be here again as a part time educator. Long-time members may remember me as the educator for Hawks Aloft from 2010-2012 (under my maiden name, Porter. I have since gotten married!). I left to pursue working with reptiles, and then went to graduate school for biology where I decided teaching was my real passion. The timing was right for me to come back and help out with education programs as needed while I pursue my teaching license.

For the past few months I have been working with Maggie S. on some of her Living with the Landscape programs. This was really fun and reminded me just how much I missed doing educational programs. The first week of November we started working at a new school in Las Vegas, NM, the Rio Gallinas School for Ecology and the Arts. I will be doing multiple programs there going forward. Our first visit was a huge success. We were able to visit with all the classes, from Kindergarten through 8th grade. The school is very outdoors-based, and the older grades have done a lot of birding, so they were really interested in getting more in depth information on bird biology and ecology than most kids on the first visit. They were really putting my graduate degree to the test!
One of the best parts of returning to Hawks Aloft is getting to know all the new education birds and working with birds that I haven’t seen in years. I’ve been bird sitting for Gail since 2010 so I am familiar with all the birds that she houses, but I had not taken them to education programs. It’s been fun learning all the different temperaments of each bird and how they behave at programs. For instance, Beauty the Turkey Vulture loves to preen her feathers during classroom visits, and Idaho the Swainson’s Hawk is a very chatty bird, making lots of little chirping noises when she is handled. I’m really looking forward to meeting and working with all the new education birds that have found homes at Hawks Aloft in the last few years!

Images by Amelia Thompson

Rest in Peace, Malary

Malary, our female Prairie Falcon, sadly passed away this weekend of unknown causes, but had suffered a variety of health problems over the past three years.

Malary, a juvenile Prairie Falcon, was rescued after colliding with a fence and was unable to be released back in to the wild because her eyesight was compromised and she would never be able to see well enough to hunt. Her right eye had a ruptured lens and her left eye had a cataract. Over time, her eyesight deteriorated further and, at one point, both eyes had cataracts and she was nearly blind. The good eye specialists at Eye Care for Animals, successfully removed the cataracts, donating much of the cost of the procedure, while many of you donated funds to cover the remaining costs. Later, her vision began to regress, but she was still able to see well enough to find her food and navigate comfortably around her mews.

Despite her disability, Malary was full of personality, a wild woman who would have made a wonderful protective bird Mamma had she not have become disabled. And, BOY, did she love her food. Her love of food was a great motivator when she was in training to be an education bird.

Malary and her big beautiful personality will be greatly missed.

Lizzie Roberts, Malary's long-time caretaker, wrote the text above. Malary was housed with Liz since the day she arrived. We thank Liz for her most excellent care and compassion she has provided for the educational birds these past 15 years (or more!) Image by Larry Rimer.
Celebration of Learning
Rio Gallinas School for Ecology & Arts
by Maggie Stein, Education and Outreach Coordinator

The sleepy town of Las Vegas, New Mexico is home to Rio Gallinas School for Ecology and the Arts. This small charter school of kindergarten through eighth grade students strives to create a culture of academic excellence through the use of expeditionary learning. Teachers use this hands-on approach, paired with small class sizes to allow their students to participate in real-world community service projects. This fosters a priority of community and philanthropy within the student-body.

This year, Rio Gallinas has partnered with Hawks Aloft to host education programs for their students to prepare them for the Celebration of Learning: an evening which students present topics they have learned about, along with the service projects they completed during the semester. Hawks Aloft meets with each grade group during our visits, but we have focused extra carefully on our time with the third grade students. These kids are so pumped up to learn all about raptors, and plan to present the new things they have learned from Hawks Aloft at the Celebration of Learning this December. Maggie Dodd is their fabulous teacher who is equally excited as her students to be working so closely with us. 

As mentioned, the students choose a service project to present at the Celebration of Learning, and the third grade class chose to adopt one of our Education Raptors as their semester project. They chose our littlest and one of our newest Education Ambassadors: Cricket the flammulated owl! Not only did they raise money to pay for the adoption fee for Cricket, they are also collecting pennies daily to continue to provide funds for her food and care. (I mean, how stinkin’ cute is that!) Amelia and I will attend the Celebration of Learning this year along with Cricket so the students can introduce her to their families and friends. We are so excited and thankful to be working with these students!
A Smaller Winter Field Season Begins
by Trevor Fetz, Lead Avian Biologist

The beginning of December also brings the beginning of the winter field season for the Middle Rio Grande Songbird Study (MRGSS). This will be the 17th winter of the study, but our survey effort will be substantially lower than previous years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been the primary MRGSS funder since its inception in late 2003. But, it sounds like essentially all of the USACE money allocated for research in 2020 has been re-directed by the current administration. Despite the best efforts of Lynette Giesen, project manager at USACE, she was unable to secure any funding. As such, Hawks Aloft will be funding the MRGSS in-house. I will be conducting a large slate of surveys, Gail will conduct most of her normal surveys, and I am grateful for some help from both David Buckley and Mike Hill. But, the very limited funds Hawks Aloft has available to dedicate to the MRGSS does not allow us to hire a full-time field technician, which is one of the things we would need in order to survey all of our transects. I'm hoping we can cover about half of our survey routes this winter. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to getting into the field and seeing what the bird number are like this winter.

T-shirt Fire Sale!
OK! So there wasn't a fire, thankfully! We have inventory that we need to sell and you can get a great deal on some of our past-year T-shirts – all on sale for $15 each…that’s half off!
We have cream-colored shirts in long and short sleeve.
Women's (runs small) M,L, and XL. 
Men’s: 2XL and 3XL only. 
Women’s: L and XL
Men’s: 2X
25th Anniversary shirts (Teal)
Short Sleeve:
Women’s XL, 2XL, and 3XL
25 th Anniversary shirts (Sky Blue)
Short Sleeve:
Men's: M, L, XL, 2XL

Get them while you can!
A flat $8 shipping fee will be required, BUT, we will throw in a free Hawks Aloft Coffee mug! You can't beat that!
If you would like to order any of these, give us a call at 505-828-9455 (or stop by the office between 9 am - 1 pm weekdays. Save on shipping). 

You can also send us an email at officemanager@hawksaloft.org .
Happy Shopping!
Introducing Our Newest Adventure!
BRAZIL: Wildlife of the Pantanal
& Amazon Rainforest
With Hawks Aloft & Holbrook Travel
November 5 – 14, 2020

Located in west-central Brazil, the Pantanal is the world’s largest freshwater wetland and one of the most biodiverse, productive habitats in the Western Hemisphere. It harbors a world-record 82 species or large birds including Hyacinth Macaw, Jabiru, Toco Toucan, Greater Rhea, Scarlet Macaw as well as coatimundi, tapirs, and giant river otters.

Perhaps, however; no other animal is as beautiful and dramatic as the jaguar. Embark on this exceptional adventure providing opportunities for close range observation of abundant wildlife and the majestic jaguar. 

We will spend our final days of the trip in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, immersed in the dense tropical forest that is home to the highest concentration of birds species, with over 1,500 described species of rainforest birds. It is home to the Harpy Eagle, Bare-faced Currasow, King Vulture, Hoatzin, Plum-throated Cotinga, Spectacled Owl and much more.  The Amazon is also home to about 430 species of mammal, with more still to be discovered. Among the monkey species that could be seen are: Howler, Spider, Capuchin, Tamarin, Squirrel, Woolly, Uakari, Titi, Marmosets, and Night Monkeys, also called owl monkeys. Of course, aquatic life abounds in this habitat as well as the Pantanal.

Trip Highlights
  • Embark on several boat rides in search of the jaguars that roam freely in the Pantanal
  • Venture on outdoor activities to seek out tapids, ocelots, monkeys, Hyacinth Macaws, and mixed species flocks
  • Watch for birds and mammals from the Pantanal’s only mobile canopy towers, strategically located near fruiting trees
  • Listen to experts to learn more about the biology and conservation of the jaguar and the giant otter
  • Journey to the Amazon to observe the wildlife of one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet

Only 6 spots remain!

Owls of New Mexico!

We are pleased to introduce our brand new T-shirt, featuring images of our Avian Ambassadors and nearly every single species of owl that might be found in our state. Designed by Scott Lowry, this unique T-shirt is the perfect gift for a loved one during the holidays. After all, whoooo doesn't love owls?!

The shirt comes in both long and short sleeves. All shirts are $30 and can be ordered on our website or can be picked up at the office. Ladies sizes are available in short sleeves; all long-sleeved shirts are unisex, and we also have youth sizes in short sleeves.

Thank you AVANGRID, by Maggie Grimason, Senior Editor

Our Raptor Rescue Program is a labor of love. From it's humble beginnings to today's expansive network of rescuers and rehabilitators, it has been an honor to pioneer a program like this throughout New Mexico.

2019's rescue year (which ran from August 2018 to August 2019) marked a 13% increase in intakes, with 209 completed. On top of that, there were hundreds more calls that didn't result in a rescue. Since its inception in 2014, calls to the Raptor Rescue Hotline (our 24/hour-a-day phone line for birds in needs) have climbed more 160%, illustrating the tremendous need in our state for exactly this kind of service.

Despite the way the program has flourished, it is still costly to run, topping more than $20,000 in expenses annually--a difficult sum to manage for our small nonprofit. We absolutely could not do this kind of work without support from institutions, businesses, and individuals.

For the second year, Avangrid Foundation has supplied us with generous and vital grant funds to cover expenses related to the Raptor Rescue Program and the upcoming New Mexico Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium (to be held in April 2020!). AVANGRID is a leader in the clean energy economy of the United States and also maintains a commitment to promoting the preservation and stewardship of the lands in which they work.

Please join us in thanking AVANGRID for the work they do and their ongoing support of Hawks Aloft!

Ride On, by Jill Morris, Office Manager

Once upon a time there were no company vehicles at Hawks Aloft! We are now fortunate enough to have five! Each and every one was donated (thank you!). They are older, and in need of costly repairs. Edward & Amanda Ruden were kind enough to donate a 1996 Jeep in 2017. Arlette Miller, our Rescue Coordinator, drives this Jeep for bird rescues throughout the state. Is there anywhere she won’t go to save a bird? After $300 worth of recent repairs, this Jeep is running well and we hope to have it for a long time.

Trevor Fetz donated his Toyota RAV4 in 2010 and continues to drive it as his field vehicle. Recently, while parked at his house, someone drilled a hole in the gas tank to siphon gas! It cost Hawks Aloft over $1,000 to repair and it still needs other work done to run properly. 

We have a 2002 Saturn station wagon donated by Barilee Silver a couple of years ago. Maggie Stein drives it to all the schools. Recently a rock shattered one of the back windows and that was replaced for $225. The Saturn then headed straight to the mechanic for an oil change and to check the coolant light. Another $100. This is after fixing the serpentine belt for $320.

We have a 2003 Ford Explored donated by PNM in 2015. This is a field vehicle used mostly for surveys. It was running well but in the last year has had its entire transmission replaced to the tune of $2,000+. 

Lastly, we were very fortunate to get a 2009 Ford F-150 Truck donated by PNM last year. This big truck is used by Gail and others to do fieldwork. It has been running well, but is currently in Gail’s driveway leaking oil. Unfortunately, it seems that all of our vehicles have run into mechanical issues at the same time!

We are so grateful for the donation of all these vehicles that have truly been game-changers for our small organization. They do, however pose a financial challenge to keep running safely. We thought why not ask our amazing pool of people to consider donating a vehicle they no longer need? Even if it is not in great shape, we can fix it or sell it and work toward getting our vehicle needs met. We hope we can retire one or two of our vehicles soon when they've been replaced with more functional cars. Not to mention, it would be a great tax deduction for you!

Thanks so much all – we wouldn’t exist without you!

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 Ferrug, our 24-year-old Ferruginous Hawk, photographed here by Keith Bauer. 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  
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!
*Check out intakes and thank-you's after the Photographer's Gallery*
Photographers Monthly Gallery
Steve Siegel

Steve Siegel is a long-time birder, videographer and artist. He has shot video of birds for 30 years in every corner of North America and in the tropics. Although any bird is fair game, he especially seeks out nesting and courtship behaviors, singing birds and birds in flight, for which video is particularly well-suited. His material has appeared in productions by National Geographic, Birding Adventures TV, 20 th Century Fox and NBC's Today Show, as well as in programs of numerous conservation and education organizations.

Over the past several years he has used his vast store of video material to create paintings. The paintings are done digitally by hand, transferred to canvas and finished as needed in acrylic. Although video is a perfect medium to tell stories, a painting can collect the details, set the mood and let the viewer enter and reflect on the scene better than any type of image.

Steve and his wife, Wendy, are recent transplants to New Mexico from the traffic, humidity, and hurricanes of Florida. When not chasing or painting birds, he is a practicing physician.



  1. Late Arrivals
  2. Among the Arches
  3. On to the Sea
  4. Watch Out for the Poison Ivy

We know you will enjoy Steve's paintings, especially selected for this issue. He donated "Among the Arches" to Hawks Aloft to be used as a fundraiser. It is currently displayed in the front of our office.

Thank You to our November Donors!

Charles Brandt
Mary Bruesch
Loretta Burnham
Mary Chappelle
Joan Escapule
Niels Chapman
M. Rebecca Gracey
Nancy & Bryan Hall
Margaret Kircher
Jan Matthews
Evelyn McGarry
Susan Metcalfe
Miguel Palaviccini
Katherine Peacock
Pattie Ravenheart
Allison Schacht
Carol Siemens
Susan Stricker

Raptor Rescue Team

Nirankar Ambriz
Victoria Ambriz
Daniel Archuleta
Mary Bruesch
Ed Chappelle
Mary Chappelle
Joanne Dahringer
Shannon Harrison
Ty Horak
Denise Inight
Evelyn McGarry
Sherry McDaniel
Arlette Miller
Julie Morales
Eliane Notah
Chellye Porter
Amanda Rael
Larry Rimer
James Robinson
Anita Sisk
Bruce Sisk
Kris Thackrah
Davedda Thomas
Tony Thomas
Earl Williams
Frank Wilson
Our Veterinarians and Rehabilitators

Kariana Atkinson, DVM

Mary & Ed Chappelle

Linda Contos, DVM

Cottonwood Rehabilitation Center

Desert Willow Wildlife
Rehabilitation Center

Eye Care for Animals

Tim Fitzpatrick, DVM

High Desert Veterinary Care

Ray Hudgell, DVM

Gavin Kennard, DVM, DACVO

Daniel Levenson, DVM

Sherry McDaniel

Mike Melloy, DVM

Lisa Morgan

New Mexico Wildlife Center

Bob Peiffer, DVM, PhD

Petroglyph Animal Hospital

Kathleen Ramsay, DVM

Santa Fe Raptor Center

Southwest Veterinary Medical Center

Samantha Uhrig, DVM

Ventana Animal Clinic

Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico

November 2019 Call Log & Intakes

Turkey Vulture: Right shoulder/wing injury

Ferruginous Hawk: Left wing injury

Barn Owl: Right wing injury

Red-tailed Hawk: Right wing injury

Red-tailed Hawk: Hit by car; wing injury

Golden Eagle: Hit by car; internal injuries

Cooper's Hawk: Gunshot

Great Horned Owl: Right wing injury

Barn Owl: Secondary poisoning

Greater Roadrunner: Left leg injury

Great Horned Owl: Stuck in chicken wire-no injuries

Great Horned Owl: Right wing injury

Great Horned Owl: Wing injury

Northern Harrier: Right wing injury

YTD Intake Numbers: 187
YTD Hotline Calls: 410

And Thank You to Our Corporate Donors:
Amazon Smile Foundation
Avangrid Renewables
Benevitty Fund
The Binky Foundation
Central New Mexico Audubon Society
Charles Schwab
Coca-Cola Foundation
Farmers Electric Cooperative
Four Corners Bird Club
Gathering of Nations
Holbrook Travel
Intel Corporation 
Kroger Company
Land of Enchantment Wildlife Foundation
McFarland Cascade
Nichols Ranch
PNM Resources Foundation
Peabody Natural Resources Company
Sonepar USA
Summit Construction
Summit Line Construction
Tetra Tech
The Verdes Foundation
Wild Birds Unlimited
Wildside Nature Tours
Womack Wealth Management
Who We Are

Gail Garber, Executive Director
Trevor Fetz, Lead Avian Biologist
David Buckley, Avian Surveyor
Maggie Grimason, Senior Editor
Sue Harrelson, Project Manager, Taos Gorge Raptor Study
Evelyn McGarry , East Mountain Representative
Arlette Miller , Raptor Rescue Dispatcher
Lisa Morgan, Raptor Rescue Coordinator
Jill Morris, Office Manager
John Stanek, Avian Surveyor
Maggie Stein, Education and Outreach Coordinator
Amelia Thompson , Educator

Our Board of Directors

Alwyn VanderWalt Chair

Mary Chappelle, Vice-chair

Terry Edwards, Treasurer

Sarah Beans , Secretary

Dagny Cosby, Board Member

Carter Cherry, Board Member