All About the Birds!
by Gail Garber,
The COVID-19 pandemic has thus far coincided with the avian survey season, where the raptor nesting begins in March and the songbird season wraps up at the end of August. It remains to be seen it the Coronavirus will still be ravaging the planet then. With education programs adapting to a changed world, avian monitoring continues unabated, flowing with the phenology of evolution over eons. Nothing changed there!
Meanwhile, with many humans working from home or on unexpected leave, rescue calls are through the roof! Thank you to all of our rescuers, both the local volunteers and our far flung rescuers in the Farmington area, Las Cruces, El Paso, Roswell, Clovis, Alamogordo, Window Rock, and Carlsbad! We also welcome David Biddinger to our rescue group--he is working with a juvenile Peregrine Falcon for flight training and hunting skills. We also thank Sherry McDaniels, who is doing the same with the juvenile Red-tailed Hawk that arrived as a fuzzy nestling back in May. Dave and Sherry will be using age-old falconry techniques to ensure that both of these youngsters will be well-equipped for survival in the wild prior to release.
Maggie Stein and Amelia Porter morphed into field technicians this year, initially by monitoring nesting raptors up on the Rio Grande Gorge with Sue Harrelson as well as in the Albuquerque area bosque. Now, as songbird surveys intensify, both are learning to identify them by sight and sound. Maggie assisted me with avian surveys in the Jemez Mountains and the Valles Caldera. During a point count transect, she pointed out the kakking call of a Peregrine Falcon high above us on a towering cliff face. Between points, we scanned the cliffs for the tell-tale sign of whitewash, marking the viewing points by GPS. During our second survey, we listened and looked, but were unsuccessful. Finally, during the third round, we heard the familiar warning calls and looked up to see an adult Peregrine Falcon in the exact location we first identified! It's hard to adequately describe the exhilaration of finding a previously undocumented Peregrine Falcon Eyrie!
We've had some other exciting sightings as well. After Trevor told me that he was hearing winnowing Wilson's Snipes in the wetlands of the Valles Caldera during nightly owl surveys, Maggie and I also heard them calling in the pre-dawn hours.
And, in the Corrales bosque, we've had three detections of singing Willow Flycatchers, the latest just a few days ago. In July, detections of this little flycatcher during this period can be considered evidence of nesting. Since 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has created large willow swales and other riparian restoration in the hopes of growing suitable habitat for this federally listed species. It seems now that they may have just succeeded!
Peregrine Falcon and Wilson's Snipe images by Doug Brown.
The Summer Survey Season Hits Full Steam
by Dr. Trevor Fetz, Research Director
June brought the beginning of the summer field season for the Middle Rio Grande Songbird Study (MRGSS) as well as at six sites we are monitoring in the bosque for Audubon New Mexico. Adding surveys for those two projects to the Valles Caldera National Preserve Owl Community Study (VCO) and songbird surveys for the Jemez CFLRP has left me overloaded survey-wise. I'm grateful for the survey help provided by David Buckley and Mike Hill with MRGSS surveys, Brian Dykstra with Jemez CFLRP and VCO surveys, Gail Garber with MRGSS and Jemez CFLRP surveys, and Brent Thompson with VCO surveys. But, all of these surveyors have other obligations (some have full-time jobs) and, thus, limited availability. The busiest part of my weekly schedule includes the following: bosque songbird surveys from 0530-1000 ... home, organize, drive to Valles Caldera ... VCO surveys from sunset to midnight (or later) ... brief rest ... VCO surveys from 0330-0530 ... Jemez CFLRP songbird surveys from 0530-1000 ... drive home, collapse. The heavy survey schedule will continue through the end July, at which point we will be finished with the VCO and Jemez CFLRP surveys for the year.
Highlights from the bosque during June included a Hooded Warbler in Corrales, a minimum of two Least Bitterns (present on multiple visits) at La Joya, and Bell's Vireos at transects at La Joya, Bernardo, and south of Belen. The Bell's Vireos at the transect south of Belen are definitely a pair, and likely nesting. The only real surprise from the Jemez CFLRP surveys during June was two Lewis's Woodpeckers at a point on Valles Caldera, the first time in eight years of surveys we've documented Lewis's Woodpeckers. Other highlights from the Jemez CFLRP surveys included American Three-toed Woodpeckers at multiple points, Green-tailed Towhees at multiple points, a Dusky Grouse with recently fledged young, and a black bear.
We've completed the first three rounds of Mexican Spotted Owl surveys at Valles Caldera, but haven't had any detections. The owl surveys are time consuming, because it takes 15-20 minutes to complete a Spotted Owl survey at a given point and 30-45 minutes to complete a general owl survey at a given point. Thus, the number of points we can cover in a night is limited. With our focus on the Spotted Owl surveys, we have not yet completed the first round visits for the other owl species. But, the general owl surveys we have completed have been productive. At the 24 points where we've completed general owl surveys we've documented 55 owls, including 21 Flammulated Owls, 16 Northern Saw-whet Owls, 11 Great Horned Owls, 5 Long-eared Owls, and 2 Northern Pygmy-Owls. Western Screech-Owl is the only species we haven't yet documented that we were expecting. Hopefully, we will pick up some screech-owls as we cover more points. But, all owl species are becoming less vocal as the summer progresses.
Images by Trevor Fetz.
Owls of New Mexico!
You can now order a Sweatshirt in your size and style!
We are re-ordering our very popular design, in both T-shirts and special order unisex sweatshirts. Owls of New Mexico features 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 design can now be yours in both short and long-sleeved T-shirts but also as a sweatshirt. After all,
whoooo doesn't love owls?!
Heavy weight (12 oz) unisex sweatshirts are available in both regular cut and hoodies, and are $45 (this is our cost - no markup). To order a sweatshirt, please call the office and speak to Jill so we can order the proper size and style. (505-828-9455)
T-shirts (both long and short-sleeved) 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.
Of Love and Loss
by Lisa Morgan
Raptor Rescue Coordinator
It was an evening like any other; our Flammulated Owl Avian Ambassador, Cricket, sitting at her crate door chattering to come out. She was always very displeased with the four walls surrounding her when an owl should be out roaming the night. I walked over and opened her crate door. She slowly puttered around making her way to my lap where I would put her favorite fuzzy blanket. Crawling up the blanket, she began nibbling on my fingers, and “dusting” herself on the blanket. After a while I placed the now-content owl back in her crate with fresh mealworms, crickets, and water.
Cricket came to us from the Navajo Nation a year ago this July—a hungry orphan bent on survival. After a few days, I placed her with Flame, our elderly Flammulated Owl. As luck would have it, Flame passed away from age-related issued within a few days. Unable to find another foster owl, Cricket and I made the best of things. She was still hand feeding, and became imprinted on me, thinking I was her mother.
Growing up with a human mom, Cricket was not shy about letting me know what she wanted: Chattering at me when she wanted out, nibbling on fingers, and playing on her favorite blanket on my lap.
Never did it occur to me that when I put the happy little owl back one recent night that it would be the last time I would see her alive. The next morning, as usual, I woke up and quickly checked on my owl charges. At first I couldn’t find her. Upon closer inspection, she was on the bottom of her crate not moving. I quickly called Gail, and asked for a vet visit.
Upon contacting Dr. Chris Fiorello, she agreed to quickly look at Cricket, and found that she had a congenital heart defect. I wonder if this is what made her Flammulated parents reject her at such a young age. This defect is something Cricket lived with all of her short life, but she never showed any indication that she was sick. This type of heart defect is like a ticking time bomb that can take a life quickly, as it did with Cricket.
I want to thank Dr. Fiorello for always being there for Hawks Aloft. I especially want to thank all of the children and adults who attended events and programs for loving Cricket from the moment they met her. She will never be forgotten.
Image of Cricket by Gail Garber.
Ed Birds During the Pandemic,
by Maggie Stein, Education and Outreach Coordinator
The COVID-19 crisis has created colossal changes in the day-to-day lives of a humans on the planet. It also changed the day-to-day lives of our Avian Ambassadors. Our raptors are permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be shown to the public. Since COVID-19, there have been few opportunities for our typical education programs, for good reasons of course! Unfortunately, the routines of our birds had to be largely discarded.
The education birds responded differently to their extended break from regular traveling. Human imprints, like Beauty, the Turkey Vulture, seemed to get bored and lonely when staying in their flight cages for long periods of time. Beauty absolutely loves going to education programs and visiting schools. She thrives in her position and really seems to enjoy meeting new people and showing off for kids.
Then there were the birds who
going to programs and reverted back to wild bird behaviors. These birds, such as our Merlin, Little Richard, started to become more fearful around people and while being handled. They forgot that handlers are trustworthy and that they should have good manners such as not biting or footing!
Most birds fell somewhere in the middle of these two. To keep all our birds happy, fellow educator, Amelia, and I scheduled ourselves to handle the birds often, at least twice a week for each bird. This definitely seems to keep all the birds happier and it strengthens the trust between us and the raptors!
We’ve also re-organized the up-keep for our education birds. Birds in captivity need to be coped, which is the trimming of excess growth of beak and talons. They also need to have their weight regularly checked, as a normal weight is the best way to know that a bird is healthy. We have been using this time to create a new system of keeping the birds’ health data. We have also been able to make essential falconry equipment changes by replacing the anklets and jesses on many of our birds.
Luckily, our birds now have a new type of programming to look forward to: Front Yard
Programs! These are private programs for small groups where we bring three Avian Ambassadors to individual homes! These short programs are just $75 within the Albuquerque area, and are an awesome way to keep our raptors comfortable with travel and handling--as well as keep children and adults alike educationally engaged!
If you would like to schedule a program like this, you call the office at (505) 828-9455 or
Image of Amelia weighing Jamaica by Maggie Stein
A Hawk Launches,
by By Sue Harrelson,
It seems like a once in a lifetime experience to see a baby bird leave the nest for the first time. It happens so quickly, and only once--what are the odds of being in the right place at the right time? With our vigilant surveying work in the field, we increase the odds of seeing such an event.
I was lucky recently to have this experience. I went to check on a Red-tailed Hawk nest that we had been watching for weeks, so I knew the young were about the right age to fledge. When I got there, three of the young birds were standing on the edge of the nest, located on a cliff side. The adult was there, too. One started flapping his wings and jumping. The fledgling had surprisingly large wings! Could this be the time? No, it settled down for a bit, and all three paced around, then went back to sitting still.
I kept watching anyway. I imagined the event would be a grand, glorious moment, that the adolescent bird would stand on the edge, spread his wings, and then soar away. What really happened? One young bird woke up, walked along the ledge until it got narrower and narrower, lost his balance, slid backwards down a crack into a crevice, and got stuck. After a few moments, he realized that the only out was to flap, and the only place to go was thin air.
Image of juvenile Red-tailed Hawk by Larry Rimer.
Field Surveying Is the Best!
by Larry Rimer, Project Manager
Being a longtime volunteer for Hawks Aloft, I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in many aspects of the organization. It was one of my goals to work with wildlife in some fashion after I retired, and I’m fortunate that I found Hawks Aloft. Once I started to volunteer, I was hooked! I’ve had so many incredible experiences andmet so many wonderful people associated with Hawks Aloft; it’s truly amazing!
It was the raptors that drew me in, there’s something magical when you are able to see them up close. Although its heartbreaking to go on a rescue call to find an injured bird, there is nothing like the feeling when you are able to release them back into the wild to be free once more.
So why do I do field surveying when I live with raptors and get to handle so many different education birds almost every day? For me, it’s because it enables me to see and study these wonderful animals in their natural environment. Sadly, no kept animal can ever even begin to exhibit what its life is like in the wild. It’s truly a privilege to study them in their natural habitat, watching them flying, courting, hunting, nesting, feeding, and teaching their young how to survive. I learn something new every time I survey, either about a specific species or about how the different species coexist. I thank them after every encounter for allowing me into their world even if it’s just for a moment.
Yes, you can read all about animals and watch documentaries about them, but there is no comparison to seeing them in the wild.
My current survey area is roughly 50 square miles of open space, so there is room for almost all the typical southwestern animals. Golden Eagles, hawks, owls, ravens, as well as many species of songbird and the entire ecosystem that supports wildlife like elk, deer, prairie dogs, bobcats, badgers, rats, mice, and snakes.
The other day I was on the side of a bluff counting red-tailed chicks in a nest (still from quite a distance away), while their mom was flying around me telling me in no uncertain terms to leave the area. All of a sudden I heard an animal barking at me from behind me. I turned around stunned to see a cow elk was also annoyed that I was in “her” area and she continued to follow me and grunt as I hastily left the area. I do my best to not disturb the wildlife, but they can see me from a lot further away than I can see them, so I do quick peeks before I head on my way.
This is just one example of the experiences I have through my work at Hawks Aloft that---every time--makes my day.
Images by Larry Rimer: Dark morph Ferruginous Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk
Join Us Every Monday on Facebook Live!
Monday at 11am on Facebook Live, staff educators Maggie Stein and Amelia Thompson present different Avian Ambassadors and educational concepts.
Join us this Monday (05/11) at 11am to meet a selection of grassland species.
Live From Hawks Aloft,
by Amelia Thompson, Educator
When schools closed back in March, we used the extra time to review our programming and find ways to improve it for the 2020-21 school year. Maggie and I realized several things: First, we missed doing education programs; Second, if the birds were not used for extended periods, they might “forget” that they have a job where they travel in boxes and are displayed for education, and; Finally, children and their parents were stuck at home!
We came up with the idea of doing Facebook Live presentations, filming educational programs that people could enjoy from anywhere. This meant that we could continue to educate the public, the birds could be handled regularly, and we could potentailly reach a whole new audience.
A lot of work goes into our Facebook Live videos. First, Maggie and I usually sit down and discuss what topic we want to cover for that week. Initially, we just introduced each of our Avian Ambassadors but once we had shown almost every bird we realized that we also could focus more in depth on specific topics. We have done videos on habitat, types of birds (i.e., falcons or owls), and on specific behaviors. We have even done videos highlighting our human imprint birds (birds that were raised by humans and never learned to be wild). Once we have chosen a topic, we determine which birds are best for that subject and divide up our roles.
Maggie and I do a lot of research for these live streams, including writing scripts for each section. We have begun focusing on different conservation issues too. We both love doing education programs for school age kids, but one of the nice things about these videos is that our audience is mostly adults who tune in regularly. So, we also go into more detail suitable for adults that is covered during our regular school programs.
A big thank you goes out to our faithful viewers who have been watching our Facebook Lives! If you haven’t checked out our videos, be sure to do so on Mondays at 11 am MST. We also plan on uploading our videos to our YouTube channel, so if you don’t have Facebook you can watch them there soon!
Photo of Amelia and Beauty the Turkey Vulture by Gail Garber
The Hawks Aloft 2020 Raffle Quilt!
90" x 90"
Get your tickets now! $1 each or 6/$5.
We'll draw the wining ticket on December 5, 2020
Thank you to everyone who worked on this year's quilt!
Holding Down the Fort
by Jill Morris, Office Manager
I’ve been fortunate to be able to come into the office every day and “hold down the fort,” so to speak. With most everyone else working from home or out in the field, it made sense for one person to keep coming into the office. My husband has been working from home, so it has been nice to get out of his way, the added benefit being that I don’t go stir crazy because I have a place to go everyday. Many aren’t as fortunate during this time. Many businesses are closing, and many jobs have been lost. I am grateful to all the donors who helped Hawks Aloft stay afloat during this difficult time. Thank you so much!
With schools being closed, our education team has had some extra time to tape live videos here at the office, highlighting different birds each week. It’s nice to have birds in the office again and I’ve been learning a lot too! Please try to tune in on our
Mondays at 11am MST for informational presentations with Maggie and Amelia.
As we move forward in this unprecedented landscape, I hope we are able to keep doing the work we love and gradually interact with more of our amazing volunteers and donors … and of course help as many birds as possible! The old adage, “It takes a village," which is originally about raising children, really speaks to the work we do too!
Hawks Aloft International Trips
and Local Trips
As always, we have your health and safety foremost in our minds when planning field trips and international tours. Until we learn more about the path of COVID-19 and infection risks, we are postponing all local and international tours as well as large group meetings. We are looking into resuming these outings in 2021 or later and will post notice of upcoming events in the
HAI Flier. Please stay tuned.
Meet "Taken" our newest Avian Ambassador. He was
in December 2019. Found standing in someone’s driveway in Albuquerque, we received a desperate call on the Raptor Rescue Hotline about a hawk that could not fly. They called back again to report that the hawk was laying down. We expected the worst, a bird in critical condition, likely near death. Upon arrival, our rescuers found a Swainson’s Hawk!
Why would we name a bird, “Taken”? Because he was taken from his parents as a nestling and raised by people. Can you imagine being TAKEN from your parents, or having your child TAKEN from you?
The entire world population of Swainson’s Hawks leaves North America each fall to migrate some 6,000 miles to the grasslands of Argentina in South America. You can imagine our surprise to find a VERY well fed juvenile hawk, but with absolutely no tail feathers and battered and frayed wing feathers. In fact, he was so chunky and round that before he was given his permanent name, his nick-name was Gordo! We believe that someone had kept him in a wire cage, and then decided to "release" him back to the wild. But, this young bird, although chubby, had terrible feather condition and could not fly at all. Further, as a species that never knows winter, he was not equipped for cold weather. He's now in the care of longtime handler, Liz Roberts, where she reports this chatty, human-imprint is quite comfortable.
Help support our non-releasable raptors through our Adopt-a-Raptor program. Hawks Aloft houses and cares for 28 permanently disabled raptors (and one corvid!). Our Avian Ambassadors travel throughout the Southwest, helping us to educate the public about how to help protect their species. We provide them with top-quality housing, food, and medical care for their entire lives. It costs an average of $2,500/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.
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 (if available for that species)
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.
Either create an account or sign-in to an existing one
Once logged in, click on “Account Summary” on the left sidebar
From there, scroll down to “Inspiring Donations Program” and click “Enroll”
A searchable list will come up, you can either search for “Hawks Aloft” or enter our ID number for the program, GL430
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!
Photographers Monthly Gallery
Featuring: Alan Murphy
What began as a peaceful and passionate hobby, Alan has refined into a business. Thanks to h
is background in the b
eautiful countrysides of both Ireland and England, Alan developed a love for birds and nature.
Over time, he
cultivated his creative use of perches with uncluttered backgrounds and excellent lighting. Over the years this became Alan's signature: gorgeous perches paired with beautiful birds showcasing their nature.
enthusiastic about leading workshops and teaching other photographers how to capture the perfect image. He is an award-winning photographer with numerous publications, a Nikon Professional Service Member, a Wimberly Professional Service Member, and the author of several e-books and educational videos. He enjoys traveling and speaking at festivals and photo clubs. Alan and his wife, Kim, raised their children in the Houston area, and enjoy nature and their rescue dogs.
- Bald Eagle
- Great Horned Owl
- Golden-winged Warbler
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Thank You to our June Donors!
Nancy & Brian Hall
Dale & Patty Harrington
LaRita (June) Rohla
Raptor Rescue Team
Our Veterinarians and Rehabilitators
Acequia Animal Hospital
Kariana Atkinson, DVM
Candace Auten, DVM
Mary & Ed Chappelle
Desert Willow Wildlife
Eye Care for Animals
Christine Fiorello, DVM
Tim Fitzpatrick, DVM
High Desert Veterinary Care
Ray Hudgell, DVM
Gavin Kennard, DVM, DACVO
Daniel Levenson, DVM
Boni & Tom Martin
Mike Melloy, DVM
New Mexico Wildlife Center
Bob Peiffer, DVM, PhD
Petroglyph Animal Hospital
Santa Fe Raptor Center
Southwest Veterinary Medical Center
Samantha Uhrig, DVM
VCA West Side
Ventana Animal Clinic
Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico
June 2020 Call Log & Intakes
Great Horned Owl-Fell from nest onto highway
Rock Pigeon-Predator caught
Barn Owl-Pelvic fracture
Western Screech Owl-Bird-napped
Greater Roadrunner-Leg fracture
Western Screech Owl-Wing injury
Greater Roadrunner-Hit by car
Western Screech Owl-DOA, emaciated
Cooper’s Hawk-Wing injury
Greater Roadrunner-Hit by car
Cattle Egret-Leg injury
American Kestrel-Back injuries
Peregrine Falcon-Fell from nest to parking lot
Barn Owl-Nest blew down
Barn Owl-Nest blew down
Cooper’s Hawk-Wing injury
Greater Roadrunner-Leg injury
Western Screech Owl-Leg injury
Red-tailed Hawk-Hit by car
Barn Owl-Nest blew down
Cooper’s Hawk-Hit by car
Common Nighthawk-Hit by car
Western Kingbird-Foot injury
Cooper’s Hawk-Fledgling in busy roadway
Barn Owl-Wing injury
Western Screech Owl-Eye injury
Great Horned Owl-Barbed wire injury
Turkey Vulture-Wing injury
Cooper’s Hawk-Impact injury
Cooper’s Hawk-Impact injury
Cooper’s Hawk-Impact injury
And Thank You to Our Corporate Donors:
Albuquerque Community Foundation
Amazon Smile Foundation
Audubon New Mexico
Central New Mexico Audubon Society
Farmers Electric Cooperative
Four Corners Bird Club
Gathering of Nations
PayPal Giving Fund
PNM Resources Foundation
Peabody Natural Resources Company
The Verdes Foundation
Wild Birds Unlimited
Womack Wealth Management
6715 Eagle Rock Ave NE
Albuquerque, NM 87113
Who We Are
Trevor Fetz, Ph.D., Research Director
Brian Dykstra, Biologist
Project Manager, Taos Gorge Raptor Study
Jerry Hobart, Project Manager, Raptor Driving Surveys
, East Mountain Representative
, Raptor Rescue Dispatcher
Raptor Rescue Coordinator
Larry Rimer, Project Manager,
El Segundo Raptor Study
Education and Outreach Coordinator
Brent Thompson, Biologist
Our Board of Directors
Christine Fiorello, DVM,
Patti Rosin, Director