Citizen Scientists in Action!
by Gail Garber
Executive Director

Our inaugural research project, Raptor Surveys of the Middle Rio Grande and Estancia Valleys began within months of our inception, back in 1994. The brainchild of Jerry Hobart and Jim Church, it was designed to be an all volunteer project, with two observers surveying 20 stops along a designated driving route. Today, eight different routes are monitored once a month during the months when raptors are resident--summer and winter. Now in its 27th year, the study continues as a citizen science study. Over the past year, 15 volunteers documented 2,046 raptors over 924 miles.

Due to the retirement of one volunteer, I had the chance to join the three volunteers that survey the South Socorro Route, which runs south from Socorro to the visitor center at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. What a fun late-February day it was! With longtime surveyor (and HAI Founder) Chuck Brandt, Sami Sanborn (also a long-timer), and Dianne Rossbach (a newbie), we enjoyed warm temps, mild winds and LOTS-O-HAWKS! Red-tailed Hawks were particularly abundant with 24 overall, plus 11 American Kestrels, 1 Prairie Falcon, 2 Northern Harriers, and 1 Bald Eagle. The Greater Roadrunners were out in force too, with a total of 5 observed, some very much in courtship mode. We even got to see the last of the Snow Geese that lingered at the refuge.

We thank all the volunteers that make this study possible, documenting long term change in these valleys. Most of our volunteers have conducted surveys for many years: Mary Bruesch, Ed Chappelle, Gill Clarke, Roger Grimshaw, Jerry Hobart, Bonnie Long, Larry Rimer, Donna Royer, Susan Russo, Martin Schleble, Diane Schlies, and Steve Youtsey.

Hawks Aloft has several citizen science studies and we invite you to become a citizen scientist. If you are interested in joining one of our field teams please contact Gail.

Northern Harrier image above, by Kristin Brown. All others by Gail Garber.

Meet Robert "Murph" Murphy, Ph.D.
Keynote Speaker

Joining us on Saturday, April 4, for the second New Mexico Wildlife Rehabilitators Alliance Symposium is Dr. Robert "Murph" Murphy, wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, currently assisting with Golden Eagle conservation and research, though in the past he has worked with the agency coordinating wildlife refuges, as well as with the Division of Migratory Birds. He was also an assistant professor of biology at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

Dr. Murphy brings his vast insights from years of research to our keynote presentation at this year's NMWRA Symposium. The address will span two parts, each addressing different concerns related to Golden Eagles. Part 1 will look at dispersal and migration of Golden Eagles from the Southern Rockies, while part two examines survival and causes of mortality of pre-adult Golden Eagles in the Southern Great Plains.

We're looking forward to welcoming Dr. Murphy as well as our other fantastic speakers at the event. Tickets are still available at special early-bird pricing. Visit our website for more details and to secure your spot.
An Uptick in Bird Numbers
By Dr. Trevor Fetz, Senior Research Biologist

Bird numbers on the Middle Rio Grande Songbird Study increased during February from what we documented in December and January. Numbers in December and January were terrible, possibly the lowest we’ve seen over the 17 years of winter surveys for this project. February was better, but still below average. Although I haven’t begun analyzing the data yet, from just looking at the data sheets, it is clear that numbers on most of our transects were well below average. The most notable exception is the three drain transects we have in Corrales with dense vegetation on the west bank (i.e. Drain 5 habitat). These three transects always support among the highest numbers of wintering birds across the study area, in terms of both density and richness. All three of these transects supported close their normal, high averages this winter. In contrast, our other Drain 5 transects supported lower than average numbers this winter. Although classified as the same habitat type, the vegetation composition of the three Corrales Drain 5 transects is very different, especially in terms of complexity, than our other Drain 5 transects. It appears the only other transects to support strong bird numbers this winter were at the Tingley Wetlands (almost entirely due to large duck numbers) and the marsh transects at La Joya Waterfowl Management Area.

Among individual species, the complete absence of Cedar Waxwings is perhaps the most eye-catching. We did not have any waxwing detections this winter. By comparison, we had 449 detections in 2019. Other species where, even without analyzing the data, it is obvious numbers were extremely low include American Goldfinch, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Bewick’s Wren, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, Hairy Woodpecker, Hermit Thrush, Marsh Wren, Northern Flicker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, White-throated Sparrow, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. On the positive side, Dark-eyed Junco and Song Sparrow, historically two of the most common wintering bosque species, appear to have been present in close to average numbers. Without those two species, a number of transects this winter would essentially have been devoid of birds. 

Images: Cedar Waxwing by David Powell, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco and Lesser Goldfinch by Keith Bauer.
A Big Thank You to Our Wonderful Volunteers! By Jill Morris, Office Manage r

I wanted to take the time to thank all of our wonderful and fabulous donors. We simply couldn’t function without you! The same goes for those of you that volunteer week in and week out to help us in so many different ways! 

It has fed my soul to work at Hawks Aloft and meet so many caring and awesome people. With all the negativity in the world these days we all need to be reminded of the kindness and generosity that is around us if we look.

I have been trying to clean out the office lately and get some of our overflow Yard Sale donations from last August into our storage unit for a future sale. We had so much great stuff that we hung on to much of it for the future! I was stunned at how many of you came by and dropped off your various items (all of which was in such good shape--again, thank you!).

As I’m cleaning out the office, it seemed like a good time to catalog what we have and assess our needs as we head into this next field season.

As some of you might know, we have a wish list on It needs to be updated, and I will be doing that soon, but sometimes a box just shows up and it is an item from our list--how great it that?

Here are a few things that we always need when we head out into the field. If you have any of these, please consider donating:

  • Two-way Radios/GPS Units (some of ours are getting a little old)
  • AA and AAA Batteries for our current GPS units
  • Used tablets or iPads
  • Office freezer for dead mice, used for feeding. Ours is a fridge/freezer and we never use the fridge side (Side note: Thank you so much to Frank and Linda Martin for donating a reezer to our Raptor Rescue Program, currently in-use for preserving food for intakes at our Raptor Rescue Coordinator's house!)
  • Used vehicle of any kind

Finally, I would like to recognize Nancy and Bryan Hall who steadfastly donate office supplies to us every month--all of which are incredibly useful! Anita and Bruce Sisk had the idea to put up a collection box at Wild Birds Unlimited and they bring us the cash that is donated as well. I love the different ways people think of to help--and we appreciate each and every one of your ideas and all of your efforts to support our mission! Thank you!

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.

A Trip to the Vet
by Amelia Thompson, Educator

It’s February, which means that it is time for the annual vet visit for most of our birds prior to transporting them into Colorado for the Monte Vista Crane Festival. What does it mean to bring 16 raptors to the vet?

  1. Coordinating with all the bird housers to ensure that transportation is available to get each bird to the vet.
  2. Filling the waiting room at Coronado Pet Hospital withstacks of travel boxes and crates.
  3. Each bird is carefully taken out of their and brought into the exam room, two by two. Mike Melloy, a master falconer and veterinarian has donated this service to decades! Birds are weighed and examined for health; the worst thing that Dr. Mike ever has to say is that a few of the birds might be a bit too well fed!
Ten years ago, shortly after I moved to New Mexico, my first volunteer effort for Hawks Aloft was this same vet visit. It’s a lot of fun because we rarely get so many staff, volunteers, and birds together in one place. The Coronado staff is great, and their vet techs always love meeting our birds. One of them, Megan, confessed she was a huge owl lover and was thrilled to have her picture alongside Shadow, our Western Screech-Owl.
Following the vet visit, the same process runs in reverse. We didn’t have enough car space for Gail to drive all the birds she houses to her home. We loaded some of those birds into my car. When I arrived at Gail’s, we realized that we had accidentally mixed up two of the owls! We had Celeste, the Barn Owl, who is housed with Lizzie Roberts, and Lizzie ended up with Jemez, the Mexican Spotted Owl housed with Gail. A little extra driving, and a quick exchange of owls set this right! You never know what might happen when you are working with so many birds!

Photos by Gail Garber

Rio Grande Gorge Raptor Surveys
A Volunteer Opportunity
by Sue Harrelson, Project Manager

Do you like watching a hawk soar in the sky? Do you like wide open spaces? Rugged back country and dirt roads?  Then you might like to volunteer to help with the Rio Grande Gorge Raptor survey. We survey about 80 miles of the gorge, from Pilar north to Colorado. We find Golden Eagles, Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks, Peregrine and Prairie Falcons, and occasionally some other species. We try to locate the active nests, then monitor the nests to see how many young hatch, and how many young successfully fledge.  It can be long, slow work, requiring some patience, but there is a thrill when you see an adult bring a snake to a white downy chick in the nest!  

Part of the study area is easy to get to, but much of it is remote, on dirt roads, requiring a truck with good tires. We usually camp for a night or two, because it takes 2 to 4 hours to get there from Albuquerque. This study has been going on for 20 years now, so we are building a good dataset, and able to see trends in raptor populations. It is important to keep monitoring in the face of climate change, as well as changing human use of the area.  

If this is your idea of fun, and you would like to know more, or get involved, please email Susan Harrelson.

Bob Kipp, a longtime volunteer, is one of the surveyors on the Rio Grande Gorge. One of the rewards is seeing a young Golden Eagle taking flight for the first time. Both images by Larry Rimer.
Bosque Nesting Raptors:
A Citizen Science Study

Do you love hawks? Are you good with a GPS and a map? How are your scavenger hunting skills?

Hawks Aloft has monitored raptors in the Middle Rio Grande bosque since 2004 (16 years)! Formerly funded by the US Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, all funding for this study was eliminated in 2019, so we turned to our dedicated volunteers to continue.

Each volunteer is assigned a section of the bosque to monitor about once a week from Mid-March until the end of July. We will have a limited number of areas available that need to be monitored. You will need to possess your own GPS unit and binoculars. If you are interested, please contact Gail (

Image of four nestling Cooper's Hawks by Larry Rimer.
STEM Saturday and Upcoming March Events by Maggie Stein, Education and Outreach Coordinator

STEM Saturday on February 22 was a huge success! This was a fantastic event for families, especially on a rainy Saturday. Four of our non-releasable education birds attended: Our Turkey Vulture (Beauty), a Merlin (Lady Kiki), an American Kestrel (Tula), and a Mexican Spotted Owl (Jemez).

Other participating organizations included NM Game & Fish, APD Crime Labs, Space History, Explora, the Nuclear Museum, and many more. All the booths were hands-on and engaging, which allowed visitors of all ages to have a really exciting time. We were even recognized by students who have been participating in our Living with the Landscape program at Bellehaven Elementary this year!

We owe a huge thank you to our volunteers who attended and helped set up for this event: Mary Bruesch, Evelyn McGarry, Dianne Rossbach, Arlette Miller, and Amelia Thompson. We could not have done it without you!

With STEM Saturday done, we are looking ahead to March which is a very busy month for our outreach programs. The first weekend of March, we will be attending the Monta Vista Crane Festival in Colorado, an event that Hawks Aloft has been attending for over 27 years.

The following weekend on March 14, we will be at Wild Birds Unlimited on the West Side of Albuquerque. We will also be conducting additional school programs at Santo Domingo Early Childhood Learning Center, Placitas Elementary, and Manzano Day School. 

Meet the Hawks Aloft STEM crew, posing with a taxidermied elk belonging to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish: Maggie Stein, Dianne Rossbach, Mary Bruesch, Evelyn McGarry, and Arlette Miller. Below, the beautiful booth that the crew set up.
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 2 spots remain!

Adopt-A-Raptor Today!
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 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 Turbo, our adult female Burrowing Owl of unknown age. She was caught in a roof turbine and suffered damage to her neck and wing, hence her name. 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.

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

Geoff Carpentier, Ajax, Ontario, Canada

Geoff’s interest in nature started when he was 13, when he would wander through the woods and countryside near his home in northern Ontario, learning about nature first hand. Educated at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, he studied zoology and biological sciences. Recently retired, he worked for over 33 years with the Canadian Ministry of the Environment. In his spare time, he maintained an active personal life where he taught nature and pesticides courses at community colleges and led nature trips. He is a widely published author in nature and science magazines and books, writes a bi-weekly nature column, and worked as an interpretive guide in several national parks. Geoff’s latest triumph is the publication of his second book, “Antarctica – First Journey”, a resource guide for Antarctic travelers, honoring the many times he has visited that exotic continent. He has traveled the world, visiting approximately 80 countries on all seven continents, where he has shared time with Polar Bears, Amazonian snakes and piranhas, observed the private lives of lions, avoided riots in Venezuela, hiked the Andes, camped with Pademelons in Australia, walked with penguins, searched for endemics in Colombia, traversed the Northwest Passage and canoed Ontario’s northern lakes. Being an expedition guide and interpretative leader helps him build on his lifelong passion for nature. He has led numerous trips to Antarctica, South Georgia, the Falklands, Taiwan, Svalbard, Russia, Alaska, Cuba, Borneo, Greenland, the Galapagos, Tanzania, and more. Join Geoff as he shares his knowledge of wild things and places, delivered with caring and thoughtful attention to you his clients!

Visit Geoff''s website to learn more about his trips and tours.

I first met Geoff when I hired him for two glorious days of birding northeast of Toronto, Ontario! I am so glad our paths crossed then, and highly recommend him as a guide. --Gail.

  1. Northern Hawk Owl, photographed in Schomberg, Ontario, Canada
  2. Nazca Booby, Galapagos Archipelago, Ecuador
  3. Chimango Caracara, Ushuaia, Argentina
  4. Andean Cock of the Rock, Jardn, Colombia
  5. Dusky Tetraka, Analamazaotra Forest Station, Madagascar

Thank You to our February Donors!

Charles Brandt
Tracy Brooks
Niels Chapman
Douglas Cheney
Clara Davis
Joan Hashimoto
Mark Head
Sue Lyons
Virginia McQueen
Miguel Palaviccini
David Parsons
David & Tracy Raymo
Allison Schacht
Bruce & Anita Sisk
Kim Slagle
Carol Spangler
Carol Taschek

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

Acequia Animal Hospital

Kariana Atkinson, DVM

Mary & Ed Chappelle

Linda Contos, DVM

Cottonwood Rehabilitation Center

Desert Willow Wildlife
Rehabilitation Center

Eye Care for Animals

Christine Fiorello, DVM

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

VCA West Side

Ventana Animal Clinic

Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico

February 2020 Call Log & Intakes

Sandhill Crane: gunshot

Common Raven: gunshot

Red-tailed Hawk: hit by car

American Crow: possible poisoning

Northern Flicker: possible poisoning

American Crow: possible poisoning 

American Crow: possible poisoning 

American Crow: possible poisoning 

Cooper's Hawk: hit window

Common Raven: wing injury 

Red-tailed Hawk: emaciated 

Barn Owl: hit by car 

Cooper's Hawk: wing injury

Red-tailed Hawk: wing injury 

And Thank You to Our Corporate Donors:
Amazon Smile Foundation
Avangrid Renewables
Benevitty Fund
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

Dagny Cosby, Vice-chair

Terry Edwards, Treasurer

Mary Chappelle , Secretary

Carter Cherry, Director