Santa Fe Audubon Surprises

I convinced Molly we should visit the Randall Davey Audubon Center this morning. It’s location is up a canyon which has a small stream that actually has water in it (unusual for this dry climate). Much to my surprise when we arrived at sunrise, the center was closed all day Sunday! I never expected it to be open at sunrise, but found it sad that a center which should be encouraging support of birding would be closed on a weekend day.

By contrast in the middle of winter, in a very remote part of Minnesota, we keep the Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center open seven days per week. Our organization … The Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, unlike Audubon,  is NOT flush with money. However we do our darnedest to support birding. Audubon of New Mexico might be advised to learn from our example. Most people work during the week, and if we want the population at large to support our conservation efforts, closing on Sundays when most people might be able to visit is not a good policy.

Thankfully, across the street from the gated off Audubon Center was a nature preserve which had been purchased by Nature’s Conservancy. Thus, I still had plenty of opportunity to bird and enjoy the beautiful morning including two lifers for me, the Mountain Chickadee and Pinyon Jay! Here are a few photos from my expedition.

Spotted Towhee

Pinyon Jay (a lifer for me … even though I was in a nature preserve, there must have been a feeder somewhere near by with peanuts!)

Mountain Chickadee (a lifer for me)

Townsend Solitaire

Santa Fe Birding

We have reached Santa Fe, New Mexico. Just like when I am home in Minnesota, I was out before dawn in search of birds. Unlike the -4F temperature when we left home on Monday, dawn greeted me with bright sunny skies and a 39F temperature. Within an hour, it was almost 50F outside. From a Minnesotan’s perspective, birding was fantastic. Better yet, many of the birds I found were “lifers” for me. The warm dry climate of the American Southwest makes for totally different bird species.

We are camped out for four nights at a great two bedroom suite found upon VRBO. We get full run of the home, and the house is on the fringe of Santa Fe, which means birding is possible by just stepping outside! I you visit Santa Fe for any reason, I highly recommend a stay with Kevin! The owner is personable, and his home is a beautiful example of southwestern architecture which he himself built.

Oh yes … my birding success for today.

Mountain Bluebirds

Curve-Billed Thrashers in a Flowering Cactus!

Spotted Towhee

High Plains Drifter!

When Molly and I travel we like to avoid the interstate highway system. Those 4+ lane roads take one away from seeing America, and only focus on getting from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time possible. Add the road signs and truck traffic into the equation, and I am surprised anyone uses these roads.

Yesterday we drove 300+ miles in our journey towards Santa Fe, New Mexico. While there was an obvious route using interstates, we chose two lane rural highways. At times it felt like we were the only car on the road! The image below was taken in southeastern Colorado as the Rocky Mountains started to rise up on the horizon. While some folks might consider the scenery bleak, I felt it was beautiful. Just a few miles down the road from where I took my landscape photograph, we came across a large number of antelopes. It was a good day to be on America’s rural highways!

Home, Home of the Range!

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play!

Platte River Sandhill Crane Migration Morning Madness!

How does one communicate the visual experience of 460,000 Sandhill Cranes? The number of cranes is not my estimate, but the Audubon Center’s estimate. Last night, Molly and I stood on a footbridge over the Platte River in 20F temperatures and a strong wind and saw what we thought were a small numbers of cranes, certainly no where near 1/2 million birds.

Given our experience the prior night, we almost did not head back to the Platte at sunrise. Oh my, would that have been a mistake. Sandhill cranes were everywhere as they left their night time roosts on mid river sandbars and flew out to farm fields for breakfast.

I have include three videos, which is a much larger number than I would normally post, but perhaps it will help you understand what one of the last great North American migrations both looks and sounds like! I have also included one still image to start the process … taken by my wife Molly of me watching the amazing spectacle. Check out Molly’s blog at SuperiorFootprints.Org.

Video 1: Sandhill Crane Mass Landing & Takeoff

Video 2: Sandhill Cranes Filled the Sky!

Video 3: Sandhill Cranes Filled the Sky!