Albuquerque Celebrates Birds and Their Habitat

Albuquerque can be proud of its commitment to birds and wildlife through funding and setting aside tracts of land to preserve habitat and to allow local residents to enjoy nature. Two recent events capture this commitment. At a time when the local press is filled with stories about crime, the media focused this past weekend on the Valle de Oro NWR and the 30th anniversary of Open Space.

A large crowd gathered August 8 to celebrate the final land acquisition for the Valle de Oro NWR, Albuquerque’s Urban Wildlife Refuge. A quote from someone who attended sums up the community support – “this Refuge was not possible without the community action and funding of New Mexicans!” In fact, the local community support was so robust that the ‘friends’ group was formed before the refuge became official.

This gem in Albuquerque’s south valley originally was Valley Gold Dairy, and more recently Price’s Dairy. Friends who grew up in Albuquerque remember fondly driving to the Valley Gold Dairy to get bottles of fresh milk.

The children of Price’s Dairy had their own careers and didn’t want to operate a dairy; however, they were clear that they didn’t want the land turned into residential housing. It was the largest tract of undeveloped land left in the south valley.

I, along with scores of local birders, have enjoyed the opportunity to observe the seasonal bird-life along the periphery of the property, as well as from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy’s service road the cuts through the land. From these vantage points, we have admired wintering Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese feeding in the farm fields.

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

Since the refuge is on the approach to the Albuquerque Sunport, the final plans won’t include habitat for cranes and geese.

During spring migration, Bobolinks,

Bobolink

Bobolink

Long-billed Curlews

Long-billed Curlews

Long-billed Curlews

and White-faced Ibis have stopped to feed and rest.

White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis

Cliff and Barn Swallows feed and nest during the summer,

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows

along with Western Kingbirds,

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Swainson’s Hawks

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

and Snowy and Cattle Egrets.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

And, year-round Cooper’s Hawks and

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

delight birders.

This spring, an access path was finished that allows nature lovers to walk in the bosque and along the drain to the west of the refuge.

I can’t wait to see what is in store as the refuge grows and develops.

The following day, Albuquerqueans gathered at the Open Space Visitor Center to listen to music and eat cake celebrating 30 years of the Open Space Division; however, Albuquerque’s commitment to open space dates back almost 50 years when the city first began acquiring land. According to their website, Albuquerque is listed as having the highest percentage of parkland and Open Space per person for small cities in the United States.

Open Space lands border the city on all sides, from the numerous sites dotting the foothills, nestled along the Rio Grande, on farm lands, and on the West Mesa.

In the winter, I like to prowl the trails at Elena Gallegos Open Space (one of the sites in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico) for the opportunity to watch Townsend’s Solitaire

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire

and Western Bluebirds that descend from the mountains from their breeding areas above 10,000 feet.

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

While Cactus Wren,

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

and Curve-billed Thrashers

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

can be found year-round at Embudito Open Space (featured in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico) – my local ‘patch’ – I love to look for these charismatic and vocal birds as they get active in early March and start singing on territory calling out for mates.

It is also a good time to listen for both Gambel’s

Gambel's Quail

Gambel’s Quail

and Scaled Quail, particularly near the trailhead.

Scaled Quail

Scaled Quail

Alameda Open Space (featured in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico) is one of my favorite winter birding locations. The deep water on the river just south of the pumping station attracts Common Merganser.

female Common Merganser

female Common Merganser

Gulls rest there on the sand bars, and often there is a rarity mixed with the Ring-billed Gulls.

Ring-billed Gulls

Ring-billed Gulls

The Rio Grande near the Alameda Open Space is a good location to spot a Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Los Poblanos Open Space is the place to go to enjoy Western Meadowlarks

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

and watch Sandhill Cranes feeding in the fields. You can walk the trails and observe them fairly closely.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

In the spring, I head to Embudito Open Space to observe Black-throated Sparrows pop up from the cholla cactus.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

and Black Chinned Sparrows singing from three-winged salt bush.

Black-chinned Sparrow

Black-chinned Sparrow

Back at the open spaces along the river, Ash-throated Flycatchers arrive in April,

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

and by Mid-May you can look for Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

and Summer Tanager.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

We are truly blessed that the citizens of Albuquerque have chosen to preserve an array of Open Space and rallied behind the creation of an Urban Wildlife Refuge – truly a cause for celebration.

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One thought on “Albuquerque Celebrates Birds and Their Habitat

  1. Wonderful post, Judy, a tribute to all those who made it happen and illustration of why these areas are so valuable to all of us who regularly visit and enjoy these natural areas.

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