I'm lucky enough to have had the opportunity to spend several mornings and evenings along the middle Rio Grande bosque counting songbirds and waterfowl. Along with the season's emblematic Sandhill Cranes, there is an abundance of birds that are easy to spot, easy to identify and which there is plenty of to see along Albuquerque's sliver of the mighty river.
Among these, perhaps the most common is the Mallard Duck. Both males and females- usually mated at this point in the year- swim through the acqueias and the river proper. These ducks are endemic the whole world through and the males- with a glossy green head and shades of brown feathers down their wings, backs and chests- are easy to spot. More often than not, if you spot a male, there will be a better camouflaged female nearby.
The Gadwall Duck- nearly the size of the Mallard, but with more understated coloration and a black bill- is also easy to find in the river this winter. These ducks are nearly as widespread as the Mallard due to their extreme adaptability. They've even been known to snatch food from the beak of other diving ducks.
Looking for something even more adorable? The Coot- technically part of the Rail family- is dark, petite and easy to spot in open water. These birds are black throughout the body, but have a light, even white colored bill, and sometimes show white on the tail. Making them even more endearing, coots have small, rounded wings and are weak fliers, despite their ability to cover large distances when necessary.
Also keep an eye out for the striking Wigeon, too. These birds breed farther north and make their way down to Albuquerque during the winter season. Males are colorful, with a cream colored forehead and jade green highlights while females are grayish overall. I've spotted just one along the Rio Grande this winter, but these are increasingly abundant.
Also found along the river: dog prints, coyote prints, the spine of a large mammal. Winter time is just as wonderful to test the waters of the Rio Grande, particularly when we have such an abundance of beautiful birds floating by for the season.
Every autumn throughout the western United States there are a plethora of festivals to celebrate the return of the Sandhill Crane to their wintering grounds. Just like many other migratory birds, they undergo an epic journey twice a year, but what sets them apart from the flocks of larks, murmurations of starlings and charms of finches that undertake similar quests for warmer weather and abundant food supplies?
First, birds of the gruidae family are set apart from other migratory birds by their sheer size. Even in a place like New Mexico that boasts an abundance of large hawks and eagles, the leggy Sandhill Crane dwarfs them. The size of these graceful birds is even more impressive when large numbers of them congregate for migration. When I say large, I mean it- tens of thousands of birds group together to move south.
As they migrate, usually during daylight (unlike many migratory birds who travel by night) Sandhill Cranes project a deep rolling call, with mated pairs performing a sort of call-and-response, the female in double time. With their distinct red mask and graceful demeanor, these birds are a welcome addition to the abundant avian life found in New Mexico, and notable, because their stay here is somewhat brief.
Welcoming the Sandhill Cranes back to the open spaces of our state is also an acknowledgment of the turning of the seasons and the intelligence of the natural world. For avid birdwatchers, as well as amateurs, this viewing opportunity is one-of-a-kind.
At the annual Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge visitors can do more than just observe the birds, but attend classes and workshops that contextualize the experience and further connect them with the landscape. This year the festival runs from Tuesday, November 17th through Sunday, the 22nd. Those who can't attend the festival can still see the abundant Sandhill Cranes well into March.
Introducing, Diane Coffee.
The Mountain that eats men.
We are traveling at warp speed.
The death of death.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an anthropomorphic lemon picking up garbage in the streets of Tokyo?
Star Wars: The Art Awakens
Another “branch” of advertising.
Gateway to Hell.
Even more future schtuff!
Oh, the feels.
Guardian of the Galaxy.
Who needs intelligence when you have this?
Explosions in Tianjin.
Carry on my Wayward Gwar. (r.i.p. dave brockie)
Art is nature.
TWA Flight 260 Crash Site. (Shit I never knew existed here)
Did ancient Egyptians make jewelry out of metal from space? According to a new article in Nature, they did indeed.
Archaeologists believe that iron smelting in ancient Egypt started around the sixth century BCE. But an iron bead found in a cemetery in 1911 at Gerzeh, about 43 miles south of Cairo, dates from approximately 3,300 BCE. Scanning electron microscopy, optical imaging and CT scanning revealed the presence of nickel-rich areas on the tube-shaped bead, indicating celestial provenance. The metal, it seems, came from a meteorite.
According to Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley, who co-authored the study that revealed the bead's true nature, the finding offers a clue about the beginnings of the Egyptian religion. “The sky was very important to the ancient Egyptians,” she points out. “Something that falls from the sky is going to be considered as a gift from the gods.”