Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Adventures Away from Home: New Mexico in November, 2023

Back in November, I was lucky enough to be able to visit my sister in Albuquerque, New Mexico! I'd never traveled to the southwestern US before, so this was a trip with many firsts for me. We crammed as many activities as we could into just a few days -- there was so much delicious food, fun and weird art, wonderful family time, and of course amazing nature. So here's a summary of some of the incredible nature I saw in my too-brief time in New Mexico!

I flew in to Albuquerque on November 12, and the airplane's approach gave me a first beautiful view of the city, with the Rio Grande snaking through the middle, and the small mountain range, the Sandias, as a backdrop:

On this first day, we took a late afternoon walk along the Rio Grande, where flock after flock of (noisy!) Sandhill Cranes flew low overhead, heading along the river to their nighttime roosting spot:

The next morning, I was absolutely thrilled to be able to see first-hand something my sister had been telling us about since moving to Albuquerque, and which seemed like a fairy tale: A Greater Roadrunner, who my sister affectionately calls "Henry," hangs out most days in the front yard of their little house. A yard roadrunner! This is a quiet neighborhood, yes, but it's also certainly in the city, with houses and sidewalks and cats. And a yard roadrunner. Sometimes two roadrunners, even, when Henry's mate is around!

In any case, the roadrunner appeared in the yard with the rising sun, and I spent a good chunk of time outside with this incredible bird while he (or she) had a thorough grooming and sunning session on top of the car. On top of the car!

Really, though, this made the awkwardness of carrying my camera on multiple flights worth it. This bird and I had a fantastic photo shoot, with amazing light, and so many cool poses. This relaxed and puffed-out pose is one of my favorites:

And there's also this full-body stretch, with all those iridescent feathers on display:

And these super-fluffy chest feathers:

And this incredible tail:

I also love this picture, which happened to catch Henry (or mate, I'm still not sure) mid-yawn:

Here's one more picture with a bit more cropping for a closer portrait:

What an amazing bird! While I was photographing the roadrunner, I heard a skittering sound on the house's metal roof, and there was a Curve-billed Thrasher, another common yard bird at this house. Well, that's two brand-new-to-me birds in the span of a few minutes:

After a while, the roadrunner hopped up onto the roof of the neighboring house, and that was it for our photo session. Those dark and fluffy back feathers sure look like they're good for gathering warmth from the sunlight:

Wow. So that was amazing! Thank you for letting me hang out with you, large bird, during your morning routine. (I know, humans are weird.)

Later that morning, I walked around in a nearby cemetery, where I saw this Red-breasted Nuthatch gathering food:

And back at the house, the Curve-billed Thrashers were hunkered down in the shade of some desert-y plants:

The next morning, as we pulled out of the driveway for some more adventures, the two roadrunners (sure, this is normal!) were starting their day on the road in front of the house, too:

Have a good day, friend!

For the morning's outing, we went to the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. Here's a scene from one of the park's watery overlooks, with beautiful yellow/brown Cottonwood trees and the Sandias in the background:

A few flocks of Sandhill Cranes flew by overhead this morning, too -- I so appreciate seeing these big birds:

After some more adventures in downtown Albuquerque, we spent the last part of the afternoon in the base of the Sandias, on the Tres Pistolas trail. This rocky, desert mountain landscape was really amazing:

And these are some dramatic cliffs:

Some of these rock formations made some interesting shapes -- I see a reclining person in these rocks:

American Robins were all over the place, eating the abundant small blue berries/cones on what I'm guessing are some sort of juniper. Western Bluebirds were also hanging around, and they sat still long enough for a couple of pictures in the fading light:

Here's another blue bird in low light, a Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay:

I was totally enchanted by this little cactus that looked so much like a person out for a walk in the dry grass (and with a second cactus-person in the background):

I had been wishing that I would get to see quail at some point during this trip, and as we were finishing this walk (my last one of the visit), it seemed like there wouldn't be any quail this time. But as we got back to the parking area, and the daylight was nearly gone, we heard some strange little sounds... and there was a flock of Gambrel's Quail foraging in the underbrush! Hooray! Here's a male, watching me from his perch in a tangle of branches:

We caught brief glimpses of these creatures as they ran from the shelter of one clump of brush to another, and I was happy to get to see them at all, right in the last possible moment in my trip. There one goooooooes:

My visit to New Mexico was far too short, but I was really impressed that we were able to see and do so much in that limited time. And as far as I'm concerned, the quail, cranes, and especially the yard roadrunners (!), are reason enough for people to call New Mexico the "land of enchantment." I'm on board! And I'm super grateful that I got to visit this very interesting place.

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