Bee in Cosmos

Creatures in Albuquerque

Creatures in Albuquerque

Creatures: the desert is full of interesting plants and animals, even in the middle of a city like Albuquerque. I don’t see as many different hawks up in my part of town as Tim Price does down on the Rio Grande bosque (see his blog, very wide ranging but full of wildlife), but the ones I do see are pretty reliable. Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks like the NE Heights of Albuquerque, because people put out feeders that attract little birds. The little birds are what the hawks mostly go for. However, I never let my cats out, and the neighbor of a friend found the remains of his Pomeranian on top of the roof, thanks to hawks. During nesting season, people are advised to take umbrellas to the city’s parks, to avoid being dive bombed by the hawks protecting their young.

One morning last week I was out to photograph the sunrise. So, of course, I had a landscape lens on the camera. During the sunrise, I saw something I have never seen before: an adult hawk brought its young, seeking breakfast. They were in a tree really outside the range of my lens, but I photographed them anyway. Not a great pic, but you can make out the adult and the young one against the sunrise.

creatures Adult Cooper's Hawk with Young

Adult Cooper’s Hawk with Young, against a Desert Sunrise

Several days later I was out to photograph the hummingbirds. I had just put on my bird lens and gotten comfortable to try to get a few pics of hummers. This hawk almost immediately, and very briefly, flew in and then left. Some of you may remember the images from a hawk visit on August 13, 2013. I photographed this hawk on August 13 of this year. I have never photographed a hawk from this angle, and I find it very elegant with its spread tail. I think it is a young one for a variety of reasons. I’d like to think it was the young one brought by a parent a few days before. 🙂

Creatures Hawk Seeking Breakfast

Hawk Seeking Breakfast, Landing in a Neighbor’s Tree. Great Camouflage!

It caught breakfast next door, and then zoomed back through my yard, finding its safe spot for enjoying its prey.

Several of my neighbors and I have worked hard to develop yards that are pollinator-friendly. We have very busy bees during the day on sunflowers, cosmos, roses, etc. This is the year that I have discovered that some bees like to snuggle in flowers at bedtime. This little guy kept wiggling his butt until he was well settled into the cosmos. He was still there at dawn, but flew out to start his work as soon as the sun had warmed the flower.

 creatures Bee in Cosmos

Bee in Cosmos

So much beauty here in the desert, full of creatures even in town… Today, I offer just a brief sample of hawk family at sunrise, hawk landing in a tree, and a little bee snuggling in at bedtime. The world is a wondrous place.


Roadrunner Visit

Roadrunner Sunday Morning Visit

A roadrunner visit is pretty common in this neighborhood. After all, it is the State Bird of New Mexico.I see them daily up and down the street, even if not always in my back yard. This morning I was out enjoying all the avian visitors, when I saw this one. It was hanging out in the shadows, waiting for a tiny tasty morsel such as a goldfinch to drop by.


Roadrunner Waiting for Breakfast

The camera click startled this one a bit (not a common reaction). It jumped down and ran away from me.


I Think She Still Sees Me

Roadrunners really do run, although they are capable of flying. Fastest running speed is often reported at 20 mph, but some have been clocked as fast as 26 mph.

This one decided to show us some running form.


I’m Going to Run!


I Think I’m Safe Now.


Dang! She Still Sees Me!


I’m Outta Here!

The ubiquitous walls (block, adobe, rock, etc.) are like superhighways to the roadrunners. This one came back as soon as I went in the house, strolled onto the patio, and grabbed a lizard hanging out under a rose bush.

If you are not squeamish, you might find these two YouTubes of encounters between roadrunners and rattlers interesting. Life in the desert…

Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache 2014

Bosque del Apache 2014

Bosque del Apache 2014, flashback to a time when things seemed pretty perfect. I was updating software today, and came across images not seen for some time. I enjoyed looking at them, and decided to share a couple here.

Bosque del Apache

Sandhill Cranes, Late Afternoon, January 17, 2014

The following morning at dawn was warm by January standards. The temperature was 19°F, no wind to speak of, and I was dressed in layers. I thought that was sufficient. My two companions that weekend went back to the car shortly after we arrived at this spot. I thought it was too beautiful to leave, and I am glad I have the images. Several hours later when I was warm enough to think sensibly again, I realized that I really had become hypothermic. The next time I plan to be out at dawn some winter day at the Bosque, I’ll have on about ten more layers!

Bosque del Apache

Dawn at Bosque del Apache, January 18, 2014

These images reminded me not only of that weekend, but also how fortunate I am to live in “The Land of Enchantment.”

yellow rumped warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

This western warbler was previously known as “Audubon’s Yellow Rumped Warbler.” The eastern variety was known as the Myrtle warbler. Not too long ago they were lumped under one name. However, there are some distinct differences. The western variety has a yellow chin, seen clearly here.

yellow rumped warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler, Previously Known as Audubon’s Yellow Rumped Warbler

I was not aware of this bird until Mary, owner at Wild Birds Unlimited here in Albuquerque, noted it in one of her monthlhy columns in the Albuquerque Journal. The day I read it, I looked out at my bark butter feeder, and there were two of them, happily eating!

This is the first photo I have of this warbler. They move pretty quickly, and usually don’t sit around waiting for a photographer. 🙂 As things happen, I was photographing some of our very common house finches. They are in their breeding plumage now, and can be quite handsome. This little warbler decided to photobomb. It showed off all the key identification markers for our western variety of warbler.

To learn more about this warbler, check out The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and/or Bird Note.

Cooper's Hawk

An Urban Cooper’s Hawk

An Urban Cooper’s Hawk

Urban Cooper’s hawk, here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was hanging out in a pine tree, waiting for dinner to appear. This is an adult, as opposed to the one in the header image. My neighbors and I have seen this hawk a lot in the past month. Such a hawk is easy to spot when it is flying, or when it lands near a bird feeder. The so-called urban forests of the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque provide easy cover into which they are well camouflaged, however.

I took this photo two minutes into the Super Bowl. When photographic opportunities appear… (Not much was happening in the first two minutes of Super Bowl 🙂 )

urban Cooper's Hawk

The Urban Cooper’s Hawk, Waiting for Dinner to Appear

Last year I briefly saw a fledgling in the yard. I would enjoy seeing more in the yard this year.

Fledgling Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Fledglings: Bad Hair Days

Fledglings: Bad Hair Days

Fledglings are abundant here in late summer. They aren’t the cute babies just hatched, and they aren’t the beautiful birds they will become. They are awkward teens, developing some adult feathers but still with some baby fluff and coloration. I enjoy watching them grow. The scrub jays (now Woodhouse’s scrub-jays) are among my favorite, because they are here year around, and will eat peanuts on the patio table while I’m sitting there.

This fledgling Woodhouse’s scrub jay in the early morning light shows some of the beauty it will develop as it becomes adult.

Fledglings Woodhouse's Scrub Jay

Fledgling Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay

These jays will come quite close for peanuts!

Fledgling Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Fledgling Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay – “I can grab that peanut before the woman sees me!”

You know how beautiful adult robins can be. I’m not sure I had ever paid much attention to fledgling robins, but I had a great deal of empathy for this one!

Fledgling Robin

Fledgling Robin

A few days later I saw this one. I appeared much more majestic in the tree top, lit by the morning sun. I do not know if this were the same fledgling or not.

Fledgling Robin

Fledgling Robin in Early Morning Light

This fledgling house finch managed to look quite regal – to me – atop a sunflower seed head. He had already eaten a fair amount. He looked quite pleased with himself.

Fledgling House Finch

Fledgling House Finch

Woodhouser's scrub-jay

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay and California Scrub-Jay Are Now Two Distinct Species

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay is Little Jay’s new Species name, as of July 7, 2016.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Little Jay has a Big New Name

The official word is from the American Ornithologists Union. The two new species were originally lumped together as “Western scrub jay,” but for some time there has been talk of splitting that group. Small parts of Nevada see some overlap of the two, but beyond that location, location, location is everything.

Here in New Mexico, a scrub jay is Woodhouse’s scrub-jay. This makes identification easy for me. For my friends in Nevada…sorry.

I don’t want to mislead readers into thinking I discovered the species split while casually perusing the latest bulletin from the American Ornithologists Union (although I am sure I have friends who do). A great resource is Greg Gough at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. I had talked with him a couple of years ago, and again just recently when I was working on Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display. He sent me an email this morning advising me of the species split.

Another Woodhouse’s scrub-jay fledgling from a previous year, now with a a new species name:

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Fledgling Scrub Jay: Water Is Life!


Cooper’s Hawk Book Now at ABQ WBU

My Cooper’s Hawk Book Is Now Available at Albuquerque’s Wild Birds Unlimited

My Cooper’s hawk book, Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display, is now available at the Albuquerque Wild Birds Unlimited at 7200 Montgomery Blvd NE, 87109. I am very pleased that the paperback book is now available locally, not only because the Cooper’s hawks are found in large numbers here, but because this remarkable display took place in my very own back yard. Serendipity on a Sunday afternoon…

my Cooper's hawk book

Front Cover, “Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display”

For interested friends and readers not in the Albuquerque area, Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display is available in both Kindle and paperback formats at amazon.com:

Click for Preview

I hope interested friends in the Albuquerque area will stop by Wild Birds Unlimited on Montgomery and support an Albuquerque business that is supporting local photographers and authors.

Individual prints from this Cooper’s hawk courtship display may be purchased at my portfolio site.


Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now in Paperback

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now in Paperback as Well as Kindle at Amazon

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display is now available in paperback format as well as Kindle format at Amazon.com. This was a very unusual display, one I was able to catch in photographic images almost by serendipity.

Both formats contain 32 images of this young hawk’s display. A friend wrote last night

I just read it and loved it! The last few images looks like he was bowing at the end of his performance. Amazing! I’m so glad you caught this.

Another friend noted in a review

The most interaction I ever got from Cooper’s Hawks is when they would often bring their catches and sit on a branch that extended over our deck and eat dinner with us.

The Cooper’s Hawk courtship display Susan captured is what makes this book so special and fun. It’s a short visual chronicle of a display rarely given a private exhibition to anyone but a female hawk.

The paperback edition is $12.99. The Kindle edition is $4.99. The title is part of Amazon’s MatchBook program; anyone who purchases the paperback may purchase the Kindle for $1.99 instead of $4.99. Suitable for all ages.

courtship display

Back and Front Paperback Cover


Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now Available

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now Available as Kindle on Amazon

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display is now available at Amazon in a Kindle version. A paperback edition is also coming.

Can be read on most devices with the free Kindle app. (See end of post for link.)

The volume contains 32 images taken on August 3, 2014. At the time, I knew I had witnessed something remarkable. I knew it was a very intense encounter. Initially, I took it to be some type of territorial display.

This spring, after doing some reading and going back through the images, I came to realize it was something quite different. The behavior is described in the literature, but this on the ground (more precisely, in the trees) display is not well documented photographically.

The encounter with this beautiful young hawk was serendipitous. The display was something I knew nothing about until I saw it that day, and it was almost two years later before I grasped its meaning and the insights it gave into the life of a male Cooper’s hawk.

Cooper's Hawk Courtship Display

Young Male Cooper’s Hawk

In the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to see and to photograph some rather amazing events that I will remember for the rest of my life – the Blood Red Total Lunar Eclipse of September 2015; the Alignment of Jupiter and Venus in the early morning hours of 2015; and I would add this hawk encounter to that list of things that became important to me as observations of life.

Amazon.com – Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices