When most people think about birding New Mexico their minds jump to one place – Bosque Del Apache. While Bosque Del Apache is one of the most notable birding places in the whole southwest, and some would say the whole country, Albuquerque proper also offers some great opportunities to rack up species and practice bird photography. Its been a city I have thoroughly enjoyed for a number of reasons, and high on that list of reasons is that I have seen a lot of birds and new species here. I’ve spent roughly three weeks here since November and its offered an interesting change of pace and living environment for me. The state’s motto is ‘The Land of Enchantment’ and everything I have experienced in this state (and Albuquerque) has led me to believe that it is a very apt motto.
Sadly Albuquerque is a bit bereft of useful and efficient public transportation, so all of the places I have written about here were accessed via ride share services such as Lyft and Uber. I feel like this is less of a problem with just Albuquerque and more symptomatic of how the US operates in general. As a country, we just do not prioritize public transportation and I’ve become surprised when I end up in a city with even mediocre public transport. Luckily the first Airbnb I was staying in was within walking distance to Tingly Beach and rideshare services were prevalent for anything not in walking distance.
The different places I’ve been bird watching in Albuquerque are special for different reasons. So far, my favorite spot is Petroglyph National Monument. Petroglyph National Monument is located about 15 minutes from downtown Albuquerque via rideshare. We headed to the Rinconda Canyon trail which was fairly flat and could most likely be done if you have mild mobility issues. I would assume the main difficulty walking here would come from the fact you are waking in sand. They had clean bathrooms but I dont believe there were any water fountains.
Petroglyph National Monument makes for an incredibly unique birding experience particularly because of the Petroglyphs from which it derives its name, and the ecosystem. The National Monument attracts a wide variety of visitors to view a wide array of Petroglyphs (etchings/carvings) on the volcanic rock. The drawings have been dated from 400-700 years ago and are from the Native Americans, early Spanish settlers and westward settlers. From their website
‘The geology of the area shows the remnants of volcanic eruptions of 200,000 years ago. The basalt from these flows caps the sandstone of the Santa Fe Formation. As the softer sandstone erodes away, the basalt breaks off and tumbles down the hillside. This action provided the escarpment where the petroglyphs were carved.’
The other really interesting aspect of Petroglyph is that its an ecosystem that I have never been to before! According to the National Parks Service “Petroglyph NM is located in the transition zone between Great Plains, Great Basin, and Chihuahuan Desert grasslands. Nine vegetation communities have been identified in the monument, with grasslands and shrublands dominant.” I was able to find this dense but extremely interesting report about the types of vegetation. According to the National Park Service and National Resource Stewardship, Rinconda Canyon is comprised of ‘Mixed Semi-Desert Shrubland and Warm Semi-Desert Shrub & Herb Wash Arroyo’. While I do not exactly understand what this means, for me, it meant I got to see two new and striking Sparrows – Sagebrush Sparrow and Black Throated Sparrow.
While Rinconda Canyon at Petroglyph National Monument was my favorite birding spot, the one I have visited most often is Tingley Beach. Tingley Beach makes for an easy birding jaunt if you are in downtown Albuquerque area. Its easily accessed and makes for a great short birding walk even if the name is misleading because.. well.. there is no ‘beach’ at Tingley Beach. The main attraction here is a set of ponds that attract wintering waterfowl. Wigeons, Ruddy Ducks, Canvasback, Northern Shoveler, Coot’s and Pied Billed Grebes and others are easily seen. The surrounding bosque also park also attracts a large amount of Juncos, different species of Sparrows, and Mountain Chickadee. The size makes it ideal for a short morning of bird watching. There are also two really well-located photography blinds that allow you very close proximity to the pond’s inhabitants.
Two other crackerjack birding locations in Albuquerque are the Rio Grande Nature Center and the Los Poblanos open spaces. The Los Poblanos Open Spaces, in particular, ended up being a wonderful place for bird photography. When we visited we were able to get super close to Sandhill Cranes (resulting in the photo I lead the post with) and both Merlin and Kestrels. Kestrels, in general, are particularly enigmatic birds and it was wonderful to watch them perch and hover.
I hope you enjoy just the small taste of birding in Albuquerque I got to share with you today. Its a wonderful place worth visiting, and I find it to be a diverse and friendly city. It offers a pace and flavor of life I find unique and refreshing. Its inhabitants are welcoming, the food is delicious and there are tons of great areas for walking and bird watching. While it does have a few rough areas I found it on par with what Ive encountered in Denver and San Francisco. It has a host of affordable Airbnb’s and if you want to bird or practice your photography skills you have a plethora or fairly easily accessible options. Happy Holidays everyone and you will be hearing from me soon!