November 14, 2021
The ABQ BioPark includes the city’s
Botanic Garden, Aquarium, and Zoo. The first two attractions are next to each other, just a short distance from the Old Town Plaza of Albuquerque. We visited the Botanic Garden on Nov. 14 and had a lovely time. We’ve been to a couple of other botanic gardens in the American Southwest (Tucson and Phoenix), and Albuquerque’s is definitely a jewel – even though our visit was during the offseason when there were very few flowering plants.
A number of structures, representing plants, animals, and holiday decorations, for the garden’s holiday light display were already out, although the nightly display didn’t start for another week or two. Still, it was pretty neat to see the structures close up and ready to go.
Although it was mid-November, there were still a few plants in bloom like this Chocolate Flower ( Berlandiera lyrata) hosting a bee that, judging from the amount of pollen on its legs, had already been very busy that morning.
This fan aloe ( Kumara plicatilis) is a native of South Africa. It’s one of many eye-catching succulent plants that were on display in a couple of different buildings at the garden.
The fruit of the Texas prickly pear ( Opuntia engelmannii) makes for good eating by animals and humans alike. When we were on a guided tour of Old Town Albuquerque the previous weekend, one of our fellow tourists (who was apparently not from the United States) picked one of these off the host cactus with his bare hand. He regretted that decision.
This was another outside plant that was in full bloom and attracting bees – it’s Autumn Sage ( Salvia greggii).
This distinctive cactus was potted inside a building. It’s Opuntia microdasys, or bunny ears, and it’s native to Mexico.
The thing I love most about going to botanic gardens is seeing all of the different wildlife that enjoy the plants as well. This is a common checkered-skipper ( Pyrgus communis) pollinating a woodland sage ( Salvia nemorosa) plant. These butterflies are found from Canada all the way into Mexico. The photo’s blurry, but the butterfly wasn’t being very cooperative in holding still.
In the very pretty Japanese garden area, the Nanking cherry trees ( Prunus tomentosa) were full of fruit. These are enjoyed by birds and humans too; they’re more closely related to plums than to true cherries.
By the time you hear the wingflaps, it’s already too late. Much as we did the day before at Rio Grande Visitor Center State Park, we heard a lot of sandhill cranes flying overhead. These were low enough to photograph.
I saw my first-ever wood duck at the state park on Saturday but didn’t get a decent photo. There were plenty of wood ducks in one of the Botanic Garden’s ponds. They’re remarkably beautiful birds. This is a hen and drake pair.
As incredibly gaudy as the drakes are, the wood duck hens are very attractive as well. This little lady seems to have a contented smile.
Wood duck drakes are just amazingly beautiful, but they look like they were put together by several different committees of very talented artists who didn’t communicate very well in the design process.
Here’s another bird that was new to me: the American wigeon. They are found throughout North America except the furthest reaches of northern Canada. This is a drake …
… and here’s a hen. The very pretty light blue bill of the wigeon shows up better in this photo. She’s on the move to someplace that must be very important to be.
Here’s another new-to-me bird: the black phoebe ( Sayornis nigricans). They’re about six inches tall and the males and females have the same coloration. Black phoebes are found in the southwestern United States, and central New Mexico is about as far north as they go. This one was hanging out on a sculpture in the pond, keeping an eye out for flying bugs.
I’ll close this posting with yet another photo of a wood duck. The lighting’s no good on it (although the mahogany color at the base of the tail is very pretty), but I really like that the duck is looking up – I don’t see ducks doing that very often. You may well wonder what this one was looking up at, so I may as well tell you: the duck was looking up at a little boy named Owen. How did we know the duck was looking up at Owen? Because Owen was standing behind a fence over the pond, tossing dried leaves to the ducks. How did we know the boy’s name was Owen? Because we heard his name being called about 300 times by his little friends. We hope that Owen and his friends slept well that night, because we know they had a very active day at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden.