The Goddard spent the fall and winter of 2021-2022 in New Mexico and then Arizona, and in the spring we headed back north to visit Colorado for a while. Spring is a great time to watch birds: they’re very active as they gather material for nests and later find food for their fledglings. Leaves on trees also begin to emerge as the weather warms up, which I was to discover makes photographing birds much more difficult than in the fall and winter.
Here are some birds we saw doing their spring thing in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.
Our campground in Holbrook was next to a residential area, which doesn’t happen very often because usually campgrounds are on the outskirts of towns. It gave us a chance to walk by houses and see birds perched in the trees.
Grants, New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Our next stop on our return north was Albuquerque, which Nancy and I really enjoy visiting. There’s a lot to see and do there, and plenty of great Mexican restaurants and grocery stores to enjoy.
Las Vegas, New Mexico
In mid-April we made our way to Las Vegas, which we had also stayed at the previous fall. It was incredibly windy during our stay there in the spring (and the area would be subjected to several wildfires shortly after we left), so we didn’t venture out much. I did take a few photos at the campground, though.
Lathrop State Park, near Walsenburg, Colorado
We returned to Colorado around the end of April, choosing to camp once again at one of our favorite state parks. Located west of Walsenburg in the southern part of the state, Lathrop State Park has two large lakes, good hiking trails, and incredible views of the Spanish Peaks and Blanca Peak, each of which still had snow. The park attracts an enormous number of permanent and migratory birds each year.
By the time we left Lathrop State Park on April 24, I’d seen 51 different species of birds in three different states in 2022. It had become obvious that being around water, whether it’s a river or a lake, greatly increases both the chance of seeing birds and the opportunity to see different species of birds. That would become even more clear at the next Colorado state park at which we’d camp.
The opportunity to photograph another roadrunner presented itself while we were at the Albuquerque Botanic Garden on Sunday, Nov. 14. The garden has a display of vintage farm equipment next to its exhibit on old-timey farmsteads, and this greater roadrunner (as we now know, the state bird of New Mexico) was hanging out among the implements. He/she spent a couple of minutes in full view. I really like the coloration on that snappy head crest.
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.
One of the things I’ve most looked forward to doing in New Mexico, in addition to eating every kind of Mexican food there is and plenty of it, is seeing a roadrunner. I’ve gotten into birdwatching quite a lot in the last several years, and it’s exciting to see a species I haven’t seen before. It’s why I was thrilled to see the western grebe and snow goose at Lathrop State Park last month.
I think there are roadrunners in far southeastern Colorado, and we’ve been in New Mexico and Arizona plenty of times, but I’d never seen a roadrunner until earlier this week. Nancy was working at our dining table in our fifth wheel a couple of mornings ago and said, just out of the blue, “There’s a roadrunner.” There was indeed a roadrunner at an adjacent campsite. I luckily had my camera handy and stepped outside the trailer to take a few photos. They didn’t turn out great (the roadrunner didn’t have the best lighting), but I was still really happy to finally see one. Hopefully we’ll get plenty of more chances to see, and photograph, the New Mexico state bird.
Most U.S. states have official state mammals (Colorado’s is the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, for instance, and New Mexico’s is the black bear) and official state birds (the lark bunting and greater roadrunner for Colorado and New Mexico, respectively), as well as other official state designations (fish, butterflies, fossils, etc.) Did you know/care that New Mexico is the only state with an official question: “Red or green?” It refers to the what kind of chile you prefer to accompany a meal, red chile or green chile. Red chile, which is commonly made from green chiles that ripen to red and are then dried, is usually hotter than green but that’s not always the case.
Nancy and I went to the Downtown Growers’ Market in Albuquerque on Saturday, Nov. 6. She got a bag of dried pinto beans (Nancy’s big on beans) and a small bag of chicos, which are dried and lightly smoked kernels of corn that can be added to stews along with the aforementioned frijoles. And when we sit down to a bowl of it, we can also ask each other: red or green?