Bird On a Wire: Western Kingbird

A swooping, darting and sometimes hovering flycatcher, the Western Kingbird is such fun to watch. When they aren’t performing an aerial ballet to outmaneuver and catch a flying insect, you can find them on a favorite perch actively looking for their next meal to wing on by.

These lemon-breasted, robin-sized birds are easy to recognize. Just look up when you hear non-stop chittering and chatting and you’re likely to find a Western kingbird.

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Summer Botany: Meet the Milkweeds

Strolling the neighborhood on a cool July morning, in search of any newly-blooming botanical delights (thanks to our all-too-brief bout of monsoonal rains), from a distance I recognized something different. From a distance it looked like a common pepper plant, or maybe a spectacle pod? Coming closer I thought, “shepherd’s purse” with those tiny satchel-like seeds!  Or could it be bedstraw, with such an intoxicating fragrance?  Finally facing this spindly, narrow-leafed plant, I reached down to a stem and prepared to take a sniff when I was surprised twice!

An ant that had been busy gathering nectar (?) had leaped into my hand and bit me, hard! Obviously he was extremely upset at being disturbed and wanted me to know about it. I instantly dropped the stem and when I flicked the ant from my now throbbing finger, noticed an army of busy ants climbing up and down this tasty plant.

It was then that my surprise was complete. The flowers were unmistakable and recognizable.  This plant was a member of the Dogbane family ….. a beautiful Milkweed! Now I had to learn which species of Asclepias this one was that had such tiny flowers?

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Escapito #3: Wildlife and Geology of Catron County

“The Felix” was back in action for another camping adventure into the wilds of New Mexico.  For a few days we enjoyed spending time at one of our favorite dry campgrounds, Datil Well. Then on one day we unhooked truck from trailer and headed further afield to explore a seldom visited area of the Cibola National Forest ….. the Sawtooth Mountains.

Come along and see what we discovered!

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Life List Birds: Scott’s Oriole and Hermit Thrush

Yes, I keep a life list of birds! But along with the list (which includes birds from around the world), I also try to learn something about the species logged, and lately I’ve been enjoying sketching them too.

It’s been a while since a new-to-me bird species came into view. So it was doubly exciting when I was able to increase my list by two on two consecutive days. Meet the Scott’s Oriole and the Hermit Thrush.

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Summer Botany: Banana Yucca Seed Pod Dissection

After trying for 4 years to collect one of the giant seed pods from our small population of banana yuccas, I was sure this would be the year. One of the plants was in full bloom about a month ago, and after noticing the fleshy fruits were enlarging, I kept watch almost daily.

I should’ve suspected the local population of mule deer were also keeping close watch, because a week ago they snuck in and harvested every single seed pod! Disappointed? Yes. But still determined …….

Then a few days ago I discovered another plant loaded with a dozen of the huge fleshy green pods! Without further ado, I liberated 2 of them and dissection began …..

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The Road to Master Naturalist: The Middle Rio Grande Bosque Tour and Lessons Shared by a Nature Journaler 

“From the spillway below Cochiti Dam to the headwaters of Elephant Butte Reservoir, the Middle Rio Grande Bosque is more than a cottonwood woodland or forest. It is a whole riparian (or riverside) ecosystem…..”

This is how “A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque”1 begins, and on June 26th, the Master Naturalists’ trainees spent quality time touring and learning about the nature of this very special area.  

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The Road to Master Naturalist: Oh No! Noxious Weed Alert ….. 

Probably best known as Tree of Heaven (ToH), Ailanthus altissima seems to be more widespread in the Albuquerque area and up in the East Mountains than I thought. And it’s officially on the noxious weed list for New Mexico.

How did this happen?

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Chapter 220626: Flambé’s latest Misadventure …. The Teeny Tiny Treehouse


June 26, 2022. Teeny Tiny Treehouse

Earlier in the month, our kurious Kat visited the local Zoo’s Bugatorium where she had a surprisingly good time. But it was exhausting dodging all the creepy crawly residents as she had no desire to squish or squash or slip on her new cast of “friends.” Wow! Time for a Katnap.  At that moment an army of harvester ants, marching only inches from Flambé’s paws, heard her yawn of exhaustion. Without breaking formation they hollered up in unison, “follow us you fatigued furrball!”

Perhaps not thinking clearly, Flambé fell in line, and even though she was so drowsy she managed to keep pace with these hungry ants as they led her to who-knows-where. 

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The Road to Master Naturalist: A Field Trip … Tijeras Creek Remediation Project

Yay! After waiting out Covid for 2 years, Bernalillo County (Albuquerque) is once again holding classes for Master Naturalist certification! Both Roy and I applied and were accepted into the program along with 20 other students of all ages and backgrounds.

Many of the classes are being held via Zoom meetings. But thanks to scheduled field trips we are getting to know each other while learning some cool stuff, including a visit to The Tijeras Creek Remediation Project, in our home town. We never realized!

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Make Nature Journaling Your Cuppa Tea!

Ever have a tune in your head …. one you keep humming over and over again ….. you know, a persistent ”ear worm” that just won’t quit?

About 3 weeks ago that was me. I have been looking for ways to get “kids” of all ages as excited about nature journaling as I am, so with that insistent tune rattling about my brain, I picked up my ukulele and began to strum ….

…. just a few simple chords. Then ……….

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