Birds of West Texas, New Mexico & Arizona
All words and images © 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in any form.
Tucumcari, New Mexico
Once the motel center of the western world, now a ghosting town of empty and abandoned buildings, Tucumcari, New Mexico was our first night's stop, tired from our long trek across West Texas. We'd seen Turkey Vultures out there, of course. They're everywhere.
Anna and I vacationed on the North Rim of the Grand Can in mid-September. At least that was our ultimate goal. We visited a lot of places there, back and beyond.
Up Central New Mexico, across its top left corner past the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Four Corners, into the Canyon, down to Sedona, later back across I-40 to Central New Mexico, finally back across West Texas, we took photographs, many of birds and bird-like objects.
These are the best of those, in vague chronology. Later, I'll do a closer chron of the extra-avian portion of our vacation — lots of big holes and wide expanses, but this Amateur Journal version is first.
But the Turkey and his buddies were our first officially photographed birds on the trip. We found them in an area of downtown that's wall to wall buildings nobody uses, where a wild tribe of roosters roams the sidewalks and streets ablaze in the glory of their colors and the faded colors of bygone city glory.
I saw this large bird flying along the edge of a desert dropping down from the highway, and pulled the car off the nearly deserted road, click-click-clicking my camera, wishing I could follow its flying arcs through the car's window posts.
From the start, I knew this mass of motley feathers was something special, again suspecting an eagle. It is big, fluffy with brown mottled and striped feathers, its face fierce with that large, hooked beak — the better for tearing flesh.Not till I hit the bird books that evening did I discover those tell-tale red brown feathers at its far end told its name.
Many years ago, my dear friend the late artist Iron Eyes gifted me two Red-tailed Hawk feathers for protection. I carried them hanging from my rear-view mirror for nearly a decade, and despite my driving I lived through several accidents including one that should have been fatal.
Another magical friend recently gifted me feathers a wild Indiana hawk donated in molting. Those graced Anna's car on our trip and will return to my own rear-view.Since that first gifting, I've felt a kinship. They're not talismans, more a symbol for a protective force. An identity with spirit.
We stopped to watch that river ripple, hoping for new birds. And we found some we still haven't identified, somersaulting through the air for the fun of it or to distract us from their nests or young or something.
It might have helped identifications if I'd got more, closer or in better focus, but these guys were moving fast.
But we never did identify some of the birds we saw and photographed. We're not giving up yet, but sometimes my photos did not provide enough information. Like the following tyke perched on not quite as precarious limb right on the edge of the canyon. It took a looong time to figure out this unsub.
Unsub is TV cop show for UNidentified SUBject.