Eagles and Other Creatures at Manzanos

20 October 2016
Bobcat (photo by Brian Long) Bobcat (photo by Brian Long)
Text by Keelan Dann
Another week of migration has passed here at the Manzano Mountains HawkWatch and this one has been filled with the unexpected and beautiful: warm weather, bobcats, bears, falcons, eagles, and more.
During and surrounding peak the crew anticipates many days busy with birds and birds and more birds.  But, we've had some slow count days recently.  As such, we have been honing our bird riddle skills as and semi-effective way of preventing "mountain madness".
The weather has been unseasonably mild keeping us and dozens of visitors warm as we wait for more raptors to head in our direction.  On one clear day as we scanned the sky we saw the first flock of Sandhill Cranes of the season and since then they keep on coming.  Heading towards the Bosque Del Apache or beyond, they shift formations each riding on the lift from the wing ahead.
In between our raptor and crane counting, other creatures have been surprising us.  We had a close encounter with a bobcat in which the cat seamed quite curious about our operations.  And Brian captured some great camera trail images of a black bear exploring the area.
In the blinds we have been banding some fierce Sharp-shinned Hawks and Cooper's Hawks as well as a few rarer species.  Yet another juvenile male Northern Harrier was banded as well as a Merlin.  Then, Manzanos veteran Walt Lehman banded a Prairie Falcon - the first of the season!    This individual zoomed into the banding station despite having a sizeable crop already.  Lastly, much of the excitement this week came from banding a sub-adult Golden Eagle.  This was the second eagle banded here this season and the first time processing an eagle for two of us.  Seeing her fly out and up and onward somewhere to the south was a mighty sight!
With the thrills of last week fresh in our minds, the Manzanos crew and the dedicated volunteers who keep this operation together are pointing our eyes to the sky.  There are still a couple weeks left, so join us!
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