Joe Healy, Lawry Sager, Walt Teilmann

The Santa Fe Botanical Garden is located on two properties with distinct habitats: the pinon/juniper scrubland of the Botanical Garden at Museum Hill and the pond and riparian woodlands of the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve (LCWP).  In birding, as in real estate, it’s “location, location, location.” Sixty species are common to both locations but each site has birds not likely to be found at the other.


Commonly Seen at Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve

American Robin

The American Robin favors the trees of the riparian woodland. The Red-winged Blackbird dwells in the cattails and reeds of the wetland. While we think of these birds as resident, the individuals we see in summer may not be the same as those observed in winter.

Less Common at Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve

White-faced Ibises are colorful wading birds with long legs and long curved specialized bills. Migrating from Mexico, they were apparently attracted to the LCWP pond to forage on aquatic prey and rest. They probably continued their migration further northward to summer breeding grounds in fresh water marshes in the U.S. and Canada.The Virginia Rail, one of a group of Small Rails, is a small, thin, marsh bird. Its laterally compressed body is credited with the origin of the expression: “thin as a rail.” With a gray face, rich reddish breast, short tail, long bill and short rounded wings the Rail likes wet marshes filled with cattails and other reeds. Because of its usual secretive behavior, identification often relies on its habitat and call. On two occasions, we played a recording of its call and lured it out in the open so we could all observe it!

Birders will enjoy Bill Schmoker’s (Virginia Rail photo) bird photo site

Preserve Birds by Rocky Tucker

In the somewhat arid Santa Fe area, it is unusual to find any wetlands.  Just south of Santa Fe is a general cienega area.  A cienega is a wet, marshy area on the edge of a grassland where groundwater bubbles to the surface.  Surface water is a great attractant for wildlife.

The Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve (LCWP) is right in the middle of such an area.  Its thirty-two acres and varied habitat has attracted ninety-four species of birds.  To name just a few of them:

Around the pond area there have been Pied-billed Grebe, Canada Geese, Great-blue Heron, Sandhill Crane, Ring-necked Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Virginia Rails, Black Phoebe and Osprey. (and Coots and bull frogs).  Warblers also show up (Orange-crowned, Yellow, Wilson’s, Yellow-rumped and Yellow-breasted Chat).

Lazuli Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, Goldfinches (Lesser and American), Finches (House and Cassin’s), Ash-throated Flycatcher, Kingbirds (Cassin’s and Western) , Western Tanagers, Sparrows (Cassin’s, Chipping, Lark, and White-Crowned) can be seen in the wetland fields.

In the wooded areas are found hummers (Black-chinned and Broad-tail and Rufus during fall migration), Woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy and Ladder-backed), Sapsuckers (Red-naped and Williamson’s), Wrens (Bewick’s and Winter), Towhees (Spotted and Canyon), and Curve-billed Thrasher.

Circling overhead are Swallows (Bank, Barn, Cliff, Rough-winged, Tree and Violet Green).  Doves (Mourning, White-winged and Collared) and Common Nighthawks also make their appearance in the sky.  As well as the occasional Red-Tailed hawk, Prairie Falcon and Owl (Barn, Burrowing and Great-horned).

In the drier upland area, Western (now Woodhouse’s) Scrub Jay, Roadrunner, Magpie, Mockingbird and Townsend’s Solitaire are to be found.

The Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve is well worth a visit.  It also has an abundance of flora that is unique to wetlands.  A pleasant place to spend a few hours!