If you are one of the almost 13 million people in the United States who enjoys birding, you’ll find some great places to visit in Santa Fe where you can add to your life list! We’re going to explore several birding locations here on SantaFe.com, but let’s start with a stellar spot: the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary. Here you will find 135 acres to explore, including a garden with feeders to bring birds up close for you to observe and photograph, plus trails where you can wander off to make discoveries on your own. In addition, the center offers guided bird walks with local experts Saturday mornings at 8:30 a.m. (except in January and on holidays).
The center’s land is surrounded by National Forest and Santa Fe Watershed land and sits next to property owned by the Nature Conservancy. On our late September guided bird walk, we spent part of our time on the Audubon land, then crossed over to the Nature Conservancy trails where there is a marshy pond to see if we could spot some water birds (four mallards, one sora).
About 190 species of birds have been recorded at Randall Davey. Within minutes of walking the trail in the garden area closest to the nature store, we spotted hungry broad-tailed hummingbirds zipping up to the feeders and chasing away their competition. As seed feeders were being hung by staff members, spotted towhees and dark-eyed juncos scratched in the earth for an easy meal, mountain chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches landed on the platform feeders, and a hairy woodpecker tapped away at a tall tree nearby. Soon, a flock of pinyon jays flew over and Stellar jays were heard in a copse of trees as we wandered farther from the garden. As we hiked the trails, northern flickers became abundant and we spotted a couple of Woodhouse’s scrub-jays, along with a hungry Cooper’s hawk hunting along the ridge. Warblers were migrating through, so we spotted busy Townsend’s and Wilson’s warblers flitting in the trees.
Our group of about 15 came from as far away as New York and included beginning and experienced birders. Our tour leaders were experienced birders from the local area, who were tasked with making sure we knew what we saw and that we all returned safely back where we began. Loaner binoculars were available for those who didn’t have them.
We had some funny moments, such as when a “bright yellow bird” turned out to be a leaf, and frustrating times when we could hear a bird and just couldn’t identify it. But when our tour wrapped up about 11:30, we had recorded 27 species of birds and enjoyed a beautiful fall morning out with new companions. Of course, we also spotted other forms of wildlife, including monarch butterflies feeding on chamisa and cottontail rabbits peering through the grass.
The Audubon Center has an interesting history. The land was owned by artist Randall Davey, whose home and studio were on the land. In fact, they are still there and can be toured Fridays at 2 p.m. for $5, by reservation. (Call 505-983-4609 x 28 to reserve your space. Bring your mask for the tour.) Davey died in 1964 and in 1983, his family donated the property to the Audubon Society for a wildlife sanctuary and educational center. Now Audubon Southwest is based on the property, managing the nonprofit’s activities in New Mexico and Arizona.
Thousands of schoolchildren have come through the center for a variety of educational programs and a new children’s exploration zone has been constructed, including a giant acorn and an oversized pinecone!
The center is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., but sometimes must close due to bad weather. Call to check if you are unsure if they’ll be open. Since this is a sanctuary, pets are not allowed.
Nearest the parking lot is a nice little nature shop, which opens at 9 a.m. It offers a variety of books, shirts, art, and other items you may want to commemorate your visit or use to add to your nature knowledge. Restrooms are available nearby as well.
The Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary is located at 1800 Upper Canyon Rd. Download their bird list and get directions on their website.
This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead