Archive for the ‘Albuquerque’ Category

THE Bird Find of a Lifetime!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Rare Yellow Grosbeak in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Feb. 22, 2006
Photos by Mark Justice Hinton (c) 2006

New Photos posted on full blog at www.merridancing.com/wp (see especially photo posted 3/14/06 March 2006 Folk Enews, 2nd Half)

This all started when my court administrator Lori gave me an article from the Albuquerque Tribune about a rare sighting of a yellow grosbeak. If you read the Sibley Guide to Birds, you will learn that the yellow grosbeak normally lives in Mexico and points south. Sibley states, “There are few confirmed records of Yellow Grosbeak from Arizona, despite many reports. As always when reporting such a rare bird, take extra care in the identification and be sure to eliminate all similar species….” Until a few weeks ago, there were no known reports of yellow grosbeaks in New Mexico, ever.

I had heard about this grosbeak in January 2006 when our friends Dave Mehlman, an ornithologist with the Nature Conservancy, and Kathleen Hall came over one Saturday. That morning they had been in the yard of Ray Powell, a veterinarian, environmentalist, candidate for state land commissioner, and friend of mine, who lives across the road from Dave and Kathleen. Apparently, the bird was making quite a stir and had attracted about 30 or 40 folks, including our teenage neighbor Michael Hilchey, there to observe it.

Then I read the Tribune article. It so happened that Dave Mehlman, who is also an ace contra dancer, was giving a talk at the Natural History Museum’s Dynamax Theater on Tuesday, February 21, about the ivory-billed woodpecker recovery project. [Aside: Dave is on the national recovery team for the ivory-billed woodpecker, and we’re very proud of him.] I told Dave I would bring him the article from the Tribune, which he hadn’t seen.

A young woman named Laurel with the New Mexico Audubon Society was sitting in front of us in the Dynamax, along with Turtle Bear Guillermo who also dances with us on occasion. Laurel overhead us talking about the article and said, “The grosbeak moved to 1412 Las Lomas. I saw it there this afternoon.” “Really?!” I said, “Our friends live at 1601 Las Lomas.” About that time, Melissa and Lew, who live at 1601 Los Lomas and are also dancers, walked into the theatre (we didn’t even know they were coming). We passed them the article and decided we’d go see Lew today and walk down to 1412 to look for the bird.

As small town Albuquerque goes, 1412 Las Lomas NE turned out to be the home of Kay Bratton, an attorney I’ve known for more than 20 years! Mark, Lew and I went there at noon with burritos from Golden Pride. Kay had left a sign in the front with instructions about where to sit and where to look. We went in the backyard and settled around the patio table. Her signs didn’t tell us there was a “vicious guard dog”!

Grosbeak Guard Dog
Photo by Mark Justice Hinton (c) 2006

Actually, he was darling and his main objective was to beg for burrito bits and to try to drag the lunch sack off the table. Kay’s backyard also has a covered swimming pool, so be careful not to step on the cover and fall through into the water.

After 10 or 15 minutes of watching, I saw a large bird with white patches on his wings land in the pine tree above the feeders. “I think he’s here,” I told Mark and Lew. A few minutes later, the grosbeak hopped down and settled onto the seed tray with the sparrows and finches for some sunflower seeds. We saw him three times in the half hour between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Mark took several photographs and created the above collage. Identifying a yellow grosbeak is like identifying a bald eagle–even for casual birders, the yellow color and thick parrot-like beak are bulls-eye field marks. We felt a little guilty at how easy it was and how lucky we were, but we relished our brief foray into birding history. The day was truly charmed. My hubby posted his unique views about birding at http://www.edgewiseblog.com/mjh/index.php (“Bird Man of Albuquerque, no, not me!,” posted 2/22/06).

Birdwatchers Lew and Merri
Photo by Mark Justice Hinton (c) 2006

We also saw juncos, several ladder-backed woodpeckers, and a spotted towhee. Kay came home to go to a dentist appointment and invited us inside where we signed the guest book. A dozen or so people had signed in today. On our way out, we met a couple from out of town who had heard about the bird. We gave them instructions, including “don’t let the dog out of the yard,” and headed home.

I love this town.

P.S. Melissa, Lew, Mark and I saw the grosbeak again last Friday. February 24. He is a very accommodating rare bird. And a few weeks later, a visiting Californian took this shot:

Yellow Grosbeak\\\'s Still at Kay\\\'s on 3/11/06
Photo taken on March 11, 2006 by Matthew Matthiessen, Ukiah, CA, who visited the bird in Albuquerque, (c) 2006

Hands Five Brings Down the House

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Thanks, everyone, for showing up at the February 4 Albuquerque contra dance. Nancy Ford reports that “Officially, the count was 96. “ That is an AMAZING number of dancers. Forty dancers filled two lines during the newcomer’s class. A bunch of them were in their 20’s and 30’s, yet another shocking development. We oldies are thrilled, of course, to see some young ‘uns (at this point anyone under 50 is young to me). We still wish more of the dancers were men, but there were fewer women sitting out this time than at the last dance. Maybe word will get out and even more guys will show up next time. All we want is a little gender balance.

If we can’t have that, I would be willing to teach a “how to dance as a man” workshop for women. We might invite the men too and let them dance as the women. A few women have asked me about doing this because they’d rather dance the man’s part than sit out and miss the fun. We could do the workshop one Saturday afternoon, have a potluck dinner, and then attend the regular dance and show off our newly learned skills.

Hands Five got rave reviews for their interesting and lively tunes. They wove creative trills and accents into the tunes, including a snippet of “Hava Nagila.” The fiddler’s wife was even spotted kicking up her heels on the dance floor!

We still had two lines of dancers at the end, including several of the brand new dancers. But the finest compliment of all came from a woman from New York. She was passing through New Mexico with her teenage granddaughter, who also danced. At the end of the night, she came up to me and the band and said, “Thanks for a wonderful evening! I never expected to stumble upon such an excellent dance in New Mexico!” I guess we have known all along how fun and friendly we are. It’s nice to know that out-of-staters are finding out too.

If you missed Saturday’s dance, Hands Five and I will be doing Santa Fe’s contra dance on April 8, 2006.

Wagogo & Lura at El Rey

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

The beauty of a blog is that I can post things as they come up. If you’re not dancing in Santa Fe Saturday night, you can be dancing in Albuquerque with no instruction, just groovin’ and movin’ to the rhythmic music of Wagogo. I stole most of this info from neal copperman, the master concert promoter who organized ¡Globalquerque! I can personally attest that Wagogo is so dance-rhythmic, I once started a congo line with a hundred 60- to 80-year-old women dancing to them!

An AMP Dance Party with Lura (from Cape Verde) and Wagogo from Albuquerque
Saturday, January 28, 8:00 pm
El Rey Theater, 620 Central Ave SW (Downtown)
$20 advance, $25 door
Tickets at abqmusic.com, Bookworks, and Natural Sound

Late night dance party with Wagogo follows the Lura show. Tickets to see Lura include admission
to the Wagogo show. Separate admission to see Wagogo at 10:00 is $8 at the door only, but why
would you want to skip Lura? There is a huge buzz on Lura these days. She was one of the big hits of ?Globalquerque! before heading off to play festivals across the United States and a well received European tour. For this swing through the states, she’ll be doing two nights at Globalfest in NYC, the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis and cool clubs in Chicago and Seattle.

Lura is from Santiago, the most African of the Cape Verde Islands, located about 300 miles off
the coast of Senegal. The music is a sexy, slinky Afro-Portuguese blend, combining styles like batuku (songs inspired by the rhythm and gossip of communal laundering) and funana (an accordion-based dance song) with Portuguese Fado and jazz.

The night will end with a late night dance party with one of Albuquerque’s best world music bands
– Wagogo. Several members will have just returned from Zimbabwe, so they should be full of new ideas and energy. This is a rare chance to see Wagogo in a big theater with a great dance floor. In case you haven’t heard, the El Rey has been no smoking for over a year now. If you’ve never been, there is a wooden dance floor in front of the stage and the theater is tiered. There will be tables and chairs out on the other tiers for those who don’t want to dance all night. Visit www.abqmusic.com for more info. And boogey on…

Albuquerque Dancing

Monday, January 9th, 2006

Saturday’s dance at the Albuquerque Square Dance Center had over 60 attendees. Unfortunately, there were 15 extra women! Come on, guys, women only want one thing from guys: a guy who can dance. Don’t you have friends you want to include in the sport of contra dancing?! I’m willing to dance the man’s part some of the time, but not all of the time.

Sunday’s dance was spectacular! Noralyn Parsons called the entire evening of elegant English and zesty contras, including the Fandango, Winter Dreams, Eternal Bond, The Wedding Ring (a cool mixer by Erik Hoffman), and the Bee’s Knees. THIRTY-FIVE dancers showed up, a record high from the usual 20 or so. The Dance Studio looked lovely with lights and snowflakes. Gary Papenhagen was joined on fiddle by one of his 14-year-old students, Bo Olcott on guitar, and Lou Blackwell on bass. They musically emphasized the balances, made the English tunes hang in the air, and had a grand old time playing. We had virtual gender balance and were joined by 22-year-old T.J. Womack, son of Richard. He was a GOOD dancer! I told him to bring a dozen friends next time. A couple from Jemez Springs had found the dance on the internet and they attended. Now they want to host a dance in Jemez Springs, outside under the stars. Let me know if you want to play or call for that.