An author’s love of wild birds takes off with new books

Birder Kristen Clark of Tijeras has turned her winged backyard visitors into the subject of a book.

The book is “Favorite Birds of New Mexico: Treasures of the Land of Enchantment.”

Kristen Clark
Kristen Clark

The title is misleading. The birds are her personal favorites, not necessarily the favorites tallied in a statewide poll.

“Some of them are the most beautiful birds I’ve seen across the state,” Clark said.

She photographed 21 bird species in her book that appeared on her 2½ acres in the Manzano Mountains three weeks after last year’s Dog Head Fire. The fire burned more than 18,000 acres. Her property was spared.

“It was interesting to see the increase in the population of the species. Some migrate through,” she said.

bks_j02april_birdsThe book’s front cover features photographs of a Northern flicker and a pygmy nuthatch. Inside are information and photos of the 21 birds, including the flicker and the nuthatch. Some of the other species are the American robin, the chipping sparrow, the spotted towhee, the dark-eyed junco and the Steller’s jay.

The information about each includes descriptions, habitats, peculiarities and what she calls “interesting facts.”

In the case of the Northern flicker, Clark writes that this brown-and-black woodpecker averages 13 inches long, has a black collar above a speckled chest, and males have a red mustache. It breeds nationwide and in Canada and dwells in mostly areas where trees are plentiful and well-spaced. Clark writes that the Northern flicker uses a drumming technique to attract a mate.

The book has its flaws. In a brief section titled “Quick Tips for Identifying Birds,” Clark lists four topics to help in identification.

One is “the size of the bird, using a robin as a reference point.” But she fails to use that topic in describing some of the 21 birds.

Another flaw is the introduction. It’s a jumble of disconnected thoughts. Clark initially backs into a discussion about why birds fly into windows and how to reduce those incidents. Then she tells why birding is a perfect pastime for her. She moves on to explain where she lives in the Manzanos and what makes the mountains special. Then it’s on to the Dog Head Fire and how different bird species deal with its burned habitat.

Clark winds up by inviting readers to visit her mountain home, which backs up to the Carolino Canyon recreation area.

After the introduction is a two-page “Tribute to Local Bird Lore.”

It’s about the thunderbird, an enormous bird that is part of the mythology of a number of Native American tribes. Clark’s tribute seems to have used information from the 2009 article “Creatures of the Southwest: The Thunderbird” that’s on the website seethesouthwest.com.

Clark said her property has been certified a wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary by the National Wildlife Federation. “The federation encourages small homes and backyards to be certified for bird protection,” she said.

Kristen Clark will discuss and sign copies of “Favorite Birds of New Mexico” at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW and at 1 p.m. May 13 at the Juan Tabo Branch Library, 3407 Juan Tabo NE.

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