Aldo Leopold’s birthday

In honor of Aldo Leopold’s birthday, some jfleck abqjournal nostalgia with this old favorite from 2009, in which I tracked down a bird in the University of New Mexico’s research collection that Leopold “collected” back in 1919:

Aldo Leopold's Wilderness

Aldo Leopold’s Wilderness

Years ago, my parents gave me “Aldo Leopold’s Wilderness,” a slim volume of Leopold’s early writings.

In it is an account of a fall day — Nov. 23, 1919 — spent dove hunting near Tomé Hill. Pondering what the dove’s natural enemies might be, he described watching as a Sharp-shinned Hawk swooped down on “an apparently healthy grown dove in a cornfield.”

“I killed the hawk,” Leopold wrote, “and found the fresh blood and dove feathers on his claws, but could not find the dove.”

When I began my search for Leopold, I asked Witt and his colleagues at UNM’s Museum of Southwestern Biology whether they had any specimens in their vast research collection of plants and animals that might have been collected by Leopold himself.

Witt, who is the curator of birds, took me into the collections area and began rummaging through the drawers looking for a Sharp-shinned Hawk that, according to the museum’s computer database, had been collected by Leopold.

He pulled out drawer after drawer until he finally zeroed in on the bird he was interested in — dry, stuffed with cotton, it still had the sleek look of the lethal predator it had once been.

There was no name on the tag attached to the bird’s ankle, only this explanation of where and when it was collected: Tomé Hill, Nov. 23, 1919.

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