Desiree Loggins works to advance conservation efforts, such as those at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Photograph by Stefan Wachs.

WHEN BIRDS MIGRATE thousands of miles, they follow rivers, flying along the water flow’s metallic gleam. As a birder and ecologist, Desiree Loggins has worked to protect those vital river and shoreline environments. A Sacramento native, Loggins landed at Audubon California after college, then moved to New Mexico in 2017, where she continued as a community organizer to benefit birds in the Southwest. In August, she left to pursue a graduate degree at the University of New Mexico’s R.H. Mallory Center for Community Geography. An advocate for Black representation in the world of birding, she was part of the first Black Birders Week in 2020. 

BIRDERS HAVE THIS CONCEPT called a “spark bird,” for the bird that really got you into birding because it was exciting or really special. My spark bird is probably the sandhill crane. Watching a flock fly in at sunset over flooded rice fields at a wildlife refuge is an incredible experience.  

Birds need water just like people need water. In this region, we are part of the Central Flyway. As birds are migrating, they follow the river. It is their refuge—so it’s important to protect.     

In conservation, the wins take a long time to manifest. But I can see progress being made that’s really exciting. An example of that is the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, an urban refuge in the bosque of Albuquerque. They had to build it from the ground up, and that’s really special, because so much open space has been lost. It’s a beautiful story of reclamation.   

It’s expanding on a little sliver of habitat over time. The refuge is located five miles south of downtown Albuquerque on 570 acres formerly managed as Price’s Dairy. It serves as important stopover habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl in the Central Flyway. If you go to Valle de Oro now, you can drive through these recently planted areas and see how it connects with the bosque behind the refuge. You will see meadowlarks and roadrunners, and also shorebirds when the area is flooded.   

Black Birders Week showed there are all these Black birders who have resisted and persisted, making a path for themselves and changing these spaces. It’s really important for Black representation outdoors to show there are spaces where you can be your whole self in nature. 

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