A Few Goodies

Yesterday I had to drive almost to Grants to meet a client.  It was a cold, dreary day.  On my way home I decided to stop in at Piedras Marcadas Petroglyphs so Scarlett and I could stretch our legs.

There weren’t any birds about, but there was an adorable, curious squirrel.

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Antelope Squirrel

I crept closer hoping to get a better pic.

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And closer still….. He let me take several photos before diving behind the rocks.

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Just too darn adorable!

There were some hot air balloons up while I was hiking.  One of them was landing behind the mesa.  I took this pic just before it disappeared.

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After working most of the day today, I managed to take a couple hours to hike and bird before sundown.  I wasn’t sure what I would see being so late in the day.  But surprisingly I saw few nice goodies.

Over the last few days we’ve had some cold, snowy weather.  A couple days ago while in town, I took a photo of the Sandia Mountains.  I love it when they are covered in clouds and snow.

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Stormy Sandia Mountains

Thankfully today was more sunny and warmer.  I first stopped in at a small park in Albuquerque to find a Western Screech Owl that has been seen there snoozing in a tree.  Considering 90% of the trees in the park were too small for an owl, it was pretty easy to find him.

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Western Screech Owl

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Snoozin’ the day away

I love seeing owls in the wild.  It’s always a real treat.  After taking a few pics, I moved so as not to disturb him or draw attention to him from the other folks playing in the little park.

I then headed over to Willow Creek.  I hadn’t been there in a while so it sounded like fun to go see what was about.  On my way in to the park, I spied this Western Bluebird hunting for dinner.

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Western Bluebird

As I was taking photos, he saw something on the ground and I managed to get a few shots of him getting a grub.

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yummy….

It was a good find, so he took off with it to enjoy at his leisure.  Beautiful!

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My favorite photo of the day

Along the trail I saw Lesser Goldfinches, White-Crowned Sparrows, House Finches and Spotted Towhees.  All of these birds were too shy to have their photo taken.  But there were a lot of American Robins about.  They were much more cooperative.

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American Robin

There’s one point on the trail that affords a great view of the Sandias.  I took this pic there.  You can see there’s still snow about half way up the mountain.

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To my delight I spied a Red-Tailed Hawk that was looking for a meal.  Such a beautiful bird!  And look at those claws!

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Just before leaving I saw a Say’s Phoebe looking for dinner.

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Say’s Phoebe

He too found something to eat and quickly took off with it.

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That’s about it for my short afternoon walks.  But any time hiking, birding and doing photography is a time well spent.

Perfecting Shutter Speed

Since I got my current camera last April, I haven’t had much success mastering shutter priority.  I think it’s because it acts way different from my old camera the Nikon 1.   Since the Nikon 1 was a mirrorless camera with a small sensor, I had to crank my shutter speed up to 1/2500 or higher to capture sharp pictures of birds.

Well, when I got my Olympus micro 4/3 camera, it has a much better sensor and overall is a much more advanced camera.   So when I tried shooting in shutter priority with the same settings as my old Nikon 1, my photos came out very dark.  I got very frustrated and just quit using it altogether.  I switched to aperture priority.  Sadly, I wasn’t happy with my photos if there was any movement to the subject.  I just couldn’t get a sharp photo.

So a few days ago I went out with the sole purpose of finding birds and shooting them in shutter priority.  It started out rough, but I soon realized I had to crank the shutter speed way down.  It was a beautiful February day and there was quite a variety of waterfowl at the duck ponds.  I had no shortage of subjects to practice on.

Soon I was shooting photos I was much happier with.  I realized I had a lot of sunshine to work with and was able to get nice crisp shots at 1/800 or less.

My first successful shot I was very pleased with was of a female Northern Shoveler stretching her wings.

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Northern Shoveler female

From that point forward I was changing my speed up and down to see what worked best.  In the past, even a calmly swimming duck would be somewhat soft because aperture priority just couldn’t handle the movement properly.  Here’s some more shots I got a the ponds.

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Bufflehead – female.  Still a soft pic….hmmmmm

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Canvasback

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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American Coots

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A pair of Mallards

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Northern Shoveler male

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Canada Goose

While shooting I heard someone say there was a Cinnamon Teal at the far end.  What!? I quickly worked my way along the pond to find this bird.  I rarely see them in Albuquerque.  He was a distance away from me, but I was able to get a decent photo.  It was a male, and he was beautiful!

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Cinnamon Teal

I was really pleased with the detail that was captured on this Ring-Necked Duck.

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Ring-Necked Duck

I happened to notice an American Coot and a Northern Shoveler interacting.  The Coot had pulled up a tasty morsel and the Shoveler was interested in what the Coot had.

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American Coot and Northern Shoveler

I guess the Coot didn’t want to share, because he gave that Shoveler a smackdown!  LOL!

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Uh-Oh!

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That’ll teach him to try and steal from a Coot!

I was pleased with the sharp pics using shutter priority! I worked my way north from the duck ponds to see if I could find any smaller birds to practice on.  It was a pretty quiet morning for the little guys.  Up ahead I spotted larger bird.  At first I thought it was a Cooper’s Hawk, but as I got closer I saw it was a Greater Roadrunner.

A lovely female sunning herself.  To warm up, the Roadrunner drops its wings and exposes the dark feathers underneath.  These dark downy feathers quickly capture the warmth of the sun.

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Greater Roadrunner sunning

As I was photographing this beautiful bird, it became alert with the approach of another hiker heading our way.  They had a dog with a bell on its collar.  The crest feathers came up and I was able to get a good pic showing the beautiful purple feathers of the crest.

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Beautiful crest feathers!

As the hiker and his dog got closer, the Roadrunner decided it was time to go.

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High alert pose!

I was thrilled to have a few quiet moments close to this bird to capture some nice photos.  When I think back, I realized it wasn’t afraid of Scarlett who was right next to me.  She’s so calm and just lays down while I take photos.  I find birds are rarely afraid of her.  🙂

Once the Roadrunner was gone, I looked out over the river.  I saw a lone Common Merganser female grooming on a sandbar.  She was a long ways away, but I can never resist photographing these birds.

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Common Merganser female

I finally found a few small birds foraging in the bushes.  They were deep in shadow so it was a challenge getting pics.  This is when I struggled most using shutter priority.  My photos just came out too dark. I had a lot of editing to do.  Hmmmm…I’m still going to need a lot of practice in low light situations.

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Spotted Towhee

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Eastern Bluebird

I turned around to head back to the car. I decided to walk past the fishing ponds at Tingley Beach.  There were some Neotropic Cormorants out sunning themselves.

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Neotropic Cormorants

They were quite close to me so I took advantage of that and got a nice portrait shot.  They have the most beautiful teal-colored eyes.

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Look at that beautiful teal eye!

It was such a pretty day, I decided to head over to the Botanical Gardens which are right next door to Tingley Beach.  There are always wood ducks there.  What better subject to practice on!  🙂

When I arrived I saw some Dark-Eyed Juncos feeding on the big lawn area.  They were in the shade, so I practiced taking some more shutter priority photos in low light.  I think I’m getting better.  🙂

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Got a juicy bug

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Dark-Eyed Junco

I think Albuquerque has a beautiful Botanical Gardens.  I keep an annual membership as I love to go often throughout the year.

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Main Ponds at the gardens

As expected, there were several pairs of Wood Ducks on the pond.  It was so much fun practicing on them.  Such a beautiful bird!

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Wood Duck

I especially liked the pic below.  I liked his pose and how the sun brought out all the beautiful color of his plumage.

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Beautiful colors!!!

Whenever I visit the gardens, I always have to visit the Japanese Garden section.  It is one of the newest sections of the garden and has been maturing nicely over the past few years.  I’m looking forward to visiting it in the spring when the trees are in full bloom.

I had hoped to see the Black-Crowned Night Heron that pretty much lives there at the pond.  He is missing all his toes on one foot so it’s hard for him to make it in the wild.  But here at the gardens, he gets special attention from the man that feeds the coy.  Sadly, he wasn’t in view when I visited this time.  Probably snoozing somewhere in the trees.

While there I took few pics of the beautiful waterfall.  By now it was around noon.  Not the best time for scenic photos, but I took some anyway.  🙂

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Pond and waterfall in the Japanese Garden

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Beautiful

It was a fun morning out.  It’s always a good time when when you can get out on a beautiful day with your camera.

As I was about the get into my car, I saw several Sandhill Cranes flying overhead.  I have noticed lots of them flying overhead during the past couple weeks.  They are strengthening their wings for their migration north.  I will miss them.  But I also know their leaving tells me spring is not too far off!

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Sandhill Cranes

A few days later I had to drive to Belen for work.  I stopped in at Owlville in Los Lunas.  I was hopeful there were some owls there.  And sure enough there was one hanging out.  I just had to share a few pics.  Who doesn’t want to see an owl!

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Burrowing Owl

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Such a wonderful bird!

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Those keen yellow eyes are captivating!

 

 

Blood Moon and Birds

Well…it just doesn’t get any better than that!

On January 31 there was a lunar event that hasn’t happened in 150 years in the United States:  A Blue Moon, Super Moon, Blood Moon Eclipse.  What does that mean?  A Blue Moon is a second full moon in the same month.  A Super Moon is when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth making the moon appear 14% larger and 30% brighter.  And a Blood Moon Eclipse is when the moon moves directly behind the Earth’s shadow where it cannot receive any light from the sun causing it to appear red in our atmosphere.

Of course, seeing as I wouldn’t be around for the next one unless I lived to be 203 years old, I just had to photograph this event.  I got up a 4 am to drive into town to a predetermined location.  I was fortunate that our local camera club had scouted out a great area that gave an elevated vantage of the city below.  When I arrived, I saw the temperature was 27 degrees.  Brrrrr!  It was going to be a cold photo shoot!

As I hiked to the earthen dam at the northeast end of Albuquerque, I could see the eclipse had already begun.   At the time the moon was still white but was starting to show a hint of red.  I quickly set up my camera gear and started shooting.

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Moon over Albuquerque

The eclipse happened fast.  Just a few shots later, the moon was becoming mostly red.

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Eclipse well underway

Then it finally happened!  It was a Blood Moon.  I zoomed as far in as I could and it was a beautiful sight!

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Blood Moon

The full eclipse was to be a 6:30 am.  My last shot was around 6:15.  The sun was rising and the sky had really started to lighten.  I quickly changed lenses and took a picture of the Blood Moon hanging over Albuquerque.  As you can see, I was definitely shooting in the “blue hour” by this time.  But I thought the photo was so beautiful.

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Blood Moon over Albuquerque

After that last shot, the sky just became too light and the moon had dipped into the hazy horizon above the city.  So I packed up my gear and hoofed it back to my car.

I figured since I was already in town and it was dawn, I should take the opportunity to go birding.  Logical train of thought right???  🙂

I headed over to Alameda Open Space to see what might be around at the pond and along the river.  I had heard a Mew Gull has been sighted among the Ring-Billed Gull flock.  That would be a lifer for me if I could find it.

I started systematically taking photos of the flock as they rested on the sandbar in the Rio Grande.  I figured I could look through photos later to see if I captured the Mew Gull.

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Ring-Billed Gulls with rare visitor California Gull in the middle

I had snapped a few photos working my way down the line, when all of a sudden they all erupted into flight.  Startled me good!

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Ring-Billed Gulls

I had wondered what frightened them.  I was thinking maybe a coyote had tried to sneak up on them or something.  No sign of any ground attack, I looked up for a possible aerial attack.  And right above me was a Bald Eagle!  Beautiful!  We get them here every winter, but you just don’t see them that often.

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You can see the size difference of the gull to the Bald Eagle

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Look at that wingspan!!

He soon caught a thermal and soared higher and higher until eventually he was gone.  Since now the gulls were all stirred up, I figured my chance to see the Mew Gull were pretty much nil.  So I started hiking along the river to see what other goodies might be about.  Here’s some pics of my finds.

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Common Merganser female

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There are 3 Black-Crowned Night Herons in the trees

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Great Blue Heron

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Common Mergansers – 2 males and 1 female

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Black Phoebe

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Wood Duck pair

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Mallards with a Killdeer

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Western Bluebird – so beautiful!

We came across a giant beach along the river and Scarlett decided it was a great place to run and play in the water.  Even though that water had to be freezing she wanted to play.  I had fun capturing some photos of her while she played.  Goofy dog!

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Scarlett having fun in the water

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So much fun to run in the shallow water

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She likes to bite at the water as she plays

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My beautiful girl

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Isn’t that a look of pure joy!  LOL!

After a couple hours of hiking, we headed back to the car.  I stopped briefly at the bridge crossing the bar ditch next to the parking lot.  There’s usually some good small birds in the area.  I heard a constant buzzing noise.  It took me a minute to narrow down where it was coming from, but eventually I fount its source.  A Marsh Wren – in plain sight!  Now many of you know those Marsh Wrens can be a real challenge to photograph as they mostly live deep in cattails.  So I was thrilled to be able to watch one work along the edge of the water for a little while.  He was deep in shadows and at a little distance, so it was a challenge getting a good image.  But I was pleased with what I got.

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Marsh Wren

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Hmmmm…anything good under water?

I had a little time left before I needed to head home and get back to work.  So I stopped in at the Embudito Trail parking lot.  There’s been sighted a Golden-Crowned Sparrow among the White-Crowned Sparrows feeding at a feeder next to the parking lot.

When I arrived I saw a Cactus Wren singing in a tree.  I can never resist photographing these beautiful birds.  And their song is the epitome of desert birdsong.  I think it’s the most used birdsong in commercials and movies depicting the southwest.

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Cactus Wren

I then saw a bunch of White-Crowned Sparrows fly in to the bushes next to the feeder.  I was hopeful the Golden-Crowned Sparrow was among them.

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White-Crowned Sparrow

I searched and searched and finally! there he was!  By this time the sun was bright and trying to get a good pic was a challenge.  But finally I managed one that showed his beautiful gold crown even though it’s muted in his winter plumage.  A lifer for me!

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Golden-Crowned Sparrow

Now it was time to go home and take a nap!!! (work could wait LOL!)

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Mallard feather on the frozen beach of the Rio Grande

 

2017 Monochrome Awards

I just found out I got an honorable mention for an international Black and White photo contest.  😁

There were 8,942 submissions from 87 countries! Wow! I am very honored to receive an award for this prestigious event. I submitted 3 photos so am thrilled one was selected. 

My winning photo was one of my all time favorite photos: Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park,  Colorado. 

It’s so exciting to be recognized! 

Last Birding Trip of 2017

During the last week of December, I was able to take a trip to Bosque del Apache. I try to visit there every December as that’s when the winter bird count is pretty high.

I left well before sunrise. As I was driving down, I started getting into thicker and thicker fog. At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph on a 75 mph interstate.

It was difficult to bird first thing due to the thick fog, so I took a few scenic shots.

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Boardwalk through the marsh

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A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area

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Quite solitude

I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.

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Beautiful coyote among the hoarfrost

Fortunately, the fog cleared up once the sun rose and I was able to start hunting for birds.

I first noticed a Great Blue Heron grooming.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.

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Northern Harrier

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Cooper’s Hawk

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American Kestral

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Northern Harrier

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American Bald Eagles

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I started driving around the ponds to see what waterfowl was about. I happened to notice two Northern Harriers squabbling. They were quite a ways away but I managed to capture a pic.

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Northern Harriers fighting

I was surprised to find that there really wasn’t very many waterfowl about. I had to really search the ponds to find any. Not sure where they were all hiding.

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Bufflehead – male

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Northern Pintail

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Bufflehead – female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Northern Shoveler

Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.

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Snow Geese

I always hear there are wading birds that winter at the refuge, but I rarely see them. But on this day I saw three Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of a pond.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!

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Song Sparrow

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Gambel’s Quail

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Marsh Wren

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White-Winged Dove

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House Finch

One of my favorite sightings of the day was a Crissal Thrasher singing his little heart out atop a bush. Surprisingly he let me get pretty close singing the whole time.

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Crissal Thrasher

I sat and watched a roadrunner look for lunch. They are always entertaining. He hunted for awhile before he noticed me watching. I took this pic the moment he realized he wasn’t alone. 🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

My last sighting of the day was a grebe off in the distance. When I zoomed in and took a pic, I was delighted to see it was a Clark’s Grebe. These are considered a rare sighting for the area, so that was a real treat.

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Clark’s Grebe

I left around noon and decided to drive a different route home. I took the Quebradas Scenic Route home. I had heard a lot about this road. But to be honest I couldn’t really see why it was considered so beautiful. But there was one place on the road I found very picturesque, so I got out a took a pic.

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Quebradas Scenic Route

Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.

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Mule Deer

I still had some light left in the day, so I stopped in at the Bernardo Refuge. The Sandhill Cranes seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache.

I got there near sunset, and all the cranes were coming in to the pond to drink. It was a beautiful sight seeing and hearing the cranes flying overhead in the soft light of sunset.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Cranes

While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!

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Super Moon

I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.

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Just beautiful…

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While hiking the trails, a train came through. 🙂

Christmas Birding

The weather here in New Mexico has been very mild for wintertime.  So I took advantage of the nice day and went birding yesterday.  I haven’t had much chance to bird lately, so it was a real treat to have a whole day to visit several places and get some fun bird sightings.

My first stop was to visit the Rio Grande Nature Center for their Saturday morning bird walk.  When you go on their guided tours, you get taken into places of the park you normally can’t visit.  So it’s always a treat to go behind the scenes.

The early morning temperatures were in the mid 20s, so it was definitely a cold start.  The ducks didn’t seem very happy about standing on the ice instead of swimming in the water.

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Mallards and Wood Ducks

A Black-Crowned Night Heron was hiding in the bushes nearby.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

On the main pond there were a few ducks enjoying the area that hadn’t frozen over.  It was a treat to see a Hooded Merganser male.  Even though they are common in our area during the winter, you just don’t see them that often.

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Hooded Merganser

Along with the Hooded Merganser there were a few other visitors.

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Ruddy Ducks in the Foreground and a Canvasback female in the back

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American Coot on the left and a Pied-Billed Grebe on the right

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Mallard

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Canada Geese

We saw a few other birds along our walk, but for the most part it was quiet.

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A variety of blackbirds

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Sandhill Crane

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Sandhill Crane

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Western Bluebird

After the guided tour, I walked around the park a little more to see what might be visiting the feeders.  There was a nice variety of birds enjoying the free meal.

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Spotted Towhee

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Red-Winged Blackbird female

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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Downy Woodpecker

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Bewick’s Wren

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White-Throated Sparrow

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Black-Capped Chickadee

I walked down to the Rio Grande to see what might be hanging out at the river.  Over the past few years Albuquerque has had a flock of Ring-Billed Seagulls hanging out on the sand bars of the Rio Grande near Alameda Street.  This year those sand bars got flooded over by the river.  I had wondered where the seagulls had moved to since their usual spot was too deep for them.  I was excited to see they had found a new area behind the nature center.  I scanned the flock to see if there were any other breeds visiting the flock, but I didn’t see any this time.

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Ring-Billed Gulls

While photographing the flock, a fly fisherman came down to fish the area.  I managed to get a decent pic of him casting his line.  It’s hard to see, but I still liked the photo.

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Before leaving the nature center, I was lucky enough to see 3 Greater Roadrunners around the parking area.  They are so used to people, that I swear they pose for the camera.  Of course, I took about 500 pics of just the roadrunners.  🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

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Posing so nicely for me

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Got a peek of those gorgeous purple feathers of the crest

From there I visited Los Poblanos Open Space.  I had hoped to see the Western Screech Owls occupying the nesting boxes.  But sadly none of them poked their heads out while I was there.  But I found a few other treasures while hiking around the fields.

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Say’s Phoebe

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Western Meadowlark

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Black Phoebe that managed to find a bug in the cold weather

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Song Sparrow

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A leucistic American Goldfinch

My favorite sightings of that visit was seeing both a male and female American Kestral.  Such beautiful, small birds of prey.

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American Kestral male

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American Kestral female

My third stop was to find the American Dipper that has been spotted in the drainage ditch along the Rio Grande.  Though they are a common bird in our state, they are rarely seen in Albuquerque.  They prefer fast flowing streams where they can dip and dive in the rapids looking for food.  The Rio Grande in the Albuquerque area is mostly a wide, placid river.  But there are a few spots in the year-round flowing drainage ditches that have man-made rapids coming out of culverts.

After walking a little ways along the ditch, I was thrilled to see the dipper bobbing along the water’s edge.  He didn’t seem concerned to have an audience.  It was a real treat watching him feeding in and around the water’s edge.  Needless to say, I took another 500 photos of this bird.  LOL!

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American Dipper

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American Dipper swimming

There were a few other visitors there along the ditch that I enjoyed watching as well.

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Black Phoebe

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Overall, I had a great day going from one birding spot to another.  Scarlett had a great time walking all the trails with me.

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A lovely old cottonwood tree

Santa Fe Christmas

Merry Christmas Everyone!

It’s been almost 2 months since my last post.  Life has been full of adventure and fun with no time to edit photos or post.  🙂

Recently my husband Tim and I visited Santa Fe with our friends Kim and Valerie.  We visited the Santa Fe Botanical Garden Christmas Light Show.  The gardens were decorated with some beautiful and at times unusual lights.  We had a great time walking the paths and photographing the lights.  The guys entertained themselves with hot cider spiked with bourbon they brought in flasks.  Smart guys!

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We had fun being elves!

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Valerie and Kelly

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Tim and Kim

Valerie and I had lots of fun capturing all the beautiful decorations.

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We also got to visit Santa Claus!  I hope I get what I wished for!

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We enjoyed the fire pits around the gardens.  It was a cold outing!

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A very fun outing!

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Valerie and Kim in the Blue Room

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Kelly and Tim.  These lights were my favorite!

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Tim and Kim

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Where is here?

We finished touring the gardens before 8 pm.  So we decided to drive over to Old Town Santa Fe to see if the square had been decorated for the holidays.  We were in for quite a surprise!  It was amazing!!!

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Old Town Santa Fe

We took lots of photos including group pics.  We wandered the square window shopping and having fun.

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Before leaving we walked over to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.  There were very few people out at the time.  So we were able to stand in the middle of the street with our cameras on tripods to get beautiful night shots.

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It was a wonderful Christmas outing!!!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!  God Bless you all!