Birding and Hiking in Atlanta, GA

A while back my friend Kelly B moved to Atlanta, GA.  She travels a lot with her work so she has built up frequent flyer miles.  She used some of her miles to buy me a ticket to come see her.  It was great to see where they live and spend some quality time with her and her family.  Her children are wonderful and it was great to visit with her husband Mike.  We ate wonderful southern food.  The fried green tomatoes at Mary Mac’s Tea Room were amazing!

The weather was rainy almost the whole time I was there.  But we didn’t let it stop us.  Kelly knows I’m almost obsessed with birding.  She was happy to combine birding with hiking and exploring the sights around Atlanta.

Our first day we stopped in Henderson Park which was very near Kelly’s house.  My birding apps were showing a lot of warbler activity in this park.  Kelly didn’t even know it existed so it was a nice surprise for her.  The park had nice trails, open areas and a small lake.

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Hooded Warbler – see what I had to deal with trying to get a photo! I almost didn’t get this bird. Thankfully we can see enough of the bird to identify it properly.

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Northern Rough-Winged Swallow. I happened to catch it when it landed for a brief moment.

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Eastern Towhee

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Gray Catbird

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Northern Cardinal

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Song Sparrow

But I found the conditions very difficult to bird in.  I’m used to low open trees, desert areas and sunny blue skies in New Mexico.  Atlanta has 100’+ high trees, dense undergrowth and low light.  Add in rainy weather and I was feeling way out of my element.  Good thing Kelly was helping me look for birds or I never would have seen any much less got a few photos.  Most of my pictures aren’t worth posting because they are blurry or the bird is behind way too much foliage or the light was just too low.  But I did manage to get a few decent photos of birds.

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Trail at Kennesaw National Battlefield Park

After the short stop at Henderson Park we went to Kennesaw National Battlefield Park.  The park was really nice but the weather really prohibited us from exploring too much.  The main mountain was completely covered in low clouds.  The staff at the park suggested we walk the one-mile trail near the parking area.  It was a beautiful trail and identified the various trees and foliage in the area.  It had a pretty babbling brook too.  But again the foliage was very dense and the canopy very high.  The birdsong was abundant and I was so excited to hear all the variety of birds, but the photo opportunities were very small.  But I did manage to get several new birds walking the trail.

From there we went to downtown Atlanta to Piedmont Park.  Kelly figured we had a better chance of seeing birds since the park is very open with trees spaced far apart and open grass areas.  When we got there the rain was really coming down.  But we weren’t to be stopped.  We carried umbrellas and braved the weather.  There were almost no people out there (they weren’t as crazy as us!).  Just the odd jogger out for a run.

We walked to the lake at the park and the sight took my breath away.  The rainy weather created the most beautiful setting of the lake and Piedmont Park Conservancy building.  I just had to take some pictures.  I wasn’t sure how the photos would turn out since the light was so low and it was lightly raining.  I had to balance the umbrella with one hand and take the photo with the other.  I just hoped for the best.  But I couldn’t be happier with the results.

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Piedmont Park Conservancy Building

We walked the park for a while but eventually we had had enough of the wet weather.

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Chipping Sparrow

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Bea with a giant earthworm!

The next day we again stopped at Henderson Park and the morning was very nice.  We took Kelly’s daughter Beatrix (Bea) with us.  She loves the outdoors.  Since it wasn’t very wet and rainy we were able to explore more of the trails around the park.  Bea found a variety of insects to play with.  Her favorite being an earth worm that was the longest we had ever seen! Thankfully we convinced her it didn’t want to go home with us but instead wanted to stay in the forest with its friends.  Whew!

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Kelly and Bea at Cochran Shoals park on the Chattahoochee River

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Kelly, Kelly and Bea on a trail at Cochran Shoals

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Chattahoochee River

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Me and Bea on the Chattahoochee River

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Boardwalk through the wetlands at Cochran Shoals park on the Chattahoochee River

From there we went to Cochran Shoals park which is part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.  The river was huge! Made the poor Rio Grande look small and shallow.  The trails were really nice.  I especially enjoyed the boardwalk through the wetlands area.  No new birds were seen there but it was lots of fun to explore together.

We dropped Bea off at home and went back out for more fun.  We next went to Stone Mountain Park.  The weather was cooperating very well.  So we decided to hike to the summit.  It was tough! But a fabulous experience! The views were amazing since it had rained so much.  There was virtually no haze and there was even bits of blue sky trying to show itself.  Kelly is a geologist so she gave me a geology lesson while climbing and pointed out interesting things.  It made the hike very enjoyable and interesting.  I saw a butterfly while hiking Stone Mountain (the only one I saw the whole trip!).

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Red-Spotted Purple Admiral (Limenitis Arthemis)

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View from the top of Stone Mountain

We still had some time to us after hiking the mountain so we decided to check out more of the park.  We walked the Songbird trail which is a trail designed to encourage a large variety of birds with a variety of habitats.  I got several new birds hiking this trail.

The trip seemed to end too soon.  I had so much fun with Kelly and her family. And I got 11 new birds to add to my life list.  I wonder what all I might have seen if the weather had been nicer?

We took one more wet rainy drive through Stone Mountain park before Kelly took me to the airport.  No birds were out but we did see a coyote.  When we were at the Stone Mountain visitor’s center we saw a poster showing the mammals around the area.  They showed a coyote and Kelly said she didn’t believe there were any coyotes in Atlanta.  We we were shocked to see one run right across the road in front of us.  She said that there’s one coyote in Atlanta. 🙂  DSC_1970

It was sad to say goodbye but Kelly assures me she will fly me out again later this year.  We laughed because we spent our whole time outdoors.  Usually we fit in some thrift store shopping together.  Next time!

Four-Wheeling in the Hills around Truth or Consequences, New Mexico – Sunday

Sunday we went across I-25 to Hillsboro.  I love these hills.  While the area around Caballo Lake is dry, full of thorns, hot, inhospitable…need I go on….Hillsboro is the complete opposite.  It’s lush in comparison.  Native grasses, lots of wildflowers, birds aplenty, trees, a nice cool breeze and very few thorns.

We hiked up a canyon that has a well at the end.  The old timers used it to mine gold.  Now the birds know to swoop down into this deep well for a drink.

We had a great day exploring the canyon.  But as the day progressed it became very cloudy and cold.  I was sunburned so felt even colder.  But it was still a fun day.  No new birds but enjoyed seeing some of my favorites.  I saw and/or heard 20 different species this day. I also got several butterflies and a cute little tiny round beetle…I mean tiny! The wildflowers were varied and aplenty.  And we even saw a bull snake!

Was a very fun weekend together!

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Rock Wren

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Desert Spider Beetle

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Doesn’t this bone look like a human skull?? Made me take a second look when I first saw it! 😐

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Say’s Phoebe

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Brewer’s Sparrow

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Chipping Sparrow

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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Black-Throated Sparrow

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Four-Wheeling in hills around Truth or Consequences, New Mexico – Saturday

This past weekend my husband and I went south to go four-wheeling in the hills around Caballo Lake and around Hillsboro, New Mexico.  The weather was typical spring…warm and sunny on Saturday and cloudy and cold on Sunday.  But we still had a lot of fun.

Saturday we spent the day exploring the Caballo Lake area.  I was amazed at the variety of birds around.  I heard and/or saw 28 different birds.  It was fabulous! There were lots of wildflowers blooming…lizards sunning themselves….birds singing away…and butterfies floating on the breeze.  A wonderful day for enjoying one of nature’s beautiful spring days.

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Caballo Lake

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Caballo Mountain

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American Pipit

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Snowy Egret

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

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Wilson’s Warbler

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Western Kingbird

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Red-Tailed Hawks

I got a new bird on – a pyrrhuloxia! I have been hunting for this bird for 3 years! I finally saw a pair of them.  But they didn’t cooperate at all…dang it.  The only photos I managed to get was facing into the noon day sun and zoomed to the max.  Terrible photo….but it counts!

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Pyrrhuloxia – Finally! Now my goal is to get a much better photo someday.

I saw several lizards around.  They were thoroughly enjoying the sunshine.

And I got several pretty butterflies!  I’ve included the prettier ones.  🙂 DSC_0091 DSC_0086 DSC_0170 I don’t know the names of them yet.  I’m waiting for a butterfly identification book.

The highlight of the day was seeing a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks together in a nest.  I managed to capture a photo of one of the hawks leaving the nest carrying a mouse.  It was really cool to watch them together.

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Baby Owls! and so much more – Albuquerque Area Birding Day

I only had one day this week where I could go hiking and birding all morning.  So I headed out early to maximize my time.  I first stopped at the Ojito de San Antonio Open Space.  I only went in a little ways where the spring and fruit trees are just to see what might be around.  I saw lots of birds, but most of them didn’t cooperate for photos very well.  They insisted on staying high up in the trees or deep in the bushes.  It’s like a bulletin went out or something :-\

I did manage to get photos of a Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Spotted Towhee, Cassin’s Finch and Evening Grosbeak.  I also got a photo of what at first seemed to be a Red Crossbill.  But upon closer inspection I think it’s an American Robin with a beak deformity.  It seems the bottom half of the beak is normal while the upper portion is severely curved.

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Cedar Waxwing

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American Robin

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Evening Grosbeak – only photo I managed to get

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American Robin with beak deformity

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Spotted Towhee

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Cassin’s Finch enjoying plum blossoms

I then drove into town to walk along the bosque to the Tingley Beach Duck Ponds.  I saw quite a few birds.  There were lots of Yellow-Rumped Warblers in the canopy.  I was lucky to find one male singing in a low bush.  It was a beautiful crisp spring morning so lots of bird activity along the trail.

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Bewick Wren

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American Kestrel

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Male and Female Mallard – look at the size of that turtle between them!!!

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Northern Flicker looking for bugs in the leaf litter

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Downy Woodpecker

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Hairy Woodpecker

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

After visiting the duck ponds I headed out to see if there were any baby owls showing themselves. Success! The nest at the Calabacillas Arroyo had two babies.  One of them looked quite a bit further along than the other.  I didn’t see the parent around.  But the babies were as curious of me as I was of them.  Adorable!

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baby Great Horned Owl

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I then headed over to the Piedra Marcadas nest.  I don’t think they’ve hatched yet.  Still only the female on the nest and no sign of the male.

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Great Horned Owl

I did see a really pretty butterfly there.  Thanks to Joe I’m noticing them all the time now 🙂 It was plain brown on the outside but beautiful orange when it spread its wings.

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This butterfly matched the leaf litter until it opened its wings

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All in all a great morning for hiking and birding.  Was really nice to get out after working the gardens and greenhouse and doing my bookkeeping all week.

Searching for the Longspurs – Stanley, NM

I have been searching for Longspurs since the early part of last winter when I heard they were spotted out on the west mesa of Albuquerque.  I don’t know how many times I drove all the way out there looking for them without luck.

I recently noticed there have been sightings on Feed Lot Road in Stanley, NM.  That’s definitely much closer to home.  So I headed out there yesterday morning to see if I could finally spot one.

Unfortuntely…I’m still on the hunt as I didn’t see any.  😦

But I still had a fun morning birding.  Of course, I can’t ever recall a time when I didn’t have fun birding!

I drove down Valley Irrigation Road but it was rather quiet until almost the end of the road where it connects with Dinkle Road.  I saw a Loggerhead Shrike and several Meadowlarks.

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Western Meadowlark

At the Otto Pond I did see lots of Red-winged Blackbirds.  I have tried many times to get a male posturing and singing with no luck.  But I finally got a great shot!

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Red-winged Blackbird

I then headed down King Road.  I remembered I had made a note to myself last fall to check a large nest in a lone tree among the rolling grass plains.  I figured it could be anything from a hawk to an owl to a raven.  As I was driving down King Road I saw a White-Crowned Sparrow singing away.  I also saw a neat old drilling rig and a pretty horse grazing.

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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Soon I saw the big nest ahead anxious to see what has taken residence this spring.  To my delight it is a pair of Ferruginous Hawks! One of the pair was sitting on eggs while the mate was soaring overhead.  The nest isn’t too far from the road and is pretty low to the ground so I was able to get some great pics.  Of course, I guess my constant staring with my zoom lens made her (?) nervous so she stood up in the nest.  Then decided she needed to fly out and land up in the tree.  I figured I had overstayed my welcome so moved on.  But I am going to be checking this nest often to hopefully get some pics of the babies.

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Ferruginous Hawk

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Ferruginous Hawk

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Ferruginous Hawk

Throughout the morning I saw lots and lots of Horned Lark.  I love their soft singing.

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Horned Lark

Heading home on Highway 41 I saw a herd of Antelope.  I always enjoy seeing them and can never resist photographing them.

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Great Horned Owls – Finally!!!

Thanks to fellow blogger Joe I was finally able to see a couple of Great Horned Owl nests today.  It was very exciting to see them.  He told me where several nests were located around town.  I had time to find two of them.  I hope to go next week and locate the others that have babies already.

The first nest I found was in the Piedra Marcadas area off Eagle Ranch Road.  The nest is easily visible as well as the mother owl inside.  She was hunkered way down so only got the top of her head.  I looked for the male but didn’t see him anywhere nearby.

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Great Horned Owl

I then headed to the Rio Grande Nature Center.  That nest is very easy to spot.  The female was sitting up in the nest so I was able to get a better photo of her.  She never opened her eyes.  It was very windy today so the nest was swaying pretty good.  Must have been a nice way to sleep today.

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Great Horned Owl

I looked for the male and he was several trees over but very visible.  I slowly crept closer and closer for a better photo.  He finally woke up and gave me that disconcerting yellow-eyed glare.  Beautiful! Thanks Joe!!!

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Great Horned Owl

I will definitely be visiting these owl nests over the next few weeks in hopes of getting a glimpse of the babies.

While at the nature center I saw a pair of Bushtits and a White-Throated Sparrow.

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White-Throated Sparrow

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Bushtit

Lots of turtles were enjoying the sunshine today. And a squirrel was raiding the bird feeder while a Wood Duck squawked below.

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Isn’t that squirrel supposed to be outside the bars?????

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Wood Duck

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How many turtles are there? Lots and lots!

The Search for Long-Billed Curlews – Stanley, New Mexico

I’m always on the search for new birds to add to my life list.  It’s getting more difficult now that I’m up to 294 birds and most of them are from the southwest.

I check “ebird” and “birds around me” apps to see what’s been sighted recently.  I saw there have been numerous sightings of long-billed curlew in Stanley, New Mexico.  Needless to say, I was skeptical.  Don’t they prefer water? Wouldn’t they be near a lake or the river? Why would like be out in farm land miles away from any lake or river?

Well, the location is only about 20 miles from my house so I figured I go see for myself.  I started at Valley Irrigation Road and worked my way north to Feed Lot Road.  I saw a Swainson’s Hawk right away relaxing in the dead trees.  It seems to be a popular hangout for them.  I saw a few Vesper Sparrows but they were shy and I couldn’t get a great close up photo so I went for the “artsy” photo instead 🙂

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Vesper Sparrow

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Swainson’s Hawk

Lots of Horned Larks singing.  I even watched one atop a fence post dance while he sang.  It was adorable! And of course in that area there are always lots of Western Meadowlarks singing. And I saw a Loggerhead Shrike with a grasshopper.

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Female Horned Lark

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Western Meadowlark

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Male Horned Lark

Still no long-billed curlew but having fun nonetheless.  Then out of the corner of my eye I see a sparrow that looks different from the Vesper Sparrows I had been seeing all morning.  Of course, have you ever noticed birds have a knack of placing themselves between you and the sun so that it’s very difficult to get a decent photo?  Well, this little guy did.  But I managed to get a good enough pic to identify him.  And it was a new bird! #295! A Savannah Sparrow.  Pretty bird with the yellow on his face and dark streaked breast on white belly.  So I was thrilled to get a new bird for the day unexpectedly.

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Savannah Sparrow

As I neared the end of King Road I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a mother cow and her calf.  I thought they looked sweet together.

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Then I turn onto Feed Lot Road and am driving slowly.  I only have a couple more miles to go before I hit HIghway 41.  I’m thinking that maybe I won’t see the long-billed curlew today.  Then suddenly this bird flies out of the brush squawking loudly and heads to a field a ways away.  I quickly look through my binoculars and am ecstatic to see a very long bill on the bird.  I search for a way to drive closer to this field.  I managed to get close enough for a few decent photos.  By this time it’s high noon so the pics aren’t the best.  But I was thrilled to get bird #296! What a really cool bird.  I am going to find some time to go back when I can see them in the early morning.

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Long-Billed Curlew

On the way home I saw a pair of Mountain Bluebirds.  I can never resist taking photos of them.  They always make me smile. And I saw a dark form Swainson’s Hawk as well.

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Female Mountain Bluebird

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Mountain Bluebird

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Swainson’s Hawk – Dark Form

All in all a great birding day!