Late Fall Birding around Albuquerque

Over the last few weeks I was able to get out and visit some of my favorite birding spots around Albuquerque.

My first outing was to Valley Irrigation Road in Moriarty, NM. It’s about 20 miles east of Albuquerque. There wasn’t any bird activity except for a juvenile Swanson’s Hawk enjoying the last of the day’s sunshine.

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Swanson's Hawk juvenile

My next outing was to the Piedras Marcadas Petroglyphs park. Over the last two years I’ve gone there hoping to see a Sage Sparrow which would be a new bird for me.  They are only here during the winter months.

While hiking I saw a few Rock Wrens. One was very friendly and I was able to get a few good photos.

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Rock Wren

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Rock Wren

After hiking for about an hour, I was starting to believe I wouldn’t see the Sagebrush Sparrow on this visit. Then on my way back to my car I saw one sitting atop a bush. Success!

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Sagebrush Sparrow

Next I decided to visit the Tingley Beach duck ponds. The weather that day was just gorgeous. I figured I’d see some of the waterfowl that visit us every winter. I wasn’t disappointed.

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American Widgeon

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Redhead

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Mallard

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Cackling Goose - smaller cousin to the Canada Goose

Every winter a Belted Kingfisher always winters at the duck ponds. And every year I try to photograph that bird. But its so shy and flies away as soon as it sees you. Well this year I was lucky! The cattails had grown pretty tall so I was able to hide behind them and peak around to get a photo.

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Belted Kingfisher female

Since the day was so pretty and it was lunch time I decided to go eat on the patio at Church Street Cafe in old town. I love feeding the House Sparrows.

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House Sparrow female

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House Sparrow male

On another outing I decided to walk along the Rio Grande behind Corrales. I hadn’t been there for awhile so it was a real treat to see it again. There were lots of birds about but most of them were determined to hide in the foliage. Along with lots of birds I saw a few other treasures.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

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Song Sparrow

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Porcupine - look closely and you can see a foot

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House Finch

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Adorable Alpaca

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I taught Scarlett how to cross the Irrigation ditches

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I thought this stump looked like an owl 🙂

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Sandhill Crane - my first sighting this season

Lastly I headed out one day to the Rio Grande Nature Center. I hadn’t been there in quite some time. It was a beautiful day and there were lots of birds out.

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Mourning Dove

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Dark-Eyed Junco - I liked the golden background

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Gadwall

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Wood Duck

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White-Crowned Sparrow

While there someone filled the duck feeder and it was a feeding frenzy!

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Wood Ducks

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Wood Ducks and Mallard

Under the feeder I was excited to see a Mute Swan. Everyone there was commenting on how this was the first time we’ve ever seen one here at the center.

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Mute Swan

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Mute Swan

Then a Canada Goose jumped on the feeder and the party was over for everyone else.

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Canada Goose with female Wood Duck

Before leaving I visited the other pond next to the parking lot. I got there in time to see a flock of Canada Geese taking off. Beautiful!

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Canada Geese

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Canada Geese

After revisiting these hikes I’m ready to get out there again soon! Hopefully I will heal up quickly and the weather will cooperate and I can get out hiking and birding.

Trip to Denver: Part 3 Garden of the Gods

I can’t believe I’m just now finishing up my trip to Denver (which occurred the first week of October).  Between lots of traveling the month of October and then catching up on work and then more recently a three-day stay in the hospital, I’m really behind on my blog. But thankfully I’m finally on the mend and clear headed enough to write some more.

Our last day on our trip we stayed the night in Colorado Springs. After all that hiking and climbing of stairs at Seven Falls, we were ready to head home. But before leaving we wanted to see the Garden of the Gods. The day dawned cloudy and gloomy so we weren’t optimistic about great photos.

Even though it was dreary, the rock formations were still beautiful.

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As soon as we started exploring the trails, I realized there were birds everywhere. I was in birding withdrawals by now, so I immediately put on my birding lens. Because of the low light conditions, I wasn’t optimistic about great photos. But it was still wonderful to see so many birds.

Mostly seen were robins. They were everywhere. But I was surprised to see a Blue Jay. He was extremely shy though and only managed one poor photo.

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Blue Jay on the left and American Robins with him

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American Robin

The Townsend Solitaires were singing loudly.

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Townsend Solitaire

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Townsend Solitaire

There was a Northern Flicker poking around the cracks in the rocks looking for breakfast.

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Northern Flicker

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Northern Flicker

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Northern Flicker

I saw a few other birds among the bushes.

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Scrub Jay

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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Spotted Towhee

But the highlight of the bird sightings was coming up. I kept noticing this flock of pigeons that would fly off then land only to fly again.

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Rock Pidgeons

I figured there must be a raptor of some kind hanging out. Sure enough, I walked around a rock formation and saw him.  I was very excited because it was a Merlin. A new bird for me!

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Merlin hanging out up high

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Merlin

Soon after I spotted him he was off chasing those pigeons.
I also saw a white-throated swift – another new bird for me. I got one terrible photo for my bird book but other than that they were flying too fast and high to get a decent shot.

After birding for awhile, I switched lenses to photograph some of the beautiful scenery.

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After exploring for awhile we decided to drive to another part of the park called Balanced Rock.  Its a neat formation.

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Valerie decided to climb up to it for a closer look. She was being very silly.  Thinking she could play around with this huge Balanced Rock.

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Sadly….I had to finish our trip home alone. She just had to go up there and push on that rock. She couldn’t leave well enough alone. I will miss my crazy friend…..

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Valerie trapped under the Balanced Rock

Just kidding! She’s alive and well!

We had a wonderful long weekend. But it was time to head home. We needed to rest up for our next adventure!

Trip to Denver: Part 2 Seven Falls

A while back I wrote Part 1 of my trip to Denver. I traveled so much in October that it’s taking me while to go through my photos and write my blog.

After visiting Bishop’s Castle we drove on to Denver to attend a Scrapbook Expo. Valerie and I had a lot of fun shopping, attending workshops and scrapbooking each evening.

After 2 days of the event we decided to drive up to Fort Collins to visit Valerie’s niece attending college there. The day was dreary and misting rain. On the way there we stopped briefly at the Fossil Creek Reservoir. I had hoped to do some early morning birding but the conditions were terrible.  It did make for a neat scenic photo.

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I walked a short paved path to reach the lake. In the trees I heard a Swanson’s Thrush. Sadly the conditions were so bad that I couldn’t see it in the thick foliage it was hiding in.  That’s too bad because it was a new bird for me.

Also along the path I saw a couple birds that were willing to be seen.

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When I reached the lake I saw a flock of cormorants feeding. If you look closely several of the birds have fish in their mouths.

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I also saw an Eared Grebe. A new bird for me! It’s a terrible photo but it counts!

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As you can see the light was extremely poor for photos. It started to rain instead of drizzle so I had to quickly get back to the car. It was so disappointing that I only got to bird here for 15 minutes.

After visiting Valerie’s niece over breakfast we hit the road to go to Colorado Springs. While driving there I checked the internet to see what we could do since we were going to arrive around 2:30 pm.

I found Seven Falls. Looking at the photos online it looked like a great place to visit.  There’s a staircase that follows the waterfalls that consists of 224 steps. 224! We said “let’s do it!”

When we got to Colorado Springs we needed gas. Now we have noticed there’s one main gas station brand you see in Colorado. We couldn’t help but take a photo……

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After a quickie fill up at the gas station (hee hee) we arrived at the falls. You walk up a paved path that follows a stream to get to the falls. It’s very scenic.

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When we arrived at the base of the falls we saw a tunnel leading to an elevator. I’m not sure how many floors we rode up but it takes you to the top of the mountain so you can see the entire length of the falls.

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If you look closely at those photos you can see the stairs along the falls. Yup! We are going to try to climb all those steps!

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So we rode the elevator down and headed to the stairs. The sound of the falls was loud but beautiful. We don’t have a lot of water in New Mexico.

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We made it half way. Very beautiful!

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Only 112 steps to go…

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Almost there….

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We made it! Just spectacular!

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We walked up the path a little ways and found a little bridge that crossed the creek. The view upstream was very pretty with the fall colors.

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It was getting late so we decided we better head back. I had hoped we would have had time to hike up to the Midnight Falls upstream but there just wasn’t enough daylight left for the hike. Oh well…maybe I will be back someday to see the rest of the sights.

I took a few more photos on the way back down. Trying out different settings for smoothing the water.

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We had made dinner reservations at the restaurant at the base of the falls. It’s a beautiful building. With the dying light I captured a few photos of the creek and restaurant.

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Dinner was absolutely delicious! I had prime rib that was seasoned and cooked to perfection. With potatoes and sautéed zucchini. I’m not sure how they seasoned the zucchini but it was amazing. I totally stuffed myself!

By now we were tired and full and happy. So we headed to our hotel to kick back.

Tomorrow we are visiting Garden of the Gods before heading home!

Birding in Southern New Mexico – Part 2

The next morning of our anniversary trip we drove our ATVs for about 30 minutes to get to a lucky gold spot for my husband.  Unfortunately, we can’t ride the ATVs all the way to the location he likes to prospect so we had to hike for another 30 minutes.

On the way to our destination I came around a bend and saw a beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk in the top of a tree.   He was at the max range of my lens but I managed to get a pretty good photo.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

After a full exciting day in the sun the day before, I wasn’t looking forward to spending another day in the sun. So I parked myself under a big shade tree and birded while sitting down.  Lazy right?!  LOL! But it was great because none of the birds wanted to be in the sun either and the shade is sparse.  So my spot was quite popular with the area birds.

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Cactus Wren

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Canyon Towhee

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Cactus Wren

While relaxing in the shade, I was full entertained by a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.  The day before at Caballo Lake I saw quite a few of them but didn’t get any photos as they were staying high up in the foliage.

Well, I was rewarded this day by a very tame male.  At first he didn’t like me being so close to his tree.  He started scolding me and raised his ruby crown.  I didn’t get any photos of him posturing in the sun to really show off that ruby crown.  But I am still pleased with the shots I did get.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet – my first shot of him scolding me

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Eventually he settled down and got used to me.  Pretty soon he was foraging all around me within a foot.  I could have reached out and touched him.  I took full advantage of this opportunity and took as many photos and videos as I could. He was happily singing the whole time. I loved that little bird!

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. You can really see his beautiful markings on his back.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. I think he was curious of me. He would land very close to me and look at me before going back to foraging.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet – my favorite photo I took of him. He was so close to me that I almost couldn’t get a photo with my zoom lens.

On the walk back to the ATVs I spotted several variety of butterflies.

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Note sure what this one is. Only photo I got.

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Acmon Blue

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Common Buckeye

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Orange Skipperling – I was able to get a better shot of this tiny fast butterfly!

And yes…my husband did find some gold!

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My husband metal detecting

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The nuggets he found that day

We had a wonderful time enjoying nature together and enjoying the hot spring soaks in the evening.  We needed the break together as work has been extremely busy.  It was a very fun weekend!

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The End! 🙂

Birding in Southern New Mexico – Part 1

Wow…October was a very busy month for me.  All throughout the year I didn’t realize I was scheduling everything in October.  I had something planned for practically every weekend!

So the last time I posted it was the first weekend of October and I was in Denver.  I called it Part 1.  I will write Part 2 soon, but I just had to skip to the second weekend in October.  Every year my husband and I go to Truth or Consequences (TorC) for our Anniversary.  We ride our ATVs and he hunts for gold and I go exploring and birding.  This year was our 19th anniversary! (For our 20th I want to change things up and do an Alaskan cruise…..)

Anyway…we left later on Friday than we originally planned so didn’t get to explore a box canyon my husband told me about in the area.  I guess we will save that for next time we visit the area.  So I talked him into stopping at Elephant Butte Lake on the way to TorC.  I was hoping to see some birds there as the fall migration has begun.  We stopped a marina and saw right away lots of Western Grebes.  One was looking down and all around him.  So I was curious what he was doing.

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Western Grebe

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Western Grebe

And I was able to catch a funny photo.  This grebe looks like it has a fish tail.  🙂  The carp in the lake are very large and this one must have been biting at the grebe’s feet.

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Western Grebe with carp under him 🙂

The dock master saw me taking photos and came over.  I asked him if he had seen any Clark’s Grebes.  This would be a new bird for me.  He said he has seen them but they tend to stay out on the lake and not near the shore.  He said a rental boat was coming in shortly and if we wanted to wait for it he would take us out on the lake to the grebes.  Of course I happily agreed to wait.  I thought that was very kind of him to offer.

And sure enough there were lots of Clark’s Grebes out away from the shore.  I was so excited to see them!  My husband said he couldn’t tell the difference of these from the ones at the dock.  So I explained that the Western Grebes have black on their heads that go down to the eye while the Clark’s have white around the eye.

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Clark’s Grebe

While at the lake I enjoyed seeing a couple of American Coots snooping around the dock and a very tame Ring-Billed Gull.

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American Coot

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Ring-Billed Gull

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Neotropic Cormorant

When we got to TorC we decided to walk down to the park along the Rio Grande River.  There’s a pond there that sometimes has water and with all the rain we’ve had this year that pond was pretty full.  We had fun looking for all the pretty green frogs coming to the shoreline to sun themselves.  I had hoped to see some birds in the cattails but no luck. But we did see several birds along the river’s edge.

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I’m guessing, but I think this is a Northern Leopard Frog

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Great Blue Heron…love the knobby knees

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White-Winged Dove

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Pied-Billed Grebe

The next day we headed to Caballo Lake for the day.  Now in the past I have said how I hated the Caballo Mountains as they are just hot, dry, and full of plants with thorns.  It’s an awful place.  Well….I changed my mind once I got my own ATV.  I could now explore to my heart’s content without getting stabbed every 5 steps!

I started my day exploring around the shore of the lake.  I usually see quite a few birds in the cottonwood trees at the lake shore.  I wasn’t dissappointed.  On my way to the shore I saw a whole bunch of Yellow-Rumped Warblers.  They were so pretty foraging in a field of yellow flowers.  I stood very still and eventually they ignored me and I was able to get good close-up photos of them.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler.  Here you get a good look at that yellow rump!

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler I especially liked this photo as you get the yellow flowers blurred in the background.

After spending a good while enjoying the warblers I made my way to the beach.  There I saw lots of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets but couldn’t get any decent photos as they wanted to stay high up in the trees.  But I did manage to get a Verdin.  These birds are so cute.

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Verdin

While at the lake shore some bushes were blooming that drew in lots of bees and a few butterflies.

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Queen

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Tarantula Hawk Wasp.  These guys actually catch tarantulas for their young

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I believe this is a blue-winged wasp.

While at the shore I saw a variety of birds including one very shy Red-Naped Sapsucker and a couple of Turkey Vultures eating something that had been dead so long it looked like leather.

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Snowy Egrets

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Chipping Sparrow in winter plumage

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Turkey Vulture…ugly aren’t they?

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Red-Naped Sapsucker

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Scaled Quail…these guys were fast!

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White-Crowned Sparrow

I then headed to an arroyo that I enjoy visiting.  It has a natural waterfall that flows when it rains.  We have had a lot of moisture this year and the waterfall did have a trickle of water running down it.  This usually brings in some nice birds.  I did see a rock wren and one of my favorite birds, the Black-Throated Sparrow.

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Rock Wren

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Black-Throated Sparrow

I also saw my first American Snout butterfly.  It landed on my ATV as if saying “here i am!”

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American Snout

After exploring the natural waterfall area, I started heading back to find my husband and see if he found any gold.  I stopped along the way to try and photograph a butterfly that had landed in the road in front of me.  I had turned off my ATV so it was quiet.  As I was focusing in on that butterfly I heard rocks tumbling down the steep side of the arroyo.  I thought maybe it was cows as I see them often on these sloped sides foraging.  But I didn’t see any cows.  I kept hearing one or two rocks tumbling and I was starting to get creeped out.  Then suddenly I saw what was making the rocks move.  Big Horn Sheep!!!!!!

I slowly walked toward them so I could get some photos.  They were just beautiful! I was so excited to see not only a ram with ewes but a young one too!  I took a bunch of photos in hopes of a few good ones.  They knew I was there but grazed for awhile.  I kept creeping closer and eventually they decided to move on.  I will never forget the first time I saw these majestic animals.  I wasn’t expecting to see them so it was an amazing surprise!

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In this photo you can see how they are easily overlooked. They blend right in to the scenery. One of the ewes had a radio collar on.

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Big Horn Sheep – mother with a young one

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Big Horn Sheep

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Big Horn Sheep Ram – beautiful!

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Big Horn Sheep

DSC_1780I couldn’t wait to meet up with my husband to tell him what I saw! And he did find some gold 🙂

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Can you see the flake of gold? Personally, I have no idea how he sees those small pieces!

While watching him search for gold I captured a couple more butterflies that day.

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Black Swallowtail

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Common Checkered Skipper

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Orange Skipperling – this guy was super tiny and quick!

On the way back to the hotel that evening we saw some deer foraging in the fields.  Always a beautiful sight.

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Mule deer – doe and buck

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Common Raven