Christmas Day Outing

My husband and I have no immediate family here in New Mexico. And with the forecast showing a big storm heading our way, we decided to stay home for Christmas.

We made plans to drive to Conchas Lake for the day. The weather was nice and sunny but the wind was blowing 40 mph! So most of our day was spent driving around in the car. But we still had a nice day. I had never seen Conchas Lake and my husband hasn’t been there since he was young.

Driving out I40 we came upon the exit for Cuervo (which means crow in Spanish). We’ve driven by this ghost town many times in the past but have never stopped.  Since we didn’t really have a schedule today, we decided to pull in and drive around town.

There are quite a few abandoned homes, a church and a school. I love photographing old buildings. It was very windy out and muddy so I had to take photos from the car or the road. But I still managed to get a few nice pics.

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My husband liked this one best

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Notice the white high heel shoe...might be a story there

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This is my favorite photo

Next stop was the lake.  As we drove up to the dam and our first view of the lake I was excited to see a pair of bald eagles. They were soaring over the water right overhead. I quickly jumped out of the truck and was able to get one photo before they soared away. I found it was difficult to get a sharp shot in 40 mph winds.

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Conchas dam

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Bald Eagle

After crossing the dam we pulled into a park area. There were lots of deer grazing on the grass and relaxing. A beautiful sight to see.

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Mule Deer

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Deer like juniper berries

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I heard and saw a lot of small birds feeding in the trees, but I only managed to get one pic.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

As we were leaving the park a flock of European Starlings came flying in fast on the wind and managed to grab a perch in the tree nearby.

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European Starlings

Next we drove down to the water’s edge. We walked around some and explored the beach. We took a selfie but the wind and direction of the sun made it difficult.

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Leaving the beach we saw a huge flock of Mountain Bluebirds. They were very skittish and the wind was making it difficult for them to feed on the juniper berries.

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By now my husband has gotten into looking for birds. He spotted several for me.  Which was good because the roadrunner really blended into its surroundings.

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Greater Roadrunner

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Dark-Eyed Junco - pink sided

We drove through the small neighborhood to see the houses. We think it would be nice to have a little weekend property here….someday…

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Festive yard

Since it was the “off” season there were lots of deer in the yards…even right up to the front porch. 

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The one on the right was giving me "the look"

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Mule Deer - an old timer

There were also lots of red-winged and brewer’s blackbirds about.

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Red-Winged and Brewer's Blackbirds

They were feeding on corn the residents had put out.

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That piece of corn is a mouthful

As we were leaving we saw another bird soaring. I had hoped it was the bald eagle again but instead it was a hawk. I had never seen one soar and hold its head down like this.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

We had a fun day regardless of the wind. It’s always a great day spent with my husband.

Sedona Az Trip

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope your day with family and friends was wonderful and blessed.

I finally made it through my photos of Sedona. I figured I better get this blog written before 2015 was over!

I’m officially caught up with my blog now. 🙂

I took my friend Valerie to Sedona for her (dare I say it???) 60th birthday last October.  We had both talked about seeing it someday. As photographers we would dream of going and photographing the beauty there.

Sedona is about 5 hours from Albuquerque. You would think leaving Albuquerque at 9 am we would have gotten there early. Not so! We stop for ALL Kodak moments! On one trip to Phoenix we took 13 hours to get there! It should have been about 8 hours. But we took the tour through the petrified forest and painted desert. We took LOTS of photos!

This trip was no different. We decided to stop at Walnut Canyon in Flagstaff. It is an old historic Indian site. They would build their homes under the natural shelf formations in the canyon.

Now Valerie and I laugh about how we start our trips looking nice with our hair and makeup done. And then it never fails that we always end up with photos of bad hair! It doesn’t matter what time of year we go, it will rain, hail, snow, wind blow, or all of the above!

So here’s me at the start of this trip…

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After we were on the road a couple hours it started raining….sigh….

Remember those 224 steps we took at Seven Falls? Well, this canyon was worse. And to make it more difficult we had too climb up to get back to the car. We counted our steps and we climbed 273 steps!

The canyon was beautiful. The history interesting. But halfway through the hike it started raining.

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Walnut Canyon

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View from inside a dwelling

Back on the road we were ready to see Sedona before dark. We stopped at the edge of town to see the beauty of the vistas. Just stunning! But I found it difficult the entire weekend to truly capture the grandness of the area.

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Notice the hair and makeup has deteriorated...

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Looking toward Sedona at sunset

After checking into the hotel we wanted dinner and alcohol and not necessarily in that order!  We got to enjoy our dinner and drinks because the hotel had a shuttle for us.

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Look at the size of those drinks!

The next morning we were ready to go hiking. We had heard from several people that we had to see certain sights. 

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Our first stop was at the Church of the Red Rocks.  It was just beautiful.  Very unique.

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Church of the Red Rock

Inside was beautiful and peaceful. The views were amazing.

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Next stop was Bell Rock. We stopped at one parking lot to hike but we didn’t care for the open flat terrain to the rock formation. But I did take one photo from the parking lot that clearly shows the Bell shape it’s named for.

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Bell Rock

We decided to hike the trail on the other side of this formation. It was a great hike. As you climb higher the views became more and more grand. We decided at the end of the trip that this was our favorite hike.

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Cathedral Rock

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This graphic was very effective. 🙂

Next we decided to climb Cathedral Rock. Numerous people recommend this hike. It was nice but Bell Rock was way better.

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Miss Scarlett loved Sedona

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Cathedral Rock

The next morning we wanted to hike the West Fork Trail. But sadly the parking lot was full. I had hoped to hike this trail because I understood it was not only beautiful but also a hot birding spot.

Since that trail was full we headed back to town. We had noticed a trailhead not far from the hotel.

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Hairy Woodpecker.... The only bird photo of the trip.

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View from the Adobe Jack Trail

While hiking I walked past a rattlesnake. It shook its tail and I shrieked! Valerie and I took off running!!! Thankfully our dogs had been snake proofed and they ran too!

I was shaking very badly but I wanted to get a pick of that snake. But I was so shook up I didn’t set my camera settings right for the deep shade it was in. I clicked a photo and saw it was bad so went to change the settings when it shook its tail at me. I decided to run away instead of getting a better pic ….

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I lightened the pic as best I could

We kept hiking but we were looking at every stick, shadow, rock, etc…

After the hike we headed into town for lunch. While there we stopped in at Pink Jeep Tours. It looked like a lot of fun so we signed up for a tour that afternoon.

The jeep ride was awesome! We were driven into Broken Arrow Canyon. Just beautiful. Valerie and I had so much fun.  Most of our photos were crooked or jiggly but we didn’t care!

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We stopped and walked along Submarine Rock

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View from downtown Sedona

We had such a wonderful time on our trip. It was a truly stunning place to visit. We want to go back again and see the other trails we’ve been told about.

Hoodoo Pines Trail – Ojito Wilderness

I took advantage of a beautiful winter day last Friday and hiked one of my favorite trails about an hour outside of Albuquerque, NM. It’s called Hoodoo Pines because its one of the lowest elevations in New Mexico where natural growing Ponderosa Pines are located. Hoodoo is the name of a type of rock formation. The trail is located in the Ojito (pronounced OH-HEE-TOW) Wilderness, which means “little spring” in Spanish.

Not many people know about the Ojito Wilderness. It’s a very unique and beautiful place. The best time to hike it is in the winter. The summer temperatures there can get over 100 degree F.

Scarlett had been needing a good long hike to let out some of that built up puppy energy. We hiked for 4 hours that day.

The trail isn’t easy to find I think because it’s not hiked often. About a half-mile into the hike you start seeing some of the formations and Ponderosa Pines.

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One of my favorite locations on this hike is an area that has sandstone pillars that look painted. They used to be bigger and more pointy but all the rain over the last year has eroded these fragile formations.

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Me and Scarlett

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A very determined Ponderosa Pine

About 3/4 of a mile into the hike you come to an area that looks like a moonscape.

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I got a great photo of Scarlett in this area.

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Then around the corner from here you get to see the main attraction of the hike. Beautiful Ponderosa Pines among the unique hoodoos (rock formations that are a pillar with a capstone).

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The trail goes much further but I decided to turn around and visit some of the other areas of the Ojito Wilderness. My next stop was White Mesa. It’s a huge bowl formation that I swear is several stories deep. The colors of the soil make for a stunning view.

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The day was still young so I decided to go to one more location. It has white formations that are made of gypsum.

On the way there I took a few photos of the other areas along the road.

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I only more recently discovered the white formations. They are very pretty in certain lighting.

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I found one hole I made Scarlett crawl into and look out at me 🙂

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She’s getting better at cooperating with my odd requests. Lol! She’s a good girl!

We had a great time hiking together!

Scarlett’s First Snow

We got several inches of snow last week. I was curious to see if Scarlett would like playing in the snow. She loves water so I was pretty sure she would enjoy the white stuff. And I was right!

She LOVED it!

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She ran and ran. Barked and leaped. Fun fun fun!

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I got her to stop briefly for a few closeup pics.

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This one was my favorite.

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12-Hour Birding Day at the Bosque del Apache

Earlier this week I took advantage of the beautiful warm weather and decided to spend an entire day at the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge.  I had never been there before at dawn so was really looking forward to it.

In order to be there at sunrise I had to leave my house at 4:30 am. It was worth the early alarm as I had a fabulous day.

My goal for the day was to get a good photo of a male bufflehead, see the snow geese fly off in mass ascension, and get a decent photo of a bald eagle. My friend Joe had told me they had been spotted there recently.

So warm clothes donned, camera and tripod loaded, and a large cup of coffee I hit the road. I was greeted at the entrance to the refuge by a stunning sunrise.

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I love my Nikon 1 camera as it is very small and lightweight and my zoom lens goes to 810mm. But sadly its performance drops in low light even with a tripod. So my photos of the dawn flights of the sandhill cranes are not very sharp.

But it was fun to watch them climb up onto the ice before taking off.

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Sandhill Cranes

After watching the cranes for awhile I thought I’d see how the snow geese were doing at the pond next door. Sadly I missed the mass ascension. I hoped I’d get to see them later in the day.

I then drove around the large ponds at the main part of the refuge. I caught a mallard in mid lift off but the light was still pretty low.

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Mallard

I stopped to watch a few of the various songbirds feeding in the bushes along the road.

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Song Sparrow

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Western Meadowlark – Can you see two of them?

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White-Crowned Sparrow

While watching these birds I happened to hear a Marsh Wren. I was determined to get a photo as its a new bird for me. I managed to get a pretty decent shot. They are tough to photograph as they are fast, shy and usually stay hidden in the reeds.

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Marsh Wren

Next I visited the main pond. I saw lots of Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintail – which I think are elegant.

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Northern Shoveler – love the purple sheen

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Northern Shoveler – female

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Northern Pintail

Then much to my delight I saw several pairs of Bufflehead! Success! One of my goals completed! I wanted to capture the beautiful colors on the male’s head.

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Bufflehead – female

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Bufflehead – male

I saw a few other waterfowl but not in great numbers like the shovelers and pintails.

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Green-Winged Teal

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American Coot

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Ruddy Duck

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Lesser Scaup

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Killdeer – cute looking head on

I had at this point been birding for several hours. I hadn’t seen any bald eagles and was also surprised I hadn’t seen any deer. But I did run into my friend Joe 🙂  He was there with his friend Terry and it sounded like they had a good morning as well. It’s always great to see him out in the field. 🙂

On the back road of the refuge I came across an old timer Heron. You could tell he has been a long time resident of the refuge because he was perfectly at ease being photographed from just a few feet away and I even got out of my car. I watched him preen for a good several minutes.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

And right next to the Heron I watched a doe and two babies walk out of the deep grasses.

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Young Mule Deer – you can still see some spots on its rump

I continued to drive along the back road and was happily surprised by seeing a pair of bald eagles relaxing in a shade tree. Success again on my goals! They were a ways away with no way of getting closer but I’m still pleased with my photo.

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Bald Eagles

I drove along the farm fields on the refuge. The snow geese were there in great numbers but in the far back 40! So still no luck getting photos of them. But the sandhill cranes were close by as well as a couple of roadrunners and a hunting kestrel.

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American Kestral

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Greater Roadrunner

I saw several Red-Tailed Hawks at great distances. A number of Kestrels and several Northern Harriers. The last of which I was able to get a decent photo in flight. I’ve been practicing those “in flight photos”.

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Northern Harrier

As I was making my way back to the visitors center I decided to stop and photograph some coots that were in a canal close to the road. I always love the coots. Most people overlook or dismiss them. But because I didn’t I was rewarded by a beautiful find. Sitting not 8 feet from me just grooming peacefully in the sun was a Common Gallinule. I was just standing there watching several coots when I realized this bird was different. I watched that bird for some time and he was never concerned about me being so close. He eventually walked back into the reeds. I was so thankful for such a wonderful experience.

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Common Gallinule

I was one happy birder at this point. It had been a wonderful day so far.

I decided to see what was at the feeders at the visitors center as Joe mentioned seeing White-Throated Sparrows. And indeed there were those Sparrows along with Song Sparrows, dove and to my delight a Pyrrhuloxia!

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White-Winged Dove

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White-Throated Sparrow

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Pyrrholuxia

The number and variety of birds was increasing as I sat and watched the feeders. I was curious to see what else might come in to feed when all of a sudden a Northern Harrier swooped in, grabbed for a bird and took off. Everything scattered and disappeared! So much for watching the feeders….

It was starting to get late in the day. I was hungry as I hadn’t eaten since 4 am and it was now 3:30 in the afternoon. I was having so much fun I hadn’t even felt hungry.

I made my way to the entrance pond and saw a large number of photographers set up filming a large number of snow geese. I immediately thought “mass ascension”.

I quickly found me a spot among the more professional photographers with their many thousand dollar camera and lens setups. You know….those giant lenses that need their own tripod…

I got several nice pics with my little Nikon 1 camera that didn’t break the bank…

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Snow Goose

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Snow Goose

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Snow Goose – Blue Phase

I saw another goose that I initially thought was a dark morph snow goose. But upon closer inspection realized it was a Greater White-Fronted Goose. The same goose I had been looking for on my last birding day out. 🙂

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Greater White-Fronted Goose

Then all of a sudden the Snow Geese started taking off in waves of mass ascension! They were heading off to their preferred sleeping pond. It was so spectacular! Joe and Terry ended up there with me too. We all enjoyed the beautiful sight!

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Snow Geese

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Snow Geese

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Snow Geese – last wave of mass ascension

Now by this time I was feeling very thankful for the wonderful experiences of the day. Seeing God’s beauty and wonder in the varied wildlife and scenery around me. Thankful that my health had improved so much that I could spend an entire day soaking up the miracles of the refuge.

But sadly some of those photographers with their thousands of dollars in equipment just didn’t appreciate what was around them. After the last wave of snow geese had flown away this photographer next to me picked up his gear and mumbled “I waited 2.5 hours for that?! They didn’t fly in the direction they were supposed to for any good pics and they didn’t fly all at once as was expected.”  He continued to grumble as he stomped grumpily to his car. I felt very sad for him that he had lost sight of the wonders around him because he couldn’t get a perfect photo…

As I left the refuge I was flying high on my experiences of the day. I was starving as it had been 12 hours since I had eaten. But I had to stop one more time for a few more pics as I saw a field with Sandhill Cranes and a huge flock of a variety of blackbirds.

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Various blackbirds flying in front of Sandhill Cranes

A beautiful ending to a fantastic day. I drove home with thankfulness in my heart for the opportunity I had to visit the refuge and its winter migrants.

A new trail discovered in Albuquerque

I recently went to the Valle de Oro to see if any white-fronted geese were there for the winter. It was pretty quiet on the refuge though.  It was a beautiful day and Scarlett and I wanted to go hiking.  I hadn’t taken her out for a couple weeks because I had been so sick.

While driving the far back road on the refuge I noticed a parking area next to the irrigation ditch that runs along the river. It was parking for a new reclamation project to ensure the health of the bosque.

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Looked like a good place to explore so Scarlett and I headed out. Next to the parking area was a pasture with horses grazing. As my friend Valerie knows…I love photographing horses! 😉

I couldn’t resist this beautiful fella!

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Love the colors and shaggy forelock

As soon as we entered the cover of cottonwood trees there were birds everywhere! I love that!

They were difficult to photograph as they were determined to hide in the grasses or up in the canopy. But I managed to get a few pics.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

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Song Sparrow

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American Kestral with breakfast

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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Northern Flicker

Scarlett was having a blast. She was running big circles around me up and down the trail. She had lots of puppy energy to burn. I did manage to get a nice photo of her when she sat briefly.

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Scarlett

While walking along the irrigation ditch I kept interrupting a Red-Tailed Hawk trying to sun himself. He would see me and fly ahead to land and sun again. But I would keep disturbing his attempts. Finally he flew further away. I managed to catch a pic in flight before he was gone for good.

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Red-tailed Hawk

I saw lots of woodpeckers but they were difficult to capture on film. But I managed to get a great pic of a Downy.

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Downy Woodpecker

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Eastern Bluebird

After a nice hike I drove back through the refuge. Still no white-fronted geese but lots of other birds. The meadowlarks were busy feeding in the grasses. They can just disappear on the ground…even with that bright yellow front.

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Western Meadowlark

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Say's Phoebe

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Savannah Sparrow

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Dark-Eyed Junco - pink sided

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Sandhill Crane

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Bewick Wren

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American Kestrel

I decided to stop by the duck ponds on my way home to see what might be around.

I was rewarded with quite a few waterfowl on the water.

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Redhead

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Canvasback female

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Ring-Necked Duck

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American Wigeon

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Northern Pintail

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Northern Shoveler male

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Northern Shoveler female

I was very entertained by a Canvasback bathing.

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Canvasback male

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It was a wonderful morning to heal my body, mind and soul.