Last weekend I traveled to Truth or Consequences to meet up with a birding group from Santa Fe. They had planned a trip birding in locations I hadn’t been to before. So I was really looking forward to this trip as I know the birding is always good in the TorC area.
I drove down the day before and made it a point to get to the Bosque del Apache at dawn. I figured if I have to drive right past it, I might as well go early and spend the day there.
The sunrise was very pretty….. for about 5 minutes. Then clouds moved in and it stayed overcast the whole time I was there. As usual, the low light conditions always prove to be a challenge to me photographing birds. But it made for beautiful landscape views.
I stopped at the ponds along the highway prior to the visitors center to see what might be about. The Bosque has let these ponds start to dry up. There was very little water in just a small area. The shore birds were enjoying it, but no ducks, geese or cranes about.
I was the first and seemed to be the only car there. Which was nice because all the wildlife hadn’t been disturbed. I drove extremely slow around the main loop. The light was still very low so I couldn’t make out what was on the ponds yet. So I kept driving past them to see what wildlife might be out along the backside of the loop. It’s more treed and brushy there so critters are more likely to be seen here. As I rounded the bend I was thrilled to see a Ring-Necked Pheasant. A male too! Just beautiful. I took several photos but because of the low light they aren’t as sharp as I’d have liked them to be. But he was a gorgeous sight!
Then to my surprise a skunk was walking along side the road. I’d smelled plenty of them in my life and had trapped a very young one in my chicken coop. But I’d never seen one in the wild before. They are actually very pretty. The fur on the tail is very long and wispy. I took several photos but definitely stayed in the car! He decided he didn’t like me following him, so he dove into the brush alongside the road – tail up!!! Yikes!
As I watched him move into the brush, a Red-Tailed Hawk landed in a tree right next to me watching that skunk. He was thinking “Breakfast!”. I took several photos quickly before he moved off following that skunk. He was so intent on that breakfast that he never even noticed me. Just beautiful!
As I made my way to the farm area, I scanned the brush next to the road. There’s usually sparrows of different varieties in there. But all I saw was a small flock of Savannah Sparrows.
As the morning progressed the activity started picking up. I made my way to the ponds to see what waterfowl might be around. There’s a dead tree out in the middle of the main pond. The Bald Eagles love to sit on this tree. It’s great to easily see them, but I just wish that tree was much closer! Lol! Since it was impossible to get a decent photo of the eagle in the lighting I had available, I made the photo more artistic 🙂
There were the usual suspects on the ponds. Mallards, coots, northern shovelers, buffleheads, northern pintail, etc. A Song Sparrow was singing away in the brush next to a Ladder-Backed Woodpecker.
I made my way to the pond across from the boardwalk. There I saw Pied-Billed Grebes and an Eared Grebe. I’ve only seen the Eared Grebe a couple of times in the past. They are not real common in New Mexico.
I then walked the boardwalk. Very quiet on the pond. There were lots of turtles sunning themselves in the weak sun and a Great Blue Heron was trying to get some breakfast.
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
After touring the loop a couple times, I made my way to the visitor’s center to see what might be visiting the feeders there. Lots of finches, sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Gamble’s Quail.
House Finches – male and female
After a fun morning at the Bosque, I decided to drive on down to TorC and scout out the meeting location of the birding group. So I headed to Percha Dam State Park. This area is touted as one of the top year-round birding spots in New Mexico. It’s a park along the Rio Grande River below Caballo Lake. This time of year, the water level is very low in the river. By the time I got there, it was late afternoon.
I walked along the river and was pleasantly surprised to see lots of little sparrows in the dense brush. I saw White-Crowned Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows. But when I clicked a photo of one bird, I had to zoom in and study it further. To my delight I saw it was a Swamp Sparrow. Evidently they are commonly seen in this area in the winter. It’s a terrible photo but it’s a new bird for me! Why are all my new bird sighting photos so terrible??? I managed to get several bad photos with which to help identify the bird. Otherwise I might have had to pass this observation by.
I saw a Belted Kingfisher and a few Black Phoebes that afternoon. It took several tries, but I was finally able to get a photo of that kingfisher. He was very skittish!
Belted Kingfisher – female
I was looking forward to the next morning. Should be a good birding day! Forecast called for plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures!
The last week or so I’ve been out birding when I can. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous. Very warm and sunny. It feels like spring…not February!
Last week we had to go back to Las Vegas, NM, for work. It was way nicer weather than the week prior. I got to bird for only short time as it was a busy work day. The birds were very quiet. But I got to enjoy watching a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks being playful.
I visited Corrales last week for a long walk. Again, the birds were quiet. But I saw another Red-Tailed Hawk sitting nicely across the ditch from me. I thought his breast feathers looked really red.
Then last Friday I had the morning unexpectedly available. So I got up early to bird. I went to Tingly Beach and the duck ponds. It was a great birding day. I saw 34 species that day. I love days like that!
Here’s some of my better shots.
Not often you see crows and ravens together. You can really see the size difference.
Lesser Scaup female
Rock Pigeon - i liked the coloring of this one
Pied-Billed Grebe in front of a Mallard
After walking the ponds, I wasn’t ready to go home. It was such a beautiful day. Scarlett wasn’t ready to stop hiking either.
So I decided to head over to Los Poblanos open space. See if I could find the nesting Western Screech Owls.
I saw 3 roadrunners at once busily looking for food. And an American Kestral hunting nearby.
Sandhill Cranes were also feeding close by.
Then I came upon a nesting box and was thrilled to see an owl occupied it.
Western Screech Owl
I wouldn’t get out for almost a week. But I finally got to go today. Joe Schelling met up with me this morning to help me look for the Northern Pygmy Owl seen at the Cienega picnic ground. The gates are closed go the picnic grounds until May on the east side of the Sandias. So we had a two-mile round trip hike to find this bird.
While hiking we saw lots of American Robins, Northern Flickers, Townsend Solitaires, and Mountain Chickadees. Most of them were high up in the trees making for difficult photography.
Scarlett had a blast running around in the snow. Just loving the chance to stretch her legs.
Sadly no Pygmy Owl for me today. While we hunted for the Owl we talked about our other sightings recently. He told me about some Barn Owls he’d seen at Los Poblanos. Of course, I just had to find them!
Before leaving the mountain, we decided to head to the Crest to see if there were any rosy finches about. I saw a Brown-Capped Rosy Finch but it flew away before I could get a pic. But a Gray-Crowned Rosy Finch stuck around long enough.
Gray-Crowned Rosy Finch
We didn’t see the large flock that usually swoops in. Ah well…
Heading to town later on I decided to stop at Tingly Beach where Joe mentioned seeing a Western Screech Owl. No Owl but I saw a porcupine sleeping in a tree very low to the ground. I could have reached out and touched him. Zoom in on the photo and you can see his orange teeth.
Next I drove to Los Poblanos, followed Joe’s directions, and sure enough there was a Barn Owl roosting right where he described. I was thrilled! This was the first time I’d ever seen one. It made up for not seeing the Pygmy Owl. Well…..mostly… Lol!
That brings my life list up to 348 seen and photographed birds!
While I was at Los Poblanos I saw this adorable Guinea singing to its reflection in the window.
Heading back home I saw lots of Bluebirds about. All three variety – Western, Eastern and Mountain. I love seeing Bluebirds. They make me smile.
These two male Mountain Bluebirds were fighting over a female
It was a wonderful day/ week. Looking forward to when I can get out again and enjoy this amazing spring-like weather.
The weather lately has been tough to get out and take a nice long walk. I love walking for hours when I can. But cold windy winter days don’t appeal to me. I’m a warm weather lover.
Yesterday was very overcast and cold, around 34 degrees, with a breeze. Not ideal for me, but Scarlett and I needed a good long walk. So we headed out yesterday afternoon once I got my work done for the day. I decided to walk the irrigation ditch behind Corrales since I hadn’t been there in awhile. I headed north first and walked behind the homes along the seasonally dry irrigation ditch.
I wasn’t hopeful of seeing many birds since I was walking at the worst time of day for birding. But I was hopeful. Initially it was quiet. Just a few Juncos here and there.
About an hour into our walk the birds started coming out of their afternoon slumber. My first sighting was of a tree full of Goldfinches – both Lesser and American. They were way up high but I managed to get a photo or two.
I heard a few Pine Siskins in with them but was unable to grab a photo.
Further along the hike I came up to the back of a home that looked like a birder’s paradise. They had lush landscaping over several acres that was allowed to be a little on the wild side. Lots of trees and bushes. And two ponds. Needless to say there were lots of birds in the area even outside the yard along the ditch where I was.
I saw a wide variety of birds in this location. I will have to keep this location in mind and check back in the spring and summer.
Red-Winged Blackbird female
I had been walking north for about 2 miles. I figured I better turn around at this point. The clouds had gotten thicker so my lighting was reduced for photos and it had gotten noticeably colder with less sun.
I decided to head back to the car by walking along the year-round ditch. I figured birds would be coming in for a late afternoon drink. And I was right!
There were also the usual residents of the ditch.
Gadwall - for some reason this one doesn't look like a full blooded bird
While walking along the ditch I also saw several birds I didn’t get photos of, like Cooper’s Hawks, Western Bluebirds, woodpeckers etc. But I did get some photos of the Sandhill Cranes flying over.
Up ahead Scarlett startled something at the water’s edge and I heard a big splash. When I looked ahead I saw something swimming toward a big hole in the side of the ditch. I managed to get a photo before it hurried into its lair. It was a muskrat! I’d never seen one before.
Scarlett was having a blast. She must have walked twice as far as me. She was very busy sniffing everything.
This is the year-round ditch we walked along
By this point we had been walking for 3 hours and over 4 miles. I was pretty chilled by now as the sun was very weak behind the clouds. The lighting made for some moody photos.
One last bridge to cross and we made it to the car. Scarlett took a long drink of water then flopped down on the back seat and started snoring. It was a wonderful afternoon together. And total bird species sighted on our hike was 31! Not bad for a winter afternoon walk.
Yesterday I went with my husband to Las Vegas, NM, to visit one of our job sites. I love going to this location because it’s outside of town on Sapello River. There’s always lots of wildlife around. Our clients said they’ve been seeing deer, elk, turkey and bobcat. But unfortunately this trip I didn’t see any of those animals. But we will be going back again soon. Maybe I will get lucky on that visit.
We picked the worst day of the week to travel there. It was quite cold, windy and snowy. I had to bundle up to go exploring with my camera.
The lighting conditions were a big challenge. Very low light and white overcast sky. It made it difficult to focus with white sky and snow covered ground.
I walked along the river enjoying the quiet beauty.
Not many birds about but a lot of Juncos braving the snow and cold.
But then I heard a familiar chatter of a Belted Kingfisher. I tried to get a photo but he kept flying. Through all my attempts to get that Kingfisher a Canada Goose laid low watching me.
I started making my way over to the old abandoned buildings near the river. There are a few trees next to the buildings that usually have birds hanging out.
I saw about a dozen Western Meadowlarks. Their bright yellow breasts standing out in all that white. They were all puffed up trying to stay warm.
Then to my delight I saw a Black-Billed Magpie. I’ve been wanting to get a better photo of one. I did get a couple of good ones.
Black-Billed Magpie - you can see the blue on the wing in this photo
A Kestral landed on the power line nearby. Some pigeons landed on the roof of the building. And a flock of Juncos kept hanging around the building near me.
I took a few photos of the buildings before heading back to our job site.
Our job site is near the homes of our clients. It’s always fun to see what critters they have about. To my surprise they had a pig! A very friendly pig!
They said they got it to butcher when it was full grown. But their granddaughter might not then them butcher Oinky! That’s her pet! Lol!
The chickens and geese were wanting out. The owner has been keeping them penned up because of the bobcat hanging around.
While saying hello to the pig a cute little black kitten came up. Just adorable.
I picked it up but it wasn’t too happy about that!
Before leaving I found a cool old dump truck to photograph. My friend Valerie says I will photograph anything rusty! Too true!
As we were leaving town to head home we saw lots of Red-Tailed Hawks, one Bald Eagle flying by at Storrie Lake, and several Northern Harriers flying in the distance.
I managed to get one decent photo of a Red-Tailed Hawk.
Hopefully the weather will be nicer the next time we visit. And maybe I will see that bobcat!
Last fall my husband Tim and a couple of friends started a band. They’ve been practicing every week and played in public a couple of times. Their music is a mixture of blues, old country and classic rock. Recently they got the attention of the owner of a local bar called Molly’s. They got their first gig there coming up on March 2nd.
They were asked to provide a flyer with a photo so it could be hung up on the upcoming events board. I was honored when they asked me to take their photo.
I took several and a few came out pretty good. Now they have to choose one. Maybe the readers of this blog could vote on their favorite. 🙂
Bill (base), Tim (guitar) and Brad (drums)
I have my favorite but I won’t say yet. We will see which one gets chosen. 🙂
There’s a little dispute going on with the band name as well…
Most of us like Reverend Eugene and the Vagrants. But Bill wants to call themselves Reverend E and the Vagrants. What do you like best? 🙂