Easter Weekend – Saturday – Kilbourne Hole

My husband is a Geologist. So he’s always telling me of all these cool locations around our state that you can find unusual rocks and precious gemstones. One of these locations we’ve talked about for a couple of years is Kilbourne Hole. This location is an old volcano that when it erupted it shot out these lava bombs. When these bombs hit the wet, cooling ash layer, they were buried. They cooled slowly thereby allowing them to create olivine and peridot inside the bombs.

So we decided to travel to Kilbourne Hole on Easter Weekend. I used to live in Las Cruces when I was a little girl. I told my husband about a restaurant there that my family and I loved. It was called La Posta in Mesilla, NM. When I looked on the internet, I saw the restaurant was still open. I knew we just had to eat there on this trip. They are still very popular so you have to make a reservation in advance to get a seat. I haven’t eaten there since 1975. That’s 41 years ago….yikes!!!

So we left Friday afternoon and made it just in time to make our reservation. The meal was just as fabulous as it was 41 years ago.

In the waiting area, they have a variety of large birds and several beautiful aquariums. So, of course, on our way out we had to stop and visit with the parrots. One of them was very curious of Scarlett. I’m guessing they don’t see dogs very often. Another parrot really liked Tim.

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You can see the parrot is hanging upside down in order to get a good look at Scarlett. She was just as curious of the bird.

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Tim was whistling to the parrot 🙂

Early the next morning we headed out to Kilbourne Hole. It is located between Las Cruces, NM, and El Paso, Texas. It’s about 1.5 hours drive from Las Cruces in the middle of nowhere in the desert. It’s no wonder we were the only ones there when we found the hole. You drive along for miles, then all of a sudden you drive up to a huge crater in the desert. The hole is 1.25 miles across and it’s over 300 feet deep.


Kilbourne Hole

We had read that the peridot bombs are located on the north end of the hole. As best as we could determine, we were somewhere on the eastern edge. So we followed a very primitive road along the edge looking for lava bombs. After a short while, Tim stopped to see what was on the ground. The very first thing he sees is this cool beetle. It’s called a desert spider beetle. I love these beetles! So I just had to get a photo. But that little guy was moving fast. The only way to get a photo was to pick him up and slow him down. 🙂

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Desert Spider Beetle

We started walking around looking for the lava bombs. Scarlett was following us around wondering why we weren’t actually hiking a trail. She was confused why it seemed like we were just aimlessly wandering. Lol!


Soon Tim was saying he was finding the bombs (or the proper term of xenoliths). We started hiking around and soon we were finding lots of them. All of them have olivine, which is a dark green colored stone.

But what you want to find is the light yell0w-green stones that have a good chance of being peridot.


Tim and Scarlett hunting for rocks.

We spent several hours looking for lava bombs. It was fun finding them, getting a rock hammer and smashing them open to see what was inside. Sometimes when you crack a rock open you would get black insides or white insides. Sometimes you would get very dark olivine. But sometimes you got to see something worth keeping.


My handsome husband Tim



As the day progressed the wind really started blowing. I managed to get one decent shot of us together…though Scarlett wasn’t cooperating for photos.


Kelly and Tim with Scarlett behind us

While hunting for rocks, Tim found a baby horned lizard. If you look closely on the ground around him, you can see some green gemstones. 🙂


Rocky Mountain Horned Lizard

The scenery was beautiful. I couldn’t resist taking some scenic photos. We figured we’d never come back so I took a bunch of photos and gathered up a whole bucket full of bombs.




This is the ash layer on the north end containing the lava bombs

We slowly made our way around the rim of the hole. We stopped several times to look for bombs beginning on the east side and ending on the north end. Once we started rounding the northern end and started heading south, the primitive road turned into just soft ash. Good thing we were driving a 4×4. But even then we came close to getting stuck several times. I had Tim stop one last time on the rim in an area that had semi-firm ground so I could get one last photo of the hole.


By this point we were getting very worried about the road. We came upon a very steep road that left the rim and went down to the main road we came in on. Tim got out and looked at it and made the decision to take it. He wanted off that soft rim. I gripped the chicken stick, and prayed we made it safely down. I managed to click one photo one-handed while going down, but it just doesn’t reflect the heart-stopping experience it was!

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Looking down the hill! It was bumpy so my photo isn’t great. Lol!

Once down I took another photo of the hill we came down. Later we said I should have walked down the hill and video taped Tim driving down it in his Toyota Tundra. I wish I had done that!


I only saw one bird that day,,,a Gambel’s Quail. I barely got a photo. I did hear a Rock Wren at Kilbourne Hole but I never saw it.


Gambel’s Quail – female

When we got home I picked out the best specimens of the bombs. Some of them have some good sized light yellow-green gems. I’m hoping we found a gem quality Peridot. We will have to find someone that can tell us if we got anything good. I will keep you posted!


Intact lava bomb (xenolith) with a hint of crystals inside


Our best specimens


Tim found this large piece just sitting freely on the ash


A nice specimen on matrix


I found this piece. I think the large piece next to the dime has a good potential of being a peridot.

We had a really fun day hunting for precious gems! The next gem hunting adventure will be to find rubies in New Mexico!

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Gotta include a selfie!

Scarlett’s 1st Birthday!!!

Today was Scarlett’s 1st birthday! Yay!  I had planned on a fun hike today for us but work got in the way.  So we didn’t get outdoors until around 11 am.  I decided to hike in Corrales as we hadn’t been there in a little while and the day was beautiful after all that wind.

We hiked for 4 hours and went 6.4 miles.  Scarlett loved every minute of it.  We hiked first on the trail that follows the river.


She’s thinking… hurry up mom!


Miss Scarlett at 1 year old


Along the trail I came across a large hollow log.  So of course I had to make Scarlett pose for a photo!

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Can you see Scarlett in the log?


My fun girl!



After that I found a side trail to the river.

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Rio Grande with the Sandia Mountains in the background. There’s a hint of green starting to show in the Bosque.

She was thrilled to see the water!  That dog just loves water!


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She’s getting more brave in deeper water.



But it’s still the most fun to run and splash in the shallow water along the shore.


Doesn’t she look like she’s having a blast!?!


After splashing around in the water she came out for a good shake.


She was rejuvenated by the cold water.  So she ran around in circles in the sand.



Look at that big dog grin!


Scarlett has the longest tail!


It was time to turn around and head back to the car.  So we left the Bosque and headed back along the irrigation ditch behind Corrales. There were a few butterflies floating around.  There was a white butterfly I tried to get a photo of, but it would never land.  Of the few I managed to photograph, I didn’t get very good pics

Even though it was the middle of the day, there were quite a few birds out.  I’m guessing they didn’t get to eat much yesterday in those hurricane force winds.  I saw about 4 Cooper’s Hawks flying by but couldn’t get a photo.


Pine Siskin


White-Breasted Nuthatch looking in the crevices of the bark for goodies.



Black-Capped Chickadee


The best bird photo of the day was of a Hermit Thrush.   I love this bird’s song.


Hermit Thrush


Scarlett crossed every bridge along the ditch.  She kept thinking there was a way to get to that water.  But I wouldn’t let her swim in the ditch.  It was deep and flowing fast.

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Scarlett wanting to get in the water.  Crazy girl!

Whenever I would stop to photograph something, she was happy to sit back and relax.  She’s such a good sweet girl!


So I think you’ll agree with me.  Scarlett had a great birthday! 🙂

Just Birding Around…..

I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of the spring birds.  The weather has been so mild that I expect to see them any day.  But so far it’s just been the usual birds around town.  Of course, I never tire of seeing any bird, but I love the colors of the summer birds.  They can’t help but make you smile.

I checked on several of the owl nests around town, but I still didn’t see any of the babies.  The nest near the Rio Grande Nature Center has a young one.  Joe managed to get a photo of this year’s new ones, but the baby didn’t show itself the day I went by.  The mother is sitting higher in the nest so I know there’s a baby or two in there.  Dad was roosting nearby.


Great Horned Owl



Great Horned Owl

While there I saw a cute Western Bluebird enjoying a rest in the shade of a tree.  I just love seeing birds with their feathers covering their feet.  It makes them look so sweet.



Western Bluebird


After checking on the owls I decided to stop in a the Los Poblanos Fields.  There were lots of roadrunners about.  They were very busy hunting so it was a challenge getting a photo.


Greater Roadrunner


I checked on the Western Screech Owl… he’s still in the next box.  Several kestrel were about looking for lunch.


Western Screech Owl


American Kestral


A group of grackles were at a neighboring house posing for the girls.


Great-Tailed Grackle


While watching the grackles I happened to see something enjoying the shade of a tree.  When I crept closer I realized it was a coyote.



When he saw Scarlett he moved away, allowing me to get some photos.  We moved along after a few minutes so as to not disturb him.  I noticed he went back in the shade after we moved off.   Just beautiful!









I saw a phoebe as I was leaving.  He was calling and calling.  Looking for a mate I suppose.


Say’s Phoebe


Yesterday I decided to get up early and hike Embudito Trail.  I knew we had a major front coming in and the winds were going to be horrendous.  So I wanted to get some hiking in before I’m kept indoors for a couple days.

The morning was very overcast.  So the morning light was very weak for photos.  But that didn’t stop me! Lol!

I was thrilled to see 3 pairs of Cactus Wren building nests near each other in the Cholla Cactus.  I love wrens, and the Cactus Wren are just beautiful and the biggest of the wrens in the US.


Cactus Wren


I must have stood and watched a pair of wrens building a nest for about 20 minutes.  I was within 10 feet of the nest and they didn’t seem to care.  So of course I took a lot of photos.  Came away with a few good ones even though the light was so low.


While I was photographing the wrens, Scarlett lay quietly nearby.  I heard a Gambel’s Quail calling in a bush near her and saw her watching him. She stayed so still and watched as he looked for food all around her.  I tried to get a photo of them together, but whenever the quail came out in the open, it scurried quickly to the next bush.  She’s a good birding dog.  🙂


Miss Scarlett watching a Gamble’s Quail


Also along the trail I saw the usual suspects.


Gambel’s Quail


Ladderback Woodpecker


Western Scrub Jay with a pinon nut


Canyon Towhee


Curve-Billed Thrasher


Black-Throated Sparrow


Soon the wind started picking up.  The front was here and building in intensity.  Time to head home and hunker down in the forecasted 45 mph winds with up to 70 mph gusts.  Yikes!

Hopefully I will be able to get out again soon.

Exploring the Jemez River

I had a free day yesterday except for a short dental appointment with my dentist friend Valerie 🙂

So prior to seeing her, I decided to walk along the river at Alameda to let Scarlett run a little.  I was greeted by a singing Bewick’s Wren.  He was saying “Spring is coming!”


Bewick’s Wren

Nearby a Black Phoebe was calling as well.


Black Phoebe

Other than that it was pretty quiet.  Earlier in the week I had hiked in this same area and saw several good birds.


Spotted Towhee



Cinnamon Teal



Ruby-Crowned Kinglet – I love these guys!

After my dental visit (and Scarlett got to see her best friend Mya), I realized I had a whole afternoon free and it was a beautiful day.  So I headed off to hike the East Fork of the Jemez River.  Along the way we passed the beautiful red sandstone cliffs at the Jemez Pueblo along with some other fun sights.


Travertine Soda Dam


Gotta love the miniature pony


Red Sandstone Cliffs at Jemez Pueblo



Church in San Ysidro

Scarlett and I started the hike but quickly realized it was still icy and muddy as the trail is in the deep shade of a canyon.  I let her play in the river a little before heading back to the car.  I needed to drop some in elevation to avoid the remaining snow and ice in the area.


I taught Scarlett how to cross rivers on logs


Miss Scarlett enjoying the river water

So I chose to stop at Battleship Rock trail area.  The rock formation looks a lot like the prow of a giant battleship.


Battleship Rock

I’ve never hiked this trail before.  I was hoping to find the McCauley hot springs.  Sadly I forgot my trail directions and I had no internet in that deep canyon.  So I followed a trail I thought might be the correct trail.  It wasn’t the right trail, but as I came around a bend in the trail, I was happily surprised by a waterfall.  I love waterfalls and there are very few in New Mexico.  So I was thrilled to find it.


Scarlett was curious of the waterfall.  She wanted to play in it but couldn’t get the courage to actually run into it.  Silly girl!


If you look closely at the base of the falls you will see Scarlett looking at the splashing water

I couldn’t resist setting up the camera for a selfie with Scarlett and I.


Kelly and Scarlett

I knew by this point I had missed the trailhead to the springs.  The day was growing short so I decided to head back to the car.  I decided I had just enough daylight left to visit the Gilman Tunnels.  I figured the Guadalupe Rio would be flowing strongly with all the snow melt.  I did see a few birds while hiking.


House Finch in what will probably be a nesting cavity in a tree


Northern Flicker

The drive there is through a scenic valley.  There’s lots of interesting things to photograph. 🙂

DSC_6146DSC_6073DSC_6075The tunnels were constructed in the box canyon in the 1920s for a logging railroad.  The railroad has since been removed and now you can drive this scenic box canyon.


Gilman Tunnels


Rio Guadalupe


Guadalupe Rio Box Canyon


I decided to brave the steep trail down to the water’s edge.  It was so loud with the roaring water.

DSC_6116DSC_6126  Scarlett didn’t like it at all.  I had someone on the trail take our photo.  You can see Scarlett doesn’t like it.


Scarlett had her ears back – she didn’t like that deep rushing water!


There was a concrete wall where I headed down into the canyon.  It had a lot of graffiti on it.  Now I normally hate graffiti, but I have to say this one had a bit of beauty to it.  Almost like a work of art 🙂


As I headed back out of the canyon, I saw the cliffs were lit up nicely by the setting sun.


In Jemez Springs there’s a beautiful statue behind a church.  It stands out because it’s so white.


Lastly I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the old Big Chief sign of an abandoned gas station.  I’ve driven past it many times, but decided to stop today and take a photo.  It’s a landmark! 🙂


Big Chief sign at Zia Pueblo


It was a fun day! And Scarlett and I were pooped!

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Scarlett was one tired puppy.  She was happy to go to bed 🙂

It’s Almost Spring Birding :)

It has been so mild lately that the birds and butterflies think it’s spring already.  The fruit trees around town are in full bloom.


Fruit Tree in full bloom – yeah Spring!


Scarlett and I got out as often as we could this past week.  Last weekend I suffered from a cold.  On Monday I thought I was on the mend so Scarlett and I decided to drive to Blue Lake State Park.  I’d never been there before.  Sadly it was extremely windy there so I didn’t get out of the car much and there wasn’t much to see on the water.  I did take a walk through the campgrounds in the trees where the wind was less.

My best sighting of the day was a Red-Napped Sapsucker.  You gotta love the name 🙂  Lots of bluebirds and robins were out.


Mountain Buebird




House Sparrows



Red-Naped Sapsucker


On Tuesday Scarlett and I headed to the Tingly Beach Duck ponds.  Nothing much new there.  Lots of turtles enjoying the sunshine.  I did get a brief glimpse of a Lincoln Sparrow.  I don’t see them too often in Albuquerque.


Lincoln’s Sparrow

When I got home that day, I was greeted by a flock of Cedar Waxwings at my house.  I was so excited by this because I’d never seen them at my home before.  I hope they stay awhile! They were way up in the pine trees, so I was challenged to get a good photo.


Cedar Waxwing

Then on Thursday I met up with the Thursday Birders at Willow Creek Trail in Rio Rancho.  I saw a total of 21 species of birds.  The highlights of that hike were finding the Great Horned Owl nest and seeing an immature Cooper’s Hawk.  We tried to find the male owl, who is always snoozing nearby, but were unable to locate him.  I understand the other half of our group found him.  Hopefully next time I will see him.



Great Horned Owl


Cooper’s Hawk

Of course, the highlight of the morning for Scarlett was a chance to play in the river.  I swear I can see her smiling as she plays.


Miss Scarlett having fun!


Scarlett in her favorite depth of water.  She doesn’t like deep water!

Then on Friday I decided to hike Embudito Canyon.  I had planned on going early, but the morning didn’t go as planned and I didn’t get to the trailhead until around 10 am.  Too bad, because it was a beautiful day and I bet the birds were very active first thing.

As Scarlett and I started hiking, I was greeted to beautiful birdsong by a Crissal Thrasher singing atop a cactus.  I had never heard one sing before so it was a real treat.


Crissal Thrasher


Other than that the birds were very quiet.  Not even a Junco! LOL!

As I was heading back to the car, I ran into Joe and Rebecca and a friend looking for butterflies.  They invited me to join them, so Scarlett and I hit the trail again.  Scarlett was happy, she never wants to stop hiking.

Lots of butterflies were flying around the moist sands near the spring.  It was 70 degrees outside so the butterflies were happy.


Mylitta Crescent


Rocky Mountain Duskywing


Painted Lady


Sandia Hairstreak


I also saw wasps busily gathering mud to build their hives.  I find photographing insects very challenging.  They are tiny, quick and in difficult locations to get a good shot.  But that doesn’t stop me from trying 🙂 This wasp photo isn’t as good as it could be because there were little sprigs of dried grass between me and the wasp.  Ah well…


Paper Wasp


Joe saw this strange cocoon.  I have no idea what made this.  But it’s sure cool looking!


Strange Cacoon


By Friday evening I realized I played a little too hard after being sick.  So sadly I had a relapse.  Sigh…..  hopefully I will be out and about soon!

Owl be looking for you :)

Since returning from Truth or Consequences, I’ve been going out most every day enjoying the extremely mild weather.  It has been absolutely gorgeous these past few weeks.

My friend Joe has been telling me about all of his owl sightings.  So, of course, I just had to go find them for myself.  It’s so exciting to see an owl!

After seeing the Great Horned Owl off of Montano, I decided to see if I could find the others.  I did find the one at Calabacillas Arroyo, but she’s way down in the nest and all you see is the tip of her tail sticking up.  The eggs take about a month to hatch.  So I’m expecting to see some babies by the end of this month.

Next up is the Great Horned Owl at the Rio Grande Nature Center.  They’ve nested a little further south from last year’s location.  Higher up in a tree too….grrrr! Makes it harder to get photos! LOL!

So Scarlett and I headed to the river and hiked the beautiful bosque.  I hadn’t been on this section of trail before, so it was nice to see new scenery along the river.  There were lots of Western Bluebirds out feeding in the clear areas.  I never can resist photographing them.


Western Bluebird

Lots of Northern Flickers about too.  Such beautiful birds.


Northern Flicker

I finally made it to the Great Horned Owl nest.  There was a breeze blowing and she was snoozing away in the swaying tree.  If you look closely though, she did crack one eye at me.


Great Horned Owl

I was determined to find the male.  I was surprised to find him directly above me on the trail.  They really don’t seem to mind nesting next to human paths.  I wonder if it’s intentional??


Great Horned Owl

While I was viewing the owls, little Miss Scarlett snuck off and dove into the river for some fun.  She was really enjoying running in the shallow water.  I could barely see her through the brush.  I let her play awhile before calling her back to head home.  We still had 2 miles to walk to get back to the car! 🙂


Miss Scarlett playing in the Rio Grande

Once back at the Rio Grande Nature Center, I took a little time to see what might be about.  The feeders usually draw birds all day long.  So even though it was around noon, there was still some good bird activity.

I’m always amazed at how creative and crafty squirrels can be.  This one has figured out how to use its tail to hold itself up so it can reach across to the feeder.

Though the clouds were starting to thicken, the turtles were still determined to sun themselves.  I always wonder how many turtles are in that pond.  Some days you can look at every stick and shore and they are covered in turtles sunning.


The next day I met up with Joe to try and find that Northern Pygmy Owl in the Sandias. We hiked in with high hopes.  Sadly, no owl again this time.  Drat! I tried again a couple days later with still no luck.   But there was lots of other bird activity.  I even heard and briefly saw the Gray Catbird that has been reported in the area.  I tried to get a photo, but he was there then gone.  He will be on my list next time I make that hike.


Stellar’s Jay


Spotted Towhee


Mountain Chickadee


American Robin

Scarlett had fun on the hike.  She played in the creek and any patch of snow she could find.  She makes me smile 🙂

Next stop was the Western Screech Owl at Elena Gallegos Park.  I followed Joe’s directions and found the location where it’s been sighted.  I didn’t see it and figured it found a different roosting spot.  But then I looked in one more place and there he was! I’m sure he knew I was there the whole time.  I clicked a photo and then poof! He was gone.  They fly so silently.  He had moved over to a different spot.  I hiked around to get a better shot and then left quickly so as not to disturb him further.


Western Screech Owl



Western Screech Owl

Since I wasn’t too far away from the Academy School, I thought I would go over there next to find the Great Horned Owl nest there.  And thanks to Joe’s excellent instructions, I found the nest fairly quick.  She was tucked deep inside the fork of a giant Ponderosa Pine.  Fortunately the landscape slopes upward from this tree, so I was able to get a good vantage point to photograph her in the nest.  Again, one eye cracked to keep an eye on me. 🙂


Great Horned Owl



I looked around further in the tree and found the male sitting higher up enjoying the shade of the pine needles.  He was sound asleep when I first spotted him.  But a gust of wind came through and really shook the tree.  That woke him up.  Then he was on high alert when he spotted Scarlett lying on the ground below him.  He’s used to students walking under his tree all day every day.  But a dog is a different story!


Great Horned Owl


Heading home after a good day of owl hunting, I saw my neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawk was out looking for an afternoon snack.  And also an American Kestrel.  I always love seeing the birds of prey.  Just gorgeous!  And a wonderful way to end a greet week of birding.


American Kestrel


Red-Tailed Hawk


I understand next week the weather is supposed to turn cold and wet again.  🙁  Hopefully it won’t last long so Scarlett and I can get back on the trails!

Late Winter Birding in TorC – Day 3

I woke up again bright and early… ready for another full day of birding.  Since I had pretty much birded the area out yesterday, I decided to head home first thing… with a stop at Bosque del Apache first of course.

I left well before sunrise.  As I was driving down the interstate I couldn’t help but notice the full moon setting.  It was just beautiful.  But by the time I found an exit (they are scare in this area) and changed my camera settings to capture a night shot, the moon had almost set.  I did manage to get a couple decent photos before it was gone.  I had hoped to have time to set my camera so that the moon would be in focus instead of just a ball of light.  Sadly I just didn’t have time.  I rarely shoot at night so the settings just aren’t automatic for me.  Now ask me settings for different lighting conditions to capture a bird, I’ve got those memorized!

When I arrived at the Bosque del Apache, I was very disappointed in the weather conditions.  When I left TorC it was calm and warm.  But when I got to the Bosque it was cold and extremely windy.  The ponds were all choppy and nothing was out feeding.  Big disappointment.  I drove the loop once, saw two more skunks! But mostly things were just very quiet.

I took a few photos of birds trying to feed during the windy morning conditions.  But it was so windy I had a difficult time taking photographs.  Either the bird was moving all over because of a swinging branch and/or I couldn’t hold my camera steady in the gusts of wind.




American Kestral


Red-Tailed Hawk


Red-Winged Blackbird

Since it was so quiet at the Bosque and the weather conditions just awful, I decided to head up to Bernardo and see what was happening there.  Of course, all the Sandhill Cranes were here.  I can’t understand why they prefer this location over the Bosque del Apache, but they do.  And surprisingly the wind had calmed down considerably in this area.



Sandhill Cranes


Western Meadowlarks


Since there was nothing new here, I drove further north and stopped at Los Lunas to see if I could find the Burrowing Owls that have returned for nesting.  Sadly, they were not showing themselves either.

So far, this day has been a bust!

So I headed yet further north and popped in to the Valle de Oro.  I usually always see lots here.  But nope! Another quiet location.  I did get a nice shot of a Horned Lark.


Horned Lark – female


So by now I’m back in Albuquerque.  It was only 1:30 which meant I still had plenty of time to bird.  So I took Joe’s instructions and decided to find a Great Horned Owl nest he told me about off Montano.  It was literally off the main road way up in a tree.  I couldn’t see the male, but she was fairly visible from the ground.


Great Horned Owl


I still wasn’t ready to call it a day.  So I decided to head over to the Rio Grande Nature Center.  There’s always activity there… right??!  Nope, this day was definitely the birds day off.

Just before getting into my car, I saw a couple of folks taking pictures of something in the parking lot.  My guess was a Roadrunner.  And I was right!  This guy was very tame.  I sat on the ground at the picnic tables and he came up to me looking for a handout.  I didn’t have anything to give him, but some other folks shared some tidbits.  I got several great photos of him.


Greater Roadrunner


Finally!  Something worth shooting! 🙂


Great Roadrunner – my favorite pic of the day!


So that concludes my late winter birding trip to TorC.  I had a blast.  Over the three days of birding, I saw/heard 76 different species of birds.

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my birding weekend!   I’m ready to go again once spring migration starts!!!! After all….I still need that Vermillion Flycatcher photo!

Late Winter Birding in TorC – Day 2 (Part 2)

Last time I wrote, I had left off around mid-day on my second day of birding near Truth or Consequences.  I had decided to eat my picnic lunch back at the Caballo Lake State Park where I had birded earlier that morning.  I was hopeful that there was still a lot of bird activity there even though it was later in the day.

I wasn’t disappointed! Upon arriving back at the park, I saw a pair Cinnamon Teal in the river. Yes! This was a duck I was really hoping to see.  Such a beautiful bird.


Cinnamon Teal


While walking along the river trying to get a decent photo of this duck before they decided they didn’t want me to photograph them, I saw lots of activity in the bushes.  There were lots of sparrows flitting around in the shade of the bushes.  It was a challenge getting some decent photos, but I had lots of fun trying.  I was surprised by the variety of sparrows in one small area.


Savannah Sparrow


Vesper Sparrow


Brewer’s Sparrow


Chipping Sparrow


White-Crowned Sparrow adult


White-Crowned Sparrow juvenile

Hanging out on a wire, I spied a Loggerhead Shrike.  I love seeing these birds.  I think they are so unique in how they have learned to hunt and save food.


Loggerhead Shrike


There were lots of Yellow-Rumped Warblers flitting among the trees.  They were so busy it was a challenge to get a photo.  But I managed to get a pic of a male Audubon variety.  I think they are very striking.


Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Taking another peek at the river I saw there was a Green-Winged Teal this time.  He was very skittish.


Green-Winged Teal


The day was getting on.  I wanted to visit Elephant Butte Lake while I was in the area. So I left Caballo Lake State Park and headed north.

On the road to the lake, I spotted a kingfisher hanging out on a wire above a creek flowing into the Rio Grande.  I had to stop on the bridge and take a quick pic.  Thankfully there wasn’t any traffic!


Belted Kingfisher – male


I wanted to bird below the Elephant Butte dam before I went to the lake.  I had never birded this area before but had heard it was a good location.  As soon as I parked and looked out the window, I saw several Pyrrhuloxia feeding on the ground right next to my car.  I was so excited! I love these birds but have been challenged in the past to get a good photo.  I was afraid to open the car door, fearing they would fly far away never to be seen again.  So I carefully eased open my car door, softly stepped out of my car, and slowly brought my camera up for a photo.  Snapped a few pics before they flew to a nearby tree.






I walked slowly to the tree and saw a male sitting sweetly on a branch.  Not a care in the world.  I realized I didn’t need to be so cautious.  These birds were obviously used to people in the park.  So I relaxed and enjoyed this moment.  He was happy to sit there and look at me while I photographed him.  I took a bunch of photos, then just stood there and watched this beautiful bird until he decided he wanted to go feed some more.  It was a fabulous moment!  And I was rewarded with some great photos.




Pyrrhuloxia – my favorite pic!



I walked the park looking for other birds, but it was fairly quiet.  Just before getting into my car, I saw a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet flitting among the trees.  He was calling and looked agitated about something.  Which was good for me because I got a photo of him clearly displaying his ruby crown.  These colorful feathers aren’t always displayed.


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet


From there I drove up to the lake.  I was hoping I would see some of those White Pelicans on the water, but they weren’t there.  I saw several Ring-Billed Gulls and Neotropic Cormorants.  Otherwise, the lake area was pretty quiet.


Ring-Billed Gull


Neotropic Cormorants


I decided to call it a day.  I was pretty tired.  I had been birding for almost 12 hours straight! But before leaving the lake, I took one landscape photo from a high vantage point.  The view was amazing.

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Elephant Butte Lake

As I headed back to TorC for a hot meal, hot soak and comfy bed, I had to stop as several deer crossed the road in front of me.  Just beautiful!


Mule Deer


When I got to the hotel, I saw the Curve-Billed Thrashers were out enjoying the late afternoon sun.  These birds are so used to people around that they didn’t mind my photographing them.  I thought to myself… next time I come I’m bringing a tripod.  I’d love to get some sharper images of these guys.


Curve-Billed Thrasher


Another great birding day.  One more day of birding ahead of me before I had to head home.  Stay tuned!





Late Winter Birding in TorC – Day 2 (Part 1)

I woke up very early the next morning.  I was too excited to sleep 🙂

I knew I wouldn’t be meeting my fellow birders for a few hours so I decided to find an area called the Palomas Marsh.  I had noticed several sightings of birds in this area that I’d like to see, specifically the Cinnamon Teal.

As I meandered the roads along farming country, I was greeted by a very friendly billy goat.


Well, either I didn’t find the marsh, or it’s really not a marsh after all.  It was basically a spot along the Rio Grande River that had a huge sand bar and a few cattails.  It’s located next to a huge farming area so there were few trees about.  I ended up birding along the river next to a field that had been burned of weeds recently.


Turtle Mountain on the Left.  Burned field in the foreground.


There was a large flock of birds feeding in this burnt field.  I tried for quite awhile to get a photo of these birds to find out what they were.  It wasn’t until I was heading back to my car that a few landed near enough to get a half decent pic.  I realized it was a flock of American Pipits.


American Pipit


While perusing the water, two White Pelicans flew right over me.  I’m always surprised at seeing pelicans in the desert.


White Pelican


All I could see in the water was a bunch of Mallards and one Pied-Billed Grebe.  So I decided to head over to Caballo Lake State Park.  There’s a great spot to bird along the river just below Caballo Dam.

As I was driving back through the farming community, I saw this grackle singing away.  I think they are pretty birds with the iridescent black feathers.


Great-Tailed Grackle


When I reached the park at Caballo Lake, I was greeted by beautiful birdsong all around me.  I had to smile big at this 🙂

I saw a pair of Hooded Mergansers hanging out below the dam.  First time I’ve seen this species this year.


Male and Female Hooded Mergansers


As I drove through the park I was thrilled to see a male Phainopepla.  I love these birds! And nearby was a female.  Both were at the tops of trees and I had a difficult time getting a decent photo.  Only the male’s photo was worth sharing.


Male Phainopepla


I heard a Northern Mockingbird but try as I might I never saw him.  Too bad, fun birds to watch sing.

I heard an interesting song in the trees along the river.  I usually bird by ear, and I knew this one was different.  After hunting for a while, I finally got a photo of the singing bird.  To my surprise, it was a Bewick’s Wren.  It didn’t sound like any of the Bewick’s Wrens I have at home.


Bewick’s Wren


While birding around the park I got a call from the birders I was supposed to meet up with over at Percha Dam State Park.  So I headed over there hoping there would be more activity in this location than the night before.

Upon arriving at Percha Dam, I was greeted by about 20 Phainopeplas singing in the trees at the park entrance.  They were way up high and flying about, so it was impossible to get a photo.

I met up with the group and we started birding along the river heading south.  By the time I met up with them it was about 10 am.  So a lot of the birding activity had slowed way down.  It was warming up quick and would be a hot 80 degrees before days end.

In the bushes I spotted a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  I don’t see these birds very often.


Lincoln’s Sparrow


There was a Ladderback Woodpecker busy in the dead cottonwoods.


Ladderback Woodpecker


Just before leaving the park, I spotted a female Phainopepla right at eye level.  I was thrilled.  Got a pretty decent pic, considering she was among lots of small branches giving off lots of shadows.


Female Phainopepla


I decided to leave the group at this time and do my own thing.  They were moving pretty slow and I was feeling lots of birding energy yet in my bones!

I decided to head back over to Caballo Lake State Park.  There was a lot more bird activity over there.

To be continued……..