Birding along the Bosque

All last week I went walking several days in the bosque along the Rio Grande…from one end of Albuquerque to the other.  I had so much fun exploring and seeing all the spring birds arriving.

On Saturday, April 16, I went to the duck ponds.  I had heard a Vermilion Flycatcher had been spotted there.  The day was cold and rainy.  I searched high and low for that beautiful red bird.

I didn’t see him that day.  So I went back out on Sunday, April 17.  It was still rainy and cold.  But people had seen that bird the day before in the same conditions.

Almost as soon as I arrived at the ponds, I saw several people pointing to the side of the trail.  I just knew it was that flycatcher.  I quickly got my camera out and ready and was able to get a few shots of him.  The photo quality was poor due to the very low light and rainy conditions.

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Vermilion Flycatcher

I went back again on Monday.  The day was clearer and I was hoping to get some better photos of the flycatcher.  Again, I saw him as soon as I hit the trail.  So exciting! Such a beautiful bird!

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Vermilion Flycatcher

Since it was a nicer day, I spent some time walking around the ponds and along the river.  The Canada Geese were squabbling with each other while their mates sat on nests.

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Canada Geese

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Canada Goose on nest

I saw several other waterfowl on the ponds.  As well as a Wood Duck in a tree.  I’m guessing his nest was somewhere nearby but I couldn’t locate it.

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Wood Duck

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Ring-Necked Duck – male and female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

At one of the fishing ponds, poor Scarlett was attacked by some domestic geese.  We were just walking along the sidewalk going around the pond to get a photo of the  cormorants.  Out of nowhere these geese just attacked Scarlett.  She dove into some bushes to get away.  Poor Scarlett…she’s gonna get an irrational fear of large birds after the owl and now the geese!

I quickly saw the reason for the attack.  Babies!!

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Baby goose

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Family of domestic geese

On Tuesday I walked behind Corrales in the b0sque there.  I had hoped to see a Bell’s Vireo but he wasn’t showing himself.  But Scarlett and I had a great time walking in the warm sunshine.  And I saw lots of other birds to entertain me.

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Eastern Bluebird

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Cooper’s Hawk

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Belted Kingfisher

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One of my favs!  Bewick’s Wren

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Bushtit – I love to watch them feed.  Such acrobats!

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Lesser Goldfinch

Then Wednesday I was back at the duck ponds.  That seems to be a hot spot for spring arrivals.  I saw/heard lots of new birds as well as some of the year round residents.  I especially enjoyed the Summer Tanagers.

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Summer Tanager – female

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Summer Tanager – male

After the duck ponds, I visited the Alameda Open Space with Valerie on her lunch hour.  I saw some new arrivals at the gull hangout.  A whole flock of Franklin’s Gull.  I didn’t realize how small they were until I saw them with the Ring-Billed Gulls.

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Franklin’s Gulls with the larger Ring-Billed Gulls

Then at the end of the week I was back at the duck ponds.  It was warm and sunny.  Sadly, I never saw the Vermilion Flycatcher again last week.  I’m glad I went out in the rain to find him!

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Wood Ducks

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Neotropic Cormorant

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Spotted Towhee

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

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Greater Roadrunner

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Cooper’s Hawk – it was so cool to have him land right above me.  Almost couldn’t fit him in the frame he was so close!

One of my favorite photos of the week was of this Snowy Egret.  He was busy fishing at the edge of the duck pond.  He didn’t seem to mind that Scarlett and I watched him.  I was hoping to get a photo of him catching something, but he wasn’t having much luck finding anything.

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Snowy Egret

And the sitting Canada Geese are now proud parents!

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Canada Geese

Other birds are busily feeding young as well.  I was very happy to see a new baby bluebird!

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Eastern Bluebirds

It was a wonderful week of birding!  I walked 44 miles last week and saw so many beautiful birds.  And all the signs of spring are here.  The bosque is getting green and flowers are beginning to bloom all over town.

Now that spring is here I’ve been lots of other fun stuff on my outings.  🙂

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Horned Lizard

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Red-Ear Turtle

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Red-Ear Turtle

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The beavers have been busy on the ponds

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This dragonfly was as big as my palm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching for Lesser Prairie Chickens – Day 3

My last day out searching for those elusive chickens.  Once again I woke up at 4:30 am, loaded up Scarlett, and headed to my second survey location – and no coffee….again….Ugh!

The conditions on this day were perfect. No rain, fog, clouds, or wind.  It was a beautiful morning.  As I was slowly driving down a remote dirt road to my starting point of my survey, I had a Barn Owl circle my car twice.  Gorgeous lit up with my headlights.

I made it to my starting point and Scarlett was snoring again in the back seat….slacker!

On my route I heard those chickens in 2 different areas – one of which was fairly close.  But I never saw any.  Disappointing but I knew there were no guarantees I’d see any. I might have been able to walk to one area I heard them in except I w0uld have had to cross a low electric fence containing cows and calves eating the winter wheat.  I just didn’t feel safe doing that.

I got to see a beautiful sunrise since it was going to be a clear day.

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Sunrise near Portales, NM

As the morning light increased, I watched a Sharp-Shinned Hawk chasing Horned Larks.  Those larks were fast and agile.  I never saw that hawk catch one.

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Sharp-Shinned Hawk.  It was early dawn so I had to really lighten up this photo

After my survey was completed, I decided to head home….with a few stops along the way.  Since I was making a circular route, I drove home towards Fort Sumner.  And on the way to Fort Sumner is this awesome birding hot spot called Melrose Trap.  It’s a copse of trees and brush with a water source situated in an area that miles and miles of flat plains.  Migrating birds see it clearly from above and stop there on their journey.  Also, because of it’s close proximity to Texas (which seems to be a dividing line between western and eastern species of birds), this wooded area can hold some real rare gems for New Mexico.

On this particular day, the woods were pretty quiet.  I think it was still a tad early for migrating birds to show up.  I left Scarlett snoozing in the car and I starting exploring this area. I didn’t see or hear very much.  As I was heading back to my car, I heard something big fly in the canopy.

Movement caught my eye and I was surprised to see a Barn Owl looking down at me.  If it hadn’t flown, I would never have known it as there.

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Barn Owl

It was an anxious bird.  When I moved in to get a closer photo, it flew to a denser part of the woods.  I managed to get one close-up photo before it moved to an area where it was very hidden.

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Barn Owl – I love the coloring on their wings

I watched a Curve-Billed Thrasher sing for awhile, then decided to head down the road.

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

I wanted to stop in an Bosque Redondo Park outside of Fort Sumner.  It’s a pretty little lake that you can drive around.  It has several types of habitat for birds.  As I was driving down the road, I saw lots of sparrows on the fences and telephone wires.  I also saw a lot of Lark Buntings.  They looked pretty scrappy getting their summer coloring.

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Lark Bunting molting

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White-Crowned Sparrow

While on this trip, I saw lots of Swainson’s Hawks alongside the road.

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Swainson’s Hawk

Once again, it as quiet at the lake.  Not a good day for birding it seems.

I heard several Blue Jays but none were wanting their photo taken.  I also heard a Song Sparrow singing from deep within the cattails.

As I rounded the lake, I saw several Great-Tailed Grackles.  I managed to get one of them posturing for the ladies.  And of course, there were the ever-present Red-Winged Blackbirds.

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Great-Tailed Grackle

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Northern Shoveler

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Red-Winged Blackbird

When I was leaving Bosque Redondo Park, I saw my first Western Kingbird of the year.  Always a cheerful sight!

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Western Kingbird

Next stop – Lake Sumner.  It was quiet there too.  😦

I let Scarlett play in the water for awhile.  She loved it.  This was the first time she’d ever seen waves in the water.  She didn’t know what to think at first.  But she eventually realized they wouldn’t hurt her and she quickly turned them into a game.

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Scarlett playing in the water below the dam at Lake Sumner

There’s a wall that slows the water down after the release from the dam.  I made Scarlett pose on the wall.  She’s such a good girl.

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My sweet Scarlett

While photographing Scarlett, a Belted Kingfisher landed briefly on an antennae nearby.

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Belted Kingfisher

I then drove to the lake.  I was hoping to see some waterfowl or shorebirds there.  But it was very quiet.  I threw a stick for Scarlett and let her play in the water.

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Scarlett playing in Lake Sumner

 

While watching Scarlett play I saw one cormorant fly over.

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Neotropic Cormorant

I stopped in at Santa Rosa for a bite to eat.  There’s a  Car Museum there. I just had to stop for a few photos.  It was the Edsel Backhoe that caught my eye LOL!

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While driving home I couldn’t resist taking a scenic photo.  I felt it was a typical New Mexico landscape complete with arroyo, blue skies and puffy white clouds.

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So even though I didn’t see any Lesser Prairie Chickens, I still had a great time birding and exploring.  Maybe next year I will have better luck!

 

 

 

 

Searching for Lesser Prairie Chickens – Day 2

Day 2 started out very foggy.  After all the rain the day before, it was cold and wet.  But the forecast said it was supposed to not rain and clear up in the afternoon.   So I got up at 4:30 am and loaded up Scarlett and headed for the first route of our two surveys.

It was a difficult start to the morning drive with thick fog, cold temps just above freezing and no coffee.   Ugh!

But by the time I arrived at my starting point, I was awake and the fog had cleared quite a bit.  Just as I started my route the sky was beginning to lighten with sunrise…but not by much due to extremely thick cloud cover.

I drove my entire route and didn’t see any Lesser Prairie Chickens.  At the last of my stops on my route, I could hear some way off in the distance.  Of course, Scarlett was not holding up her end of prairie chicken survey duties….she slept the entire time….snored even!!!

As the daylight increased, I found lots to entertain myself while looking for those elusive chickens.  You know how I love to photograph horses.  At the last two stops on my route, I was treated to a nice herd of horses watching me.

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Now that I had completed my duties for the first survey, I was off to find some breakfast and coffee and then some more birds!

My first stop was at Oasis State Park outside of Portales, NM.  A lot of birds had been sighted there recently.  But the morning I was there, it was so overcast that the birds just weren’t interested in singing or showing themselves much.  I walked around the campground and let Scarlett stretch her legs.  Mostly saw sparrows and quail.  I heard some Northern Bobwhite but never could get a photograph.

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Curve-Billed Thrasher at the opening of their nest

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Scaled Quail

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Eurasian Collared Dove

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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White-Crowned Sparrow – a first year transforming into adult plumage

Before leaving the park, I walked around the small pond.  It’s a nice man-made pond with almost a swimming pool feel with flagstone rocks lining the edge.  But I thought it was very pretty.  Several birds were coming in for a drink at the pond.  They figured out there are a couple places with cattails enabling them to get to the water.

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher – he’s got a tiny bug in his beak

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Chipping Sparrow

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler – Audubon’s Southwest Male – what a beauty!

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Killdeer

I drove slowly as I left the park.  The bird activity had increased quite a bit as the cloud cover was starting to thin and the temperatures were rising.  The long country road leading into the park was lined with barbed-wire fence with lots of prairie grasses and a few country homes.

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Northern Mockingbird

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Swainson’s Hawk

Not too many trees, just a few scattered here and there.  These trees were bird magnets.  There was a pair of Swainson’s Hawks that were hanging out in one tree.  I decided to stop and see if they were starting a nest.  When I zoomed in on the nest, I was surprised to see yellow eyes looking back at me!  And to my surprise it was a new bird! It’s a Long-Eared Owl.  Of course, with the wet fog that morning, it’s ears weren’t looking to perky.  It’s often confused with a Great Horned Owl, but it’s much smaller.  I was thrilled with my find!

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Long-Eared Owl

Next stop I decided to walk a few of the parks around Clovis, NM.  I saw lots of birds driving between parks, but most of the parks weren’t very productive.

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Western Meadowlark

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Horned Lark

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Long-Billed Curlew – my best photo yet!

My favorite park was about 7 miles north of Clovis.  It was a beautiful park with nice mowed grasses, lots of tall shade trees and several ponds.  Definitely an Oasis in the desert.  I could see how birds would be drawn here for miles.  Scarlett loved it too.  She had so much fun running and stretching her legs.  It was really nice that day we were there.  The sun had finally burned off the clouds and there wasn’t any other people at the park.  Perfect birding conditions!

The first pond we came to was very small with a tall berm on three sides.  But it was loaded with ducks and geese.  Upon closer inspection, I saw there were baby Mallards in the pond.  Adorable!  And every bird in that pond was protecting them.

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Female Mallard with a dozen babies

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Swan Goose helping to protect the babies

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So adorable!!!

As we rounded the pond, to the non-berm side, Scarlett was wanting to go swimming in the pond.  The temperature had risen quite a bit and she was thinking a cool dip in the water would be nice.  But I didn’t want her swimming in that pond because of the baby ducks.  There was a sign at the edge of the pond that said “No Swimming”.  I wanted to get a picture of Scarlett under this sign.   As I was taking a picture to look at settings for my camera because of all the shade, I caught an amazing photo.  Neither of us heard or saw this coming!!!!

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Scarlett about to be attacked by a Great Horned Owl!!!!!

Scarlett yelped and took off like a shot for the car!  I had no idea there was a Great Horned Owl’s nest next to the pond.  And those owls were defending that nest with a vengeance! They kept dive bombing her the whole way to the car.  Fortunately she’s such a sweetie and knows not to bother the birds that she never once tried to get those owls.  She was just very determined to get into the car.  🙂

After putting Scarlett in the car, I decided to find the nest.  Of course, they were nested in the largest tree at the park.  A very old tree with a giant trunk.  And the babies were all looking out wanting to see what all the commotion was about.  Just beautiful!

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Great Horned Owl babies

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Great Horned Owl

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Great Horned Owl

I took several photos of the angry owl.  I was very impressed with his bravery as I realized he only had vision in one eye.  It didn’t seem to mess with his aim.  He nailed Scarlett squarely on the rump!  And obviously has been doing a good job feeding his young because all three babies looked very healthy.

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Great Horned Owl

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Great Horned Owl – you can clearly see the bad eye

I tried to get a photo of the other owl, but she was staying very hidden.  I only saw her briefly as she joined in the chase of Scarlett when she was running for the car.

Not wanting to disturb the owls any longer, I moved us along to another area of the park.  It was so nice to walk around for several hours enjoying the warm sunshine and relaxing.

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House Finch

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Pine Siskin at the opening of it’s nest

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Common Grackle

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Hermit Thrush

After all that excitement it was time to head back to town and get some dinner and sleep.  It was going to be another early morning!

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Pretty nest built with Easter trimmings 🙂

 

 

Searching for Lesser Prairie Chickens-Day 1

This year I decided to volunteer to do a survey to find Lesser Prairie Chickens during mating season.  I’ve always wanted to see these birds.  They are endangered and difficult to see at any time of year.  Your best chance of seeing them is during mating season when the birds congregate in clearings to do their mating dance.

They have a very small territory.  You can only find them in limited areas along the Texas/New Mexico border.  Their habitat is the wide open areas of prairie grasses.  They only do their mating ritual at sunrise (literally).  So you have to get up well before sunrise to get to the viewing areas if you want a remote chance of seeing them.

To do my survey, I was given two specific 8-mile routes.  These routes were located outside of Portales, New Mexico.  There was no guarantee I would hear or even see any Lesser Prairie Chickens.  Since my routes were on obscure county roads in the countryside, I left the day before to drive to Portales and find my routes in the daylight.

When I left last Tuesday, it was cold and rainy.  The weather was supposed to clear up Wednesday and Thursday.  Evidently these birds are very particular about weather conditions for their mating dance.  The wind can’t be blowing more than 12 mph, it can’t be rainy or misty, no fog…basically conditions have to be ideal.

I decided to do a circular route for my trip to maximize birding locations.  It’s mid-April so I thought I might have a chance to see some early migratory birds.  So Tuesday morning Scarlett and I headed to Roswell, NM, to stop in at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge (BLNWR) and Bottomless Lakes State Park (BLSP).  Both locations had been reporting some good sightings recently.

When I arrived at BLNWR it was very overcast and misting rain.  Scarlett was in desperate need of a potty break.  So I walked her along the butterfly path next to the visitor’s center.  I immediately saw a bright yellow bird fly away to a tree further down the path.  I just had to get a photo of this warbler.  When I finally saw it again, I was able to get a pretty decent photo in these terrible conditions.  (I hate cloudy, misty days!)

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

Then I heard a tiny little bird voice to my left.  I was happy to see a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher busily feeding in the trees along the path.  I was fortunate in that he was willing to stop for about 10 seconds.  I was able to get a pretty cute photo of him.

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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

As I was heading back to the car, a flycatcher caught my eye.  I got several photos of this bird from different angles.  I have a hard time identifying flycatchers.  But with all the data I had to go by, I am fairly certain this is a Willow Flycatcher.  A new bird for me! They were endangered for many years.  But a recent article I read said their numbers have come back nicely.

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Willow Flycatcher

I drove down to the lake to see what might be about.  It was pretty quiet there that day.  The only thing of note I saw was a pack of Ruddy Ducks and Eared Grebes.  As soon as they saw my car coming towards them, they started scurrying away.  Very difficult to get a photograph.  Which was a shame.  Because this was the first time I had ever seen the Eared Grebes in breeding plumage.

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Ruddy Duck females and both male and female Eared Grebes

The weather was deteriorating quickly.  The forecast had said it would be clearing as the day progressed…riiiggghhhttt…….

When I arrived at BLSP it was pouring down rain.  I had to sit in the car for about an hour.  I was hoping it would let up so I could walk the marsh trail.  Wilson’s and Red-Necked Phalarope had been spotted here recently.

At one point the rain got light enough for me to don a raincoat and head out.  Of course, Scarlett could care less that it was raining.  That dog just loves water!  No Phalaropes, but I did see several waterfowl and a Black-Necked Stilt grooming in the rain.

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Blue-Winged Teal

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Black-Necked Stilt

As I was leaving the park, the rain stopped long enough to get out and see one of the pools at the park.  It’s a very pretty place.  I wish the weather had been nicer.  I would have loved to go exploring with Scarlett on the many trails I saw.

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One of the several lakes at Bottomless Lakes State Park

Their is a large shallow pond near the entrance of BLSP.  It doesn’t have any roads around it to park and view the birds.  It probably has some hiking trails, but the weather was too bad to explore that option.  The main road that drives past it is well above the pond as you climb to the top of the mesa.  What makes it even more difficult is the fact that the edges of the pond are very overgrown with trees and scrub.

There is one pullout on the climb up the mesa that offers a good view of the pond (aka the Lazy Lagoon).  I took several long-distance photos and will have to study them further to see if I got a pic of the Red-Necked Phalarope.  That will be a new bird for me.  As I was leaving the far end of the pond, I saw a whole pack of Great Egrets.  Almost monochromatic in the rainy conditions.

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Back on the road to Portales.  I passed lots of soggy Swainson’s Hawks.

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Swainson’s Hawk

My first town I drove through after leaving BLSP was Elida.  As I approached the town, I saw a great photo op of an old home.

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Elida is very small and quaint.  I drove through the neighborhoods looking for sparrows.  The houses all have very large lots with large grassy lawns.  There was a lot of bird activity since the rain had let up considerably.

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Vesper Sparrow

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Brewer’s Sparrow

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Brewer’s Sparrow

Next stop was finding my two survey routes.  They are located between Portales and Clovis, NM.  They were tough to find so I’m glad I had plenty of daylight left to locate them.  Next stop, Clovis.  I decided to stay in Clovis because there seemed to be a lot of good birding locations around town.  Since my survey duties would be over for the day by 8:30 am, I wanted to check out some other birding spots nearby during the day.

Poor Scarlett had a boring day in the car due to the rainy weather.  She would have happily played all day outside, but I wasn’t willing to join her.  Poor baby….

I made it into Clovis just before dark.  I had just enough light to get a pic of a pheasant.  What a nice way to end the day.  I headed to bed early since I would have to be up at 4 am to head out for my surveys.

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Ring-Necked Pheasant – too bad the lighting was almost nonexistent.  He was pretty close to me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Successful Week of Birding

Last week I visited several areas around town hoping to see some new arrivals for 2016.  The weather has been so nice, I figure migratory birds should be trickling in about now.  My first stop was at the Valle de Oro.  I had heard that Lucy’s Warblers had been sighted there recently.  I had looked for them last year without any luck.

I started the slow drive through the refuge, and my first sighting of the day was a Swainson’s Hawk enjoying the early morning sun.  Of course, he was between me and the sun so the shots were a challenge.  But I did manage to get a nice shot of him stretching his wings some.

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Swainson’s Hawk

There were bunches of Savannah Sparrows.  They must be used to cars driving slow and stopping for photos.  Because they never seem to spook.  I love this because you can get some nice closeup photos of them.

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Savannah Sparrow

There’s always lots of Meadowlarks at the refuge.  Now that spring is here they are all singing.  I love their birdsong.  Always seems such a happy tune.

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Western Meadowlark

I saw some Long-Billed Curlews but they flew away as soon as they saw my car coming toward them.  Same with White-Faced Ibis.  I’ve only seen the curlew once before out in Stanley, NM.  They are unique birds.  I was disappointed  I couldn’t get a photo.  The only one I currently have isn’t very good.

As soon as I parked next to the irrigation ditch to start looking for the Lucy’s Warblers I  heard them singing!  🙂  They were a challenge to find.  They prefer to stay way up high in the canopy and they are very tiny…very! There were eating the new growth on the cottonwood trees.  I managed to get a couple of decent shots as they ventured out to the edge of a branch.  Sweet little birds! I was very happy as this is a new bird for me!

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Lucy’s Warbler

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Lucy’s Warbler

Around mid-week I decided to pop in to the zoo to see if the peacocks were performing.  They didn’t seem to be in the mood while I was there.  But I did find one male that didn’t seem to mid me photographing him as he relaxed in the shade of a patio.  So I took advantage of the opportunity and took some closeup photos of his beautiful feathers.  I will have to try again soon and see if I can get a photo of that tail spread out.

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My next outing was to try and find that Northern Pygmy Owl. No luck again.  I seem to pick times to hike up that long road on days when things scare the little guy into hiding.  Remember the last time a big old diesel truck just beat me there.  This time it was a loud group of hikers.  There were only 3 of them, but they definitely weren’t using their “birding” voices.  Sigh…..

I did get a couple of nice shots of a Red-Naped Sapsucker.  Beautiful!

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Red-Naped Sapsucker

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Red-Naped Sapsucker

As I was walking back to my car, I got my best photo yet of an orangetip butterfly.  They finally seem inclined to land.

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Sara Orangetip

At the end of the week, I headed up to Santa Fe.  A Vermilion Flycatcher had been seen in a local park.  I thought maybe I could get a better photo of the male.  I stopped in early at the park, but it was very overcast that day and cold in the morning.  No luck at seeing the flycatcher.  I figured maybe it wasn’t the right conditions for feeding.   So I decided to drive over to the Randall Davey Audub0n Center and hike the trails there.

I’m so glad I made that choice.  The stream was flowing nicely so Scarlett enjoyed the water.  And I got to see Pygmy Nuthatches!  This is only the second time I’ve seen them.  They are adorable! I got several great photos of them.

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Pygmy Nuthatch

After hiking at the center, I headed back over to the park.  The day had warmed up some but it was still very cloudy.  No flycatcher still 😦  but I got my best photo yet of a Cedar Waxwing.  They are very shy here in New Mexico.

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Cedar Waxwing

I also saw a few other birds in the park on this second visit.

 

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Northern Flicker

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American Robin

So I titled my blog today “successful” because I not only got a new bird sighting, but I also got a lot better photos of birds I haven’t seen very often.  🙂

 

 

 

GHO Babies!

I had a little time last Wednesday to stop in at the Great Horned Owl (GHO) nest at the Academy.  Based on when they started nesting, I believed I should see some baby owls.

I didn’t make it by until around 3 in the afternoon.  I figured it should be more quiet at the campus at this time.  As I was walking toward the nesting spot, I saw one of the adults go flying (so silently) by and land on a ledge on a nearby building.  I quickly ran over there to get some photos.  This is the first time I was able to get some photographs of an adult GHO other than sitting quietly in a tree.

The GHO is a gorgeous bird…and BIG!

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After landing on the ledge, the owl slowly made its way over to a corner and looked down at me.  Made for a great pic!

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I then saw the mate sitting in a tree nearby.  As I made my way over there, the owl on the ledge flew by me and landed in a neighboring tree from its mate.  Of course, I had to take several photos.  They turned out nice with the new green foliage around them.

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I finally made my way over to the nest.  I figured there must be some babies since the female wasn’t sitting on the nest.  When I peered up, I saw two babies snoozing.  Adorable!  They look like they have only been hatched a few days.

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While I was admiring the new additions to the family, I saw one of the adults fly over and land next it its mate.  Beautiful!  I just had to get a few pics of the proud parents.  Just stunning birds.

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There’s really no way to identify on sight which one is the male or female.  But I think the owl on the left looks way more feminine so I’m saying that’s mom.  🙂

I figured it was time to go.  Before leaving I looked in on the nest one more time.  I was delighted to see one of the babies was awake and looked curiously at me.  Big yellow eyes in that tiny body.

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As I was photographing the babies, one of the faculty of the Academy came over to see them.  She told me the day before there had been three babies, but sadly one had fallen out.  She said in the past they were able to rescue any that had fallen  out of the nest.  But this year’s loss went unnoticed too long and didn’t make it.   Very sad….

I bid goodbye to the GHOs with wishes that the remaining two make it to adulthood.  I will have to check back from time to time over the next few weeks to see their progress.

 

 

 

 

Eye of the Sandias Hike

I had heard there was an eye painted on a rock high up on a trail in the Sandia Mountains.  So map in hand, I headed out last week to find it.  I had heard it was a challenging hike.  Boy…it was!

I started out at the end of Copper Street.  Right when I turned on the dirt trail to start my hike, I saw a Curve-Billed Thrasher on a cinder block wall enjoying the morning sun and singing quietly to himself.  He was adorable.

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

From there the hike started climbing….and climbing….and climbing.  This trail was relentless.  But the views grew increasingly more expansive and beautiful as I climbed.

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Scarlett’s tongue is hanging out.  We had been climbing.  City of Albuquerque in the distance.

I had to stop from time to time to catch my breath.  Scarlett would be up ahead a ways as she could traverse the trail much easier than me.  Whenever I stopped, she would look back waiting for me to start climbing again.

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Scarlett waiting for me on the trail.

Along the way there were some really cool rock formations made out of the wind eroded granite.  I love finding shapes in the rocks.  Here are a few of the best ones on the hike.

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Gorilla Face

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Roman Helmet

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Cartoon-like character reclining on a rock.

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Fish head

While taking time to photograph the rock formations, Scarlett was waiting for me ahead on the trail.

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Can you see Scarlett at the top of the trail?  Look how steep that trail is!

The trail continues to climb.  By now I’ve hiked straight up for a mile.  Every now and then I would get a break on the steepness.

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And Scarlett is still ahead of me…waiting….

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Can you see Scarlett peeking around the rock?

The views continued to expand.  This is my favorite scenic photo of the hike.

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My favorite photo of the hike.  I swear I can see 100 miles away from here. Those are the Monzano Mountains in the distance on the left. 

Pushing on…now I’ve hiked 1.5 miles.  Tough hike!  The directions to the eye said don’t get discouraged at this point.  I’m almost there.  I took time to take a selfie.

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Kelly about 3/4 of the way up on the hike. 

And Scarlett is still ahead of me….waiting…

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Can you see Scarlett peeking through the cactus?? Silly girl!

I finally top a rise and look ahead to see the eye.  I cheered!  Literally!  I climbed for 2 straight miles!  Can you see it ahead on the rock?

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The eye is straight ahead! YAY!!!

It is said the eye was painted some time in the 1960s.  You always wonder what prompted someone(s) to paint this on a rock here.  But we have to think about what younger people were like back then.  It was the time of free love, LSD, mushrooms, marijuana, peace.  So it has been theorized that the eye was painted to say the mountains were crying due to the encroachment of the city onto the wild land of the mountain.  The eye faded with time, but then in the 1990s someone painted it again.  When I looked at the eye and tears, they looked freshly painted to me.

If you look closely at the pupil of the eye, you see the symbol of the Zia, the state symbol of New Mexico.

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Of course, I had to take several photos of the eye, including a selfie of Scarlett and myself.  It was very windy at the top of the mountain here.

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Time to head back.  Two miles of hiking straight downhill ahead of me.  UGH!!!  This is a picture of the trail back.

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View heading back down from the eye.

 

When I started hiking back down, I saw another painting on a rock.  I’ve never read about the mouth of the Sandias.  LOL!  I wonder when this was painted.

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Mouth of the Sandias.  My dentist friend Valerie would approve of the straight teeth! 🙂 I approve of the red lipstick. Definitely my shade of red!

According to my hiking directions, it suggested taking a different route down to get a circular route and have new scenery.  It didn’t say anything about the extreme steepness of the trail.  I was cussing the author of the trail guide the whole way down.  One part of the trail was so steep, I skipped it and chose to walk down a grassy hillside instead for much better and safer footing.

I was glad I made this choice not only for safety, but because the grasses were full of butterflies! 🙂 So I took my time descending and photographed several nice ones.

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Painted Lady

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Mormon Metalmark

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Sara Orangetip

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Acmon Blue

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Rocky Mountain Duskywing

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Sandia Hairstreak

But my priority was getting down.  It was slow going down because I had to watch my footing every step.  Tedious and stressful.

Once again….Scarlett was waiting for me.

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My Beautiful Scarlett!!!

The trail was relentlessly steep.  I hate steep downhills.

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Scary downhill!!!  Couldn’t take the time to take a straight photo!

But finally I made it to the bottom.  Yay!  Four miles of straight up and straight down.  Whew!  I was almost to the car when I heard a Cactus Wren singing.  I felt I had a little bit of energy left to photograph a bird….just a little.  LOL!

I found that wren singing his heart out at the top of a cactus.

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Cactus Wren

He jumped down as soon as he realized he had a human audience.  But that made for a great photo.

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Cactus Wren

Then a Black-Throated Sparrow started singing from the same cactus top…popular cactus.  Of course, I can never resist photographing one of my favorite birds.

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Black-Throated Sparrow

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Black-Throated Sparrow

I also saw a Western Scrub Jay squawking from a nearby bush so I just had to get his photo too.

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Western Scrub Jay

By this time I’ve been photographing birds for 15 minutes.  When I looked down at Scarlett I saw she was fast asleep on the trail.   I pooped that little girl out! Time to head home and relax!

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Canyon Towhee