Last week I had to drive out west of Albuquerque to the To’hajiilee (pronounced Tow-ha-jill-ee) exit to deliver something to a job site. Some of you may recognize the exit name from the very popular Breaking Bad TV show that was filmed in Albuquerque a few years ago. I realized I was only about 20 miles away from El Malpais National Monument. This is a beautiful area of unique sandstone formations and spectacular views. I hadn’t been there in several years. So on a whim, Scarlett and I kept heading west to go exploring.
My first stop was at the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook. As soon as I parked I saw a bird sitting not far from me on a little twig. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was a Phainopepla! They aren’t usually seen this far north. It sat a few moments letting me get a couple photos before it flew away.
I started walking up the bluff to the overlook. Scarlett ran ahead of me and ran right to the edge. Scarlett!!! Give me a heart attack!! The drop is very far from this overlook. I kept a close eye on her after that. She’s fearless!
The views were amazing that day. The weather was perfect.
While exploring the overlook, there were a lot of birds coming in to get a drink from the many rainwater pools that collect on the bluff. These pools are probably one of the main sources of water for the wildlife here.
I saw a Bullock’s Oriole land briefly but the photo I got wasn’t worth publishing here. But some bluebirds posed nicely for me. And there were Cliff Swallows flying all over – too fast for a photo though!
At one point Scarlett was hesitant to follow me over some rocks. She watched me and gave it a try…
But then I saw her turn tail and disappear!
Next thing I know she’s chose a different route to come down. Smart girl!
Of course, I had to have her pose a few times for a photo! LOL!
After exploring the overlook, we headed down the road to the La Ventana Arch. This is a huge arch and is the second-largest natural arch in New Mexico. The photos just don’t convey the size of this formation.
While there a Black-Headed Grosbeak was singing away! Such a beautiful bird.
I also heard a bird of prey calling way up high near the top of the arch. I zoomed in as best I could to get a photo. When I zoomed in on the photo, I realized it was a Peregrine Falcon (based on the markings and the constant calling). It looks like it has jesses on its legs. I wonder if it escaped from someone’s care. Hopefully it will survive. I believe it had a nest up there as it kept landing in the same place just out of view then flying away again.
After viewing the arch, it was starting to warm up. So I decided to head home. Just before Grants, NM, there’s a small town called McCarty’s. There’s a church there I’ve always wanted to stop and photograph. Since I had time, I found an exit off the interstate and wound my way down the small streets until I came upon the church. Sadly, it was closed. But I was able to get a photo of the inside of the church through a little window on the front door.
It was a great impulse hike. I’m so glad I went!