Late Summer Birds and Critters

I was able to get out a couple times this week for walks with Scarlett.  And one morning I got up really early to bird in Moriarty.

On one morning I stopped in at the duck ponds at Tingley Beach.  I hadn’t been there in a while.  I only had about 30 minutes to walk around.  There were quite a few birds, but most we too camera shy.  I did manage to get a Blue Grosbeak photo though he was deep in the shadows.


Blue Grosbeak


I was surprised to see a snail on the trail.  Now those of you that live in humid areas probably don’t get too excited about snails.  But here in the desert, they are a real treat to see.  All the monsoon rains must have brought it out of hiding.


One of my favorite things to see every summer is the Japanese Beetle.  I think they are so beautiful.  I can always count on seeing them on these blossoms.


Japanese Beetles

But the biggest surprise of the short walk, was getting very  close to a Green Heron.  They are usually so shy at the duck ponds.  As soon as you see them they will fly to the far side of the pond or out to the island in the middle. This particular heron let me get within 5 feet of him.  I had to lean over and peer through cattails, but I did get a pretty nice photo before he decided he had enough of me.


Green Heron

A few days ago I drove out to my favorite spot in Moriarty – Valley Irrigation Road.  I hadn’t been out there in months.  I only stayed out about an hour.  Work has still been so busy.  But even in that short time, I saw quite a few nice birds.

First I saw a Western Kingbird and House Sparrow enjoying the morning sun.


Western Kingbird


House Sparrow

Soon after I saw a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.  I love these tiny little birds.


Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

In this same area I also saw a House Wren and a very elusive and fast Wilson’s Warbler.


House Wren


Wilson’s Warbler

Further down the road, I saw several Swainson’s Hawks.  Most flew before I got anywhere near them.  But I did get closer to one for a photo before it flew away.


Swainson’s Hawk

At Otto Pond I saw lots of sparrows and finches enjoying all the sunflowers and corn plants.


Otto Pond area on Valley Irrigation Road

I had a very cooperative House Finch.


House Finch

And saw lots of sparrows.


Brewer’s Sparrow


Clay-Colored Sparrow


Chipping Sparrow

I even saw a hummingbird enjoying all those beautiful sunflowers.


Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Around home I’ve encountered a few interesting things.  I have a lot of lizards around my home.  This particular guy was enjoying the warm sun in my backyard.  It’s not often you get to see that gorgeous blue throat.


Striped Plateau Lizard

A new batch of Two-Tailed Swallowtail butterflies must have hatched.  Because I’ve seen quite a few of them in my yard these last few days.  A few lingered long enough for photos.


Two-Tailed Swallowtail


Pretty on  my petunias!

While walking Scarlett in the neighborhood, we came across a 5-foot long bull snake snoozing behind the back tires of my car.  It had recently eaten, as you can tell by the thick middle.


Bull Snake

It was determined to stay by my  car.  So I picked it up to move it safely off the road.  It needed to get hidden so no one would kill it.  Bull snakes are great for rodent control.  But some people think they need to kill all snakes.  When I picked it up, I soon realized it was a long as I was tall which made it over 5 feet long!


This snake was very tame.  I’ve found most bull snakes are.

Once safely off the road, I tried to take some more photos, but it wasn’t interested in that.  I managed to get a couple before it quickly disappeared.


Bull Snake

I took a photo of Scarlett while walking this morning.  She’s modeling her new blue sparkly collar with a pretty flower.  🙂


Scarlett modeling her new collar.

My Canyon Towhee’s had a late batch of babies.  I noticed this one was hanging out in the seed dish.  He sat very still, I’m sure hoping I didn’t see him.


Baby Canyon Towhee

And there are still lots of Lesser Goldfinches hanging out in my yard.


Lesser Goldfinch

In my garden, I’ve been seeing a lot of praying mantis.  I think they are my most favorite insect.  This one was enjoying my squash plant.


Praying Mantis

That’s about it for the past week or so.  I hope you’re enjoying your summer!














Birding Around Home

I haven’t gotten out much these past few weeks.  All I’ve been doing is work, work, work….booorrriiinnngggg!!!   But that’s the price you pay sometimes to be self employed.

So I’ve had to satisfy myself with short outings in my yard and in the neighborhoods around me.  Poor Scarlett has been missing our long hikes.  These short walks just aren’t keeping her satisfied.  It’s tough burning off the energy of a not quite 1.5 year old german shepherd.  But thankfully she’s a sweet dog and makes the most of her time out.

The sunflowers are in full bloom now.  And I’ve noticed a lot of birds love them.  Most especially the Lesser Goldfinches.  They actually wait to breed until later in the summer so they can feed their young on the sunflower seeds.  I let several sunflowers germinate from the cast off seed from the feeders.  It’s fun to watch several of these tiny yellow birds feeding on the seed pods.  I’ve noticed they eat the leaves as well.


Lesser Goldfinch


Hard to get pics as they were flying from flower to flower


They are adept at hanging upside down to get to the seeds


Looks like this one had recently taken a bath


Lesser Goldfinch – female


Many other birds have been enjoying the sunflowers around my home.  I even noticed a hummingbird feeding at one.


They avoid the bees!!


Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

There is a meadow near my house that has a lot of wildflowers and sunflowers blooming right now.  One morning I drove over and parked my car so I could use it as a blind.  I was thrilled to see warblers working their way among the wildflowers.  Warblers are the most difficult bird for me to see and photograph.  Here’s an example of why…


A camouflaged Wilson’s Warbler – you can just see the eye

I did manage to get a couple decent photos of the warblers about that morning.


Wilson’s Warbler


Wilson’s Warbler


Orange-Crowned Warbler


Virginia’s Warbler


Yellow-Rumped Warbler

One morning I noticed a young Black-Headed Grosbeak stuck in my garden.  We were overrun with grass in the garden last summer.  So this year we covered the entire area with black plastic to kill all the seeds.  This young Grosbeak was trying to fly out of the fenced area but just hadn’t mastered the skill of flying yet.  I was afraid it would get too much exposure to hot sun on black plastic, so I caught it and put it in a nearby oak tree.  He seemed much happier.  Soon after I released him he started calling for his parents.


Black-Headed Grosbeak juvenile.  I can never resist taking a close-up pic when I catch a bird!


Safely in the oak tree now

A couple weeks later I saw the same bird.  I have noticed over the years that when I catch a young bird and release it, they have a lot less fear of me.  This guy was like that.  He lets me get real close now.  I had rescued a baby American Robin one summer and it followed me around the yard for weeks.


Black-Headed Grosbeak – I’m glad to see it got its wings!

I have a flock of Bushtits that live around my home.  They have built their nest in our yard for several summers now.  I’ve never been able to find the active nest, but one year I saw an old nest.  They love the bark butter I put on my tree.


Bushtits greedily eating the bark butter


These guys are so tiny.  They are difficult to photograph as they are very quick!

A few other visitors to the feeders at my house.


House Finch – female


Juvenile Chipping Sparrow


White-Breasted Nuthatch


Mountain Chickadee


House Finch – male


Canyon Towhee

A little further afield from home there are some open meadows that attract a different variety of birds than I get at home.


Northern Mockingbird – they still had two young ones begging for food


Swainson’s Hawk – juvenile


Turkey Vulture – I swear it has maggots stuck to its face.  And there was a very dead skunk odor too!  Eeeewwww!!!


Shy American Kestrals


Common Raven


Curve-Billed Thrasher


Swainson’s Hawk – juvenile


Swainson’s Hawk – juvenile

One day I had to go to the office in Cedar Crest – just a few miles from home.  I had my camera with me (surprised?).  It was a very cool morning after a rainy night.  The birds were very active.  Most weren’t very cooperative for photos.  But I did get a good shot of a Blue Grosbeak.  And I saw a very puffy hummingbird!


Blue Grosbeak – juvenile male getting adult plumage


Broad-Tailed Hummingbird


Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

In late June I wrote about a Cooper’s Hawk nesting in my yard.  I had taken some photos in Late July of the baby hawk.  But I had misplaced the photos.  I was very upset with myself thinking I had accidentally deleted them.  But happily I found those photos this morning! Though a little late, I thought you might enjoy seeing pics of this hawk.  It had left the nest but was hanging out in the trees nearby.  Not long after taking these photos, it was flying much better and was more difficult to see for photos.  But I did hear it call for its parent most every evening for several weeks.


Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk


Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

While I’m writing this Scarlett has her head on my lap, looking at me with those big brown eyes, willing me to take her out for a walk.  So I guess that’s what I will do!







Summer Hiking in the Sandias

I’ve been hiking a lot lately trying to get in better shape before winter starts.  And also for an upcoming trip in September for my 20th anniversary.  So I’ve been putting in lots of miles over the past several weeks.  Scarlett loves it of course.

Yesterday I didn’t really want to go hiking.  But Scarlett all but pulled me out of my chair, handed me my keys and shoved me  into the car! I’m glad I went though because it was perfect hiking weather.

As you can imagine, summers in New Mexico can be very hot.  So I do a lot of hiking way up high in the mountains where the temperature is much cooler.  The trails are very pretty this summer with lush grasses and wildflowers.

One of the hikes I really enjoy is a series of trails that take you to the top of the Sandias where there’s a huge meadow and a stone building called the Kiwanis Cabin.  I visited the cabin last summer with Scarlett but hadn’t been back until the last few weeks.


Panorama of the views from Kiwanis cabin


Panorama of the Kiwanis meadow


Mule Deer with antlers in velvet

Of course, I had to make Scarlett pose at the cabin 🙂


Miss Scarlett posing for me at the cabin

There’s a sign at the cabin with an official letter from the forest service telling you not to climb on the cabin’s roof or you could be fined and/or jailed.  I love the comment someone wrote on this notice.


The views from the Kiwanis Cabin are beautiful.  You can see for miles and miles.  This summer has been very humid for us so the views have been limited some.  But still great nonetheless.


View looking south from Kiwanis meadow


Panorama of southern view from Kiwanis meadow

One of the days I was hiking, the clouds were hanging right at the top of the mountain.  It made for a pretty photo.  And really cooled things off!


Hiking in the clouds

Scarlett loves hiking. She loves to explore, run, sniff everything! She’s a great hiking companion.


Sweet Scarlett posing for me again.  🙂


I love this photo of Scarlett.  The ground was wet so she left footprints on the rocks.

As you know by now, Scarlett loves water.  There’s not much water to be had in the Sandias this time of year.  But Scarlett still managed to have some fun in a water puddle left by the summer monsoons.


Scarlett loves water!

The birds have been very quiet this late summer.  The raising of their young is just about finished and molting is starting.  Sightings are much more difficult this time of year.  But I still managed to see several variety of birds over the last few weeks.


Baby Western Bluebird


Lesser Goldfinch


Plumbeous Vireo


Western Tanager – female


Western Bluebird


I believe this is a Nashville Warbler


A very scrappy looking Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

One day I hiked over to the tram for a little change of scenery.  Scarlett and I met up with some sweet girls visiting here with their church group.  They loved Scarlett.


Tram leaving the station


Scarlett’s newest fan club members (Hanna, Karli and Lexi)

From the tram, you can see the Kiwanis cabin in the distance at the top of the peak.


Kiwanis Cabin as seen from the tram (zoomed in of course!)

This year was a really good year for the House Wrens.  I’ve seen lots of babies while hiking.  They are just adorable.  And they haven’t learned to fear people yet, letting me get close for some nice photos.


A pair of baby House Wrens.  They were waiting at the top of a bush for a parent to come by and feed them.


This baby House Wren let me get really close.

Not very many butterflies were out on my hikes.  But I did manage to get a few.  There were lots of bees visiting the wildflowers.  I found one bee that was wet and cold and just sitting on a flower trying to warm up.  I took advantage of this to get a really close up pic.


California Sister


Field Crescent


Painted Lady


Cold, wet bee

Some of the days I hiked over to the travertine falls.  The falls are only a trickle this time of year, but still nice.


Travertine Falls with wild mint and grapes growing at the base.

I’ve noticed a lot of trail maintenance this summer.  It’s nice that people volunteer their time to keep the trails cleared of fallen trees and overgrown brush.  Someone got really creative on the South Crest Trail near the falls.


Natural art on the South Crest Trail

Scarlett posed for me at the falls.  Such a good girl!


Miss Scarlett

Around this time of year is when you are more likely to see baby horned toads.  I love these little guys.  I usually can’t resist picking them up.  This also shows you how tiny they are!


Adult horned toad


Baby horned toad


This is the same baby.  You can see it’s tiny!

Lots of lizards on the trails too!


Of course, no visit to the Sandia Mountains in the summer would be complete without a trip to Capulin Spring.  But I have to say, I’m very disappointed in the recent work done at the spring.  I had been told they were going to clean up the area around the spring.  What happened in realty was way worse.  It was almost complete devastation of the surrounding area.  I met up with a woman there that had come upon the workers as they were “cleaning up” and she managed to stop the complete devastation of the area.  What is more disturbing, is that this was organized by the local Audubon chapter.

There were a couple small trees that people sat under for shade and concealment that have been completely removed.  Now when you sit to watch the birds you are completely exposed to the sun and to the birds.

There were two bushy trees to the right of the log that the birds loved.  They would land there to be sure it was safe to visit the spring and also to sit in and groom after they bathed.  One of the trees is a maple.  We have very few maples in this state.  The woman I spoke to stopped them from completely taking out these trees.  But they are half gone  now.

They had completely taken out the bushes on the way to the spring.  This woman asked the workers if they had checked the bushes for nesting House Wrens before they chopped them down.  They said no.  The college students helping the workers were horrified when they realized they had chopped down a bush with baby wrens in a nest.

They took out several big trees too.  The wood hasn’t been hauled off.  The debris from chopping down the beautiful bushes is still piled up.   The place is a disaster.  And the birds are very skittish now.  They are very hesitant to come to the spring when you are sitting there plain as day.  Even the common Dark-Eyed Juncos are spooked.

I can only imagine how much worse it could have been if that woman hadn’t gotten there when she did.  She said she had a big fight with them and made them stop.  One of the guys said about one of the workers…

“He just loves to clean up stuff.”  The woman replied that this wasn’t a back yard but a wild forest.  Go clean up somewhere else!

I know there’s more work planned for next summer.  I can only hope that future work there is considered and supervised much more carefully.  Ultimately this spring is for the birds and wildlife of the area.  We are just visitors there.

OK, I will get off my soapbox for now.  Here are some photos of the birds I saw at the spring.  It’s always a treat to see warblers!


Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Virginia’s Warbler


Broad-Tailed Hummingbird


Band-Tailed Pigeons


Orange-Crowned Warbler


Yell0w-Rumped Warblers having fun!


Dark-Eyed Junco – this one had a white tail.


Mountain Chickadee


Yellow-Rumped Warbler


MacGillivray’s Warbler

I can never resist photographing the little chipmunks at the spring.  They are always so adorable!


While driving to the trail head the other day, I saw a Yellow Warbler fly by and land in a juniper tree.  I immediately turned around and parked for some photos.  He was busy hunting for insects but I managed to get a couple of pics.  I also saw a flock of Bushtits feeding in the same tree.  Bonus!


Yellow Warbler


Yellow Warbler



Until next time!!!


Scarlett says “See you again soon!”