Silver City Area Adventure

Last October my friend Valerie and I went to Silver City for a long weekend.  I hadn’t been to that area since I was a young girl in the 70s.  I was anxious to see the area again and share it with my friend.  Though Valerie was born and raised in New Mexico, she had never been to the sights around Silver City.

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It takes several hours to get to Silver City from Albuquerque.  We got a late start so ended up driving through the mountains in the dark.  The highway from I-25 to Silver City is very windy and steep.  It was quite stressful driving that road at night.  But it was exciting too.  We saw several animals cross in front of us on the road:  a mountain lion, a mule deer, a racoon and a fox!

We stayed at an old historic hotel called the Palace Hotel.  It still had a nice “old timey” feel to it.

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Lobby of the Palace Hotel

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Lobby

We were given Room 55.  When we got to the second floor, we had to look twice for the door to our room.  Hmmmmm…..I told Valerie “I think it’s behind that lamp.”  WTF?!\

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There’s our room door behind that standing lamp….

We did eventually find another entrance to our room that wasn’t blocked by lamps, chairs and tables.  LOL!

I especially liked the main painting in the lobby.  I told Valerie, “It’s me all over!  Red dress and lipstick, holding a gun and showing lots of cleavage!”

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What I would have been like “back in the day”

One of my favorite memories from childhood was hiking the Catwalk Trail in the Gila Wilderness.  This trail consists of suspended walkways above Whitewater Creek.  Several years ago the original catwalk was destroyed due to severe flooding.  But in May of this year, a one-mile portion of the trail had been restored and opened up to the public.

So on an early October morning, we headed to the trail head.  The weather was perfect:  cool but sunny.  The shadows were long which made for great photography.  Here are some pics from the hike.

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What a unique hike

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Suspended above Whitewater Creek

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Beautiful!

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The walkway criss-crossed so we could see the walkway ahead

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Valerie enjoying the hike

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The walkway eventually ends and you walk down to the creek.

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The bridge ahead was the end of the trail.  The entire trail has not been cleaned up from the flood.  I hope they eventually open the entire trail again.

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Valerie and Kelly having fun!

After hiking the catwalk, we tried hiking another trail nearby, but the creek was too high.  There were several river crossings on the hike and no bridges available.  So we decided to drive up to Mogollon.  It’s a great historic town high in the mountains.  Sadly, the road to Mogollon was closed so we had to cancel that idea as well.  Drat!

So instead we headed back to Silver City to walk around town. On the way back we stopped to feed horses and photograph some rusty tractors.  Valerie got a pic of me in my new Jeep Wrangler!  I love my new vehicle!

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Those horses loved that apple Valerie fed them

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Cool old tractors

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Me in my brand new Jeep!

We browsed shopfronts and took some photos around town.  Eventually we ended up on a path that follows a creek that runs right behind Main Street.  Funny thing is, the creek was actually Main Street before a giant flood took out the street and many of the buildings along it in 1895.  So Main Street was moved over and the ditch created by the flood became permanent and is still in use today.

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We found a way down to the creek!

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I loved all the pools in among the limestone bedrock

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Stream flowing from pool to pool

The next day we headed out to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  Even though my family visited the Gila National Forest many times when I was young, we never went to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  So I was looking forward to seeing it as much as Valerie.  The road there was very windy and steep.   It was difficult driving.  But what made it worse was we were having to drive around and among a bunch of racing bicyclists.  Stressful!  So many blind curves with no shoulder.

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Windy road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

I was tempted by this car for sale… LOL!  After all, it only needs a battery!

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It was worth getting there even though it took over an hour to drive there from Silver City.  The hike to the dwellings was just beautiful.  We both said we could hike trails like this all day.  It was picturesque hiking in a forest, along a creek and scenic bridge crossings.

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Bridge over the Gila River

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A beautiful trail

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We loved all the bridges

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Wonderful!

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Valerie

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Lovely!

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Kelly

Eventually we climbed up to the dwellings.  They are small, but they allow you to walk inside the rooms and get a feel for what it must have been like to live there so long ago.

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Gila Cliff Dwellings

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What a beautiful view!

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Valerie

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While up at the top, a thunderstorm had moved in.  We had to hurry back down the trail to safety.  I’m glad we took our time going up and enjoyed the trail sights along the way.

On the rive back we stopped at one of the scenic pullouts to appreciate the stormy sky and wide vistas.

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Panorama of the scenic view

I turned one photo into black and white.  It made me think of the artist Ansel Adams.

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On the drive back to Silver City, we were soooo hungry!  We talked about what we wanted for dinner.  We both agreed fairly easily…Pizza and Wine!!!!  The restaurants in the downtown area were very busy so it took a while to find a place to eat.  But we eventually sat down to dinner and we even managed to find that pizza and wine!

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Delicious pizza!  It hit the spot!

On our last day in the area, we visited City of Rocks State Park.  It’s a cool piece of geology just stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a great place to explore all the nooks and crannies formed by erosion.

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It was fun exploring for a few hours.

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Panorama of the park

We had fun climbing the rocks to get fun photos of each other.

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We go to great lengths to get the “perfect” photo

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Some of the areas were scary to navigate on foot! LOL!

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My beautiful friend! 

Going home we got to see that beautiful drive coming in.  The views were amazing at the top of Emory Pass.

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View from the top of Emory Pass

I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures in Silver City!  It was a fabulous weekend!

Rare Bird Sightings :)

Temperatures have finally started getting cold in New Mexico.  It’s definitely feeling more like winter now.  And with the colder temps we’ve started seeing more birds arriving for their winter stay.  Along with the usual suspects, we’ve had a few seldom seen and rare birds arrive in the area.  It’s so exciting to hear about an unusual bird near home.

So of course, I just had to head out to find them.  Work has been so busy that it’s been difficult getting away for some birding.  But I managed an hour here and there.  I stopped in at the Alameda open space to check in on some gull sightings.  For some reason, the seagulls love to hang out there.

I first noticed a pair of Common Mergansers swimming among the gulls.  Someday I’d love to get a better photo of these birds.  This is about as good as I ever get.

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Common Merganser male and female

I scanned among the many local Ring-Billed Gull searching for any gulls that looked different.  Immediately what stood out was a couple of Lesser Black-Backed Gull juveniles.  They are much larger than the Ring-Billed and are dark brown speckled.  The juvenile birds could have been one of several species, as they are so similar.  Thankfully one of them flew and I was able to correctly identify the species based on the tail markings.

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Lesser Black-Backed Gull with Ring-Billed Gull behind him

After searching further I spotted several California Gulls.  They are also much larger than the Ring-Billed.

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California Gull

After walking along the river for a little while, I soon had to head back home and work.  Before leaving though I decided to see what might be on the pond next to the parking lot.  I  saw a couple of mergansers feeding.  I initially thought they were Common Mergansers, but after looking closer I realized they were Red-Breasted Mergansers.  A lifer for me! And a more rare sighting for our area.

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Red-Breasted Merganser

I watched them for a while and was thrilled when they swam closer to me.  I even got to see them successfully fishing!

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She caught a bluegill!

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Next she needed to position the fish for swallowing without letting it go

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That’s a big fish to swallow!

I had heard there were Tundra Swans spotted at Bosque del Apache.  I just had to go see them.  I begged my husband to have the day off so I could go see these beautiful birds.  Sometimes it’s a blessing to be self-employed, and sometimes it’s a curse.  LOL!!

Thankfully he let me go.  I got up at 4:30 am so I could get there at sunrise.  In the past I have always stopped at the ponds just before the refuge to watch the Sandhill Cranes take off.  But this time I decided to go to the main pond and take photos of the early morning light.  It was a beautiful winter morning.

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Bosque del Apache at sunrise.  Bald Eagles are perched on the dead tree.

I headed over to the marsh boardwalk to see what might be about.  In the early morning light I spotted a muskrat eating a fish for breakfast.

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Muskrat

I also saw a juvenile Common Gallinule but he was too far away for a good photo.  This is a rare sighting for the area in winter.  Also about were lots of Common Mergansers feeding in the distance.  Then from under the boardwalk a pair of female Hooded Mergansers swam out.  I was able to get some good closeup photos of them.

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Hooded Merganser female

A Pied-Billed Grebe made an appearance as well.

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Pied-Billed Grebe

While standing on the boardwalk, I heard a bird calling above and behind me.  I didn’t recognize it so I turned around quickly to see what it was.  And to my amazement it was a Tundra Swan! A lifer for me!

It landed a ways away on the pond but at least close enough for a photo to correctly identify it.  You can just see the yellow spot between the eye and the bill.

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Tundra Swan

It kept honking and then I heard more flying overhead.  I guess he didn’t want to be left behind.  He quickly took off again and joined his buddies.  In all I saw 6 of them fly off to the south.  My trip was successful!

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Tundra Swan.  You can see he’s quite a bit larger than the Canadian Geese

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Tundra Swan

I never saw the swans again that day so I was very thankful I had visited the boardwalk first thing.  I then drove the loop seeing what else might be about.  There was a Great Blue Heron snoozing in a picturesque setting.  I couldn’t resist taking several photos of him.

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Great Blue Heron

The bird of the day would have to be the Northern Pintail.  There were hundreds of them about.  Needless to say, it was easy to get many good photos.

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Northern Pintail

I saw lots of American Coots, a few Gadwall and Ruddy Ducks that I was able to get decent photos of.  I also saw several other variety of ducks, but they were always too far away for pics.

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American Coot

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Gadwall – male  and  female

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Ruddy Duck

I didn’t see very many little birds.   Here’s the few I managed to see.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

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House Sparrow

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Black Phoebe

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White-Crowned Sparrow

And of course, there were lots of Snow Geese about.  For the most part they were too far away for any great pics.  I took a few of them feeding in the fields.  Upon closer inspection of my pics, I noticed I got a Ross’s Goose among the Snow Geese.   I don’t see them nearly as often so it was a real treat.

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Ross’s Goose in the foreground.  Snow Goose behind him.

That day there were lots of raptors about.  I love seeing these birds.  They can be a challenge to photograph as they always manage to stay just out of reach of my long lens.  So my photos are rarely sharp.  But I’m still happy to see them.

I saw several American Kestral about.  Such beautiful little birds.

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American Kestral

As always there were lots Red-Tailed Hawks about.  I never tire of photographing them.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I spotted a large dark bird in a tree quite a ways from the road.  I took a few pics to see if I could identify it.  I couldn’t decided if it was a juvenile Bald Eagle or a Golden Eagle.  It was that big.

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Golden Eagle – eating a raven (you can see its feet hanging down)

But then it flew and I had a conclusive identification.  Golden Eagles legs are completely feathered.   I was thrilled!  Such a beautiful bird of prey.

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Golden Eagle

Now every time I visit the refuge, I always see people with those giant camera lenses.  You know what I’m talking about.  The lenses are so large they need their own tripod.   I always think someday it would be nice to have a setup like that but I don’t feel the need to go out and get in massive debt to get one.  But on this day at the refuge, I was truly jealous of those people.  The Bald Eagles were very active and just out of range of my little camera.  As I was taking photos of them, I was wondering what kind stunning photos these people were getting with their expensive lenses.  It would have been worth every penny to get some of the shots I know they got.  Ah well…….  here’s what I got of the Bald Eagles.

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Bald Eagles and a Raven

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One of the Bald Eagles took off after breakfast

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Success!  Bald Eagle eating a Snow Goose

The Sandhill Cranes finally got within camera range later that day.  Such beautiful birds.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Crane among the winter grasses – beautiful!

I went in the garden area of the refuge to see what might be about.  I heard a lot of birds, but not much luck seeing them.  I did get some good shots of a Great Roadrunner.  I love these birds! And it was a great way to end my day at the refuge.

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Greater Roadrunner

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Greater Roadrunner

One other day during the week I was able to pop in at Tingley Beach to see what might be about.  You can usually count on seeing lots of waterfowl during the winter months.  On this day I got to see a pretty ugly Muscovy Duck.  I don’t always see what looks like a pure bred Muscovy so I’m guessing it’s probably a more rare sighting for this species in Albuquerque.

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Muscovy Duck

Here’s some of the other waterfowl I saw that day.

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Wood Duck

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Canada Goose

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American Wigeon

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Canvasback

One day I was driving home and I saw a Mountain Bluebird in the middle of the road.  I thought it would fly, but it didn’t and I drove right passed him.  I quickly stopped and ran back to pick him up.   He looked pretty sad.  I brought him home to see if I could help him.  Here’s a pic of what he looked like when I picked him up.

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Mountain Bluebird

I set him on a towel in the sun on my couch in the living room.   He seemed very dazed.  I think he must have flown into a passing car and stunned himself.

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Mountain Bluebird

He sat there on that towel for several hours.  At one point I made him take a few sips of water then put him back on the towel.  After several hours he finally perked up and started looking around.  Truthfully I thought he was a gonner.  He looked that bad.  So I was so happy to see him looking more alert.  When he seemed coherent enough, I decided to take him back to where I found him.  I know he has a girlfriend there and that they live by the church.  I seem them every day I drive by.

He still couldn’t fly that great.  Probably had a hell of a headache.  But I put him on the ground and he quickly started gulping down juniper berries.  I figured that was a great sign and was happy to leave him there to find his gal.

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Mountain Bluebird – he was eating those berries you can see on the ground

Since that day I have seen him and his lady there at the church.  It feels good knowing I saved that beautiful bluebird!

I can’t wait to see what other rare birds might make there way into my area this winter.   During the past two weeks I’ve gotten 4 lifer birds.  It’s been awesome!  There is a Rusty Blackbird in town at the Albuquerque Open Space Visitor’s Center.  That would be a lifer for me to see him.   I’ve gone by there a few times and have yet to see him.  I heard him one day but no sighting yet.  Drat!  Hopefully I will see him soon.  I will keep you posted!  🙂

 

 

Birthday Birding and Other Outings

For my birthday this year, I told my husband all I wanted was a full day of birding all by myself at Bosque del Apache.  We had been so busy with work and other various things that I really hadn’t had much time to just relax and go birding.  So in early November I headed out early to the refuge to have a quiet, relaxing birthday.

The weather this fall was very mild.  And because of that I think the birds took their sweet time arriving at the refuge for their winter stay.   The day I was there was very warm and the birds were very quiet.

I saw several meadowlarks along the barbed wire fencing on the road to the refuge.  One was willing to sit still long enough for a photo.

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Western Meadowlark

I stopped at the main pond but it was very quiet.  I did see this pair of Northern Pintail soaking up the morning rays.

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Northern Pintail pair

As I headed for the marsh deck I saw this Great Blue Heron standing next to an irrigation ditch.

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Great Blue Heron

The pond at the marsh deck was very quiet.  A few Canadian Geese relaxing together.  But when I looked closer, I saw a smaller goose among them.  I realized it was a lone Greater White-Fronted Goose.  It is quite a bit smaller than the Canadian Geese.

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Canadian Geese with a Greater White-Fronted Goose among them

I made my way around the loop, but just not much stirring. At another pond I saw several male Northern Pintail congregating.  You can tell the one in the back is an immature male starting to get his adult plumage.

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Northern Pintail

Near the farm fields I saw several turkey next to the road.

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Wild Turkey

I made my way back to the main entrance pond.  The Snow Geese had congregated there for a late morning snooze.  Not long after I parked alongside the pond, two coyotes snuck out into the shallow water in hopes of getting a meal of fresh goose.   I had tried to get a pic, but they were just too far away.  But when the geese saw they coyotes, they errupted in a flurry of white and black wings.  It’s always beautiful to see so many in flight.

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They circled several times, but eventually decided it was safe to land.  They landed in waves which made for great photo opportunities.

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Snow Geese

Next to the pond, a Red-Winged Blackbird watched all the activity.

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Red-Winged Blackbird

The only other bird I saw there that I was able to get a decent photo of was this lonely Great-Tailed Grackle female.

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Great-Tailed Grackle

As I was getting ready to leave, I happened to notice the moon had risen during the daylight hours.   I had heard that the moon was very close to the earth right now.  And that was easy to believe as it looked huge in the sky.  I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of the big blue moon.

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Earlier this week I had a couple opportunities to get out and bird.  I had heard there was a Pacific Loon up north of Santa Fe.   So Scarlett and I jumped in the car and headed out.

Our first stop was to drive to Nambe’ and see if I could find the American Dipper that had been sighted in the area.  I drove to this dam out in the boonies.  It was very early morning and the sun was low in the sky.  So the dam cast a long dark shadow. When  I got out of the car, I heard the dipper singing his little heart out.  They have a beautiful song!

Since I could hear him, I knew he was there.  I looked and looked and looked and just couldn’t see him though his voice sounded very close.  I was standing on the bank of the river and the water was about 5 feet below me.  I happened to look down and right below me was the dipper!  I was so excited.  I tried my best to get a good photo of this bird that is dark gray on a dark gray rock with dark water all around it and all in deep shadows.  Here’s my best pic.

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American Dipper

While looking for that singing dipper, I saw a Merlin enjoying the weak sunlight high up above me.  We looked at each other and then he flew away.

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Merlin

After a successful sighting of a bird I had hoped to see, I was excited to head over to the ponds were the loon had been seen recently. According to e-bird, the loon was located at the Tribal Lakes just outside of Espanola.  Unfortunately the park is closed on Monday and I happened to be there on a Monday.  A local resident stopped at the gates when they saw me there.  They said it was fine to park there and walk in.  I was thrilled!

It turned out to be a great thing as I was the only one at the park.  So the birds were all relaxed as I quietly circled the ponds looking for that loon.  The park was very scenic and peaceful on a cold winter day.

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Tribal Lakes near Espanola, NM

 

There are two ponds there.  One is pretty small while the other is quite large with a couple of islands in the middle.  As soon as I started walking along the perimeter of the pond, I saw the loon way far away.  And that’s exactly how he stayed the duration of my visit.  Even though I was quiet and walked slowly, he was determined to circle the pond with me along the opposite bank.  Needless to say, the photos I took were very poor.  But thankfully good enough to easily identify the species.  This is a lifer bird for me!

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Pacific Loon

As I walked around the pond, I was treated to sightings of other birds, which I happily photographed.

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Common Mergansers

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Song Sparrow

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Hooded Mergansers

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Great Blue Heron

I saw a beaver exit his den right in front of me.   I had no idea he was there until he slapped his tail on the water and scared the crap out of me! I had hoped he would do it again so I could get a photo of him doing that, but he was calm after that.

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Beaver

White photographing the beaver, a single gull flew past me at eye level then swooped down and grabbed up a fish.  I immediately swung my camera around to follow him and got several shots of him getting the fish.  My settings on the camera weren’t ideal for this quick change, but I managed to get a few decent pics.

At the time I had thought it was an immature Ring-Billed Gull, as that is what is most common in New Mexico.  But upon further inspection of all the photos I took and learning that others have sighted an immature Lesser Black-Backed Gull recently, I have decided that’s exactly what I saw.  How exiting!  Another new bird for me.

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Lesser Black-Backed Gull – immature

Scarlett enjoyed the walk around the ponds.  She’s my beautiful, good girl!

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Miss Scarlett

When I had first arrived at the ponds, I had startled a kingfisher.  He never let me get close until just before I left.   He finally cooperated and let me get about 50 feet away before flying off.  I got a pretty decent pic of him with my long zoom lens.

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Belted Kingfisher

The next day I headed to Bernardo to see if very many Sandhill Cranes had arrived.  They seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache further south.  Before stopping in at Bernardo, I drove a little further down the road and stopped in at Sevilleta.

I couldn’t resist taking photos of these longhorn cattle before I headed into the refuge.

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Scarlett and I walked along a drainage ditch and an area that has been flooded for the migrating birds.  There were lots of bluebirds about but none let me get their photo.  I saw several White-Crowned Sparrows were foraging in the bushes as I walked along the road.

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White-Crowned Sparrows

I could hear several Marsh Wrens among the cattails.  As any birder knows, Marsh Wrens are very difficult to photograph.  They are small, fast and live in a densely vegetated habitat.  Scarlett and I stood very still for  probably a good 10 minutes before one finally came to the edge of the reeds.  I managed to get a few pics before he disappeared in the reeds once more.

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Marsh Wren

We then headed over to Bernardo.  As expected, there were lots of Sandhill Cranes.  I enjoyed watching them for awhile.  Such beautiful birds.  I took a few photos but for the most part, they were a little too far away for any great photos.

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Sandhill Crane

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Sandhill Cranes

Just before leaving I noticed something in the brush next to the road where I was parked.  I took a photo and realized it was a gorgeous Ring-Necked Pheasant.  I think they are one of the most beautiful birds we have in the states.

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Ring-Necked Pheasant

I sat quietly in my car and he eventually started foraging in the brush.  It was mostly shady beneath the trees and thick brush, but at one point he managed to venture into some weak sunlight.  I quickly snapped a few pics.  Here you can see his beautiful plumage.  What a beautiful bird to see in the wild!

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Ring-Necked Pheasant

As I headed toward home, I saw a pair of Mountain Bluebirds that enjoy the area around an old church about a mile from my house.  The sun was setting evening, so the lighting was soft.  I couldn’t resist ending my day with a bluebird photo.

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Mountain  Bluebird

I hope to visit Bosque del Apache again this coming week.  Now that cold weather has finally arrived, I have noticed people are posting a lot of exciting birds there at the refuge.  I gotta get down there as soon as I can!