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.


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.


Northern Pintail pair

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


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.


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.


Northern Pintail

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


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.


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


Snow Geese

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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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!


Pacific Loon

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


Common Mergansers


Song Sparrow


Hooded Mergansers


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.



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.


Lesser Black-Backed Gull – immature

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Sandhill Crane


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.


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!


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.


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!
















20 thoughts on “Birthday Birding and Other Outings

  1. What a wonderful and fantastic post. How precious of you to do this for us. I will never get to take your route and see what you see. It has been a great adventure for me to take this morning. Please keep it up. You do not know how much I enjoy walking along with you. The crane photos brought tears to my eyes. Just wonderful.

    • Thanks Donna! I appreciate the compliments! I guess I’ve gotten spoiled with other visits to the Bosque. But any day at the Bosque is always rewarding. I too liked the webs in the blackbird photo. Always nice when birds land in a place that’s more photogenic. 🙂

  2. Sounds like a perfect birthday to me! As always, your photos are amazing! My favorite this time was the ring-necked pheasant. They are so difficult to capture, and you did it beautifully. Your photos really emphasized the amazing colors of this beautiful bird!

  3. What a wonderful birthday treat to see so many beautiful birds. How lovely to see the rare loon sighting,and to see the flock of Snow Geese is so special. I did not do as well on my birdthday birding adventure last month which I blogged, yours was perfectly wonderful. and your photos are stunning.

  4. Wow! Wonderful birding and resulted in a fantastic gallery of beauties! I love the geese flying, the Merlin, the Pheasant, the Kingfisher and… all of them 😍

  5. I liked the geese in flight caused by a hunting coyote. Never had seen a dipper before. You had a great day in the field

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