Over the past few weeks I’ve been out and about enjoying the hot summer weather. I try to hike every chance I get, which hasn’t been near as often as I’d like.
I went through Stanley a few times in the last couple weeks driving to Santa Fe and other places for work. I hadn’t been here birding in a while so it was a nice change of scenery. As always there’s the ever present Western Meadowlarks singing on all the fence posts.
There are always Swainson’s Hawks about in great numbers. I managed to get a few nice photos.
Here are some of the other birds I’ve seen there lately.
Red-Tailed Hawk – juvenile
Brewer’s Blackbird – female
Brewer’s Blackbird – male
The highlight of my Stanley trips though would have to be finding the Ferruginous Hawk’s nest. I had found them out there a few years ago but their nest got taken out by strong winds. They abandoned that nesting spot and I never figured out where they ended up. Then one day recently I saw one sitting on a telephone pole. He let me get pretty close for photos. Which got me this awesome pic!
But then I started thinking maybe he didn’t fly off because there’s a nest nearby. Now there are very few trees in Stanley as it is mostly comprised of crop farming. But there happened to be a short, stumpy tree right near this telephone pole. Now from the street you couldn’t even see the nest. But when I walked to the other side of the tree, I saw almost fully fledged young ones. I was thrilled to have found them again. Now I know where to look next spring. I’m thankful I found these guys before they left the nest this year. In all I saw 3 young ones, but one was always shy for photos.
Ferruginous Hawk – juvenile
One day I went to Glorietta to go hiking. On the way there I stopped in at Lamy. I had heard there was a Vermillion Flycatcher there. As soon as I parked and got out of the car I heard him singing. Such a beautiful bird!
The trail was very pretty and cool being up in higher elevation and treed. But there were lots of wildflowers and butterflies about.
Western Pine Elfin
Rocky Mountain Duskywing
Hmmmmm…not sure what this one is
Common Checkered Skipper
I heard lots of birds on the trail, but I only managed to get one bird photo – an Evening Grosbeak. Such uniquely colored birds.
There were lots of bees out among the flowers. New Mexico has hundreds of different types of bees. So I’m always amazed when I see a variety while I’m hiking.
Pretty red butt bee among the daisies
Loving my new camera – took this hand held
I saw this fly land on the trail in front of me. This guy was HUGE! Way bigger than most flies I see. I’m dubbing him the Batman fly as I think he looks like Batman with those dark black wings and body.
Batman fly 🙂
Just before leaving Glorietta, I came across a flock of Cliff Swallows gathering mud to build their nests. It was fun watching them gather up the mud and fly off.
I’ve been in the Sandia’s off and on. One day I specifically went to Capulin Spring. I’m still so disappointed in the work they did there over the last year or so. The birds are so skittish there now and there’s no natural cover for them or me. So though I heard a lot of birds in the trees, I only saw a few that were brave enough to come to the spring while I was there.
I’m ready to get out there some more! I love summertime!!!!
Recently my friend Dia and I spent a whole day exploring the area around El Morro near Grants, NM. Our main destination was to find Nutria Canyon. I’ve heard very little about this hike and there is minimal information online. But there was this one tantalizing photo online that drew me back again and again during the winter months. I knew I just had to find this place during the summer when my friend could join me. It’s about 3 hours away from where I live, so I didn’t want to venture out on my own.
We started out early with hopes of getting to the canyon by around 9. Sadly there was a lot of road construction that slowed us down. Then, when we were in the general area, we just didn’t know where to go. Luckily I saw this one dirt road that said Nutria Lake. It was 25 miles sooner on the highway than my online directions were saying. Thankfully, just as we turned onto the road a local came driving by. They were very helpful and told us we were definitely in the right place.
Since the lake was just a little side trip off the road, we headed over to see it. It was a pretty place with a few ducks enjoying the water. We got out to enjoy the view and let Scarlett have a bathroom break.
Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Scarlett started doing her “business” a pack of reservation dogs came out of nowhere heading straight for us. Dia and I were calling Scarlett to HURRY! HURRY! get in the car. But she just couldn’t finish her “business” quickly enough. We were panicking by this time. Dia ran to drag Scarlett to the car if need be, and I was opening the doors and grabbing the gun! Thankfully Scarlett hurried up and jumped in the car along with us in the nick of time! Whew! Needless to say, we left the lake and headed to our original destination.
The valley we were driving into was very lush. We saw lots of happy horses and other livestock. And there were prairie dogs EVERYWHERE!!!
As we neared the trail head, we came upon a marshy area where Nutria Creek spills out of the canyon. Just gorgeous!
Marsh area near the trail head
Dia had just gotten a new tattoo on her entire back. So she wasn’t able to carry a pack. I told her I would carry everything in my pack (I’d do anything to go see this canyon!). So when we arrived at the trail head, she started loading up my pack. Wow! Heavy!
That pack had to weigh 40 pounds!
I told her she had to at least carry the gun. She gladly accepted that task!
Dia packing heat!
The trail headed into the narrowing canyon with lush green trees and bushes. It definitely beckoned us to head inside.
Entrance to trail – so green!
Almost as soon as we started the trail, there was water. Scarlett immediately dove in!
Scarlett in her happy place!
Thankfully enough people have been on this trail that they have constructed makeshift boardwalks out of old pallets and scrap lumber. They were rickety but effective to walk over the mud.
We started climbing up above the creek and into a lush forest of oaks. There were Yellow Warblers everywhere! I didn’t bring my birding lens, so no bird pics this trip. But so much birdsong in the canopy made me regret my decision to leave that lens at home.
Kelly on the very lush trail.
It was nice and cool in the shade
We eventually met up with the creek again. Then we turned a corner in the canyon and it opened up to a stunning view. Beautiful steep red canyon walls and gorgeous green foliage. We were getting close to where I saw that tantalizing photo so many months ago.
Dia enjoying the view on this perfect seat.
Then there it was! A picturesque pond in this hidden canyon. Stunning! I was so wishing we had found the trail much sooner. By this time it was noon and not the best conditions for photography. But I did my best to capture some images that did the view justice.
I loved the reflections in the pond.
I just had to have a photo of me and Scarlett in this beautiful spot.
My sweet Miss Scarlett
Scarlett and Kelly
The day was warming up quickly. Scarlett was tempted to jump down into that pond. We kept having to tell her no.
It was sooooo tempting to jump in…
Eventually we made it around and down to that pond and she was a happy girl!
Such a peaceful place
Scarlett loved the ponds. Cool and refreshing water to play in.
We hung around here for a while as the trail just became too congested with brush to continue on. I had hoped to explore further but this is just not a well known place. So there isn’t enough foot traffic to keep the trail open.
Scarlett kept on eye on me as I navigated the big boulders
Dia and Kelly
Eventually we headed back to the car. We still had quite a bit of daylight left to the day. So we decided to visit the Ice Cave. I had never been, and Dia said it had been a long while since she had been there.
On the way out, we decided to stop at a few of the abandoned homes in the valley. They are interesting to explore. Just a plethora of things to photograph!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
We had lunch at the Ancient Way Cafe. It’s a tiny little place, but the food is good and the desserts were outstanding! They have quite a baker working there.
Our sandwich was shaped just like a Bigfoot footprint!
The visitor’s center at the ice cave was very interesting. It’s amazing what they found down in that hole. Centuries of history perfectly preserved. I highly recommend you take the time to look around at all the treasures jammed into this small building.
Look at those giant perfectly whole Indian pots!
The Ice Cave offers two hikes. One up to the Bandera Volcano and one down to the ice cave. We hiked the volcano first since we knew we would cool off at the ice cave. 🙂
It was a short and relatively uninteresting hike.
At the top of the trail, Dia collapsed due to lack of a Starbuck’s for hours. I told her to hang in there. We will get her one soon.
Where’s Starbucks????????? she wailed
The Ice Cave was much more interesting. The trail to the cave takes you through the basalt fields left by the volcano. It makes you wonder how anyone found that ice cave so long ago. It had to have been quite the challenge to navigate through that jagged sharp basalt.
A blooming cactus brought beauty to the stark view.
The area was called The Devil’s Playground by early settlers. It’s easy to see why. While hiking to the cave we came across this unique dead juniper. I took a picture of Dia there being her naughty self. She then took my photo and edited it to fit the area’s nickname. 🙂
Dia being evil…
At the cave you climb down a steep set of stairs.
Kelly and Scarlett ready to descend
There it is deep below the surface.
As you descended you could really feel the temperature dropping. It was quite refreshing after a hot climb up the volcano.
I didn’t let Scarlett go all the way to the bottom. You could see what she thought about that…..
The inside of the cave was beautiful. I tried to capture the colors in the cave by setting my camera to a slow shutter speed. Just beautiful.
The colors in the rock ceiling were so beautiful.
The ice had a green cast to it. It made for a lovely contrast with all the colors in the rock formation.
Too soon we were heading home. On the way out we saw a few Mule Deer. One was more curious than the others and had a beautiful shaggy coat.
When we got to Grants, Dia had to have her Starbucks. But she almost had a big tantrum when she realized there wasn’t a Starbucks there. It was hilarious!
The drive home was long due to yet more road construction. But the day’s adventures had been fabulous (even with the lack of Starbuck’s at the end). 🙂
On my way home from Port Aransas, Texas, I took time to bird in San Angelo State Park in San Angelo, Texas, and at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge at Roswell, New Mexico.
My drive to San Angelo was mostly rainy. So I didn’t have any opportunities to bird that day. I did stop in a little town to get a pic of an old building that looked interesting.
I arrived in San Angelo with steady rain. When I awoke the next morning, it was pretty foggy. So birding conditions were not good at all. But I still managed to get a quite a few sightings. I didn’t stay long as I wanted to have some time to bird at Bitter Lake.
The best find of the morning was seeing a female Vermillion Flycatcher building her nest. She would get some moss or grass and place it in the nest and then check it for comfort. Then go get another piece to add. I never did see the male.
Vermillion Flycatcher – female
There wasn’t too much activity at Bitter Lake as I arrived there around midday. After driving around for a little while and hiking a couple of short paths, I managed to find a few birds.
Yellow-Rumped Warbler – Myrtle Variety
The highlight of the day though was seeing a variety of nightjars! These birds are so difficult to find in the wild. But on this visit, they were all perched out in the open and very close to the road. Awesome! I was able to get some good photographs! Even with that advantage, it was still very difficult to identify the birds. I mostly used size as a reference for the Common Poorwill as it is the smallest of the nightjars. The Common Nighthawk flew and sang right after I took the up-close photo which made it easy to identify.
I think you’ll agree these are really cool birds!
That concludes my 10-day trip to the gulf coast and all the wonderful bird sightings I was able to see during my travels. I got 27 new lifers and my total number of lifer bird sightings is now at 396!!!
I saved the most difficult category for last – miscellaneous birds. Specifically flycatchers. I am challenged when it comes to identifying flycatchers. Thankfully, there was a local birding expert nearby when I saw the flycatchers, and she was able to identify them for me. You can see why it’s challenging to identify them…they almost look identical!
Here’s the many variety of flycatchers I saw at Port Aransas. And they are all lifers!!!
While visiting there, I went out every morning before dawn. I saw some beautiful sights around the town. One morning I toured the marina and took a few pics.
Homes on the Port Aransas Marina
The beach at dawn is gorgeous. Very few people, calm winds, the sounds of the surf and birds.
Horace Caldwell Pier at sunrise
I found some sand sculptures one morning. They must have had a contest the day before that was sponsored by Crown Royal. I was pretty impressed with the sculptures, though I can’t figure out why the pig was the grand champion. Hmmmmmm…..
It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere
Grand Champion Pig
While walking Charlie’s Pasture I did encounter a few butterflies. They were difficult to find as the wind blew pretty good almost my entire trip. I found other fun stuff too while hiking the boardwalks.
A gorgeous passion flower
I believe this is a White Peacock that survived a close call!
Green Anole shedding its skin. I loved to catch these lizards when I was a little kid living in Houston!
A very fresh Pipevine Swallowtail
One morning at Charlie’s Pasture I came across a coyote. Just beautiful!
While visiting the Leonabelle Refuge I saw lots of Great-Tailed Grackles and a few other fun things.
The sightings of the day 🙂
Mullet – this fish was 2.5 feet long!
I had two birds I really wanted to see while visiting the Gulf Coast. The first was the Roseate Spoonbill, which I did see and posted about previously. The second bird was the Crested Caracara. I have looked for this bird for years. On this trip I finally saw it. Then like my blogging friend Aussiebirder who recently commented “it takes you forever to see that lifer bird, then it seems like once you see it, you see it everywhere!” I think I saw over 10 individuals while there this last trip.
Along with the Crested Caracara I saw these other two birds I scared off a dead coyote.
One day we visited Aransas Wildlife Refuge. It took about 1.5 hours to get there, but was well worth the trip. That particular day was extremely windy. The beach would have been miserable. But with all the trees at the refuge, it was a beautiful day. The very first thing we saw were 3 alligators!!! 🙂 That was awesome!
We drove around this large refuge and came across some fun stuff. There was this 80-foot high catwalk. It was so fun to walk that climbing, winding cawalk. At the top the views of the coastline were amazing!
Scarlett loved running up the path
My mom waving from further down the path. Such fun!
While hiking this catwalk, we spotted a huge butterfly. It landed very briefly for one photo.
And I got a beautiful shot of a dove.
We had a picnic in a lovely spot. A deer greeted us as we drove up. This would be one of several deer we would see that day.
Me and Scarlett
Beautiful picnic area
I love the oak trees in Texas
I took mom and dad out to a nice dinner for Dad’s birthday. The restaurant was small and intimate and the food was delicious.
My dad (Joe) at his birthday dinner
But our favorite place to eat was Trout Street. We ate there twice on the patio enjoying the marina view. After dinner on one visit, mom and I toured the docks. I really considered buying this yacht that was for sale (NOT!). 🙂
Mom and Dad (Dorothy and Joe)
Dad looking very nautical in his blue and white striped shirt 🙂
Me enjoying a lovely dinner on the marina
My beautiful mother!
Tempting to buy….. LOL!
One day visiting the beach we drove past a Jeep Rally. I was really wishing I was in my Jeep. But sadly we were in my dad’s Ford pickup. I need to see about Jeep Rallies in New Mexico!
Jeep Rally at the Beach
Lots of great Jeeps were there
It was a wonderful trip to the Gulf Coast!!! I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures there.
This is a big category. There were so many different kinds of shorebirds when I visited. Of course, I wasn’t complaining. 😉
Gorgeous sunrise on the Gulf Coast of Texas
I visited the beach a couple of times at sunrise. This proved to be a good idea as the terns were hanging out on the beach grooming before taking off to eat breakfast. I saw a nice group of terns one morning with a lifer among them – the Sandwich Tern. I wonder how it got its name???
Also in the group were Royal Terns (gorgeous birds) and a juvenile Black Tern.
Black Tern – juvenile
While driving along the beach I saw a group of Black Skimmers fly by feeding. Such a unique bird. You’ll notice the upper beak is shorter than the lower enabling it to skim the water while flying fast. I never saw any sitting still, so I was happy I managed to get one decent photo of one flying.
As always on the beach, lots of seagulls!
One variety of birds I just love are the sandpipers. When I was little living in the Philippines, I called the sandpipers “step and pecks” because that’s exactly what they do!
Sanderling – I love this photo
One day at the beach, I witnessed a very disturbing sight. I was looking at a particular bird that seemed different from all the Western Sandpipers around. So I went to grab my camera. When I turned around to take a picture, I didn’t see it. That’s when I noticed some grackles that were ganging up on something. I took a couple quick pics with my camera to see what they were attacking. I realized they were attacking the bird I wanted to photograph!!! What!?! I didn’t know grackles would kill anything. I thought they were scavenger birds. I put down the camera and went to see if I could save the little bird. Sadly, I was too late 🙁 I now hate grackles…..
This Great-Tailed Grackle is attacking a Sanderling, which is trying to fight back.
The grackle was just too big to fight off.
Out at Charlie’s Pasture I sat quietly on a shaded bench for about an hour. Different varieties of birds would come and go from the pond. The highlight of that particular visit was when a large group of American Avocets flew in. I had never seen a large group in breeding plumage feed together before. It was like a beautiful ballet. They were a synchronized group that chattered constantly among themselves. It was a real delight to watch.
American Avocets in a beautiful synchronized dance
Another day at Charlie’s pasture I got another lifer – Gull-Billed Terns! They were quite a ways away so getting a decent pic was a challenge.
In great breeding numbers was the Least Tern. I searched in vain for any babies, but never did see any. The parents were clever enough to not feed any while I watched. They would land and just sit – waiting for me to leave. Oh well……
A favorite every time I visit the coast is the Brown Pelican. These birds are so unique looking. They are a joy to watch fish as they dive into the water and fill that giant bill with fish. The Brown Pelican during breeding season has beautiful coloration. On this trip, I got my most favorite photo I’ve ever taken of one.
I was excited to find Dunlins on several of my outings. They are a lifer for me!
There was such a variety of marsh and shorebirds everywhere I went. It was such a joy to see such unique birds!
While hiking around Charlie’s Pasture, I noticed a couple of plovers. One in the very far distance was a Snowy Plover. Happily one close by was a lifer for me. A Wilson’s Plover!!
Wilson’s Plover – look at all the bands he’s wearing!
I saw lots and lots of egrets and herons on this trip. Evidently southern Texas was experiencing a drought while I was there. Due to the drought, the shallow salt water and fresh water ponds were small and sparse. This was very hard on the birds, but made for great birding. Every time I visited a pond, I would see lots of birds feeding there. I hope they get rain soon because at the rate the fish were being eaten in the ponds, I can’t see how that resource can last much longer.
One of my favorite places to visit for the larger bird sightings was Charlie’s Pasture. It’s a 5-mile or so trail that winds its way through the salt water flats. Here’s a pic of one of the areas that should have had water but was dry.
Miss Scarlett enjoying the boardwalk
When I did come upon a pool, this is what I would find. Birds everywhere. Needless to say, lots of squabbles broke out among the groups.
I got to finally see a Reddish Egret. Lifer! Such a beautiful bird. I especially love the long feathers on their neck that look like red hair.
I love the long feathers on their neck
Here are some other photos of egrets and herons I got on my trip.
Great Blue Heron. I loved the little red flowers he was standing in.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
I saw my friendly Tri-Colored Heron at the Leonabelle Refuge. He was quite the ham when I visited there last October. He was even more so this trip. I couldn’t resist photographing him as he just seemed to really enjoy the attention. Plus he looked especially handsome in his breeding plumage.
One bird on my list to see was the Roseate Spoonbill. I feared I wouldn’t see any as the days ticked by. But the day before I left I got to see several. They are beautiful birds!
I saw my first Mottled Ducks on this trip. Lifer! Several had babies. So adorable.
Mottled duck babies
Speaking of babies, I saw my first American Coot baby. They start out with white on them and eventually turn black.
American Coot juvenile
And the most adorable (though not very cute) babies I saw were the Common Gallinule. I was told they were only a few days old when I first saw them. They were a treat to watch. Their wings didn’t have feathers but instead had what looked like hands. They would hold them up and wave them to beg for food. It was hysterical!
Common Gallinule babies
Common Gallinule baby begging for food
Another favorite of the trip was watching the Least Bittern. I saw a pair of them several times. They were working on building a nest, but their location just couldn’t be photographed as it was too deep in the reeds.
While visiting the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, I spotted another lifer for the trip. A Least Grebe. It was very small and dark so was hard to spot. But once I zoomed in with my camera, I was struck by the beauty of its eye.
Here are some other birds that fit this post’s category. Everywhere I looked on this trip, were birds, birds and more birds! Paradise!
Double-Crested Cormorant juvenile
Black-Bellied Whistling Duck
This was a big category (including 3 lifers!). I hope you enjoyed the photos. I had a fabulous time taking them! 🙂