Red River Hiking – Day 1

I recently went on a hiking trip to Red River, New Mexico.  I love Red River.  It’s a beautiful mountain town with amazing scenery.  New Mexico has been experiencing a severe drought.  Many of our forests are being closed to safeguard them from forest fires. I think my trip was timed just before the Carson National Forest is closed.

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I drove through Taos and was happy to see Black-Billed Magpies busily hunting for food.  I usually get terrible photos of these birds.  But on this occasion, I had a very cooperative bird and was able to get some nice photos.

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Black-Billed Magpie

While in Taos I came across several Rock Pigeons enjoying a puddle together.  I thought they looked adorable.

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Birds of a feather….

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Flock together….and enjoy a refreshing bath

I spent 3 days there and thankfully it rained each evening.  Hopefully they don’t experience any closures.  On Day 1 I drove to Red River and met up with the hiking group at the Columbine State Park trail.  This was a nice, easy trail.  I climbed about 500 feet in elevation over 2 miles.  The trail is along Columbine Creek, which is a lovely little creek.

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Scarlett was happy to be on a hike and water to play in! She needed a good hiking trip.  She ran and ran and splashed and splashed.  But occasionally she used one of the bridges (after she ran through the creek!).

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Scarlett

I loved how the trail crisscrossed the creek.  It always fun to walk along water – especially in New Mexico.

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Only rocks here to cross the water.

There were a few flowers trying to bloom even though we are experiencing a drought.  Even a few strawberries were determined to bloom.

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Shooting Stars

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Strawberry plant

I loved the scenery as I climbed.  The aspen trees were beautiful in their new leaves.

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Quakies as they are called in New Mexico

I came across one area that begged me to take some creative photos.  I love how the log crossed the small waterfall.  I couldn’t decide which one I liked best….

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I liked this area so much, I had someone take a pic of me and Scarlett.

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Kelly and Scarlett

There were several small waterfalls along this trail.  I’m glad I was wearing my waterproof hiking sandals so I could get in the water for fun photos.

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I eventually climbed higher and left the creek below.

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Scarlett ran ahead of me most of the time.  At one point I didn’t see her so I called her name.  The silly girl peeked at me from around a tree.  LOL!

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Scarlett hiding behind a tree.

I had wanted to hike further up the trail, but a storm cloud had been brewing while I hiked.  At one point it started rumbling, so I figured I’d better turn around and head to the condo.  Scarlett was happy to run back downhill!

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I passed a small lake on the way to the condo.  It must have interesting minerals in the water to give it a beautiful turquoise blue color.

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Eagle Rock Lake

Along the road I saw a beautiful little waterfall.  I just had to park and climb down the steep incline to photograph it.  Totally worth it don’t you think?

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Tune in next time for Day 2.  I hiked to a beautiful waterfall and a lake!

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Birding Around Albuquerque

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a chance to get out and bird a time or two.  I mostly went out to see some rare sightings that have shown up around town.  I missed several, but managed to see a couple to add to my life list.

I visited Valle de Oro a couple times.  I had heard there were a number of warblers there.  It’s always fun to go find warblers, though my neck complains by the end of the day LOL!

When I arrived at Valle de Oro I saw a pair of coyotes out hunting.  One disappeared right away, but the other stayed out long enough to let me get a few good pics.

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Coyote

As always, I saw several Western Meadowlarks out singing.  I love their beautiful voice.

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Western Meadowlark

I walked along the main drainage ditch hoping to see some good birds. A scrub jay announced his presence.

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Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay

Then almost right away I heard a lot of birds singing.  I just started taking pics of everything that moved.  As you know, songbirds are small and fast!!! When I looked at the pics I was surprised to see a several birds I don’t see often.  Mainly my nemesis, the Lazuli Bunting.  Try my hardest, I can’t get a good pic of this bird.

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Lazuli Bunting

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Black-Throated Gray Warbler

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Cedar Waxwing

I heard several Summer Tanagers singing.  It’s amazing how a bright red bird can hide among green leaves.  But they can just disappear!  I only got a few pics and they weren’t very good.  But I did see a Western Tanager female closer to me.

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Western Tanager Female

I had been told where a Common Black Hawk’s nest was near the Valle de Oro.  So I went on a 2-mile hike to find this beautiful bird.  Once I was in the general location, I looked for the nest.  I found it way up high in a cottonwood tree.  There was no seeing if anything was in the nest.  I waited around for a while and eventually heard the hawk calling from a distance.  Then to my delight the bird flew in and landed near the nest.  A lifer for me! At first I barely saw him as he was deep in the leaves.

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Common Black Hawk

Eventually he moved to a better location for photos.  This is a magnificent bird.  From what I understand there are only about 250 breeding pairs in the US.  They are easily disturbed by humans and are known to abandon nests if bothered too much.  So after getting a few pics, I quietly left the area to let them raise their young undisturbed.

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Common Black Hawk

On my way back I saw a flycatcher along the ditch.  I believe it’s a Hammond’s Flycatcher.

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Hammond’s Flycatcher

Then I heard another bird calling that I only rarely hear – a Gray Catbird.  Always a treat to see and hear!   I only managed one pic and that was from behind.

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Gray Catbird

While hiking along he ditch, I enjoyed the wild irises blooming.

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Wild irises

While hiking at Valle de Oro I came across this interesting insect.  I tried looking it up, but I can’t figure out what it is.

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Not sure what this cute guy is….

I had heard about a very rare sighting in the East Mountain area that I just had to go find.  There was a Golden-Winged Warbler sighted and it was practically in my back yard.  After much searching I was rewarded with a short view of this bird.  I took several photos before he disappeared into the deep brush.  I managed to get a few decent pics.  Another lifer!

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Golden-Winged Warbler

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Golden-Winged Warbler

While hiking there I was treated to some beautiful wild apple blossoms.

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Wild apple tree blossoms

I visited the Rio Grande Nature Center.  I hadn’t been there in a while, so it was a treat to see it in the springtime.  Right away I heard a Yellow-Breasted Chat singing.  I managed to find it in a tree on the island in the pond.  So it was quite a distance away.

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Yellow-Breasted Chat

I also saw the resident roadrunners in the parking lot.  Always fun to photograph!

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Greater Roadrunner

While walking the paths, I heard some Summer Tanagers talking back and forth amongst each other.  This time I had more success getting photos of the pair.

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Summer Tanager male

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Summer Tanager female

There were several Black-Chinned Hummingbirds visiting the feeders. Whenever there are several hummingbirds at a feeder, there’s always fights defending their food.  For a tiny bird, they are fierce!

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Black-Chinned Hummingbird

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Uh oh!  He sees another hummer coming for him!

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Defending the feeder!

Here are some of the other birds I saw on my visit.

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Canada Goose

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Western-Wood Pewee

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Ash-Throated  Flycatcher

The gardens were beginning to bloom.  The bees were happily gathering pollen.

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Poppies

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Shooting stars

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Giant black bee

I was entertained by a resident White-Winged Dove that has become very tame.  The gardeners told me his name was Lonesome Larry.  He was so tame, he would take see from your hand.  He stayed so close to me, that I barely got photos because my zoom lens had a hard time focusing on such a close subject.  🙂

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White-Winged Dove

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Lonesome Larry

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Such beautiful coloring

I’ve been keeping an eye on a Red-Tailed Hawk’s nest not far from my house.  When I visited recently, I saw the eggs have finally hatched.  When I first looked, I thought there was only one baby.  But the mother flew off the nest and I saw two babies!

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Red-Tailed Hawk with babies

It’s been great getting out birding.  It was nice to see all the summer birds returning to Albuquerque.

 

 

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

In early April I flew to Atlanta to surprise one of my best friends, Kelly, on her 40th birthday.  She had no idea I was coming, so it was a wonderful surprise for her.

Her local friends put on a fabulous party for her.  It was first class! They even got her an ice sculpture!!!  I also stayed up the longest I ever had.  I got up at 3:30 am to catch my flight and when I landed I immediately went to the party.  Things didn’t wrap up there until 3:30 am and then we had an hour’s drive to Kelly’s house.  I don’t think I went to be until after 5 am!

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Kelly & Kelly

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Me with Bob Dylan – one of Kelly’s favorite artists

Another friend named Angie also flew in to surprise Kelly.  The three of us used to work together here in Albuquerque, but eventually Angie and Kelly moved away.  Thankfully we have kept in touch and manage to see each other periodically.

The day after the party, the three of us wanted to do something together.  But nothing too adventurous since we were slightly hungover and short on sleep.  It was a pretty nice day so we decided to visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  I’m so glad we went.  We strolled and visited and enjoyed beautiful scenery.

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The day we were there was the last day of an orchid show.  They had over 400 variety of orchids on display.  Stunning!  I had no idea there were so many varieties!

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Angie, Kelly & Kelly

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Kelly & Kelly

The show was held in the Conservatory.  A very large building that had several types of climates.

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Conservatory

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Conservatory

Here’s some of the stunning orchids we saw.  I could have posted so many more than this!  🙂

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I never would have guessed these were orchids.

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This one looks like the head of a cobra snake.

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Stunning colors and patterns

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Gorgeous!

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Interesting pattern

Touring the conservatory was just amazing.  Everywhere you looked, there was something unique.  No niche was left without some kind of plant.  You wanted to walk through slowly so as not to miss some little treasure.

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These strands are roots of plants planted 30 feet above in the ceiling.  I loved this!

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All of these colors are on one plant. 

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I thought this looked like the mouth of the Kraken!  Arrrgh!!!  🙂

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There were many varieties of pitcher plants.  Fascinating!

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These stripes looked painted on.

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Outside, we walked along an elevated footpath that offered stunning views of the gardens and you felt like you were walking in the tree tops.

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Elevated path.

There were wonderful statues throughout the gardens.  One of my favorites was of a bust of a woman.  It will be a living statue in the warmer months.  But for now, she’s bare but still beautiful.

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Fat, lazy frog!

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Adorable statue of a boy catching frogs.

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Creative fountain.

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I really liked this deer statue.

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The living statue.  I hope to see this woman transformed with living, blooming plants.

We visited the children’s garden.  Kelly hates snakes, she didn’t want to walk on this path.  LOL!

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A little gnome was trying to get my attention 😉

 

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psssst!

The grounds were just beautiful.  I can only imagine this place in the warmer months.  It must be spectacular!

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The pink tree is dead.  They painted it to give it a second life.

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So creative!

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I liked the perfect pine tree

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One of my favorite photos was of the English garden area.  Just beautiful!

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English Garden

I think we only saw maybe a 1/3rd of the gardens that day.  It’s a huge place. It was still pretty cold in Atlanta.  But there were a few blooming plants and trees outside.

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One of my favorite blooming trees – the Dogwood

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Azaleas!

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Not sure what this flower was, but this is exactly what it looked like.  Seriously!!

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Stunning Japanese Maple

We came across these vivid azaleas.  Such striking colors!

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Can you believe these colors!?!

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The trees in Atlanta are so tall.  I’m not used to trees that big.  Things are more stunted out here in the desert.

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I have a confession to make about this post.  Can you believe I didn’t bring my camera with me to Atlanta?!?  I was only going for 3 days and the forecast said rain the whole time.  I just figured we wouldn’t get out so didn’t want to keep up with my camera.  I was grieving for it!!!

My purse I used looks like a camera.  So Kelly took a picture of me acting like I’m taking a photo with my camera purse.  That’s how desperately I was wanting my camera!

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So what did I use to take these photos?  My phone!!!  Our phone’s cameras have improved tremendously over the last few years.  I was real pleased with what I captured.  I hope you agree!

I’m planning on visiting again in August.  I will definitely be bringing my good camera then!!!

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San Antonio Birding – Dedicated to my Dad

In mid-April I went to visit my parents in San Antonio, Texas.  My dad had been getting weaker and weaker.  I knew I needed to go see him sooner rather than later.  Sadly, two days after I arrived he passed away.  I’m so thankful I was able to visit him before he passed.

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One of my favorite photos of me and my dad.  My wedding day on October 18, 1996.

I wanted to dedicate this post to my dad.  He always looked forward to reading about my adventures and looking at my photos.

I had taken Scarlett with me.  She was upset when dad died at the house.  And she was upset that mom and I were grieving.  So to help her and me both cope with the loss, I got up early every morning to walk and bird.   When I am out in nature, I find it a balm to my soul and a time to talk with the Lord.

There is a greenbelt near my parent’s home that I walk whenever I visit.  The first morning I was there, I took a walk on the familiar trail.  Since it was April, there were still a few Texas Bluebonnets blooming.

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Scarlett walking in the greenbelt.

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Texas Bluebonnets

It was quiet for the most part, but I did find a couple of good birds.  One bird was singing his heart out and it took me awhile to find him.  Eventually I located him and was happy to see a White-Eyed Vireo.

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White-Eyed Vireo

A further ways down the trail, I saw a movement in a tree.  To my delight it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  He didn’t seem to mind me watching him hunt for breakfast.  So I got lots of beautiful shots of this gorgeous bird.

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Red-Shouldered Hawk as I first saw him.

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He then moved to this great perch and posed nicely for me.

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I love the beautiful color and pattern of the feathers on his wings.

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Success getting some breakfast.

The next morning I went to a newly found spot called Lake Converse in Converse, Texas.  It’s a pretty little park with a semi-wild lake.  One of the first things I saw was a pair of Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings.  I think they had hatched within 48 hours.

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Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings

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Adorable baby

One of my favorite shots was of a Mute Swan.  Such an elegant bird.

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Mute Swan

A lot of the birds preferred to stay on the far shore of the lake – really testing the limits of my long lens.  I had hoped to get closer to the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, but no such luck.

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This is the best photo I got of a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

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Cattle Egret

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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American Coot

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American Coot

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Great Egret

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Great-Tailed Grackle

As I walked around the lake, I saw quite a variety of birds.  The air was filled with birdsong.

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White-Winged Dove

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Barn Swallow

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Common Yellowthroat

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Savannah Sparrow

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Eastern Kingbird

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Killdeer

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Eastern Phoebe

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Clay-Colored Sparrow in the foreground and a Chipping Sparrow in the back.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Myrtle)

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Carolina Wren

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Northern Cardinal with an inchworm

One special treat was a Martin House that was in use.  Purple Martins were occupying most of the holes.

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Purple Martins

As I was leaving one day, I watched this Northern Mockingbird busy looking for insects.  I watched him use his wings to try and flush out bugs.

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Northern Mockingbird flushing out bugs

Another lake nearby called Live Oak Lake was another treasure for birds. It had a more park-like feel to it.  It didn’t have as many birds, but was still a great place to visit. I got there very early one beautiful morning.

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck at dawn

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Lake Converse at sunrise

There was a very tame Great Egret hoping for a free breakfast from a fisherman.

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Great Egret

One a later visit that Great Egret was fishing along the lake shore.  I thought it made for a beautiful photo op.

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Great Egret

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Small catch but tasty!

There were a several other waterfowl on the lake.

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Mottled Duck

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Mottled Duck babies – so adorable!

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Blue-Winged Teal

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck baby – beautiful markings!

I watched a Green Heron hunt for fish.  He didn’t care that I was only a few feet away.  He got so close that I couldn’t focus my long lens on him.  I had to keep backing up!

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Green Heron

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Green Heron

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Green Heron

While walking around this lake, I briefly saw a Cooper’s Hawk try to catch some Blue Jays.  I heard the Jays squawking about it, but never got any photos.

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Cooper’s Hawk

There were some other birds around the lake that allowed me to take their photos.

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Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

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Northern Cardinal

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Western Kingbird

One of the highlights for me at this lake was a very sociable Spotted Sandpiper.  He let me get within a few feet and take a number of photos while he groomed.  In the past when I’ve seen these birds, they fly away before you can get a decent shot. So this was a real treat for me!

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Spotted Sandpiper

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Spotted Sandpiper

One morning I walked along Mud Creek.   It’s only about a mile from my parent’s house, so I got there at sunrise without much effort.  I loved this sunrise shot with Texas Bluebonnets in the foreground.

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Texas Bluebonnet Sunrise

The foliage was thick in this area, but I managed to get a few bird shots here.  Mostly there were Northern Cardinals and Carolina Wrens.  But a Black-Crested Titmouse was busy singing from the tree tops.

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Black-Crested Titmouse

On my last day in San Antonio, I visited McAllister Park.  What a wonderful place.  Miles of trails in a park consisting of over 750 acres in the heart of San Antonio. There were lots of birds but very difficult to spot them.  What I saw the most was White-Tailed Deer.  They were everywhere!

Scarlett just couldn’t believe her eyes!!  🙂

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Look mom!  A deer is right there!!!!

While hiking along a road in the park, I was passed by a man riding a bike.  He stopped in front of me and threw out grain for the deer.  I think he does this often, as they seemed to recognize him.  One in particular let him pet her.  When he rode off, several of them followed him for awhile.  What a wonderful connection with nature!

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White-Tailed Deer

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How sweet this deer trusts this man and calls him friend.

At the southern end of the park is where I got most of my sightings and photographs.  A beautiful Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher posed for me then flew and showed off his seldom seen red feathers under his wings.

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Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

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Beautiful coloring under the wings.

Here are the other treasures I got at the southern end of the park.

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Carolina Chickadee

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Northern Mockingbird

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Summer Tanager Female

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Black Vulture

The highlight of my bird sightings during my visit was at McAllister Park.  While trying to photograph a Carolina Chickadee, I heard a noise behind me.  When I looked, I saw a Barred Owl sunning himself in the top of a tree.  A lifer sighting for me!!!  And so beautiful!!!

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Barred Owl

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Barred Owl

My last birding opportunity of my trip was a stop in Clovis, New Mexico, to check on the Great Horned Owls in Ned Houk Park.  They had successfully raised two young ones, and they were far enough along to leave the nest.  They kept a sharp eye on us.

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Great Horned Owletts

Just before leaving I managed to find one of the parents.  Such wonderful birds owls are.

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Great Horned Owl

A Lark Sparrow and a Western Meadowlark were singing happily for us.

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Lark Sparrow

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Western Meadowlark

Scarlett enjoyed her visit at the park.  🙂

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My sweet Scarlett

So while it was a sad visit to San Antonio, I found solace walking among the beauty God has created and seeing so many of his wonderful creatures.  I know my dad would have loved to see these photos.  The Texas Bluebonnets were always a personal favorite. I know he is at peace now and waiting for me in Heaven.

In memory of my dad:

Joseph Mathew Welch, Jr.  Born April 28, 1935.  Died April 18, 2018.