Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge

A couple of weeks ago I had to go to Las Vegas, New Mexico, for work. I decided to take a little time to see what might be at the local refuge. It was a cold, windy day so I wasn’t too hopeful of much being around.

Most of the small birds were hiding from the wind. There were a few Western Meadowlarks about but definitely weren’t interested in getting their picture taken.

Western Meadowlark

With the cold wind, the Canada and Cackling Geese were hiding out in a low-lying pond. You don’t usually see these two species hanging out with each other. While we have difficulty distinguishing the two species, they definitely know who’s who!

Canada and Cackling Geese

In the distance I saw several Northern Harrier’s searching for lunch.

Northern Harrier

What was out and not shy at all were Red-Tailed Hawks. They were all juveniles. Such beautiful birds! And they let me get close and take as many photos as I wanted. What could be better than that!?!

Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk

This particular hawk had already been successful getting something to eat as you can see dried blood on his feet.

Red-Tailed Hawk

While photographing that hawk, some Morning Dove came in looking all fearful of the hawk nearby.

Mourning Dove

Nothing much else at the refuge. But as I was driving down the country road back to Las Vegas, I came across one of the most beautiful bluebirds I’ve ever seen. His colors were glorious!

Mountain Bluebird

Then to my delight I saw a Ferruginous Hawk on a telephone pole. Such a beautiful bird!

Ferrugnious Hawk
There’s something intimidating about a Ferrugnious Hawk stare

One last bird I saw was a very large Common Raven. Fortunately the lighting was nice and I was able to get a nice photo of this all black bird.

Common Raven

As I was driving home I decided to stop in a Storrie Lake to see what might be about. There really weren’t any birds around. Most of them were out in the middle of the lake where I just couldn’t get a good visual.

Just as I was about to leave, a Rough-Legged Hawk came in and landed on a post right next to my car. How exciting! The daylight was waning, but I had enough light to get a few nice shots. These birds are rarely seen in New Mexico so I was delighted to get such an up close sighting.

Rough-Legged Hawk
Rough-Legged Hawk getting his feathers settled in

All in all I had two great side trips during my busy work day!

Merry Christmas from Albuquerque!

Here’s wishing everyone a very safe and Blessed Christmas!

I recently attended the annual River of Lights held at the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens. Each year they make it bigger and better! I hadn’t been for awhile so it was a real treat.

A New Mexico Christmas!

I went with my friend Dia and we had so much fun. This year they offered a “magic hour” from 5-6. You could purchase tickets for this time and they limited the number of participants so you could get some great photos without the crowds. We loved having the place practically to ourselves. The gardens are big enough that we really didn’t see many people.

Only in New Mexico!

We took a few photos of each other in the beautiful lights. It felt very festive!

Here’s a slideshow of all the fabulous lights we saw. If you are viewing this post on a cell phone, click on the photo below and you can scroll through the images.

Merry Christmas!

Hiking Plaza Blanca and Birding at Ohkay Owingeh Lakes

Recently I decided to explore Plaza Blanca near Abiquiu, New Mexico. If any of you have seen the movie Cowboys and Aliens, then you may remember the white rock formation that was in the scenes of the final battle of the movie. 

I have always wanted to explore this place, but never seemed to find the time to do so.  We’ve gotten some small snows this winter, so I headed out on a day that I thought there might be some snow on the trail to enhance my photos. 

It was a beautiful day and there indeed was some snow left on the ground. 

When I arrived at the parking area, I had a wonderful view of the southwest landscape showing the many beautiful layers of color.  I just love New Mexico landscapes. 

I love the New Mexico landscape

I hiked down the trail and just started exploring.  There’s not a lot of information about this area or the hike on the internet.  At first you see the large, white rock formation that is the namesake of the hike.  It is quite large and impressive. 

Plaza Blanca Formation

Next to the white formation is a large brown one.  I love how it stands alone.  Looks like something from the set of a Star Trek show. 

I then turned left along this formation and continued upstream in the arroyo.  At first it was very wide.  This is where the snow made beautiful accents to the landscape. 

Snow and shadow have created beautiful textures

I came upon several trees in the bottom of the arroyo. 

I turned around and love how the sun shone through the branches. 

That’s when I noticed the hole in the formation.  You can just see it behind the tree.  I backtracked to get some photos of this. 

Natural arch

I then saw another hole.  Of course, I just had to see how creative I could get with the “window” in the rock. 

Window rock showing Plaza Blanca in the distance

I then went back up the arroyo.  I came to a fork and decided to take the right fork as it seemed more interesting.  The rock formations were really cool.  I had Scarlett jump up on one to get a fun photo.  She’s so cute in how she will do whatever I ask. 

Can you see Scarlett?

The canyon started narrowing as I followed it.  For some reason I love hiking narrow canyons. 

The canyon started to narrow

Soon we came across water in the bottom of the canyon.  This is when I realized I had stumbled upon a slot canyon.  I LOVE SLOT CANYONS!

Slot canyon

Scarlett loved it too!  She soon started running around and playing.  She especially loved coming around the bend and jumping across the water. 

Scarlett begging me to chase her…I don’t think so!
Having fun jumping the water

This is a face of a very happy dog!

One happy Scarlett!!!

I followed the now very narrow canyon.  It was so beautiful.  The melting snow created some beautiful natural sculptures. 

We continued further up the slot canyon until the end of the line.   Well…then end for me.  I wasn’t willing to scramble up this obstacle. 

End of the slot canyon

We headed back out of the canyon.  It was a wonderful place to explore.  When I got back to the main formation, I decided to take my time and get a few photos of the area. 

After finishing up my hike I decided to go by Abiquiu Lake.  I’ve never been to the lake before.  I thought there might be wintering birds there.  But when I arrived, it was dead quiet. 

I did like the reflections in one of the coves of the lake.  So I took a few photos there before moving on. 

Abiquiu Lake

I was really wanting to see some birds on my outing.  So I headed to a place that I know I will see birds.  I went to Ohkay Owingeh Lakes near Espanola, NM. 

On the way to the lakes, I stopped to get a nice photo of the Rio Grande.  This stop always offers a beautiful view of the river.

Rio Grande below Abiquiu Lake

I hiked around the two ponds at the park.  There was surprisingly few birds about.  But I managed to get a few pics. 

American Kestrel being shy
Northern Flicker
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Song Sparrow
Canada Geese
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-Rumped Warbler

It was nice to finish up the day with some nice bird sightings.  Scarlett and I had a wonderful day.  I highly recommend you visit the Plaza Blanca area. 

Jemez Historic Site Luminaria Christmas Celebration

This past weekend was the annual Jemez Historic Site Luminaria  Celebration.  Each December for one night only the historic site lights traditional luminarias. 

Some of you might not know what a luminaria is.  It’s a brown paper bag that has sand placed the bottom.  Then a candle is stuck into the sand and lighted.  The effect is very beautiful and synonymous with the southwest holiday season. 

I went with my friend Valerie.  We had gone once before a few years ago but we had some technical difficulties with our equipment that hindered us from getting any decent photos. 

This year we had much better equipment and a lot more skill too!  The event has gotten more and more popular over the years.  Needless to say, we had to buy a ticket this year and it was a lot more crowded. 

Thankfully long exposure photography eliminates moving objects (e.g. people) in your photo. So what is in person a busy event, in photos looks like no one was there. 

My favorite photo of the evening was this one.  I love the lighting and composition of it.  People were walking around with flashlights, taking photos with flash photography and in general just causing all kinds of light.  Which turned out to not be a bad thing!  They essentially did light painting for me.  🙂

The Mission

Though there was a lot of light around me, I tried getting some shots of the night sky in my photos.  

Night sky over the mission

Here’s a gallery of the other photos I took at the event.  I was pretty pleased with several of my shots.  Just click on one of the images to open a slideshow. 

Merry Christmas everyone!