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.

 

 

3rd Anniversary!

Saturday, March 17, was my blog’s 3rd anniversary.  I can’t believe it’s been 3 years since I started writing this blog.  It have had a lot of fun.  When I started this blog, it was mainly for my family.  My husband and I have no family near us, so this was a nice way to share our adventures with them.

But after 3 years, I have gotten to know a lot of other bloggers.  Many of them follow this blog and I follow theirs.  I think of several of them like they are my extended family in far away places.  They have inspired me in many ways.

Of course, to celebrate my 3rd anniversary, I thought I would blog about a hiking location just outside of Albuquerque that most people don’t know about.  It’s called the San Ysidro (e-sid-dro) trails.  It’s a unique canyon in that almost the entire bottom of the canyon is exposed bedrock.  The bedrock has been eroded over time by water so all the rock is smooth.  Indentations have been created by the erosion and they hold water very well.

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A view down into the canyon.  If you look closely, you can see it is all bedrock.

As I descended into the canyon, I heard a lot of birdsong.  There is not a lot of water in the New Mexico deserts.  So any place that has water year round is a huge draw for birds.  Sadly, most of them were nervous of people and I wasn’t able to get photos of them.  But there was a curious Juniper Titmouse that let me take a pic.

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Juniper Titmouse

Once at the bottom of the canyon, I made Scarlett sit in the shade while I photographed all the different pools.  It was fun walking around and looking at all the different angles to best show off the water.

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The pools work their way down the incline of the canyon.  What a fun afternoon walking on the smooth bedrock taking photos.

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After taking my photos, I gave Scarlett permission to play.  As you know, that dog loves, loves, loves water!  At first she ran around jumping over the pools.  I think she wasn’t sure how deep they were.

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But then she couldn’t resist any further and jumped in.

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Most of the pools were shallow, but somehow she managed to pick the deepest pool and plunged in over her head.  I think it was a total surprise for her!

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But that didn’t deter her for long, soon she was running up and down the slope and jumping in and out of all the pools.

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Scarlett showing off her really long tail as she dives into the deep pool.

Now you see why I made her lay down and watch me take photos first LOL!  She got water everywhere!

After she had her fill of running around and splashing, we ventured further down the canyon.  The crevices in the bedrock got deeper.

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These are my favorite shots of my outing.

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Of course, I can’t celebrate my 3rd anniversary without some great bird photos.  I haven’t been out birding for a little while, but the Western Bluebirds were very cooperative in the park next to my office 🙂  It’s always a good day when you see Bluebirds!!!

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A Few Goodies

Yesterday I had to drive almost to Grants to meet a client.  It was a cold, dreary day.  On my way home I decided to stop in at Piedras Marcadas Petroglyphs so Scarlett and I could stretch our legs.

There weren’t any birds about, but there was an adorable, curious squirrel.

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Antelope Squirrel

I crept closer hoping to get a better pic.

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And closer still….. He let me take several photos before diving behind the rocks.

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Just too darn adorable!

There were some hot air balloons up while I was hiking.  One of them was landing behind the mesa.  I took this pic just before it disappeared.

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After working most of the day today, I managed to take a couple hours to hike and bird before sundown.  I wasn’t sure what I would see being so late in the day.  But surprisingly I saw few nice goodies.

Over the last few days we’ve had some cold, snowy weather.  A couple days ago while in town, I took a photo of the Sandia Mountains.  I love it when they are covered in clouds and snow.

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Stormy Sandia Mountains

Thankfully today was more sunny and warmer.  I first stopped in at a small park in Albuquerque to find a Western Screech Owl that has been seen there snoozing in a tree.  Considering 90% of the trees in the park were too small for an owl, it was pretty easy to find him.

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Western Screech Owl

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Snoozin’ the day away

I love seeing owls in the wild.  It’s always a real treat.  After taking a few pics, I moved so as not to disturb him or draw attention to him from the other folks playing in the little park.

I then headed over to Willow Creek.  I hadn’t been there in a while so it sounded like fun to go see what was about.  On my way in to the park, I spied this Western Bluebird hunting for dinner.

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Western Bluebird

As I was taking photos, he saw something on the ground and I managed to get a few shots of him getting a grub.

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yummy….

It was a good find, so he took off with it to enjoy at his leisure.  Beautiful!

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My favorite photo of the day

Along the trail I saw Lesser Goldfinches, White-Crowned Sparrows, House Finches and Spotted Towhees.  All of these birds were too shy to have their photo taken.  But there were a lot of American Robins about.  They were much more cooperative.

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American Robin

There’s one point on the trail that affords a great view of the Sandias.  I took this pic there.  You can see there’s still snow about half way up the mountain.

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To my delight I spied a Red-Tailed Hawk that was looking for a meal.  Such a beautiful bird!  And look at those claws!

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Just before leaving I saw a Say’s Phoebe looking for dinner.

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Say’s Phoebe

He too found something to eat and quickly took off with it.

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That’s about it for my short afternoon walks.  But any time hiking, birding and doing photography is a time well spent.

Blood Moon and Birds

Well…it just doesn’t get any better than that!

On January 31 there was a lunar event that hasn’t happened in 150 years in the United States:  A Blue Moon, Super Moon, Blood Moon Eclipse.  What does that mean?  A Blue Moon is a second full moon in the same month.  A Super Moon is when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth making the moon appear 14% larger and 30% brighter.  And a Blood Moon Eclipse is when the moon moves directly behind the Earth’s shadow where it cannot receive any light from the sun causing it to appear red in our atmosphere.

Of course, seeing as I wouldn’t be around for the next one unless I lived to be 203 years old, I just had to photograph this event.  I got up a 4 am to drive into town to a predetermined location.  I was fortunate that our local camera club had scouted out a great area that gave an elevated vantage of the city below.  When I arrived, I saw the temperature was 27 degrees.  Brrrrr!  It was going to be a cold photo shoot!

As I hiked to the earthen dam at the northeast end of Albuquerque, I could see the eclipse had already begun.   At the time the moon was still white but was starting to show a hint of red.  I quickly set up my camera gear and started shooting.

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Moon over Albuquerque

The eclipse happened fast.  Just a few shots later, the moon was becoming mostly red.

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Eclipse well underway

Then it finally happened!  It was a Blood Moon.  I zoomed as far in as I could and it was a beautiful sight!

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Blood Moon

The full eclipse was to be a 6:30 am.  My last shot was around 6:15.  The sun was rising and the sky had really started to lighten.  I quickly changed lenses and took a picture of the Blood Moon hanging over Albuquerque.  As you can see, I was definitely shooting in the “blue hour” by this time.  But I thought the photo was so beautiful.

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Blood Moon over Albuquerque

After that last shot, the sky just became too light and the moon had dipped into the hazy horizon above the city.  So I packed up my gear and hoofed it back to my car.

I figured since I was already in town and it was dawn, I should take the opportunity to go birding.  Logical train of thought right???  🙂

I headed over to Alameda Open Space to see what might be around at the pond and along the river.  I had heard a Mew Gull has been sighted among the Ring-Billed Gull flock.  That would be a lifer for me if I could find it.

I started systematically taking photos of the flock as they rested on the sandbar in the Rio Grande.  I figured I could look through photos later to see if I captured the Mew Gull.

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Ring-Billed Gulls with rare visitor California Gull in the middle

I had snapped a few photos working my way down the line, when all of a sudden they all erupted into flight.  Startled me good!

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Ring-Billed Gulls

I had wondered what frightened them.  I was thinking maybe a coyote had tried to sneak up on them or something.  No sign of any ground attack, I looked up for a possible aerial attack.  And right above me was a Bald Eagle!  Beautiful!  We get them here every winter, but you just don’t see them that often.

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You can see the size difference of the gull to the Bald Eagle

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Look at that wingspan!!

He soon caught a thermal and soared higher and higher until eventually he was gone.  Since now the gulls were all stirred up, I figured my chance to see the Mew Gull were pretty much nil.  So I started hiking along the river to see what other goodies might be about.  Here’s some pics of my finds.

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Common Merganser female

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There are 3 Black-Crowned Night Herons in the trees

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Great Blue Heron

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Common Mergansers – 2 males and 1 female

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Black Phoebe

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Wood Duck pair

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Mallards with a Killdeer

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Western Bluebird – so beautiful!

We came across a giant beach along the river and Scarlett decided it was a great place to run and play in the water.  Even though that water had to be freezing she wanted to play.  I had fun capturing some photos of her while she played.  Goofy dog!

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Scarlett having fun in the water

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So much fun to run in the shallow water

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She likes to bite at the water as she plays

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My beautiful girl

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Isn’t that a look of pure joy!  LOL!

After a couple hours of hiking, we headed back to the car.  I stopped briefly at the bridge crossing the bar ditch next to the parking lot.  There’s usually some good small birds in the area.  I heard a constant buzzing noise.  It took me a minute to narrow down where it was coming from, but eventually I fount its source.  A Marsh Wren – in plain sight!  Now many of you know those Marsh Wrens can be a real challenge to photograph as they mostly live deep in cattails.  So I was thrilled to be able to watch one work along the edge of the water for a little while.  He was deep in shadows and at a little distance, so it was a challenge getting a good image.  But I was pleased with what I got.

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Marsh Wren

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Hmmmm…anything good under water?

I had a little time left before I needed to head home and get back to work.  So I stopped in at the Embudito Trail parking lot.  There’s been sighted a Golden-Crowned Sparrow among the White-Crowned Sparrows feeding at a feeder next to the parking lot.

When I arrived I saw a Cactus Wren singing in a tree.  I can never resist photographing these beautiful birds.  And their song is the epitome of desert birdsong.  I think it’s the most used birdsong in commercials and movies depicting the southwest.

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Cactus Wren

I then saw a bunch of White-Crowned Sparrows fly in to the bushes next to the feeder.  I was hopeful the Golden-Crowned Sparrow was among them.

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White-Crowned Sparrow

I searched and searched and finally! there he was!  By this time the sun was bright and trying to get a good pic was a challenge.  But finally I managed one that showed his beautiful gold crown even though it’s muted in his winter plumage.  A lifer for me!

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Golden-Crowned Sparrow

Now it was time to go home and take a nap!!! (work could wait LOL!)

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Mallard feather on the frozen beach of the Rio Grande

 

Christmas Birding

The weather here in New Mexico has been very mild for wintertime.  So I took advantage of the nice day and went birding yesterday.  I haven’t had much chance to bird lately, so it was a real treat to have a whole day to visit several places and get some fun bird sightings.

My first stop was to visit the Rio Grande Nature Center for their Saturday morning bird walk.  When you go on their guided tours, you get taken into places of the park you normally can’t visit.  So it’s always a treat to go behind the scenes.

The early morning temperatures were in the mid 20s, so it was definitely a cold start.  The ducks didn’t seem very happy about standing on the ice instead of swimming in the water.

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Mallards and Wood Ducks

A Black-Crowned Night Heron was hiding in the bushes nearby.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

On the main pond there were a few ducks enjoying the area that hadn’t frozen over.  It was a treat to see a Hooded Merganser male.  Even though they are common in our area during the winter, you just don’t see them that often.

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Hooded Merganser

Along with the Hooded Merganser there were a few other visitors.

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Ruddy Ducks in the Foreground and a Canvasback female in the back

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American Coot on the left and a Pied-Billed Grebe on the right

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Mallard

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Canada Geese

We saw a few other birds along our walk, but for the most part it was quiet.

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A variety of blackbirds

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Sandhill Crane

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Sandhill Crane

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Western Bluebird

After the guided tour, I walked around the park a little more to see what might be visiting the feeders.  There was a nice variety of birds enjoying the free meal.

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Spotted Towhee

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Red-Winged Blackbird female

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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Downy Woodpecker

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Bewick’s Wren

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White-Throated Sparrow

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Black-Capped Chickadee

I walked down to the Rio Grande to see what might be hanging out at the river.  Over the past few years Albuquerque has had a flock of Ring-Billed Seagulls hanging out on the sand bars of the Rio Grande near Alameda Street.  This year those sand bars got flooded over by the river.  I had wondered where the seagulls had moved to since their usual spot was too deep for them.  I was excited to see they had found a new area behind the nature center.  I scanned the flock to see if there were any other breeds visiting the flock, but I didn’t see any this time.

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Ring-Billed Gulls

While photographing the flock, a fly fisherman came down to fish the area.  I managed to get a decent pic of him casting his line.  It’s hard to see, but I still liked the photo.

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Before leaving the nature center, I was lucky enough to see 3 Greater Roadrunners around the parking area.  They are so used to people, that I swear they pose for the camera.  Of course, I took about 500 pics of just the roadrunners.  🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

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Posing so nicely for me

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Got a peek of those gorgeous purple feathers of the crest

From there I visited Los Poblanos Open Space.  I had hoped to see the Western Screech Owls occupying the nesting boxes.  But sadly none of them poked their heads out while I was there.  But I found a few other treasures while hiking around the fields.

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Say’s Phoebe

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Western Meadowlark

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Black Phoebe that managed to find a bug in the cold weather

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Song Sparrow

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A leucistic American Goldfinch

My favorite sightings of that visit was seeing both a male and female American Kestral.  Such beautiful, small birds of prey.

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American Kestral male

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American Kestral female

My third stop was to find the American Dipper that has been spotted in the drainage ditch along the Rio Grande.  Though they are a common bird in our state, they are rarely seen in Albuquerque.  They prefer fast flowing streams where they can dip and dive in the rapids looking for food.  The Rio Grande in the Albuquerque area is mostly a wide, placid river.  But there are a few spots in the year-round flowing drainage ditches that have man-made rapids coming out of culverts.

After walking a little ways along the ditch, I was thrilled to see the dipper bobbing along the water’s edge.  He didn’t seem concerned to have an audience.  It was a real treat watching him feeding in and around the water’s edge.  Needless to say, I took another 500 photos of this bird.  LOL!

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American Dipper

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American Dipper swimming

There were a few other visitors there along the ditch that I enjoyed watching as well.

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Black Phoebe

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Overall, I had a great day going from one birding spot to another.  Scarlett had a great time walking all the trails with me.

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A lovely old cottonwood tree

After The Rains

Around the first part of October, the Albuquerque area got quite a bit of rain storms.  Since the weather had cooled off from those storms, I decided to go check out the Ojito Wilderness northwest of Albuquerque.  This area is just too hot during the summer months.

On the day I went, it was still very overcast.  Thankfully I had my Jeep, because most of the roads were still very muddy and required 4WD.  Because of all the rain we’d had, the rocks had been saturated and their colors were very vibrant.  I enjoyed hiking and exploring all the rock formations.

I thought you might like to see some of the photos I took during that hike.

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The colors of the Ojito Wilderness are so beautiful.

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Unicorn Horn Formation

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This formation was HUGE

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All the wind formed shapes are so wonderful

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Scarlett enjoyed exploring that day

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The white rock formation in the distance is so unique

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Uplifted formations

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Lots of trails through the colors

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Beautiful

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So many colors

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Stormy skies overhead

 

 

La Lena WSA: Emperado Ridge / Continental Divide Hike

Yesterday I went on my first group hike with a Meetup Group called WOW WE (Way Out West – Westside Explorers).  There were 12 of us on this hike including our fearless leader Woody.  I took Scarlett along and she had a blast.

We started our hike in the middle of nowhere about a 1.5 hours west of Albuquerque.  We drove to the top of a mesa.  After hiking about a 1/2 mile, we came to the edge of the mesa.  The views were expansive.  Just beautiful!

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Cabezon Peak on the left

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You could see for miles!

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Kelly and Scarlett

We hiked along the mesa for about a mile enjoying the beautiful vistas.

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Our fearless leader Woody.  We would be climbing down from this point to the valley you see below.

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Soon we started heading down to the valley below.  That’s when the interesting geology started showing up.  I loved all the different colors in the layers of the rock.

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I loved the shape of this dead tree

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We ate lunch in this patch of white rock.  Unique shapes were found all around.

We started seeing our first Hoodoos in the white rock area.  I love Hoodoos!

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Scarlett found a patch of shade.  Not much to be found on this hike. LOL!

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We left the white rock area and headed into the valley below.

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Once in the valley we passed so much interesting geology.  Everywhere I looked, the colors and shapes were so beautiful.

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You can see the white rock patch in the distance where we had lunch.

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Scarlett had a great time exploring all the ups and downs of the trail.

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At one point we had to scramble down a boulder filled crevice.  It was a little scary but thankfully Woody helped me navigate the most scary part.

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Scariest part of the hike.  Thankfully Woody helped me navigate this part.

Soon the mesa was towering over us.  We wound our way from one interesting rock patch to another.

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We came across a patch of small Hoodoos called mushrooms.

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Hoodoo Mushrooms

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The winds create interesting shapes in the rocks.  I like the little shape in the lower left that looks like a puppy.

After hiking for about another mile, we came to a very large area of Hoodoos and other interesting rock formations.  It was a lot of fun exploring this area.  We stayed here quite a while since there was so much to see.

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So many Hoodoos and colors!

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Interesting layers of the rock

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Giant pieces of petrified wood

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So beautiful!

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“Delfido Moralez 1938” inscription

Finally we were on the last leg of the hike.  We continued hiking along the bottom of the mesa and connected with the Continental Divide trail.  This trail is 1,300 miles long and runs from Mexico up to Canada.  For those of you that don’t know what the Continental Divide is:

“A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea and the basin on the other side feeds into a different ocean or sea.”

Thankfully this part of the hike was level and easy.  By this point I had hiked over 6 miles.  Whew!  I think Scarlett had hiked twice that.  She loved that there were lots of folks hiking together.  She would run way ahead to those in front of me then come running back to me.

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Navigating the Continental Divide trail between pastures.  You can see the “CD” sign on the post.

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Stunning!

The last leg of the hike was the only uphill part of the climb.  It was short but fairly steep.  I was pretty tired by this point, but made it up fairly well.

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The uphill climb to the top of the mesa

Once back on top of the mesa, it was a short 1/2 mile hike back to the car.

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Back on top.  You can see the Continental Divide trail below that we had just hiked.

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Our last grand vista view from the Continental Divide trail before heading back to the cars.

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Looking tired LOL!

What a fun hike! In all I hiked 7.5 miles.  🙂  I will definitely be going on more WOW WE hikes in the future.  Fun hike and fun people!

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