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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Summer Birds and Other Goodies

With my several trips this year and busy work, I haven’t had time to blog as often as I would have liked to.  So I thought I would combine several sightings over the summer into one post. Now that fall is officially here, many of these birds are gone or will be gone soon.

During the summer I went on several day hikes within a couple hours of Albuquerque.  Partly to see something new in scenery and partly to see some birds I don’t normally see around home.

One hike that was new for me was the Cave Creek hike in the Pecos Wilderness.  It’s about a 5-mile round trip hike to some caves that were created by water eroding through limestone.  It was a beautiful hike in thick forest along a creek.  Of course, Scarlett enjoyed the water immensely!

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So much fun at the water crossings!

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Lovely stream to hike along.

The caves were very interesting.  There were several that were big enough to walk inside of.  I didn’t go very far in as it got dark quickly and I wasn’t sure how deep the water got.  But lots of fun to explore.  Scarlett was curious about the caves as well.

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Unique caves created by water erosion.

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Scarlett exploring a smaller cave.

On this hike I saw a flock of Dusky Grouse.  This is pretty much the only grouse specie New Mexico has.  I’ve only seen this bird a few times of the past 20 years and never very close.  But I was lucky on this hike.  When I startled them, they flew into a nearby pine and sat very still – which was perfect for a great photo.

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Dusky Grouse

Another day I ventured to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains next to Santa Fe.  It was a very cloudy day and the birds were few, but I managed to get a few nice sightings.  A favorite – Green Tailed Towhee – came close to check me out so I was able to see his colors nicely.

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Green Tailed Towhee

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Williamson’s Sapsucker – Juvenile

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Dark-Eyed Junco

One of the highlights of this hike was seeing lots of mushrooms.  I’ve seen photos of the red and white polka dot mushrooms, but never have seen one in person.  It was a real treat seeing and photographing them.  🙂

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Poisonous mushroom – but so pretty!

Aspen Vista is a beautiful hike at about 8,000 feet above sea level.  As you know Scarlett loves water.   But she also loves culverts.  She’s always looking inside them to see what might be hiding.  On this hike, she found a culvert that was big enough to run through and it had water flowing through it.  Bonus!

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Scarlett having a blast!

I walked along the Rio Grande several times.  Most of the colorful summer birds love the Bosque.  It’s so much fun looking for and photographing these beauties!

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Blue Grosbeak

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Summer Tanager

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Neotropic Cormorant

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Downy Woodpecker

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Great Blue Heron

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Say’s Phoebe

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird enjoying the summer mimosa blooms!

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House Sparrow

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House Finch – partial orange morph

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

One day while hiking along the river, I came across a Cooper’s Hawk enjoying breakfast.  You could tell it had caught a songbird by the foot hanging out of it’s beak.  Poor thing….

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Songbird for breakfast anyone???

While reviewing my photos, I realized I had captured a lifer bird on one of my outings along the river.  I love it when that happens!  In this case, I had mistaken it for a Summer Tanager.  But when I reviewed the photo more closely, I realized it was a Hepatic Tanager.  Yay!!!

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Hepatic Tanager

Of course, Scarlett always enjoys a visit to the river!

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Look at that big grin on Scarlett’s face!

One day I took a drive out to Stanley.  I hadn’t been there for quite some time.  I saw a lot of the usual residents there.  I never tire seeing a Western Meadowlark or the many hawks that live there.  🙂

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Cliff Swallow

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Red-Tailed Hawk (juvenile) – I love the coloring of this particular bird

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Western Meadowlark

Around home I’ve had several new birds visit my yard this summer.  It’s so exciting to see something new show up.  I hope they find me again next year!  Some were easy to photograph, while others were very elusive.  The birds I was unable to photograph but saw were Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Brown-Headed Blackbird, Northern Saw-Whet Owl, and Green-Tailed Towhee.

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Pygmy Nuthatch

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

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I love their orange eyes.

Along with the new birds I’ve seen this year, I’ve had plenty of the resident birds stopping by the feeders and bird baths.

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Western Bluebird

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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A very shy Ladderback Woodpecker (hence the blurry photo)

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Wilson’s Warbler – coming to enjoy my bird bath

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Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

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Hairy Woodpecker

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Mountain Chickadee

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Holding down a sunflower seed to extract its goodness.

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Bushtit

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Black-Headed Grosbeak

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Juniper Titmouse

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Virginia’s Warbler

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Rufous Hummingbird

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Bewick’s Wren

This summer New Mexico saw several forest fires in the Jemez Mountains.  Because of this, a lot of the bird life has migrated south to new habitats.  This summer we saw a large number of Lewis’s Woodpeckers in the greater Albuquerque area.  We normally don’t see them here, so it was a real treat to see one only a couple miles from my house.  It seemed to prefer this telephone pole as it was sighted there often.  And it didn’t like the squirrel using its pole.

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Lewis’s Woodpecker

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Get off my pole!!!

I drove down to the Monzano Mountains a couple weeks ago hoping to see the fall colors starting in 4th of July Canyon.  Though the colors still haven’t begun, I did get to see several birds.

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Steller’s Jay – so beautiful!

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Red-Tailed Hawks

I saw a Brown Creeper – always a delight.  They are very difficult to see against the bark and they move quickly.

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Brown Creeper

Plus I got a lifer!  A Golden-Crowned Kinglet.  I’ve been looking for this bird for several years and just happened upon it on this trail.  Yay!  This guy was way up in the canopy shadows and moving so fast!

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Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Among the many bird sightings I had over the summer, I came across some other interesting things.  I thought you might enjoy seeing them.  🙂

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Cool bee on a beautiful summer sunflower

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Ahhhhhhhh……

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Southwestern Fence Lizard

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Hoary Comma

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Aphrodite Fritillary

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Police Car Moth

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Western Tailed-Blue

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I love the colors on this dragonfly

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This beetle “hisses” when you touch it.  A unique defense!

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Great Plains Skink (juvenile).  This guy was so cool!!!  I love the markings on the face.  This skink will turn plain brown all over as an adult. 

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Painted Lady

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Can you see the walking stick expertly hiding

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Marine Blue

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Common Side-Blotched Lizard

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Jackrabbit

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Exciting News!

I was recently invited to join a local gallery here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  One of their members saw my winning photographs at this year’s State Fair and left a business card on the back of one of my prints.  After interviewing with the members, I was invited to be a part of this exclusive gallery.   I feel very honored to have been chosen to be a part of this small group of co-op artists.

The gallery is called Albuquerque Photographers Gallery and is located on the plaza of Historic Old Town.  I love the fact that this gallery is comprised solely of fine art photography.  The atmosphere is inviting and the work of the artists is outstanding.

My work will be on display and available for sale beginning October 3!

If you are ever in Old Town, be sure to visit this beautiful gallery! I hope to see you there some time!

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Mariachi Band above Church Street Cafe in Old Town Albuquerque, NM