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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Hawks Aloft Photo Shoot

This past weekend I attended an annual photo shoot presented by Hawks Aloft – a local bird of prey rescue group.  I was excited to attend and see these beautiful birds up close and personal.  They had brought 11 birds for us to photograph – several of which I had never seen before except in books.  So I was thrilled I was able to get a nice view of these magnificent birds.

They did a wonderful job setting up natural perches for the birds.  We met up in an open area at Academy School.  This gave us a nice background for our photos.  I took a lot of pics and had a great time.  Here are some of my favorites of each bird.

The first bird I photographed was a Flammulated Owl.  To be honest I’ve never heard of this owl before even though they spend their summers right here in New Mexico.  This owl is very tiny (6-7 inches in length) and was so adorable.

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Flammulated Owl – Red Phase

 

Then I got to see a Mexican Spotted Owl.  There have been visitors in New Mexico from time to time – though I’ve missed seeing them every time.  Beautiful bird! Sadly this bird is in the “near threatened” category due to loss of habitat.

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Mexican Spotted Owl

Then I got to see a Prairie Falcon close up.  Lovely markings on this bird.  I’ve seen them a few times in the wild but was never able to get a very good photo. Not so this day!

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Prairie Falcon

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Prairie Falcon

Another owl was brought out – a Barn Owl.  I have seen this bird many times in the wild and have always admired its beautiful plumage.

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Barn Owl

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Barn Owl – I love the coloration of the feathers on their wings

Next came the Merlins.  They had one in the Prairie coloration and another in the Black.  Both beautiful but that black morph was just stunning!

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Merlin – Prairie Morph

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Merlin – Black Morph

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Merlin – black morph

A gorgeous rufous morph of a Red-Tailed Hawk was presented.  Beautiful!  This bird has been a rescue for a long time.  He was very relaxed during the entire event and stayed out the longest of all the birds.  He seemed to enjoy the attention.  He even spread out his wings several times after getting a long mist bath.

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Red-Tailed Hawk – rufous morph

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So majestic!

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My most favorite photo of the day

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Here you can see that gorgeous red tail

A dark morph Swainson’s Hawk was next.  I see these birds in great numbers not far from my house.  Even so, seeing one up close was wonderful.

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Swainson’s Hawk – dark morph

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Swainson’s Hawk

A Long-Eared Owl was brought out.  I’ve only seen this bird once in the wild.  It was sitting on a nest deep in the shade of a large tree.  So needless to say, I didn’t get a great look at it.  Such a beautiful owl to see in the sunlight.  Gorgeous coloring.  It’s very similar to a Great Horned Owl.

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Long-Eared Owl

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Long-Eared Owl

Then to my surprise and delight, they brought out a Harlan’s Hawk.  I have heard of this hawk but have never seen one in person.  They are a much more rare sub-species of the Red-Tailed Hawk.

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Harlan’s Hawk – you can see some red in the tail

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Harlan’s Hawk – such a beautiful coloration

A Great Horned Owl was next, but he was a newer rescue and wasn’t very comfortable in front of us.  He didn’t stay out long, but I managed to get a nice photo before he was taken back to his crate to relax.

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Great Horned Owl

Lastly was a Northern Saw-Whet Owl.  I was so excited to hear they had one for us to see.  This year was the first time I’d ever seen one ever and it was visiting my chicken coop for the mice.  I tried in vain several times to get a photo, but that owl was too clever and always knew when I was coming.  So to finally get a picture of one was so wonderful.  I love how it has a giant head with big yellow eyes and a little body.  This is another tiny owl (7-8.5 inches in length).

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Northern Saw-Whet Owl – another favorite photo of the day

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I love the big yellow eyes

I took a few shots of the staff working with the birds.  Everyone was so nice and did a wonderful job handling these birds.  They were very attentive and made sure the birds were never stressed.  Several of the birds, like the Red-Tailed Hawk, were used to people admiring them.  But a few were very new to the experience.  But all the birds did great and the utmost care was taken to keep them comfortable.  It was a very hot afternoon and the birds were heating up.  So the staff misted them often to cool them down.  You could tell by their behavior they enjoyed it a lot!

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So adorable – you can really see how little this guy is with the handler’s hand in the photo.  She was trying to get him to look toward us but he was very concerned about the other large birds nearby.

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Letting the Red-Tailed Hawk spread his wings

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Enjoying a cooling mist bath given by “Uncle Larry”

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You can see the care love she has for this Merlin.  How wonderful for her that she gets to spend time with these amazing animals.

What a wonderful afternoon photographing beautiful birds of prey!  It doesn’t get much better than that for weekend fun!