I haven’t written in some time. Life got busy, times got difficult, and now the world is in chaos. I realized recently that I have let myself get into a funk. I am unhappy with how things are right now. I worry how long it will be before we get back to normal. And what will normal be??? I have missed my life before all this craziness began.
I started realizing I needed to do something that will keep me from getting down. So I am going to get out more and explore. I love being behind a camera and see birds and landscapes.
This morning I got up early and drove to Los Poblanos Open Space. With the hot days we’ve had, I figured I needed to be there as close to sunrise as possible.
This morning was gorgeous! Cool and calm, and lots of birdsong.
I had fun taking some scenic photos of the open space while the sun was just rising. I had forgotten how beautiful summer could be in Albuquerque.
I decided to walk the entire perimeter of the open space before going in and bird. This way I could photograph some of the sites during the beautiful dawn light.
Since the Los Poblanos open space is irrigated all summer, it felt so lush and green.
Lots of folks were up early to walk their dogs and enjoy nature. There were a few birders out as well.
After the wonderful dawn light was past, I changed lenses and went birding. I had been hearing a lot of birdsong during my walk and was anxious to get some photos.
One of the first birds I saw was to my surprise, a Lazuli Bunting! This bird has been my nemesis for years. Never could seem to get a decent photo. Finally! I got to see this bird up close and get a few nice shots. A wonderful way to start off a birding day.
Lots of Western Kingbirds were out. They seem to chatter constantly. I love that about them. They are not shy!
In the top of a tree in the distance, I saw a large bird. I knew it was a raptor, but what kind? Once I finally got closer, I saw it was a Swainson’s Hawk. That was another nice surprise.
There were loads of Canada Geese about. They seem to enjoy the flooded fields.
Near the community garden, a few Greater Roadrunners were enjoying the morning. I never tire of seeing a roadrunner. They are so intelligent and have great personalities. It’s always a treat to see our state’s bird. The roadrunners here at the garden as so used to people. I was able to get within 10 feet of the birds and they just ignored me.
Near the end of my walk, I was astonished to see a Barn Owl fly overhead. Wow! I had to track him down and see if I could get a better photo than the quick one I took of him flying over.
I was fortunate that it decided to roost in a visible location right next to the drainage ditch. It had its back to me so was very camouflaged. It took me a few minutes to find him, but was well worth the effort. What a gorgeous sighting!
I had a wonderful birding hike this morning. It definitely helped get me out of my funk. Join me again soon on my next hike. And I will be posting photos from my Nome, Alaska, trip I took this past June!
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.
As always, I saw several Western Meadowlarks out singing. I love their beautiful voice.
I walked along the main drainage ditch hoping to see some good birds. A scrub jay announced his presence.
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.
Black-Throated Gray Warbler
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.
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.
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.
Common Black Hawk
On my way back I saw a flycatcher along the ditch. I believe it’s a 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.
While hiking along he ditch, I enjoyed the wild irises blooming.
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.
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!
While hiking there I was treated to some beautiful wild apple blossoms.
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.
I also saw the resident roadrunners in the parking lot. Always fun to photograph!
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.
Summer Tanager male
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!
Uh oh! He sees another hummer coming for him!
Defending the feeder!
Here are some of the other birds I saw on my visit.
The gardens were beginning to bloom. The bees were happily gathering pollen.
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. 🙂
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!
Red-Tailed Hawk with babies
It’s been great getting out birding. It was nice to see all the summer birds returning to Albuquerque.
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.
I crept closer hoping to get a better pic.
And closer still….. He let me take several photos before diving behind the rocks.
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.
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.
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.
Western Screech Owl
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.
As I was taking photos, he saw something on the ground and I managed to get a few shots of him getting a grub.
It was a good find, so he took off with it to enjoy at his leisure. Beautiful!
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.
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.
To my delight I spied a Red-Tailed Hawk that was looking for a meal. Such a beautiful bird! And look at those claws!
Just before leaving I saw a Say’s Phoebe looking for dinner.
He too found something to eat and quickly took off with it.
That’s about it for my short afternoon walks. But any time hiking, birding and doing photography is a time well spent.
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.
Moon over Albuquerque
The eclipse happened fast. Just a few shots later, the moon was becoming mostly red.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
You can see the size difference of the gull to the Bald Eagle
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.
Common Merganser female
There are 3 Black-Crowned Night Herons in the trees
Great Blue Heron
Common Mergansers – 2 males and 1 female
Wood Duck pair
Mallards with a Killdeer
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!
Scarlett having fun in the water
So much fun to run in the shallow water
She likes to bite at the water as she plays
My beautiful girl
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.
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.
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.
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!
Now it was time to go home and take a nap!!! (work could wait LOL!)
Mallard feather on the frozen beach of the Rio Grande
During the last week of December, I was able to take a trip to Bosque del Apache. I try to visit there every December as that’s when the winter bird count is pretty high.
I left well before sunrise. As I was driving down, I started getting into thicker and thicker fog. At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph on a 75 mph interstate.
It was difficult to bird first thing due to the thick fog, so I took a few scenic shots.
Boardwalk through the marsh
A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area
I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.
Beautiful coyote among the hoarfrost
Fortunately, the fog cleared up once the sun rose and I was able to start hunting for birds.
I first noticed a Great Blue Heron grooming.
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.
American Bald Eagles
I started driving around the ponds to see what waterfowl was about. I happened to notice two Northern Harriers squabbling. They were quite a ways away but I managed to capture a pic.
Northern Harriers fighting
I was surprised to find that there really wasn’t very many waterfowl about. I had to really search the ponds to find any. Not sure where they were all hiding.
Bufflehead – male
Bufflehead – female
Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.
I always hear there are wading birds that winter at the refuge, but I rarely see them. But on this day I saw three Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of a pond.
I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!
One of my favorite sightings of the day was a Crissal Thrasher singing his little heart out atop a bush. Surprisingly he let me get pretty close singing the whole time.
I sat and watched a roadrunner look for lunch. They are always entertaining. He hunted for awhile before he noticed me watching. I took this pic the moment he realized he wasn’t alone. 🙂
My last sighting of the day was a grebe off in the distance. When I zoomed in and took a pic, I was delighted to see it was a Clark’s Grebe. These are considered a rare sighting for the area, so that was a real treat.
I left around noon and decided to drive a different route home. I took the Quebradas Scenic Route home. I had heard a lot about this road. But to be honest I couldn’t really see why it was considered so beautiful. But there was one place on the road I found very picturesque, so I got out a took a pic.
Quebradas Scenic Route
Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.
I still had some light left in the day, so I stopped in at the Bernardo Refuge. The Sandhill Cranes seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache.
I got there near sunset, and all the cranes were coming in to the pond to drink. It was a beautiful sight seeing and hearing the cranes flying overhead in the soft light of sunset.
While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!
I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.
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.
Mallards and Wood Ducks
A Black-Crowned Night Heron was hiding in the bushes nearby.
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.
Along with the Hooded Merganser there were a few other visitors.
Ruddy Ducks in the Foreground and a Canvasback female in the back
American Coot on the left and a Pied-Billed Grebe on the right
We saw a few other birds along our walk, but for the most part it was quiet.
A variety of blackbirds
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.
Red-Winged Blackbird female
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.
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.
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. 🙂
Posing so nicely for me
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.
Black Phoebe that managed to find a bug in the cold weather
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.
American Kestral male
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!
American Dipper swimming
There were a few other visitors there along the ditch that I enjoyed watching as well.
Overall, I had a great day going from one birding spot to another. Scarlett had a great time walking all the trails with me.
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!
So much fun at the water crossings!
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.
Unique caves created by water erosion.
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.
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.
Green Tailed Towhee
Williamson’s Sapsucker – Juvenile
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. 🙂
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!
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!
Great Blue Heron
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird enjoying the summer mimosa blooms!
House Finch – partial orange morph
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….
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!!!
Of course, Scarlett always enjoys a visit to the river!
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. 🙂
Red-Tailed Hawk (juvenile) – I love the coloring of this particular bird
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.
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.
A very shy Ladderback Woodpecker (hence the blurry photo)
Wilson’s Warbler – coming to enjoy my bird bath
Holding down a sunflower seed to extract its goodness.
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.
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.
Steller’s Jay – so beautiful!
I saw a Brown Creeper – always a delight. They are very difficult to see against the bark and they move quickly.
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!
Among the many bird sightings I had over the summer, I came across some other interesting things. I thought you might enjoy seeing them. 🙂
Cool bee on a beautiful summer sunflower
Southwestern Fence Lizard
Police Car Moth
I love the colors on this dragonfly
This beetle “hisses” when you touch it. A unique defense!
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.
First off, let me just say, I LOVE my new camera! I’m definitely still in the learning phase, but it’s performance is superior to my old setup. It’s a joy to use, and I’m very happy with my images.
Not too long ago, we had a spring storm blow through and it dumped 12 inches of snow at my house. The birds were not very happy about this event, and neither were my plants.
A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.
The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.
I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂
My sweet Miss Scarlett
Thankfully the snow melted the very next day, and the temperatures returned to the mid to high 70s right away. I got to go out hiking several times this week. I visited Tingley Beach a couple days after the spring storm. The Rio Grande was raging and flooded most of the bosque trails. But it was worth trudging through it to see some new spring birds.
I have lived in the Albuquerque area for over 20 years. And during that time, I have never visited Sandia Lakes or Shady Lakes (they are next door to each other). So one day I decided to check out the lakes.
Sandia Lakes was very nice. Beautiful lawns and cottonwood trees and three separate lakes.
Sandia Lakes with the Sandia Mountains in the background
The first bird I saw was a Lark Sparrow (first one I’ve seen this year). He was singing way up high in a tree. Then I saw several Canada Geese with their babies.
While watching the geese, I saw something that looked different. I quickly realized it was a Western Grebe. We don’t see them often in our area, so it was a real treat.
I saw a pair of Say’s Phoebes busily hunting for bugs. I soon saw why they were so frantic to find bugs. They had three babies squeezed into a tiny nest.
I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well. They are such beautiful birds
While walking around the lake, an Osprey flew overhead. I thought to myself that he might be part of a nesting pair. This was confirmed recently by my friend Joe. I’m definitely going to have to check out their nesting progress.
I came across a pair of Black-Capped Chickadees that were acting very agitated. I never did figure out what they were so upset about.
As I was walking through the grass between lakes, I saw a Killdeer doing its “I’m injured, follow me” routine. So I knew there must be a baby nearby. It was acting pretty desperate, so I thought it must be very close.
Killdeer trying to lure me away from its baby
When I looked down, I realized it was only a foot away. I almost stepped on it! Yikes! It never did move. I took a quick pic and then quickly moved away. Soon I heard the baby calling for its parents. It was nice to see them all reunite and be assured all was fine.
I then headed over to Shady Lakes. What a beautiful place! It has several ponds all covered in beautiful lily pads and lined with irises. The ponds are stocked with different varieties of fish. But I was there for the birds.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron sitting beautifully on an old log. I then realized there were several of them gathered there. Fabulous! They are used to people so they let me get pretty close.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.
I noticed a moth feeding among the irises. These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.
White-Lined Sphinx Moth
The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!
My last hike was up to the Cienega picnic area. The forest service blocks the road for cars until mid-May. So you have to hike along the road to get to the upper picnic area. My goal was to try and find the Northern Pygmy Owl that has been seen nesting there. Now I have made this hike several times both last spring and this spring with no luck seeing that owl. Well, this time I was successful! This is a lifer bird for me!
He was calling repeatedly on a lower branch in the aspen tree where he’s been seen nesting. All the songbirds in the area were very agitated and were trying to scare him away. It was a wonderful sighting!
For those of you not familiar with this owl. He’s very small, only 6 inches from its head to the end of its tail. So you can see why he’s so difficult to find.
Northern Pygmy Owl
I decided to hike over to Bill Spring since I was in the area. A Hermit Thrush was enjoying a bath. And a baby was in a tree nearby.
A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.
I hadn’t been at the spring long when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in chasing a chickadee. After that, the birds were scarce. So I started hiking back to my car. I saw lots of Black-Headed Grosbeak singing and squabbling in the trees. I’m guessing they were vying for the attention of the females.
I’m thrilled spring is here. I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived. 🙂
For the past few years I was using a Nikon 1 V3 mirrorless camera for all of my birding photos. While I loved that camera when I had plenty of light, I was always let down with any photos I took that were in low-light conditions. The sensor in the camera just couldn’t handle low light, high ISO conditions.
So recentlly I purchased a new camera. An Olympus OMD EM1 Mark ii (could they have come up with any longer of a name??!!). This new camera is a micro 4/3 camera. It has a better sensor for low light and it has much better in-camera stabilization. I got a birding lens to go with it that has a reach of 800mm.
Of course, I just had to take it out right away to see how it performed birding. So I planned a whole day of birding in different locations and light conditions. When I shot with my Nikon, I mostly used shutter priority. So that’s what I set the new camera to. I was less than pleased with the first photos I took that day.
I headed over to Owlville in Los Lunas. I had heard there were lots of Burrowing Owls nesting there this year. I wasn’t disappointed either – I saw lots of owls. They are located right next to the road, so you can get pretty close sitting in your car. I played with the settings in my camera and my results were better. It was a lot of fun watching these little owls. It was early in the morning and the owls were very sleepy still.
Burrowing Owl snoozing in the morning sun
They seemed to be having a hard time waking up. 🙂
I just never seem to be able to get enough owl photos to satisfy me. They just make me smile.
Love this expression.
This one was a little more alert than the others.
Then I saw one on a bush. I think this made for wonderful photos. I really like the bokeh with my new setup.
I’m impressed with the details in the feathers with this new setup.
I then headed to Belen to the Taco Bell marsh. When you shoot there, you are looking toward the sun – always a challenge to get good photos in those conditions. I was pretty pleased with how the camera performed though still disappointed in the end results. I just couldn’t figure out how to set this camera. It has a very complicated menu system that is not intuitive.
As I was leaving the marsh, I saw someone had created a track that goes to the other side of the marsh. Seeing as I own a Jeep Wrangler, I was pretty confident I could drive on this sandy track and be ok. I knew if I got to the other side, the sun would be behind me making more perfect conditions for photos. And I wasn’t disappointed! I saw this Cinnamon Teal right away. Beautiful!
I then saw this Morning Dove fly in looking for nesting materials.
Getting some nesting material.
I then headed to a rookery I had recently heard about (thanks to my friend Joe!). Here the lighting was low due to all the shade trees.
As soon as I got there, I saw a Cattle Egret in the tree right above me trying to get just the right stick for its nest. I was amazed at how well this bird balanced itself on that skinny limb.
It took some skill to walk on that limb.
Of course it wanted the stick on the very end LOL!
While photographing this egret, the owner of the home came out. We visited for a while, and then he invited me into the yard to get a closer look. Wow! He was very kind and you could tell he enjoyed having the annual visitors.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
The owner leaves some of the fallen sticks on the ground for the birds to use. This Cattle Egret was taking advantage of this bounty.
This is just one small view of the trees in this yard. Look at all those nests!
The owner told me about a Sharp-Shinned Hawk next door. It was deep in the canopy and my camera was struggling to get a focus. So I put the camera in manual focus and was pleased with how easy it was to change the settings and focus on the bird.
I was still trying to shoot on Shutter Priority. While I like these images, I still think this camera could do much better. I know it’s all user error.
My next stop was in Santa Fe. I had to deliver some supplies to a job site there, so I visited the Randall Davey Audubon Center. I walked the trail behind the center that follows a steam in the woods. I immediately spotted warblers! I love warblers but they are a big challenge to photograph – especially with a new camera!
Black-Throated Gray Warbler
I spent a little time in the gardens of the center. I was really challenged trying to focus on my subjects. I just couldn’t figure out the settings for center focus.