Here’s wishing everyone a very safe and Blessed Christmas!
I recently attended the annual River of Lights held at the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens. Each year they make it bigger and better! I hadn’t been for awhile so it was a real treat.
I went with my friend Dia and we had so much fun. This year they offered a “magic hour” from 5-6. You could purchase tickets for this time and they limited the number of participants so you could get some great photos without the crowds. We loved having the place practically to ourselves. The gardens are big enough that we really didn’t see many people.
We took a few photos of each other in the beautiful lights. It felt very festive!
Here’s a slideshow of all the fabulous lights we saw. If you are viewing this post on a cell phone, click on the photo below and you can scroll through the images.
While in San Antonio last June, I visited the Japanese Tea Garden. It’s not a very big place, but it’s very unique. This site was initially a limestone quarry that opened in 1840. Many of the buildings in San Antonio during that time were built with the stone from this quarry.
Entrance to the gardens
In 1880 it was changed to a cement quarry. At this time a kiln was added to the site, which still stands today.
Old kiln door
Kiln stack and buildings
Such unique craftsmanship
Living quarters for the laborers
More openings for the kiln
By 1917 the cement plant had shut down. The City Parks department of San Antonio launched a program to convert the old quarry into a Japanese Tea Garden. Prison labor was used to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda.
Restored pagoda, gardens and pond
What a wonderful idea for an old quarry.
In 1919, at the city’s invitation, Kimi Elzo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden. Him and his wife maintained the garden, lived in the garden and raised 8 children. Kimi died in 1938 and in 1941 the family was evicted from the garden due to the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II.
Arched path built by prison labor
Such beautiful landscaping
Bridge to the kiln stack.
The Japanese Tea House up above.
For years the garden sat in neglect and disrepair, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism. In 2005 the city started restoration on the pagoda-like pavilion.
The roof was rebuilt in 2005.
In 2007 restoration began to restore the ponds and waterfall.
View from the pagoda
Path to the waterfall.
I loved the waterfall!
All work was completed by 2011. The Jingu family members still alive returned for the public re-opening. In recognition of the garden’s history, it has been designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, a registered Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Walkway from the gardens to the zoo nearby
I am so glad this precious gem of history has been saved and has been restored to its previous glory. It was a wonderful place to visit. So peaceful and beautiful.
I loved walking these paths
If I lived here, I would visit often!
Scarlett enjoyed touring the walkways as well. She was curious of the Koi fish and they looked like they were just as curious.
Scarlett was fascinated by the curious koi 🙂
I love the colorful koi fish
I’m so glad I decided to visit the gardens. I would have been sad if I had never taken the time to see such beauty that has been restored to its former glory.
Recently I took Scarlett for an early morning walk along the Rio Grande near Alameda Open Space. There were lots of birds singing, enjoying the early summer weather. I managed to get what is probably my best photo yet of a Summer Tanager. For some reason I have a hard time getting a great photo of these birds.
A Black Phoebe was feeding along the irrigation ditch next to the river.
Then to my surprise, a whole flock of Cedar Waxwing flew in and started catching flying bugs along this ditch. I didn’t know they did this. They would fly out and snag a bug and fly back. Not as graceful as the Black Phoebe, but still fun to watch. I took several photos of them. Who can resist photographing the beautiful Cedar Waxwings?!
The day was so nice, so I decided to pop into the Botanical Gardens.
Main path of the gardens
I figured the summer flowers should be blooming great by now. And I was right! The roses were especially nice. Here’s a few of the best photos I took.
There were quite a number of butterflies out, but most of them wouldn’t land long enough for a photo. This Cabbage White was the most cooperative.
The Japanese Garden is always my favorite to visit. I love the water features there. I found this smaller waterfall that I never notice before.
While photographing the waterfall, I realized there were several dragonflies buzzing by. I can never resist photographing dragonflies. But they are such a challenge to get a crisp photo. But I still try!
I have wanted to get a photo of the red dragonflies for a long time. I think the red color is so striking. I finally had a cooperative subject!
I also found a lot of dragonflies at the main pond of the Gardens. The blue ones were very busy chasing each other.
There were a lot of bullfrogs singing at the pond. And they have been busy reproducing! I couldn’t believe how many tadpoles were in the water.
This frog has a lot of Cottonwood Tree fluff stuck to him.
On the main pond, there were a large number of young male Wood Ducks. They look pretty scrappy changing into their adult plumage.
Young male Wood Duck
The water lilies were blooming nicely in the pond.
In the Memorial Garden area I saw this American Robin fly down and start basking in the warm sun. He looked like he was really enjoying that sun bath.
Lots of House Finches were singing. One of them was an Orange-Morph. I don’t see this coloration very often.
Orange-Morph House Finch
I need to visit the gardens more often. They are very relaxing and provide lots of opportunities for photography.
The spring weather here has been very fickle. One day it’s nice, the next it’s cold, rainy or even snowy. So I’ve had a difficult time getting out and walking much this past week. I had a couple hikes to interesting places scheduled, but had to cancel them due to the weather.
Yesterday looked promising to not rain even though there were big storm clouds moving across all day. So I got up early and met up with the weekend bird walk at the Rio Grande Nature Center. I haven’t been on one of their walks for quite some time. I like them because they take you into areas where you normally cannot walk.
Overall it was a quiet morning for the small song birds. But the Cooper’s Hawks were very active. I saw one almost get a Red-Winged Blackbird not 5 feet from me. Then another trying to catch a Greater Roadrunner. That one gave up quick when that roadrunner fought back! I wish I could have gotten some photos of that but it was too far away and happened too quickly.
Here’s a few of the birds I got on the walk.
American Robin with nest building materials
After the tour was over, I walked around the Nature Center checking on the feeders. You can always see something interesting at them. This day I was surprised to see Gambel’s Quail. I’ve never seen them there before. From what I heard they have been clearing a lot of brush nearby that may be flushing them to the center.
I was also happy to see a Black-Headed Grosbeak. The males are so colorful.
I also got my best photo yet of a Cinnamon Teal. He swam right by me 🙂
The highlight of my walk was getting several good photos of a hummingbird feeding on some cactus blooms.
I believe this is a Black- Chinned Hummingbird female
Next I headed into the bosque behind the center. I thought I would check on the Great Horned Owls. I saw and heard lots of birds.
Summer Tanager with a bee
Western Tanager – female
The Rio Grande was full of activity. Trying to get a picture of swallows on the wing is so difficult! And that Chat was a ways away just singing.
I finally made it to the owl nest. Both babies have left the nest. I only saw one of the young and it was way up high and buried in the foliage. I only saw one of the parents.
When I was leaving the center, there was a volunteer standing in the parking lot holding this Great Horned Owl. He had been injured on power lines at the petroglyphs. He lost part of his wing so is unable to fly. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to photograph this beautiful bird.
I wasn’t ready to end the day. So I headed over to the Botanical Gardens. They were having an Orchid Show. So many beautiful orchids to see. After viewing the orchids I toured the gardens. Lots of spring flowers were in bloom. It makes you happy to see pretty flowers in bloom…especially as I write the blog and it’s snowing outside!
I love daisies!
There’s a Black-Crowned Night Heron that lives on the pond in the Japanese Garden. Several years ago it was injured somehow and lost his toes on one foot and the tips of toes on the other. I’ve seen him here at the gardens for several years now. I spoke to the man that feeds the Koi in the pond, and he says the heron comes over and eats the fish food from his hand. That’s one smart bird!
Black-Crowned Night Heron
Overall I saw/heard 49 species of birds! And Scarlett and I walked 7 miles! That’s a good day out!
While driving into town I spotted a few birds along the road. We still have lots of snow in the East Mountain area. The birds were feeding along the road as that was the only place without snow. I found taking bird photos with bright white snow as a background was challenging.
Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to go out and hunt for the sighting of a Common Goldeneye. I went to the Duck Ponds at Tingly Beach. Before heading into the Bosque I stopped at the northern pond at Tingly. There were some folks there feeding the ducks. Those were some happy ducks!
Also in the pond were a couple pairs of Northern Shoveler. I love watching how they feed together…spinning in a tight circle.
I realized while I was there I didn’t have a decent photo of a pigeon. How many times have I seen them but never photographed them? So I made an effort to get some good photos.
I investigated the northern duck pond first. It was pretty quiet. A few ducks on the water but no goldeneye.
Redhead, Canvasback and American Coot
So I hiked over to the southern pond. I started on the west side of the pond. It was mostly frozen so the waterfowl were congregated in an area in front of the viewing blind on the east side.
I watched a man feeding apple slices to a Mallard. It was nice to see someone sharing the day with nature.
Tim and Fred
While watching them I saw the Common Goldeneye swim by right in front of them. So I quickly headed to the viewing blind.
And there he was! So close and handsome! I had only seen one once before at a great distance.
Since I wasn’t very far from the Botanical Gardens I headed over there. They have added bird feeders around the gardens and it has brought a lot of birds in to feed this winter. Plus I just love walking around the Japanese garden. They did a beautiful job creating those gardens. It is my favorite place in the park.
Waterfall and pond in the Japanese Garden area
Scarlett has been training to be a therapy dog. She is doing so well. So since she is in training I could take her with me into the gardens. She’s a good birding dog as she just lays quietly while I take photos.
Miss Scarlett showing off her vest
While at the feeder in the herb garden area I saw several birds.
But the biggest surprise was when a bright red bird flew over my shoulder to land in a bush in front of me. My first thought was Summer Tanager, but I know they aren’t here in the winter. The only other all red bird I know of is Northern Cardinal. Now they aren’t supposed to be here ever. So I tried my best to get a photo of that bird deep in the bush in the shade…tough job. But I did manage to get one photo that (after much post processing) I was able to see the bird. And to my surprise it was a Northern Cardinal! I posted the sighting on the Birdseye app and emailed my friend Joe. I was the first one in Albuquerque to spot this rare sighting! Joe said a Cardinal hasn’t been seen in Albuquerque since 2002. He also said two other birders posted the sighting the next day.
RARE SIGHTING - Northern Cardinal
That was very exciting!
I also watched for some time a Red-Naped Sapsucker pound away deep inside a pine tree. Another challenging photo op.
I stopped at the pond in the gardens to see if there was anything interesting. Just the usual suspects. But there was no wind so the water looked like a mirror.
Yesterday I had a chance to stop in at the Rio Grande Nature Center.
Got a few nice shots.
House Finch female - I like the leaves as a backdrop