Exciting Week

Last time I wrote, I had just ended the 2016 Birdathon.  Since the event ended at 10 am and I was only about 15 miles from Carlsbad Caverns, I decided to stop in and tour the cave before heading home.  I hadn’t been there since the 80s.

I understood there are cave swallows that live at the entrance of the cave.  These birds can only be seen in New Mexico way down south along the Texas border. So, of course, I just had to go see this bird as it would be a lifer for me.

Luckily I had my tripod with me as they were nesting deep under the cave roof.  This made for very low lighting.  But I managed to get a few decent shots.  My biggest disappointment in my camera is that it performs poorly in low light conditions.  Otherwise, I love my camera.  It’s small, lightweight and can zoom way out there.


Cave Swallow


Cave Swallow


After taking a few minutes to photograph the birds, I descended into the cave.  The cave descends 1.25 miles….and the elevator is broken……sigh…..

I really enjoyed touring the caves.  It is truly spectacular to see in person.  Photographs just cannot capture the real beauty of the formations.  I took a lot of photos, but overall I am disappointed in them because my camera just struggles in low light.  Here are a few of the more passable photos.


Overall, I walked 4 miles.  The ascent out of the cave was tough as I was the last one out and the park rangers were wanting to close up.  But I was proud of myself as I felt good climbing out.  All the walking this year has paid off! But I have to say I was relieved to see the entrance of the cave after all that climbing.


I was a sweaty mess after that hike, but I had to take a selfie because I was proud of myself 🙂

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Me after hiking the cavern. 

The cactus garden at the entrance of the cavern was in full bloom. I love the vibrant colors of the the cacti flowers.

When I got home I saw my bleeding heart plants were in full bloom.  I couldn’t resist photographing them.  And I was pleased to get a nice photo of a Pine Siskin enjoying my garden.


Pine Siskin

This week I took several short excursions around home to look for more spring/summer birds.

I had heard there are Acorn Woodpeckers in a canyon near Los Alamos, NM.  So on Tuesday I headed up there to find them.  They have a very unique voice and that’s how I first found them.  I was thrilled.  This is a gorgeous bird and not very commonly seen in New Mexico.


Acorn Woodpecker

Around mid-week I went up to Cienega Canyon to see what might be about.  Most of the birds were being shy that day so it was a challenge to get photographs.


Steller’s Jay


Hairy Woodpecker


American Robin


Broad-Tailed Hummimgbird


Warbling Vireo


Red-Naped Sapsucker


Mountain Chickadee

The highlight of that outing was seeing a whole flock of Grace’s Warblers.  Beautiful birds.  I managed to get quite a few nice photos as they foraged in the pines around me.


Grace’s Warbler

Miss Scarlett was being very patient waiting for me to photograph birds.


Miss Scarlett

Later in the week I stopped in at Valle de Oro.  It was very quiet in the fields, but the bosque along the river was busy with birds.  It was a beautiful day and Scarlett and I had a great time exploring.


Greater Roadrunner


Western Kingbird


Yellow-Breasted Chat


Summer Tanager


On Saturday I was heading to Valerie’s house for a fun day of scrapbooking.  She lives in Placitas.  I had heard there were Red-Headed Woodpeckers in Algodones, which is just up the road from Placitas.  So I stopped there first to see if I could find this woodpecker.

As Scarlett and I were heading into the bosque to look for this bird, we both heard a rattlesnake!!!!  It was about 3 feet in front of us hiding in the shade in front of a post!!

Now recently Scarlett attended a rattlesnake-proofing class to help prevent her from getting snake bites.  As soon as she heard that rattle, she was 30 feet away at the car!  I guess the training worked perfectly!!!  I was thrilled!!!!  Of course, my heart was pounding in fear as well as Scarlett’s.  The sight and sound of a rattlesnake is most fearsome!  But being the obsessed photographer, I had to take a few photos.


Western Diamondback


Western Diamondback

There were some people nearby that heard me cry out when I saw the rattlesnake.  They came over to help get this snake to move off the trail.  They had a canoe paddle and were trying to shoo it along.  But it kept striking the paddle.  I wish I had gotten a photo of that, but I was busy making sure Scarlett was safely away.

Since it didn’t want to move with the paddle poking at it, the guy started scooping up dirt and tossing it at the snake.  That did the trick and it finally moved on.  Whew!!!!!


Western Diamondback

After that initial heart-pounding excitement, I headed into the bosque to find that woodpecker.  It took a little coaxing to get Scarlett to join me.  🙂

The directions for the location of the bird were spot on.  I found it almost immediately.  It didn’t want me to get too close, so I didn’t get very good photos.  This is another beautiful woodpecker. I was thrilled to add another lifer to my list.   I’m up to 358 lifer birds I have photographed!


Red-Headed Woodpecker


Red-Headed Woodpecker

So my week was exciting in several ways.  🙂





2016 Birdathon

I attended this year’s Birdathon organized by Judy Liddell and Bonnie Long.  This is the second birdathon I have attended.  The purpose of the birdathon is to count as many species of birds as we can find in a 24-hour period (10 am to 10 am).   This is also a fund raising event for the Central New Mexico Audubon Society.

On my drive to our meeting point, I saw a very cooperative male Antelope.  He let me take lots of photos.


Pronghorn Antelope

We started this event at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Roswell, NM.  I have been to this refuge several times in the past and am never disappointed in the amount of birdlife there.  This visit provided me with lots of opportunities to get some really good photos of birds.

There were Barn Swallows nesting at the visitor center.


Barn Swallow

As always there were lots of White-Crowned and Lark Sparrows about.


White-Crowned Sparrow


Lark Sparrow

The many ponds at the refuge contained lots of great birds.  While watching some Eared Grebes someone in the group spotted some Snowy Plovers with a couple of babies.  The birds were quite a distance away, but I managed to get one passable photo.  The babies were so adorable!


Snowy Plover adult with baby – these birds are very tiny!


Eared Grebe

At the oxbow of the refuge, there were quite a variety of birds gathered there.  I was a very happy birder!


Long-Billed Dowitcher


American Avocet


Blue-Winged Teal


Black-Necked Stilt


Wilson’s Phalarope


Cinnamon Teal

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Kelly (me) at the Oxbow at Bitter Lake NWR

While hiking around the refuge, I saw this beautiful lizard.  I can never resist photographing them. I have never seen this species before.  Such a gorgeous teal color.


Pai Striped Whiptail

After spending the morning at the refuge, we headed further south to Brantley Lake.  I had never been to this lake before.  The area we stopped at provided some good opportunities to see shore birds.  One of which was a Sanderling.  A lifer bird for me!


Snowy Plover




Semipalmated Sandpiper

At the lake we drove out to a point and were greeted by a flock of Forrester’s Terns.  And much to our delight, someone spotted at Black Tern and a Least Tern.  Both lifer birds for me!! I got some good photos of the Black and Forrester’s Terns, but sadly couldn’t get a pic of the Least Tern. Which is a shame because this was a rare sighting for the area.  Luckily my friend Joe got a photo.  🙂


Forester’s Tern


Black Tern

Next we headed to Rattlesnake Springs near White’s City, New Mexico.  I have never been here before.  I have to say, this place was truly gorgeous.  It is a wonderful oasis in the desert.  Birds everywhere!!!!

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Rattlesnake Springs

I was greeted by a Wild Turkey posing for the ladies.


Wild Turkey

And I was thrilled to see Vermillion Flycatchers everywhere! 🙂


Vermillion Flycatcher

As I was walking the park, I saw something ahead getting a drink from one of the irrigation channels.  When I looked through my camera lens, I realized it was a Javalena! I have never seen this animal in the wild before.  I soon realized there were three of them.  I stood very still as they moved toward me.  They walked within 5 feet of me! They must have poor eyesight because they were sniffing the air trying to figure out what I was.  When they got a good scent, they took off into the brush and disappeared.  Whew!





Soon the sun was setting and it was time to go.  But i was looking forward to returning to the springs the next morning.

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Sunset at Rattlesnake Springs

As I was leaving the park, I saw several birds flying low over the grasses.  By this time it was almost dark so I knew these birds had to be a nighthawk.  I surprised myself when I got a fairly decent photo of these birds as they flew by quickly in the very low light.  When I looked at the photo, I realized it was a Lesser Nighthawk.  Another lifer!


Lesser Nighthawk

The next morning, before returning to the springs, we headed to a place called Slaughter Canyon.  We had hoped to see Gray Vireo and Varied Bunting there.  We arrived at dawn.

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Entrance to Slaughter Canyon at Dawn

We hiked for about an hour.  We thought we heard a Gray Vireo but it turned out to be an Ash-Throated Flycatcher.  Just before getting back to our vehicles, someone spotted a Varied Bunting.  Yay!! A new bird for me! I was at the back of the line, so I didn’t get a very good look at the bird.  So I decided to stay a while longer and see if I could get a better photo of this gorgeous bird.

And it paid off big time to stay a little longer.  The bird flew past me and landed not too far away and with the sun behind me! 🙂 I was thrilled to see and hear this beautiful bird!  He was top of my “want to see” birds on this trip.


Varied Bunting

After that excitement of the morning, I headed back to Rattlesnake Springs.  When I arrived, there was birdsong everywhere.  I knew it was going to be a good morning for birding.

Surprising was the amount of Yellow-Breasted Chat singing a the tops of trees and bushes.  They are usually so shy.  So I had some great opportunities to photograph them.


Yellow-Breasted Chat

First I headed over to this area that had some reeds growing in the shallow waters of the spring.  I had heard some Common Yellowthroat singing.  And I was thrilled to see one singing on a tree branch just above the reeds.  This is another difficult to photograph shy bird.


Common Yellowthroat


While watching the Common Yellowthroat, I saw a first year male Indigo Bunting.  As he grows older he will eventually become all blue.


Indigo Bunting

I walked the entire length of the park and here’s some of the birds I saw.


Northern Mockingbird


Western Tanager – female


Wilson’s Warbler – female


Summer Tanager


Great Horned Owl


Northern Cardinal


Lesser Goldfinch


Black Phoebe

While enjoying the fish and turtles in the clear spring water of the pond, I heard a bird singing in the bushes next to me.


I didn’t recognize the song, so I knew it was a new bird for me.  When I saw the bird, I was excited to see it was a Bell’s Vireo.


Bell’s Vireo

While photographing the Bell’s Vireo, I heard yet another new birdsong in a bush behind me.  I managed to get one photo before the bird flew away.  It was an Orchard Oriole!  Another lifer!


Orchard Oriole

As I was heading back to my car, someone told me a Painted Bunting had been spotted.  I was thrilled!!!  I wanted to see this bird! I started looking in the area he was last spotted and soon heard him singing.  He would sing and then fly to a branch, then sing, then fly.  Eventually he flew to a branch that afforded a good view of him.  A stunning bird!


Painted Bunting

Just before the birdathon was to end, someone spotted a Gray Hawk flying overhead.  Everyone was excited as this was a lifer for most of our group, including me.  The hawk was soaring very high in the sky.  I managed to get one photo that shows the distinct tail bars of the hawk.


Gray Hawk

We then gathered together to go over the birds sighted by everyone over the last 24 hours.  We managed to tally 122 bird species! I got so many lifer birds on this trip.  It was so exciting to see new and beautiful birds.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s birdathon!

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