Jewels of the Desert

I believe the tiny little hummingbirds I get every summer are truly little jewels of the desert.  Their iridescent colors just shine like the most precious stones when the light hits them just right.

July and August are my peak months for hummingbirds.  In spring I get the Broad-Tailed and Black-Chinned Hummingbirds.  They nest here every year.  But starting early July, I get the migratory Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds.  It’s a wonderful time of year having all four variety of hummingbirds visiting my feeders.  I have 3 feeders that hold 2 cups of sugar water each.  During July and August I have to fill these feeders twice a day!

These little birds are very fast.  Catching them in flight is a real challenge.  I got a couple of decent shots in flight but I definitely need to improve on this technique.

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Broad-Tailed Hummigbird

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Some years it seems the birds are more brave than others.  This year they were a little more hesitant to let me photograph them.  I did manage to get a few nice shots.  Of the 4 species, the most bullying to other hummers and yet the most shy around people is the Rufous Hummingbird.  He’s the most challenging to get a decent photo.

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Rufous Hummingbird

The most challenging to get colors to show is the Black-Chinned Hummingbird.  They have to turn just right in the light to catch that gorgeous purple throat.  After many, many attempts, this is the only photo I got recently that shows the color.  Sadly it’s not a very good pic.  But I will keep trying!

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Black-Chinned Hummingbird

The most common visitor to my feeders is the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird.  Over the years I’ve only managed to find a couple of nests though I see plenty of females out there busily gathering nesting materials.  And come summer there are lots of young hummers at the feeders.

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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Look at that gorgeous color on his throat!

But my most favorite hummer is the Calliope Hummingbird. I love their unique feathers on their throat.  When fending off other hummers from the feeder, they can flare out those long pink feathers.  Just beautiful!   They are considerably smaller than the other 3 species I get.  They are the smallest breeding hummingbird in the US.  While the other species are generally 3 inches in length, this little guy is around 2.5 inches.  They have to really stretch their necks to sit and feed on my feeders.

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Calliope Hummigbird

So I think you will agree, hummingbirds are definitely little jewels of the desert!

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Calliope Hummingbird

 

A Weekend in Taos, New Mexico

My friend Dia and I went for a quick trip to Taos, New Mexico, recently.  My goal was to photograph several historic churches and see the Taos Pueblo and the graveyard there.

I needed to stop by a job site on the way there, so we decided to make a big circle for our road trip.  On the way to Taos we went through Las Vegas, New Mexico.   I mentioned to Dia there was a pretty little glacial lake just north of there.  One thing I’ve learned about Dia – take her to any kind of water and she’s a happy girl!

We were soon at Morphy Lake.  Such a peaceful place.  Set at a higher elevation, it was a nice 75 degrees there in hot summer.

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Morphy Lake

While walking the shore, I happened to notice a giant tadpole.  After further searching, we saw lots of them in different stages of changing into a frog.  We even saw some fully formed frogs.  I also saw an oddly colored fish.

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This frog still has his tadpole tail.

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hmmmmm….not sure what kind of fish this is

Then Dia saw a crawdad.  She’s fascinated by these guys! Soon she was trying to catch one.  After a couple of attempts, she got one!

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Slowly…..slowly…..closer……

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Got him!

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Success!

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Oh dear…. lol!

Soon we were on our way again.  We passed through a few small towns and past Sipapu Ski area.  We were climbing in elevation the entire drive.

We came upon a pretty stream.  Scarlett was wanting to get out for a bit.  Knowing how much she loves water, I figured this would be a nice place to stretch our legs.   Soon Dia and Scarlett were in the water having a fun time.  I swear I was traveling with two kids!  🙂

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Dia and Scarlett having fun! 

Once in Taos we ate lunch at a local restaurant called the Farmhouse that uses fresh farm grown produce.  Sadly the food really wasn’t very good and I can’t recommend a visit there to eat. But the grounds were pretty with a pond, wildflowers and garden spinners.

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Pond at the Farmhouse Restaurant

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I love garden spinners

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Funky Taos art

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Dia, Kelly & Scarlett

Then I noticed an old rusted truck out in a field.  As you’ve probably figured out by now, I can’t resist photographing old rusty things!!!

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I love all the different layers of paint (and a little bondo)

We also had to pose on this truck LOL!  But the metal was hot as fire making it difficult to do much. LOL!

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Kelly

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Dia

We ate at a local bar that is housed in the oldest building in Taos.  We had a great time having a couple of margaritas and playing shuffleboard.

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Delicious margaritas and it was happy hour!

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Kelly and Dia enjoying drinks on the patio

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Dia won both games of shuffleboard

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My silly friend!

Finally the sun was setting.  Time to get out for some sunset and blue hour photos of the mission at Ranchos de Taos.  This mission was built in 1772 and has been wonderfully kept over the years.

We got there just as the sun was setting.  It was a gorgeous evening.

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I especially loved this photo I captured.

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Dia wanted me to take a photo of her that made her look like a ghost.  After several attempts, I think I got a decent shot.  I’m only just learning how to do night photography.  I still have lots more to learn but having fun trying!

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Ghostly Dia

The next morning we got up early to visit Taos Pueblo.  We drove through the northern end of town to get there.  And wouldn’t you know it I saw one of my nemesis birds – the Black-Billed Magpie.  And I didn’t have my birding lens!  Ahhhhh!  These birds were everywhere.  After several attempts I did manage to get a decent pic with the setup I had on hand.

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Black-Billed Magpie

When we got to the pueblo, we found out it was closed due to a funeral.  😦  So I guess I will have to plan another trip there to see the sights on the pueblo.

We stopped for gas and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this crow in the parking lot.

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American Crow

Since our original destination was closed, we headed over to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  The morning was very hazy, so the photos really weren’t that good.  But we still had a fun time on the bridge and shopping the local artist tables there.  We each bought a pretty ring and earrings.  🙂

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Rio Grande Gorge

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Kelly’s feet – it’s a loooong way down to the river

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Dia and Kelly at the gorge bridge

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We even saw big horn sheep down in the gorge.

On the way home we took a different route.  We took the “High Road” back home.  This road takes you up high in the mountains through the quaint towns of Las Trampas and Truchas.  It was too bad the day was so hazy, because the views from this drive are amazing!

There’s a beautiful historical church in Las Trampas built in 1760.  It has some interesting details.  Plus there was also a House Sparrow pair busily building a nest.

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San Jose de Garcia Church

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This angel was carved above the door.

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House Sparrow

Further down the road is Truchas.  It’s perched high on a mountain with long reaching views.   As we were looking for the church there, we came upon a flock of Evening Grosbeak.  I still didn’t have my birding lens, so was challenged to get a decent pic. They are such beautiful birds.

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Evening Grosbeak

There is a quaint church off a small side road – Our Lady of the Rosary built in 1764.

Our last stop was at Chimayo.  The El Santuario de Chimayo is a National Historic Landmark and is famous for it’s healing holy dirt.  It was founded in 1816 and people pilgrimage here from all over to receive blessing and leave mementos of loved ones.  It would be easy to spend several hours here exploring and enjoying the peaceful setting.

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I loved the murals in this little side sanctuary

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While Dia and I walked around, we left Scarlett in the Jeep.  She was not happy with this decision.  LOL!

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Scarlett left in the Jeep – poor girl…..

We had a fun filled couple of days and saw lots of sights.  But I know I have to plan another trip in the future to see Taos Pueblo.

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Birds, Butterflies, Bees and more

Over the past few weeks I’ve been out and about enjoying the hot summer weather.  I try to hike every chance I get, which hasn’t been near as often as I’d like.

I went through Stanley a few times in the last couple weeks driving to Santa Fe and other places for work.  I hadn’t been here birding in a while so it was a nice change of scenery.  As always there’s the ever present Western Meadowlarks singing on all the fence posts.

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Western Meadowlark

There are always Swainson’s Hawks about in great numbers.  I managed to get a few nice photos.

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Swainson’s Hawk

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Swainson’s Hawk

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Swainson’s Hawk

Here are some of the other birds I’ve seen there lately.

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Blue Grosbeak

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Vesper Sparrow

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Red-Tailed Hawk – juvenile

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Brewer’s Blackbird – female

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Brewer’s Blackbird – male

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Horned Lark

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Barn Swallow

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Bullock’s Oriole

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Lark Sparrow

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Cassin’s Kingbird

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Cooper’s Hawk

The highlight of my Stanley trips though would have to be finding the Ferruginous Hawk’s nest.  I had found them out there a few years ago but their nest got taken out by strong winds.  They abandoned that nesting spot and I never figured out where they ended up.  Then one day recently I saw one sitting on a telephone pole.  He let me get pretty close for photos.  Which got me this awesome pic!

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Ferruginous Hawk

But then I started thinking maybe he didn’t fly off because there’s a nest nearby.  Now there are very few trees in Stanley as it is mostly comprised of crop farming.  But there happened to be a short, stumpy tree right near this telephone pole.  Now from the street you couldn’t even see the nest.  But when I walked to the other side of the tree, I saw almost fully fledged young ones.  I was thrilled to have found them again.  Now I know where to look next spring.  I’m thankful I found these guys before they left the nest this year.  In all I saw 3 young ones, but one was always shy for photos.

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Ferruginous Hawk – juvenile

One day I went to Glorietta to go hiking.  On the way there I stopped in at Lamy.  I had heard there was a Vermillion Flycatcher there.  As soon as I parked and got out of the car I heard him singing.  Such a beautiful bird!

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Vermillion Flycatcher

The trail was very pretty and cool being up in higher elevation and treed.  But there were lots of wildflowers and butterflies about.

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Field Crescent

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Mylitta Crescent

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Checkered White

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Western Pine Elfin

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Spring Azure

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Rocky Mountain Duskywing

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Western-Tailed Blue

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Pearl Crescent

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Hmmmmm…not sure what this one is

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Cloudless Sulphur

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Reakirt’s Blue

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Common Checkered Skipper

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Purplish Copper

I heard lots of birds on the trail, but I only managed to get one bird photo – an Evening Grosbeak.  Such uniquely colored birds.

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Evening Grosbeak

There were lots of bees out among the flowers.  New Mexico has hundreds of different types of bees.  So I’m always amazed when I see a variety while I’m hiking.

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Pretty red butt bee among the daisies

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Loving my new camera – took this hand held

I saw this fly land on the trail in front of me.   This guy was HUGE! Way bigger than most flies I see.  I’m dubbing him the Batman fly as I think he looks like Batman with those dark black wings and body.

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Batman fly 🙂

Just before leaving Glorietta, I came across a flock of Cliff Swallows gathering mud to build their nests.  It was fun watching them gather up the mud and fly off.

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Cliff Swallow

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Cliff Swallow

I’ve been in the Sandia’s off and on.  One day I specifically went to Capulin Spring.  I’m still so disappointed in the work they did there over the last year or so.  The birds are so skittish there now and there’s no natural cover for them or me.  So though I heard a lot of birds in the trees, I only saw a few that were brave enough to come to the spring while I was there.

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Western Tanager

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Northern Flicker

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

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Cordilleran Flycatcher

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Hermit Thrush

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I’m ready to get out there some more!  I love summertime!!!!

 

 

 

 

Nutria Canyon Hike and the Ice Cave

Recently my friend Dia and I spent a whole day exploring the area around El Morro near Grants, NM.  Our main destination was to find Nutria Canyon.   I’ve heard very little about this hike and there is minimal information online.  But there was this one tantalizing photo online that drew me back again and again during the winter months.  I knew I just had to find this place during the summer when my friend could join me.  It’s about 3 hours away from where I live, so I didn’t want to venture out on my own.

We started out early with hopes of getting to the canyon by around 9.  Sadly there was a lot of road construction that slowed us down.  Then, when we were in the general area, we just didn’t know where to go.  Luckily I saw this one dirt road that said Nutria Lake.  It was 25 miles sooner on the highway than my online directions were saying.   Thankfully, just as we turned onto the road a local came driving by.  They were very helpful and told us we were definitely in the right place.

Since the lake was just a little side trip off the road, we headed over to see it.  It was a pretty place with a few ducks enjoying the water.  We got out to enjoy the view and let Scarlett have a bathroom break.

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Nutria Lake

Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Scarlett started doing her “business” a pack of reservation dogs came out of nowhere heading straight for us.  Dia and I were calling Scarlett to HURRY! HURRY! get in the car.  But she just couldn’t finish her “business” quickly enough.  We were panicking by this time.  Dia ran to drag Scarlett to the car if need be, and I was opening the doors and grabbing the gun! Thankfully Scarlett hurried up and jumped in the car along with us in the nick of time! Whew! Needless to say, we left the lake and headed to our original destination.

The valley we were driving into was very lush.  We saw lots of happy horses and other livestock.  And there were prairie dogs EVERYWHERE!!!

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As we neared the trail head, we came upon a marshy area where Nutria Creek spills out of the canyon.  Just gorgeous!

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Marsh area near the trail head

Dia had just gotten a new tattoo on her entire back.  So she wasn’t able to carry a pack.  I told her I would carry everything in my pack (I’d do anything to go see this canyon!).  So when we arrived at the trail head, she started loading up my pack.  Wow! Heavy!

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That pack had to weigh 40 pounds!

I told her she had to at least carry the gun.  She gladly accepted that task!

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Dia packing heat!

The trail headed into the narrowing canyon with lush green trees and bushes.  It definitely beckoned us to head inside.

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Entrance to trail – so green!

Almost as soon as we started the trail, there was water.  Scarlett immediately dove in!

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Scarlett in her happy place!

Thankfully enough people have been on this trail that they have constructed makeshift boardwalks out of old pallets and scrap lumber.  They were rickety but effective to walk over the mud.

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We started climbing up above the creek and into a lush forest of oaks.  There were Yellow Warblers everywhere!  I didn’t bring my birding lens, so no bird pics this trip.  But so much birdsong in the canopy made me regret my decision to leave that lens at home.

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Kelly on the very lush trail.

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It was nice and cool in the shade

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We eventually met up with the creek again.  Then we turned a corner in the canyon and it opened up to a stunning view.  Beautiful steep red canyon walls and gorgeous green foliage.  We were getting close to where I saw that tantalizing photo so many months ago.

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Dia enjoying the view on this perfect seat.

Then there it was! A picturesque pond in this hidden canyon.  Stunning!  I was so wishing we had found the trail much sooner.  By this time it was noon and not the best conditions for photography.  But I did my best to capture some images that did the view justice.

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Gorgeous!

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I loved the reflections in the pond.

I just had to have a photo of me and Scarlett in this beautiful spot.

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

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Scarlett and Kelly

The day was warming up quickly.  Scarlett was tempted to jump down into that pond.  We kept having to tell her no.

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It was sooooo tempting to jump in…

Eventually we made it around and down to that pond and she was a happy girl!

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Such a peaceful place

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Scarlett loved the ponds.  Cool and refreshing water to play in.

We hung around here for a while as the trail just became too congested with brush to continue on.  I had hoped to explore further but this is just not a well known place.  So there isn’t enough foot traffic to keep the trail open.

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Untouched beauty

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Scarlett kept on eye on me as I navigated the big boulders

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Beautiful

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Dia and Kelly

Eventually we headed back to the car.  We still had quite a bit of daylight left to the day.  So we decided to visit the Ice Cave.  I had never been, and Dia said it had been a long while since she had been there.

On the way out, we decided to stop at a few of the abandoned homes in the valley.  They are interesting to explore.  Just a plethora of things to photograph!

 

We had lunch at the Ancient Way Cafe.  It’s a tiny little place, but the food is good and the desserts were outstanding! They have quite a baker working there.

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Our sandwich was shaped just like a Bigfoot footprint!

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!

The visitor’s center at the ice cave was very interesting.  It’s amazing what they found down in that hole.  Centuries of history perfectly preserved.  I highly recommend you take the time to look around at all the treasures jammed into this small building.

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Look at those giant perfectly whole Indian pots!

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Fascinating!

The Ice Cave offers two hikes.  One up to the Bandera Volcano and one down to the ice cave. We hiked the volcano first since we knew we would cool off at the ice cave. 🙂

It was a short and relatively uninteresting hike.

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Bandera Volcano

At the top of the trail, Dia collapsed due to lack of a Starbuck’s for hours.  I told her to hang in there.  We will get her one soon.

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Where’s Starbucks????????? she wailed

The Ice Cave was much more interesting.  The trail to the cave takes you through the basalt fields left by the volcano.  It makes you wonder how anyone found that ice cave so long ago.  It had to have been quite the challenge to navigate through that jagged sharp basalt.

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Basalt field

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A blooming cactus brought beauty to the stark view.

The area was called The Devil’s Playground by early settlers.  It’s easy to see why.  While hiking to the cave we came across this unique dead juniper.  I took a picture of Dia there being her naughty self.  She then took my photo and edited it to fit the area’s nickname.  🙂

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Dia being evil…

At the cave you climb down a steep set of stairs.

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Kelly and Scarlett ready to descend

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Steep stairs

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There it is deep below the surface.

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As you descended you could really feel the temperature dropping.  It was quite refreshing after a hot climb up the volcano.

I didn’t let Scarlett go all the way to the bottom.  You could see what she thought about that…..

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The inside of the cave was beautiful.  I tried to capture the colors in the cave by setting my camera to a slow shutter speed.  Just beautiful.

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The colors in the rock ceiling were so beautiful.

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The ice had a green cast to it.  It made for a lovely contrast with all the colors in the rock formation.

Too soon we were heading home.  On the way out we saw a few Mule Deer.  One was more curious than the others and had a beautiful shaggy coat.

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Mule Deer

When we got to Grants, Dia had to have her Starbucks.  But she almost had a big tantrum when she realized there wasn’t a Starbucks there.  It was hilarious!

The drive home was long due to yet more road construction.  But the day’s adventures had been fabulous (even with the lack of Starbuck’s at the end).  🙂

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65 miles to go until home….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding at San Angelo State Park and Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge

On my way home from Port Aransas, Texas, I took time to bird in San Angelo State Park in San Angelo, Texas, and at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge at Roswell, New Mexico.

My drive to San Angelo was mostly rainy.  So I didn’t have any opportunities to bird that day.  I did stop in a little town to get a pic of an old building that looked interesting.

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I arrived in San Angelo with steady rain.  When I awoke the next morning, it was pretty foggy.  So birding conditions were not good at all.  But I still managed to get a quite a few sightings. I didn’t stay long as I wanted to have some time to bird at Bitter Lake.

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Bullock’s Oriole

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

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Bell’s Vireo

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Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

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Pyrrhuloxia

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Lark Sparrow

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Cactus Wren

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Black Vultures

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Canyon Towhee

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Brown-Headed Cowbird

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Black-Crested Titmouse

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Bobwhite Quail

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Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

The best find of the morning was seeing a female Vermillion Flycatcher building her nest.  She would get some moss or grass and place it in the nest and then check it for comfort.  Then go get another piece to add.  I never did see the male.

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Vermillion Flycatcher – female

There wasn’t too much activity at Bitter Lake as I arrived there around midday.  After driving around for a little while and hiking a couple of short paths, I managed to find a few birds.

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Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler – Myrtle Variety

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Lark Sparrow

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Green Heron

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Cinnamon Teal

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Scaled Quail

The highlight of the day though was seeing a variety of nightjars! These birds are so difficult to find in the wild.  But on this visit, they were all perched out in the open and very close to the road.  Awesome! I was able to get some good photographs!  Even with that advantage, it was still very difficult to identify the birds.  I mostly used size as a reference for the Common Poorwill as it is the smallest of the nightjars.  The Common Nighthawk flew and sang right after I took the up-close photo which made it easy to identify.

I think you’ll agree these are really cool birds!

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Common Poorwill

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Lesser Nighthawk

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Common Nighthawk

That concludes my 10-day trip to the gulf coast and all the wonderful bird sightings I was able to see during my travels.  I got 27 new lifers and my total number of lifer bird sightings is now at 396!!!

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Pronghorn Antelope

Birding from Melrose Trap to San Angelo, TX

I recently took a trip to the Gulf Coast town of Port Aransas, Texas, to spend a week at the beach with my folks.  I drove a route that would take me past one of the best birding spots in New Mexico for sheltering spring and fall migrants.  This place is called Melrose Trap near Fort Sumner, New Mexico.  The reason it’s so good is because it’s one of the few places in that vast flat area that has a large patch of trees that has been left wild for many many years and there’s not much human presence for miles.  The undergrowth is so thick, it’s difficult to navigate your way around this small forest.  But because of this, the migratory birds absolutely love it.  It is well known for harboring rare sightings during migration due to storms that can send a bird off its normal migration course.

I had noticed on eBird that recently two rare sighting warblers were seen at Melrose Trap:  Swainson’s Warbler and Worm-Eating Warbler.  The Swainson’s normal territory is in the coastal states from Texas to Florida.  The Worm-Eating Warbler has a larger territory but most usually seen from Texas east.

Before getting to Melrose Trap, I stopped in at Fort Sumner and visited Bosque Redondo Park.  It has a little stream-fed pond and is usually a good birding spot.  It was a nice stop for Scarlett and I to stretch our legs after a couple hours of driving. During this visit, I saw the usual Red-Winged Blackbird showing off their striking plumage.

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Red-Winged Blackbird

I saw quite few birds, but nothing was being very cooperative for photos until I spotted a Gray Catbird.  I had only seen this bird once before briefly while visiting my friend Kelly in Atlanta.  So it was wonderful to not only see this bird more closely though briefly, but hear his unusual song.

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Gray Catbird

While driving back to the highway, I saw this cute foal with it’s mother, who had the most glossy coat I think I’ve ever seen on a horse.  Adorable!

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Upon arriving at Melrose Trap, I noticed a couple of fellow birders there from Albuquerque.  We quickly joined forces to hunt for these warblers.  While looking for these birds in the thick vegetation, I enjoyed photographing a few of the more regular sightings for the area.

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Northern Mockingbird

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Western-Wood Pewee

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Western Kingbird

One of the highlights of the day was seeing a pair of American Kestrals nesting in the area.  I happened to catch one of the birds holding breakfast for their babies.

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American Kestral

Soon I heard someone call “Wormer!”  I quickly headed in that direction hoping to see that warbler.  But I missed it.  In the process I gave myself a 6-inch gash along the back of my thigh trying to navigate quickly through the thick mess of broken limbs and undergrowth that litter the floor of this grove.  Ouch!!!  Note to self:  wear long pants next time!

While I was trying not to scream or dance around like an idiot due to the sharp pain of my new wound, I looked down and saw the Swainson’s Warbler foraging on the ground.  As I was taking a photo, I alerted the others of my sighting.  It stayed deep in the shadow but fortunately moved slowly enough that we all got a nice look at the bird.  Lifer!!

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Swainson’s Warbler

Soon after that I saw a blackbird in bush in the distance.  As I took a picture I saw it’s red eye gleam in the rare shaft of sunlight coming through the thick canopy.  Another lifer for me!  A Bronzed Cowbird.  I was lucky enough to get one crappy photo before he disappeared never to be seen again.

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Bronzed Cowbird

I needed to hit the road as I still had hours of driving ahead of the me to get to San Angelo.  Just as I was about to leave, another sighting of the Worm-Eating Warbler was called out.  This time I managed to get over to the area without further injuring myself (whew!) and managed to get a couple photos of this bird way up high in the canopy.  As is usual with warblers, this guy was moving fast!  So even though my photos weren’t very good, I was still thrilled to capture an image of this lifer bird.

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Worm-Eating Warbler

I hated to leave this great birding spot, but knew I must.  As I was getting into my car, I noticed a thrush foraging on the ground not too far away.  When I zoomed in with my camera, I saw it was a Swainson’s Thrush.  Lifer!!! I wasn’t expecting to see this bird, so it was a nice surprise.  Four lifers in 30 minutes!!!  🙂

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Swainson’s Thrush

Upon reviewing my photos when I got in my car, I noticed I was still having issues trying to get a good focus with my new camera.  I was struggling with focusing on a fast-moving bird among leaves, limbs and grasses.  I needed to get this camera figured out!

My next stop was outside Clovis, New Mexico, at a large, beautiful park called Ned Houk Memorial Park.  It has 3 ponds and lots of trees with manicured lawns.  Scarlett enjoyed running and stretching her legs.  We were practically the only ones there that morning.

We were greeted by a Western Meadowlark hopping across the parking lot.  I always have a hard time getting them to show me their beautiful bright yellow breast feathers.  As usual, this bird only showed me his plain back.

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Western Meadowlark

I noticed a large number of Barn Swallows nesting in the area around the shelters over picnic tables.  I managed to get a photo of one with a mouthful of mud for its nest.  🙂

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Barn Swallow

There was one nest that was just low enough that I could hold my phone over my head to get a photo of the inside of the nest.  They had lined their nest with some soft, white duck feathers.  🙂

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Barn Swallow eggs

I knew from a previous visit that Great Horned Owls nested in a large cottonwood in this park.  I figured I was too late to see any babies, but thought I would check the location just in case.  I was rewarded with seeing an adult snoozing in the tree.  He kept a sharp eye on Scarlett.

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Great Horned Owl

My next stop was at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge.  I had never stopped in here before so I thought I would take the quick detour to see what it was like.  It has several lakes (more like ponds…), but seemed like one lake in particular was popular on eBird.  I saw lots of prairie dogs and one burrowing owl way off in the distance.

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Baby prairie dog – so cute!

Among the short grasses and flowers, I spotted a large flock of Lark Buntings.  I never can seem to get a good photo of these birds.  This is the best I got on this day.

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Lark Bunting male

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Lark Bunting female

When I got to the lake, I noticed a busload of kids had just unloaded.  With all their noise, I figured any birds in the area had moved on.  The only bird I spotted was this Lark Sparrow.

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Lark Sparrow

I didn’t stay long and headed back to the highway.  Just as I was about to turn onto the highway,  I saw several variety of sparrows in the area.  I was thrilled to get this good photo of a Grasshopper Sparrow.  I had seen this bird once before, and the distance was too great for a decent pic.

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Grasshopper Sparrow

My next stop was at Big Spring.  I’ve never stopped here before, so decided to walk around the lake so Scarlett could do her business and stretch her legs.  I’m so glad I stopped in.  It was a beautiful afternoon and the birds were active.  I got a mockingbird holding a worm to take back to the nest.

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Northern Mockingbird

Here are a couple other birds I saw there.

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Muscovy Ducks

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House Sparrow

As I was heading back to the car, I noticed some birds I thought at first were Barn Swallows but they sounded different.  Upon closer inspection, I realized they were Purple Martin babies.  Lifer!!!  I looked for a parent bird, but none showed up while I waited.  But the babies were adorable waiting for their dinner to arrive.

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Purple Martin juvenile

It was dark by the time I made it to San Angelo.  I woke up early to spend some time birding there before I had to hit the road again.  I visited beautiful Spring Creek Park.  It was a lovely morning and birds were EVERYWHERE!!!

My first sighting was of two young Great Horned Owls.  They will soon be in the more adult plumage.

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Great Horned Owl juvenile

I heard a flycatcher nearby.  It looked like an Ash-Throated Flycather, but sounded nothing like one.  After searching my bird app, I realized it was a lifer for me – a Great Crested Flycather.

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A starling was busy feeding its greedy baby.

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European Starling

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European Starling

Across the lake I noticed a huge rookery.  It had all kinds of egrets noisily nesting.  I enjoyed sitting for awhile watching all the activity.

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Rookery with a posturing Great Egret

A spotted a pair of Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers bringing in breakfast for their young.

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Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers

Before leaving, my last sighting was of this Great Blue Heron catching a nice breakfast.

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Great Blue Heron

I was happy to note that I was doing much better with the focus of my new camera.  I figured by the end of 10 straight days of birding, I would be an expert! LOL!

Next post:   Port Aransas, Texas.  So many lifers!!!!  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonderful Spring Birding with a New Lifer Sighting

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.

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Bleeding Hearts

A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.

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Cooper’s Hawk

The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂

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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.

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

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Green Heron

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Baby Mallard

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Summer Tanager

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.

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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.

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Canada Geese

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.

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Western Grebe

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.

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Say’s Phoebes

I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well.  They are such beautiful birds

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Black Phoebe

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.

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Osprey

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.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

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.

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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.

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baby Killdeer

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.

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Shady Lakes

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.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.

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I noticed a moth feeding among the irises.  These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.

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White-Lined Sphinx Moth

The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!

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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.

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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.

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Hermit Thrush

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Hermit Thrush

A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.

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Western Tanager

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.

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Black-Headed Grosbeak

I’m thrilled spring is here.  I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived.  🙂

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