Blood Moon and Birds

Well…it just doesn’t get any better than that!

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.

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Moon over Albuquerque

The eclipse happened fast.  Just a few shots later, the moon was becoming mostly red.

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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!

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Blood Moon

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.

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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.

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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!

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Ring-Billed Gulls

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.

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You can see the size difference of the gull to the Bald Eagle

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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.

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Common Merganser female

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There are 3 Black-Crowned Night Herons in the trees

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Great Blue Heron

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Common Mergansers – 2 males and 1 female

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Black Phoebe

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Wood Duck pair

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Mallards with a Killdeer

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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!

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Scarlett having fun in the water

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So much fun to run in the shallow water

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She likes to bite at the water as she plays

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My beautiful girl

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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.

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Marsh Wren

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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.

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Cactus Wren

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.

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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!

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Golden-Crowned Sparrow

Now it was time to go home and take a nap!!! (work could wait LOL!)

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Mallard feather on the frozen beach of the Rio Grande

 

Last Birding Trip of 2017

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.

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Boardwalk through the marsh

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A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area

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Quiet solitude

I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.

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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.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.

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Northern Harrier

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Cooper’s Hawk

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American Kestral

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Northern Harrier

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American Bald Eagles

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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.

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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.

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Bufflehead – male

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Northern Pintail

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Bufflehead – female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Northern Shoveler

Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.

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Snow Geese

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.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!

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Song Sparrow

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Gambel’s Quail

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Marsh Wren

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White-Winged Dove

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House Finch

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.

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Crissal Thrasher

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. 🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

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.

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Clark’s Grebe

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.

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Quebradas Scenic Route

Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.

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Mule Deer

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.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Cranes

While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!

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Super Moon

I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.

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Just beautiful…

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While hiking the trails, a train came through. 🙂

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 1

Recently my friend Dia and I took a long weekend to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) near Estes, Colorado.  We have talked about going there for about 5 years.  Finally our schedules came together and we were able to go.  I have long wanted to visit this national park.  The photos I’ve seen from there are just stunning.  Water everywhere!  (Unlike New Mexico LOL!)

It took us about 10 hours to drive there, due to the many stops made at Starbucks 🙂

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Kelly and Dia getting their Starbucks fix!

We arrived at the entrance sign to Estes Park late in the day.  Of course, we had to take a pic there of us in our matches dresses.  🙂

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We made it!  Don’t you love our matching dresses!?  🙂

There were several Black-Billed Magpies around and one was happy to pose for me on the sign.  I guess they are no longer a nemesis of mine LOL!

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Black-Billed Magpie

We knew it was going to be crowded every day there as we were visiting during peak season.  So we made plans to go to bed early and get up very early to beat the crowds.  It proved to be a great plan as we found when we were leaving the trails that’s when most people were heading out.  Doing this allowed us to visit the spectacular park with minimal intrusion of other people.  There’s nothing more discouraging to a photographer than to have a beautiful setting for a photo crowded out with masses of tourists.

Dia has been to RMNP a few times in the past.  I had never been before.  So I followed her lead on what to see first.  Her favorite drive is up Old Fall River Road.  A one-way dirt road that climbs to the highest point in the park.  When I looked at the map, I realized a couple of the waterfalls I wanted to photograph were on this route.  Yay!

Our first stop was at the Allivial Fan Falls.  This waterfall was created by a major flood due to a failure in a dam upstream.

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Alluvial Fan Falls

Heading up Old Fall River Road, we saw so many beautiful sights.  Everywhere you looked, it was a Kodak moment. Dia drove my Jeep so I could take photos.  She loves driving my Jeep – especially off road.  🙂 At one point, Dia almost ran over a marmot who had no fear of the Jeep.  Evidently he’s used to tourists feeding him as they pass.

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Kelly and her Jeep (not her husband’s Jeep) 😉

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Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road

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Marmot

I especially loved this little waterfall at the beginning of the drive.  There was no formal trail, just enough of a path to view the water closer.

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Further up the road we came to Chasm Falls – another waterfall on my “must see” list.  What a beautiful waterfall coming through the narrow canyon.

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Looking downstream

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Scarlett, Kelly & Dia

Scarlett loves water – so of course we had to let her play a little before hitting the road again.

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Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂

Soon we were climbing higher and higher.  The views expanded.  Just glorious!

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Gorgeous views from Old Fall River Road.

We eventually rose above the tree line.  Beautiful!  We came across patches of wildflowers.  Everything was so green – way different from New Mexico.

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Just before reaching the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center, we came across more marmot.  I liked how this one posed nicely for me.

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Marmot

The views at the visitor center overlooking a glacial cirque were truly breathtaking.   The grasses were so lush and the snow provided a beautiful contrast to the photos.

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Glacial Cirque

There is a hike from the visitor’s center that takes you to a peak.  It was tough going considering there was very little oxygen at 12,000 feet above sea level.  The views from the top were amazing.  I love exploring!

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Trail from the visitor’s center.

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Breathtaking views!

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Dia

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Where’s Starbucks???!!!!!

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Views of the visitor center from the top of the trail.

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Dia, Kelly and Scarlett at the top!

After a brief stop at the Visitor’s Center, we decided to take the drive to Grand Lake.  We wound our way back down the other side of the mountain.  At the bottom we took a short hike to stretch our legs and enjoy the beautiful weather.  I saw several sparrows in this area but only managed to get one pic of a Savannah Sparrow.

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Such a lush valley of green

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These squirrels found a good home.

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Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂

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This was the only butterfly I saw that day. Terrible photo as I didn’t have my birding lens.  I believe this is a Mormon Fritillary

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Savannah Sparrow

As we made our way toward Grand Lake we saw a turn off for Lake Irene.  What a serene little lake.

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Lake Irene

As we left Irene Lake we saw a bunch of folks looking into the dense brush along the road.  We figured they’d spotted something good.  And indeed they had – a moose!  Actually two moose – a mother and calf.  They were a ways away and in dense brush, but I managed to get a couple photos.  I’d never seen a moose before!

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Moose with calf

We also saw some nice bull Elk along the road.  One was really enjoying the good life of summer.

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Very healthy bull Elk

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Enjoying summer

Near Grand Lake I spotted an Osprey nest.  It’s always a good day when you see a bird of prey.

 

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Osprey

Grand Lake was very touristy and actually not in RMNP.  So we turned around and decided to drive the Ridge Road back to Estes Park.  Once again we were in store for more stunning views way above the tree line.

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Click, click, click….I took over 5,000 photos on this trip! Yikes!

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Expansive views

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I love the high alpine meadow flowers – so small and delicate.

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Dia and Kelly

At one point we saw a nice herd of elk.  They were grazing in the high meadows well above 11,000 feet.  They have a very picturesque home.

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Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.

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So many smells!!!!

We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.

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Hmmmm…look at my Jeep keys precariously dangling from Dia’s hand….

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Glacier at 12,000 feet.  I love the blue pool of water in the lower right.

While taking photos, Dia noticed a little brown bird hopping just below us.  I quickly got my birding lens and was happy to see it was a Brown-Capped Rosy Finch.

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Brown-Capped Rosy Finch

Further down the road we stopped at another pullout.  There were lots of folks feeding the birds and squirrels here.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take close up photos of the rather tame squirrels.

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What a cutie!

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excuse me…you have something in the corner of your mouth…

But I was thrilled to see a Clark’s Nutcracker here looking for handouts.  I’ve only seen this bird once before several years ago in Santa Fe.  I’ve heard them a few times since then, but never saw them for a photo.  So it was great to see this bird close up!

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Clark’s Nutcracker

The views from this location were beautiful.  You could see the entire valley below.  You can even see the Alluvial Fan Falls area we had visited in the morning.

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It was a full day of fun!!!  Off to bed early for another full day of exploring!

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These flowers were extremely tiny!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding in Southeast Arizona – Day 2

Our first full day was to be spent in the hills around Arivaca, AZ.  Tim planned on prospecting for gold while I searched for birds.  The area is very arid with rolling hills.

This day was also Scarlett’s 2nd Birthday!  🙂

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Happy Birthday Scarlett!

On the way to the hills, we passed through the small town of Arivaca.  Among the tall trees around town, vultures were warming themselves up for a day of soaring.  I was happily surprised to see both Black and Turkey Vultures.

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Turkey Vulture on the left.  Black Vulture on the right.

We finally made it to the hills.  The views were expansive.

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Hills around Arivaca, AZ

As soon as I got out of the truck, I heard birdsong everywhere.  I thought to myself, “this is going to be a good day!”  🙂

On my list of birds to find, was the Rufous-Winged Sparrow.  As we were driving along the road to our destination, I figured I better play its song so I knew what to look for.  We had the windows down in the truck.  When I played the recording of the birdsong, we heard one reply outside the window.  Bingo!!!  I was gonna see this new bird for me!  And almost as soon as I started exploring around the truck, I saw one singing in a large bush.

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Rufous-Winged Sparrow

I had a great time hiking the area.  I saw so many birds.  As barren as the place looked, it was really full of life.

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Black-Throated Sparrow

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Phainopepla

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Pyrrhuloxia

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

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Verdin with soft stuff to line its nest 🙂

One bird I saw and heard everywhere was the Lucy’s Warbler.  But it was a challenge trying to get a photograph of this quick, tiny bird!

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Lucy’s Warbler

Another bird I heard often was the Bewick’s Wren.  But in this part of the country, it’s song is way more simplified than where I live.  So it took me a while to realize it was the same species.

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Bewick’s Wren

I saw a few butterflies that day as well.  Most of them were new butterflies for me.   My friend Joe will hopefully tell me if I’ve incorrectly identified any.

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Empress Leilia

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Dotted Roadside Skipper

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Marine Blue

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Pahaska Skipper

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Mormon Metalmark

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Desert Checkered Skipper

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Common Streaky Skipper

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Tiny Checkerspot

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Pacuvius Duskywing

Near the end of the day, we decided to move to a different area so Tim could explore a different gold claim.  I was surprised at how the area offered different birds even though we only drove a few miles.

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Bell’s Vireo

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Cassin’s Vireo

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

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Juvenile Golden Eagle

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Canyon Towhee

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American Crow

We had a wonderful day together.  The weather was gorgeous, the birds plentiful and fun times exploring.  More fun ahead!

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