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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!!

 

 

 

 

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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Taking a break…

From blogging about my 20th Anniversary trip.  🙂   Don’t worry, I will get it finished here this coming week.  I’m sure you’re looking forward to seeing my photos from Zion National Park.

Fall is in full swing here in New Mexico.  I managed to get out for a few short hikes.

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Fall colors along Sandia Crest

One day Scarlett and I went to Corrales and walked the irrigation ditch.  Birding was pretty quiet that day.  But I managed to get a few decent pics.

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American Robin

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Western Tanager

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Blue Grosbeak juvenile

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Lesser Goldfinch

But the highlight of the day was seeing a porcupine that had come out of the brush to get a drink.  He took his sweet time getting a drink and then he started walking towards Scarlett and I.  I kept a tight hold on Scarlett’s leash in case she felt the need to go inspect him closer.  He came within a few feet of us.  He then stopped and shook himself several times.  Scarlett had her nose stretched out getting good sniffs in.  That guy was stinky!

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Porcupine

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Getting in a good shake

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You can see his orange teeth and big claws

Walking in the area around my home I came across a few good birds.  They are enjoying the various wildflowers that have started turning to seed.

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Mountain Chickadee

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Hammond’s Flycatcher

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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You can see pollen on its beak

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Lovely!

On one afternoon I was able to stop in at the Rio Grande Nature Center.  It was pretty quiet there except for an inquisitive Greater Roadrunner.  He cooperated nicely for a few pics.

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Greater Roadrunner

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I love the colors on these birds

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Watching me closely

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I love these birds!

I babysat Valerie’s dog Mya for 10 days.  We went on several short walks.  Scarlett was thrilled to have her best friend along.  Scarlett taught Mya how to pose for photos.  🙂

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Mya and Scarlett

Scarlett started her heat.  I have a small Chihuahua named Henry.  He normally snubs Scarlett whenever she tries to socialize with him.  But during her heat he’s been in love with her!

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Henry flirting with Scarlett

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She was loving the attention!

When Henry wasn’t flirting with Scarlett, he was hunting lizards in the yard.  I caught him watching a lizard on the side of the house.

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Henry watching a lizard who’s watching a grasshopper

While digging in the garden I dug up a juicy grub.  To reward the lizard for putting up with Henry, I tossed the grub where he could get it.  He quickly grabbed it up and ran behind the garden fence under a drain spout.  It took some doing, but I was able to get a photo of him trying to eat that fat grub.

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Happy lizard!

Scarlett and Mya were hanging out in the garden with me too.

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

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Beautiful Mya

I love fall but it never seems to last long enough….

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Summer is over….

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 3 Nevada

We finally made it to Winnemucca, Nevada.  You’re probably scratching your head asking, “Where are they? Why did they go there? How do you pronounce that?!”  All valid questions!  LOL!  We got that a lot when we would tell friends and family where we were going on our trip.

As you know, my passions are birding and photography.  I’m happiest outdoors with camera in hand. Well, my husband is happiest when he has his metal detector in his hand.  He’s a geologist and loves to hunt for gold.  There aren’t too many hobbies out there that actually make money instead of spending it.  🙂

Tim had read about a well known area in northern Nevada that was known for shallow placer gold.  It’s called Rye Patch.  And it’s located about 40 miles west of Winnemucca, Nevada.  It was discovered in the 1970s and has been a popular destination for gold hunters ever since.

So we got up early and drove out to Rye Patch State Recreation Area, a man-made lake which is fed by the Humboldt River.  We crossed the dam and headed to the Majuba Mountain range.  The gold is reported to be at the base of these mountains.

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect the countryside to be like when we were planning this trip.  I had imagined beautiful forested mountains with a peaceful lake.  It definitely wasn’t that.
The terrain was actually high plains.  There wasn’t one cactus that I could see, which was great!  It made for much easier walking through the grasses.  There wasn’t one tree in sight.

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Rye Patch gold area in the foreground with Rye Patch lake in the background

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Golden grasslands for miles

When we finally parked after driving for 15 miles or so on dirt roads, Tim noticed right away we had gotten a punctured tire.  Drat! But fortunately, he had a mini compressor in the truck and we were able to air up the tire which would give us time to drive the 30 miles to a little town near Rye Patch to get it fixed.  So with no worries, we each started exploring the area.

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So glad Tim had this compressor or he would have had to change a tire!

There weren’t any trees, but I did notice a thick stand of bushes about 100 feet away.  So I headed in that direction hoping to find some birds.  I figured any birds in the area would be drawn to those bushes.  It turned out to be a good idea.  I saw most of my birds in this small area.  I was excited to see a warbler as my first bird sighting of the day.

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

The most prolific bird of the day was Sagebrush Sparrows.  They were everywhere and didn’t limit themselves to the little area of bushes.  They migrate to New Mexico for the winter and are not easy to find there.  So I was thrilled to have so many subjects to see.

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Sagebrush Sparrow

 

Here are the other birds I saw in that little area of bushes.  Birds were scarce!

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Brewer’s Sparrow

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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

My friend Valerie texted me to see what I was up to that day.  So I took this picture just for her.  LOL!  She tells me I take photos of every rusted thing I see.  😉

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Rusty soda can circa 1970s  😉

I had thought I would see lots of lizards.  Back home in New Mexico I usually see lizards often when I’m out hiking.  But not so in this part of the country.  I had gone most of the day without seeing one lizard.  Then finally I spotted a tiny lizard sunning himself on a rock.  I slowly crept closer to get a photo.

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Western Fence Lizard

I soon realized he was very tame and didn’t seem to mind me coming closer.  Before I knew it, I was 3 feet away taking photos of all angles.  🙂  At one point I reached out a finger to see if he would move.  And he licked it!   LOL!!

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Western Fence Lizard

I noticed some movement on the ground while photographing this lizard.  When I turned, I saw there was a sparrow foraging on the ground.  So I quickly got a pic.

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Savannah Sparrow

While I was entertaining myself with birds and lizards, Tim was busy looking for gold.  I could tell he had covered a lot of ground.

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Tim working hard looking for gold

 

At one point, Tim got my attention and pointed to the sky.  There we saw a Red-Tailed Hawk looking for brunch.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I decided to head back to the truck for a cold drink.  The day had gotten warm at 90 degrees.  As I neared the truck, I saw a giant lizard run under a bush.  I quickly forgot about that drink.  I wanted to see this lizard! I stayed still and watched the opening at the base of the bush where I saw it run in.  Soon I was rewarded with my patience!  He started creeping out of his lair.  This big guy was easily 12 inches long if not longer.

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard coming out of his lair

I guess he decided I wasn’t a threat and quickly started hunting.  I was able to take quite a few photos of this beautiful lizard.  A real treat!

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

Then I heard Tim calling me.  He wanted me to video him digging up a target.  Now I always tell him every time he asks me to video him, the target usually is trash.  It’s like I jinx it.

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Narrowing down the location of the target. 

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Using tweezers to scrape in the cracks of bedrock.

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He then uses a straw (or in this case a dismantled ball-point pen) to blow out the dirt and hopefully reveal the gold in a crack

Sure enough, this target was trash…a .22 bullet.  Sigh….  But in the end he did find a nugget.  And what he thought might be a silver nugget.  But when he was able to clean it up, he decided it was a piece of lead.

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While exploring the area, I came across a lone blooming bush.  Most of the area’s bushes were done blooming.  So this was a very popular bush with the bees and wasps.

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I like the green eyes

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A busy bee 🙂

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Wasp

While photographing the bees, I noticed this spider lair.  The opening to the hole was about an inch in diameter.  That’s a big spider!  I caught a few bugs and threw them in the web in hopes of getting a photo of this spider.  But he was just too fast! I didn’t think to video him at the time.  Ah well….

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Funnel Web Spider lair

After a full day of fun, we aired up the tire and headed to Lovelock, NV, to get the tire repaired and get a bite to eat.  We stopped briefly at the campground along the Humboldt River to see what birds might be about.  We couldn’t stay long as the tire was losing air!

But I did get a few more bird photos.  🙂

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A hot Horned Lark

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Great Egret

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Snowy Egrets

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Snowy Egret

As we entered Lovelock Tim spotted a nice group of Wild Turkeys in a farm field but I didn’t have my camera ready and missed the shot.  Dang!

We still had some daylight left after visiting Lovelock.  So we decided to explore the area some before heading back to Winnemucca.  I had seen on the map there were Tufa Formations nearby.  We didn’t know what these were, so we went looking for them.  We drove, and drove, and drove and climbed up a mountain…but no Tufa Formations.  We were on a very curvy dirt road.  At one point we had a horrifying experience!  A Sheriff’s SUV came flying around a curve  going about 60 mph and saw us at the last minute.  He slammed on the breaks and turned sideways sliding towards us, dirt flying, and me screaming! Thankfully he narrowly missed us and just kept on going.   He didn’t have any lights or sirens going, so we had not idea he was heading towards us at such a breakneck speed.  I’m so glad we escaped what could have been a horrible accident.

Along this dirt road, Tim spotted a cool rock formation.  It’s handy having a geologist in the car.  🙂

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Columnar Jointing

Soon we were at the top of the mountain.  Tim asked me, “Where are these Tofu formations supposed to be?”   I laughed and said it’s “Tufa” and I think we passed them.

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View from the top of the mountain outside of Lovelock, NV

So we headed back down the mountain, with one eye looking out for that crazy sheriff.  When we got back to the highway, we realized the Tufa Formations were right there.  Pretty nondescript and not worth hiking to them to get a photo.  But during our day we had seen a squirrel that moved as fast as lightening.  Now I had tried to get a photo of this speedy guy, but he was just too quick! We saw another one of these squirrels as were we heading back to the highway.  This one ran lickety split to a far hill and stopped briefly.  Long enough to get a quick pic.  Then off in a flash he was gone!

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Harris’s Antelope Squirrel – it holds it’s tail over its back to shade itself.

We then drove to the Humboldt Mountain range looking for an old ghost town called Willow Creek.  We didn’t find Willow Creek but we did find Star City.

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Road to Star City

It was a beautiful drive up the mountain on a skinny dirt road following a stream.  Most of the time you couldn’t see the stream as it was hidden by thick vegetation.  But at the base of the mountain, the stream was dammed and rerouted.  We passed a few folks camping by the stream.

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Small dam on the way to Star City

 

We didn’t see but a few crumbling foundations at the site of Star City.  We were running out of daylight to explore for more ruins.  But the drive was beautiful and the views were grand.

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View from Star City

By now it was almost dark, so time to head home.  We were treated to a beautiful sunset.

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Beginning of a beautiful sunset

Stay tuned for Day 4!

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Late Summer Birds and Critters

I was able to get out a couple times this week for walks with Scarlett.  And one morning I got up really early to bird in Moriarty.

On one morning I stopped in at the duck ponds at Tingley Beach.  I hadn’t been there in a while.  I only had about 30 minutes to walk around.  There were quite a few birds, but most we too camera shy.  I did manage to get a Blue Grosbeak photo though he was deep in the shadows.

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Blue Grosbeak

 

I was surprised to see a snail on the trail.  Now those of you that live in humid areas probably don’t get too excited about snails.  But here in the desert, they are a real treat to see.  All the monsoon rains must have brought it out of hiding.

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One of my favorite things to see every summer is the Japanese Beetle.  I think they are so beautiful.  I can always count on seeing them on these blossoms.

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Japanese Beetles

But the biggest surprise of the short walk, was getting very  close to a Green Heron.  They are usually so shy at the duck ponds.  As soon as you see them they will fly to the far side of the pond or out to the island in the middle. This particular heron let me get within 5 feet of him.  I had to lean over and peer through cattails, but I did get a pretty nice photo before he decided he had enough of me.

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Green Heron

A few days ago I drove out to my favorite spot in Moriarty – Valley Irrigation Road.  I hadn’t been out there in months.  I only stayed out about an hour.  Work has still been so busy.  But even in that short time, I saw quite a few nice birds.

First I saw a Western Kingbird and House Sparrow enjoying the morning sun.

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Western Kingbird

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House Sparrow

Soon after I saw a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.  I love these tiny little birds.

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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

In this same area I also saw a House Wren and a very elusive and fast Wilson’s Warbler.

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House Wren

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Wilson’s Warbler

Further down the road, I saw several Swainson’s Hawks.  Most flew before I got anywhere near them.  But I did get closer to one for a photo before it flew away.

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Swainson’s Hawk

At Otto Pond I saw lots of sparrows and finches enjoying all the sunflowers and corn plants.

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Otto Pond area on Valley Irrigation Road

I had a very cooperative House Finch.

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House Finch

And saw lots of sparrows.

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Brewer’s Sparrow

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Clay-Colored Sparrow

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Chipping Sparrow

I even saw a hummingbird enjoying all those beautiful sunflowers.

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Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Around home I’ve encountered a few interesting things.  I have a lot of lizards around my home.  This particular guy was enjoying the warm sun in my backyard.  It’s not often you get to see that gorgeous blue throat.

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Striped Plateau Lizard

A new batch of Two-Tailed Swallowtail butterflies must have hatched.  Because I’ve seen quite a few of them in my yard these last few days.  A few lingered long enough for photos.

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Two-Tailed Swallowtail

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Pretty on  my petunias!

While walking Scarlett in the neighborhood, we came across a 5-foot long bull snake snoozing behind the back tires of my car.  It had recently eaten, as you can tell by the thick middle.

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Bull Snake

It was determined to stay by my  car.  So I picked it up to move it safely off the road.  It needed to get hidden so no one would kill it.  Bull snakes are great for rodent control.  But some people think they need to kill all snakes.  When I picked it up, I soon realized it was a long as I was tall which made it over 5 feet long!

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This snake was very tame.  I’ve found most bull snakes are.

Once safely off the road, I tried to take some more photos, but it wasn’t interested in that.  I managed to get a couple before it quickly disappeared.

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Bull Snake

I took a photo of Scarlett while walking this morning.  She’s modeling her new blue sparkly collar with a pretty flower.  🙂

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Scarlett modeling her new collar.

My Canyon Towhee’s had a late batch of babies.  I noticed this one was hanging out in the seed dish.  He sat very still, I’m sure hoping I didn’t see him.

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Baby Canyon Towhee

And there are still lots of Lesser Goldfinches hanging out in my yard.

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Lesser Goldfinch

In my garden, I’ve been seeing a lot of praying mantis.  I think they are my most favorite insect.  This one was enjoying my squash plant.

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Praying Mantis

That’s about it for the past week or so.  I hope you’re enjoying your summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding Around Home

I haven’t gotten out much these past few weeks.  All I’ve been doing is work, work, work….booorrriiinnngggg!!!   But that’s the price you pay sometimes to be self employed.

So I’ve had to satisfy myself with short outings in my yard and in the neighborhoods around me.  Poor Scarlett has been missing our long hikes.  These short walks just aren’t keeping her satisfied.  It’s tough burning off the energy of a not quite 1.5 year old german shepherd.  But thankfully she’s a sweet dog and makes the most of her time out.

The sunflowers are in full bloom now.  And I’ve noticed a lot of birds love them.  Most especially the Lesser Goldfinches.  They actually wait to breed until later in the summer so they can feed their young on the sunflower seeds.  I let several sunflowers germinate from the cast off seed from the feeders.  It’s fun to watch several of these tiny yellow birds feeding on the seed pods.  I’ve noticed they eat the leaves as well.

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Hard to get pics as they were flying from flower to flower

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They are adept at hanging upside down to get to the seeds

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Looks like this one had recently taken a bath

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Lesser Goldfinch – female

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Many other birds have been enjoying the sunflowers around my home.  I even noticed a hummingbird feeding at one.

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They avoid the bees!!

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

There is a meadow near my house that has a lot of wildflowers and sunflowers blooming right now.  One morning I drove over and parked my car so I could use it as a blind.  I was thrilled to see warblers working their way among the wildflowers.  Warblers are the most difficult bird for me to see and photograph.  Here’s an example of why…

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A camouflaged Wilson’s Warbler – you can just see the eye

I did manage to get a couple decent photos of the warblers about that morning.

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Wilson’s Warbler

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Wilson’s Warbler

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

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Virginia’s Warbler

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

One morning I noticed a young Black-Headed Grosbeak stuck in my garden.  We were overrun with grass in the garden last summer.  So this year we covered the entire area with black plastic to kill all the seeds.  This young Grosbeak was trying to fly out of the fenced area but just hadn’t mastered the skill of flying yet.  I was afraid it would get too much exposure to hot sun on black plastic, so I caught it and put it in a nearby oak tree.  He seemed much happier.  Soon after I released him he started calling for his parents.

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Black-Headed Grosbeak juvenile.  I can never resist taking a close-up pic when I catch a bird!

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Safely in the oak tree now

A couple weeks later I saw the same bird.  I have noticed over the years that when I catch a young bird and release it, they have a lot less fear of me.  This guy was like that.  He lets me get real close now.  I had rescued a baby American Robin one summer and it followed me around the yard for weeks.

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Black-Headed Grosbeak – I’m glad to see it got its wings!

I have a flock of Bushtits that live around my home.  They have built their nest in our yard for several summers now.  I’ve never been able to find the active nest, but one year I saw an old nest.  They love the bark butter I put on my tree.

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Bushtits greedily eating the bark butter

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These guys are so tiny.  They are difficult to photograph as they are very quick!

A few other visitors to the feeders at my house.

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House Finch – female

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Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

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White-Breasted Nuthatch

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Mountain Chickadee

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House Finch – male

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Canyon Towhee

A little further afield from home there are some open meadows that attract a different variety of birds than I get at home.

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Northern Mockingbird – they still had two young ones begging for food

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Swainson’s Hawk – juvenile

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Turkey Vulture – I swear it has maggots stuck to its face.  And there was a very dead skunk odor too!  Eeeewwww!!!

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Shy American Kestrals

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Common Raven

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

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Swainson’s Hawk – juvenile

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Swainson’s Hawk – juvenile

One day I had to go to the office in Cedar Crest – just a few miles from home.  I had my camera with me (surprised?).  It was a very cool morning after a rainy night.  The birds were very active.  Most weren’t very cooperative for photos.  But I did get a good shot of a Blue Grosbeak.  And I saw a very puffy hummingbird!

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Blue Grosbeak – juvenile male getting adult plumage

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

In late June I wrote about a Cooper’s Hawk nesting in my yard.  I had taken some photos in Late July of the baby hawk.  But I had misplaced the photos.  I was very upset with myself thinking I had accidentally deleted them.  But happily I found those photos this morning! Though a little late, I thought you might enjoy seeing pics of this hawk.  It had left the nest but was hanging out in the trees nearby.  Not long after taking these photos, it was flying much better and was more difficult to see for photos.  But I did hear it call for its parent most every evening for several weeks.

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Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

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Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

While I’m writing this Scarlett has her head on my lap, looking at me with those big brown eyes, willing me to take her out for a walk.  So I guess that’s what I will do!