Last Time to Bird at Port Aransas, Texas

This should be my last post from my trip to Texas last May/June.  It’s taken awhile to get caught up on my blog.

Birding in Port Aransas this last time was bitter sweet in many ways.  First off I knew it was most likely the last time I would be visiting there.  I lived in Corpus Christi from 1982 to 1994.  With my parents living in San Antonio, it was an easy drive for us to go to the beach whenever I visited them.  The last time I posted about birding in Port Aransas, my dad was still alive and me and my parents had taken a 5-day trip to the beach.  It was in May during spring migration.  I had plenty of time there to explore all the bird sanctuaries.  All the wonderful boardwalks into the marshes and estuaries were so much fun to explore.

Since that last visit, I had forgotten that Hurricane Harvey had come through and dealt a lot of damage to the coastal towns of Padre Island.  So while I was excited to visit the beach, I was sad to know my dad wouldn’t be there to join us and that all the bird sanctuaries had been destroyed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Demolition and construction was still ongoing while I visited.  This restaurant still hadn’t been addressed. 

20180817_194243

Going to cost a pretty penny to get this boat fixed.

Birding this year was tough.  I believe a lot of the birds did not linger during the spring migration because the usual areas they visited were completely destroyed.  Also, I think a lot of the local birds had left and not returned.  Needless to say, it took a lot of driving around to find any birds.  But I did manage to find a few good spots.

The first evening we were there I drove to the ferry and the walkway along the intra-coastal channel.  The damage from the hurricane was very evident here.  Huge pieces of concrete were lifted like they weighed very little.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Destruction from Hurricane Harvey

While here I enjoyed the antics of several dolphin getting dinner.  It was interesting to watch them herd fish toward the wall so they could catch them.  I spotted a mother and her calf working the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mother dolphin with calf looking at me

The sunset was gorgeous!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful!

The next morning was when I realized all the local birding hot spots were destroyed.  Thankfully I saw signs saying they already had funding in place to repair all the boardwalks.  It looked like their plans were even going to improve what was originally there.  Someday if I make it back there I will have to see what they did.

I headed to the beach and jetty where I knew terns had gathered in the past.  Thankfully, this spot was still favored by the terns.  The surf was rough and the birds were gathered in big numbers fishing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Terns and gulls fishing the rough surf at the jetty

I found an area where the birds were resting and grooming after tackling the rough waters.  I was able to get several good pics of the terns resting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Tern Juvenile

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Tern

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Forster’s Tern

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Royal Tern

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sandwich Tern

From there I headed down the road toward the big bridge going to Corpus Christi.  There is a marina there.  I’ve seen birds hanging out there in the past so had high hopes I would see some that morning.

Along the highway I saw a hawk looking for breakfast in the coastal grasslands.  I had to take a second look as I realized it was a new bird for me!  A White-Tailed Hawk.  Gorgeous!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Tailed Hawk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Tailed Hawk

I saw a Roseate Spoonbill fishing the shallows not far from the marina.  I pulled into a construction area to get closer for pics.  I managed a few photos before I was run off by the foreman.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Roseate Spoonbill

As I was driving into the marina I spotted a beautiful Osprey hanging out on the electric wire.  He let me take a few pics before flying off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Osprey

The marina was not a disappointment.  There were several birds hanging out hoping for a free meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Crowned Night Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Blue Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Blue Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Crowned Night Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brown Pelicans

Near the marina is an area that shorebirds have liked in the past.  I drove over there to see if I could find anything.  I was thrilled to see a pair of Willets with two young babies.  I’d never seen Willet babies before.  Adorable! I sat for some time just watching this little family.  You can’t help but smile and enjoy new life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Willet juvenile

Soon though the parents grew nervous and started telling me to move along.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Willet telling me to move along

There were also some Black-Necked Stilts and a Reddish Egret enjoying the shallows.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Necked Stilt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Necked Stilt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Reddish Egret

The next morning I decided to go the Horace Caldwell Fishing Pier.  Not sure if I would see anything here, but it was fun to go there at sunrise.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Horace Caldwell Pier

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beach at Port Aransas, Texas

I came across these two children fast asleep on the pier.  Their parent must have gotten them up really early to fish.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Too early of a morning for these kids

The only birds I saw were White-Winged Doves and Pigeons.  What I found curious though, was a cross between these two species.  Interesting bird.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Rock Pigeons at the pier had very dark plumage.  Doesn’t make sense at a hot beach!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rock Pigeon and White-Winged Dove Cross Breed

After the pier I drove to the lone surviving boardwalk that overlooked a salt flat.  Most of the birds were too far away for photos.  I managed to see one bird closer to me.  And to my surprise it was a lifer!  A Black-Bellied Plover Juvenile.  Too bad it wasn’t an adult.  They are beautiful birds.   Even better, this is a rare sighting for the area!   I wouldn’t have believed I identified this bird correctly if it hadn’t been sighted by other birders on eBird.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Bellied Plover – juvenile

I spotted a few birds flying over and managed to snap a couple of photos on the fly.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Skimmer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White Ibis

During this trip I decided to take a ride on the Red Dragon.

While waiting to start the boat ride, I saw the local offshore fishing tour boats had come in as well.  They were hanging up the catch of the day.  Lovely Red Snappers with a few other interesting fish mixed in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nice haul for the day

It’s was fun sailing with the pirates!

20180606_185710

Kelly sailing on the Red Dragon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arrrrrr…there be Pirates!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful boat ride

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Captain at his helm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I took the sunset tour.  We boated along the intra-coastal and made it to the lighthouse.  We got there just as the sun was setting.  So lovely!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunset over the lighthouse

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gorgeous sunset!

One day at the ferry I spotted a juvenile Laughing Gull trying to swallow a whole fish.  He tried and tried to gulp that fish down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Laughing Gull juvenile

I love people watching.  I think most people do.  While there I captured a few fun moments of people watching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Skateboarding buddies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The waiting line for the ferry was so long and slow, this girl had time to get into the back of the car and get cold drinks for everyone.  It was fun to watch her walk along with the car while digging in the cooler.

I saw lots of turtles about while birding.  I had never really seen turtles there before so it was fun to see several on this trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Turtle moving along

I had a great time at the beach birding and spending time with my mother.  We enjoyed sitting on the beach, enjoying the warm summer days.  And we had fun shopping and eating delicious fish and shrimp dinners.  I’m so glad we took the time off to relax after all the stresses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden

While in San Antonio last June, I visited the Japanese Tea Garden.  It’s not a very big place, but it’s very unique.  This site was initially a limestone quarry that opened in 1840.  Many of the buildings in San Antonio during that time were built with the stone from this quarry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Entrance to the gardens

In 1880 it was changed to a cement quarry.  At this time a kiln was added to the site, which still stands today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Old kiln door

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kiln stack and buildings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Such unique craftsmanship

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Living quarters for the laborers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More openings for the kiln

By 1917 the cement plant had shut down.  The City Parks department of San Antonio launched a program to convert the old quarry into a Japanese Tea Garden.  Prison labor was used to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Restored pagoda, gardens and pond

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What a wonderful idea for an old quarry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Quiet beauty

In 1919, at the city’s invitation, Kimi Elzo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden.  Him and his wife maintained the garden, lived in the garden and raised 8 children.  Kimi died in 1938 and in 1941 the family was evicted from the garden due to the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arched path built by prison labor

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Such beautiful landscaping

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bridge to the kiln stack.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Japanese Tea House up above.

For years the garden sat in neglect and disrepair, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism.  In 2005 the city started restoration on the pagoda-like pavilion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The roof was rebuilt in 2005. 

In 2007 restoration began to restore the ponds and waterfall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So beautiful!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View from the pagoda

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Path to the waterfall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I loved the waterfall!

All work was completed by 2011.  The Jingu family members still alive returned for the public re-opening.  In recognition of the garden’s history, it has been designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, a registered Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wonderful paths

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hidden paths

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So peaceful

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Walkway from the gardens to the zoo nearby

I am so glad this precious gem of history has been saved and has been restored to its previous glory.  It was a wonderful place to visit.  So peaceful and beautiful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I loved walking these paths

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If I lived here, I would visit often!

Scarlett enjoyed touring the walkways as well.  She was curious of the Koi fish and they looked like they were just as curious.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett was fascinated by the curious koi 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love the colorful koi fish

I’m so glad I decided to visit the gardens.  I would have been sad if I had never taken the time to see such beauty that has been restored to its former glory.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This flower was as big as my head!

San Antonio Summer Birding

At the end of May I drove my mom back to San Antonio so we could get her house cleaned up to sell.  I stayed for about 2 weeks.  Summertime in Texas is HOT and HUMID. Ugh! Because of this, there weren’t very many birds about during the dog days of summer.  All of the migrants were gone leaving only the local birds.

In order not to die while birding, I got up at 6 am every morning to head out before it got to 100 degrees.  Yikes!  I drove to several locations during my stay.  I found the best opportunities for birds was if I visited the small lakes all around San Antonio.

On of my favorite birding spots I discovered was Live Oak Lake in Live Oak, Texas.  It was only about 7 miles from mom’s house.  It had a nice path all the way around the lake.  Believe me, you don’t want to wander off path into the grasses there.  That lake was loaded with snakes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They even had signs saying so!

KEL15667.jpg

I thought it was a joke until I saw this!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Needless to say, I tread carefully wherever I went.  Yikes!

The resident Northern Mockingbird greeted me when I pulled into the parking lot.  I have never found a shy Mockingbird.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Northern Mockingbird

Live Oak Lake is home to lots of herons and egrets. They are used to people walking around the lake, so they just seemed to ignore me and go about their business…as evidenced by this Yellow-Crowned Night Heron.  He caught a monster crawdad!

KEL15665.jpg

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While I was photographing him, he quickly lunged and came up with the huge crawdad!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s like the size of a lobster!

There was a juvenile looking on with envy…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

There lots of Green Herons about.  In Albuquerque I’m lucky to come across one here and there.  But at this lake, there were so many they constantly chased each other trying to keep a preferred fishing spot to themselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Checking me out 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Needed a better look LOL!

The resident Great Egret was fishing along the edge of the lake.  I saw him intent on something in front of him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Egret

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Egret

Then all of a sudden he lunged!  Fortunately I managed to get a great pic of him diving for his prey.  Sadly, he missed on that attempt and decided to move to a different part of the lake for better luck fishing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Egret fishing

There was a pair of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks watching all the goings on around the lake.  I think they are beautiful waterfowl.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

The Muscovy Ducks had some babies while I was gone for several weeks.  I saw this one mother with a huge brood!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Muscovy Ducks

All the while I’m photographing birds, Scarlett was kicked back relaxing and watching all the people and birds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Miss Scarlett

And Squirrels!!!  She was on high alert when she spotted the squirrels!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett keeping a sharp eye on the squirrel nearby.

The squirrels kept on eye on her as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Staring contest between the squirrel and Scarlett

There were some other small birds about.  But overall it was pretty quiet for them.  So I ventured over to Converse Lake.  It’s a more wild lake.  You pretty much can only walk along one edge of the lake.  The rest of it is overgrown.  Because of this, the smaller birds tend to hang out here more.  I got 2 lifers at this lake!!!  A Rusty Blackbird and a Couch’s Kingbird.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rusty Blackbird

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Couch’s Kingbird

The Mute Swan I saw last time I visited was joined by his lady and their two new babies.  Adorable!  I’d never seen baby swans before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mute Swan male

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mute Swan female and babies

Here are some of the other small birds I saw around this lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kildeer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scissortail Flycatcher

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Crested Titmouse enjoying a bird drip fountain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

House Sparrow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brown-Headed Cowbird female and male

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Painted Bunting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eastern Phoebe

While photographing the little birds, I heard a commotion behind me.  I looked across the open field and saw a Red-Tailed Hawk had caught a White-Winged Dove.  Surprisingly a Northern Mockingbird harassed the hawk until it took its breakfast elsewhere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red-Tailed Hawk being attacked by a Northern Mockingbird

One delight while visiting Converse Lake was that the water lilies were in full bloom.  Just beautiful!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of my favorite photos of the visit

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One thing I noticed about San Antonio is that there is a huge population of Black Vultures.  These birds are huge and were everywhere I went in great numbers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ewwwww……

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Vulture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

mmmmmm…armadillo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Must be tasty as a squabble broke out over it

There are always lots of White-Tailed Deer around the San Antonio parks.   I really liked this photo I took of a doe enjoying the wildflower field.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Tailed Deer

There were a few other blooming flowers about, but not many as San Antonio was experiencing a drought.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Honey bee enjoying the clover blooms

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This squirrel appreciated the water put out for the birds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ahhhhhh…..

While driving around,  I came across this sign.  I had to turn around to take a picture.  Don’t you wonder how this creek was named???

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Really?????

One morning I arrived well before sunrise.  I came across this Little Blue Heron fishing.  I loved the colors and lighting of this photo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Little Blue Heron

It was nice getting out early every morning and seeing some fun bird sightings.  I actually got a 3rd lifer, but sadly my photo is just too poor to post.  I saw a Brown Boobie.  I never dreamed I would see this bird in San Antonio.  It was a rare sighting indeed.  Sadly, it was on the far side of a lake with no way to get closer.  My lens just couldn’t get a clear pic, though the markings are clear enough to identify it for me.  Someday I might see one to get a better photo!  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This doe found a nice place to sit out the day’s heat

Red River Hiking – Day 1

I recently went on a hiking trip to Red River, New Mexico.  I love Red River.  It’s a beautiful mountain town with amazing scenery.  New Mexico has been experiencing a severe drought.  Many of our forests are being closed to safeguard them from forest fires. I think my trip was timed just before the Carson National Forest is closed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I drove through Taos and was happy to see Black-Billed Magpies busily hunting for food.  I usually get terrible photos of these birds.  But on this occasion, I had a very cooperative bird and was able to get some nice photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Billed Magpie

While in Taos I came across several Rock Pigeons enjoying a puddle together.  I thought they looked adorable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Birds of a feather….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Flock together….and enjoy a refreshing bath

I spent 3 days there and thankfully it rained each evening.  Hopefully they don’t experience any closures.  On Day 1 I drove to Red River and met up with the hiking group at the Columbine State Park trail.  This was a nice, easy trail.  I climbed about 500 feet in elevation over 2 miles.  The trail is along Columbine Creek, which is a lovely little creek.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett was happy to be on a hike and water to play in! She needed a good hiking trip.  She ran and ran and splashed and splashed.  But occasionally she used one of the bridges (after she ran through the creek!).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett

I loved how the trail crisscrossed the creek.  It always fun to walk along water – especially in New Mexico.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Only rocks here to cross the water.

There were a few flowers trying to bloom even though we are experiencing a drought.  Even a few strawberries were determined to bloom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shooting Stars

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Strawberry plant

I loved the scenery as I climbed.  The aspen trees were beautiful in their new leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Quakies as they are called in New Mexico

I came across one area that begged me to take some creative photos.  I love how the log crossed the small waterfall.  I couldn’t decide which one I liked best….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I liked this area so much, I had someone take a pic of me and Scarlett.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kelly and Scarlett

There were several small waterfalls along this trail.  I’m glad I was wearing my waterproof hiking sandals so I could get in the water for fun photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I eventually climbed higher and left the creek below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett ran ahead of me most of the time.  At one point I didn’t see her so I called her name.  The silly girl peeked at me from around a tree.  LOL!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett hiding behind a tree.

I had wanted to hike further up the trail, but a storm cloud had been brewing while I hiked.  At one point it started rumbling, so I figured I’d better turn around and head to the condo.  Scarlett was happy to run back downhill!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I passed a small lake on the way to the condo.  It must have interesting minerals in the water to give it a beautiful turquoise blue color.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eagle Rock Lake

Along the road I saw a beautiful little waterfall.  I just had to park and climb down the steep incline to photograph it.  Totally worth it don’t you think?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tune in next time for Day 2.  I hiked to a beautiful waterfall and a lake!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

Birding Around Albuquerque

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a chance to get out and bird a time or two.  I mostly went out to see some rare sightings that have shown up around town.  I missed several, but managed to see a couple to add to my life list.

I visited Valle de Oro a couple times.  I had heard there were a number of warblers there.  It’s always fun to go find warblers, though my neck complains by the end of the day LOL!

When I arrived at Valle de Oro I saw a pair of coyotes out hunting.  One disappeared right away, but the other stayed out long enough to let me get a few good pics.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Coyote

As always, I saw several Western Meadowlarks out singing.  I love their beautiful voice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Meadowlark

I walked along the main drainage ditch hoping to see some good birds. A scrub jay announced his presence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay

Then almost right away I heard a lot of birds singing.  I just started taking pics of everything that moved.  As you know, songbirds are small and fast!!! When I looked at the pics I was surprised to see a several birds I don’t see often.  Mainly my nemesis, the Lazuli Bunting.  Try my hardest, I can’t get a good pic of this bird.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lazuli Bunting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Throated Gray Warbler

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cedar Waxwing

I heard several Summer Tanagers singing.  It’s amazing how a bright red bird can hide among green leaves.  But they can just disappear!  I only got a few pics and they weren’t very good.  But I did see a Western Tanager female closer to me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Tanager Female

I had been told where a Common Black Hawk’s nest was near the Valle de Oro.  So I went on a 2-mile hike to find this beautiful bird.  Once I was in the general location, I looked for the nest.  I found it way up high in a cottonwood tree.  There was no seeing if anything was in the nest.  I waited around for a while and eventually heard the hawk calling from a distance.  Then to my delight the bird flew in and landed near the nest.  A lifer for me! At first I barely saw him as he was deep in the leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Common Black Hawk

Eventually he moved to a better location for photos.  This is a magnificent bird.  From what I understand there are only about 250 breeding pairs in the US.  They are easily disturbed by humans and are known to abandon nests if bothered too much.  So after getting a few pics, I quietly left the area to let them raise their young undisturbed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Common Black Hawk

On my way back I saw a flycatcher along the ditch.  I believe it’s a Hammond’s Flycatcher.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hammond’s Flycatcher

Then I heard another bird calling that I only rarely hear – a Gray Catbird.  Always a treat to see and hear!   I only managed one pic and that was from behind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gray Catbird

While hiking along he ditch, I enjoyed the wild irises blooming.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wild irises

While hiking at Valle de Oro I came across this interesting insect.  I tried looking it up, but I can’t figure out what it is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Not sure what this cute guy is….

I had heard about a very rare sighting in the East Mountain area that I just had to go find.  There was a Golden-Winged Warbler sighted and it was practically in my back yard.  After much searching I was rewarded with a short view of this bird.  I took several photos before he disappeared into the deep brush.  I managed to get a few decent pics.  Another lifer!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Golden-Winged Warbler

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Golden-Winged Warbler

While hiking there I was treated to some beautiful wild apple blossoms.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wild apple tree blossoms

I visited the Rio Grande Nature Center.  I hadn’t been there in a while, so it was a treat to see it in the springtime.  Right away I heard a Yellow-Breasted Chat singing.  I managed to find it in a tree on the island in the pond.  So it was quite a distance away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yellow-Breasted Chat

I also saw the resident roadrunners in the parking lot.  Always fun to photograph!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Greater Roadrunner

While walking the paths, I heard some Summer Tanagers talking back and forth amongst each other.  This time I had more success getting photos of the pair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Summer Tanager male

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Summer Tanager female

There were several Black-Chinned Hummingbirds visiting the feeders. Whenever there are several hummingbirds at a feeder, there’s always fights defending their food.  For a tiny bird, they are fierce!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Uh oh!  He sees another hummer coming for him!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Defending the feeder!

Here are some of the other birds I saw on my visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Canada Goose

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western-Wood Pewee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lesser Goldfinch

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ash-Throated  Flycatcher

The gardens were beginning to bloom.  The bees were happily gathering pollen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Poppies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shooting stars

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Giant black bee

I was entertained by a resident White-Winged Dove that has become very tame.  The gardeners told me his name was Lonesome Larry.  He was so tame, he would take see from your hand.  He stayed so close to me, that I barely got photos because my zoom lens had a hard time focusing on such a close subject.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Winged Dove

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lonesome Larry

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Such beautiful coloring

I’ve been keeping an eye on a Red-Tailed Hawk’s nest not far from my house.  When I visited recently, I saw the eggs have finally hatched.  When I first looked, I thought there was only one baby.  But the mother flew off the nest and I saw two babies!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red-Tailed Hawk with babies

It’s been great getting out birding.  It was nice to see all the summer birds returning to Albuquerque.

 

 

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

In early April I flew to Atlanta to surprise one of my best friends, Kelly, on her 40th birthday.  She had no idea I was coming, so it was a wonderful surprise for her.

Her local friends put on a fabulous party for her.  It was first class! They even got her an ice sculpture!!!  I also stayed up the longest I ever had.  I got up at 3:30 am to catch my flight and when I landed I immediately went to the party.  Things didn’t wrap up there until 3:30 am and then we had an hour’s drive to Kelly’s house.  I don’t think I went to be until after 5 am!

20180407_204859

Kelly & Kelly

20180407_193400

Me with Bob Dylan – one of Kelly’s favorite artists

Another friend named Angie also flew in to surprise Kelly.  The three of us used to work together here in Albuquerque, but eventually Angie and Kelly moved away.  Thankfully we have kept in touch and manage to see each other periodically.

The day after the party, the three of us wanted to do something together.  But nothing too adventurous since we were slightly hungover and short on sleep.  It was a pretty nice day so we decided to visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  I’m so glad we went.  We strolled and visited and enjoyed beautiful scenery.

20180408_184158

The day we were there was the last day of an orchid show.  They had over 400 variety of orchids on display.  Stunning!  I had no idea there were so many varieties!

20180408_231304

Angie, Kelly & Kelly

20180408_161645

Kelly & Kelly

The show was held in the Conservatory.  A very large building that had several types of climates.

20180409_155827

Conservatory

20180408_160827

Conservatory

Here’s some of the stunning orchids we saw.  I could have posted so many more than this!  🙂

20180408_164110

I never would have guessed these were orchids.

20180408_164638

This one looks like the head of a cobra snake.

20180408_162911

Stunning colors and patterns

20180408_161600

Gorgeous!

20180408_172349

Interesting pattern

Touring the conservatory was just amazing.  Everywhere you looked, there was something unique.  No niche was left without some kind of plant.  You wanted to walk through slowly so as not to miss some little treasure.

20180409_161531

20180408_231453

These strands are roots of plants planted 30 feet above in the ceiling.  I loved this!

20180408_170358

All of these colors are on one plant. 

20180408_165206

20180408_164256

I thought this looked like the mouth of the Kraken!  Arrrgh!!!  🙂

20180408_163534

There were many varieties of pitcher plants.  Fascinating!

20180408_162601

These stripes looked painted on.

20180408_153616

Outside, we walked along an elevated footpath that offered stunning views of the gardens and you felt like you were walking in the tree tops.

20180408_232313

Elevated path.

There were wonderful statues throughout the gardens.  One of my favorites was of a bust of a woman.  It will be a living statue in the warmer months.  But for now, she’s bare but still beautiful.

20180408_175417

Fat, lazy frog!

20180408_160230

Adorable statue of a boy catching frogs.

20180408_160018

Creative fountain.

20180408_153921

I really liked this deer statue.

20180408_152621

The living statue.  I hope to see this woman transformed with living, blooming plants.

We visited the children’s garden.  Kelly hates snakes, she didn’t want to walk on this path.  LOL!

20180408_175226

 

A little gnome was trying to get my attention 😉

 

20180408_232839

psssst!

The grounds were just beautiful.  I can only imagine this place in the warmer months.  It must be spectacular!

20180409_16080520180408_19382120180408_19405320180408_181020

20180408_172623

The pink tree is dead.  They painted it to give it a second life.

20180408_17252020180408_17242020180408_170810

20180408_170616

So creative!

20180408_161107

I liked the perfect pine tree

20180408_152449

One of my favorite photos was of the English garden area.  Just beautiful!

20180408_233318

English Garden

I think we only saw maybe a 1/3rd of the gardens that day.  It’s a huge place. It was still pretty cold in Atlanta.  But there were a few blooming plants and trees outside.

20180409_155344

One of my favorite blooming trees – the Dogwood

20180408_161045

Azaleas!

20180408_160512

Not sure what this flower was, but this is exactly what it looked like.  Seriously!!

20180408_15581420180408_15465020180408_154149

20180408_151749

Stunning Japanese Maple

We came across these vivid azaleas.  Such striking colors!

20180408_152720

Can you believe these colors!?!

20180408_152759

The trees in Atlanta are so tall.  I’m not used to trees that big.  Things are more stunted out here in the desert.

20180408_15591020180408_153207

I have a confession to make about this post.  Can you believe I didn’t bring my camera with me to Atlanta?!?  I was only going for 3 days and the forecast said rain the whole time.  I just figured we wouldn’t get out so didn’t want to keep up with my camera.  I was grieving for it!!!

My purse I used looks like a camera.  So Kelly took a picture of me acting like I’m taking a photo with my camera purse.  That’s how desperately I was wanting my camera!

8591

So what did I use to take these photos?  My phone!!!  Our phone’s cameras have improved tremendously over the last few years.  I was real pleased with what I captured.  I hope you agree!

I’m planning on visiting again in August.  I will definitely be bringing my good camera then!!!

20180408_232404

Summer Birds and Other Goodies

With my several trips this year and busy work, I haven’t had time to blog as often as I would have liked to.  So I thought I would combine several sightings over the summer into one post. Now that fall is officially here, many of these birds are gone or will be gone soon.

During the summer I went on several day hikes within a couple hours of Albuquerque.  Partly to see something new in scenery and partly to see some birds I don’t normally see around home.

One hike that was new for me was the Cave Creek hike in the Pecos Wilderness.  It’s about a 5-mile round trip hike to some caves that were created by water eroding through limestone.  It was a beautiful hike in thick forest along a creek.  Of course, Scarlett enjoyed the water immensely!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So much fun at the water crossings!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lovely stream to hike along.

The caves were very interesting.  There were several that were big enough to walk inside of.  I didn’t go very far in as it got dark quickly and I wasn’t sure how deep the water got.  But lots of fun to explore.  Scarlett was curious about the caves as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Unique caves created by water erosion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett exploring a smaller cave.

On this hike I saw a flock of Dusky Grouse.  This is pretty much the only grouse specie New Mexico has.  I’ve only seen this bird a few times of the past 20 years and never very close.  But I was lucky on this hike.  When I startled them, they flew into a nearby pine and sat very still – which was perfect for a great photo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dusky Grouse

Another day I ventured to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains next to Santa Fe.  It was a very cloudy day and the birds were few, but I managed to get a few nice sightings.  A favorite – Green Tailed Towhee – came close to check me out so I was able to see his colors nicely.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Green Tailed Towhee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Williamson’s Sapsucker – Juvenile

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dark-Eyed Junco

One of the highlights of this hike was seeing lots of mushrooms.  I’ve seen photos of the red and white polka dot mushrooms, but never have seen one in person.  It was a real treat seeing and photographing them.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Poisonous mushroom – but so pretty!

Aspen Vista is a beautiful hike at about 8,000 feet above sea level.  As you know Scarlett loves water.   But she also loves culverts.  She’s always looking inside them to see what might be hiding.  On this hike, she found a culvert that was big enough to run through and it had water flowing through it.  Bonus!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett having a blast!

I walked along the Rio Grande several times.  Most of the colorful summer birds love the Bosque.  It’s so much fun looking for and photographing these beauties!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blue Grosbeak

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Summer Tanager

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Neotropic Cormorant

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Downy Woodpecker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Blue Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Say’s Phoebe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird enjoying the summer mimosa blooms!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

House Sparrow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

House Finch – partial orange morph

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Orange-Crowned Warbler

One day while hiking along the river, I came across a Cooper’s Hawk enjoying breakfast.  You could tell it had caught a songbird by the foot hanging out of it’s beak.  Poor thing….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Songbird for breakfast anyone???

While reviewing my photos, I realized I had captured a lifer bird on one of my outings along the river.  I love it when that happens!  In this case, I had mistaken it for a Summer Tanager.  But when I reviewed the photo more closely, I realized it was a Hepatic Tanager.  Yay!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hepatic Tanager

Of course, Scarlett always enjoys a visit to the river!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Look at that big grin on Scarlett’s face!

One day I took a drive out to Stanley.  I hadn’t been there for quite some time.  I saw a lot of the usual residents there.  I never tire seeing a Western Meadowlark or the many hawks that live there.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cliff Swallow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red-Tailed Hawk (juvenile) – I love the coloring of this particular bird

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Meadowlark

Around home I’ve had several new birds visit my yard this summer.  It’s so exciting to see something new show up.  I hope they find me again next year!  Some were easy to photograph, while others were very elusive.  The birds I was unable to photograph but saw were Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Brown-Headed Blackbird, Northern Saw-Whet Owl, and Green-Tailed Towhee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pygmy Nuthatch

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Curve-Billed Thrasher

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love their orange eyes.

Along with the new birds I’ve seen this year, I’ve had plenty of the resident birds stopping by the feeders and bird baths.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Bluebird

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A very shy Ladderback Woodpecker (hence the blurry photo)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wilson’s Warbler – coming to enjoy my bird bath

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hairy Woodpecker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mountain Chickadee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Holding down a sunflower seed to extract its goodness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bushtit

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lesser Goldfinch

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Headed Grosbeak

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Juniper Titmouse

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Virginia’s Warbler

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rufous Hummingbird

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bewick’s Wren

This summer New Mexico saw several forest fires in the Jemez Mountains.  Because of this, a lot of the bird life has migrated south to new habitats.  This summer we saw a large number of Lewis’s Woodpeckers in the greater Albuquerque area.  We normally don’t see them here, so it was a real treat to see one only a couple miles from my house.  It seemed to prefer this telephone pole as it was sighted there often.  And it didn’t like the squirrel using its pole.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lewis’s Woodpecker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Get off my pole!!!

I drove down to the Monzano Mountains a couple weeks ago hoping to see the fall colors starting in 4th of July Canyon.  Though the colors still haven’t begun, I did get to see several birds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Steller’s Jay – so beautiful!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red-Tailed Hawks

I saw a Brown Creeper – always a delight.  They are very difficult to see against the bark and they move quickly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brown Creeper

Plus I got a lifer!  A Golden-Crowned Kinglet.  I’ve been looking for this bird for several years and just happened upon it on this trail.  Yay!  This guy was way up in the canopy shadows and moving so fast!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Among the many bird sightings I had over the summer, I came across some other interesting things.  I thought you might enjoy seeing them.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cool bee on a beautiful summer sunflower

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ahhhhhhhh……

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Southwestern Fence Lizard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hoary Comma

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Aphrodite Fritillary

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Police Car Moth

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Tailed-Blue

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love the colors on this dragonfly

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This beetle “hisses” when you touch it.  A unique defense!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Plains Skink (juvenile).  This guy was so cool!!!  I love the markings on the face.  This skink will turn plain brown all over as an adult. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Painted Lady

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Can you see the walking stick expertly hiding

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Marine Blue

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Common Side-Blotched Lizard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jackrabbit

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA