Birding in Southeast Arizona – Day 1

I have long wanted to go birding in Southeastern Arizona.  They have a wonderful variety of birds that can’t be found anywhere else in the US.  Many birds are residents of Mexico.  So when my husband suggested we plan a long weekend trip to SE Arizona, I was thrilled!

It takes over 7 hours to get there from our house.  The day we left, a front was blowing through and we were driving with a headwind that was 50 mph+.  Terrible conditions for traveling.  At one point, we lost quite a bit of visibility.

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Dust storm we traveled through on I10.

By the time we got to Tucson, the sun was starting to set.  Thankfully the wind had died down considerably.  We had just enough time to stop in at a beautiful historic mission located just south of Tucson.  It’s called the Mission San Xavier Del Bac and was completed in 1797.  When we arrived, it had just closed for the day.  Too bad….I would have loved to see the inside.  But the outside is just stunning!

The mission is undergoing restoration.  You can see the left side is all new and white.  The right side is now being restored.  They have removed the dome and will restore it at a later time.

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Mission San Xavier Del Bac

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Kelly at the entrance.

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I loved all the many details of the mission.  It was fun to explore.

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Several statues adorn the mission.

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Very detailed flourishes.

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Rustic window decor.

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Rattlesnake door handle

The desert gardens around the building were very nice.

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Beautiful desert gardens

There were a few birds around the mission.  I managed to get a few pics in the low light.

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Northern Cardinal

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Gila Woodpecker

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Cactus Wren

There’s a hill next to the mission with a shrine to Virgin Mary.  It had a gate with interesting lion statues.

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Lion statue on the hill. The clouds look like lion’s breath.

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Grotto of Lourdes

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Virgin Mary

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As we hiked to the top of the hill, the views got more expansive.

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View of the mission

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View looking north toward Tucson

As we were leaving I took this last shot of the property.  I thought it looked like God shining from the heavens.

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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….

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds, Blooms and a Kite

Last Monday I had to deliver something to the north end of Albuquerque.  So I took advantage of the drive and decided to walk along the irrigation ditch behind Corrales.  It was a hot day, and I didn’t get on the trail until 11 am.  I figured there wouldn’t be any birds about at that hour, but I was surprised.  There were quite a number of them out.

Right away I saw a Blue Grosbeak singing.  Such a beautiful bird.  And he posed briefly for me too!

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Blue Grosbeak

Soon after I saw a pair of Summer Tanagers.  Both of them were very busy flying about.  I never could get a good shot of the female.  But I did manage a decent shot of the male.  It’s difficult to photograph birds in the trees when the sun is straight overhead!

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Summer Tanager male – you can tell he’s hot!

The cottonwood trees are busy making cotton to spread their seeds.  A Chipping Sparrow was collecting some of this cotton to line its nest.

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Chipping Sparrow gathering nesting material

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Chipping Sparrow

I saw a family of crows.  The baby was begging and begging for food.  They were deep in the shade.  I guess I would be too if I was a black bird living in the desert!

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American Crows

An Ash-Throated Flycatcher made a brief appearance for me.  Then he was q1uickly gone again.

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

Then to my surprise, a Mississippi Kite flew over me and landed in a tree nearby.  He sat there a few minutes and groomed his feathers.   That was such a nice surprise!  I have only seen this bird once before in Texas a few years ago.

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Mississippi Kite

Fortunately the trail was fairly shady, or Scarlett and I would have roasted in the heat and sun!

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Corrales Irrigation Ditch trail – you can see Scarlett in the lower right looking for a lizard.

After the long walk, I was driving out of the neighborhood where I had parked.  I couldn’t help but notice the giant Century Plant blooming.  I had never seen one actively blooming before.  I’ve only seen the dead flower standing tall.   These are a type of agave plant.  And they only bloom once in their 25-30 year life.  Once they bloom, they die.  So it’s bittersweet to see one blooming.

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Blooming Century Plant

After admiring this beautiful blooming plant, I couldn’t help but notice that this home had gorgeous gardens.  It was stunning! I took a few photos of the blooming gardens, but they just didn’t do it justice.  What I had really wanted to do was go in their back yard.  That looked amazing!

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Desert garden in Corrales

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Beautiful gladiolas

While photographing the gardens, I noticed a Lesser Goldfinch feeding on some flower seeds just a few feet away from me.

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Lesser Goldfinch

I couldn’t resist photographing the bees enjoying the beautiful gladiola flowers.  There were so many buzzing about.

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There were other insects enjoying the blooming garden as well.

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Weird bug!

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This grasshopper has cool looking eyes!

I saw a hummingbird briefly, but I never could get a good photo of him as he was deep in the flowers.

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Can you see the hummingbird?

And the sunflowers were absolutely stunning!

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I love sunflowers!

An American Robin was enjoying the shade and deep grasses under a tree.  Smart bird!

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American Robin

It was a great hike.  And such wonderful subjects to photograph on a summer afternoon.

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At home my Cooper’s Hawk has a hatchling!  I can only see one chick right now.  Not sure if there will be any more.  I could tell it must have hatched in the just last couple days because it was very wobbly on its feet.  I only got a couple of terrible photos today.  Hopefully I will get some better ones as it gets a little older and stronger.

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Baby Cooper’s Hawk

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The baby tried standing up and fell over.  🙂

And then I noticed I caught a squirrel!  I have declared war on the squirrels at my house.  They have multiplied and are causing a lot of damage to my house, gardens and chickens.  They steal my chicken eggs.   They’ve been eating plants out of my garden.   And they’ve been pulling the stuffing out of the cushions on my swing.  So I’ve been actively trapping them and transporting them a few miles away.  This little girl was squirrel #7 that I’ve trapped in just the past few weeks.

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Squirrel #7 in my car ready to be taken to a new location.  I have to admit it is adorable…

There have been a lot of  butterflies flying around my home lately.  I managed to get a couple of nice shots last weekend.  I think the Two-Tailed Swallowtail is State Fair worthy.  Yet another photo to have to consider in my long list of potential State Fair entries.

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Juniper Hairstreak

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Two-Tailed Swallowtail

Lastly, I’ve had a lot of female hummingbirds building nests.  They come and get nesting material from a ball I’ve hung in a tree.  As of yet, I haven’t found any of their nests this year.  They can hide them well!

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Birding Along the Rio Grande & Botanical Gardens

Recently I took Scarlett for an early morning walk along the Rio Grande near Alameda Open Space.  There were lots of birds singing, enjoying the early summer weather.  I managed to get what is probably my best photo yet of a Summer Tanager.  For some reason I have a hard time getting a great photo of these birds.

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Summer Tanager

A Black Phoebe was feeding along the irrigation ditch next to the river.

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Black Phoebe

Then to my surprise, a whole flock of Cedar Waxwing flew in and started catching flying bugs along this ditch.  I didn’t know they did this.  They would fly out and snag a bug and fly back.  Not as graceful as the Black Phoebe, but still fun to watch.  I took several photos of them.  Who can resist photographing the beautiful Cedar Waxwings?!

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Cedar Waxwing

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Cedar Waxwing

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Cedar Waxwing

The day was so nice, so I decided to pop into the Botanical Gardens.

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Main path of the gardens

I figured the summer flowers should be blooming great by now.  And I was right!  The roses were especially nice.  Here’s a few of the best photos I took.

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There were quite a number of butterflies out, but most of them wouldn’t land long enough for a photo.  This Cabbage White was the most cooperative.

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Cabbage White

The Japanese Garden is always my favorite to visit.  I love the water features there.  I found this smaller waterfall that I never notice before.

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Black Phoebe

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While photographing the waterfall, I realized there were several dragonflies buzzing by.  I can never resist photographing dragonflies.  But they are such a challenge to get a crisp photo.  But I still try!

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I have wanted to get a photo of the red dragonflies for a long time.  I think the red color is so striking.  I finally had a cooperative subject!

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I also found a lot of dragonflies at the main pond of the Gardens.  The blue ones were very busy chasing each other.

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There were a lot of  bullfrogs singing at the pond.  And they have been busy reproducing!  I couldn’t believe how many tadpoles were in the water.

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This frog has a lot of Cottonwood Tree fluff stuck to him.

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Bullfrog tadpoles

On the main pond, there were a large number of young male Wood Ducks.  They look pretty scrappy changing into their adult plumage.

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Young male Wood Duck

The water lilies were blooming nicely in the pond.

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In the Memorial Garden area I saw this American Robin fly down and start basking in the warm sun.  He looked like he was really enjoying that sun bath.

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American Robin

Lots of House Finches were singing.  One of them was an Orange-Morph.  I don’t see this coloration very often.

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Orange-Morph House Finch

I need to visit the gardens more often.   They are very relaxing and provide lots of opportunities for photography.

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Exciting Week

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

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

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

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Cave Swallow

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Cave Swallow

 

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

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

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

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

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Me after hiking the cavern. 

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

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

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Pine Siskin

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

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

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Acorn Woodpecker

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

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Steller’s Jay

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Hairy Woodpecker

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American Robin

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Broad-Tailed Hummimgbird

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Warbling Vireo

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Red-Naped Sapsucker

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Mountain Chickadee

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

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Grace’s Warbler

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

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Miss Scarlett

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

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Greater Roadrunner

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Western Kingbird

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Yellow-Breasted Chat

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Summer Tanager

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

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

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

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Western Diamondback

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Western Diamondback

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

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

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Western Diamondback

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

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

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Red-Headed Woodpecker

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Red-Headed Woodpecker

So my week was exciting in several ways.  🙂

 

 

 

 

Bird Walk at the Nature Center

The spring weather here has been very fickle.  One day it’s nice, the next it’s cold, rainy or even snowy.  So I’ve had a difficult time getting out and walking much this past week.  I had a couple hikes to interesting places scheduled, but had to cancel them due to the weather.

Yesterday looked promising to not rain even though there were big storm clouds moving across all day.  So I got up early and met up with the weekend bird walk at the Rio Grande Nature Center.  I haven’t been on one of their walks for quite some time.  I like them because they take you into areas where you normally cannot walk.

Overall it was a quiet morning for the small song birds.  But the Cooper’s Hawks were very active.  I saw one almost get a Red-Winged Blackbird not 5 feet from me.  Then another trying to catch a Greater Roadrunner.  That one gave up quick when that roadrunner fought back!  I wish I could have gotten some photos of that but it was too far away and happened too quickly.

Here’s a few of the birds I got on the walk.

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American Robin with nest building materials

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

After the tour was over, I walked around the Nature Center checking on the feeders.  You can always see something interesting at them.  This day I was surprised to see Gambel’s Quail.  I’ve never seen them there before.  From what I heard they have been clearing a lot of brush nearby that may be flushing them to the center.

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Gambel’s Quail

I was also happy to see a Black-Headed Grosbeak.  The males are so colorful.

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Black-Headed Grosbeak

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Bewick’s Wren

I also got my best photo yet of a Cinnamon Teal.  He swam right by me 🙂

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Cinnamon Teal

The highlight of my walk was getting several good photos of a hummingbird feeding on some cactus blooms.

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I believe this is a Black- Chinned Hummingbird female

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Next I headed into the bosque behind the center.  I thought I would check on the Great Horned Owls.  I saw and heard lots of birds.

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Summer Tanager with a bee

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Olive-Sided Flycatcher

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Western Tanager – female

The Rio Grande was full of activity.  Trying to get a picture of swallows on the wing is so difficult! And that Chat was a ways away just singing.

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Yellow-Breasted Chat

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Long-Billed Dowitcher

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Violet-Green Swallow

I finally made it to the owl nest.  Both babies have left the nest.  I only saw one of the young and it was way up high and buried in the foliage.  I only saw one of the parents.

When I was leaving the center, there was a volunteer standing in the parking lot holding this Great Horned Owl.  He had been injured on power lines at the petroglyphs.  He lost part of his wing so is unable to fly.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to photograph this beautiful bird.

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I wasn’t ready to end the day.  So I headed over to the Botanical Gardens.  They were having an Orchid Show.  So many beautiful orchids to see.  After viewing the orchids I toured the gardens.  Lots of spring flowers were in bloom.  It makes you happy to see pretty flowers in bloom…especially as I write the blog and it’s snowing outside!

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I love daisies!

There’s a Black-Crowned Night Heron that lives on the pond in the Japanese Garden.  Several years ago it was injured somehow and lost his toes on one foot and the tips of toes on the other.  I’ve seen him here at the gardens for several years now.  I spoke to the man that feeds the Koi in the pond, and he says the heron comes over and eats the fish food from his hand.  That’s one smart bird!

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Wood Duck

Overall I saw/heard 49 species of birds! And Scarlett and I walked 7 miles!  That’s a good day out!

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Tired Scarlett 🙂