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.

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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.

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Old kiln door

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Kiln stack and buildings

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Such unique craftsmanship

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Living quarters for the laborers

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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.

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Restored pagoda, gardens and pond

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What a wonderful idea for an old quarry.

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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.

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Arched path built by prison labor

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Such beautiful landscaping

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Beautiful!

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Bridge to the kiln stack.

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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.

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The roof was rebuilt in 2005. 

In 2007 restoration began to restore the ponds and waterfall.

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So beautiful!

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View from the pagoda

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Path to the waterfall.

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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.

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Wonderful paths

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Hidden paths

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So peaceful

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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.

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I loved walking these paths

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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.

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Scarlett was fascinated by the curious koi 🙂

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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.

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This flower was as big as my head!

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.

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Coyote

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

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Western Meadowlark

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

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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.

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Lazuli Bunting

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Black-Throated Gray Warbler

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Common Black Hawk

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

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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.

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Gray Catbird

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

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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.

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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!

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Golden-Winged Warbler

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Golden-Winged Warbler

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

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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.

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Yellow-Breasted Chat

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

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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.

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Summer Tanager male

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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!

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Black-Chinned Hummingbird

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Uh oh!  He sees another hummer coming for him!

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Defending the feeder!

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

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Canada Goose

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Western-Wood Pewee

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Ash-Throated  Flycatcher

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

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Poppies

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Shooting stars

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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.  🙂

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White-Winged Dove

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Lonesome Larry

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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!

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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!

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Kelly & Kelly

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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.

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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!

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Angie, Kelly & Kelly

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Kelly & Kelly

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

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Conservatory

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Conservatory

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

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I never would have guessed these were orchids.

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This one looks like the head of a cobra snake.

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Stunning colors and patterns

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Gorgeous!

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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.

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

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All of these colors are on one plant. 

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

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There were many varieties of pitcher plants.  Fascinating!

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These stripes looked painted on.

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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.

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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.

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Fat, lazy frog!

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Adorable statue of a boy catching frogs.

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Creative fountain.

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I really liked this deer statue.

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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!

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A little gnome was trying to get my attention 😉

 

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psssst!

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

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

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So creative!

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I liked the perfect pine tree

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

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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.

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One of my favorite blooming trees – the Dogwood

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Azaleas!

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

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Stunning Japanese Maple

We came across these vivid azaleas.  Such striking colors!

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Can you believe these colors!?!

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

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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!

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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!!!

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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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