A couple of weeks ago I had to go to Las Vegas, New Mexico, for work. I decided to take a little time to see what might be at the local refuge. It was a cold, windy day so I wasn’t too hopeful of much being around.
Most of the small birds were hiding from the wind. There were a few Western Meadowlarks about but definitely weren’t interested in getting their picture taken.
With the cold wind, the Canada and Cackling Geese were hiding out in a low-lying pond. You don’t usually see these two species hanging out with each other. While we have difficulty distinguishing the two species, they definitely know who’s who!
In the distance I saw several Northern Harrier’s searching for lunch.
What was out and not shy at all were Red-Tailed Hawks. They were all juveniles. Such beautiful birds! And they let me get close and take as many photos as I wanted. What could be better than that!?!
This particular hawk had already been successful getting something to eat as you can see dried blood on his feet.
While photographing that hawk, some Morning Dove came in looking all fearful of the hawk nearby.
Nothing much else at the refuge. But as I was driving down the country road back to Las Vegas, I came across one of the most beautiful bluebirds I’ve ever seen. His colors were glorious!
Then to my delight I saw a Ferruginous Hawk on a telephone pole. Such a beautiful bird!
One last bird I saw was a very large Common Raven. Fortunately the lighting was nice and I was able to get a nice photo of this all black bird.
As I was driving home I decided to stop in a Storrie Lake to see what might be about. There really weren’t any birds around. Most of them were out in the middle of the lake where I just couldn’t get a good visual.
Just as I was about to leave, a Rough-Legged Hawk came in and landed on a post right next to my car. How exciting! The daylight was waning, but I had enough light to get a few nice shots. These birds are rarely seen in New Mexico so I was delighted to get such an up close sighting.
All in all I had two great side trips during my busy work day!
Recently I decided to explore Plaza Blanca near Abiquiu, New Mexico. If any of you have seen the movie Cowboys and Aliens, then you may remember the white rock formation that was in the scenes of the final battle of the movie.
I have always wanted to explore this place, but never seemed to find the time to do so. We’ve gotten some small snows this winter, so I headed out on a day that I thought there might be some snow on the trail to enhance my photos.
It was a beautiful day and there indeed was some snow left on the ground.
When I arrived at the parking area, I had a wonderful view of the southwest landscape showing the many beautiful layers of color. I just love New Mexico landscapes.
I hiked down the trail and just started exploring. There’s not a lot of information about this area or the hike on the internet. At first you see the large, white rock formation that is the namesake of the hike. It is quite large and impressive.
Next to the white formation is a large brown one. I love how it stands alone. Looks like something from the set of a Star Trek show.
I then turned left along this formation and continued upstream in the arroyo. At first it was very wide. This is where the snow made beautiful accents to the landscape.
I came upon several trees in the bottom of the arroyo.
I turned around and love how the sun shone through the branches.
That’s when I noticed the hole in the formation. You can just see it behind the tree. I backtracked to get some photos of this.
I then saw another hole. Of course, I just had to see how creative I could get with the “window” in the rock.
I then went back up the arroyo. I came to a fork and decided to take the right fork as it seemed more interesting. The rock formations were really cool. I had Scarlett jump up on one to get a fun photo. She’s so cute in how she will do whatever I ask.
The canyon started narrowing as I followed it. For some reason I love hiking narrow canyons.
Soon we came across water in the bottom of the canyon. This is when I realized I had stumbled upon a slot canyon. I LOVE SLOT CANYONS!
Scarlett loved it too! She soon started running around and playing. She especially loved coming around the bend and jumping across the water.
This is a face of a very happy dog!
I followed the now very narrow canyon. It was so beautiful. The melting snow created some beautiful natural sculptures.
We continued further up the slot canyon until the end of the line. Well…then end for me. I wasn’t willing to scramble up this obstacle.
We headed back out of the canyon. It was a wonderful place to explore. When I got back to the main formation, I decided to take my time and get a few photos of the area.
After finishing up my hike I decided to go by Abiquiu Lake. I’ve never been to the lake before. I thought there might be wintering birds there. But when I arrived, it was dead quiet.
I did like the reflections in one of the coves of the lake. So I took a few photos there before moving on.
I was really wanting to see some birds on my outing. So I headed to a place that I know I will see birds. I went to Ohkay Owingeh Lakes near Espanola, NM.
On the way to the lakes, I stopped to get a nice photo of the Rio Grande. This stop always offers a beautiful view of the river.
I hiked around the two ponds at the park. There was surprisingly few birds about. But I managed to get a few pics.
It was nice to finish up the day with some nice bird sightings. Scarlett and I had a wonderful day. I highly recommend you visit the Plaza Blanca area.
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!
They even had signs saying so!
I thought it was a joke until I saw this!
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.
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!
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
While I was photographing him, he quickly lunged and came up with the huge crawdad!
It’s like the size of a lobster!
There was a juvenile looking on with envy…
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.
Checking me out 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!
All the while I’m photographing birds, Scarlett was kicked back relaxing and watching all the people and birds.
And Squirrels!!! She was on high alert when she spotted the squirrels!
Scarlett keeping a sharp eye on the squirrel nearby.
The squirrels kept on eye on her as well.
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.
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.
Mute Swan male
Mute Swan female and babies
Here are some of the other small birds I saw around this lake.
Black-Crested Titmouse enjoying a bird drip fountain
Brown-Headed Cowbird female and male
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.
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!
One of my favorite photos of the visit
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.
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.
There were a few other blooming flowers about, but not many as San Antonio was experiencing a drought.
Honey bee enjoying the clover blooms
This squirrel appreciated the water put out for the birds.
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???
One morning I arrived well before sunrise. I came across this Little Blue Heron fishing. I loved the colors and lighting of this photo.
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! 🙂
This doe found a nice place to sit out the day’s heat
On my last day at Red River I drove to Eagle Nest, NM, to do some birding and photography around Eagle Nest Lake. It was a cool morning after evening showers. As I drove along the highway, I came across a small herd of elk. Always a welcome sight!
They have mostly lost their winter coat.
When I arrived at the lake, it had a layer of fog over the water. I thought it made for a picturesque scene.
Eagle Nest Lake
A lone boat of fishermen was on the lake.
Fisherman on Eagle Nest Lake
There wasn’t much bird activity out over or on the water. Just a few Canadian Geese flying by.
There was a lot of bird activity around the lake. Most notably swallows. There are very few trees around this lake. So a house nearby was a top pick for the swallows nests.
Swallows coming and going from their nests in the eaves.
As all birders know, swallows are fast! Trying to get a pic of one on the wing is very difficult. But once I realized one of the species of swallows was a Tree Swallow, I was determined to get a pic. This was a lifer bird for me!
There were other birds along the shore of the lake. Most of them were shy so it was difficult getting very close for any photos. But I managed a few.
Western Bluebird female
Red-Winged Blackbird female
While walking along the lake shore, I came across a half eaten jalapeno. Where else but New Mexico would you see that?!? 🙂
Only in New Mexico…
After spending some time around the lake, I decided to go exploring around Eagle Nest to see some of the sights for photos. I came across the ruins of the old lodge. I wish I could have gotten closer, but it was gated inside private property.
Old Eagle Nest Lodge
There was a unique gate post nearby that looks like live hawks and eagles use it frequently for a perch 🙂
While driving around I came across a Turkey Vulture enjoying a deer carcass. Not much left, but still enough for a small meal.
I then decided to visit the old ghost town of Elizabethtown. Not much left but a couple of buildings and a few old vehicles. My creative spirit just couldn’t seem to do much with the buildings….
So I moved on to the old vehicles. I loved this old car.
This used to be a high end car back in the 30s
Of course, I had to get a pic of the old and the new 🙂
But my favorite vehicle was this really cool old truck! Isn’t it great!?!
Of course, I just had to get Scarlett to pose next to it. Her picture didn’t come out so great as she was distracted by the horses nearby.
The horses were right across the street enjoying a lush pasture. This Palomino was a real beauty.
Enjoying spring in the mountains.
Sadly it was time to head back home. The road back to Red River is very scenic. This particular day had awesome clouds with New Mexico’s signature blue sky.
Highway to Red River
Memorial Day weekend was coming up. As I was driving home I passed by this very moving Memorial Day tribute. It was very emotional seeing our American Flag blowing in the wind with signs saying how many of our countrymen had passed in our country’s wars. Their lives have paid for our freedom in this wonderful country of ours.
Memorial Day Tribute
Coming back through Taos, I stopped at a place where there’s a couple more cool trucks. One of them I’ve posted before, but I can never resist photographing this vehicle.
I love this truck!
Beautiful Taos country!
I had a great time visiting Red River. It had been years since I had been there last. It’s always a joy getting out and exploring God’s beautiful country.
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.
As always, I saw several Western Meadowlarks out singing. I love their beautiful voice.
I walked along the main drainage ditch hoping to see some good birds. A scrub jay announced his presence.
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.
Black-Throated Gray Warbler
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.
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.
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.
Common Black Hawk
On my way back I saw a flycatcher along the ditch. I believe it’s a 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.
While hiking along he ditch, I enjoyed the wild irises blooming.
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.
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!
While hiking there I was treated to some beautiful wild apple blossoms.
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.
I also saw the resident roadrunners in the parking lot. Always fun to photograph!
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.
Summer Tanager male
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!
Uh oh! He sees another hummer coming for him!
Defending the feeder!
Here are some of the other birds I saw on my visit.
The gardens were beginning to bloom. The bees were happily gathering pollen.
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. 🙂
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!
Red-Tailed Hawk with babies
It’s been great getting out birding. It was nice to see all the summer birds returning to Albuquerque.
On January 31 there was a lunar event that hasn’t happened in 150 years in the United States: A Blue Moon, Super Moon, Blood Moon Eclipse. What does that mean? A Blue Moon is a second full moon in the same month. A Super Moon is when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth making the moon appear 14% larger and 30% brighter. And a Blood Moon Eclipse is when the moon moves directly behind the Earth’s shadow where it cannot receive any light from the sun causing it to appear red in our atmosphere.
Of course, seeing as I wouldn’t be around for the next one unless I lived to be 203 years old, I just had to photograph this event. I got up a 4 am to drive into town to a predetermined location. I was fortunate that our local camera club had scouted out a great area that gave an elevated vantage of the city below. When I arrived, I saw the temperature was 27 degrees. Brrrrr! It was going to be a cold photo shoot!
As I hiked to the earthen dam at the northeast end of Albuquerque, I could see the eclipse had already begun. At the time the moon was still white but was starting to show a hint of red. I quickly set up my camera gear and started shooting.
Moon over Albuquerque
The eclipse happened fast. Just a few shots later, the moon was becoming mostly red.
Eclipse well underway
Then it finally happened! It was a Blood Moon. I zoomed as far in as I could and it was a beautiful sight!
The full eclipse was to be a 6:30 am. My last shot was around 6:15. The sun was rising and the sky had really started to lighten. I quickly changed lenses and took a picture of the Blood Moon hanging over Albuquerque. As you can see, I was definitely shooting in the “blue hour” by this time. But I thought the photo was so beautiful.
Blood Moon over Albuquerque
After that last shot, the sky just became too light and the moon had dipped into the hazy horizon above the city. So I packed up my gear and hoofed it back to my car.
I figured since I was already in town and it was dawn, I should take the opportunity to go birding. Logical train of thought right??? 🙂
I headed over to Alameda Open Space to see what might be around at the pond and along the river. I had heard a Mew Gull has been sighted among the Ring-Billed Gull flock. That would be a lifer for me if I could find it.
I started systematically taking photos of the flock as they rested on the sandbar in the Rio Grande. I figured I could look through photos later to see if I captured the Mew Gull.
Ring-Billed Gulls with rare visitor California Gull in the middle
I had snapped a few photos working my way down the line, when all of a sudden they all erupted into flight. Startled me good!
I had wondered what frightened them. I was thinking maybe a coyote had tried to sneak up on them or something. No sign of any ground attack, I looked up for a possible aerial attack. And right above me was a Bald Eagle! Beautiful! We get them here every winter, but you just don’t see them that often.
You can see the size difference of the gull to the Bald Eagle
Look at that wingspan!!
He soon caught a thermal and soared higher and higher until eventually he was gone. Since now the gulls were all stirred up, I figured my chance to see the Mew Gull were pretty much nil. So I started hiking along the river to see what other goodies might be about. Here’s some pics of my finds.
Common Merganser female
There are 3 Black-Crowned Night Herons in the trees
Great Blue Heron
Common Mergansers – 2 males and 1 female
Wood Duck pair
Mallards with a Killdeer
Western Bluebird – so beautiful!
We came across a giant beach along the river and Scarlett decided it was a great place to run and play in the water. Even though that water had to be freezing she wanted to play. I had fun capturing some photos of her while she played. Goofy dog!
Scarlett having fun in the water
So much fun to run in the shallow water
She likes to bite at the water as she plays
My beautiful girl
Isn’t that a look of pure joy! LOL!
After a couple hours of hiking, we headed back to the car. I stopped briefly at the bridge crossing the bar ditch next to the parking lot. There’s usually some good small birds in the area. I heard a constant buzzing noise. It took me a minute to narrow down where it was coming from, but eventually I fount its source. A Marsh Wren – in plain sight! Now many of you know those Marsh Wrens can be a real challenge to photograph as they mostly live deep in cattails. So I was thrilled to be able to watch one work along the edge of the water for a little while. He was deep in shadows and at a little distance, so it was a challenge getting a good image. But I was pleased with what I got.
Hmmmm…anything good under water?
I had a little time left before I needed to head home and get back to work. So I stopped in at the Embudito Trail parking lot. There’s been sighted a Golden-Crowned Sparrow among the White-Crowned Sparrows feeding at a feeder next to the parking lot.
When I arrived I saw a Cactus Wren singing in a tree. I can never resist photographing these beautiful birds. And their song is the epitome of desert birdsong. I think it’s the most used birdsong in commercials and movies depicting the southwest.
I then saw a bunch of White-Crowned Sparrows fly in to the bushes next to the feeder. I was hopeful the Golden-Crowned Sparrow was among them.
I searched and searched and finally! there he was! By this time the sun was bright and trying to get a good pic was a challenge. But finally I managed one that showed his beautiful gold crown even though it’s muted in his winter plumage. A lifer for me!
Now it was time to go home and take a nap!!! (work could wait LOL!)
Mallard feather on the frozen beach of the Rio Grande
During the last week of December, I was able to take a trip to Bosque del Apache. I try to visit there every December as that’s when the winter bird count is pretty high.
I left well before sunrise. As I was driving down, I started getting into thicker and thicker fog. At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph on a 75 mph interstate.
It was difficult to bird first thing due to the thick fog, so I took a few scenic shots.
Boardwalk through the marsh
A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area
I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.
Beautiful coyote among the hoarfrost
Fortunately, the fog cleared up once the sun rose and I was able to start hunting for birds.
I first noticed a Great Blue Heron grooming.
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.
American Bald Eagles
I started driving around the ponds to see what waterfowl was about. I happened to notice two Northern Harriers squabbling. They were quite a ways away but I managed to capture a pic.
Northern Harriers fighting
I was surprised to find that there really wasn’t very many waterfowl about. I had to really search the ponds to find any. Not sure where they were all hiding.
Bufflehead – male
Bufflehead – female
Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.
I always hear there are wading birds that winter at the refuge, but I rarely see them. But on this day I saw three Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of a pond.
I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!
One of my favorite sightings of the day was a Crissal Thrasher singing his little heart out atop a bush. Surprisingly he let me get pretty close singing the whole time.
I sat and watched a roadrunner look for lunch. They are always entertaining. He hunted for awhile before he noticed me watching. I took this pic the moment he realized he wasn’t alone. 🙂
My last sighting of the day was a grebe off in the distance. When I zoomed in and took a pic, I was delighted to see it was a Clark’s Grebe. These are considered a rare sighting for the area, so that was a real treat.
I left around noon and decided to drive a different route home. I took the Quebradas Scenic Route home. I had heard a lot about this road. But to be honest I couldn’t really see why it was considered so beautiful. But there was one place on the road I found very picturesque, so I got out a took a pic.
Quebradas Scenic Route
Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.
I still had some light left in the day, so I stopped in at the Bernardo Refuge. The Sandhill Cranes seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache.
I got there near sunset, and all the cranes were coming in to the pond to drink. It was a beautiful sight seeing and hearing the cranes flying overhead in the soft light of sunset.
While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!
I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.
The weather here in New Mexico has been very mild for wintertime. So I took advantage of the nice day and went birding yesterday. I haven’t had much chance to bird lately, so it was a real treat to have a whole day to visit several places and get some fun bird sightings.
My first stop was to visit the Rio Grande Nature Center for their Saturday morning bird walk. When you go on their guided tours, you get taken into places of the park you normally can’t visit. So it’s always a treat to go behind the scenes.
The early morning temperatures were in the mid 20s, so it was definitely a cold start. The ducks didn’t seem very happy about standing on the ice instead of swimming in the water.
Mallards and Wood Ducks
A Black-Crowned Night Heron was hiding in the bushes nearby.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
On the main pond there were a few ducks enjoying the area that hadn’t frozen over. It was a treat to see a Hooded Merganser male. Even though they are common in our area during the winter, you just don’t see them that often.
Along with the Hooded Merganser there were a few other visitors.
Ruddy Ducks in the Foreground and a Canvasback female in the back
American Coot on the left and a Pied-Billed Grebe on the right
We saw a few other birds along our walk, but for the most part it was quiet.
A variety of blackbirds
After the guided tour, I walked around the park a little more to see what might be visiting the feeders. There was a nice variety of birds enjoying the free meal.
Red-Winged Blackbird female
I walked down to the Rio Grande to see what might be hanging out at the river. Over the past few years Albuquerque has had a flock of Ring-Billed Seagulls hanging out on the sand bars of the Rio Grande near Alameda Street. This year those sand bars got flooded over by the river. I had wondered where the seagulls had moved to since their usual spot was too deep for them. I was excited to see they had found a new area behind the nature center. I scanned the flock to see if there were any other breeds visiting the flock, but I didn’t see any this time.
While photographing the flock, a fly fisherman came down to fish the area. I managed to get a decent pic of him casting his line. It’s hard to see, but I still liked the photo.
Before leaving the nature center, I was lucky enough to see 3 Greater Roadrunners around the parking area. They are so used to people, that I swear they pose for the camera. Of course, I took about 500 pics of just the roadrunners. 🙂
Posing so nicely for me
Got a peek of those gorgeous purple feathers of the crest
From there I visited Los Poblanos Open Space. I had hoped to see the Western Screech Owls occupying the nesting boxes. But sadly none of them poked their heads out while I was there. But I found a few other treasures while hiking around the fields.
Black Phoebe that managed to find a bug in the cold weather
A leucistic American Goldfinch
My favorite sightings of that visit was seeing both a male and female American Kestral. Such beautiful, small birds of prey.
American Kestral male
American Kestral female
My third stop was to find the American Dipper that has been spotted in the drainage ditch along the Rio Grande. Though they are a common bird in our state, they are rarely seen in Albuquerque. They prefer fast flowing streams where they can dip and dive in the rapids looking for food. The Rio Grande in the Albuquerque area is mostly a wide, placid river. But there are a few spots in the year-round flowing drainage ditches that have man-made rapids coming out of culverts.
After walking a little ways along the ditch, I was thrilled to see the dipper bobbing along the water’s edge. He didn’t seem concerned to have an audience. It was a real treat watching him feeding in and around the water’s edge. Needless to say, I took another 500 photos of this bird. LOL!
American Dipper swimming
There were a few other visitors there along the ditch that I enjoyed watching as well.
Overall, I had a great day going from one birding spot to another. Scarlett had a great time walking all the trails with me.
First off, let me just say, I LOVE my new camera! I’m definitely still in the learning phase, but it’s performance is superior to my old setup. It’s a joy to use, and I’m very happy with my images.
Not too long ago, we had a spring storm blow through and it dumped 12 inches of snow at my house. The birds were not very happy about this event, and neither were my plants.
A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.
The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.
I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂
My sweet Miss Scarlett
Thankfully the snow melted the very next day, and the temperatures returned to the mid to high 70s right away. I got to go out hiking several times this week. I visited Tingley Beach a couple days after the spring storm. The Rio Grande was raging and flooded most of the bosque trails. But it was worth trudging through it to see some new spring birds.
I have lived in the Albuquerque area for over 20 years. And during that time, I have never visited Sandia Lakes or Shady Lakes (they are next door to each other). So one day I decided to check out the lakes.
Sandia Lakes was very nice. Beautiful lawns and cottonwood trees and three separate lakes.
Sandia Lakes with the Sandia Mountains in the background
The first bird I saw was a Lark Sparrow (first one I’ve seen this year). He was singing way up high in a tree. Then I saw several Canada Geese with their babies.
While watching the geese, I saw something that looked different. I quickly realized it was a Western Grebe. We don’t see them often in our area, so it was a real treat.
I saw a pair of Say’s Phoebes busily hunting for bugs. I soon saw why they were so frantic to find bugs. They had three babies squeezed into a tiny nest.
I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well. They are such beautiful birds
While walking around the lake, an Osprey flew overhead. I thought to myself that he might be part of a nesting pair. This was confirmed recently by my friend Joe. I’m definitely going to have to check out their nesting progress.
I came across a pair of Black-Capped Chickadees that were acting very agitated. I never did figure out what they were so upset about.
As I was walking through the grass between lakes, I saw a Killdeer doing its “I’m injured, follow me” routine. So I knew there must be a baby nearby. It was acting pretty desperate, so I thought it must be very close.
Killdeer trying to lure me away from its baby
When I looked down, I realized it was only a foot away. I almost stepped on it! Yikes! It never did move. I took a quick pic and then quickly moved away. Soon I heard the baby calling for its parents. It was nice to see them all reunite and be assured all was fine.
I then headed over to Shady Lakes. What a beautiful place! It has several ponds all covered in beautiful lily pads and lined with irises. The ponds are stocked with different varieties of fish. But I was there for the birds.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron sitting beautifully on an old log. I then realized there were several of them gathered there. Fabulous! They are used to people so they let me get pretty close.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.
I noticed a moth feeding among the irises. These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.
White-Lined Sphinx Moth
The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!
My last hike was up to the Cienega picnic area. The forest service blocks the road for cars until mid-May. So you have to hike along the road to get to the upper picnic area. My goal was to try and find the Northern Pygmy Owl that has been seen nesting there. Now I have made this hike several times both last spring and this spring with no luck seeing that owl. Well, this time I was successful! This is a lifer bird for me!
He was calling repeatedly on a lower branch in the aspen tree where he’s been seen nesting. All the songbirds in the area were very agitated and were trying to scare him away. It was a wonderful sighting!
For those of you not familiar with this owl. He’s very small, only 6 inches from its head to the end of its tail. So you can see why he’s so difficult to find.
Northern Pygmy Owl
I decided to hike over to Bill Spring since I was in the area. A Hermit Thrush was enjoying a bath. And a baby was in a tree nearby.
A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.
I hadn’t been at the spring long when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in chasing a chickadee. After that, the birds were scarce. So I started hiking back to my car. I saw lots of Black-Headed Grosbeak singing and squabbling in the trees. I’m guessing they were vying for the attention of the females.
I’m thrilled spring is here. I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived. 🙂
Today is the 2nd anniversary of my blog. I can’t believe I’ve been posting my adventures for 2 years! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my birding outings and other adventures.
Scarlett and I have been walking a lot lately. And sometimes my fiends join us. It’s been a lot of fun getting out there and seeing the bosque start to wake up for spring.
My friend Joe Schelling has told me about a couple of owl nests. So I went to find them over the past couple of weeks. One is a Great Horned Owl nest. The male was difficult to find, but I did manage to locate him after much searching. He was hiding very well in a pine tree. The female in the nest is very easy to see. I’m looking forward to seeing babies soon.
Great Horned Owl
Can you see the owl among the branches?
The other owl nest is a Western Screech Owl. He’s located near the duck ponds at Tingley Beach. Which brings me to my 11-mile hike.
For awhile now, I’ve wanted to hike the trail along the Rio Grande from Tingley Beach to Alameda Open Space. I knew it was going to be a long hike and I needed a full day to do it. The weather has gotten so nice lately, that I decided I was ready to attempt this long hike. My plan was to start at Tingley Beach and head north. Once I got to Alameda, I was going to call a cab to take me back to my car.
So a couple of days ago, Scarlett and I headed out. It was a glorious spring day. At the parking lot, I was greeted by loads of beautiful daffodils blooming. So cheerful. A wonderful way to start a day.
I started at the duck ponds. I met up with a couple birder friends there and we enjoyed watching a very cooperative Neotropic Cormorant. He was enjoying the beautiful morning as well.
Love their teal-colored eyes
A Pied-Billed Grebe was also enjoying the morning. As well as a gorgeous male Wood Duck.
Wood Duck enjoying a good grooming
I’ve seen a particular coloring of duck over the past year. For the longest time, I thought it was a mallard hybrid of some sort. But recently I stumbled across a photo of this same duck on the internet. Come to find out, it’s a Swedish Blue Duck. Evidently it’s a domesticated duck in Sweden and over the past few years has spread among the states. I’ve seen this duck in Utah, Nevada and now New Mexico.
Swedish Blue Duck behind a Mallard female
There were lots of turtles out sunning themselves as well. While taking photos, I guess I never realized there were so many varieties of turtles in the ponds.
I then left the ponds and went in search of that Western Screech Owl. He was looking out of his hole with slitted eyes. I guess that bright morning sun wasn’t so pleasant to him. But I was thrilled to get a cool shot of that owl looking out of the trunk of a cottonwood tree.
Western Screech Owl
I made my way along the bosque. I saw several porcupines up in the trees. Soon the leaves will make it much more difficult to see them.
Not far past the owl’s nest, I came across a pair of nesting Cooper’s Hawks. The female was way down low in the nest and was difficult to see. But the male was calling from a branch making himself very visible. I was pleased to get such a nice photo of him.
During my hike, I saw a total of four Cooper’s Hawks. The others were not nearly as cooperative for photos.
Further along the trail, I heard this guy making odd noises. As I came closer, I saw him in the water. At first I thought he needed help, but as I got closer I realized he was doing some kind of training. Not sure what, but I guess he knew what he was doing. LOL!
Just upstream of this guy, I saw a Canada Goose wondering about that guy as well!
I happened upon a pair of Lesser Goldfinches trying to glean a few more seeds from last season’s sunflowers.
Lesser Goldfinch – male
Lesser Goldfinch – female
At one point I heard a bunch of Gambel’s Quail. I only managed to see this one male as he peeked out from behind some cacti.