Birding in Southeastern Arizona – Days 4 & 5

Our last two days in southeastern Arizona were spent in the Greaterville and Sierra Vista areas.

We spent one whole day exploring the mountain area near Greaterville.  Tim was determined to find some gold on this trip.  This area was known for some good gold in the early 1900s.  Tim spent the day in the bottom of an arroyo.  While he did that, I explored the hills around him.

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Tim metal detecting

Nearby there was a small pond.  It really seemed to attract the birds.  There were a pair of Killdeer on the shore.   And several Acorn Woodpeckers were hanging out there too.  There were some large trees at one end of the pond, and I scared a Great Horned Owl out of them when I walked under the branches.  He flew too far away to follow for a photo.

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Acorn Woodpecker

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Killdeer

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Lewis’s Woodpecker

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Cordilleran Flycatcher

There was a very tame Mockingbird hanging out by our vehicle.

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Northern Mockingbird

I kept hearing birdsong I didn’t recognize.  When I finally saw the bird that was singing, I got very excited.  It was a Bridled Titmouse,  a new bird for me!

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Bridled Titmouse

While watching this beautiful Titmouse, a band of Bushtits came through.  I got a nice photo of a male Bushtit before they moved on.

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Flying overhead was a gorgeous Red-Tailed Hawk.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

Tim spent hours digging holes in that arroyo.  And it paid off!  He found several pieces of gold.

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Tim’s nuggets

On our way back to our hotel, I spotted something in the dim evening light.  I made Tim turn around so I could see if my guess was right.  I thought I saw a Great Horned Owl sitting on the ground.  And I was right!

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Great Horned Owl

The next morning we were to head home.  We got an early start, so I asked Tim if we could spend about 30 minutes at a B&B in the area.  This particular B&B had had sightings of the Lucifer Hummingbird.

The yard of this B&B was full of birds.  I could see why too.  She had so many different types of food for the birds as well as several water sources.  I hadn’t been there 5 minutes when the Lucifer Hummingbird showed up.  Sadly, he landed on a feeder right above my head.  I managed to get one terrible photo before he flew off.  And I never saw him again while I was there.  😦  But I was still excited.  Such a beautiful bird!  And a lifer for me!

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Lucifer Hummingbird

But I wasn’t to be disappointed at the short view of the Lucifer Hummingbird.  Because right after seeing him, I saw the Magnificent Hummingbird.  And boy was he truly magnificent and a lifer for me!

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Magnificent Hummingbird

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Magnificent Hummingbird

Another lifer quickly showed up to feed on the grand buffet.  A Mexican Jay!

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Mexican Jay

There were lots of other birds in that small yard.  A very shy Scott’s Oriole came to feed on an orange.  And several Yellow-Rumped Warblers came for the suet.

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Acorn Woodpecker

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Gila Woodpecker

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Scott’s Oriole

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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House Finch

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Green-Tailed Towhee

Sadly, we couldn’t stay long at the B&B.   I could have easily spent an entire morning sitting in my chair there with my camera glued to my face!  LOL!

On the way home Scarlett needed a potty break.  So we stopped in at Steins, New Mexico.  It’s a neat old ghost town.  It was closed to tours, but I was still able to enjoy looking at the old buildings from outside the fence.  It is a nicely preserved town.

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Tim spotted what looked to be an old still for making moonshine.

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While photographing Steins, the train came through 🙂

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We had a wonderful long weekend exploring southeastern Arizona.  I hope we get to go back again someday!  Looks like Scarlett had a great time too.  She snoozed the whole way home.

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Scarlett was one tired dog!

 

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 5

It was finally time to leave Winnemucca, NV.  Tim found 3 nuggets over the last couple days, so he was pleased.  Upon further reading on the internet about the Rye Patch area, we learned that in September 2015 they had a nugget hunting rally in the area.   This place is small, about 2 square miles.  Last year they had over 600 people out there over a 3-day period swinging metal detectors looking for gold.  So for Tim to find two nuggets there makes you realize he’s pretty good at finding elusive gold.

The night before when we were heading to the Mexican food restaurant, I told Tim I had seen a sign for a brothel.  He said it couldn’t be for real.  So the next morning we drove over there before heading out of town.

Sure enough, it was an active brothel! Of course, I wanted to take a picture of the sign before we left.  While we were out taking pics, the owner came out to ask if we needed anything…really??  LOL!

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Brothel in Winnemucca, NV

We told him no, we were just curious.  He introduced himself as Mike and proceeded to tell us all about the place.

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Mike – owner of the brothel

Next thing we know, we are getting a tour of the place.  Sadly I was not allowed to take pictures inside.  The brothel has been open nonstop since 1864 in that location.  He showed us where the original building walls were and what had been added on over the years.  It was a fascinating tour!

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Sign at brothel

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Tim being lured in!

He has a working girl that is 64 years old.  She even married her latest husband there at the brothel and continues to work there.  He said she keeps the lights dim so she looks better.  LOL!

We asked him about rates.  He said a basic hour, with no special requests, starts at a minimum of $400 a hour.  Some girls charge more.  If you want extras, like a party in the hot tub, it can cost $1,000 an hour.  If you want a date outside the brothel, it starts at $700 a hour. He takes 50% of the fees and then charges them room and board.  Crazy right!?!

Soon we were on our way to Ely, Nevada.  Tim wanted check out an old ghost town outside of Ely called Osceola.  The largest nugget ever found in Nevada was found there.

We saw some Sandhill Cranes in the lush valley while heading south to Ely.  I’m sure they are in the process of migrating to my home state of New Mexico to the Bosque del Apache NWR.

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Sandhill Cranes

To get to Ely you have to travel the “Loneliest Highway in America”. And I survived! according to the literature I came across 🙂

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Eureka was a cool old town.  It’s creation was attributed to the large silver deposit in the area.  Today there is still a large silver mine in operation.  We liked this town because it had a lot of its old buildings still in use.  We enjoyed stretching our legs and walking main street.  We also stopped in at the local saloon for fries and a root beer 🙂

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Jackson Hotel in Eureka

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Eureka Courthouse

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Famous opera house in Eureka

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Tim checking out the old mining equipment

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Eureka Courthouse

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Tim in front of the saloon where we had a snack

Next stop of Ely, NV.  Another great town that was started due to a large copper deposit in the area. The Kennecott Mine is still in operation today.

Before stopping for the night in Ely, we drove on through to visit the old ghost town of Osceola.  It is located in the Great Basin National Heritage Area.  It is a fascinating town.  You can learn more about the history of this area at this website  Osceola District – Great Basin Heritage.

The highest peak in Nevada is known as Wheeler Peak – the same name as the highest peak in New Mexico.

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Wheeler Peak – highest peak in Nevada at 13,065 feet above sea level

When we got to Osceola the wind was blowing at 40 mph+.  Needless to say, I wasn’t too keen on spending much time out exploring and taking photos.  But we did take time to walk around the famous Osceola cemetery.

The view from the cemetery was beautiful.  I couldn’t think of a nicer resting place for these souls.

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View from Osceola cemetery

There’s not much left of the old gold mining town of Osceola.  But what was left was great for photos.  Especially that old truck.  I love rusty old trucks!

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Osceola Ghost town

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Stone foundation of old home

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Great old truck!

There is still one gold claim still in production in the area.  You can see the extensive workings from the road up the canyon.  Tons and tons of earth have been removed to get to the elusive gold in the area.

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Current mining operation at Osceola

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This canyon has been worked for well over a 100 years

I saw several birds as Osceola.  But with the strong winds, it was almost impossible to get a photo.  I did manage to get a couple decent pics.

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Western Tanager

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Rock Wren

On the way back from Osceola, just outside of Ely is a small lake called Comins Lake and is part of the Steptoe Valley Wildlife Management Area.  Of course I just had to stop there that evening so I could photograph some birds.  By now I was in birding withdrawals as I hadn’t seen hardly any birds since we left Provo, UT!

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At a long distance away – I believe these are Wilson’s Phalarope in winter plumage

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Yellow-Headed Blackbird

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Green-Winged Teal

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American Coot

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Sora

We had dinner at hotel Nevada. It opened in 1929, was the tallest building in Nevada well into the 1940s and was the state’s first fire-proof building.

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Great historical hotel and very popular with the bikers

It was nice touring the old part of town.  There wasn’t anybody around, so I got some nice photos.  I think they turned out nice in black and white.

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The main building of the railway was built in 1910.

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A lot of the original constructi0n is still standing and in great condition

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I loved this old truck

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Engine house

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Ely rail yard

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I thought of my fellow blogger Donna Catterick when I took this photo 🙂

It was a long, fun, full day!  Tomorrow we head back to Utah and Zion National Park! Stay tuned!

 

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 4 Nevada

We were up again early in Winnemucca, NV.  Tim decided to check out a new gold area north of Winnemucca called Dutch Flat.  Evidently it was small area that produced good gold.  It was a pretty drive there.  Farm land with a river running through it with surrounding hills.

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Driving north of Winnemucca to Dutch Flat

As we were heading into the canyon, we came across an old boxcar.  Not sure what it was used for, but it’s useful days are just about over.

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Old boxcar

You can see the old diggings as we drove in.

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Once parked, Tim didn’t take long getting his detector out to hunt for gold.  While he prospected, I went exploring and birding.  Once again, I just wasn’t seeing or hearing very many birds.  Northern Nevada is a very quiet birding spot.

While exploring the area, I noticed Tim had made his way up a hill.  I took a picture of him detecting.  When I got home and was editing my photos, I realized there was an antelope on the hill looking at Tim.  I never heard or saw any large mammals that day.  Amazing how quiet they can be.

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Can you see the antelope in the upper left looking down at Tim?

The view from the area was very nice.

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Expansive view!

I did manage to see a few birds in the area.

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Rock Wren

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Sage Thrasher

I did see a lizard! 🙂  Those have been scarce on this trip as well.

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New Mexico Whiptail

There wasn’t much evidence left of the old gold works in the area.

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Foundation of old mill

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Old foundation of large building

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Old tailings pile

Tim did finally find a piece of gold.  It was a nice sized piece.  He was hoping to find more, but luck wasn’t with him that morning.

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Looking hard for that yellow stuff!

After spending the morning at Dutch Flat, we decided to head back over to Rye Patch for the afternoon.  As we were driving through the farm land, we saw a coyote run by.

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Coyote

Tim was driving pretty quick down this dirt road.  I saw a dark spot in the open area along the road and told him to turn around.  Upon closer inspection, we saw it was a Burrowing Owl.

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He was hiding out…I’m surprised I saw him from the car

I got out of the car and was surprised it let me get pretty close.

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Burrowing Owl

As we hit the highway, we saw some people having fun on ATVs in the sand dunes outside of Winnemucca.

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Sand dune fun!

As we turned off the highway, I noticed a hawk roosting in an old dead tree.  He was quite a distance away, but I did manage to get a good enough photo to identify him.  When I entered my bird sighting into eBird, I saw the Harris’s Hawk was considered rare for the area.  I even got an email from eBird asking me about my sighting.  They were thrilled I had a photo that showed it was a correct ID.

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Harris’s Hawk

Back at Rye Patch, Tim wasted no time getting out prospecting.  Tim found another piece of gold which made him very happy.

I didn’t see any birds as it was late afternoon.  But I did manage to see another lizard!

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

We had just enough light to explore another gold area.  We drove out to Willow Creek in the East Mountains (creative name huh? LOL!).  We came to a locked gate and we realized someone had an active gold claim and was working the claim.  There’s a long history of people looking for gold in these mountains.  So you can see old buildings and machinery along with modern items.

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Old stamp mill

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Old trommel for separating gold from dirt and rocks

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A new wash plant for separating gold from dirt and rocks

After playing all day, we were tired and hungry.  I was really craving Mexican food and margarita!

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Ahhhhh…perfect end to a perfect day!

Stay tuned for Day 5. Lots of good stuff ahead!

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 3 Nevada

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Golden grasslands for miles

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

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

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

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

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

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Sagebrush Sparrow

 

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

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Brewer’s Sparrow

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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

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

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Rusty soda can circa 1970s  😉

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

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Western Fence Lizard

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

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Western Fence Lizard

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

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Savannah Sparrow

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

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Tim working hard looking for gold

 

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

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard coming out of his lair

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

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

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

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Narrowing down the location of the target. 

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Using tweezers to scrape in the cracks of bedrock.

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

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

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

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I like the green eyes

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A busy bee 🙂

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Wasp

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

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Funnel Web Spider lair

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

But I did get a few more bird photos.  🙂

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A hot Horned Lark

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Great Egret

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Snowy Egrets

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Snowy Egret

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

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

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

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Columnar Jointing

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

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

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

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

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

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Road to Star City

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

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Small dam on the way to Star City

 

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

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View from Star City

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

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Beginning of a beautiful sunset

Stay tuned for Day 4!

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Christmas Day Outing

My husband and I have no immediate family here in New Mexico. And with the forecast showing a big storm heading our way, we decided to stay home for Christmas.

We made plans to drive to Conchas Lake for the day. The weather was nice and sunny but the wind was blowing 40 mph! So most of our day was spent driving around in the car. But we still had a nice day. I had never seen Conchas Lake and my husband hasn’t been there since he was young.

Driving out I40 we came upon the exit for Cuervo (which means crow in Spanish). We’ve driven by this ghost town many times in the past but have never stopped.  Since we didn’t really have a schedule today, we decided to pull in and drive around town.

There are quite a few abandoned homes, a church and a school. I love photographing old buildings. It was very windy out and muddy so I had to take photos from the car or the road. But I still managed to get a few nice pics.

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My husband liked this one best

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Notice the white high heel shoe...might be a story there

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This is my favorite photo

Next stop was the lake.  As we drove up to the dam and our first view of the lake I was excited to see a pair of bald eagles. They were soaring over the water right overhead. I quickly jumped out of the truck and was able to get one photo before they soared away. I found it was difficult to get a sharp shot in 40 mph winds.

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Conchas dam

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Bald Eagle

After crossing the dam we pulled into a park area. There were lots of deer grazing on the grass and relaxing. A beautiful sight to see.

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Mule Deer

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Deer like juniper berries

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I heard and saw a lot of small birds feeding in the trees, but I only managed to get one pic.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

As we were leaving the park a flock of European Starlings came flying in fast on the wind and managed to grab a perch in the tree nearby.

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European Starlings

Next we drove down to the water’s edge. We walked around some and explored the beach. We took a selfie but the wind and direction of the sun made it difficult.

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Leaving the beach we saw a huge flock of Mountain Bluebirds. They were very skittish and the wind was making it difficult for them to feed on the juniper berries.

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By now my husband has gotten into looking for birds. He spotted several for me.  Which was good because the roadrunner really blended into its surroundings.

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Greater Roadrunner

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Dark-Eyed Junco - pink sided

We drove through the small neighborhood to see the houses. We think it would be nice to have a little weekend property here….someday…

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Festive yard

Since it was the “off” season there were lots of deer in the yards…even right up to the front porch. 

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The one on the right was giving me "the look"

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Mule Deer - an old timer

There were also lots of red-winged and brewer’s blackbirds about.

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Red-Winged and Brewer's Blackbirds

They were feeding on corn the residents had put out.

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That piece of corn is a mouthful

As we were leaving we saw another bird soaring. I had hoped it was the bald eagle again but instead it was a hawk. I had never seen one soar and hold its head down like this.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

We had a fun day regardless of the wind. It’s always a great day spent with my husband.