San Antonio Birding – Dedicated to my Dad

In mid-April I went to visit my parents in San Antonio, Texas.  My dad had been getting weaker and weaker.  I knew I needed to go see him sooner rather than later.  Sadly, two days after I arrived he passed away.  I’m so thankful I was able to visit him before he passed.

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One of my favorite photos of me and my dad.  My wedding day on October 18, 1996.

I wanted to dedicate this post to my dad.  He always looked forward to reading about my adventures and looking at my photos.

I had taken Scarlett with me.  She was upset when dad died at the house.  And she was upset that mom and I were grieving.  So to help her and me both cope with the loss, I got up early every morning to walk and bird.   When I am out in nature, I find it a balm to my soul and a time to talk with the Lord.

There is a greenbelt near my parent’s home that I walk whenever I visit.  The first morning I was there, I took a walk on the familiar trail.  Since it was April, there were still a few Texas Bluebonnets blooming.

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Scarlett walking in the greenbelt.

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Texas Bluebonnets

It was quiet for the most part, but I did find a couple of good birds.  One bird was singing his heart out and it took me awhile to find him.  Eventually I located him and was happy to see a White-Eyed Vireo.

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White-Eyed Vireo

A further ways down the trail, I saw a movement in a tree.  To my delight it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  He didn’t seem to mind me watching him hunt for breakfast.  So I got lots of beautiful shots of this gorgeous bird.

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Red-Shouldered Hawk as I first saw him.

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He then moved to this great perch and posed nicely for me.

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I love the beautiful color and pattern of the feathers on his wings.

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Success getting some breakfast.

The next morning I went to a newly found spot called Lake Converse in Converse, Texas.  It’s a pretty little park with a semi-wild lake.  One of the first things I saw was a pair of Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings.  I think they had hatched within 48 hours.

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Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings

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Adorable baby

One of my favorite shots was of a Mute Swan.  Such an elegant bird.

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Mute Swan

A lot of the birds preferred to stay on the far shore of the lake – really testing the limits of my long lens.  I had hoped to get closer to the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, but no such luck.

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This is the best photo I got of a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

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Cattle Egret

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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American Coot

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American Coot

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Great Egret

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Great-Tailed Grackle

As I walked around the lake, I saw quite a variety of birds.  The air was filled with birdsong.

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White-Winged Dove

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Barn Swallow

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Common Yellowthroat

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Savannah Sparrow

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Eastern Kingbird

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Killdeer

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Eastern Phoebe

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Clay-Colored Sparrow in the foreground and a Chipping Sparrow in the back.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Myrtle)

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Carolina Wren

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Northern Cardinal with an inchworm

One special treat was a Martin House that was in use.  Purple Martins were occupying most of the holes.

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Purple Martins

As I was leaving one day, I watched this Northern Mockingbird busy looking for insects.  I watched him use his wings to try and flush out bugs.

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Northern Mockingbird flushing out bugs

Another lake nearby called Live Oak Lake was another treasure for birds. It had a more park-like feel to it.  It didn’t have as many birds, but was still a great place to visit. I got there very early one beautiful morning.

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck at dawn

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Lake Converse at sunrise

There was a very tame Great Egret hoping for a free breakfast from a fisherman.

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Great Egret

One a later visit that Great Egret was fishing along the lake shore.  I thought it made for a beautiful photo op.

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Great Egret

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Small catch but tasty!

There were a several other waterfowl on the lake.

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Mottled Duck

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Mottled Duck babies – so adorable!

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Blue-Winged Teal

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck baby – beautiful markings!

I watched a Green Heron hunt for fish.  He didn’t care that I was only a few feet away.  He got so close that I couldn’t focus my long lens on him.  I had to keep backing up!

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Green Heron

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Green Heron

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Green Heron

While walking around this lake, I briefly saw a Cooper’s Hawk try to catch some Blue Jays.  I heard the Jays squawking about it, but never got any photos.

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Cooper’s Hawk

There were some other birds around the lake that allowed me to take their photos.

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Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

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Northern Cardinal

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Western Kingbird

One of the highlights for me at this lake was a very sociable Spotted Sandpiper.  He let me get within a few feet and take a number of photos while he groomed.  In the past when I’ve seen these birds, they fly away before you can get a decent shot. So this was a real treat for me!

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Spotted Sandpiper

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Spotted Sandpiper

One morning I walked along Mud Creek.   It’s only about a mile from my parent’s house, so I got there at sunrise without much effort.  I loved this sunrise shot with Texas Bluebonnets in the foreground.

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Texas Bluebonnet Sunrise

The foliage was thick in this area, but I managed to get a few bird shots here.  Mostly there were Northern Cardinals and Carolina Wrens.  But a Black-Crested Titmouse was busy singing from the tree tops.

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Black-Crested Titmouse

On my last day in San Antonio, I visited McAllister Park.  What a wonderful place.  Miles of trails in a park consisting of over 750 acres in the heart of San Antonio. There were lots of birds but very difficult to spot them.  What I saw the most was White-Tailed Deer.  They were everywhere!

Scarlett just couldn’t believe her eyes!!  🙂

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Look mom!  A deer is right there!!!!

While hiking along a road in the park, I was passed by a man riding a bike.  He stopped in front of me and threw out grain for the deer.  I think he does this often, as they seemed to recognize him.  One in particular let him pet her.  When he rode off, several of them followed him for awhile.  What a wonderful connection with nature!

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White-Tailed Deer

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How sweet this deer trusts this man and calls him friend.

At the southern end of the park is where I got most of my sightings and photographs.  A beautiful Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher posed for me then flew and showed off his seldom seen red feathers under his wings.

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Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

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Beautiful coloring under the wings.

Here are the other treasures I got at the southern end of the park.

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Carolina Chickadee

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Northern Mockingbird

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Summer Tanager Female

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Black Vulture

The highlight of my bird sightings during my visit was at McAllister Park.  While trying to photograph a Carolina Chickadee, I heard a noise behind me.  When I looked, I saw a Barred Owl sunning himself in the top of a tree.  A lifer sighting for me!!!  And so beautiful!!!

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Barred Owl

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Barred Owl

My last birding opportunity of my trip was a stop in Clovis, New Mexico, to check on the Great Horned Owls in Ned Houk Park.  They had successfully raised two young ones, and they were far enough along to leave the nest.  They kept a sharp eye on us.

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Great Horned Owletts

Just before leaving I managed to find one of the parents.  Such wonderful birds owls are.

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Great Horned Owl

A Lark Sparrow and a Western Meadowlark were singing happily for us.

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Lark Sparrow

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Western Meadowlark

Scarlett enjoyed her visit at the park.  🙂

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My sweet Scarlett

So while it was a sad visit to San Antonio, I found solace walking among the beauty God has created and seeing so many of his wonderful creatures.  I know my dad would have loved to see these photos.  The Texas Bluebonnets were always a personal favorite. I know he is at peace now and waiting for me in Heaven.

In memory of my dad:

Joseph Mathew Welch, Jr.  Born April 28, 1935.  Died April 18, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scarlett turns 3!

Saturday, March 24, was Scarlett’s 3rd birthday! So of course, to celebrate we had to do something new and different!

On Friday my husband’s band played in Lamy, NM. It’s a little town that is basically a small railroad stop. A few of the residents recently set up an historic train car and turned it into a bar. The quarters were tight for the band, but it was a fun experience.

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Vintage train car

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My handsome husband Tim

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Brad the drummer

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And Bill is on base

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Reverend E and the Vagrants

While watching the band, one of the locals told me about a hike nearby. They told me about a trail that followed the train tracks that led to a trestle bridge over a waterfall. Of course, I just had to go see that! What a great way to celebrate Scarlett’s birthday!

On the way there, I had to drive through Stanley. So I took the time drive down my favorite road there: Valley Irrigation Road. Since it’s between times for migrating birds, it was pretty quiet. But I did see a few local birds that hang out year round.

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Northern Flicker female

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Curve-Billed Thrasher – the breeze was ruffling his feathers

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Common Raven

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Look at the talons on this Swainson’s Hawk

I came across a Say’s Phoebe busily looking for bugs.

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Say’s Phoebe

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And he’s off to get a bug!

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So graceful

I saw some cute prairie dogs and some beautiful antelope too.

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Prairie Dog

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Prong Horn Antelope – female in the background

The clouds were just beautiful behind this granary. I just love New Mexico skies!

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Granary in Stanley.

My next town was Galisteo. I drove past a Red-Tailed Hawk hanging out on the power lines next to the highway. I turned around and managed to get a couple pics before he flew off.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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Hmmm…looks like he learned from the Say’s Phoebe

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And he’s outta here! Showing off that red tail.

Finally we made it to Lamy. It’s about an hour drive from my home. I followed the directions I was given and eventually came to an area where I couldn’t drive any further. Time to get out and hike!

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My beautiful Scarlett ready to go!

We followed along the tracks for a while.

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Following the tracks

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I love the old glass insulators that used to be used on electric lines.

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Old railroad bolt

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I heard lots of birds, but only managed to photograph a couple of them.

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Bushtit

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White-Crowned Sparrow

The terrain started narrowing from a wide valley. I’d never hiked next to a train track before. I kept wondering when a train might come through.

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Soon we came to a narrow canyon. If the train came through now, there was nowhere to go! Yikes!

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Scarlett is standing where the waterfall is below. You can see there’s nowhere to go if the train comes around the corner.

I looked down below and saw a beautiful sight. A sweet little waterfall with a beautiful pool.

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Looking down to the waterfall and pool from the trestle

We checked out both sides of the trestle. A wonderful part of Galisteo Creek. I didn’t know until later that this area is called Apache Canyon Railroad Bridge Historic Site. There’s not a lot of information available about this area, but I did find out the bridge was built in 1908 by American Bridge Company of New York. It is also known as Spider Leg Bridge.

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Scarlett looking down wanting to get into that creek!

I just had to get down there. It was steep! I slid down the whole way on my backside! 🙂

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Below the bridge

Once at the bottom, I made Scarlett wait before I let her play. She wasn’t happy about this, but I wanted to get some pristine photos before she got water everywhere. 🙂 I think you’ll agree, this is a special little place.

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I love this shot!

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Finally Scarlett was allowed to play. She had a blast running and splashing!

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Doing her favorite thing: running back and forth in shallow water.

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Headed for the deeper pool

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Such fun!

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That look tells me she is enjoying her birthday hike.

The day was in the mid 60s and it was beautiful. Next thing I know, I’ve got my shoes off and enjoying the water.

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Ahhhhhh……

Soon we had to leave. I have to say it was much easier going up than down. Whew!

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One last look before leaving. So beautiful!

Not long after leaving the bridge, I heard a train whistle. Yikes! We got out of there just in time! Luckily for us, the train stopped in Lamy to let the passengers take a break. I was able to walk all the way back to the car before the train went by.

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Sitting in my Jeep when the train finally passed.

It was a fun afternoon!

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Happy 3rd Birthday Scarlett!!!

A Few Goodies

Yesterday I had to drive almost to Grants to meet a client.  It was a cold, dreary day.  On my way home I decided to stop in at Piedras Marcadas Petroglyphs so Scarlett and I could stretch our legs.

There weren’t any birds about, but there was an adorable, curious squirrel.

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Antelope Squirrel

I crept closer hoping to get a better pic.

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And closer still….. He let me take several photos before diving behind the rocks.

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Just too darn adorable!

There were some hot air balloons up while I was hiking.  One of them was landing behind the mesa.  I took this pic just before it disappeared.

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After working most of the day today, I managed to take a couple hours to hike and bird before sundown.  I wasn’t sure what I would see being so late in the day.  But surprisingly I saw few nice goodies.

Over the last few days we’ve had some cold, snowy weather.  A couple days ago while in town, I took a photo of the Sandia Mountains.  I love it when they are covered in clouds and snow.

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Stormy Sandia Mountains

Thankfully today was more sunny and warmer.  I first stopped in at a small park in Albuquerque to find a Western Screech Owl that has been seen there snoozing in a tree.  Considering 90% of the trees in the park were too small for an owl, it was pretty easy to find him.

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Western Screech Owl

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Snoozin’ the day away

I love seeing owls in the wild.  It’s always a real treat.  After taking a few pics, I moved so as not to disturb him or draw attention to him from the other folks playing in the little park.

I then headed over to Willow Creek.  I hadn’t been there in a while so it sounded like fun to go see what was about.  On my way in to the park, I spied this Western Bluebird hunting for dinner.

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Western Bluebird

As I was taking photos, he saw something on the ground and I managed to get a few shots of him getting a grub.

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yummy….

It was a good find, so he took off with it to enjoy at his leisure.  Beautiful!

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My favorite photo of the day

Along the trail I saw Lesser Goldfinches, White-Crowned Sparrows, House Finches and Spotted Towhees.  All of these birds were too shy to have their photo taken.  But there were a lot of American Robins about.  They were much more cooperative.

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American Robin

There’s one point on the trail that affords a great view of the Sandias.  I took this pic there.  You can see there’s still snow about half way up the mountain.

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To my delight I spied a Red-Tailed Hawk that was looking for a meal.  Such a beautiful bird!  And look at those claws!

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Just before leaving I saw a Say’s Phoebe looking for dinner.

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Say’s Phoebe

He too found something to eat and quickly took off with it.

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That’s about it for my short afternoon walks.  But any time hiking, birding and doing photography is a time well spent.

Last Birding Trip of 2017

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.

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Boardwalk through the marsh

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A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area

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Quiet solitude

I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.

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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.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.

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Northern Harrier

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Cooper’s Hawk

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American Kestral

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Northern Harrier

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American Bald Eagles

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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.

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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.

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Bufflehead – male

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Northern Pintail

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Bufflehead – female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Northern Shoveler

Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.

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Snow Geese

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.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!

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Song Sparrow

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Gambel’s Quail

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Marsh Wren

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White-Winged Dove

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House Finch

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.

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Crissal Thrasher

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. 🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

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.

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Clark’s Grebe

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.

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Quebradas Scenic Route

Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.

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Mule Deer

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.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Cranes

While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!

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Super Moon

I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.

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Just beautiful…

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While hiking the trails, a train came through. 🙂

Summer Birds and Other Goodies

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

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

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

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So much fun at the water crossings!

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Lovely stream to hike along.

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

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Unique caves created by water erosion.

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Scarlett exploring a smaller cave.

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

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Dusky Grouse

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

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Green Tailed Towhee

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Williamson’s Sapsucker – Juvenile

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Dark-Eyed Junco

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

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Poisonous mushroom – but so pretty!

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

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Scarlett having a blast!

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

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Blue Grosbeak

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Summer Tanager

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Neotropic Cormorant

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Downy Woodpecker

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Great Blue Heron

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Say’s Phoebe

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird enjoying the summer mimosa blooms!

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House Sparrow

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House Finch – partial orange morph

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

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

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Songbird for breakfast anyone???

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

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Hepatic Tanager

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

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Look at that big grin on Scarlett’s face!

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

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Cliff Swallow

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

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Western Meadowlark

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

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Pygmy Nuthatch

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

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I love their orange eyes.

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

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Western Bluebird

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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A very shy Ladderback Woodpecker (hence the blurry photo)

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Wilson’s Warbler – coming to enjoy my bird bath

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Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

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Hairy Woodpecker

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Mountain Chickadee

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Holding down a sunflower seed to extract its goodness.

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Bushtit

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Black-Headed Grosbeak

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Juniper Titmouse

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Virginia’s Warbler

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Rufous Hummingbird

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Bewick’s Wren

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

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Lewis’s Woodpecker

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Get off my pole!!!

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

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Steller’s Jay – so beautiful!

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Red-Tailed Hawks

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

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Brown Creeper

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

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Golden-Crowned Kinglet

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

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Cool bee on a beautiful summer sunflower

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Ahhhhhhhh……

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Southwestern Fence Lizard

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Hoary Comma

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Aphrodite Fritillary

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Police Car Moth

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Western Tailed-Blue

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I love the colors on this dragonfly

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

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

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Painted Lady

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Can you see the walking stick expertly hiding

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Marine Blue

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Common Side-Blotched Lizard

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Jackrabbit

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Hawks Aloft Photo Shoot

This past weekend I attended an annual photo shoot presented by Hawks Aloft – a local bird of prey rescue group.  I was excited to attend and see these beautiful birds up close and personal.  They had brought 11 birds for us to photograph – several of which I had never seen before except in books.  So I was thrilled I was able to get a nice view of these magnificent birds.

They did a wonderful job setting up natural perches for the birds.  We met up in an open area at Academy School.  This gave us a nice background for our photos.  I took a lot of pics and had a great time.  Here are some of my favorites of each bird.

The first bird I photographed was a Flammulated Owl.  To be honest I’ve never heard of this owl before even though they spend their summers right here in New Mexico.  This owl is very tiny (6-7 inches in length) and was so adorable.

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Flammulated Owl – Red Phase

 

Then I got to see a Mexican Spotted Owl.  There have been visitors in New Mexico from time to time – though I’ve missed seeing them every time.  Beautiful bird! Sadly this bird is in the “near threatened” category due to loss of habitat.

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Mexican Spotted Owl

Then I got to see a Prairie Falcon close up.  Lovely markings on this bird.  I’ve seen them a few times in the wild but was never able to get a very good photo. Not so this day!

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Prairie Falcon

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Prairie Falcon

Another owl was brought out – a Barn Owl.  I have seen this bird many times in the wild and have always admired its beautiful plumage.

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Barn Owl

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Barn Owl – I love the coloration of the feathers on their wings

Next came the Merlins.  They had one in the Prairie coloration and another in the Black.  Both beautiful but that black morph was just stunning!

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Merlin – Prairie Morph

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Merlin – Black Morph

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Merlin – black morph

A gorgeous rufous morph of a Red-Tailed Hawk was presented.  Beautiful!  This bird has been a rescue for a long time.  He was very relaxed during the entire event and stayed out the longest of all the birds.  He seemed to enjoy the attention.  He even spread out his wings several times after getting a long mist bath.

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Red-Tailed Hawk – rufous morph

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So majestic!

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My most favorite photo of the day

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Here you can see that gorgeous red tail

A dark morph Swainson’s Hawk was next.  I see these birds in great numbers not far from my house.  Even so, seeing one up close was wonderful.

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Swainson’s Hawk – dark morph

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Swainson’s Hawk

A Long-Eared Owl was brought out.  I’ve only seen this bird once in the wild.  It was sitting on a nest deep in the shade of a large tree.  So needless to say, I didn’t get a great look at it.  Such a beautiful owl to see in the sunlight.  Gorgeous coloring.  It’s very similar to a Great Horned Owl.

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Long-Eared Owl

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Long-Eared Owl

Then to my surprise and delight, they brought out a Harlan’s Hawk.  I have heard of this hawk but have never seen one in person.  They are a much more rare sub-species of the Red-Tailed Hawk.

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Harlan’s Hawk – you can see some red in the tail

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Harlan’s Hawk – such a beautiful coloration

A Great Horned Owl was next, but he was a newer rescue and wasn’t very comfortable in front of us.  He didn’t stay out long, but I managed to get a nice photo before he was taken back to his crate to relax.

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Great Horned Owl

Lastly was a Northern Saw-Whet Owl.  I was so excited to hear they had one for us to see.  This year was the first time I’d ever seen one ever and it was visiting my chicken coop for the mice.  I tried in vain several times to get a photo, but that owl was too clever and always knew when I was coming.  So to finally get a picture of one was so wonderful.  I love how it has a giant head with big yellow eyes and a little body.  This is another tiny owl (7-8.5 inches in length).

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Northern Saw-Whet Owl – another favorite photo of the day

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I love the big yellow eyes

I took a few shots of the staff working with the birds.  Everyone was so nice and did a wonderful job handling these birds.  They were very attentive and made sure the birds were never stressed.  Several of the birds, like the Red-Tailed Hawk, were used to people admiring them.  But a few were very new to the experience.  But all the birds did great and the utmost care was taken to keep them comfortable.  It was a very hot afternoon and the birds were heating up.  So the staff misted them often to cool them down.  You could tell by their behavior they enjoyed it a lot!

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So adorable – you can really see how little this guy is with the handler’s hand in the photo.  She was trying to get him to look toward us but he was very concerned about the other large birds nearby.

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Letting the Red-Tailed Hawk spread his wings

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Enjoying a cooling mist bath given by “Uncle Larry”

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You can see the care love she has for this Merlin.  How wonderful for her that she gets to spend time with these amazing animals.

What a wonderful afternoon photographing beautiful birds of prey!  It doesn’t get much better than that for weekend fun!

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 1

Recently my friend Dia and I took a long weekend to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) near Estes, Colorado.  We have talked about going there for about 5 years.  Finally our schedules came together and we were able to go.  I have long wanted to visit this national park.  The photos I’ve seen from there are just stunning.  Water everywhere!  (Unlike New Mexico LOL!)

It took us about 10 hours to drive there, due to the many stops made at Starbucks 🙂

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Kelly and Dia getting their Starbucks fix!

We arrived at the entrance sign to Estes Park late in the day.  Of course, we had to take a pic there of us in our matches dresses.  🙂

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We made it!  Don’t you love our matching dresses!?  🙂

There were several Black-Billed Magpies around and one was happy to pose for me on the sign.  I guess they are no longer a nemesis of mine LOL!

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Black-Billed Magpie

We knew it was going to be crowded every day there as we were visiting during peak season.  So we made plans to go to bed early and get up very early to beat the crowds.  It proved to be a great plan as we found when we were leaving the trails that’s when most people were heading out.  Doing this allowed us to visit the spectacular park with minimal intrusion of other people.  There’s nothing more discouraging to a photographer than to have a beautiful setting for a photo crowded out with masses of tourists.

Dia has been to RMNP a few times in the past.  I had never been before.  So I followed her lead on what to see first.  Her favorite drive is up Old Fall River Road.  A one-way dirt road that climbs to the highest point in the park.  When I looked at the map, I realized a couple of the waterfalls I wanted to photograph were on this route.  Yay!

Our first stop was at the Allivial Fan Falls.  This waterfall was created by a major flood due to a failure in a dam upstream.

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Alluvial Fan Falls

Heading up Old Fall River Road, we saw so many beautiful sights.  Everywhere you looked, it was a Kodak moment. Dia drove my Jeep so I could take photos.  She loves driving my Jeep – especially off road.  🙂 At one point, Dia almost ran over a marmot who had no fear of the Jeep.  Evidently he’s used to tourists feeding him as they pass.

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Kelly and her Jeep (not her husband’s Jeep) 😉

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Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road

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Marmot

I especially loved this little waterfall at the beginning of the drive.  There was no formal trail, just enough of a path to view the water closer.

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Further up the road we came to Chasm Falls – another waterfall on my “must see” list.  What a beautiful waterfall coming through the narrow canyon.

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Looking downstream

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Scarlett, Kelly & Dia

Scarlett loves water – so of course we had to let her play a little before hitting the road again.

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Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂

Soon we were climbing higher and higher.  The views expanded.  Just glorious!

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Gorgeous views from Old Fall River Road.

We eventually rose above the tree line.  Beautiful!  We came across patches of wildflowers.  Everything was so green – way different from New Mexico.

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Just before reaching the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center, we came across more marmot.  I liked how this one posed nicely for me.

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Marmot

The views at the visitor center overlooking a glacial cirque were truly breathtaking.   The grasses were so lush and the snow provided a beautiful contrast to the photos.

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Glacial Cirque

There is a hike from the visitor’s center that takes you to a peak.  It was tough going considering there was very little oxygen at 12,000 feet above sea level.  The views from the top were amazing.  I love exploring!

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Trail from the visitor’s center.

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Breathtaking views!

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Dia

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Where’s Starbucks???!!!!!

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Views of the visitor center from the top of the trail.

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Dia, Kelly and Scarlett at the top!

After a brief stop at the Visitor’s Center, we decided to take the drive to Grand Lake.  We wound our way back down the other side of the mountain.  At the bottom we took a short hike to stretch our legs and enjoy the beautiful weather.  I saw several sparrows in this area but only managed to get one pic of a Savannah Sparrow.

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Such a lush valley of green

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These squirrels found a good home.

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Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂

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This was the only butterfly I saw that day. Terrible photo as I didn’t have my birding lens.  I believe this is a Mormon Fritillary

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Savannah Sparrow

As we made our way toward Grand Lake we saw a turn off for Lake Irene.  What a serene little lake.

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Lake Irene

As we left Irene Lake we saw a bunch of folks looking into the dense brush along the road.  We figured they’d spotted something good.  And indeed they had – a moose!  Actually two moose – a mother and calf.  They were a ways away and in dense brush, but I managed to get a couple photos.  I’d never seen a moose before!

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Moose with calf

We also saw some nice bull Elk along the road.  One was really enjoying the good life of summer.

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Very healthy bull Elk

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Enjoying summer

Near Grand Lake I spotted an Osprey nest.  It’s always a good day when you see a bird of prey.

 

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Osprey

Grand Lake was very touristy and actually not in RMNP.  So we turned around and decided to drive the Ridge Road back to Estes Park.  Once again we were in store for more stunning views way above the tree line.

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Click, click, click….I took over 5,000 photos on this trip! Yikes!

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Expansive views

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I love the high alpine meadow flowers – so small and delicate.

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Dia and Kelly

At one point we saw a nice herd of elk.  They were grazing in the high meadows well above 11,000 feet.  They have a very picturesque home.

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Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.

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So many smells!!!!

We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.

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Hmmmm…look at my Jeep keys precariously dangling from Dia’s hand….

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Glacier at 12,000 feet.  I love the blue pool of water in the lower right.

While taking photos, Dia noticed a little brown bird hopping just below us.  I quickly got my birding lens and was happy to see it was a Brown-Capped Rosy Finch.

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Brown-Capped Rosy Finch

Further down the road we stopped at another pullout.  There were lots of folks feeding the birds and squirrels here.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take close up photos of the rather tame squirrels.

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What a cutie!

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excuse me…you have something in the corner of your mouth…

But I was thrilled to see a Clark’s Nutcracker here looking for handouts.  I’ve only seen this bird once before several years ago in Santa Fe.  I’ve heard them a few times since then, but never saw them for a photo.  So it was great to see this bird close up!

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Clark’s Nutcracker

The views from this location were beautiful.  You could see the entire valley below.  You can even see the Alluvial Fan Falls area we had visited in the morning.

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It was a full day of fun!!!  Off to bed early for another full day of exploring!

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These flowers were extremely tiny!