Exciting Week

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

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

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

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Cave Swallow

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Cave Swallow

 

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

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

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

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

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Me after hiking the cavern. 

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

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

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Pine Siskin

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

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

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Acorn Woodpecker

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

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Steller’s Jay

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Hairy Woodpecker

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American Robin

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Broad-Tailed Hummimgbird

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Warbling Vireo

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Red-Naped Sapsucker

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Mountain Chickadee

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

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Grace’s Warbler

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

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Miss Scarlett

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

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Greater Roadrunner

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Western Kingbird

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Yellow-Breasted Chat

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Summer Tanager

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

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

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

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Western Diamondback

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Western Diamondback

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

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

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Western Diamondback

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

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

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Red-Headed Woodpecker

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Red-Headed Woodpecker

So my week was exciting in several ways.  🙂

 

 

 

 

Easter Weekend – Sunday – Prospecting and Birding

We didn’t have any specific plans for our trip after going to see Kilbourne Hole.  So since we had to drive back through Truth or Consequences, we decided to stop there and let Tim have some coil time on his metal detector.  We first went to a canyon hear Hillsboro, NM.  We both struck out…no birds….no gold.  So we got back in the car and headed towards Caballo Lake.  While heading out of Hillsboro, we saw several cars parked along the highway and you could tell they were working dirt looking for gold.

Tim pulled in and spoke briefly to a couple about what they were finding.  I stayed in the car.  When he came back, he told me it was a husband and wife he spoke to.  He said they were camping at Percha Dam State Park.  The wife was a fellow birder and she said she had seen a Black Hawk and a pair of Vermillion Flycatchers.  WHAT!!!???!!!  I need both those birds!!!!!  So, of course, I told Tim we had to go there before leaving town.

Since it was around noon, I knew the birds would be quiet at this hour.  We headed over to the Caballo Mountains so Tim could do some prospecting.  While he metal detected, I went searching for birds.  By this time the temperatures were warming up.  Scarlett was looking for every patch of shade she could find.

I didn’t see many birds.  Mostly my favorite Black-Throated Sparrows.  They always seem to be about all times of day.

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Black-Throated Sparrow

I walked to a natural waterfall hoping for a trickle of water there but it was dry.  I sat awhile and let Scarlett enjoy the cool sand and shade.

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Miss Scarlett

After looking vainly for any birds, I headed back to the vehicle for some shade and comfort.  Scarlett immediately crashed in the back seat enjoying the shade and cool breeze coming through the truck.  I worked on editing photos from the day before.  Then I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye.  When I looked down, I saw a lizard camouflaged in the bushes.  I love the turquoise coloring on him.  Soon he darted away never to be seen again.

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I believe this is a Common Sagebrush Lizard

Tim came back to the vehicle after a couple of hours.  He found one tiny piece of gold.  At least he didn’t get skunked!

We finally got to head over to Percha Dam State Park.  I really wanted to see if I could find that Vermillion Flycatcher.  When we arrived I walked the park by myself while Tim relaxed in the vehicle and kept Scarlett with him.  I immediately saw several Phainopepla.  I tried getting some good photos of the male, but it was extremely windy.  So the bird moving around on a swinging branch in the wind made for difficult photography.

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Phainopepla

While I was looking for that flycatcher Tim called me over to the truck.  He said he had something he wanted me to photograph.  He got out of the truck and pointed out a huge bullfrog in the grass.  I mean huge!

He said while he was relaxing in the truck, he watched this bullfrog leave the dry canal and was slowly make his way toward the river.

I took a few photos of this bullfrog.  He wasn’t moving very quickly but was clearly heading straight for the river, which was more than 100 yards away.

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American Bullfrog

We decided we needed to help him get to the river.  He was on the far side of the park and the gauntlet he would have had to traverse was crossing two roads, a playground, several campsites and the woods before he even got to the river’s edge.  I figured he would have a better chance of surviving if I just carried him to the water’s edge.  Being Easter Sunday, that park was pretty crowded.  It took both hands to handle this giant.  He was very cold so I figured he must not have been out of his hibernation spot very long.

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Kelly with the Giant Bullfrog.  You can see his hazardous path to the river behind me.

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Once we got him to the river’s edge, he still was reluctant to move much.  But we wanted to make sure he was safe.  So I found an area along the river that had lots of cattails so he could be at the water but also hidden from view.

After a little prodding on my part, he finally jumped into the water and safely out of harm’s way.  He briefly stayed above water for a quick photo, then shot away with one powerful kick!

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Tim stayed there a little while longer to make sure the bullfrog got safely away.  There were lots of fisherman at the water’s edge.

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Tim keeping a watchful eye on the bullfrog until he swam safely away.  You can see the cattails I left him in. 

That bit of excitement over, I was back to looking for that flycatcher.  After about 10 minutes, I gave up and we got in the car to head home.  We were both tired and hungry. Then just as we were driving out of the park, I saw a flash of bright red fly down from a tree and grab a bug on the ground.  I yelled out “STOP!!!!”  I jumped out of the vehicle and made my way over to the bird.

By this time the wind was really blowing.  And that Vermillion Flycatcher male was not letting me get very close for a photo.  So my pictures weren’t very good.  But I still remember the joy and excitement I felt at seeing that gorgeous red bird come into focus in my viewfinder.  Just breathtakingly beautiful!

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Vermillion Flycatcher male

Shortly after seeing the male, I spotted the female.  She’s very pretty as well.  I was thrilled! A new bird for me!

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Vermillion Flycatcher female

It was a great Easter Sunday adventure.  We had a great weekend full of fun memories.

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American Robin

 

Bernardo Wildlife Refuge & San Lorenzo Hike

Yesterday the weather was just beautiful for a January winter day. I just knew I had to take advantage of it. I’ve been wanting to go back to the Bosque del Apache. But the travel distance from my home is 2.5 hours away. When I travel there its a long all day excursion. 

Then I remembered Bernardo Wildlife Refuge. It’s only an hour from my house. It doesn’t have the big ponds like the Bosque del Apache so waterfowl viewing is very limited. But it does have big open cultivated fields. Something the cranes, ducks and geese can’t resist in the winter.

So I headed there yesterday morning early. I had heard the  numbers of cranes and geese were low this year at the Bosque. I can see why. They are all at Bernardo. When I arrived, the cacophony of bird calls was almost deafening. Bernardo is much smaller than the Bosque del Apache as far as open fields. So when birds gather they are tightly packed in and you drive all among them through the fields.

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Sandhill Cranes with the Monzano Mountains in the background

My best guess, I think there were 6,000 Sandhill Cranes at Bernardo. It was awesome!

They were busy feeding in the fields. After working a section, a big group would take flight and move over a few yards and start feeding again.

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Sandhill Cranes moving to the next feeding spot

There was a good number of Snow Geese there as well. My best guess was about 1,000 birds. They were staying in a tight flock. Just as I was almost adjacent to them in my car, something spooked the flock and they all launched. I immediately pulled over for some photo ops. It’s so beautiful to see them in flight.

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Snow Geese

They quickly settled down in about the same spot they started. So I got to sit and enjoy watching them. I noticed a lot of Sandhill Cranes among them as well. Crazy how birds don’t mind being crowded together.

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Sandhill Crane among the Snow Geese

As I approached the far edge of the flock, a train came by next to the field. It scared up a whole flock of Mallards that were feeding next to the Snow Geese. I had no idea they were even there.

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Mallards flying above the flock of Snow Geese

The views there at Bernardo are beautiful. Especially on a lovely winter day like this. 

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Ladron Peak in the background. Sandhill Cranes. Look closely at the right side of the photo and a Red-Tailed Hawk is flying by.

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Sandhill Crane

There were lots of Meadowlarks around. I love their beautiful yellow breasts and their song makes me happy.

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Western Meadowlark

There were a few House Sparrows and an American Kestral hanging out in the sagebrush.

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House Sparrows

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American Kestral

In the distance I noticed something big roosting in one of the large Cottonwood trees near the fields. When I got closer I realized it was a Bald Eagle.  How exciting!  He flew as soon as I got my camera up for a photo. The picture is blurry because he didn’t give me any chance to focus before he disappeared over the tree tops.

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As he flew off he was joined by another adult and a juvenile. Beautiful!

A much more cooperative Red-Tailed Hawk posed nicely for me.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I decided to go across the highway and see what might be about in the Sagebrush along the Rio Puerco.

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Diversion channel next to the refuge. Sandia Mountains in the distance.

I love the old bridge here at Bernardo. I couldn’t resist photographing it.

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While photographing the bridge I saw something fly by. To my delight it was a Loggerhead Shrike. I love these cool birds!

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Church near Bernardo

The morning was still young and the weather mild. I remembered a hike nearby that I haven’t been to in years. So I headed over to San Lorenzo Canyon. Scarlett was with me and she had been very patient while I was birding. She deserved to have some fun.

So I headed down the highway to Lemitar to get a snack and more water. The road to the canyon is close by.

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Church at Lemitar

While driving up the road to the canyon I had to stop to watch a huge flock of blackbirds. There were so many you almost couldn’t see through them.

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Blackbirds swarming around this donkey

The flock was a variety of Red-Winged Blackbirds, Starlings and Brewer’s Blackbirds.

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Brewer's Blackbird

We finally made it to the canyon. Just before turning into the canyon, there’s this really neat rock formation. My geologist husband said it is an example of an angular unconformity.

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San Lorenzo Canyon is a very wide slot canyon that you can drive through. It has smaller side canyons you can hike into. There are a lot of cool rock formations to see.

Scarlett had a blast exploring. She’d been cooped up in the car for a couple hours.

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Road through San Lorenzo Canyon

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Scarlett loved to scramble up the rock ledges.

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Terminus of the road in the canyon. To continue exploring you have to scramble up this rock formation.

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Scarlett didn’t like being in the bottom of the narrow arroyos. She couldn’t see anything. So she would run up the steep walls then expect me to follow. Too steep for me!

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Can you see Scarlett way up there?

As the day progressed the high thin clouds were getting thicker taking away the beautiful blue skies. It was time to head home anyway.

On the drive out, the change in daylight had created a dramatic feel to the San Mateo Mountains. I thought the contrast between the desert scrub, the low purple-hued hills, the snow-covered mountains and the sky made a beautiful landscape photo.   A breathtaking sight to end a perfect morning enjoying New Mexico’s landscape and wildlife.

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Three Gun Spring Hike

Today I decided to hike a trail I haven’t been on for a few years. I was hoping it wouldn’t be too muddy with all the melting snow. For the most part it was just moist so hiking wasn’t too difficult.

The views from this hike are pretty nice as  the trail is located at the southern end of the Sandia Mountains. There’s still snow on the north facing slope.

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Some parts of the trail still had ice and snow

I was pretty sure I’d see a variety of birds. They seem to like this secluded canyon.

My first sighting was a Townsend Solitaire. It was at quite a  distance so photographing it was difficult.

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Townsend Solitaire

There were lots of Mountain Bluebirds about. They make me happy when I see them. They are so bright and beautiful.

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Mountain Bluebird

A Scrub Jay came up pretty close to check me out.

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Western Scrub Jay

While hiking along this trail there are big granite boulders scattered about. I think some of them look like things. It’s like finding shapes in the clouds.

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Alligator head

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Bunny rabbit laying with its ears flat

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Elephant laying on its side

Further up the trail I heard some thrashers singing. I was very pleasantly surprised to see it was a Crissal Thrasher. I’ve only seen them once before.

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Crissal Thrasher

I also saw a Sage Thrasher deep in the brush.

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Sage Thrasher

Scarlett had a blast on the hike. It had been awhile since we had gone on a long hike together. She loved the snow on the trail. The sun was shining and I think it warmed her up. So she cooled off in the snow every now and then.

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Snow tastes good!

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My beautiful girl!

While hiking back to the car I heard a Merlin calling. I peeked around the bush to try and get a photo. But he flew away as soon as he saw me.

Leaving the neighborhood where the trail located I saw a few birds on the telephone wires.

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Western Bluebird

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European Starling

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Common Raven

It was fun to get out hiking and birding on such a nice sunny day. 

Thursday Birders – Tingly Beach Walk

It’s been awhile since I’ve attended a Thursday Birder walk. This week their destination was the Tingly Beach duck ponds,  so I decided to see some of my birding friends. I brought Scarlett along to introduce her and get a longer hike in after the bird walk. The weather was supposed to be clear and sunny.

It was good to see Joe and Maurice and meet a few new people. The walk started out cold with frost on everything. It made the ground sparkle.

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Frost edging this cottonwood leaf

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Frost crystals on the trail

The birds were pretty quiet first thing. I can’t blame them. I’m sure the cold made them want to sleep in.

We saw a Hermit Thrush first deep in the brush. It was a challenge to get a photo.

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Hermit Thrush

I heard a White-Breasted Nuthatch and saw several Northern Flickers. We also saw some Eastern Bluebirds at a distance.

When we arrived at the bosque ponds we saw the water was mostly frozen. What waterfowl was on them were congregated in the only unfrozen area.

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Redheads, Canvasback and American Coots

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Lesser Scaup and American Coot

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Female Canvasback

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Pied-Billed Grebe

We heard a Marsh Wren along the pond’s edge but we never saw him.

We left the bosque area and headed for the southernmost pond at Tingly Beach. There are three ponds there and they are connected with pumps and waterfalls. I think the circulation helps keep them from freezing as easily. Because of this a lot of the waterfowl that would have been on the bosque ponds were on this pond instead.

Just before getting to the first pond we spotted a Black-Crowned Night Heron roosting in a tree. He was sound asleep. I don’t think he realized he had 30 people staring at him.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

We also saw a porcupine sleeping in a tree.

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Porcupine

At the first pond we saw the Common Goldeneye – a male and two females. Plus several Ring-Necked Ducks.

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Common Goldeneye - male and female

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Common Goldeneye female

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Ring-necked Duck female

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A whole bunch of Ring-necked ducks

We finished up at the middle pond to do a count of birds seen. The group tries to see more birds than people. We came close seeing 28 birds.

While we were gathered for the count someone spotted a porcupine walking by. Of course several of us jumped up to get a photo!  I’d never seen one awake and walking around before.

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Porcupine

I said goodbye to my birding friends and headed back into the bosque so Scarlett and I could get some more exercise.

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Miss Scarlett

We walked to the river’s edge where a big beach was exposed with inlets of shallow water.

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Canada Geese

Scarlett immediately started running off puppy energy. She was so happy be let loose. Her favorite thing is to run as fast as she can in shallow water. I was able to get a couple nice shots.

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While she ran and played I noticed an area with some interesting ice patterns on the sand. I’ve been trying to practice more macro photography. While I didn’t have a tripod or a macro lens with me, I’m still pleased with some of the photos. I like how the ice reflected the blue sky.

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Scarlett had never walked on ice before. She ran across it thinking it was water and was totally shocked. I had to laugh.  She didn’t want to go back out on it. She would test an area first before running across. Of course I just had to get her back on the ice for photos. LOL!

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Scarlett on ice - funny

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Leaving the river we wound our way through the bosque back to the car. I saw a flock of Juncos and a Hairy Woodpecker.

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Dark-Eyed Junco

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Hairy Woodpecker

I had parked at the northern duck pond. All the ducks were out of the water snoozing in the sun. I couldn’t resist taking a few closeup photos. I tried to get them with their eyes closed but they were on guard.

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Mallard - I liked the purple sheen

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Mallard

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Mallard female - my favorite photo. I like the coloring of the feathers

I saw a Mallard / American Wigeon cross. I don’t think I’ve seen this combination before.

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Mallard / American Wigeon cross

Scarlett and I ended up walking for 3 1/2 hours. It felt great to be out on this bright sunny day. It ended up warming up to about 45 degrees.

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A bird in the hand... 🙂 Rock Pigeon

La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs, Santa Fe, NM

I guess I was still in a mood for petroglyphs.  I never tire of finding them or specifically seeking them out for hikes. I try to imagine what the people were like that made the beautiful pictures on the rocks.

I had the afternoon free so decided to drive up to the southern end of Santa Fe to do a hike I hadn’t been on since March 2011.

Since I live in the mountains I don’t take the interstate to get to Santa Fe. Instead I take a two-lane winding highway that has a few interesting towns along the way.

My first sight while driving was a coyote that was on the side of the road. When he saw my car coming he ran up the hill a little ways. I couldn’t resist stopping and trying to get a photo before he disappeared into the high mountain desert.

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Coyote

As I continued driving I had hopes of seeing hawks. But none were out this time of day.

When I got to Madrid (pronounced mad dread) I saw a couple things that enticed me to stop and photograph them. This town is fun to walk and photograph when the weather is nicer and the shops put lots of interesting art things outside.

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Iron Cowboy

Now as I’ve said before and my friend Valerie teases me  (inside joke there), I love to photograph horses. Who could resist photographing a winter horse?

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Winter Horse - beautiful

The next town along the road is Cerrillos.  This is where they filmed the Billy the Kid movie with Emilio Estevez called Young Guns. Another fun town to walk through in nice weather to see the old buildings. 

This odd stick elk is right next to the highway.  I’m not sure what the weird deer-like things are made of behind it, but I think they look creepy lol!

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Stick Elk sculpture

I finally made it to my hiking destination, La Cieneguilla (pronounced see-en-neg-eea) Petroglyphs.  Which means “small swamp”.

I remembered this dead juniper tree at the start of the hike that had been filled with old rusty cans and such. It was a unique sight. The Junk Tree is what the locals call it. I thought it would be fun to photograph this tree again since now I’m a much better photographer. 

Sadly much of the tree was gone and all the odds and ends had been taken out of the remains. I was disappointed and sad. I love seeing unique things to photograph.

I dug through my older photos and found the original photo I took back in March 2011. I don’t think I did too badly 🙂

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Junk Tree

This hike is nothing like the petroglyph hikes in Albuquerque.  There you walk along the base of the basalt Mesa and the drawings are all along your hike. The trails are very easy with little to no climbing. 

This trail is the exact opposite.  The only way to see these drawings is to climb up to them. It can be a very technical hike as the trail isn’t very clear as you scramble up the basalt boulders trying not to twist an ankle.

As the temperatures have been staying quite low there was still snow in the shady areas of the boulders making it even more difficult to follow the trail. 

But Scarlett and I did pretty good. She followed the trail by smelling where other people have walked.  It helped a lot!

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Scarlett

We finally came upon the petroglyphs.  Not as many here as the trails in Albuquerque but still interesting. 

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Owl

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Kokopelli

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We have this bright lime green lichen that grows on the shady sides of rocks. I’m always fascinated by the color. It looks painted.

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Bright green lichen

The view from the top of this hike was very pretty with the snow on the Sangre de Cristo mountains behind Santa Fe.

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Santa Fe Baldy peak covered in snow

I’ve hiked to the top of Santa Fe Baldy twice…very tough hike. Twice is more than enough for this girl!

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Scarlett

Scarlett and I came across a shallow cave.  She had to run up there and check it out right away. 

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My skinny puppy girl

The daylight was fading so it was time to head home. And I realized I went a whole afternoon of hiking and didn’t photograph one bird.  Kinda sad huh?

There’s one other small town I drive through on this highway.  It’s called Golden.  There’s this old historic church there. I have often wanted to photograph it. But sadly the locals keep it locked up tight. You usually can just see it on a hill from the highway.  But on the way home this day I realized the gate to the driveway was open. So I took a chance and drove up the hill.

The gates at the entrance of the churchyard were closed with a video monitored no trespassing sign. So I had to content myself with taking photos from there. The light was fading fast. So I did the best I could. I think they came out ok. I tried to be artistic 😉

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San Francisco de Asis built 1839

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Maybe someday I will get a chance to go inside this church. I’m sure it’s gorgeous with vigas and Spanish influenced decorations. 

Scarlett and I enjoyed our afternoon hike. Hopefully the weather will stay nice for awhile and we can get out some more. And hopefully see lots of birds next time! 

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Bottle fence in Golden

El Nino Birding

We are definitely in an El Nino weather pattern.    We have seen lots of rain and snow this winter so far and no sign of it letting up anytime soon.  Plus the temperatures have been low…even in Albuquerque.  So it’s been difficult for me to get out hiking and birding.  I especially don’t want to venture out early in the morning. 

But I did manage to get out yesterday for a couple hours in the afternoon.  I had heard there were Brewer’s sparrows at the Rinconada Petroglyphs area west of Albuquerque.  This would be a new bird for me.  The last posted sighting was over a week ago so I wasn’t sure if it would still be in the area. But I was willing to go as I had never hiked this trail before so it would be some new scenery. 

The forecast said over 50% chance of snow or rain. And all around me the weather was ominous. 

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Sandia Mountains mostly covered in clouds

I decided to hike the trail backwards and go through the open sagebrush area first instead of hiking along the basalt Mesa where the petroglyphs are located.  I figured I had a better chance of finding the sparrows in the foliage. 

My first sparrow sighting was the Sagebrush Sparrow.  I have only just seen these birds for the first time recently.  So it was a real treat to see them again. 

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Sagebrush Sparrow

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Sagebrush Sparrow

Continuing along the trail I saw one juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow (WCS) .  Which was a shame as I understand a lot of migratory sparrows will flock with the WCS while wintering here.

Getting closer to the basalt Mesa I saw a large flock of Black-Throated Sparrows.  I just love these birds. I think they are beautiful and they are usually not afraid of people.  Making it easy to watch them and get some nice pics. They have a pretty voice too. 

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Black-Throated Sparrow

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Black-Throated Sparrow - this one was cold

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Black-Throated Sparrow

I finally made it to the petroglyphs.  There were a few nice specimens but I felt the Piedras Marcadas trail is much better with a lot more specimens and you are able to climb the basalt Mesa there. This trail has a fence keeping you solely on the trail.

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Some kind of duck

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Kokopelli

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These look like fluffy antelope 🙂

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Coyote?

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Self portrait perhaps?

I saw a couple rocks with dates on them. This one was the most legible.  It was carved into this rock almost 100 years ago.

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Among the petroglyphs I saw six or so Canyon Towhee.

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Canyon Towhee

And a roadrunner ran across my path up into the rocks. He then stopped and fluffed up. Maybe trying to make himself look bigger?

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Still no sign of the Brewer’s sparrow. Off and on I’d see the Black-Throated Sparrows and briefly saw a Rock Wren. I also saw a Crissal Thrasher. I have only seen this bird once before.  I got a terrible photo then.  And got a terrible photo now too. He wouldn’t come out of the bush he was hiding in.

By now I’m almost to my car. I had despaired I wouldn’t see the sparrow today.  The weather was turning much colder.  The weak sun had disappeared behind some ominous clouds. I could see it was snowing all along I40 so it was going to be fun driving through the canyon to get home.

Then I spied a bird quite a distance away in the top of a bush. I took a photo….zoomed it in to inspect…and what did I see? A Brewer’s Sparrow!  Success! Not the best photo but I’m happy with it.

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Brewer's Sparrow

It was a great way to end the hike. Hopefully I can get out again soon.  There are other birds out there being seen that I don’t have on my list!