We’ve been getting a lot of nice monsoon rains in Albuquerque. Things have gotten really green for the desert. And it makes the morning temperatures really cool for hiking. I normally don’t hike any of the Petroglyph trails in the summer because they are just too hot even in the early morning.
Since it had really rained good Monday evening, I got up at 5:30 yesterday to drive out to the west mesa. I managed to hit the trail just before sunrise and just before moonset.
With the cool morning temps, several hot air balloons were flying over the mesa. At first they were off in the distance. But soon they were right over the Petroglyph trail above me. It’s always fun to see the balloons flying over Albuquerque.
To add to the flying balloons, the sky was full of beautiful clouds.
Soon the sun was starting to peek over the Sandia Mountains. I love how the clouds cause the rays of the sun to fan out. It just warms my soul.
I don’t usually like to have sun flares in my photos. But sometimes they are difficult to avoid. But for some reason I really liked the colorful flares in this photo.
Scarlett was having fun running up and down the trail. There were loads of bunny rabbits out in the desert scrub.
I have posted in the past about this trail and have shown many photos of the petroglyphs. This time I tried to find some I have posted before. But I don’t think I succeeded in that endeavor too well.
My favorite parts of the hike are when you get to the areas where there are loads of petroglyphs. It’s so much fun trying to find them on the many faces of the basalt rocks.
Another favorite area is at the end of the hike. You come upon a few rocks that are covered in hand prints. It’s amazing to see a hand print from someone over a 2,500 years ago!
I wonder if the people that had 6 fingers were considered special and were made shamans. I’ve noticed in many of the sites I’ve been to all over the southwest, that a lot of the handprints had 6 fingers.
A came across several millipedes in one area. I had never seen them before. It was so much fun trying to capture some images. I even touched one to get it to curl up.
I was surprised to find there were very few birds around. The morning was eerily bereft of birdsong. I had to search to find a few birds.
I came across a pretty white flower. When I looked inside, I saw a tiny green spider. It was a real challenge getting a photo of him!
Scarlett and I had a great morning walk. The trail was beautiful and the air was fresh. Nature was really showing off her best!
It’s been a few years since I hiked the Hondo Canyon trail. It’s one of the few places you can see water year round in the Sandia Mountains.
I got up early to beat the summer heat. Scarlett was thrilled to be out during the cool morning. I was enjoying the morning as well.
The first part of the hike is fairly easy and I think pretty with the rock wall and trees.
After a short while I could see the caves next to the waterfall.
Soon we arrived at the small travertine waterfall. This time of year the spring flow is very low. This created just a trickle for the falls.
I was surprised to see dozens of hummingbirds swarming around the falls. They were drinking and bathing. I was fascinated that they would actually cling to the wall of the waterfall to bathe. I stayed here at the waterfall for a good 30 minutes watching and photographing all the beautiful hummingbirds.
Sometimes I was lucky enough to have one perch nearby for a few moments.
People often ask me how I bird with Scarlett. Doesn’t she scare the birds away??? She’s so good. She just lays down and sits quietly. And sometimes she point out birds to me by staring at them.
After an enjoyable 30 minutes, I climbed above the waterfall to where the spring starts. It’s a beautiful, lush area.
After the spring, the trail really starts to climb. I had forgotten how steep this trail is. Scarlett didn’t seem to notice. She would run ahead and then wait, wondering what was taking me so long.
After the short but steep climb, the views start to open up. But difficult to see with all the vegetation.
One of the parts of the trail I like is climbing up to a small Ponderosa Pine grove. Ponderosa Pine forests are my favorite because of the openness below the canopy. This area is always good for sighting the pygmy nuthatch. I love their piping voices. I heard lots of them today, but sadly couldn’t get a photo.
After reaching this point, I decided to turn around. The morning was really starting to warm up fast. When we reached the spring on the way back, Scarlett stretched out in it to cool off. Smart girl! Of course, she loves water and looks for any excuse to get in it.
Back at the waterfall, the hummingbirds had gone quiet but other birds were out and about.
It was interesting to see a Lesser Goldfinch land on the wall of the falls and peck a the surface. I figured she must be getting important minerals from the travertine wall.
Before leaving the trail, I made Scarlett pose for me on the pretty rock wall. She loves to climb on things and pose for me. I guess she knows it makes me happy.
It was fun to get out again and seeing nature’s beauty and forget about all the stressful things in my life right now.
Recently I had the privilege to take photographs of rescued raptors at 3 different events! It is a wonderful experience getting up close and personal with these beautiful birds. Plus! All fees associated with these events goes to help the rescued birds.
My first event was the 25th anniversary event of Hawks Aloft. They are a wonderful group of giving, loving people. They take wonderful care of the birds they receive through rescue. Gladly they get to rescue and release a lot of the birds they receive. But if they get a bird that cannot be released back to the wild, they take amazing care of these birds. And a few times a year, they allow the public the opportunity to photograph these amazing birds of prey.
The 25th anniversary event was a wonderful evening. We got to see and speak to many of the “behind the scenes” people of the organization. They had several birds there, but the photo opportunities weren’t that great. But I still had a wonderful time!
I manged to get a few photo ops of the stars.
Western Screech Owl – this photo gives you an idea of how small they are
They were going to have falconry demonstrations, but our unseasonably hot weather prohibited that event. Darnit! I was really looking forward to seeing that!
I did get a chance to photograph one of the participants – a beautiful Apomado Falcon. The coloring of this birds is superb!
The next event I attended was with Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico. They have an annual event known as “Breakfast with the Birds”. They held this year’s event at the Rio Grande Nature Center in one of the areas that you normally can’t see.
It was a wonderful morning! I got to see so many beautiful birds. Some of the birds were injured but some were “human imprinted”, which means they associated with humans to a level that they cannot survive in the wild on their own.
Here’s some of best photos I got that morning.
Western Screech Owl
Great Horned Owl
I liked the perspective of the next photo. I love getting their wings when they are outstretched.
My favorite photo of the event was of this Barn Owl. So beautiful! I think the coloring of the Barn Owl is so unique.
While photographing the raptors, an inquisitive Greater Roadrunner came through. He was very curious of us. You’d think he would have been terrified of all the bird of prey around him!!!
When the event was over, I took a stroll through the Rio Grande Nature Center. I was surprised to see some hummingbirds still hanging around. I really liked this photo I got of a Broad-tailed Hummingbird.
And any chance to photograph a warbler is always treat!
My 3rd event I attended was the annual Hawks Aloft Photo Event. They held it this year in a remote area of the Sandia Foothills. A wonderfully quiet place.
On the way I couldn’t resist stopping to take a quick pic of this Curve-Billed Thrasher. I just love these birds!
I got to get some great photos of the raptors they brought. Here’s my favorites of that event.
Harlon Red-Tailed Hawk – such unusual coloring for a Red-Tailed Hawk
Near the end of the event they brought out “Beautiful”. Believe it or not! A Turkey Vulture can be beautiful!
Turkey Vulture – look at the size of that wingspan! 6 feet of total beauty!
Beautiful enjoying the attention. She is one of the birds that has been human imprinted.
My favorite photos of that event were of the Long-Eared Owl, the Great Horned Owl and again the Barn Owl. Beautiful!
Long-Eared Owl – I loved getting the fall foliage coloring in the background
Great Horned Owl with attitude
I captured a couple of photos of the handler with their birds. Wonderful people!
Handler with the Prairie Falcon. You can tell they adore each other!
One of the attendees getting an introduction. This photo gives you an idea of the size of Turkey Vultures.
Someone suggested the “two old buzzards” take a photo together 🙂 Larry and Beautiful
I hope you enjoyed the many photos I took during these events! It’s been awhile since I last posted. This summer and fall were busy times for me. It’s good to be back blogging!
At the end of May I drove my mom back to San Antonio so we could get her house cleaned up to sell. I stayed for about 2 weeks. Summertime in Texas is HOT and HUMID. Ugh! Because of this, there weren’t very many birds about during the dog days of summer. All of the migrants were gone leaving only the local birds.
In order not to die while birding, I got up at 6 am every morning to head out before it got to 100 degrees. Yikes! I drove to several locations during my stay. I found the best opportunities for birds was if I visited the small lakes all around San Antonio.
On of my favorite birding spots I discovered was Live Oak Lake in Live Oak, Texas. It was only about 7 miles from mom’s house. It had a nice path all the way around the lake. Believe me, you don’t want to wander off path into the grasses there. That lake was loaded with snakes!
They even had signs saying so!
I thought it was a joke until I saw this!
Needless to say, I tread carefully wherever I went. Yikes!
The resident Northern Mockingbird greeted me when I pulled into the parking lot. I have never found a shy Mockingbird.
Live Oak Lake is home to lots of herons and egrets. They are used to people walking around the lake, so they just seemed to ignore me and go about their business…as evidenced by this Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. He caught a monster crawdad!
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
While I was photographing him, he quickly lunged and came up with the huge crawdad!
It’s like the size of a lobster!
There was a juvenile looking on with envy…
Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
There lots of Green Herons about. In Albuquerque I’m lucky to come across one here and there. But at this lake, there were so many they constantly chased each other trying to keep a preferred fishing spot to themselves.
Checking me out 🙂
Needed a better look LOL!
The resident Great Egret was fishing along the edge of the lake. I saw him intent on something in front of him.
Then all of a sudden he lunged! Fortunately I managed to get a great pic of him diving for his prey. Sadly, he missed on that attempt and decided to move to a different part of the lake for better luck fishing.
Great Egret fishing
There was a pair of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks watching all the goings on around the lake. I think they are beautiful waterfowl.
Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks
The Muscovy Ducks had some babies while I was gone for several weeks. I saw this one mother with a huge brood!
All the while I’m photographing birds, Scarlett was kicked back relaxing and watching all the people and birds.
And Squirrels!!! She was on high alert when she spotted the squirrels!
Scarlett keeping a sharp eye on the squirrel nearby.
The squirrels kept on eye on her as well.
Staring contest between the squirrel and Scarlett
There were some other small birds about. But overall it was pretty quiet for them. So I ventured over to Converse Lake. It’s a more wild lake. You pretty much can only walk along one edge of the lake. The rest of it is overgrown. Because of this, the smaller birds tend to hang out here more. I got 2 lifers at this lake!!! A Rusty Blackbird and a Couch’s Kingbird.
The Mute Swan I saw last time I visited was joined by his lady and their two new babies. Adorable! I’d never seen baby swans before.
Mute Swan male
Mute Swan female and babies
Here are some of the other small birds I saw around this lake.
Black-Crested Titmouse enjoying a bird drip fountain
Brown-Headed Cowbird female and male
While photographing the little birds, I heard a commotion behind me. I looked across the open field and saw a Red-Tailed Hawk had caught a White-Winged Dove. Surprisingly a Northern Mockingbird harassed the hawk until it took its breakfast elsewhere.
Red-Tailed Hawk being attacked by a Northern Mockingbird
One delight while visiting Converse Lake was that the water lilies were in full bloom. Just beautiful!
One of my favorite photos of the visit
One thing I noticed about San Antonio is that there is a huge population of Black Vultures. These birds are huge and were everywhere I went in great numbers.
Must be tasty as a squabble broke out over it
There are always lots of White-Tailed Deer around the San Antonio parks. I really liked this photo I took of a doe enjoying the wildflower field.
There were a few other blooming flowers about, but not many as San Antonio was experiencing a drought.
Honey bee enjoying the clover blooms
This squirrel appreciated the water put out for the birds.
While driving around, I came across this sign. I had to turn around to take a picture. Don’t you wonder how this creek was named???
One morning I arrived well before sunrise. I came across this Little Blue Heron fishing. I loved the colors and lighting of this photo.
Little Blue Heron
It was nice getting out early every morning and seeing some fun bird sightings. I actually got a 3rd lifer, but sadly my photo is just too poor to post. I saw a Brown Boobie. I never dreamed I would see this bird in San Antonio. It was a rare sighting indeed. Sadly, it was on the far side of a lake with no way to get closer. My lens just couldn’t get a clear pic, though the markings are clear enough to identify it for me. Someday I might see one to get a better photo! 🙂
This doe found a nice place to sit out the day’s heat
Over the past few weeks I’ve had a chance to get out and bird a time or two. I mostly went out to see some rare sightings that have shown up around town. I missed several, but managed to see a couple to add to my life list.
I visited Valle de Oro a couple times. I had heard there were a number of warblers there. It’s always fun to go find warblers, though my neck complains by the end of the day LOL!
When I arrived at Valle de Oro I saw a pair of coyotes out hunting. One disappeared right away, but the other stayed out long enough to let me get a few good pics.
As always, I saw several Western Meadowlarks out singing. I love their beautiful voice.
I walked along the main drainage ditch hoping to see some good birds. A scrub jay announced his presence.
Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
Then almost right away I heard a lot of birds singing. I just started taking pics of everything that moved. As you know, songbirds are small and fast!!! When I looked at the pics I was surprised to see a several birds I don’t see often. Mainly my nemesis, the Lazuli Bunting. Try my hardest, I can’t get a good pic of this bird.
Black-Throated Gray Warbler
I heard several Summer Tanagers singing. It’s amazing how a bright red bird can hide among green leaves. But they can just disappear! I only got a few pics and they weren’t very good. But I did see a Western Tanager female closer to me.
Western Tanager Female
I had been told where a Common Black Hawk’s nest was near the Valle de Oro. So I went on a 2-mile hike to find this beautiful bird. Once I was in the general location, I looked for the nest. I found it way up high in a cottonwood tree. There was no seeing if anything was in the nest. I waited around for a while and eventually heard the hawk calling from a distance. Then to my delight the bird flew in and landed near the nest. A lifer for me! At first I barely saw him as he was deep in the leaves.
Common Black Hawk
Eventually he moved to a better location for photos. This is a magnificent bird. From what I understand there are only about 250 breeding pairs in the US. They are easily disturbed by humans and are known to abandon nests if bothered too much. So after getting a few pics, I quietly left the area to let them raise their young undisturbed.
Common Black Hawk
On my way back I saw a flycatcher along the ditch. I believe it’s a Hammond’s Flycatcher.
Then I heard another bird calling that I only rarely hear – a Gray Catbird. Always a treat to see and hear! I only managed one pic and that was from behind.
While hiking along he ditch, I enjoyed the wild irises blooming.
While hiking at Valle de Oro I came across this interesting insect. I tried looking it up, but I can’t figure out what it is.
Not sure what this cute guy is….
I had heard about a very rare sighting in the East Mountain area that I just had to go find. There was a Golden-Winged Warbler sighted and it was practically in my back yard. After much searching I was rewarded with a short view of this bird. I took several photos before he disappeared into the deep brush. I managed to get a few decent pics. Another lifer!
While hiking there I was treated to some beautiful wild apple blossoms.
Wild apple tree blossoms
I visited the Rio Grande Nature Center. I hadn’t been there in a while, so it was a treat to see it in the springtime. Right away I heard a Yellow-Breasted Chat singing. I managed to find it in a tree on the island in the pond. So it was quite a distance away.
I also saw the resident roadrunners in the parking lot. Always fun to photograph!
While walking the paths, I heard some Summer Tanagers talking back and forth amongst each other. This time I had more success getting photos of the pair.
Summer Tanager male
Summer Tanager female
There were several Black-Chinned Hummingbirds visiting the feeders. Whenever there are several hummingbirds at a feeder, there’s always fights defending their food. For a tiny bird, they are fierce!
Uh oh! He sees another hummer coming for him!
Defending the feeder!
Here are some of the other birds I saw on my visit.
The gardens were beginning to bloom. The bees were happily gathering pollen.
Giant black bee
I was entertained by a resident White-Winged Dove that has become very tame. The gardeners told me his name was Lonesome Larry. He was so tame, he would take see from your hand. He stayed so close to me, that I barely got photos because my zoom lens had a hard time focusing on such a close subject. 🙂
Such beautiful coloring
I’ve been keeping an eye on a Red-Tailed Hawk’s nest not far from my house. When I visited recently, I saw the eggs have finally hatched. When I first looked, I thought there was only one baby. But the mother flew off the nest and I saw two babies!
Red-Tailed Hawk with babies
It’s been great getting out birding. It was nice to see all the summer birds returning to Albuquerque.
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!
So much fun at the water crossings!
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.
Unique caves created by water erosion.
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.
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.
Green Tailed Towhee
Williamson’s Sapsucker – Juvenile
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. 🙂
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!
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!
Great Blue Heron
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird enjoying the summer mimosa blooms!
House Finch – partial orange morph
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….
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!!!
Of course, Scarlett always enjoys a visit to the river!
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. 🙂
Red-Tailed Hawk (juvenile) – I love the coloring of this particular bird
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.
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.
A very shy Ladderback Woodpecker (hence the blurry photo)
Wilson’s Warbler – coming to enjoy my bird bath
Holding down a sunflower seed to extract its goodness.
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.
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.
Steller’s Jay – so beautiful!
I saw a Brown Creeper – always a delight. They are very difficult to see against the bark and they move quickly.
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!
Among the many bird sightings I had over the summer, I came across some other interesting things. I thought you might enjoy seeing them. 🙂
Cool bee on a beautiful summer sunflower
Southwestern Fence Lizard
Police Car Moth
I love the colors on this dragonfly
This beetle “hisses” when you touch it. A unique defense!
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.
Our last day in Estes Park. I really didn’t want to leave. There was so much to explore!
Dia said she wanted to sleep in. So Scarlett and I headed out very early to go birding in Moraine Park where I had seen so many birds before. It was a gorgeous morning. And when I arrived at the trail head, there was birdsong everywhere. Yay!
The trail I chose crossed a creek flowing through the meadow and headed for a rock outcropping with large pines and oaks. I figured this would give me a bigger variety of species to look for with the range of habitat available.
My first bird sighting was a Lincoln’s Sparrow. I could hear him singing among some dead trees along the creek. But it took me forever to spot him. He was very camouflaged among the dead branches.
Up ahead on the little bridge crossing the creek I saw several American Crows enjoying the morning sun.
Soon I was at the treeline edge. Lots of birds here. There were many House Wrens busy flitting here and there so it was a challenge to get a decent pic.
While photographing the wrens, a pair of juvenile Williamson’s Sapsuckers came over to check me out.
Juvenile Williamson’s Sapsucker
A White-Breasted Nuthatch was busy feeding above me.
I saw several Northern Flickers. For the most part they stayed a ways away. I did manage to get a decent pic of one before it saw me and took off.
Then I saw a quick peek of yellow. At first I thought it might be a warbler, but when I finally got a good look at it, I realized it was a young male Western Tanager. Always a pleasure to see!
A cute little bunny was feeding next to the trail. I always think they are so adorable.
All of a sudden Scarlett let out a low growl. I saw where she was looking and realized there was a coyote in the meadow. It decided it didn’t want anything to do with Scarlett, so it quickly headed off deeper into the meadow. He was between me and the morning sun, so I didn’t get a great pic. But I always love seeing coyotes. For some reason, Scarlett always growls when she sees one. That’s a good thing I guess!
There were several hummingbirds about. I believe they were all Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds. In that same area where we saw the coyote, there was a patch of Bee Balm. I love these flowers. Such unusual blooms and hummingbirds love them. I managed to catch one feeding but that low morning sun didn’t make for very good photos. Sigh….
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird feeding on Bee Balm flowers
Further up the trail I saw a LBB (little brown bird). That’s usually how I end up identifying sparrows when you can’t get a good enough look at them. This one caught my attention because it had two wing feathers sticking out funny. 🙂
I believe this is a Brewer’s Sparrow
I only got one butterfly photo the whole trip. There were wildflowers everywhere but very few butterflies.
Small Wood Nymph
There were squirrels everywhere. This park has a healthy population of a large variety of squirrels and chipmunks. I almost didn’t see this chipmunk as it blended very well with the rock it was sitting on.
To my delight a Steller’s Jay landed nearby and the sun was behind me! 🙂 This one looks to be a young one starting to get more adult plumage.
Out in the meadow I saw a flock of Red-Winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds feeding on the grass seeds.
Red-Winged Blackbird – female
I saw many American Robins while in the park, but I only managed to get one good photo of one.
As I was getting into my car to leave, I got one last photo of a Black-Billed Magpie. I love these birds. I’m so glad I was able to see so many of them and get some nice photos.
I was sad to leave the park. I am definitely coming back again in the future!
Dia called me as I was heading back to town. I asked her where she was. Where else?!? Starbucks! So I met her there and we enjoyed sitting by the river that runs through Estes Park. Such a beautiful town.
Dia at her happy place!
Before I end this trip, I thought I would share some of the fun and silly photos we took over the weekend. 🙂
I made Scarlett get in the water. She was not happy with me. I think the loud waterfall nearby was scaring her.
Scarlett didn’t know what to think of all the raging rivers and waterfalls. Even though she loves water, this kind of water was scary!