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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Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 2

It’s been a little while since I posted Day 1.  Sorry about that!  Life has been busy!

Day 2 was my favorite of the 3 days at the park.  Dia and I hiked most of the morning.  We took a hike that passed by 3 lakes.  Just stunning!  I think it was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on.  Seriously!  You’ll see why when you see my photos.  And trust me….they don’t do it justice!

We started out very early in the morning to miss the crowds and to hopefully get some pretty photos of the lakes.    And our planning paid off.

The hike started off in deep forest with a slight incline.  About a 1/2 mile into the hike we came upon Nymph Lake.  A beautiful little lake full of lily pads.

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Nymph Lake

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Lots of lily pads

Fortunately there was a couple there willing to take our photo.  Even though I had my tripod, sometimes it’s just easier to have someone take your pic.  🙂

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Scarlett, Kelly and Dia

Scarlett was wearing her new backpack.  We had her carry all of our water and snacks!  🙂  Being a working dog, she loved it.  Plus, it slowed her down some LOL!

After Nymph Lake we started climbing higher.   Soon we were climbing above the forest and the view started opening up.  So beautiful!

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Panorama of the trail.  You can just see the shimmer of Nymph Lake below.

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Stunning views

We came across the stream that fed into Nymph Lake.  It was flowing nicely.  I love hiking next to water.  Just that sound of the babbling brook can be so peaceful and rejuvenating.  Seeing as New Mexico really doesn’t have a lot of water, being in RMNP was so wonderful because it’s full of water.

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Dia at the creek crossing. Neat tree!

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Sweet little waterfall in the stream

As we climbed higher on the trail, it just kept getting even more beautiful.  I was never bored.  Every step was a joy.

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We started leveling out and the waters became calmer.  I figured we were getting closer to another of the 3 lakes.

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At this point Dia joked that we were hiking to that snow in the background.  Little did we know she was pretty close to the truth.

Soon we rounded a bend and there was Dream Lake.  I absolutely loved this lake.  It was my favorite lake of the entire trip.

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Dia and Kelly at Dream Lake

OMG! This lake was just breathtaking!  I could have sat here for hours.  The water was so clear we could see trout swimming along the shore.  Just beautiful!  The picture below is my most favorite scenic photo from the trip.

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Dream Lake – Just stunning!!!

Too soon we had to leave Dream Lake and keep hiking up the trail.  Dream Lake was long and skinny so there was lots of time to enjoy it as we headed up the trail.  Other parts of the lake were unique and I couldn’t resist taking a bunch of photos.

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Such a beautiful hike

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Dia loved this cool tree

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Clear water and perfect reflections

Soon we were climbing yet again.  Thankfully the trail was never too steep.  So it was an enjoyable hike the entire time.  And now that I think about it, Dia never once cried for a Starbucks.  That’s how great this hike was!!!

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I loved that from this point forward we stayed next to the stream.  At times we crisscrossed over it.  And at several points there were small waterfalls.  Gorgeous!

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What a great trail.

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Loved the bedrock this waterfall cascaded over.

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I had to scramble down between big boulders for this shot.  What photographers do for a photo!

Finally we were getting close to our final lake and the turnaround point for the hike.  We had made it to the snow that Dia had earlier joked about.  Granted, it was just here and there but we were at around 10,000 feet so it was cool enough for some of it to stay even in the middle of summer.  And what was on that snow????  A lifer bird for me!!!!  A Pine Grosbeak.  A beautiful male so pretty in his pink plumage.  This is the southernmost area you can see these birds in the US.  I was so excited!  I didn’t have my birding lens on, but thankfully he was close enough I got a decent pic with my regular lens.

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Pine Grosbeak

Right after seeing the grosbeak, we came upon Emerald Lake.  A stunning high alpine glacial lake.

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Emerald Lake

My favorite photo of the trip of Dia and I together.   Such a stunning backdrop.  Thankfully I had lugged my tripod along on this trip so I could get such great shots and pictures of us together.

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Kelly and Dia at Emerald Lake

We stayed here awhile just soaking up the views.  You could hear the distant waterfall.  So peaceful.  A lovely hike on a lovely day.

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Dia enjoying the view of the lake and distant waterfall.  Scarlett enjoying all the squirrels running around.  She let us know where every one was…

Too soon we had to head back down the trail.  Thankfully it was downhill the whole way back.  It was interesting to note how different the lakes looked when the sun was directly overhead.  I was so happy we got up at 5:30 to hit the trail early.  It paid off with gorgeous photos and no people.

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Nymph Lake later in the day

We were tired at the end of the hike.  We had a snack in parking lot and talked about what we wanted to do next.  Since we had just hiked 6+ miles we decided we wanted to drive around and see more of the park.

We ended up stopping at another lake – Sprague Lake.

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Sprague Lake

It wasn’t nearly as scenic as the other lakes, but was still nice to walk around.  Plus, there were lots of birds in the area.  Always a plus!

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Lovely wildflowers

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Juvenile Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mountain Chickadee

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mallard

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Cutie pie 🙂

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Mountain Bluebird

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Bank Swallow

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Steller’s Jay

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Dia couldn’t believe I got this dragonfly in flight 🙂

My favorite bird on this walk was a Song Sparrow.  He was kicked back, relaxing, and singing his little heart out.  So Sweet!

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Song Sparrow

As if we hadn’t hiked enough that day, I talked Dia into hiking from Sprague Lake down to Glacier Basin.  It was a pretty little downhill hike.  But I tell you, we were wiped out at the end.  Thankfully they have shuttle buses running that were able to take us back to our car.  While waiting for the bus, I saw a wasp carrying a large caterpillar.  He was moving fast so it was tough getting a pic.  But I was fascinated by this.  That caterpillar is going to be food for its young.

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Common Thread Waisted Wasp

After getting back to our car, we decided to drive around a little more.  We drove through the giant meadow of Moraine Park.  A beautiful area full of wildflowers and big vistas. And lots of birds!  I made plans with Dia to let me get up early the day we were to drive home so I could go birding in this area before we left.  I knew it was going to be great!

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Moraine Park

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Lovely wildflowers

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There are six Northern Flickers in this photo. Wow!

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Black-Billed Magpie – no longer my nemesis 🙂

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Bee Balm

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Brewer’s Blackbird male and female

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Williamson’s Sapsucker – I love this pic!

There was one river that we crossed every day.  It had beautiful rushing water.  I really wanted a picture of it.  We tried walking up next to it, but it didn’t do it justice.  Though we did see this sign…

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So I decided to walk back out onto the bridge for a pic.  Much better! So beautiful!

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Gorgeous!

When we got back to the hotel, we were pooped!  While I was walking Scarlett for her potty break, Dia sent me this text.  LOL! We had hiked 10 miles this day.  Plus 10 miles the day before.

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As we were getting ready for bed (at 7:30 pm HAHAHAHAHAHA!), I decided to take Scarlett out one more time to go potty.  When I looked out, I saw Bull Elk right outside our room!  WOW!  Of course, I had to grab my camera and take a dozen pics following them as they grazed.  What a great way to end a day!

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Bull Elk

 

 

Wonderful Spring Birding with a New Lifer Sighting

First off, let me just say, I LOVE my new camera!  I’m definitely still in the learning phase, but it’s performance is superior to my old setup.  It’s a joy to use, and I’m very happy with my images.

Not too long ago, we had a spring storm blow through and it dumped 12 inches of snow at my house.  The birds were not very happy about this event, and neither were my plants.

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Bleeding Hearts

A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.

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Cooper’s Hawk

The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

Thankfully the snow melted the very next day, and the temperatures returned to the mid to high 70s right away.  I got to go out hiking several times this week.  I visited Tingley Beach a couple days after the spring storm.  The Rio Grande was raging and flooded most of the bosque trails.  But it was worth trudging through it to see some new spring birds.

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

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Green Heron

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Baby Mallard

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Summer Tanager

I have lived in the Albuquerque area for over 20 years.  And during that time, I have never visited Sandia Lakes or Shady Lakes (they are next door to each other).  So one day I decided to check out the lakes.

Sandia Lakes was very nice.  Beautiful lawns and cottonwood trees and three separate lakes.

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Sandia Lakes with the Sandia Mountains in the background

The first bird I saw was a Lark Sparrow (first one I’ve seen this year).  He was singing way up high in a tree.  Then I saw several Canada Geese with their babies.

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Canada Geese

While watching the geese, I saw something that looked different.  I quickly realized it was a Western Grebe.  We don’t see them often in our area, so it was a real treat.

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Western Grebe

I saw a pair of Say’s Phoebes busily hunting for bugs.  I soon saw why they were so frantic to find bugs.  They had three babies squeezed into a tiny nest.

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Say’s Phoebes

I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well.  They are such beautiful birds

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Black Phoebe

While walking around the lake, an Osprey flew overhead.  I thought to myself that he might be part of a nesting pair.  This was confirmed recently by my friend Joe.  I’m definitely going to have to check out their nesting progress.

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Osprey

I came across a pair of Black-Capped Chickadees that were acting very agitated.  I never did figure out what they were so upset about.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

As I was walking through the grass between lakes, I saw a Killdeer doing its “I’m injured, follow me” routine.  So I knew there must be a baby nearby.  It was acting pretty desperate, so I thought it must be very close.

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Killdeer trying to lure me away from its baby

When I looked down, I realized it was only a foot away.  I almost stepped on it!  Yikes!  It never did move.  I took a quick pic and then quickly moved away.  Soon I heard the baby calling for its parents.  It was nice to see them all reunite and be assured all was fine.

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baby Killdeer

I then headed over to Shady Lakes. What a beautiful place!  It has several ponds all covered in beautiful lily pads and lined with irises.  The ponds are stocked with different varieties of fish.  But I was there for the birds.

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Shady Lakes

As soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron sitting beautifully on an old log.  I then realized there were several of them gathered there.   Fabulous!  They are used to people so they let me get pretty close.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.

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I noticed a moth feeding among the irises.  These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.

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White-Lined Sphinx Moth

The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!

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My last hike was up to the Cienega picnic area.  The forest service blocks the road for cars until mid-May.  So you have to hike along the road to get to the upper picnic area.  My goal was to try and find the Northern Pygmy Owl that has been seen nesting there.  Now I have made this hike several times both last spring and this spring with no luck seeing that owl.  Well, this time I was successful!  This is a lifer bird for me!

He was calling repeatedly on a lower branch in the aspen tree where he’s been seen nesting.  All the songbirds in the area were very agitated and were trying to scare him away.  It was a wonderful sighting!

For those of you not familiar with this owl.  He’s very small,  only 6 inches from its head to the end of its tail.  So you can see why he’s so difficult to find.

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Northern Pygmy Owl

I decided to hike over to Bill Spring since I was in the area.  A Hermit Thrush was enjoying a bath.  And a baby was in a tree nearby.

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Hermit Thrush

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Hermit Thrush

A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.

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Western Tanager

I hadn’t been at the spring long when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in chasing a chickadee.  After that, the birds were scarce.  So I started hiking back to my car.  I saw lots of Black-Headed Grosbeak singing and squabbling in the trees.  I’m guessing they were vying for the attention of the females.

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Black-Headed Grosbeak

I’m thrilled spring is here.  I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived.  🙂

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20th Anniversary Trip – Day 6 Nevada & Utah

This day was one of the funnest days of our trip.  We covered a lot of miles and saw some stunning scenery.

We left Ely, NV, and started heading to Utah.  Before we left the area, I had Tim stop again at the Comins Lake.  It was such a great place for birding.

This morning I saw completely different birds than I had seen the evening before.  Which I loved!

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Sagebrush Sparrow

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Solitary Sandpiper

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Eared Grebe

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Yellow-Headed Blackbird

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Sage Thrasher

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Barn Swallows

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Vesper Sparrow

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Brewer’s Sparrow

After birding for a short while, a Great Blue Heron came flying in.  I love these elegant birds.

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Great Blue Heron

He wasn’t too sure about me walking along the shoreline.  So he flew to the other side of the lake.  I captured a few photos in flight.  When I was editing the photos, I saw an elusive warbler flying in the photos as well.  Looked like a Yellow Warbler – so bright! Wish I could have gotten some good photos of that warbler.

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Great Blue Heron – see that bright yellow warbler!!!

I also saw a tiny bird feeding along the edge of the reeds.  It’s obviously a juvenile.  But I had a heck of a time identifying this bird.  My conclusion is that it’s a juvenile Virginia Rail.  But if someone knows the correct identification of this bird, I’d appreciate knowing.

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Juvenile Virginia Rail

Too soon we were on our way.  I never want to leave a good birding spot!  We started heading further south.  One of our planned stops on this trip was Cathedral Gorge State Park.  It’s a small park comprising about 1600 acres, but just beautiful!  We had a good time exploring all the small slots formed in the rocks.  I could easily spend a day investigating all the cracks and crevices. Very unique!

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Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Unique geology

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Tim exploring

 

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Just beautiful!

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Interesting holes and cracks

 

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Kelly exploring the slots

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View from inside the slot canyon

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My handsome husband!

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Kelly inside the deepest slot canyon

Tim spotted a lizard among the formation.  Yay!

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Plateau Fence Lizard

We next headed east toward Utah.  We headed up a scenic highway called Cedar Canyon that was truly breathtaking at every turn.  We climbed very quickly with some steep grades at times.  One of the most scenic highways I had ever seen.

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River along Highway 14 Cedar Canyon

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Gorgeous rock formations along the scenic drive

We soon had gone from 4,800 foot elevation at Cathedral Gorge to 10,000 feet.   The views were so expansive!

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Views from 10,000 feet

I saw on the map that there was a National Park just ahead of us:  Cedar Breaks National Park.  Of course we just had to stop in.  And I am so glad we did.  Just breathtaking!!!

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Cedar Breaks National Park

 

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Stunning!

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View from 10,000 feet

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From 10,000 feet the bottom of the canyon is 2000 feet below

The views looking down into that canyon were breathtaking.  I would have loved to see what the views looked like from down in the bottom of that canyon.

While there I saw (and heard!) and Clark’s Nutcracker.  These birds are big and loud.  Sadly it flew away before I could get a photo.

Further up the road was another turnoff that showed a different view of the park.

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Tim and Kelly

At the parking area of Cedar Breaks there were lots of wildflowers with butterflies busily feeding.  Along with the familiar butterflies, I actually got a new one!

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Hoary Comma

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Mourning Cloak

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Milbert’s Tortoiseshell – a new butterfly for me!

Heading down the other side of the mountain, we saw a beautiful lake, mountain meadows and small ponds.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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Sheep grazing in a high mountain meadow

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Navajo Lake – a high mountain lake formed by lava

 

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American Avocets

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Mallard female

We stopped at one pond that was full of ducks.  As we watched the ducks an osprey flew over looking for some lunch.  He circled a couple times but didn’t see anything worth trying for and flew away.

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Osprey

We finally made it off that mountain and to our destination of the Zion Mountain Ranch.  It’s an actual working buffalo ranch.  The buffalo were there but way far away.  I had hopes of seeing them up close before we left.

We stayed in a private cabin overlooking the horse pasture.  A very peaceful setting.

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Our cabin at Zion Mountain Ranch

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cozy…..

Tomorrow we see Zion!
P.S.  I just learned this was my 100th post!!! 🙂

 

 

 

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 3 Nevada

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Golden grasslands for miles

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

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

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

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

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

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Sagebrush Sparrow

 

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

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Brewer’s Sparrow

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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

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

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Rusty soda can circa 1970s  😉

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

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Western Fence Lizard

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

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Western Fence Lizard

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

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Savannah Sparrow

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

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Tim working hard looking for gold

 

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

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard coming out of his lair

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

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

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

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Narrowing down the location of the target. 

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Using tweezers to scrape in the cracks of bedrock.

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

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

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

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I like the green eyes

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A busy bee 🙂

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Wasp

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

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Funnel Web Spider lair

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

But I did get a few more bird photos.  🙂

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A hot Horned Lark

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Great Egret

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Snowy Egrets

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Snowy Egret

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

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

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

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Columnar Jointing

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

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

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

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

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

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Road to Star City

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

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Small dam on the way to Star City

 

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

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View from Star City

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

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Beginning of a beautiful sunset

Stay tuned for Day 4!

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Late Summer Birds and Critters

I was able to get out a couple times this week for walks with Scarlett.  And one morning I got up really early to bird in Moriarty.

On one morning I stopped in at the duck ponds at Tingley Beach.  I hadn’t been there in a while.  I only had about 30 minutes to walk around.  There were quite a few birds, but most we too camera shy.  I did manage to get a Blue Grosbeak photo though he was deep in the shadows.

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Blue Grosbeak

 

I was surprised to see a snail on the trail.  Now those of you that live in humid areas probably don’t get too excited about snails.  But here in the desert, they are a real treat to see.  All the monsoon rains must have brought it out of hiding.

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One of my favorite things to see every summer is the Japanese Beetle.  I think they are so beautiful.  I can always count on seeing them on these blossoms.

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Japanese Beetles

But the biggest surprise of the short walk, was getting very  close to a Green Heron.  They are usually so shy at the duck ponds.  As soon as you see them they will fly to the far side of the pond or out to the island in the middle. This particular heron let me get within 5 feet of him.  I had to lean over and peer through cattails, but I did get a pretty nice photo before he decided he had enough of me.

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Green Heron

A few days ago I drove out to my favorite spot in Moriarty – Valley Irrigation Road.  I hadn’t been out there in months.  I only stayed out about an hour.  Work has still been so busy.  But even in that short time, I saw quite a few nice birds.

First I saw a Western Kingbird and House Sparrow enjoying the morning sun.

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Western Kingbird

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House Sparrow

Soon after I saw a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.  I love these tiny little birds.

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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

In this same area I also saw a House Wren and a very elusive and fast Wilson’s Warbler.

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House Wren

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Wilson’s Warbler

Further down the road, I saw several Swainson’s Hawks.  Most flew before I got anywhere near them.  But I did get closer to one for a photo before it flew away.

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Swainson’s Hawk

At Otto Pond I saw lots of sparrows and finches enjoying all the sunflowers and corn plants.

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Otto Pond area on Valley Irrigation Road

I had a very cooperative House Finch.

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House Finch

And saw lots of sparrows.

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Brewer’s Sparrow

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Clay-Colored Sparrow

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Chipping Sparrow

I even saw a hummingbird enjoying all those beautiful sunflowers.

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Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Around home I’ve encountered a few interesting things.  I have a lot of lizards around my home.  This particular guy was enjoying the warm sun in my backyard.  It’s not often you get to see that gorgeous blue throat.

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Striped Plateau Lizard

A new batch of Two-Tailed Swallowtail butterflies must have hatched.  Because I’ve seen quite a few of them in my yard these last few days.  A few lingered long enough for photos.

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Two-Tailed Swallowtail

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Pretty on  my petunias!

While walking Scarlett in the neighborhood, we came across a 5-foot long bull snake snoozing behind the back tires of my car.  It had recently eaten, as you can tell by the thick middle.

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Bull Snake

It was determined to stay by my  car.  So I picked it up to move it safely off the road.  It needed to get hidden so no one would kill it.  Bull snakes are great for rodent control.  But some people think they need to kill all snakes.  When I picked it up, I soon realized it was a long as I was tall which made it over 5 feet long!

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This snake was very tame.  I’ve found most bull snakes are.

Once safely off the road, I tried to take some more photos, but it wasn’t interested in that.  I managed to get a couple before it quickly disappeared.

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Bull Snake

I took a photo of Scarlett while walking this morning.  She’s modeling her new blue sparkly collar with a pretty flower.  🙂

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Scarlett modeling her new collar.

My Canyon Towhee’s had a late batch of babies.  I noticed this one was hanging out in the seed dish.  He sat very still, I’m sure hoping I didn’t see him.

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Baby Canyon Towhee

And there are still lots of Lesser Goldfinches hanging out in my yard.

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Lesser Goldfinch

In my garden, I’ve been seeing a lot of praying mantis.  I think they are my most favorite insect.  This one was enjoying my squash plant.

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Praying Mantis

That’s about it for the past week or so.  I hope you’re enjoying your summer!