San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

I feel like I’ve been going a lot lately and haven’t had any time to blog.  I’m still trying to catch up writing about my San Antonio visit last May/June.

While there I took the time to visit the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.  The park encompasses 5 missions and an historic acequia (water canal).  Sadly, the park didn’t open until 9 am.  By this time, the best lighting had passed, and the weather was already hot as fire!  Despite the conditions, I had a good time exploring the missions.

I did manage to get a nice pic in the morning light just outside the monument walls.

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Mission San Jose

The first mission I visited was Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo.  This mission was constructed in 1768 and was designated a National Historic Site in 1966.  It had a large fenced in lawn with lots of buildings that used to house the friars that lived there.

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Mission San Jose

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Old well outside of the mission

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Mission portico

The front of the mission has been beautifully carved.  It’s amazing that these works of art are still in great condition after 250 years.

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Front doors of Mission San Jose

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Wonderful sculptures

The inside has been preserved beautifully.

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Sanctuary of Mission San Jose

The National Park is large.  It has about 15 miles of trails to hike and bike.  I wasn’t about to do either in the Texas summer heat and humidity.  So I drove to the next mission:  Mission San Juan Capistrano.  This mission was built in East Texas in 1716.  Then in 1731, the mission was moved to San Antonio.  It was designated at National Historic Landmark in 1972.

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Mission San Juan Capistrano

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Bell tower of Mission

Sadly I wasn’t allowed to go inside this mission.

Following that was Mission San Francisco de la Espada which was established in 1690 in central Texas.  It underwent several name changes until 1731 when it too was moved to San Antonio.  This mission was added to the National Historic Register in 1972.

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Mission San Francisco de la Espada

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Bell tower

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Mission Portico

I was able to step inside the sanctuary of this mission.  I didn’t realize there was a ceremony underway.  You can see the girl in the chair up front in her white dress.  She was celebrating her Quinceanera.  A celebration in the Latin communities for a girl’s 15th birthday.  I took a quick pic and left the patrons to their celebration.

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Quinceanera being celebrated

I then stopped at the Espada Aqueduct.  This aqueduct was built by Franciscan Friars in 1731 to supply irrigation water to lands near Mission San Francisco de la Espada.  The aqueduct is still in use today and is an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.  It received these designations in 1964.

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Espada Aqueduct

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The double arches of the aqueduct.

I walked down to the stream.  Scarlett was so excited to see water.  Before I let her play and get a drink, I took pictures of the cool fish gathered in a pool.  There were lots of dragonflies about but very skittish.  I managed to get a pic of one little guy.

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Texas Ciclid – this fish was about 3 inches long.  You can see little babies it’s protecting

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Pretty damselfly

After the aqueduct, I drove to Mission Concepcion.  I loved the grounds surrounding this mission.  It had beautiful palm trees and expansive lawns.

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Beautiful old palm trees

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Mission Concepcion

This mission had a lot of rooms to explore along with a beautiful sanctuary.

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Alter at the Mission

I hope you enjoyed reading about my morning exploring the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.  By now it was 11:30 am and it was over 100 degrees F, and I was so ready for a cold drink, a shower and air conditioning!

 

 

San Antonio Summer Birding

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!

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They even had signs saying so!

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I thought it was a joke until I saw this!

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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.

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Northern 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!

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

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While I was photographing him, he quickly lunged and came up with the huge crawdad!

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It’s like the size of a lobster!

There was a juvenile looking on with envy…

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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.

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Checking me out 🙂

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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.

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Great Egret

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Great Egret

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.

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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.

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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!

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Muscovy Ducks

All the while I’m photographing birds, Scarlett was kicked back relaxing and watching all the people and birds.

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Miss Scarlett

And Squirrels!!!  She was on high alert when she spotted the squirrels!

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Scarlett keeping a sharp eye on the squirrel nearby.

The squirrels kept on eye on her as well.

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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.

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Rusty Blackbird

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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.

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Mute Swan male

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Mute Swan female and babies

Here are some of the other small birds I saw around this lake.

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Kildeer

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Scissortail Flycatcher

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Black-Crested Titmouse enjoying a bird drip fountain

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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

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House Sparrow

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Brown-Headed Cowbird female and male

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Painted Bunting

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Eastern Phoebe

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.

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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!

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One of my favorite photos of the visit

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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.

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Ewwwww……

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Black Vulture

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mmmmmm…armadillo

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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.

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White-Tailed Deer

There were a few other blooming flowers about, but not many as San Antonio was experiencing a drought.

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Honey bee enjoying the clover blooms

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This squirrel appreciated the water put out for the birds.

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ahhhhhh…..

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???

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Really?????

One morning I arrived well before sunrise.  I came across this Little Blue Heron fishing.  I loved the colors and lighting of this photo.

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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!  🙂

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This doe found a nice place to sit out the day’s heat

Birding Around Albuquerque

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.

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Coyote

As always, I saw several Western Meadowlarks out singing.  I love their beautiful voice.

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Western Meadowlark

I walked along the main drainage ditch hoping to see some good birds. A scrub jay announced his presence.

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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.

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Lazuli Bunting

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Black-Throated Gray Warbler

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Cedar Waxwing

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.

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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.

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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.

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Common Black Hawk

On my way back I saw a flycatcher along the ditch.  I believe it’s a Hammond’s Flycatcher.

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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.

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Gray Catbird

While hiking along he ditch, I enjoyed the wild irises blooming.

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Wild irises

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.

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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!

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Golden-Winged Warbler

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Golden-Winged Warbler

While hiking there I was treated to some beautiful wild apple blossoms.

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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.

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Yellow-Breasted Chat

I also saw the resident roadrunners in the parking lot.  Always fun to photograph!

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Greater Roadrunner

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.

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Summer Tanager male

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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!

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Black-Chinned Hummingbird

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Uh oh!  He sees another hummer coming for him!

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Defending the feeder!

Here are some of the other birds I saw on my visit.

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Canada Goose

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Western-Wood Pewee

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Ash-Throated  Flycatcher

The gardens were beginning to bloom.  The bees were happily gathering pollen.

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Poppies

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Shooting stars

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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.  🙂

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White-Winged Dove

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Lonesome Larry

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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!

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Red-Tailed Hawk with babies

It’s been great getting out birding.  It was nice to see all the summer birds returning to Albuquerque.

 

 

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!!! 🙂