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 in Eagle Nest NM

On my last day at Red River I drove to Eagle Nest, NM, to do some birding and photography around Eagle Nest Lake.  It was a cool morning after evening showers.  As I drove along the highway, I came across a small herd of elk.  Always a welcome sight!

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Elk herd

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They have mostly lost their winter coat.

When I arrived at the lake, it had a layer of fog over the water.  I thought it made for a picturesque scene.

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Eagle Nest Lake

A lone boat of fishermen was on the lake.

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Fisherman on Eagle Nest Lake

There wasn’t much bird activity out over or on the water.  Just a few Canadian Geese flying by.

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Canadian Geese

There was a lot of bird activity around the lake.  Most notably swallows. There are very few trees around this lake.  So a house nearby was a top pick for the swallows nests.

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Swallows coming and going from their nests in the eaves.

As all birders know, swallows are fast! Trying to get a pic of one on the wing is very difficult.  But once I realized one of the species of swallows was a Tree Swallow, I was determined to get a pic.  This was a lifer bird for me!

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Tree Swallow

There were other birds along the shore of the lake.   Most of them were shy so it was difficult getting very close for any photos.  But I managed a few.

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Western Meadowlark

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Western Bluebird female

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Red-Winged Blackbird female

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Western-Wood Pewee

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Brewer’s Blackbird

While walking along the lake shore, I came across a half eaten jalapeno.  Where else but New Mexico would you see that?!?  🙂

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Only in New Mexico…

After spending some time around the lake, I decided to go exploring around Eagle Nest to see some of the sights for photos.  I came across the ruins of the old lodge.  I wish I could have gotten closer, but it was gated inside private property.

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Old Eagle Nest Lodge

There was a unique gate post nearby that looks like live hawks and eagles use it frequently for a perch   🙂

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While driving around I came across a Turkey Vulture enjoying a deer carcass.  Not much left, but still enough for a small meal.

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Turkey Vulture

I then decided to visit the old ghost town of Elizabethtown.  Not much left but a couple of buildings and a few old vehicles. My creative spirit just couldn’t seem to do much with the buildings….

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Old barn

So I moved on to the old vehicles.  I loved this old car.

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This used to be a high end car back in the 30s

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Of course, I had to get a pic of the old and the new 🙂

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But my favorite vehicle was this really cool old truck!  Isn’t it great!?!

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Love this!

Of course, I just had to get Scarlett to pose next to it.  Her picture didn’t come out so great as she was distracted by the horses nearby.

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Miss Scarlett

The horses were right across the street enjoying a lush pasture.  This Palomino was a real beauty.

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Enjoying spring in the mountains.

Sadly it was time to head back home.  The road back to Red River is very scenic.  This particular day had awesome clouds with New Mexico’s signature blue sky.

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Highway to Red River

Memorial Day weekend was coming up.  As I was driving home I passed by this very moving Memorial Day tribute.  It was very emotional seeing our American Flag blowing in the wind with signs saying how many of our countrymen had passed in our country’s wars.  Their lives have paid for our freedom in this wonderful country of ours.

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Memorial Day Tribute

Coming back through Taos, I stopped at a place where there’s a couple more cool trucks.   One of them I’ve posted before, but I can never resist photographing this vehicle.

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I love this truck!

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Beautiful Taos country!

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I had a great time visiting Red River.  It had been years since I had been there last.  It’s always a joy getting out and exploring God’s beautiful country.

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Red River Hiking – Day 2

On Day 2 we hiked to Middle Fork Lake.  It was a tough hike.  You climb 1200 feet in elevation in 2.5 miles.  Pretty steep and that was with switchbacks.  But the hike was beautiful.  We followed a stream called Middle Fork Red River up the canyon to the lake.

We started the hike at a high elevation of 9,579 feet.  It was beautiful right at the parking lot.  We parked right next to the stream.

The hike started climbing immediately.  Whew! Not much air at 9,579 feet and it got thinner as we climbed.  Scarlett didn’t seem to mind though.  She was thrilled to be out on a long hike.

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Scarlett and Kelly enjoying the hike.

The trail was beautiful.  I had to stop off and take photos every time we crossed the stream.

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Middle Fork Red River

There were little waterfalls all along the stream.

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I loved all the big rocks in the stream.

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After about a mile climb, we came to the stream again.  And this time there was a big waterfall.  Beautiful!  I just love waterfalls.  There aren’t many in New Mexico, so when you see one, it’s a real treat!

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A beautiful waterfall

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Rugged and natural

After taking a nice break at the waterfall, the climbing resumed.  Whew! The air was definitely getting thinner.  My legs were getting tired too.  We left the river and it was just one switchback after another.  If there wasn’t the lure of the lake ahead, I might have turned around.  I hadn’t been on a long, hard hike for several months.

Finally!  I made it to the lake.  All of a sudden you top a rise and it’s there before you.

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Middle Fork Lake

Well worth the effort of climbing to it.  The lake sits at 10,819 feet.  It’s a gorgeous glacial lake.  After standing there for a few wondrous minutes catching my breath, I walked down to the lake and took some scenic pics.

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Middle Fork Lake

To my delight there were some Gray Jays there hoping for some treats from visiting hikers.  I had almost left my birding lens behind since it’s a very heavy lens.  But thankfully I had carried it up the mountain.  So I was able to get some nice shots of this cool bird.

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Gray Jay

After sitting and having a nice lunch, I decided to walk around the lake.  Scarlett was thrilled when we came across a patch of snow left over from winter.  She had fun rolling and digging in the snow.  She was barking and letting everyone know how great it was.  LOL!  🙂

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Scarlett loved the snow patch!

I took a few more shots of the lake.  I was going to try and walk all the way around the lake, but storm clouds were brewing in the distance.  I figured I better start heading back down.

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Middle Fork Lake

When I got to the waterfall, I decided to try and climb to the upper part of the falls.  It was worth the scramble for the beautiful scene.

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Above the waterfall

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Above the waterfall

The waterfall was beautiful too as the light had changed since I had seen it earlier.

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Gorgeous lighting

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A wonderful part of the hike

Going down the trail was way easier than going up.  We made good time working our way down.  I let Scarlett have one more fun time in the stream before we got back to the car.  She just can’t get enough water.

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Scarlett enjoying the water

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My happy girl!

I’m so glad I went on the hike.  Everyone I hiked with was wonderful.  It was definitely worth the effort.

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Almost back to the parking lot.  Whew!

Stay tuned for my last day at Red River.  I will be birding in Eagle Nest! 🙂

 

 

 

San Antonio Birding – Dedicated to my Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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Scarlett walking in the greenbelt.

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Texas Bluebonnets

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

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White-Eyed Vireo

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

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Red-Shouldered Hawk as I first saw him.

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

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

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Success getting some breakfast.

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

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Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings

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Adorable baby

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

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Mute Swan

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

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

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Cattle Egret

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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American Coot

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American Coot

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Great Egret

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Great-Tailed Grackle

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

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White-Winged Dove

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Barn Swallow

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Common Yellowthroat

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Savannah Sparrow

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Eastern Kingbird

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Killdeer

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Eastern Phoebe

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

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Myrtle)

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Carolina Wren

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Northern Cardinal with an inchworm

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

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Purple Martins

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

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Northern Mockingbird flushing out bugs

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

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck at dawn

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Lake Converse at sunrise

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

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Great Egret

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

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Great Egret

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Small catch but tasty!

There were a several other waterfowl on the lake.

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Mottled Duck

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Mottled Duck babies – so adorable!

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Blue-Winged Teal

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck baby – beautiful markings!

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

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Green Heron

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Green Heron

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Green Heron

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

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Cooper’s Hawk

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

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Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

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Northern Cardinal

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Western Kingbird

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

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Spotted Sandpiper

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Spotted Sandpiper

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

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Texas Bluebonnet Sunrise

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

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Black-Crested Titmouse

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

Scarlett just couldn’t believe her eyes!!  🙂

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Look mom!  A deer is right there!!!!

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

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White-Tailed Deer

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

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

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Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

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Beautiful coloring under the wings.

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

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Carolina Chickadee

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Northern Mockingbird

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Summer Tanager Female

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Black Vulture

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

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Barred Owl

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Barred Owl

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

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Great Horned Owletts

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

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Great Horned Owl

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

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Lark Sparrow

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Western Meadowlark

Scarlett enjoyed her visit at the park.  🙂

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My sweet Scarlett

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

In memory of my dad:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Monochrome Awards

I just found out I got an honorable mention for an international Black and White photo contest.  😁

There were 8,942 submissions from 87 countries! Wow! I am very honored to receive an award for this prestigious event. I submitted 3 photos so am thrilled one was selected. 

My winning photo was one of my all time favorite photos: Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park,  Colorado. 

It’s so exciting to be recognized! 

Last Birding Trip of 2017

During the last week of December, I was able to take a trip to Bosque del Apache. I try to visit there every December as that’s when the winter bird count is pretty high.

I left well before sunrise. As I was driving down, I started getting into thicker and thicker fog. At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph on a 75 mph interstate.

It was difficult to bird first thing due to the thick fog, so I took a few scenic shots.

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Boardwalk through the marsh

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A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area

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Quiet solitude

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

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Beautiful coyote among the hoarfrost

Fortunately, the fog cleared up once the sun rose and I was able to start hunting for birds.

I first noticed a Great Blue Heron grooming.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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

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Northern Harrier

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Cooper’s Hawk

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American Kestral

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Northern Harrier

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American Bald Eagles

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I started driving around the ponds to see what waterfowl was about. I happened to notice two Northern Harriers squabbling. They were quite a ways away but I managed to capture a pic.

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Northern Harriers fighting

I was surprised to find that there really wasn’t very many waterfowl about. I had to really search the ponds to find any. Not sure where they were all hiding.

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Bufflehead – male

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Northern Pintail

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Bufflehead – female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Northern Shoveler

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

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Snow Geese

I always hear there are wading birds that winter at the refuge, but I rarely see them. But on this day I saw three Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of a pond.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

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

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Song Sparrow

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Gambel’s Quail

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Marsh Wren

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White-Winged Dove

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House Finch

One of my favorite sightings of the day was a Crissal Thrasher singing his little heart out atop a bush. Surprisingly he let me get pretty close singing the whole time.

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Crissal Thrasher

I sat and watched a roadrunner look for lunch. They are always entertaining. He hunted for awhile before he noticed me watching. I took this pic the moment he realized he wasn’t alone. 🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

My last sighting of the day was a grebe off in the distance. When I zoomed in and took a pic, I was delighted to see it was a Clark’s Grebe. These are considered a rare sighting for the area, so that was a real treat.

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Clark’s Grebe

I left around noon and decided to drive a different route home. I took the Quebradas Scenic Route home. I had heard a lot about this road. But to be honest I couldn’t really see why it was considered so beautiful. But there was one place on the road I found very picturesque, so I got out a took a pic.

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Quebradas Scenic Route

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

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Mule Deer

I still had some light left in the day, so I stopped in at the Bernardo Refuge. The Sandhill Cranes seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache.

I got there near sunset, and all the cranes were coming in to the pond to drink. It was a beautiful sight seeing and hearing the cranes flying overhead in the soft light of sunset.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Cranes

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

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Super Moon

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

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Just beautiful…

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While hiking the trails, a train came through. 🙂

Pecos at Night

Recently I was invited to a night photography workshop held near the Pecos National Monument.  I have dabbled in night photography a couple times in the past with poor results.  Mostly because my camera I was using at the time was not meant to do night shots.  But also because I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing.  :-\

So when I was invited to do a workshop that was going to be hosted by several people that were much more experienced at it then me, I jumped on the opportunity.  I invited my friend Valerie to join me.  We love going out together for camera time.

We drove to Pecos and arrived late afternoon.  I had believed the Pecos National Monument was open until 5:30.  But sadly, they closed as soon as we got there at 4:30,.  Winter hours had begun.  😦  We weren’t going to meet our group until 6 so we had a 1.5 hours to kill.

I decided to drive up Highway 63 to see what might be interesting to see.  We stopped at an old historic church for a few brief photos.  Usually these old churches are locked whenever I am there.  But on this day, it was open!  Such a beautiful sanctuary.

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Gorgeous chandeliers

Further up the road we crossed the Pecos River.  We just had to stop.  The setting sun was glorious on the water with the stunning fall colors.

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Pecos River

Next stop was Monastery Lake.  I’ve driven by the turn off for this lake several times this summer without stopping.  So it was nice to stop in this time.  It was a small little lake that seemed popular for fishing.  Lovely fall colors surrounded the lake.

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Monastery Lake

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Fishermen along the shore

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Beautiful shore

We figured we better start back to the meeting place.  But I had one more stop to make.  I had seen this cool old garage as we pulled out from the church earlier.  So I quickly pulled into the driveway and snapped a few pics.

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I loved the patina of the paint

There were a couple of dogs in the driveway that seemed friendly enough.  But when it came time to leave, they were determined to chase the car and run in front of us.  I couldn’t go very fast for fear of running them over.  We had to drive down the road slowly for a ways before they finally gave up.  Whew!  They almost made us late for our workshop!

We had to be at the meeting spot on time or we would be locked out.  We were allowed to shoot at an old ranch that isn’t open to the public.  We drove up to the gate with moments to spare!

After a quick meeting, the group broke up into smaller groups around the ranch.  Valerie and I decided we wanted to go down to this bridge to get shots of the bridge, river, moon and milky way.  Several of us went to the bridge – including an experienced night photographer.  Yay!

We had to wear red headlamps to save our night vision.  I took a quick pic of Valerie for fun.  I thought I took a selfie but I guess it didn’t take.  😦

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Valerie bundled up for the cold night ahead

So we made it to the bridge, got some great advice from our expert in the group, and set up our tripods and cameras.  We checked our apps to see where the Milky Way was going to be and pointed our cameras that direction.  And there was a sliver of a moon getting ready to set.  The sky was the most beautiful purple hue.

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Beautiful purple skies

The sun set quickly and I took my first photo of the Milky Way.  It was thrilling!  I took a 20 second exposure with a 20 second high noise reduction setting.  I was anxiously waiting to see what I got.  And then it appeared on my camera screen.  I was so excited to see my first photo come out so beautifully!

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My first Milky Way shot!

The group then decided to try light painting the Pecos River.  I have tried light painting in the past with OK results.  I realized later than I used too much light to highlight my subject.  On this night we literally just lit the river a couple of seconds over a 20 second exposure.  I think it turned out nice.

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Light painting of the Pecos River

We then light painted the bridge we were standing on.  It was a little more difficult as the bridge was white.  It really reflected the light.  We only had to very briefly shine the light.  Even then the bridge is pretty bright.  But I like the photo I got.

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Bridge over the Pecos River

We were really concentrating on the south side of the bridge.   When I turned around and looked to the north, I saw this great deciduous tree silhouetted by the lights of Santa Fe in the distance.  I just had to capture it with the purple skies and wonderful light.  I was very pleased with my shot.  We tried light painting the tree, but I  wasn’t as happy with those pics.

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Beautiful skies

By this time, several hours had passed.  It went so quickly!  We needed to move to warm up.  By now the temperature was 32 degrees and we were getting cold standing still.  We headed up the hill to the old ranch house.  There’s this giant steer head sculpture on the fireplace.  We took several exposures of this view but I wasn’t happy with most of them.  This is probably the best shot I got.

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Steer Sculpture

By now we were very cold.  It was time to go home.  On one hand I wanted to stay longer, but on the other I was ready to leave.  Those heated seats in my Jeep were pure heaven!!!

I had a great time on my first night shot outing.  I’m definitely ready to do more!