After getting all rested up after hiking The Wave the day before, I was ready for my next tour. I hired a tour company to take me to a remote slot canyon that required true 4WD to get there. The road there must have had 2 feet of very soft sand that I would have definitely not felt comfortable to drive.
We finally arrived at Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon. Right off the bat it was just beautiful!
Scarlett loved it because it was shady and cool and she liked running up ahead and racing back through the narrow slot. I got her to slow down enough for a photo op.
The tour guide was amazing. He was very patient and knowledgeable in photographing slot canyons. The best part was that he would help me frame up a shot and then help me with the manual settings to capture the moment with the best possible light.
Sometimes the canyon was very narrow and sometimes it would widen up. I loved how it changed with each curve.
One of my favorite spots of the canyon was photographing this big log. I loved having this focal point in the photo.
Here’s some other photos I took during the tour.
Too soon we reached the end of the slot canyon. A Western Whiptail had fallen into the canyon and was in deep shade. It was so cool in the shade that he was very still. This enabled me to take a few fun photos. Afterwards I picked him up and carried him to a sunny area. He woke up then!!!
After the tour I realized I had plenty of time to drive to Zion National Park and do a hike for evening photos. I had picked out a hike that is not well known. I wanted to hike a trail that wasn’t crowded by loads of tourists. The trail is called Lower Pine Creek Waterfall Trail. It isn’t listed on any of the park maps so most tourists don’t know it exists.
To get there I had to drive the famous park highway. It’s a very scenic drive with lots of places that make you want to stop for photos.
At one stop there were loads of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. I didn’t have my zoom lens with me, but they were so close it didn’t matter!
The trail was short but beautiful. It headed into a narrow canyon along Lower Pine Creek. I arrived at the trailhead just before sunset. I was hoping to get some nice golden hour/blue hour photos.
Scarlett was thrilled to have water to play in. We had to cross the creek several times. We also had to scramble over large boulders.
There were several nice spots to take photos.
The trail was supposed to end with a beautiful waterfall. I had seen photos of this waterfall and was really looking forward to photographing it. However, this past winter was a very wet winter and all the creeks in the park were way up.
I got to this huge pond in the creek just before the waterfall. It was at least 6 feet deep. Too deep to cross and keep my camera gear dry! Sadly I had to turn around without seeing the waterfall (which was literally just around the corner from this pond).
As I was heading out I heard all of the Bighorn Sheep coming down to the creek for a drink. They were bleating loudly to each other. I looked and looked but never saw a one even though I could hear they were very close.
With my several trips this year and busy work, I haven’t had time to blog as often as I would have liked to. So I thought I would combine several sightings over the summer into one post. Now that fall is officially here, many of these birds are gone or will be gone soon.
During the summer I went on several day hikes within a couple hours of Albuquerque. Partly to see something new in scenery and partly to see some birds I don’t normally see around home.
One hike that was new for me was the Cave Creek hike in the Pecos Wilderness. It’s about a 5-mile round trip hike to some caves that were created by water eroding through limestone. It was a beautiful hike in thick forest along a creek. Of course, Scarlett enjoyed the water immensely!
So much fun at the water crossings!
Lovely stream to hike along.
The caves were very interesting. There were several that were big enough to walk inside of. I didn’t go very far in as it got dark quickly and I wasn’t sure how deep the water got. But lots of fun to explore. Scarlett was curious about the caves as well.
Unique caves created by water erosion.
Scarlett exploring a smaller cave.
On this hike I saw a flock of Dusky Grouse. This is pretty much the only grouse specie New Mexico has. I’ve only seen this bird a few times of the past 20 years and never very close. But I was lucky on this hike. When I startled them, they flew into a nearby pine and sat very still – which was perfect for a great photo.
Another day I ventured to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains next to Santa Fe. It was a very cloudy day and the birds were few, but I managed to get a few nice sightings. A favorite – Green Tailed Towhee – came close to check me out so I was able to see his colors nicely.
Green Tailed Towhee
Williamson’s Sapsucker – Juvenile
One of the highlights of this hike was seeing lots of mushrooms. I’ve seen photos of the red and white polka dot mushrooms, but never have seen one in person. It was a real treat seeing and photographing them. 🙂
Poisonous mushroom – but so pretty!
Aspen Vista is a beautiful hike at about 8,000 feet above sea level. As you know Scarlett loves water. But she also loves culverts. She’s always looking inside them to see what might be hiding. On this hike, she found a culvert that was big enough to run through and it had water flowing through it. Bonus!
Scarlett having a blast!
I walked along the Rio Grande several times. Most of the colorful summer birds love the Bosque. It’s so much fun looking for and photographing these beauties!
Great Blue Heron
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird enjoying the summer mimosa blooms!
House Finch – partial orange morph
One day while hiking along the river, I came across a Cooper’s Hawk enjoying breakfast. You could tell it had caught a songbird by the foot hanging out of it’s beak. Poor thing….
Songbird for breakfast anyone???
While reviewing my photos, I realized I had captured a lifer bird on one of my outings along the river. I love it when that happens! In this case, I had mistaken it for a Summer Tanager. But when I reviewed the photo more closely, I realized it was a Hepatic Tanager. Yay!!!
Of course, Scarlett always enjoys a visit to the river!
Look at that big grin on Scarlett’s face!
One day I took a drive out to Stanley. I hadn’t been there for quite some time. I saw a lot of the usual residents there. I never tire seeing a Western Meadowlark or the many hawks that live there. 🙂
Red-Tailed Hawk (juvenile) – I love the coloring of this particular bird
Around home I’ve had several new birds visit my yard this summer. It’s so exciting to see something new show up. I hope they find me again next year! Some were easy to photograph, while others were very elusive. The birds I was unable to photograph but saw were Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Brown-Headed Blackbird, Northern Saw-Whet Owl, and Green-Tailed Towhee.
I love their orange eyes.
Along with the new birds I’ve seen this year, I’ve had plenty of the resident birds stopping by the feeders and bird baths.
A very shy Ladderback Woodpecker (hence the blurry photo)
Wilson’s Warbler – coming to enjoy my bird bath
Holding down a sunflower seed to extract its goodness.
This summer New Mexico saw several forest fires in the Jemez Mountains. Because of this, a lot of the bird life has migrated south to new habitats. This summer we saw a large number of Lewis’s Woodpeckers in the greater Albuquerque area. We normally don’t see them here, so it was a real treat to see one only a couple miles from my house. It seemed to prefer this telephone pole as it was sighted there often. And it didn’t like the squirrel using its pole.
Get off my pole!!!
I drove down to the Monzano Mountains a couple weeks ago hoping to see the fall colors starting in 4th of July Canyon. Though the colors still haven’t begun, I did get to see several birds.
Steller’s Jay – so beautiful!
I saw a Brown Creeper – always a delight. They are very difficult to see against the bark and they move quickly.
Plus I got a lifer! A Golden-Crowned Kinglet. I’ve been looking for this bird for several years and just happened upon it on this trail. Yay! This guy was way up in the canopy shadows and moving so fast!
Among the many bird sightings I had over the summer, I came across some other interesting things. I thought you might enjoy seeing them. 🙂
Cool bee on a beautiful summer sunflower
Southwestern Fence Lizard
Police Car Moth
I love the colors on this dragonfly
This beetle “hisses” when you touch it. A unique defense!
Great Plains Skink (juvenile). This guy was so cool!!! I love the markings on the face. This skink will turn plain brown all over as an adult.
Recently my friend Dia and I spent a whole day exploring the area around El Morro near Grants, NM. Our main destination was to find Nutria Canyon. I’ve heard very little about this hike and there is minimal information online. But there was this one tantalizing photo online that drew me back again and again during the winter months. I knew I just had to find this place during the summer when my friend could join me. It’s about 3 hours away from where I live, so I didn’t want to venture out on my own.
We started out early with hopes of getting to the canyon by around 9. Sadly there was a lot of road construction that slowed us down. Then, when we were in the general area, we just didn’t know where to go. Luckily I saw this one dirt road that said Nutria Lake. It was 25 miles sooner on the highway than my online directions were saying. Thankfully, just as we turned onto the road a local came driving by. They were very helpful and told us we were definitely in the right place.
Since the lake was just a little side trip off the road, we headed over to see it. It was a pretty place with a few ducks enjoying the water. We got out to enjoy the view and let Scarlett have a bathroom break.
Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Scarlett started doing her “business” a pack of reservation dogs came out of nowhere heading straight for us. Dia and I were calling Scarlett to HURRY! HURRY! get in the car. But she just couldn’t finish her “business” quickly enough. We were panicking by this time. Dia ran to drag Scarlett to the car if need be, and I was opening the doors and grabbing the gun! Thankfully Scarlett hurried up and jumped in the car along with us in the nick of time! Whew! Needless to say, we left the lake and headed to our original destination.
The valley we were driving into was very lush. We saw lots of happy horses and other livestock. And there were prairie dogs EVERYWHERE!!!
As we neared the trail head, we came upon a marshy area where Nutria Creek spills out of the canyon. Just gorgeous!
Marsh area near the trail head
Dia had just gotten a new tattoo on her entire back. So she wasn’t able to carry a pack. I told her I would carry everything in my pack (I’d do anything to go see this canyon!). So when we arrived at the trail head, she started loading up my pack. Wow! Heavy!
That pack had to weigh 40 pounds!
I told her she had to at least carry the gun. She gladly accepted that task!
Dia packing heat!
The trail headed into the narrowing canyon with lush green trees and bushes. It definitely beckoned us to head inside.
Entrance to trail – so green!
Almost as soon as we started the trail, there was water. Scarlett immediately dove in!
Scarlett in her happy place!
Thankfully enough people have been on this trail that they have constructed makeshift boardwalks out of old pallets and scrap lumber. They were rickety but effective to walk over the mud.
We started climbing up above the creek and into a lush forest of oaks. There were Yellow Warblers everywhere! I didn’t bring my birding lens, so no bird pics this trip. But so much birdsong in the canopy made me regret my decision to leave that lens at home.
Kelly on the very lush trail.
It was nice and cool in the shade
We eventually met up with the creek again. Then we turned a corner in the canyon and it opened up to a stunning view. Beautiful steep red canyon walls and gorgeous green foliage. We were getting close to where I saw that tantalizing photo so many months ago.
Dia enjoying the view on this perfect seat.
Then there it was! A picturesque pond in this hidden canyon. Stunning! I was so wishing we had found the trail much sooner. By this time it was noon and not the best conditions for photography. But I did my best to capture some images that did the view justice.
I loved the reflections in the pond.
I just had to have a photo of me and Scarlett in this beautiful spot.
My sweet Miss Scarlett
Scarlett and Kelly
The day was warming up quickly. Scarlett was tempted to jump down into that pond. We kept having to tell her no.
It was sooooo tempting to jump in…
Eventually we made it around and down to that pond and she was a happy girl!
Such a peaceful place
Scarlett loved the ponds. Cool and refreshing water to play in.
We hung around here for a while as the trail just became too congested with brush to continue on. I had hoped to explore further but this is just not a well known place. So there isn’t enough foot traffic to keep the trail open.
Scarlett kept on eye on me as I navigated the big boulders
Dia and Kelly
Eventually we headed back to the car. We still had quite a bit of daylight left to the day. So we decided to visit the Ice Cave. I had never been, and Dia said it had been a long while since she had been there.
On the way out, we decided to stop at a few of the abandoned homes in the valley. They are interesting to explore. Just a plethora of things to photograph!
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We had lunch at the Ancient Way Cafe. It’s a tiny little place, but the food is good and the desserts were outstanding! They have quite a baker working there.
Our sandwich was shaped just like a Bigfoot footprint!
The visitor’s center at the ice cave was very interesting. It’s amazing what they found down in that hole. Centuries of history perfectly preserved. I highly recommend you take the time to look around at all the treasures jammed into this small building.
Look at those giant perfectly whole Indian pots!
The Ice Cave offers two hikes. One up to the Bandera Volcano and one down to the ice cave. We hiked the volcano first since we knew we would cool off at the ice cave. 🙂
It was a short and relatively uninteresting hike.
At the top of the trail, Dia collapsed due to lack of a Starbuck’s for hours. I told her to hang in there. We will get her one soon.
Where’s Starbucks????????? she wailed
The Ice Cave was much more interesting. The trail to the cave takes you through the basalt fields left by the volcano. It makes you wonder how anyone found that ice cave so long ago. It had to have been quite the challenge to navigate through that jagged sharp basalt.
A blooming cactus brought beauty to the stark view.
The area was called The Devil’s Playground by early settlers. It’s easy to see why. While hiking to the cave we came across this unique dead juniper. I took a picture of Dia there being her naughty self. She then took my photo and edited it to fit the area’s nickname. 🙂
Dia being evil…
At the cave you climb down a steep set of stairs.
Kelly and Scarlett ready to descend
There it is deep below the surface.
As you descended you could really feel the temperature dropping. It was quite refreshing after a hot climb up the volcano.
I didn’t let Scarlett go all the way to the bottom. You could see what she thought about that…..
The inside of the cave was beautiful. I tried to capture the colors in the cave by setting my camera to a slow shutter speed. Just beautiful.
The colors in the rock ceiling were so beautiful.
The ice had a green cast to it. It made for a lovely contrast with all the colors in the rock formation.
Too soon we were heading home. On the way out we saw a few Mule Deer. One was more curious than the others and had a beautiful shaggy coat.
When we got to Grants, Dia had to have her Starbucks. But she almost had a big tantrum when she realized there wasn’t a Starbucks there. It was hilarious!
The drive home was long due to yet more road construction. But the day’s adventures had been fabulous (even with the lack of Starbuck’s at the end). 🙂
I saved the most difficult category for last – miscellaneous birds. Specifically flycatchers. I am challenged when it comes to identifying flycatchers. Thankfully, there was a local birding expert nearby when I saw the flycatchers, and she was able to identify them for me. You can see why it’s challenging to identify them…they almost look identical!
Here’s the many variety of flycatchers I saw at Port Aransas. And they are all lifers!!!
While visiting there, I went out every morning before dawn. I saw some beautiful sights around the town. One morning I toured the marina and took a few pics.
Homes on the Port Aransas Marina
The beach at dawn is gorgeous. Very few people, calm winds, the sounds of the surf and birds.
Horace Caldwell Pier at sunrise
I found some sand sculptures one morning. They must have had a contest the day before that was sponsored by Crown Royal. I was pretty impressed with the sculptures, though I can’t figure out why the pig was the grand champion. Hmmmmmm…..
It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere
Grand Champion Pig
While walking Charlie’s Pasture I did encounter a few butterflies. They were difficult to find as the wind blew pretty good almost my entire trip. I found other fun stuff too while hiking the boardwalks.
A gorgeous passion flower
I believe this is a White Peacock that survived a close call!
Green Anole shedding its skin. I loved to catch these lizards when I was a little kid living in Houston!
A very fresh Pipevine Swallowtail
One morning at Charlie’s Pasture I came across a coyote. Just beautiful!
While visiting the Leonabelle Refuge I saw lots of Great-Tailed Grackles and a few other fun things.
The sightings of the day 🙂
Mullet – this fish was 2.5 feet long!
I had two birds I really wanted to see while visiting the Gulf Coast. The first was the Roseate Spoonbill, which I did see and posted about previously. The second bird was the Crested Caracara. I have looked for this bird for years. On this trip I finally saw it. Then like my blogging friend Aussiebirder who recently commented “it takes you forever to see that lifer bird, then it seems like once you see it, you see it everywhere!” I think I saw over 10 individuals while there this last trip.
Along with the Crested Caracara I saw these other two birds I scared off a dead coyote.
One day we visited Aransas Wildlife Refuge. It took about 1.5 hours to get there, but was well worth the trip. That particular day was extremely windy. The beach would have been miserable. But with all the trees at the refuge, it was a beautiful day. The very first thing we saw were 3 alligators!!! 🙂 That was awesome!
We drove around this large refuge and came across some fun stuff. There was this 80-foot high catwalk. It was so fun to walk that climbing, winding cawalk. At the top the views of the coastline were amazing!
Scarlett loved running up the path
My mom waving from further down the path. Such fun!
While hiking this catwalk, we spotted a huge butterfly. It landed very briefly for one photo.
And I got a beautiful shot of a dove.
We had a picnic in a lovely spot. A deer greeted us as we drove up. This would be one of several deer we would see that day.
Me and Scarlett
Beautiful picnic area
I love the oak trees in Texas
I took mom and dad out to a nice dinner for Dad’s birthday. The restaurant was small and intimate and the food was delicious.
My dad (Joe) at his birthday dinner
But our favorite place to eat was Trout Street. We ate there twice on the patio enjoying the marina view. After dinner on one visit, mom and I toured the docks. I really considered buying this yacht that was for sale (NOT!). 🙂
Mom and Dad (Dorothy and Joe)
Dad looking very nautical in his blue and white striped shirt 🙂
Me enjoying a lovely dinner on the marina
My beautiful mother!
Tempting to buy….. LOL!
One day visiting the beach we drove past a Jeep Rally. I was really wishing I was in my Jeep. But sadly we were in my dad’s Ford pickup. I need to see about Jeep Rallies in New Mexico!
Jeep Rally at the Beach
Lots of great Jeeps were there
It was a wonderful trip to the Gulf Coast!!! I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures there.
I ended my last post heading out to dinner. We decided to eat dinner at Virginia’s again. Their food is delicious and the scenery is great. We ate a little earlier the second night so we had plenty of daylight to enjoy the sights.
We had a perfect view of the lighthouse in the distance.
While enjoying the views of the marina, an osprey flew by looking for a landing spot. He thought he could land on a large stick stuck in the jetty. But after a couple of attempts, he realized it was too small for him.
I had a grackle trying to beg for food while we ate. I didn’t give him anything, so he gave me the evil eye. 🙂
Dinner was soooo good. Fried shrimp cooked perfectly.
My dad enjoying dinner!
After dinner mom and I took some photos in the soft evening light.
Gorgeous sunset at the marina
Mom looking beautiful as always
I got a lot of sun on this trip!
The moon was full and bright!
While talking to Tim on the phone that evening, a was entertained by a hunting toad.
Gulf Coast Toad
I got up early again the next morning to visit the refuge one last time. I was going to miss this place!
I was the first one there that morning. Which I think was to my benefit as the wildlife hadn’t been disturbed in any way. I walked very slowly and quietly. Determined to blend in LOL!
I was greeted by lots lots of lizards.
The first bird I saw was a juvenile Green Heron snoozing right next to the boardwalk. He cracked an eye open at me, but otherwise didn’t move a muscle.
Juvenile Green Heron
Back to sleep 🙂
Further down the boardwalk, I was thrilled to see another lifer for me – a Least Bittern. He didn’t seem to mind that I was there. He groomed, stretched his wings, grabbed a snack and then moved on. I wish the lighting had been better for photographs as I couldn’t have asked for a better subject not 5 feet from me.
Looking up at me
Stretching his wings
Time to move on into the cattails
At the end of the boardwalk I saw several Marsh Wrens and Common Yellowthroat feeding. They didn’t want to cooperate for photos. I managed to get one semi-decent photo of the Common Yellowthroat.
There was a Great Egret feeding in the open area of the marsh.
A few other birds made an appearance at the boardwalk.
In the shallows at the parking lot, there were a few shorebirds feeding in the morning light.
Stilt Sandpiper – another lifer!
I hated to leave, but it was time to go get my parents and head to the beach. It was another beautiful day at the beach. We had a wonderful time.
Beautiful day at the beach!
I fed the birds at the beach. It wouldn’t be a proper trip without doing so! It was harder than I realized it would be getting a picture of a seagull in flight waiting for me to toss more food.
Laughing Gull – another lifer!
Lots of colorful clams
Horseshoe crab – not much has changed in the last 450 million years!
I hope you enjoyed my visit to the Gulf Coast. If you have never been there, I highly recommend it!
While visiting my parents in San Antonio, we decided to take a short trip to the gulf coast. I hadn’t been to the beach in several years. The weather was perfect for a beach trip. We stayed in Port Aransas, which is at the northern end of Padre Island and at the opening of the shipping channel that leads to Corpus Christi.
We took the back way in to Port Aransas, so we got to ride the ferry across the channel. It’s a short ride on the ferry, just barely enough time to get out of your car and look for dolphins. We managed to see a couple in the distance before we had to return to our car.
Dolphin in shipping channel at Port Aransas, Texas
There are lots of Brown Pelicans in Port Aransas. They are so beautiful even in non-breeding plumage. They love to hang out at the piers.
We had to wait a few hours before we could check into our hotel, so we headed straight for the beach. To our astonishment, the place was packed!!! We learned later their was a Harvest Moon Regatta that had been held that day.
Crowded beach in Port Aransas, Texas
We managed to find a spot to park the car that wasn’t too close to other people on the beach. After sitting and having a snack and people watching, I decided to take a walk down the beach with Scarlett. This was her first ever visit to the beach. I figured since she loved water so much, she would love the ocean. She HATED it! LOL! To her it was hot, salty and the water chased her! She did enjoy the walk down the beach though. Lots of other dogs to see and everyone wanted to pet her. She was constantly told that she was beautiful. Of course, I had to agree.
I tried to get bird photos while walking Scarlett, but the beach was just too busy. I did manage to get this heron relaxing on a sign post in the dunes.
Great Blue Heron
We were finally able to check into the hotel and get ready for dinner. We had wanted to go to a place called Doc’s which is about 15 miles from our hotel. It is located on the intra-coastal channel further south on Padre Island. But when we got there, we saw the place was packed. The wait looked like it would easily be a couple hours and it was already well after 7 o’clock. So we turned around and headed back to Port Aransas. As we turned around, I told dad to stop the car. To my delight I got my first lifer bird of the beach trip – Black Skimmers!!!
The sun was almost set so I didn’t have much light. And they were almost between me and the setting sun, so it was a challenge to get a photograph. But I was thrilled to see them. Such an unusual bird!
We ate at Virginia’s, which is a great restaurant right at the marina in Port Aransas. Their food is delicious and the scenery can’t be beat. By the time we got a table, it was dark outside. We saw lots of boats coming in the for the night. The one boat I had hoped to see was the Red Dragon Pirate Ship. It came sailing in to the marina while we were eating dinner. I had to reduce my shutter speed to very slow and had to take the photon while hand holding the camera – bad combination. Plus, I only had a few moments in which to get a photo before it disappeared behind other docked boats. I was surprised at how well my photo came out!
Red Dragon Pirate Ship
The next morning I woke up very early so I could go bird at a local wildlife refuge. What a wonderful location. They had built lots of boardwalks in the marsh area so you could get out in the cattails to look for birds and other delights.
Aransas Wildlife Refuge boardwalk
As soon as I stepped out onto the boardwalk, a heron jumped up on the railing squawking at me. I couldn’t be more excited. A lifer bird not 5 feet away!!! It was a Tri-Colored Heron who was more than happy to pose for some photos in the gorgeous early morning light.
As I progressed along the boardwalk, I saw an opening in the cattails ahead. I saw a high deck for viewing the extent of the marsh. Whoever designed this place did a fabulous job.
When I got to the clearing, I saw a Common Gallinule grooming itself. Gallinules have developed extra long toes so they can walk across the cattails with ease. You can see those long toes well in this photo.
There were several grebes enjoying the morning as well as cormorants.
Double-Crested Cormorant – love the feet! 🙂
At the end of the boardwalk I looked down into the cattails and was surprised to see an alligator! He was snoozing in the shallow water. It is difficult to grasp the size of this alligator in photos. But he’s easily 12 feet long! The locals call him Stinky.
There were lots of pelicans and avocets off in the distance. I had to push the extent of my lens to get any photos of them.
White Pelican with American Avocets in the background
Too soon it was time to head back so I could get some breakfast and go to the beach with my folks. The beach was almost deserted compared to the day before. It was great! The weather was perfect, a light breeze off the water to cool things off some.
I tried to get Scarlett to play in the water, but she just wasn’t happy…as you can see by her expression and body language here. I guess she’s a mountain girl through and through.
Scarlett was telling me she hated the beach
Mom tried to get her to play as well, but no luck.
Unhappy Scarlett with my mom
After playing in the water awhile, I decided to walk down the beach again. I figured I would have a lot better luck this day getting birds. And I was right. Lots of birds out enjoying the relatively quiet beach. I got several lifers!
Royal Tern in foreground – a lifer for me!
There was one cranky Royal Tern – you can see him in the middle of the photo
Piping Plover – another lifer!
Ruddy Turnstone – yet another lifer!!!
Willet – another lifer!!!
Dad flew his kites and there were other great kites flying along the beach as well.
Dad’s shark kite
Dad’s other kite
I loved this squid kite – it was easily 30 feet long
After a full day at the beach, we returned to the hotel for a swim in their pool. Dad decided to take a nap and mom and I swam. Mom found a lizard that had fallen in the pool. I was able to rescue it before it drowned. 🙂
Brown Anole – originally native of Cuba
After our swim, mom went to the room to clean up for dinner. I took advantage of this and ran back over to the refuge. It was such a great place!
When I arrived at the parking area, I saw about a dozen White Ibis feeding in the shallows. Just beautiful!
I saw some hummingbirds feeding on the Mexican Paradise bushes. I had a hard time getting a pic but managed one decent one. Yet another new bird for me – Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.
It was pretty quiet on the marsh that afternoon. But I ran into some people that said just down the road, there are more boardwalks and some whistling ducks there. I immediately jumped in the car and drove over there. As soon as I walked to the end of the boardwalk, I saw and heard a whole bunch of them. They actually whistle!
Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks – another lifer!
I looked around to see what else might be about. I saw one other duck sleeping in the shade. Otherwise, it was pretty quiet.
Cinnamon Teal – female
Time to go to get cleaned up for dinner. I was hungry!
This post has become way longer than I expected. So I will break it up into two parts. Lots more great photos to come!
You never know what tiny treasures you might find on the beach…
At the end of Day 6 we had arrived at our cabin at the Zion Mountain Ranch. I woke up early the next morning to go birding and hopefully see the buffalo. The very first bird I saw when I started walking was a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. It was searching the pastures for breakfast.
As I headed to the back of the cabin area toward the large pasture surrounding the property, I heard lots of deep grunting. When I came closer to the pasture I saw this huge herd of buffalo. It was a beautiful sight. You could hear the grass tearing as they ate big mouthfuls of it. And they grunted while they ate. They were so close that I had trouble getting photos because I had my big zoom lens on my camera.
You can see how close they are to the cabins in this photo. One woman was enjoying her morning coffee to the wondrous sight of all the buffalo. I think I took over 500 photos of these magnificent animals.
Perfect morning breakfast scenery
My favorite photo was of this bull staring straight at me with red eyes.
Now I just couldn’t resist taking this buffalo moment…….
She’s looking at me thinking….how embarrassing…
Hanging out on the periphery of the buffalo herd was this uniquely colored bull. I loved the colors of his coat and the shape of his horns. He was quite a distance away and would never face me, so this was the best photo I could get.
I soon moved on and found a few other birds to photograph. The birds were far and few between which surprised me.
Around the farmhouse, the chickens were gearing up for the day. I liked the white rooster…he looks like he’s enjoying that stretch.
We had decided the evening before not to stay a second night at the ranch. When we looked at the amount of hours we were going to have to drive to get home from the ranch, we thought it best to drive to Page, Arizona, the next evening and cut about 2.5 hours off our travel time the last day. This meant we only had until about 5 pm to stay at Zion before leaving for Arizona. While eating lunch, I searched the internet for the best hiking trail to take for our visit into Zion. We wouldn’t have time to explore any more than one trail. We eventually chose the Emerald Pools trail. It’s a 3-mile out and back hike that takes you to three different pools with stunning scenery and waterfalls as you climb.
Trail to the emerald pools…it starts out paved but eventually turns into a single track.
As we started the hike, the sun was shining brightly overhead and it was pretty hot. Tim was ahead of me on the hike by this time because I was taking so many photos. I looked up and saw him standing above everyone. He loves being different from the masses. LOL!
Can you see Tim?
The first pool is very beautiful with a long waterfall filling it. I bet that waterfall is stunning during the spring runoff.
The first emerald pool
I liked that the trail took you around the pool and behind the waterfall.
After the first pool, you start climbing more aggressively. This quickly gives you a view from above the waterfall.
Beautiful even at a trickle
Climbing above the waterfall.
The second pool you see is just above the waterfall that fills the first pool…or would that actually be the third pool as it is downstream….hmmmm… I didn’t take many pics of the second pool because it was filled with people. It was very shallow and on bedrock so it made for a cool stop for hot hikers.
Heading to the top pool the hike became more steep. The views got more narrow as you headed into a canyon. As we neared the upper pool, the sun went behind the cliff and it made the hike much more beautiful and cooler.
Cliff surrounding the upper pool
Our favorite pool of the hike was the upper pool. Well worth the climb!
Kelly and Tim at the upper pool
What a beautiful setting
We spent quite a while enjoying this beautiful place and visiting with people from all over the world. I enjoyed the mystery the shadows created.
Soon we were heading back down. The sun was fully hidden from the trail by this time. I couldn’t believe how it transformed the trail. What was beautiful in the sunshine turned to breathtaking in the shade.
So many colors in the rock
The bottom pool was totally transformed.
With the sun gone I could appreciate the delicate stream of water
Emerald pool indeed
I loved the colors that became more rich now that the sun was gone.
Such a peaceful setting
Soon we were back at the trail head in the sunshine once more. We saw a lizard soaking up the sun. He had gorgeous coloring.
I wish we could have spent more time here but sadly the day had grown late and we needed to head to Arizona.
Kelly next to Virgin River
I love the drive that goes through the lower end of Zion on Highway 9. The scenery is stunning. It was difficult to do it justice from a moving car. Here are a few of my better shots.