Nutria Canyon Hike and the Ice Cave

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.

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Nutria Lake

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!!!

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As we neared the trail head, we came upon a marshy area where Nutria Creek spills out of the canyon.  Just gorgeous!

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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!

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That pack had to weigh 40 pounds!

I told her she had to at least carry the gun.  She gladly accepted that task!

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Dia packing heat!

The trail headed into the narrowing canyon with lush green trees and bushes.  It definitely beckoned us to head inside.

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Entrance to trail – so green!

Almost as soon as we started the trail, there was water.  Scarlett immediately dove in!

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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.

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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.

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Kelly on the very lush trail.

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It was nice and cool in the shade

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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.

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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.

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Gorgeous!

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I loved the reflections in the pond.

I just had to have a photo of me and Scarlett in this beautiful spot.

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

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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.

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It was sooooo tempting to jump in…

Eventually we made it around and down to that pond and she was a happy girl!

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Such a peaceful place

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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.

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Untouched beauty

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Scarlett kept on eye on me as I navigated the big boulders

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Beautiful

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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!

 

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.

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Our sandwich was shaped just like a Bigfoot footprint!

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!

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.

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Look at those giant perfectly whole Indian pots!

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Fascinating!

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.

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Bandera Volcano

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.

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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.

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Basalt field

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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.  🙂

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Dia being evil…

At the cave you climb down a steep set of stairs.

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Kelly and Scarlett ready to descend

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Steep stairs

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There it is deep below the surface.

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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…..

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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.

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The colors in the rock ceiling were so beautiful.

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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.

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Mule Deer

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).  🙂

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65 miles to go until home….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miscellaneous Birds and Other Fun Stuff in Port Aransas, Texas

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!!!

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Alder Flycatcher

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Acadian Flycatcher

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Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher

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Eastern Wood-Pewee

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Least Flycatcher

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.

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Beautiful sailboats

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Homes on the Port Aransas Marina

The beach at dawn is gorgeous.  Very  few people, calm winds, the sounds of the surf and birds.

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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…..

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Willie Nelson

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It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere

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Lovely mermaid

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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.

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A gorgeous passion flower

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I believe this is a White Peacock that survived a close call!

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Funereal Duskywing

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Ceraunus Blue

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Green Anole shedding its skin.  I loved to catch these lizards when I was a little kid living in Houston!

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Common Buckeye

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A very fresh Pipevine Swallowtail

One morning at Charlie’s Pasture I came across a coyote.  Just beautiful!

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Coyote

While visiting the Leonabelle Refuge I saw lots of Great-Tailed Grackles and a few other fun things.

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Crab

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The sightings of the day 🙂

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Great-Tailed Grackle

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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.

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Crested Caracara

Along with the Crested Caracara I saw these other two birds I scared off a dead coyote.

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Turkey Vulture

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Harris’s Hawk

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!

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Alligator

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Alligators

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!

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Scarlett loved running up the path

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My mom waving from further down the path.  Such fun!

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Gorgeous view!

While hiking this catwalk, we spotted a huge butterfly.  It landed very briefly for one photo.

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Palamedes Swallowtail

And I got a beautiful shot of a dove.

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White-Winged 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.

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White-Tailed Deer

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Me and Scarlett

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Beautiful picnic area

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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.

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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!).  🙂

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Mom and Dad (Dorothy and Joe)

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Dad looking very nautical in his blue and white striped shirt 🙂

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Me enjoying a lovely dinner on the marina

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My beautiful mother!

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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!

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Jeep Rally at the Beach

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Lots of great Jeeps were there

It was a wonderful trip to the Gulf Coast!!! I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures there.

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Birding in Port Aransas, Texas (Part 2)

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.

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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.

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Osprey

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.  🙂

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Great-tailed grackle

Dinner was soooo good.  Fried shrimp cooked perfectly.

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My dad enjoying dinner!

After dinner mom and I took some photos in the soft evening light.

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Gorgeous sunset at the marina

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Mom looking beautiful as always

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I got a lot of sun on this trip!

The moon was full and bright!

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Harvest Moon

While talking to Tim on the phone that evening, a was entertained by a hunting toad.

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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!

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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.

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Brown Anole

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.

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Juvenile Green Heron

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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.

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Least Bittern

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Looking up at me

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Stretching his wings

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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.

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Common Yellowthroat

There was a Great Egret feeding in the open area of the marsh.

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Great Egret

A few other birds made an appearance at the boardwalk.

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Green Heron

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Tri-Colored Heron

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Great-Tailed Grackle

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Pied-Billed Grebe

In the shallows at the parking lot, there were a few shorebirds feeding in the morning light.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

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Stilt Sandpiper – another lifer!

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Long-Billed Curlew

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.

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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.

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Laughing Gull – another lifer!

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Great-Tailed Grackle

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Laughing Gull

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Lots of colorful clams

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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!

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Birding in Port Aransas, Texas (Part 1)

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.

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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.

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Brown Pelican

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Brown Pelican

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Brown Pelican

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.

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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.

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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!

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Black Skimmers

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!

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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.

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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.

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Tri-Colored Heron

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Tri-Colored Heron

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.

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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.

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Common Gallinule

There were several grebes enjoying the morning as well as cormorants.

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Neotropic Cormorant

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Double-Crested Cormorant – love the feet! 🙂

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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.

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Alligator

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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.

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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.

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Scarlett was telling me she hated the beach

Mom tried to get her to play as well, but no luck.

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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!

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Sanderling

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Royal Tern in foreground – a lifer for me!

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Forster’s Tern

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There was one cranky Royal Tern – you can see him in the middle of the photo

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Piping Plover – another lifer!

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Ruddy Turnstone – yet another lifer!!!

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Western Sandpiper

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Willet – another lifer!!!

Dad flew his kites and there were other great kites flying along the beach as well.

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Dad’s shark kite

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Dad’s other kite

 

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I loved this squid kite – it was easily 30 feet long

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Beautiful kites!

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.  🙂

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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!

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White Ibis

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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You never know what tiny treasures you might find on the beach…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 7 Zion Utah

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.

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Sharp-Shinned Hawk

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.

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Beautiful buffalo

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Cute baby!

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.

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Perfect morning breakfast scenery

My favorite photo was of this bull staring straight at me with red eyes.

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Now I just couldn’t resist taking this buffalo moment…….

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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.

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I soon moved on and found a few other birds to photograph.  The birds were far and few between which surprised me.

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European Starling

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Western Bluebird

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Green-Tailed Towhee

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Mountain Bluebird

Around the farmhouse, the chickens were gearing up for the day.  I liked the white rooster…he looks like he’s enjoying that stretch.

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Silky Rooster

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Bantam Rooster

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.

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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!

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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.

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The first emerald pool

I liked that the trail took you around the pool and behind the waterfall.

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After the first pool, you start climbing more aggressively.  This quickly gives you a view from above the waterfall.

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Beautiful even at a trickle

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Gorgeous!

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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.

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Cliff surrounding the upper pool

Our favorite pool of the hike was the upper pool.  Well worth the climb!

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Kelly and Tim at the upper pool

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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.

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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.

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So many colors in the rock

The bottom pool was totally transformed.

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With the sun gone I could appreciate the delicate stream of water

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Emerald pool indeed

I loved the colors that became more rich now that the sun was gone.

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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.

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Tiger Whiptail

I wish we could have spent more time here but sadly the day had grown late and we needed to head to Arizona.

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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.

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I love the crisscross geology of this sandstone

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So majestic!

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Beautiful sandstone layers

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A giant arch in the making

The highlight of the drive along Highway 9 through the park was coming upon some Bighorn Sheep right next to the road.  They are very used to people and didn’t care one bit that I got out of the car to take photographs.  At one point I was only about 15 feet away from some of the females.

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We first saw this group of Bighorn Sheep climbing along the sandstone cliffs

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We rounded a corner and saw some right next to the road.  Beautiful!

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A young one running to catch up with the others

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This female was grazing right next to me!!

 

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A majestic ram!

 

All too soon we were on our way to Arizona.  I was sad to leave this beautiful part of the country.  Some day I will be back to explore all Zion has to offer.

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Taking a break…

From blogging about my 20th Anniversary trip.  🙂   Don’t worry, I will get it finished here this coming week.  I’m sure you’re looking forward to seeing my photos from Zion National Park.

Fall is in full swing here in New Mexico.  I managed to get out for a few short hikes.

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Fall colors along Sandia Crest

One day Scarlett and I went to Corrales and walked the irrigation ditch.  Birding was pretty quiet that day.  But I managed to get a few decent pics.

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American Robin

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Western Tanager

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Blue Grosbeak juvenile

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Lesser Goldfinch

But the highlight of the day was seeing a porcupine that had come out of the brush to get a drink.  He took his sweet time getting a drink and then he started walking towards Scarlett and I.  I kept a tight hold on Scarlett’s leash in case she felt the need to go inspect him closer.  He came within a few feet of us.  He then stopped and shook himself several times.  Scarlett had her nose stretched out getting good sniffs in.  That guy was stinky!

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Porcupine

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Getting in a good shake

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You can see his orange teeth and big claws

Walking in the area around my home I came across a few good birds.  They are enjoying the various wildflowers that have started turning to seed.

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Mountain Chickadee

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Hammond’s Flycatcher

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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You can see pollen on its beak

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Lovely!

On one afternoon I was able to stop in at the Rio Grande Nature Center.  It was pretty quiet there except for an inquisitive Greater Roadrunner.  He cooperated nicely for a few pics.

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Greater Roadrunner

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I love the colors on these birds

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Watching me closely

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I love these birds!

I babysat Valerie’s dog Mya for 10 days.  We went on several short walks.  Scarlett was thrilled to have her best friend along.  Scarlett taught Mya how to pose for photos.  🙂

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Mya and Scarlett

Scarlett started her heat.  I have a small Chihuahua named Henry.  He normally snubs Scarlett whenever she tries to socialize with him.  But during her heat he’s been in love with her!

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Henry flirting with Scarlett

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She was loving the attention!

When Henry wasn’t flirting with Scarlett, he was hunting lizards in the yard.  I caught him watching a lizard on the side of the house.

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Henry watching a lizard who’s watching a grasshopper

While digging in the garden I dug up a juicy grub.  To reward the lizard for putting up with Henry, I tossed the grub where he could get it.  He quickly grabbed it up and ran behind the garden fence under a drain spout.  It took some doing, but I was able to get a photo of him trying to eat that fat grub.

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Happy lizard!

Scarlett and Mya were hanging out in the garden with me too.

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

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Beautiful Mya

I love fall but it never seems to last long enough….

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Summer is over….

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!!! 🙂