We’ve been getting a lot of nice monsoon rains in Albuquerque. Things have gotten really green for the desert. And it makes the morning temperatures really cool for hiking. I normally don’t hike any of the Petroglyph trails in the summer because they are just too hot even in the early morning.
Since it had really rained good Monday evening, I got up at 5:30 yesterday to drive out to the west mesa. I managed to hit the trail just before sunrise and just before moonset.
With the cool morning temps, several hot air balloons were flying over the mesa. At first they were off in the distance. But soon they were right over the Petroglyph trail above me. It’s always fun to see the balloons flying over Albuquerque.
To add to the flying balloons, the sky was full of beautiful clouds.
Soon the sun was starting to peek over the Sandia Mountains. I love how the clouds cause the rays of the sun to fan out. It just warms my soul.
I don’t usually like to have sun flares in my photos. But sometimes they are difficult to avoid. But for some reason I really liked the colorful flares in this photo.
Scarlett was having fun running up and down the trail. There were loads of bunny rabbits out in the desert scrub.
I have posted in the past about this trail and have shown many photos of the petroglyphs. This time I tried to find some I have posted before. But I don’t think I succeeded in that endeavor too well.
My favorite parts of the hike are when you get to the areas where there are loads of petroglyphs. It’s so much fun trying to find them on the many faces of the basalt rocks.
Another favorite area is at the end of the hike. You come upon a few rocks that are covered in hand prints. It’s amazing to see a hand print from someone over a 2,500 years ago!
I wonder if the people that had 6 fingers were considered special and were made shamans. I’ve noticed in many of the sites I’ve been to all over the southwest, that a lot of the handprints had 6 fingers.
A came across several millipedes in one area. I had never seen them before. It was so much fun trying to capture some images. I even touched one to get it to curl up.
I was surprised to find there were very few birds around. The morning was eerily bereft of birdsong. I had to search to find a few birds.
I came across a pretty white flower. When I looked inside, I saw a tiny green spider. It was a real challenge getting a photo of him!
Scarlett and I had a great morning walk. The trail was beautiful and the air was fresh. Nature was really showing off her best!
It’s been awhile since I last posted on my blog. I apologize for that. I have had terrible internet connection for months now. No fun writing and uploading photos when it takes you hours to do anything.
But I finally have fast internet at home so it’s time to start blogging again.
In March I celebrated my blog’s 4th anniversary and Scarlett’s 4th birthday!
To celebrate I decided to take the 4-hour drive to Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area. I have seen photos of this place for years and have always wanted to see it.
I left the house at 5 am so I could get there close to sunrise. On my way I had to stop and take a photo of the moon setting over Cabezon Peak. The blue hour light was beautiful.
It took me quite a while to find the right place to park to see a particular hoodoo in the vast wilderness area. Try as I might there’s really not much information on the internet about this area. So it took turning up and down a few faint dirt roads to find the right spot.
Finally I was positive I was in the right spot. I was searching for the Alien Throne rock formation. It is very unique and difficult to find. Which is probably a good thing because it seems very fragile.
Scarlett and I started walking out into the middle of nowhere heading toward some hoodoos about 3 miles away. The first cluster of hoodoos we came across wasn’t very large but were unique.
We then wandered to the next cluster. It was a little larger. I especially liked one formation that looked like an angel with its wings spread.
I realized we still had further to go. Scarlett ran ahead enjoying the morning hike.
I finally made it to the main hoodoo area. It was quite large. I enjoyed walking around all the crevices and ravines looking at all the uniquely shaped rocks.
After about a hour of searching I finally found the Alien Throne. You can see it is quite unique. It’s about 12 feet high and very fragile. It might stand for another 100 years or it might topple in the next 100 days. Sadly by the time I located this rock formation it was almost high noon. So I didn’t get very good photos of this area.
I wandered around here for about another hour then headed back to the car. On the way back the sun had finally lowered some in the sky and the clouds were becoming more interesting.
By now I had been hiking for about 4 hours. All of a sudden I see Scarlett crazily digging in the sand and barking. I was wondering what the heck was going on.
I soon realized that she sensed cool wet sand just under the surface. I guess she had gotten pretty warm hiking all that time.
After she exposed a big enough area, she lay down on that cool wet sand. She was happy as could be even with a nose full of sand. Silly Scarlett!
I finally talked her into continuing on to the car. Next thing I now she’s all barking happily and playing with something pretty big. When I got closer I saw she had a big cow bone. Silly Scarlett indeed!!!
Once back at the car I decided to check out another area of hoodoos nearby. When I first came upon the hoodoos it was breathtaking. Hoodoos as far as the eye can see. Even Scarlett had to stop and take in the view.
I made by way down into the arroyo to explore all the side canyons. By now the sun had lowered in the sky and some clouds had rolled in. It made for some better photography conditions.
With the better lighting the side canyons photographed beautifully!
After hiking a couple of hours, Scarlett and I were tired. I had planned to stay until sunset to get some pretty photos of sunset and blue hour. But by this time I had hiked 12 miles. I was tired and it was still 1.5 hours until sunset. I realized I shouldn’t have gotten up early to go out there. I would have been much better off leaving mid-day.
While sitting in my car deciding if I wanted to stay until sunset, I saw a herd of horses coming towards me. Of course, I just had to get out and take photos of them! I love photographing horses. These guys were pretty wild so weren’t too cooperative for photos. But I still enjoyed seeing them.
I finally decided I wasn’t willing to stay for sunset. The sky just didn’t look like it was going to be worth staying. The clouds seems to be getting too overcast.
About an hour into my drive home, I noticed the sun setting and decided to pull off and take a photo.
As I stood there watching the sun set, I realized it was actually going to be a spectacular shot.
Believe me, by the time the sun set I was was crying about all the wonderful photos I could have gotten at the hoodoos with that beautiful sky in the background. 🙁
But overall Scarlett and I had a fun day exploring. She definitely enjoyed her birthday outing. And she got to sleep the whole way home!
On January 31 there was a lunar event that hasn’t happened in 150 years in the United States: A Blue Moon, Super Moon, Blood Moon Eclipse. What does that mean? A Blue Moon is a second full moon in the same month. A Super Moon is when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth making the moon appear 14% larger and 30% brighter. And a Blood Moon Eclipse is when the moon moves directly behind the Earth’s shadow where it cannot receive any light from the sun causing it to appear red in our atmosphere.
Of course, seeing as I wouldn’t be around for the next one unless I lived to be 203 years old, I just had to photograph this event. I got up a 4 am to drive into town to a predetermined location. I was fortunate that our local camera club had scouted out a great area that gave an elevated vantage of the city below. When I arrived, I saw the temperature was 27 degrees. Brrrrr! It was going to be a cold photo shoot!
As I hiked to the earthen dam at the northeast end of Albuquerque, I could see the eclipse had already begun. At the time the moon was still white but was starting to show a hint of red. I quickly set up my camera gear and started shooting.
Moon over Albuquerque
The eclipse happened fast. Just a few shots later, the moon was becoming mostly red.
Eclipse well underway
Then it finally happened! It was a Blood Moon. I zoomed as far in as I could and it was a beautiful sight!
The full eclipse was to be a 6:30 am. My last shot was around 6:15. The sun was rising and the sky had really started to lighten. I quickly changed lenses and took a picture of the Blood Moon hanging over Albuquerque. As you can see, I was definitely shooting in the “blue hour” by this time. But I thought the photo was so beautiful.
Blood Moon over Albuquerque
After that last shot, the sky just became too light and the moon had dipped into the hazy horizon above the city. So I packed up my gear and hoofed it back to my car.
I figured since I was already in town and it was dawn, I should take the opportunity to go birding. Logical train of thought right??? 🙂
I headed over to Alameda Open Space to see what might be around at the pond and along the river. I had heard a Mew Gull has been sighted among the Ring-Billed Gull flock. That would be a lifer for me if I could find it.
I started systematically taking photos of the flock as they rested on the sandbar in the Rio Grande. I figured I could look through photos later to see if I captured the Mew Gull.
Ring-Billed Gulls with rare visitor California Gull in the middle
I had snapped a few photos working my way down the line, when all of a sudden they all erupted into flight. Startled me good!
I had wondered what frightened them. I was thinking maybe a coyote had tried to sneak up on them or something. No sign of any ground attack, I looked up for a possible aerial attack. And right above me was a Bald Eagle! Beautiful! We get them here every winter, but you just don’t see them that often.
You can see the size difference of the gull to the Bald Eagle
Look at that wingspan!!
He soon caught a thermal and soared higher and higher until eventually he was gone. Since now the gulls were all stirred up, I figured my chance to see the Mew Gull were pretty much nil. So I started hiking along the river to see what other goodies might be about. Here’s some pics of my finds.
Common Merganser female
There are 3 Black-Crowned Night Herons in the trees
Great Blue Heron
Common Mergansers – 2 males and 1 female
Wood Duck pair
Mallards with a Killdeer
Western Bluebird – so beautiful!
We came across a giant beach along the river and Scarlett decided it was a great place to run and play in the water. Even though that water had to be freezing she wanted to play. I had fun capturing some photos of her while she played. Goofy dog!
Scarlett having fun in the water
So much fun to run in the shallow water
She likes to bite at the water as she plays
My beautiful girl
Isn’t that a look of pure joy! LOL!
After a couple hours of hiking, we headed back to the car. I stopped briefly at the bridge crossing the bar ditch next to the parking lot. There’s usually some good small birds in the area. I heard a constant buzzing noise. It took me a minute to narrow down where it was coming from, but eventually I fount its source. A Marsh Wren – in plain sight! Now many of you know those Marsh Wrens can be a real challenge to photograph as they mostly live deep in cattails. So I was thrilled to be able to watch one work along the edge of the water for a little while. He was deep in shadows and at a little distance, so it was a challenge getting a good image. But I was pleased with what I got.
Hmmmm…anything good under water?
I had a little time left before I needed to head home and get back to work. So I stopped in at the Embudito Trail parking lot. There’s been sighted a Golden-Crowned Sparrow among the White-Crowned Sparrows feeding at a feeder next to the parking lot.
When I arrived I saw a Cactus Wren singing in a tree. I can never resist photographing these beautiful birds. And their song is the epitome of desert birdsong. I think it’s the most used birdsong in commercials and movies depicting the southwest.
I then saw a bunch of White-Crowned Sparrows fly in to the bushes next to the feeder. I was hopeful the Golden-Crowned Sparrow was among them.
I searched and searched and finally! there he was! By this time the sun was bright and trying to get a good pic was a challenge. But finally I managed one that showed his beautiful gold crown even though it’s muted in his winter plumage. A lifer for me!
Now it was time to go home and take a nap!!! (work could wait LOL!)
Mallard feather on the frozen beach of the Rio Grande