My Blog’s 4th Annivery and Scarlett’s 4th Birthday

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.

Moon setting over Cabezon Peak

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.

Small hoodoos to begin with

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.

Angel rock formation in upper left

I realized we still had further to go. Scarlett ran ahead enjoying the morning hike.

Scarlett running ahead to the main area of hoodoo formations

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.

Big piece of petrified wood in the foreground
Beautiful hoodoo sculptures

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.

Alien Throne

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.

The photo conditions were improving

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.

Scarlett started barking and digging

I soon realized that she sensed cool wet sand just under the surface. I guess she had gotten pretty warm hiking all that time.

Finally getting down to the wet sand

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!

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!!!

Scarlett was thrilled finding this old cow bone.
She wanted to just stay there and chew on it.
Scarlett thought she was going to take that prize home…after all it was her birthday!

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.

Scarlett and I couldn’t believe 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.

Hoodoos everywhere!
Beautiful skies!

With the better lighting the side canyons photographed beautifully!

My pretty girl!

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 loved this photo
Navajo Horses

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.

Glorious!!!!!

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. 🙁

The sky was on fire!

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!


Blood Moon and Birds

Well…it just doesn’t get any better than that!

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.

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Moon over Albuquerque

The eclipse happened fast.  Just a few shots later, the moon was becoming mostly red.

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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!

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Blood Moon

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.

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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.

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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!

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Ring-Billed Gulls

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.

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You can see the size difference of the gull to the Bald Eagle

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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.

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Common Merganser female

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There are 3 Black-Crowned Night Herons in the trees

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Great Blue Heron

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Common Mergansers – 2 males and 1 female

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Black Phoebe

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Wood Duck pair

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Mallards with a Killdeer

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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!

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Scarlett having fun in the water

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So much fun to run in the shallow water

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She likes to bite at the water as she plays

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My beautiful girl

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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.

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Marsh Wren

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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.

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Cactus Wren

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.

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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!

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Golden-Crowned Sparrow

Now it was time to go home and take a nap!!! (work could wait LOL!)

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Mallard feather on the frozen beach of the Rio Grande