Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 1

Recently my friend Dia and I took a long weekend to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) near Estes, Colorado.  We have talked about going there for about 5 years.  Finally our schedules came together and we were able to go.  I have long wanted to visit this national park.  The photos I’ve seen from there are just stunning.  Water everywhere!  (Unlike New Mexico LOL!)

It took us about 10 hours to drive there, due to the many stops made at Starbucks 🙂

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Kelly and Dia getting their Starbucks fix!

We arrived at the entrance sign to Estes Park late in the day.  Of course, we had to take a pic there of us in our matches dresses.  🙂

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We made it!  Don’t you love our matching dresses!?  🙂

There were several Black-Billed Magpies around and one was happy to pose for me on the sign.  I guess they are no longer a nemesis of mine LOL!

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Black-Billed Magpie

We knew it was going to be crowded every day there as we were visiting during peak season.  So we made plans to go to bed early and get up very early to beat the crowds.  It proved to be a great plan as we found when we were leaving the trails that’s when most people were heading out.  Doing this allowed us to visit the spectacular park with minimal intrusion of other people.  There’s nothing more discouraging to a photographer than to have a beautiful setting for a photo crowded out with masses of tourists.

Dia has been to RMNP a few times in the past.  I had never been before.  So I followed her lead on what to see first.  Her favorite drive is up Old Fall River Road.  A one-way dirt road that climbs to the highest point in the park.  When I looked at the map, I realized a couple of the waterfalls I wanted to photograph were on this route.  Yay!

Our first stop was at the Allivial Fan Falls.  This waterfall was created by a major flood due to a failure in a dam upstream.

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Alluvial Fan Falls

Heading up Old Fall River Road, we saw so many beautiful sights.  Everywhere you looked, it was a Kodak moment. Dia drove my Jeep so I could take photos.  She loves driving my Jeep – especially off road.  🙂 At one point, Dia almost ran over a marmot who had no fear of the Jeep.  Evidently he’s used to tourists feeding him as they pass.

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Kelly and her Jeep (not her husband’s Jeep) 😉

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Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road

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Marmot

I especially loved this little waterfall at the beginning of the drive.  There was no formal trail, just enough of a path to view the water closer.

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Further up the road we came to Chasm Falls – another waterfall on my “must see” list.  What a beautiful waterfall coming through the narrow canyon.

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Looking downstream

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Scarlett, Kelly & Dia

Scarlett loves water – so of course we had to let her play a little before hitting the road again.

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Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂

Soon we were climbing higher and higher.  The views expanded.  Just glorious!

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Gorgeous views from Old Fall River Road.

We eventually rose above the tree line.  Beautiful!  We came across patches of wildflowers.  Everything was so green – way different from New Mexico.

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Just before reaching the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center, we came across more marmot.  I liked how this one posed nicely for me.

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Marmot

The views at the visitor center overlooking a glacial cirque were truly breathtaking.   The grasses were so lush and the snow provided a beautiful contrast to the photos.

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Glacial Cirque

There is a hike from the visitor’s center that takes you to a peak.  It was tough going considering there was very little oxygen at 12,000 feet above sea level.  The views from the top were amazing.  I love exploring!

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Trail from the visitor’s center.

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Breathtaking views!

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Dia

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Where’s Starbucks???!!!!!

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Views of the visitor center from the top of the trail.

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Dia, Kelly and Scarlett at the top!

After a brief stop at the Visitor’s Center, we decided to take the drive to Grand Lake.  We wound our way back down the other side of the mountain.  At the bottom we took a short hike to stretch our legs and enjoy the beautiful weather.  I saw several sparrows in this area but only managed to get one pic of a Savannah Sparrow.

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Such a lush valley of green

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These squirrels found a good home.

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Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂

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This was the only butterfly I saw that day. Terrible photo as I didn’t have my birding lens.  I believe this is a Mormon Fritillary

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Savannah Sparrow

As we made our way toward Grand Lake we saw a turn off for Lake Irene.  What a serene little lake.

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Lake Irene

As we left Irene Lake we saw a bunch of folks looking into the dense brush along the road.  We figured they’d spotted something good.  And indeed they had – a moose!  Actually two moose – a mother and calf.  They were a ways away and in dense brush, but I managed to get a couple photos.  I’d never seen a moose before!

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Moose with calf

We also saw some nice bull Elk along the road.  One was really enjoying the good life of summer.

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Very healthy bull Elk

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Enjoying summer

Near Grand Lake I spotted an Osprey nest.  It’s always a good day when you see a bird of prey.

 

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Osprey

Grand Lake was very touristy and actually not in RMNP.  So we turned around and decided to drive the Ridge Road back to Estes Park.  Once again we were in store for more stunning views way above the tree line.

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Click, click, click….I took over 5,000 photos on this trip! Yikes!

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Expansive views

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I love the high alpine meadow flowers – so small and delicate.

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Dia and Kelly

At one point we saw a nice herd of elk.  They were grazing in the high meadows well above 11,000 feet.  They have a very picturesque home.

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Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.

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So many smells!!!!

We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.

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Hmmmm…look at my Jeep keys precariously dangling from Dia’s hand….

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Glacier at 12,000 feet.  I love the blue pool of water in the lower right.

While taking photos, Dia noticed a little brown bird hopping just below us.  I quickly got my birding lens and was happy to see it was a Brown-Capped Rosy Finch.

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Brown-Capped Rosy Finch

Further down the road we stopped at another pullout.  There were lots of folks feeding the birds and squirrels here.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take close up photos of the rather tame squirrels.

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What a cutie!

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excuse me…you have something in the corner of your mouth…

But I was thrilled to see a Clark’s Nutcracker here looking for handouts.  I’ve only seen this bird once before several years ago in Santa Fe.  I’ve heard them a few times since then, but never saw them for a photo.  So it was great to see this bird close up!

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Clark’s Nutcracker

The views from this location were beautiful.  You could see the entire valley below.  You can even see the Alluvial Fan Falls area we had visited in the morning.

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It was a full day of fun!!!  Off to bed early for another full day of exploring!

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These flowers were extremely tiny!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend in Taos, New Mexico

My friend Dia and I went for a quick trip to Taos, New Mexico, recently.  My goal was to photograph several historic churches and see the Taos Pueblo and the graveyard there.

I needed to stop by a job site on the way there, so we decided to make a big circle for our road trip.  On the way to Taos we went through Las Vegas, New Mexico.   I mentioned to Dia there was a pretty little glacial lake just north of there.  One thing I’ve learned about Dia – take her to any kind of water and she’s a happy girl!

We were soon at Morphy Lake.  Such a peaceful place.  Set at a higher elevation, it was a nice 75 degrees there in hot summer.

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Morphy Lake

While walking the shore, I happened to notice a giant tadpole.  After further searching, we saw lots of them in different stages of changing into a frog.  We even saw some fully formed frogs.  I also saw an oddly colored fish.

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This frog still has his tadpole tail.

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hmmmmm….not sure what kind of fish this is

Then Dia saw a crawdad.  She’s fascinated by these guys! Soon she was trying to catch one.  After a couple of attempts, she got one!

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Slowly…..slowly…..closer……

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Got him!

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Success!

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Oh dear…. lol!

Soon we were on our way again.  We passed through a few small towns and past Sipapu Ski area.  We were climbing in elevation the entire drive.

We came upon a pretty stream.  Scarlett was wanting to get out for a bit.  Knowing how much she loves water, I figured this would be a nice place to stretch our legs.   Soon Dia and Scarlett were in the water having a fun time.  I swear I was traveling with two kids!  🙂

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Dia and Scarlett having fun! 

Once in Taos we ate lunch at a local restaurant called the Farmhouse that uses fresh farm grown produce.  Sadly the food really wasn’t very good and I can’t recommend a visit there to eat. But the grounds were pretty with a pond, wildflowers and garden spinners.

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Pond at the Farmhouse Restaurant

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I love garden spinners

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Funky Taos art

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Dia, Kelly & Scarlett

Then I noticed an old rusted truck out in a field.  As you’ve probably figured out by now, I can’t resist photographing old rusty things!!!

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I love all the different layers of paint (and a little bondo)

We also had to pose on this truck LOL!  But the metal was hot as fire making it difficult to do much. LOL!

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Kelly

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Dia

We ate at a local bar that is housed in the oldest building in Taos.  We had a great time having a couple of margaritas and playing shuffleboard.

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Delicious margaritas and it was happy hour!

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Kelly and Dia enjoying drinks on the patio

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Dia won both games of shuffleboard

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My silly friend!

Finally the sun was setting.  Time to get out for some sunset and blue hour photos of the mission at Ranchos de Taos.  This mission was built in 1772 and has been wonderfully kept over the years.

We got there just as the sun was setting.  It was a gorgeous evening.

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I especially loved this photo I captured.

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Dia wanted me to take a photo of her that made her look like a ghost.  After several attempts, I think I got a decent shot.  I’m only just learning how to do night photography.  I still have lots more to learn but having fun trying!

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Ghostly Dia

The next morning we got up early to visit Taos Pueblo.  We drove through the northern end of town to get there.  And wouldn’t you know it I saw one of my nemesis birds – the Black-Billed Magpie.  And I didn’t have my birding lens!  Ahhhhh!  These birds were everywhere.  After several attempts I did manage to get a decent pic with the setup I had on hand.

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Black-Billed Magpie

When we got to the pueblo, we found out it was closed due to a funeral.  😦  So I guess I will have to plan another trip there to see the sights on the pueblo.

We stopped for gas and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this crow in the parking lot.

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American Crow

Since our original destination was closed, we headed over to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  The morning was very hazy, so the photos really weren’t that good.  But we still had a fun time on the bridge and shopping the local artist tables there.  We each bought a pretty ring and earrings.  🙂

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Rio Grande Gorge

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Kelly’s feet – it’s a loooong way down to the river

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Dia and Kelly at the gorge bridge

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We even saw big horn sheep down in the gorge.

On the way home we took a different route.  We took the “High Road” back home.  This road takes you up high in the mountains through the quaint towns of Las Trampas and Truchas.  It was too bad the day was so hazy, because the views from this drive are amazing!

There’s a beautiful historical church in Las Trampas built in 1760.  It has some interesting details.  Plus there was also a House Sparrow pair busily building a nest.

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San Jose de Garcia Church

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This angel was carved above the door.

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House Sparrow

Further down the road is Truchas.  It’s perched high on a mountain with long reaching views.   As we were looking for the church there, we came upon a flock of Evening Grosbeak.  I still didn’t have my birding lens, so was challenged to get a decent pic. They are such beautiful birds.

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Evening Grosbeak

There is a quaint church off a small side road – Our Lady of the Rosary built in 1764.

Our last stop was at Chimayo.  The El Santuario de Chimayo is a National Historic Landmark and is famous for it’s healing holy dirt.  It was founded in 1816 and people pilgrimage here from all over to receive blessing and leave mementos of loved ones.  It would be easy to spend several hours here exploring and enjoying the peaceful setting.

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I loved the murals in this little side sanctuary

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While Dia and I walked around, we left Scarlett in the Jeep.  She was not happy with this decision.  LOL!

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Scarlett left in the Jeep – poor girl…..

We had a fun filled couple of days and saw lots of sights.  But I know I have to plan another trip in the future to see Taos Pueblo.

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Wonderful Spring Birding with a New Lifer Sighting

First off, let me just say, I LOVE my new camera!  I’m definitely still in the learning phase, but it’s performance is superior to my old setup.  It’s a joy to use, and I’m very happy with my images.

Not too long ago, we had a spring storm blow through and it dumped 12 inches of snow at my house.  The birds were not very happy about this event, and neither were my plants.

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Bleeding Hearts

A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.

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Cooper’s Hawk

The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

Thankfully the snow melted the very next day, and the temperatures returned to the mid to high 70s right away.  I got to go out hiking several times this week.  I visited Tingley Beach a couple days after the spring storm.  The Rio Grande was raging and flooded most of the bosque trails.  But it was worth trudging through it to see some new spring birds.

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

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Green Heron

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Baby Mallard

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Summer Tanager

I have lived in the Albuquerque area for over 20 years.  And during that time, I have never visited Sandia Lakes or Shady Lakes (they are next door to each other).  So one day I decided to check out the lakes.

Sandia Lakes was very nice.  Beautiful lawns and cottonwood trees and three separate lakes.

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Sandia Lakes with the Sandia Mountains in the background

The first bird I saw was a Lark Sparrow (first one I’ve seen this year).  He was singing way up high in a tree.  Then I saw several Canada Geese with their babies.

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Canada Geese

While watching the geese, I saw something that looked different.  I quickly realized it was a Western Grebe.  We don’t see them often in our area, so it was a real treat.

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Western Grebe

I saw a pair of Say’s Phoebes busily hunting for bugs.  I soon saw why they were so frantic to find bugs.  They had three babies squeezed into a tiny nest.

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Say’s Phoebes

I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well.  They are such beautiful birds

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Black Phoebe

While walking around the lake, an Osprey flew overhead.  I thought to myself that he might be part of a nesting pair.  This was confirmed recently by my friend Joe.  I’m definitely going to have to check out their nesting progress.

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Osprey

I came across a pair of Black-Capped Chickadees that were acting very agitated.  I never did figure out what they were so upset about.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

As I was walking through the grass between lakes, I saw a Killdeer doing its “I’m injured, follow me” routine.  So I knew there must be a baby nearby.  It was acting pretty desperate, so I thought it must be very close.

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Killdeer trying to lure me away from its baby

When I looked down, I realized it was only a foot away.  I almost stepped on it!  Yikes!  It never did move.  I took a quick pic and then quickly moved away.  Soon I heard the baby calling for its parents.  It was nice to see them all reunite and be assured all was fine.

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baby Killdeer

I then headed over to Shady Lakes. What a beautiful place!  It has several ponds all covered in beautiful lily pads and lined with irises.  The ponds are stocked with different varieties of fish.  But I was there for the birds.

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Shady Lakes

As soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron sitting beautifully on an old log.  I then realized there were several of them gathered there.   Fabulous!  They are used to people so they let me get pretty close.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.

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I noticed a moth feeding among the irises.  These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.

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White-Lined Sphinx Moth

The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!

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My last hike was up to the Cienega picnic area.  The forest service blocks the road for cars until mid-May.  So you have to hike along the road to get to the upper picnic area.  My goal was to try and find the Northern Pygmy Owl that has been seen nesting there.  Now I have made this hike several times both last spring and this spring with no luck seeing that owl.  Well, this time I was successful!  This is a lifer bird for me!

He was calling repeatedly on a lower branch in the aspen tree where he’s been seen nesting.  All the songbirds in the area were very agitated and were trying to scare him away.  It was a wonderful sighting!

For those of you not familiar with this owl.  He’s very small,  only 6 inches from its head to the end of its tail.  So you can see why he’s so difficult to find.

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Northern Pygmy Owl

I decided to hike over to Bill Spring since I was in the area.  A Hermit Thrush was enjoying a bath.  And a baby was in a tree nearby.

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Hermit Thrush

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Hermit Thrush

A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.

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Western Tanager

I hadn’t been at the spring long when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in chasing a chickadee.  After that, the birds were scarce.  So I started hiking back to my car.  I saw lots of Black-Headed Grosbeak singing and squabbling in the trees.  I’m guessing they were vying for the attention of the females.

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Black-Headed Grosbeak

I’m thrilled spring is here.  I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived.  🙂

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Touring Tularosa Basin – Part 2 of 2 plus Exciting News!

On day 2 of my visit to Carrizozo, I got up early and drove an hour south to White Sands National Park.  I haven’t been there since the mid 70s.   It brought back lots of fun memories of playing in the sand dunes, eating grilled hotdogs and enjoying family time.

On this day in January, there definitely wasn’t any kids playing in the sand dunes and nobody was grilling hot dogs!  It was 20 degrees outside!  But it made for perfect hiking weather.

Believe it or not, they have designated trails in the dunes.  They must have to hike them regularly to make sure the markers are still visible.  You basically follow markers sticking up out of the sand and they guide you on a roughly 2-mile loop.  This day and age it’s pretty difficult to get lost in the dunes now that we have apps like Map my Hike that show you where your starting point was.  But if you were to head out in the dunes without any new technology, it could be very easy to get lost and turned around in that sea of white.

So Scarlett and I headed off on a trail soon after the park opened.  It was very cold out but the sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly.  Hiking the dunes by yourself can be eerily quiet but so peaceful.  I mostly followed the trail, but at times wandered off to get pictures without footprints in the sand.

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Scarlett loved the dunes.  She ran and ran and ran!  Up one dune and quickly down the other.  I soon lost sight of her and realized she was way far away.  I called her back and told her to stay close to mom!

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Come back Scarlett!

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She loved running up and down the dunes.

 

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My pretty girl!

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While hiking I noticed two other people hiking the same trail but taking the reverse route.  I got a nice pic of them way out on the dunes.  Gives you a real idea of the scale of this place.

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There are lots of critters that live in the dunes.  I didn’t see any while I was there.  But I saw lots of signs of life.

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Coyote or fox tracks and a lizard walking in circles.

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Lizard and bird tracks

And I left my own prints too!

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Kelly’s Footprints

I eventually crossed paths with the two other people on the trail.  I asked them to take a picture of Scarlett and I.  They were nice enough and took several!

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Telling my girl to pose for the camera!

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I was bundled up for the cold!

There are a few plants living among the dunes.  It’s a gamble for them to take hold there.

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Proof that the dunes are constantly shifting and moving.

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With all that running around, Scarlett got hot. She managed to find the one shady spot among the dunes!

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One spot of shade to cool off after all that running!

Here’s a photo of Scarlett below me.  Some of the dunes were steep to climb up and go down.

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Scarlett had a much easier time going up and down the dunes than me!

We had a fun time exploring.  But soon we had to head back home.

And  now for the exciting news!!!

While at the banquet in Carrizozo, I was told about the Annual New Mexico Photographic Art Show (ANMPAS).   Entries for the event could be submitted by January 31 and I heard about this on the 28th!

So when I got home I had to quickly choose 3 photos to enter.  While reviewing my photos taken at White Sands I came across one photo that really stood out.  So I submitted the following photos to the event.

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Ripples in the Sand

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Tricolored Heron

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Red-Eyed Buffalo

And I got 2 photos chosen!!!! 

They chose the white sands photo and the tricolored heron.  🙂  They had over 400 entries this year and said it was difficult to choose the winning entries.  I am honored to be a participant of this event.

There will be a gallery opening reception on April 1 and the gallery opens to the public on April 2.  The event will run through April 23 at the Fine Arts Building at Expo New Mexico, Albuquerque.  So if you get a chance, go by and view some outstanding photography by New Mexico artists.   And all the art is for sale!

 

 

 

 

 

Tour of Tularosa Basin – Part 1 of 2

Last weekend I traveled to Carrizozo, New Mexico, to attend a banquet in honor of the winning photographers of the 2016 New Mexico Magazine Photography Contest.  The  banquet was held at the gallery hosting the winning photographs:  Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography.  This is a beautiful gallery of New Mexico Photography by New Mexico Artists.  I would love to be an artist hanging in this gallery.  Someday maybe 🙂

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The Tularosa Basin Gallery is located in a unique old building. 

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Inside the gallery – lovely displays

My friend Valerie was going to attend with me, but sadly she wasn’t feeling well.  But the attendees of the event were all wonderfully gracious and friendly.  I had a fabulous time speaking with other fellow winning artists, New Mexico Magazine staff, local attendees and the gallery staff.

The dinner was prepared by a local family and was absolutely delicious!  The dinner setting was in the basement of the building.  I love how the rooms had been kept as original as possible.

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Beautiful setting for dinner

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Warren (gallery owner) is standing and the New Mexico Magazine staff are seated. 

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Proudly standing by my winning photo

I left early in the morning to attend the event last Friday.  I wanted to have plenty of the day to explore the area.

I stopped briefly at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area.  This a big lava filled valley.  There was a one-mile loop trail built out into the lava field.  I had a fun time hiking the trail.

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Edge of Valley of Fires

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Trail through Valley of Fires

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You couldn’t walk very easily through this valley without the trail.

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Next stop was Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.  There are over 21,000 petroglyphs at this site.  I hiked about 1.5 miles exploring the rocks along the trail.  There were drawings everywhere.  It was amazing!   The trail starts climbing right away so that you end up walking along the ridge of a hill.  This made for a wonderful backdrop in some of my photos.  The Sacramento Mountains were  beautiful with the snow on them.

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I think the main drawing is a roadrunner catching a snake

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Stunning views

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Lizard

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I love how this drawing is peeking out from the rocks.

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Big Horn Sheep, Antelope, and Wolf Print among others

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Some of the drawings were quite detailed.  Real works of art.

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This looks like a man in the fetal position.

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I loved this big horn sheep with the arrows in it. Plus you can see the Native American designs on the body of the sheep as we still see them portrayed in their art today.

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Beautiful depiction of the native peoples

It was a cold (20 degrees) and breezy day, but I had a great time and ended it with a wonderful evening at the Gallery.

Part 2 coming soon!