La Lena WSA: Emperado Ridge / Continental Divide Hike

Yesterday I went on my first group hike with a Meetup Group called WOW WE (Way Out West – Westside Explorers).  There were 12 of us on this hike including our fearless leader Woody.  I took Scarlett along and she had a blast.

We started our hike in the middle of nowhere about a 1.5 hours west of Albuquerque.  We drove to the top of a mesa.  After hiking about a 1/2 mile, we came to the edge of the mesa.  The views were expansive.  Just beautiful!

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Cabezon Peak on the left

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You could see for miles!

We hiked along the mesa for about a mile enjoying the beautiful vistas.

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Our fearless leader Woody.  We would be climbing down from this point to the valley you see below.

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Soon we started heading down to the valley below.  That’s when the interesting geology started showing up.  I loved all the different colors in the layers of the rock.

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I loved the shape of this dead tree

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We ate lunch in this patch of white rock.  Unique shapes were found all around.

We started seeing our first Hoodoos in the white rock area.  I love Hoodoos!

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Scarlett found a patch of shade.  Not much to be found on this hike. LOL!

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We left the white rock area and headed into the valley below.

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Once in the valley we passed so much interesting geology.  Everywhere I looked, the colors and shapes were so beautiful.

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You can see the white rock patch in the distance where we had lunch.

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Scarlett had a great time exploring all the ups and downs of the trail.

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At one point we had to scramble down a boulder filled crevice.  It was a little scary but thankfully Woody helped me navigate the most scary part.

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Scariest part of the hike.  Thankfully Woody helped me navigate this part.

Soon the mesa was towering over us.  We wound our way from one interesting rock patch to another.

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We came across a patch of small Hoodoos called mushrooms.

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Hoodoo Mushrooms

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The winds create interesting shapes in the rocks.  I like the little shape in the lower left that looks like a puppy. 

After hiking for about another mile, we came to a very large area of Hoodoos and other interesting rock formations.  It was a lot of fun exploring this area.  We stayed here quite a while since there was so much to see.

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So many Hoodoos and colors!

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Interesting layers of the rock

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Giant pieces of petrified wood

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So beautiful!

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“Delfido Moralez 1938” inscription

Finally we were on the last leg of the hike.  We continued hiking along the bottom of the mesa and connected with the Continental Divide trail.  This trail is 1,300 miles long and runs from Mexico up to Canada.  For those of you that don’t know what the Continental Divide is:

“A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea and the basin on the other side feeds into a different ocean or sea.”

Thankfully this part of the hike was level and easy.  By this point I had hiked over 6 miles.  Whew!  I think Scarlett had hiked twice that.  She loved that there were lots of folks hiking together.  She would run way ahead to those in front of me then come running back to me.

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Navigating the Continental Divide trail between pastures.  You can see the “CD” sign on the post.

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Stunning!

The last leg of the hike was the only uphill part of the climb.  It was short but fairly steep.  I was pretty tired by this point, but made it up fairly well.

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The uphill climb to the top of the mesa

Once back on top of the mesa, it was a short 1/2 mile hike back to the car.

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Back on top.  You can see the Continental Divide trail below that we had just hiked.

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Our last grand vista view of the Continental Divide trail before heading back to the cars.

What a fun hike! In all I hiked 7.5 miles.  🙂  I will definitely be going on more WOW WE hikes in the future.  Fun hike and fun people!

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Summer Birds and Other Goodies

With my several trips this year and busy work, I haven’t had time to blog as often as I would have liked to.  So I thought I would combine several sightings over the summer into one post. Now that fall is officially here, many of these birds are gone or will be gone soon.

During the summer I went on several day hikes within a couple hours of Albuquerque.  Partly to see something new in scenery and partly to see some birds I don’t normally see around home.

One hike that was new for me was the Cave Creek hike in the Pecos Wilderness.  It’s about a 5-mile round trip hike to some caves that were created by water eroding through limestone.  It was a beautiful hike in thick forest along a creek.  Of course, Scarlett enjoyed the water immensely!

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So much fun at the water crossings!

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Lovely stream to hike along.

The caves were very interesting.  There were several that were big enough to walk inside of.  I didn’t go very far in as it got dark quickly and I wasn’t sure how deep the water got.  But lots of fun to explore.  Scarlett was curious about the caves as well.

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Unique caves created by water erosion.

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Scarlett exploring a smaller cave.

On this hike I saw a flock of Dusky Grouse.  This is pretty much the only grouse specie New Mexico has.  I’ve only seen this bird a few times of the past 20 years and never very close.  But I was lucky on this hike.  When I startled them, they flew into a nearby pine and sat very still – which was perfect for a great photo.

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Dusky Grouse

Another day I ventured to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains next to Santa Fe.  It was a very cloudy day and the birds were few, but I managed to get a few nice sightings.  A favorite – Green Tailed Towhee – came close to check me out so I was able to see his colors nicely.

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Green Tailed Towhee

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Williamson’s Sapsucker – Juvenile

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Dark-Eyed Junco

One of the highlights of this hike was seeing lots of mushrooms.  I’ve seen photos of the red and white polka dot mushrooms, but never have seen one in person.  It was a real treat seeing and photographing them.  🙂

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Poisonous mushroom – but so pretty!

Aspen Vista is a beautiful hike at about 8,000 feet above sea level.  As you know Scarlett loves water.   But she also loves culverts.  She’s always looking inside them to see what might be hiding.  On this hike, she found a culvert that was big enough to run through and it had water flowing through it.  Bonus!

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Scarlett having a blast!

I walked along the Rio Grande several times.  Most of the colorful summer birds love the Bosque.  It’s so much fun looking for and photographing these beauties!

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Blue Grosbeak

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Summer Tanager

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Neotropic Cormorant

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Downy Woodpecker

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Great Blue Heron

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Say’s Phoebe

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird enjoying the summer mimosa blooms!

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House Sparrow

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House Finch – partial orange morph

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

One day while hiking along the river, I came across a Cooper’s Hawk enjoying breakfast.  You could tell it had caught a songbird by the foot hanging out of it’s beak.  Poor thing….

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Songbird for breakfast anyone???

While reviewing my photos, I realized I had captured a lifer bird on one of my outings along the river.  I love it when that happens!  In this case, I had mistaken it for a Summer Tanager.  But when I reviewed the photo more closely, I realized it was a Hepatic Tanager.  Yay!!!

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Hepatic Tanager

Of course, Scarlett always enjoys a visit to the river!

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Look at that big grin on Scarlett’s face!

One day I took a drive out to Stanley.  I hadn’t been there for quite some time.  I saw a lot of the usual residents there.  I never tire seeing a Western Meadowlark or the many hawks that live there.  🙂

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Cliff Swallow

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Red-Tailed Hawk (juvenile) – I love the coloring of this particular bird

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Western Meadowlark

Around home I’ve had several new birds visit my yard this summer.  It’s so exciting to see something new show up.  I hope they find me again next year!  Some were easy to photograph, while others were very elusive.  The birds I was unable to photograph but saw were Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Brown-Headed Blackbird, Northern Saw-Whet Owl, and Green-Tailed Towhee.

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Pygmy Nuthatch

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

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I love their orange eyes.

Along with the new birds I’ve seen this year, I’ve had plenty of the resident birds stopping by the feeders and bird baths.

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Western Bluebird

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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A very shy Ladderback Woodpecker (hence the blurry photo)

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Wilson’s Warbler – coming to enjoy my bird bath

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Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

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Hairy Woodpecker

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Mountain Chickadee

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Holding down a sunflower seed to extract its goodness.

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Bushtit

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Black-Headed Grosbeak

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Juniper Titmouse

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Virginia’s Warbler

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Rufous Hummingbird

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Bewick’s Wren

This summer New Mexico saw several forest fires in the Jemez Mountains.  Because of this, a lot of the bird life has migrated south to new habitats.  This summer we saw a large number of Lewis’s Woodpeckers in the greater Albuquerque area.  We normally don’t see them here, so it was a real treat to see one only a couple miles from my house.  It seemed to prefer this telephone pole as it was sighted there often.  And it didn’t like the squirrel using its pole.

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Lewis’s Woodpecker

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Get off my pole!!!

I drove down to the Monzano Mountains a couple weeks ago hoping to see the fall colors starting in 4th of July Canyon.  Though the colors still haven’t begun, I did get to see several birds.

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Steller’s Jay – so beautiful!

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Red-Tailed Hawks

I saw a Brown Creeper – always a delight.  They are very difficult to see against the bark and they move quickly.

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Brown Creeper

Plus I got a lifer!  A Golden-Crowned Kinglet.  I’ve been looking for this bird for several years and just happened upon it on this trail.  Yay!  This guy was way up in the canopy shadows and moving so fast!

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Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Among the many bird sightings I had over the summer, I came across some other interesting things.  I thought you might enjoy seeing them.  🙂

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Cool bee on a beautiful summer sunflower

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Ahhhhhhhh……

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Southwestern Fence Lizard

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Hoary Comma

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Aphrodite Fritillary

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Police Car Moth

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Western Tailed-Blue

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I love the colors on this dragonfly

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This beetle “hisses” when you touch it.  A unique defense!

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Great Plains Skink (juvenile).  This guy was so cool!!!  I love the markings on the face.  This skink will turn plain brown all over as an adult. 

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Painted Lady

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Can you see the walking stick expertly hiding

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Marine Blue

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Common Side-Blotched Lizard

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Jackrabbit

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Exciting News!

I was recently invited to join a local gallery here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  One of their members saw my winning photographs at this year’s State Fair and left a business card on the back of one of my prints.  After interviewing with the members, I was invited to be a part of this exclusive gallery.   I feel very honored to have been chosen to be a part of this small group of co-op artists.

The gallery is called Albuquerque Photographers Gallery and is located on the plaza of Historic Old Town.  I love the fact that this gallery is comprised solely of fine art photography.  The atmosphere is inviting and the work of the artists is outstanding.

My work will be on display and available for sale beginning October 3!

If you are ever in Old Town, be sure to visit this beautiful gallery! I hope to see you there some time!

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Mariachi Band above Church Street Cafe in Old Town Albuquerque, NM

 

Capulin Spring Birding

Yesterday I got up early so I could visit Capulin Spring in the Sandia Mountains.  This is a great time to visit the spring because we get some fall migrating warblers.  The most sought after warbler this time of year is the Townsend’s Warbler.  We only get them here for a few weeks in September, then we have to wait another year to see them again.

So I had high hopes of seeing this warbler.  I had my new camera after all!  I was hoping to get a better photo of one than I have in the past.

When I first arrived there were the usual Dark-Eyed Juncos about.  They are always here in great numbers.  We get several variety of Juncos in New Mexico, but the most common is the “gray headed”.

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Dark-Eyed Junco – Gray Headed

Then a group of Yellow-Rumped Warblers came in for a drink and a bath.  We have these birds here year round.  Now that it’s officially fall, their plumage is less vibrant than in the spring.  But they are still a pretty warbler.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

After sitting quietly for awhile I was rewarded with the Townsend’s Warbler.  Two of them in fact! Beautiful!  They were very cautious to come get a drink.   As with all warblers, they were quick too!  But I managed to get a few good pics.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

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Townsend’s Warbler

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Townsend’s Warbler

Then a couple of fellow birders showed up – Sharon and Vicki.  We had a great time birding together.  With three pairs of eyes, we were able see more sightings.  One of which was a new bird for me!

Sharon pointed out a soaring bird way up high overhead.  I zoomed way in and was able to get one photo before it soared away.  Not a great photo but I got it! A Northern Goshawk!

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Northern Goshawk

For awhile we had been seeing Steller’s Jays.  They were acting very shy.  But once us girls started visiting, they seem to relax and start coming in.  Funny!  You’d think sitting still and quiet would make them more brave.  Instead, they were happier when they were ignored.  LOL!

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Steller’s Jay

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Steller’s Jay

There were several Ruby Crowned Kinglets about but they were quick!  I got a lot of bad photos and one decent one.

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Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Vicki pointed out a different Junco – a “pink sided”.  A pretty little bird.

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Dark-Eyed Junco – Pink Sided

Happily another warbler showed up for a drink and bath – an Orange-Crowned Warbler.

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

A couple nuthatches showed up.  I usually see more when I visit, but this day they were kinda scarce.

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Red-Breasted Nuthatch

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White-Breasted Nuthatch

Here are picks of the other more common visitors to the spring.

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Chipping Sparrow

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Northern Flicker

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Mountain Chickadee

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Lesser Goldfinch

Then to my great delight a Plumbeous Vireo showed up.  He was very nervous and darted all about.  Though not a great pic – it was the best of the bunch.  Soon he will be leaving us for the winter.

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Plumbeous Vireo

Just before I was leaving I saw a Green-Tailed Towhee – always a delight to see and hear.

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Green-Tailed Towhee

It was a great morning birding with friends.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jewels of the Desert

I believe the tiny little hummingbirds I get every summer are truly little jewels of the desert.  Their iridescent colors just shine like the most precious stones when the light hits them just right.

July and August are my peak months for hummingbirds.  In spring I get the Broad-Tailed and Black-Chinned Hummingbirds.  They nest here every year.  But starting early July, I get the migratory Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds.  It’s a wonderful time of year having all four variety of hummingbirds visiting my feeders.  I have 3 feeders that hold 2 cups of sugar water each.  During July and August I have to fill these feeders twice a day!

These little birds are very fast.  Catching them in flight is a real challenge.  I got a couple of decent shots in flight but I definitely need to improve on this technique.

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Broad-Tailed Hummigbird

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Some years it seems the birds are more brave than others.  This year they were a little more hesitant to let me photograph them.  I did manage to get a few nice shots.  Of the 4 species, the most bullying to other hummers and yet the most shy around people is the Rufous Hummingbird.  He’s the most challenging to get a decent photo.

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Rufous Hummingbird

The most challenging to get colors to show is the Black-Chinned Hummingbird.  They have to turn just right in the light to catch that gorgeous purple throat.  After many, many attempts, this is the only photo I got recently that shows the color.  Sadly it’s not a very good pic.  But I will keep trying!

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Black-Chinned Hummingbird

The most common visitor to my feeders is the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird.  Over the years I’ve only managed to find a couple of nests though I see plenty of females out there busily gathering nesting materials.  And come summer there are lots of young hummers at the feeders.

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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Look at that gorgeous color on his throat!

But my most favorite hummer is the Calliope Hummingbird. I love their unique feathers on their throat.  When fending off other hummers from the feeder, they can flare out those long pink feathers.  Just beautiful!   They are considerably smaller than the other 3 species I get.  They are the smallest breeding hummingbird in the US.  While the other species are generally 3 inches in length, this little guy is around 2.5 inches.  They have to really stretch their necks to sit and feed on my feeders.

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Calliope Hummigbird

So I think you will agree, hummingbirds are definitely little jewels of the desert!

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Calliope Hummingbird

 

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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Birds, Butterflies, Bees and more

Over the past few weeks I’ve been out and about enjoying the hot summer weather.  I try to hike every chance I get, which hasn’t been near as often as I’d like.

I went through Stanley a few times in the last couple weeks driving to Santa Fe and other places for work.  I hadn’t been here birding in a while so it was a nice change of scenery.  As always there’s the ever present Western Meadowlarks singing on all the fence posts.

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Western Meadowlark

There are always Swainson’s Hawks about in great numbers.  I managed to get a few nice photos.

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Swainson’s Hawk

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Swainson’s Hawk

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Swainson’s Hawk

Here are some of the other birds I’ve seen there lately.

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Blue Grosbeak

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Vesper Sparrow

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Red-Tailed Hawk – juvenile

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Brewer’s Blackbird – female

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Brewer’s Blackbird – male

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Horned Lark

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Barn Swallow

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Bullock’s Oriole

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Lark Sparrow

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Cassin’s Kingbird

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Cooper’s Hawk

The highlight of my Stanley trips though would have to be finding the Ferruginous Hawk’s nest.  I had found them out there a few years ago but their nest got taken out by strong winds.  They abandoned that nesting spot and I never figured out where they ended up.  Then one day recently I saw one sitting on a telephone pole.  He let me get pretty close for photos.  Which got me this awesome pic!

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Ferruginous Hawk

But then I started thinking maybe he didn’t fly off because there’s a nest nearby.  Now there are very few trees in Stanley as it is mostly comprised of crop farming.  But there happened to be a short, stumpy tree right near this telephone pole.  Now from the street you couldn’t even see the nest.  But when I walked to the other side of the tree, I saw almost fully fledged young ones.  I was thrilled to have found them again.  Now I know where to look next spring.  I’m thankful I found these guys before they left the nest this year.  In all I saw 3 young ones, but one was always shy for photos.

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Ferruginous Hawk – juvenile

One day I went to Glorietta to go hiking.  On the way there I stopped in at Lamy.  I had heard there was a Vermillion Flycatcher there.  As soon as I parked and got out of the car I heard him singing.  Such a beautiful bird!

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Vermillion Flycatcher

The trail was very pretty and cool being up in higher elevation and treed.  But there were lots of wildflowers and butterflies about.

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Field Crescent

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Mylitta Crescent

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Checkered White

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Western Pine Elfin

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Spring Azure

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Rocky Mountain Duskywing

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Western-Tailed Blue

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Pearl Crescent

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Hmmmmm…not sure what this one is

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Cloudless Sulphur

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Reakirt’s Blue

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Common Checkered Skipper

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Purplish Copper

I heard lots of birds on the trail, but I only managed to get one bird photo – an Evening Grosbeak.  Such uniquely colored birds.

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Evening Grosbeak

There were lots of bees out among the flowers.  New Mexico has hundreds of different types of bees.  So I’m always amazed when I see a variety while I’m hiking.

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Pretty red butt bee among the daisies

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Loving my new camera – took this hand held

I saw this fly land on the trail in front of me.   This guy was HUGE! Way bigger than most flies I see.  I’m dubbing him the Batman fly as I think he looks like Batman with those dark black wings and body.

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Batman fly 🙂

Just before leaving Glorietta, I came across a flock of Cliff Swallows gathering mud to build their nests.  It was fun watching them gather up the mud and fly off.

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Cliff Swallow

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Cliff Swallow

I’ve been in the Sandia’s off and on.  One day I specifically went to Capulin Spring.  I’m still so disappointed in the work they did there over the last year or so.  The birds are so skittish there now and there’s no natural cover for them or me.  So though I heard a lot of birds in the trees, I only saw a few that were brave enough to come to the spring while I was there.

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Western Tanager

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Northern Flicker

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

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Cordilleran Flycatcher

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Hermit Thrush

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I’m ready to get out there some more!  I love summertime!!!!