Raptor Overload

Recently I had the privilege to take photographs of rescued raptors at 3 different events!  It is a wonderful experience getting up close and personal with these beautiful birds.  Plus!  All fees associated with these events goes to help the rescued birds.

My first event was the 25th anniversary event of Hawks Aloft.  They are a wonderful group of giving, loving people.  They take wonderful care of the birds they receive through rescue.  Gladly they get to rescue and release a lot of the birds they receive.  But if they get a bird that cannot be released back to the wild, they take amazing care of these birds.  And a few times a year, they allow the public the opportunity to photograph these amazing birds of prey.

The 25th anniversary event was a wonderful evening.  We got to see and speak to many of the “behind the scenes” people of the organization.  They had several birds there, but the photo opportunities weren’t that great.  But I still had a wonderful time!

I manged to get a few photo ops of the stars.

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Long-Eared Owl

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Turkey Vulture

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Western Screech Owl – this photo gives you an idea of how small they are

They were going to have falconry demonstrations, but our unseasonably hot weather prohibited that event.  Darnit!  I was really looking forward to seeing that!

I did get a chance to photograph one of the participants – a beautiful Apomado Falcon.  The coloring of this birds is superb!

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Apomado Falcon

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Just beautiful!

The next event I attended was with Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico.  They have an annual event known as “Breakfast with the Birds”.  They held this year’s event at the Rio Grande Nature Center in one of the areas that you normally can’t see.

It was a wonderful morning!  I got to see so many beautiful birds.  Some of the birds were injured but some were “human imprinted”, which means they associated with humans to a level that they cannot survive in the wild on their own.

Here’s some of best photos I got that morning.

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Western Screech Owl

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Chihuahuan Raven

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Swainson’s Hawk

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American Kestrel

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Peregrine Falcon

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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Great Horned Owl

I liked the perspective of the next photo.  I love getting their wings when they are outstretched.

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Swainson’s Hawk

My favorite photo of the event was of this Barn Owl.  So beautiful! I think the coloring of the Barn Owl is so unique.

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Barn Owl

While photographing the raptors, an inquisitive Greater Roadrunner came through.  He was very curious of us.  You’d think he would have been terrified of all the bird of prey around him!!!

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Greater Roadrunner

When the event was over, I took a stroll through the Rio Grande Nature Center.  I was surprised to see some hummingbirds still hanging around.  I really liked this photo I got of a Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

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Broad-tailed Hummingbird

And any chance to photograph a warbler is always treat!

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Wilson’s Warbler

My 3rd event I attended was the annual Hawks Aloft Photo Event.  They held it this year in a remote area of the Sandia Foothills.   A wonderfully quiet place.

On the way I couldn’t resist stopping to take a quick pic of this Curve-Billed Thrasher.  I just love these birds!

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

I got to get some great photos of the raptors they brought.  Here’s my favorites of that event.

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Harlon Red-Tailed Hawk – such unusual coloring for a Red-Tailed Hawk

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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Prairie Falcon

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Merlin

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Flammulated Owl

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Barn Owl

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Long-Eared Owl

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Red-Tailed Hawk

Near the end of the event they brought out “Beautiful”.   Believe it or not!  A Turkey Vulture can be beautiful!

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Turkey Vulture – look at the size of that wingspan!  6 feet of total beauty!

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Beautiful enjoying the attention.  She is one of the birds that has been human imprinted.

My favorite photos of that event were of the Long-Eared Owl, the Great Horned Owl and again the Barn Owl.  Beautiful!

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Long-Eared Owl – I loved getting the fall foliage coloring in the background

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Great Horned Owl with attitude

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Barn Owl

I captured a couple of photos of the handler with their birds.  Wonderful people!

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Handler with the Prairie Falcon.  You can tell they adore each other!

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One of the attendees getting an introduction.  This photo gives you an idea of the size of Turkey Vultures.

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Someone suggested the “two old buzzards” take a photo together 🙂  Larry and Beautiful

I hope you enjoyed the many photos I took during these events!  It’s been awhile since I last posted.  This summer and fall were busy times for me.  It’s good to be back blogging!

Weekend at Pagosa Springs

Back in July my friend Dia and I spent a long weekend at Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  I had never been there before, so I was really looking forward to a long, relaxing weekend hiking and soaking in the hot springs.

On our way we stopped in for lunch at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  (Pronounced Ab-eh-Q)  It was a beautiful place to stroll and the lunch was delicious.

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Purple Adobe Lavender Farm

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Wonderful lavender!

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Kelly enjoying a wonderful lunch

We also enjoyed shopping in the little store.

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Beautiful store

 

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Shopping at the cafe

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Mmmmmmm…

As we drove down the road, we decided to pop in and check out the famous Ghost Ranch.  When people hear Ghost Ranch they usually think of the artist Georgia O’Keefe who loved to paint the beauty of the desert here.  We didn’t spend long, but I did take some time to take a few photos.

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Great old western wagon

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Storms over Abiquiu Lake

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Old hand-hewn log cabin

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Beauty of the Ghost Ranch

As we neared Chama, New Mexico, we passed an Osprey nest.  Of course, I had to turn around to get a photo.  🙂

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Female Osprey on the nest

While I was photographing the female on the nest, the male showed up with lunch.

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Male Osprey with a meal

We stayed at the beautiful Springs Spa and Resort.  They have 25 different soaking pools that vary in temperatures from 96 degrees to as hot as 111 degrees.  HOT!  The hottest pool was called the Lobster Pot.  I couldn’t get more than my foot in before I was yelping in pain!

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The Springs Resort and Spa

After checking in we decided to go have lunch and let Scarlett run around a bit.  Of course, she was thrilled to play in the river.

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Scarlett stretching her legs after a long drive.

We ate at a restaurant across the river that had a great view of the resort.  We couldn’t wait to get in those pools!

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View of the resort and the San Juan River

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Looks fabulous doesn’t it?

Of course, we had ourselves a giant margarita at lunch to kick off the relaxing weekend.

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Yum!

One of the things I really wanted to do while staying at the resort was take night photos.  I don’t get many opportunities to do night photography, so this was a real treat to have a unique setting.

I first photographed the resort’s hotel.  Such a beautiful place.

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While photographing the hotel, a pair of girls were playing the outdoor chess game.  I was thrilled they consented to let me take their photo.  I think it came out nice.

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Outdoor chess game under the stars

From there we toured the pools.  The first pool we came to overlooked the resort.  I liked that there were some people relaxing the in pool.  I think they added interest to the view.

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Soakers enjoying the beautiful evening

Here’s some other shots I got touring the pools.

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Sunken foot bridge through the warm springs

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I loved the travertine formations that builds up with the flowing waters of hot springs

I took a few shots from the bridge across the river and from the other side of the river.  Beautiful with the reflections in the water.

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Gorgeous at night

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Definitely a special place

The next day we went on a couple of short hikes.  I really wanted to see the waterfalls in the area.  I never seem to tire of photographing water.

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The views during the hike were spectacular.

Our first hike was to Treasure Falls.  It’s not a very long hike, but really beautiful.   Of course, where there’s water, there is always wildlife.

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MacGuilvray’s Warbler

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Adorable chipmunk

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American Robin with a mouthful of moths

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Northern Flicker digging for grubs

This year the southwest had experienced a pretty severe draught at the beginning of the summer.  Because of this, the waterfalls were pretty thin.  But I think they were still beautiful.

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Lower part of Treasure Falls

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Gorgeous!

My favorite shot of the entire trip was taken at this waterfall.  I hiked all the way to the base of the falls to discover a tranquil pool.

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Tranquil pool

To my delight, I spotted an American Dipper.  It’s always a real treat to see one of these birds.  I love how they dip and bob along the water’s edge and dive into the pools looking for food.

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American Dipper

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Looking for goodies in the falling water

The other hike we did was to Silver Falls.  Dia was my co-pilot and was responsible for finding the trailhead.  She led me on a one-hour 4WD goose chase!!! DIA!!!!!   I was so busy stressing over the drive, I didn’t take any photos! LOL!

We finally realized we had driven past the falls.  We turned around and found the trailhead.  This was also a short hike, but very steep! We followed Silver Creek the entire way.  There were small waterfalls along the trail.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got to the main waterfall.  All I can say is WOW!  It was spectacular!  I think it was about 5 stories tall!  The sounds of the falls was almost deafening.  I can only imagine what they would look like if it hadn’t been a drought year.  Dia and I spent quite some time here enjoying the view and taking a few photos.

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Lower portion of Silver Fall

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Silver Falls

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WOW!

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Just spectacular!

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Lower portion of Silver Falls

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My beautiful friend Dia

Dia took a picture of me at the falls.  I look terrible after a stressful Jeep drive!  LOL!  My headband says “Jeep Hair, Don’t Care!”  🙂

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We spent the rest of the afternoon and the next morning soaking in the pools.  It was sooooooo relaxing.  We spent some time shopping the great shops on main street before we left town.   We found lots of goodies!

On the way out of town I spotted a Black-Billed Magpie.  I wish we had these birds closer to home.

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Black-Billed Magpie

When we drove through Chama we spotted a little foal in a pasture along the highway.  We just had to stop and say hi.

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Dia made new friends fast 🙂

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Beautiful!

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This guy was so new he still has his dried umbilical cord

The drought was about to be over on this trip.  The monsoons started in earnest on our drive home.  I stopped to take a photo of the storms over Abiquiu Lake.   Monsoons in the desert can be very dramatic!

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Storms over Abiquiu Lake

All the rain made the Rio Grande turn red.

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Rio Grande

I hope you enjoyed reading about my lovely weekend at Pagosa Springs!  I’m so ready to go back!

 

Birding With My New Camera!

For the past few years I was using a Nikon 1 V3 mirrorless camera for all of my birding photos.  While I loved that camera when I had plenty of light, I was always let down with any photos I took that were in low-light conditions.  The sensor in the camera just couldn’t handle low light, high ISO conditions.

So recentlly I purchased a new camera.  An Olympus OMD EM1 Mark ii (could they have come up with any longer of a name??!!).  This new camera is a micro 4/3 camera.  It has a better sensor for low light and it has much better in-camera stabilization.  I got a birding lens to go with it that has a reach of 800mm.

Of course, I just had to take it out right away to see how it performed birding.   So I planned a whole day of birding in different locations and light conditions.  When I shot with my Nikon, I mostly used shutter priority.  So that’s what I set the new camera to.  I was less than pleased with the first photos I took that day.

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Western Meadowlark

I headed over to Owlville in Los Lunas.  I had heard there were lots of Burrowing Owls nesting there this year.  I wasn’t disappointed either – I saw lots of owls.  They are located right next to the road, so you can get pretty close sitting in your car.  I played with the settings in my camera and my results were better.  It was a lot of fun watching these little owls.  It was early in the morning and the owls were very sleepy still.

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Burrowing Owl snoozing in the morning sun

They seemed to be having a hard time waking up.  🙂

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Big yawn!

I just never seem to be able to get enough owl photos to satisfy me.  They just make me smile.

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Love this expression.

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This one was a little more alert than the others.

Then I saw one on a bush.  I think this made for wonderful photos.  I really like the bokeh with my new setup.

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I’m impressed with the details in the feathers with this new setup. 

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Burrowing Owl

I then headed to Belen to the Taco Bell marsh.  When you shoot there, you are looking toward the sun – always a challenge to get good photos in those conditions.  I was pretty pleased with how the camera performed though still disappointed in the end results.  I just couldn’t figure out how to set this camera.  It has a very complicated menu system that is not intuitive.

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Killdeer

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Black-Necked Stilt

As I was leaving the marsh, I saw someone had created a track that goes to the other side of the marsh.  Seeing as I own a Jeep Wrangler, I was pretty confident I could drive on this sandy track and be ok.  I knew if I got to the other side, the sun would be behind me making more perfect conditions for photos.  And I wasn’t disappointed!  I saw this Cinnamon Teal right away.  Beautiful!

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Cinnamon Teal

I then saw this Morning Dove fly in looking for nesting materials.

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Mourning Dove

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Getting some nesting material. 

I then headed to a rookery I had recently heard about (thanks to my friend Joe!).  Here the lighting was low due to all the shade trees.

As soon as I got there, I saw a Cattle Egret in the tree right above me trying to get just the right stick for its nest.  I was amazed at how well this bird balanced itself on that skinny limb.

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Cattle Egret

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It took some skill to walk on that limb.

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Of course it wanted the stick on the very end LOL!

While photographing this egret, the owner of the home came out.  We visited for a while, and then he invited me into the yard to get a closer look.  Wow!  He was very kind and you could tell he enjoyed having the annual visitors.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Snowy Egret

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The owner leaves some of the fallen sticks on the ground for the birds to use.  This Cattle Egret was taking advantage of this bounty. 

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This is just one small view of the trees in this yard.  Look at all those nests! 

The owner told me about a Sharp-Shinned Hawk next door.  It was deep in the canopy and my camera was struggling to get a focus.  So I put the camera in manual focus and was pleased with how easy it was to change the settings and focus on the bird.

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I was still trying to shoot on Shutter Priority.  While I like these images, I still think this camera could do much better.  I know it’s all user error.

My next stop was in Santa Fe.  I had to deliver some supplies to a job site there, so I visited the Randall Davey Audubon Center.  I walked the trail behind the center that follows a steam in the woods.  I immediately spotted warblers!  I love warblers but they are a big challenge to photograph – especially with a new camera!

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Black-Throated Gray Warbler

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Grace’s Warbler

I spent a little time in the gardens of the center.  I was really challenged trying to focus on my subjects.  I just couldn’t figure out the settings for center focus.

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Pine Siskin

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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Mountain Chickadee

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

I could see I still needed to practice and learn this camera.

My next outing I went to check on the owls at Academy School.  I haven’t been there in weeks.   I figured that baby might have left the nest by now.  He had, but he was still hanging out in the same tree.  I think he needs to grow into those feet!

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Great Horned Owl

At my home I got more practice with my camera.  Lots of good stuff showing up this spring!

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Lesser Goldfinch

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House Finch in gorgeous breeding plumage

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Black-Throated Gray Warbler – the second year in a row it has come to my home

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Plumbeous Vireo

Remember that Mountain Bluebird I saved last December?  Well, he’s doing fine and is nesting with his lovely lady this spring.  I love the photo I got of her, but I just couldn’t get a decent photo of him.

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Mountain Bluebird – female

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Mountain Bluebird – male

I made a brief stop at Kit Carson park to find the owls there.  I had heard about them, but hadn’t had a chance to go by.  I found one adult and one baby.  The baby had left the nest and was way up high hiding well within the canopy.  So well I couldn’t get a decent photo.  But one of the parents was nicely out in the open.

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Great Horned Owl

My last outing was to the Cienega Trail on the east side of the Sandias.  It was a cold and cloudy morning.  Very low light conditions.  By this time I had switched to Aperture Priority.  I was much happier with the results.  I also learned I can set a maximum ISO when on Auto ISO.  This is great because I know I can control the amount of noise in my low-light photos.    I think these low-light photos are much better than what I would have gotten with my Nikon.

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Mountain Chickadee

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Hairy Woodpecker

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Spotted Towhee

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Chipping Sparrow

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Say’s Phoebe

So all in all I’m much happier with my new gear.  I know I have lots to learn, but I think I’m off to a good start!

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Not sure what this little guy is…but he’s darn cute!  I saw him at the Cienega Trail parking area.