We’ve been getting a lot of nice monsoon rains in Albuquerque. Things have gotten really green for the desert. And it makes the morning temperatures really cool for hiking. I normally don’t hike any of the Petroglyph trails in the summer because they are just too hot even in the early morning.
Since it had really rained good Monday evening, I got up at 5:30 yesterday to drive out to the west mesa. I managed to hit the trail just before sunrise and just before moonset.
With the cool morning temps, several hot air balloons were flying over the mesa. At first they were off in the distance. But soon they were right over the Petroglyph trail above me. It’s always fun to see the balloons flying over Albuquerque.
To add to the flying balloons, the sky was full of beautiful clouds.
Soon the sun was starting to peek over the Sandia Mountains. I love how the clouds cause the rays of the sun to fan out. It just warms my soul.
I don’t usually like to have sun flares in my photos. But sometimes they are difficult to avoid. But for some reason I really liked the colorful flares in this photo.
Scarlett was having fun running up and down the trail. There were loads of bunny rabbits out in the desert scrub.
I have posted in the past about this trail and have shown many photos of the petroglyphs. This time I tried to find some I have posted before. But I don’t think I succeeded in that endeavor too well.
My favorite parts of the hike are when you get to the areas where there are loads of petroglyphs. It’s so much fun trying to find them on the many faces of the basalt rocks.
Another favorite area is at the end of the hike. You come upon a few rocks that are covered in hand prints. It’s amazing to see a hand print from someone over a 2,500 years ago!
I wonder if the people that had 6 fingers were considered special and were made shamans. I’ve noticed in many of the sites I’ve been to all over the southwest, that a lot of the handprints had 6 fingers.
A came across several millipedes in one area. I had never seen them before. It was so much fun trying to capture some images. I even touched one to get it to curl up.
I was surprised to find there were very few birds around. The morning was eerily bereft of birdsong. I had to search to find a few birds.
I came across a pretty white flower. When I looked inside, I saw a tiny green spider. It was a real challenge getting a photo of him!
Scarlett and I had a great morning walk. The trail was beautiful and the air was fresh. Nature was really showing off her best!
Yesterday I had to drive almost to Grants to meet a client. It was a cold, dreary day. On my way home I decided to stop in at Piedras Marcadas Petroglyphs so Scarlett and I could stretch our legs.
There weren’t any birds about, but there was an adorable, curious squirrel.
I crept closer hoping to get a better pic.
And closer still….. He let me take several photos before diving behind the rocks.
Just too darn adorable!
There were some hot air balloons up while I was hiking. One of them was landing behind the mesa. I took this pic just before it disappeared.
After working most of the day today, I managed to take a couple hours to hike and bird before sundown. I wasn’t sure what I would see being so late in the day. But surprisingly I saw few nice goodies.
Over the last few days we’ve had some cold, snowy weather. A couple days ago while in town, I took a photo of the Sandia Mountains. I love it when they are covered in clouds and snow.
Stormy Sandia Mountains
Thankfully today was more sunny and warmer. I first stopped in at a small park in Albuquerque to find a Western Screech Owl that has been seen there snoozing in a tree. Considering 90% of the trees in the park were too small for an owl, it was pretty easy to find him.
Western Screech Owl
Snoozin’ the day away
I love seeing owls in the wild. It’s always a real treat. After taking a few pics, I moved so as not to disturb him or draw attention to him from the other folks playing in the little park.
I then headed over to Willow Creek. I hadn’t been there in a while so it sounded like fun to go see what was about. On my way in to the park, I spied this Western Bluebird hunting for dinner.
As I was taking photos, he saw something on the ground and I managed to get a few shots of him getting a grub.
It was a good find, so he took off with it to enjoy at his leisure. Beautiful!
My favorite photo of the day
Along the trail I saw Lesser Goldfinches, White-Crowned Sparrows, House Finches and Spotted Towhees. All of these birds were too shy to have their photo taken. But there were a lot of American Robins about. They were much more cooperative.
There’s one point on the trail that affords a great view of the Sandias. I took this pic there. You can see there’s still snow about half way up the mountain.
To my delight I spied a Red-Tailed Hawk that was looking for a meal. Such a beautiful bird! And look at those claws!
Just before leaving I saw a Say’s Phoebe looking for dinner.
He too found something to eat and quickly took off with it.
That’s about it for my short afternoon walks. But any time hiking, birding and doing photography is a time well spent.
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 🙂
The Tularosa Basin Gallery is located in a unique old building.
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.
Beautiful setting for dinner
Warren (gallery owner) is standing and the New Mexico Magazine staff are seated.
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.
Edge of Valley of Fires
Trail through Valley of Fires
You couldn’t walk very easily through this valley without the trail.
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.
I think the main drawing is a roadrunner catching a snake
I love how this drawing is peeking out from the rocks.
Big Horn Sheep, Antelope, and Wolf Print among others
Some of the drawings were quite detailed. Real works of art.
This looks like a man in the fetal position.
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.
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.
Our last day of vacation. It has been an amazing trip. It had been a long time since we had been on a trip together for this many days. The road trip was a great way to spend quality time together. When you spend hours in a car, you have a lot of undivided attention. I highly recommend road trips over flying. You have everything at your disposal, and you get to see so much of our beautiful country. There’s so much out there to explore and experience.
The drive home was mostly uneventful. We could have taken the interstate home pretty much the whole way. But instead we decided to drive the highways that skirted along the northern border of Arizona. By doing this we drove along the southern edge of Monument Valley. You could see many of the formations off in the distance. The geology along the highway had a lot of its own unique formations.
Unique formations along the edge of Monument Valley
After driving several hours, we started heading south to I40. Looking at the map, I realized we were going to go right by Canyon de Chelly National Monument (pronounced day shay). This canyon has been occupied by Native Americans and Anasazi uninterrupted for the last 5000 years.
We didn’t have time to explore down in the canyon. But we had enough time to drive to several overlooks. I have wanted to see Canyon de Chelly for a long time. I’ve known several people that have visited there, and they always said how beautiful it was.
And it was beautiful! The day was overcast, which is actually perfect for photographing a landscape that has deep canyons, shadows and lots of sandstone. Each overlook provided a different view of the long canyon.
Last selfie of the trip 🙂
The Navajos live and farm in the bottom of the canyon.
I would have loved to take a horseback ride along the bottom of the canyon.
At the upper end of the canyon there were ruins left behind by the Anasazi. They were way down in the bottom of the canyon.
I zoomed in with my birding lens to get a closer view of the ruins.
If you look closely, there are petroglyphs on the flat face of the cliff between the upper and lower houses. I can only imagine how they hung there to do carve those thousands of years ago!
I loved the effects of the staining on the canyon cliffs.
Unique stains and another cliff house near the bottom
We walked along the edges of the overlooks. It’s a long way down to the bottom! Tim enjoyed the views. Anyone that knows my husband knows he doesn’t smile big very often. I was thrilled to get this photo of him smiling! 🙂
Big happy smile! I love my handsome husband!
On the way out we saw several of the local horses free grazing along the top of the canyon. I loved the markings on this gray Appaloosa.
I liked the white eyelashes on this horse. Gave it a unique appearance.
I’ve never seen a horse with white eyelashes, blue eyes and black eyeliner! Unique!
But my favorite was this young Palomino. It posed nicely for me! A great end to our trip!
I loved this photo! I love capturing the beauty of life!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my fabulous 20th Anniversary Trip. Thank you so much for coming along!
A couple weeks ago I hiked the Tree Spring Trail on the east side of the Sandia Mountains. The day was positively gorgeous! I had originally intended to just hike a mile in or so to see the wildflowers and just enjoy a nice morning hike. But the weather was so nice and Scarlett and I felt good, so we just kept going until we reached the top.
As soon as I started hiking the trail I saw a House Wren busily searching the forest floor for goodies. He didn’t seem to mind me and posed very nicely for a photo. What a great way to start a hike!
There weren’t as many flowers as I thought there would be, but there were enough to attract some butterflies. Most of them wouldn’t land long enough for a photo, but I managed to get a few decent shots. One of the flowers I love to see is this one below. I love the colors of it. But don’t take a sniff! It stinks!!!
About halfway up the trail, I came across an area that had lots of birds. Most of them were high in the canopy, but I managed to capture a few of them.
Further up the trail, it opens up to a rocky outcropping. The cactus were blooming nicely, so I made Scarlett pose 🙂
Back in the dense forest, a patch of wild irises were blooming nicely. I took my time to get some nice photos as the background lent itself well for closeup photography.
Soon we were at the top. Yay!! We hiked 2.5 miles to the top and it was nice to sit and enjoy the view and cool air at close to 10,000 feet in elevation.
You can see Scarlett up ahead behind the juniper. Silly Girl!
View of Albuquerque from the top of the Sandia Mountains
Heading back down, the insects were more active with the warmer weather. I got this interesting looking bee. He was FAST! So I had a hard time getting a sharp photo. This was my best one of the bunch. But I think it looks like a lion 🙂
I managed to capture a few butterflies on the way back.
Marine Blue – I like the little bee flying by in the background 🙂
While hiking Scarlett kept wanting to eat grass. She must have had a sour stomach. I kept telling her not to eat it. I thought she was listening to me, but then I caught her red-handed! or should I say red-pawed 😉
Later in the week I met up with a new friend I met through this blog. Stephanie and her friend Peggy were visiting here from Illinois, and Stephanie wanted to know where some good birding spots were to see some local birds. Check out her blog inmyeyes77.wordpress.com
Me and Stephanie
I offered to take her out to my favorite spot in the mountains…Capulin Spring. She loved it! Right as we were walking up, we saw a Western Tanager. It doesn’t get much better than that! Most of the birds she saw were lifers for her. We had a great time there.
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird gathering nesting material
On the way back I next took them to Cienega campground. We hiked along the stream and she saw a few more new birds. We had great fun together. Just before leaving, I heard a MacGillivray’s Warbler. I managed to find it and we got to see him singing from the top of the snag. A great way to end a bird outing.
A couple days later I met up with Stephanie and her friend Peggy again. I took them to the Piedras Marcadas petroglyphs. I was hopeful they would enjoy the rock art and see some more variety of new birds for them. And we weren’t disappointed! I brought Scarlett along on this trip as they were disappointed not to meet her the other day.
I was upset with myself though because I forgot to turn on the optical vibration reduction on my camera as I had turned it off the day before. So my photos weren’t very sharp on this trip. 🙁
Scarlett intently watching the jackrabbit
I hope someday to visit Stephanie on her home ground to see her favorite birding spots.
My next hike was at Four Hills / Manzano Open Space. I had hoped to see the Gray Vireo that’s been spotted nesting there. But no luck on that visit. But I did see a very cooperative Black-Throated Sparrow, which as you know is one of my most favorite birds.
Another bonus of the hike was a brief glimpse of a Scott’s Oriole. Beautiful bird! I got this shot at a distance. But when I tried getting closer he flew away.
The Cholla Cacti were blooming beautifully. I love their bright pink flowers.
Cholla cactus bloom
Scarlett enjoyed the early morning hike. Lots of rabbits running here and there.
My beautiful Scarlett
Around home has been very active with lots of babies being born. It’s been lots of fun finding the nests of the birds in my yard and hearing lots of babies begging for food.
House Finch enjoying the morning sun
But the biggest surprise was finding a Cooper’s Hawk nest in my yard. I only took one photo as it was very nervous of my finding it’s secluded location in the far corner of my 4 acres.
Cooper’s Hawk on nest
As you can see…I’ve really been enjoying the summer weather! I have discovered it’s much easier to sit and edit photos and write my blog in the winter by the fire with a cup of coffee. In the summertime, I’m wanting to be out exploring!
I guess I was still in a mood for petroglyphs. I never tire of finding them or specifically seeking them out for hikes. I try to imagine what the people were like that made the beautiful pictures on the rocks.
I had the afternoon free so decided to drive up to the southern end of Santa Fe to do a hike I hadn’t been on since March 2011.
Since I live in the mountains I don’t take the interstate to get to Santa Fe. Instead I take a two-lane winding highway that has a few interesting towns along the way.
My first sight while driving was a coyote that was on the side of the road. When he saw my car coming he ran up the hill a little ways. I couldn’t resist stopping and trying to get a photo before he disappeared into the high mountain desert.
As I continued driving I had hopes of seeing hawks. But none were out this time of day.
When I got to Madrid (pronounced mad dread) I saw a couple things that enticed me to stop and photograph them. This town is fun to walk and photograph when the weather is nicer and the shops put lots of interesting art things outside.
Now as I’ve said before and my friend Valerie teases me (inside joke there), I love to photograph horses. Who could resist photographing a winter horse?
Winter Horse - beautiful
The next town along the road is Cerrillos. This is where they filmed the Billy the Kid movie with Emilio Estevez called Young Guns. Another fun town to walk through in nice weather to see the old buildings.
This odd stick elk is right next to the highway. I’m not sure what the weird deer-like things are made of behind it, but I think they look creepy lol!
Stick Elk sculpture
I finally made it to my hiking destination, La Cieneguilla (pronounced see-en-neg-eea) Petroglyphs. Which means “small swamp”.
I remembered this dead juniper tree at the start of the hike that had been filled with old rusty cans and such. It was a unique sight. The Junk Tree is what the locals call it. I thought it would be fun to photograph this tree again since now I’m a much better photographer.
Sadly much of the tree was gone and all the odds and ends had been taken out of the remains. I was disappointed and sad. I love seeing unique things to photograph.
I dug through my older photos and found the original photo I took back in March 2011. I don’t think I did too badly 🙂
This hike is nothing like the petroglyph hikes in Albuquerque. There you walk along the base of the basalt Mesa and the drawings are all along your hike. The trails are very easy with little to no climbing.
This trail is the exact opposite. The only way to see these drawings is to climb up to them. It can be a very technical hike as the trail isn’t very clear as you scramble up the basalt boulders trying not to twist an ankle.
As the temperatures have been staying quite low there was still snow in the shady areas of the boulders making it even more difficult to follow the trail.
But Scarlett and I did pretty good. She followed the trail by smelling where other people have walked. It helped a lot!
We finally came upon the petroglyphs. Not as many here as the trails in Albuquerque but still interesting.
We have this bright lime green lichen that grows on the shady sides of rocks. I’m always fascinated by the color. It looks painted.
Bright green lichen
The view from the top of this hike was very pretty with the snow on the Sangre de Cristo mountains behind Santa Fe.
Santa Fe Baldy peak covered in snow
I’ve hiked to the top of Santa Fe Baldy twice…very tough hike. Twice is more than enough for this girl!
Scarlett and I came across a shallow cave. She had to run up there and check it out right away.
My skinny puppy girl
The daylight was fading so it was time to head home. And I realized I went a whole afternoon of hiking and didn’t photograph one bird. Kinda sad huh?
There’s one other small town I drive through on this highway. It’s called Golden. There’s this old historic church there. I have often wanted to photograph it. But sadly the locals keep it locked up tight. You usually can just see it on a hill from the highway. But on the way home this day I realized the gate to the driveway was open. So I took a chance and drove up the hill.
The gates at the entrance of the churchyard were closed with a video monitored no trespassing sign. So I had to content myself with taking photos from there. The light was fading fast. So I did the best I could. I think they came out ok. I tried to be artistic 😉
San Francisco de Asis built 1839
Maybe someday I will get a chance to go inside this church. I’m sure it’s gorgeous with vigas and Spanish influenced decorations.
Scarlett and I enjoyed our afternoon hike. Hopefully the weather will stay nice for awhile and we can get out some more. And hopefully see lots of birds next time!
We are definitely in an El Nino weather pattern. We have seen lots of rain and snow this winter so far and no sign of it letting up anytime soon. Plus the temperatures have been low…even in Albuquerque. So it’s been difficult for me to get out hiking and birding. I especially don’t want to venture out early in the morning.
But I did manage to get out yesterday for a couple hours in the afternoon. I had heard there were Brewer’s sparrows at the Rinconada Petroglyphs area west of Albuquerque. This would be a new bird for me. The last posted sighting was over a week ago so I wasn’t sure if it would still be in the area. But I was willing to go as I had never hiked this trail before so it would be some new scenery.
The forecast said over 50% chance of snow or rain. And all around me the weather was ominous.
Sandia Mountains mostly covered in clouds
I decided to hike the trail backwards and go through the open sagebrush area first instead of hiking along the basalt Mesa where the petroglyphs are located. I figured I had a better chance of finding the sparrows in the foliage.
My first sparrow sighting was the Sagebrush Sparrow. I have only just seen these birds for the first time recently. So it was a real treat to see them again.
Continuing along the trail I saw one juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow (WCS) . Which was a shame as I understand a lot of migratory sparrows will flock with the WCS while wintering here.
Getting closer to the basalt Mesa I saw a large flock of Black-Throated Sparrows. I just love these birds. I think they are beautiful and they are usually not afraid of people. Making it easy to watch them and get some nice pics. They have a pretty voice too.
Black-Throated Sparrow - this one was cold
I finally made it to the petroglyphs. There were a few nice specimens but I felt the Piedras Marcadas trail is much better with a lot more specimens and you are able to climb the basalt Mesa there. This trail has a fence keeping you solely on the trail.
Some kind of duck
These look like fluffy antelope 🙂
Self portrait perhaps?
I saw a couple rocks with dates on them. This one was the most legible. It was carved into this rock almost 100 years ago.
Among the petroglyphs I saw six or so Canyon Towhee.
And a roadrunner ran across my path up into the rocks. He then stopped and fluffed up. Maybe trying to make himself look bigger?
Still no sign of the Brewer’s sparrow. Off and on I’d see the Black-Throated Sparrows and briefly saw a Rock Wren. I also saw a Crissal Thrasher. I have only seen this bird once before. I got a terrible photo then. And got a terrible photo now too. He wouldn’t come out of the bush he was hiding in.
By now I’m almost to my car. I had despaired I wouldn’t see the sparrow today. The weather was turning much colder. The weak sun had disappeared behind some ominous clouds. I could see it was snowing all along I40 so it was going to be fun driving through the canyon to get home.
Then I spied a bird quite a distance away in the top of a bush. I took a photo….zoomed it in to inspect…and what did I see? A Brewer’s Sparrow! Success! Not the best photo but I’m happy with it.
It was a great way to end the hike. Hopefully I can get out again soon. There are other birds out there being seen that I don’t have on my list!
My plans for the day to go thrift shopping with a friend fell through last minute. So even though it was a cloudy, dreary day, I decided to go for a long hike. My dog Liela hasn’t been on a walk much lately so she was begging to go out. Trying to avoid the light rain surrounding the Albuquerque area, I remembered a great easy hike on the west mesa that is part of the Petroglyphs National Monument.
So camera and dog loaded in the Jeep, I headed across town. I wasn’t sure if I would see many birds as I chose the worst time of day (1:30 pm) to go birding. But because it was overcast, I guess the bird activity was better than usual at that time.
I heard a lot of Rock Wrens (wrens are my favorite) in the area singing away. They know spring is edging out winter. I was lucky to have a curious one get fairly close to me. Got several great pics.
It was nice to explore the petroglyphs. I never seem to tire of them. If you look close, you’ll see some of the hands have 6 fingers. Interesting…
I also saw a pair of Northern Flickers that must be building a nest among the rocks. They kept hanging out around this one big boulder way up on the hillside. I managed to get somewhat close to get a photo.
And there was a Say’s Phoebe hanging out managing to find a few insects for lunch.
Liela was going crazy seeing lots of squirrels and jackrabbits. She just loves to chase critters! But I wouldn’t let her go and she was not happy about that. Bunnies got to live another day. I was happy to get a shot of the jackrabbit. I usually just see them from behind lol!
All in all, it was nice to get out and get some fresh air and see some sights and birds. Never a bad day when I’m out in nature!