After getting all rested up after hiking The Wave the day before, I was ready for my next tour. I hired a tour company to take me to a remote slot canyon that required true 4WD to get there. The road there must have had 2 feet of very soft sand that I would have definitely not felt comfortable to drive.
We finally arrived at Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon. Right off the bat it was just beautiful!
Scarlett loved it because it was shady and cool and she liked running up ahead and racing back through the narrow slot. I got her to slow down enough for a photo op.
The tour guide was amazing. He was very patient and knowledgeable in photographing slot canyons. The best part was that he would help me frame up a shot and then help me with the manual settings to capture the moment with the best possible light.
Sometimes the canyon was very narrow and sometimes it would widen up. I loved how it changed with each curve.
One of my favorite spots of the canyon was photographing this big log. I loved having this focal point in the photo.
Here’s some other photos I took during the tour.
Too soon we reached the end of the slot canyon. A Western Whiptail had fallen into the canyon and was in deep shade. It was so cool in the shade that he was very still. This enabled me to take a few fun photos. Afterwards I picked him up and carried him to a sunny area. He woke up then!!!
After the tour I realized I had plenty of time to drive to Zion National Park and do a hike for evening photos. I had picked out a hike that is not well known. I wanted to hike a trail that wasn’t crowded by loads of tourists. The trail is called Lower Pine Creek Waterfall Trail. It isn’t listed on any of the park maps so most tourists don’t know it exists.
To get there I had to drive the famous park highway. It’s a very scenic drive with lots of places that make you want to stop for photos.
At one stop there were loads of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. I didn’t have my zoom lens with me, but they were so close it didn’t matter!
The trail was short but beautiful. It headed into a narrow canyon along Lower Pine Creek. I arrived at the trailhead just before sunset. I was hoping to get some nice golden hour/blue hour photos.
Scarlett was thrilled to have water to play in. We had to cross the creek several times. We also had to scramble over large boulders.
There were several nice spots to take photos.
The trail was supposed to end with a beautiful waterfall. I had seen photos of this waterfall and was really looking forward to photographing it. However, this past winter was a very wet winter and all the creeks in the park were way up.
I got to this huge pond in the creek just before the waterfall. It was at least 6 feet deep. Too deep to cross and keep my camera gear dry! Sadly I had to turn around without seeing the waterfall (which was literally just around the corner from this pond).
As I was heading out I heard all of the Bighorn Sheep coming down to the creek for a drink. They were bleating loudly to each other. I looked and looked but never saw a one even though I could hear they were very close.
This is my last installment of my Alaska trip. It has been fun writing this blog series on my trip. I had forgotten all the wonderful birds and sights I had seen while there.
On one of the days, I hitched a ride with one of the owners to go into town. I knew of a couple of ponds that looked promising for bird sightings. When I arrived I was not disappointed! My first sighting was of a Wilson’s Phalarope. I love these little birds.
I soon saw a Glaucous Gull – a lifer for me!
Then to my delight I saw a pair of Red-Throated Loons (another lifer!). I got to watch them do a mating dance together. So much fun!
Also at the pond were several pairs of Artic Terns (lifer!). They loved hanging out on an old piece of mining equipment. They were so tame I was able to get very close to them for photos.
While birding at the ponds, another birder drove up and stopped to talk to me. It was obvious he was a birder by all the high dollar camera equipment in his car!
He was specifically looking for the Slaty-Backed Gull. The Nome area is known for this rarely sighted bird. I told him I hadn’t seen one but I had only been there for a short time. He glanced around, seemed disappointed in what was there to see and drove off down the highway.
To my delight and his loss, not long after that two Slaty-Backed Gulls flew overhead. They were there then gone. I barely got a photo but I did. Lifer!
After that excitement I decided to cross the highway to walk along the beach and see what might be about. I saw a Common Raven eating some kind of shorebird. He posed briefly for a nice portrait photo.
Then a Ruddy Turnstone came walking by me. I followed him for some time taking lots of photos. The thing I’ve noticed about the birds in this area is their lack of fear of people. It’s a wonderful thing for a birder!
Also on the beach was a Glaucous-Winged Gull.
Back at camp I was excited to see it was King Crab for dinner. Yum!!! They get them live in town and butcher them in camp. I kinda of felt sorry for the crab…well, no I didn’t.
Here’s me holding up my dinner. You can see some of the gold mining equipment behind me. I have to say, the entire time at the gold camp I looked like crap. Ah well! I was too busy having fun outside to take time to do my hair or makeup.
While checking out the crab another lifer showed up for scraps. A Mew Gull.
While the husbands were busy searching for gold, one of the camp helpers took the wives out sightseeing. I’m so glad they offered that because otherwise I would not have seen some of the beautiful sights within the area.
The first place we visited was called “The Trains to Nowhere”. These trains were brought in to haul gold from the hills back in the late 1800s. When the gold played out, they brought the trains down to shore to take them away. But for some reason they decided not to ship the trains back to their originating destination. So for the last 100+ years they have sat on the shore of the Bering Sea rusting away. I thought they were very picturesque!
While driving there we passed by a large patch of Fireweed. These flowers are so pretty. They are also tasty. The locals make Fireweed jelly and it’s delicious.
I also had some opportunities to photograph the coastline again.
While driving down there, the girls knew I was looking for any birds. They were helpful in seeing some of the sea birds hanging out in the bays. I got another lifer here – a Common Eider. The birds were quite a distance away, but I managed to get a good enough photo to identify them.
Another trip we took was to Teller, Alaska. It’s about a 75-mile drive there on a lonely dirt road. It took us almost 3 hours to get there. It is a tiny little town on the Bering Sea inhabited by about 100 Eskimos. We went there to see if they had any of their art for sale. We were told you could get some nice handmade items for a fair price. It was to be the only shopping I did on the entire trip.
The drive was very picturesque. We went from sunny, to rainy, to snow to sun again. Crazy weather. I got a nice full rainbow after one of the spells of rain.
We also crossed several large rivers. So much water! I’m not used to that living in New Mexico.
We arrived in Teller and it was a miserable day. But it was worth the trip to meet the locals and buy beautiful handmade items directly from the artist. The people there were very friendly.
On the way back we stopped at the bridge crossing the Sinuk River to see if there were any bears feeding on the running salmon. No bears but I got another lifer! A Green Sandpiper!
The whole time I was there in Nome, everyone but me had seen the Rock Ptarmigans in the area. I was so upset that I hadn’t seen any. This would be a lifer bird for me.
Can you believe on the trip home from Teller, which was my last day in Nome, I finally saw a Rock Ptarmigan! Yay!
All the while I was birding and sightseeing, Tim was busy hunting for gold. When I got back to camp, he had me follow him to a hole he had been digging. It was 4 feet deep! Sadly no gold in this whole.
While my husband was looking good digging for gold, this was me. LOL! Do I look tired or what!?!
But he did find gold on the trip. Here’s a pic of him with his nuggets. He found the most gold that week at camp. He was pretty happy.
Here’s a picture we took on the plane. Admiring his gold!
Sadly we had to head home. As we were flying out of Nome I got a beautiful sunset from the plane.
As we flew into Albuquerque, we were greeted by the summer monsoon rains as we headed for the hot summer days in New Mexico.
I hope you enjoyed my adventures in Alaska. It was a fun trip for us!
The next day we flew to Nome to stay at a gold camp in the hills above the town. The terrain here is way different than Anchorage. No majestic mountains or old forests. Just rolling hills and tundra along the Bering Sea. That’s not to say it isn’t beautiful, quite the opposite.
We arrived with several other visitors to the gold camp. Getting everything in the van (including ourselves) was a real challenge.
We arrived mid-day so we had lots of time to settle in and then get out and explore. This far north in the summertime, it only gets dark a few hours a night. So at 8 o’clock it seemed like noon.
We each had a our own ATV to explore. We quickly headed out – Tim to find gold and me to find birds! It didn’t take long for me to find some lifers. It looks flat and uninhabited but there were birds everywhere!
While I birded I saw my husband Tim busily searching for gold with his metal detector.
I would call out “I got another lifer!”
He was still searching for gold…
“Wow! Another lifer!” I exclaimed
Tim was still searching….
“There are so many birds! I got another lifer!” I cheered
Hmmmm….Tim finally got a gold nugget! I was so happy for him!
We were having a great time! The day was warm and sunny. Soon we started getting tired and headed back for dinner and some sleep. The sun didn’t set until 2:30 am and was up again by 6 am.
The next day was another beautiful sunny day. Tim went off with some other guys to hunt for gold along a river. I stayed at camp and happily birded. I’m not very adventurous riding an ATV, and it sounded like a challenging drive for the guys.
This day turned out to be one of my best birding days of the trip. I birded for hours and saw so many species of birds. Some new ones and some old friends.
One of my favorite sightings was of a Northern Waterthrush. He was very curious and a great singer! I have seen this bird once before and only had a terrible photo. This time I got so many good photos! And he got so close to me I had to back up to get any photos.
Another exciting sighting for me was the Bohemian Waxwings. There was a whole flock of them feeding at a small pond. They didn’t seem to mind me at all. It was so much fun watching them dart out to get a bug and then land again to look for another. Such a stunning bird!
While at the pond with the waxwings, I noticed a Semipalmated Plover. And to my delight it had two babies that looked like they had only recently hatched.
At another little pond nearby I saw a phalarope. It took me awhile to identify it as it was clearly a juvenile. But I finally realized it was a Red-Necked Phalarope – another lifer!
I loved exploring the little ponds. So unique and so much bird life.
I especially loved the little flowers that looked like something from Whoville 🙂
Something large caught my eye flying overhead. I quickly headed over to where I thought I saw it land. As I approached I heard a hawk giving warning calls to me. To my delight I saw it was another lifer for me. A Rough-Legged Hawk – and it had 2 babies!!!
I never did get very good photos of the adults. But I got some great photos of the babies. I was lucky to see them because within the next day or so they had fledged and left the nest never to be seen again.
While exploring the area I came across a big male Muskox. I had heard not to get too close as they can be very dangerous. Thankfully I had my 800mm lens and could get a decent photo without it knowing I was doing so.
I definitely had a wonderful day exploring. So many bird sightings and beautiful scenery.
One day Tim and I drove our ATVs into Nome. I’d never been to the Bering Sea before and was dying to take some photos. It’s not a very picturesque beach like so many out there. But I still found it beautiful.
One of my favorite photos of the trip I took just outside of Nome. It is a preserved gold mining dredge. Such wonderful lighting at midnight 🙂
I hope you enjoyed all of my photos of the great birds and scenery I saw. Stay tuned for Part 3. Lots more to come!
While in San Antonio last June, I visited the Japanese Tea Garden. It’s not a very big place, but it’s very unique. This site was initially a limestone quarry that opened in 1840. Many of the buildings in San Antonio during that time were built with the stone from this quarry.
Entrance to the gardens
In 1880 it was changed to a cement quarry. At this time a kiln was added to the site, which still stands today.
Old kiln door
Kiln stack and buildings
Such unique craftsmanship
Living quarters for the laborers
More openings for the kiln
By 1917 the cement plant had shut down. The City Parks department of San Antonio launched a program to convert the old quarry into a Japanese Tea Garden. Prison labor was used to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda.
Restored pagoda, gardens and pond
What a wonderful idea for an old quarry.
In 1919, at the city’s invitation, Kimi Elzo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden. Him and his wife maintained the garden, lived in the garden and raised 8 children. Kimi died in 1938 and in 1941 the family was evicted from the garden due to the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II.
Arched path built by prison labor
Such beautiful landscaping
Bridge to the kiln stack.
The Japanese Tea House up above.
For years the garden sat in neglect and disrepair, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism. In 2005 the city started restoration on the pagoda-like pavilion.
The roof was rebuilt in 2005.
In 2007 restoration began to restore the ponds and waterfall.
View from the pagoda
Path to the waterfall.
I loved the waterfall!
All work was completed by 2011. The Jingu family members still alive returned for the public re-opening. In recognition of the garden’s history, it has been designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, a registered Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Walkway from the gardens to the zoo nearby
I am so glad this precious gem of history has been saved and has been restored to its previous glory. It was a wonderful place to visit. So peaceful and beautiful.
I loved walking these paths
If I lived here, I would visit often!
Scarlett enjoyed touring the walkways as well. She was curious of the Koi fish and they looked like they were just as curious.
Scarlett was fascinated by the curious koi 🙂
I love the colorful koi fish
I’m so glad I decided to visit the gardens. I would have been sad if I had never taken the time to see such beauty that has been restored to its former glory.
At the end of May I drove my mom back to San Antonio so we could get her house cleaned up to sell. I stayed for about 2 weeks. Summertime in Texas is HOT and HUMID. Ugh! Because of this, there weren’t very many birds about during the dog days of summer. All of the migrants were gone leaving only the local birds.
In order not to die while birding, I got up at 6 am every morning to head out before it got to 100 degrees. Yikes! I drove to several locations during my stay. I found the best opportunities for birds was if I visited the small lakes all around San Antonio.
On of my favorite birding spots I discovered was Live Oak Lake in Live Oak, Texas. It was only about 7 miles from mom’s house. It had a nice path all the way around the lake. Believe me, you don’t want to wander off path into the grasses there. That lake was loaded with snakes!
They even had signs saying so!
I thought it was a joke until I saw this!
Needless to say, I tread carefully wherever I went. Yikes!
The resident Northern Mockingbird greeted me when I pulled into the parking lot. I have never found a shy Mockingbird.
Live Oak Lake is home to lots of herons and egrets. They are used to people walking around the lake, so they just seemed to ignore me and go about their business…as evidenced by this Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. He caught a monster crawdad!
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
While I was photographing him, he quickly lunged and came up with the huge crawdad!
It’s like the size of a lobster!
There was a juvenile looking on with envy…
Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
There lots of Green Herons about. In Albuquerque I’m lucky to come across one here and there. But at this lake, there were so many they constantly chased each other trying to keep a preferred fishing spot to themselves.
Checking me out 🙂
Needed a better look LOL!
The resident Great Egret was fishing along the edge of the lake. I saw him intent on something in front of him.
Then all of a sudden he lunged! Fortunately I managed to get a great pic of him diving for his prey. Sadly, he missed on that attempt and decided to move to a different part of the lake for better luck fishing.
Great Egret fishing
There was a pair of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks watching all the goings on around the lake. I think they are beautiful waterfowl.
Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks
The Muscovy Ducks had some babies while I was gone for several weeks. I saw this one mother with a huge brood!
All the while I’m photographing birds, Scarlett was kicked back relaxing and watching all the people and birds.
And Squirrels!!! She was on high alert when she spotted the squirrels!
Scarlett keeping a sharp eye on the squirrel nearby.
The squirrels kept on eye on her as well.
Staring contest between the squirrel and Scarlett
There were some other small birds about. But overall it was pretty quiet for them. So I ventured over to Converse Lake. It’s a more wild lake. You pretty much can only walk along one edge of the lake. The rest of it is overgrown. Because of this, the smaller birds tend to hang out here more. I got 2 lifers at this lake!!! A Rusty Blackbird and a Couch’s Kingbird.
The Mute Swan I saw last time I visited was joined by his lady and their two new babies. Adorable! I’d never seen baby swans before.
Mute Swan male
Mute Swan female and babies
Here are some of the other small birds I saw around this lake.
Black-Crested Titmouse enjoying a bird drip fountain
Brown-Headed Cowbird female and male
While photographing the little birds, I heard a commotion behind me. I looked across the open field and saw a Red-Tailed Hawk had caught a White-Winged Dove. Surprisingly a Northern Mockingbird harassed the hawk until it took its breakfast elsewhere.
Red-Tailed Hawk being attacked by a Northern Mockingbird
One delight while visiting Converse Lake was that the water lilies were in full bloom. Just beautiful!
One of my favorite photos of the visit
One thing I noticed about San Antonio is that there is a huge population of Black Vultures. These birds are huge and were everywhere I went in great numbers.
Must be tasty as a squabble broke out over it
There are always lots of White-Tailed Deer around the San Antonio parks. I really liked this photo I took of a doe enjoying the wildflower field.
There were a few other blooming flowers about, but not many as San Antonio was experiencing a drought.
Honey bee enjoying the clover blooms
This squirrel appreciated the water put out for the birds.
While driving around, I came across this sign. I had to turn around to take a picture. Don’t you wonder how this creek was named???
One morning I arrived well before sunrise. I came across this Little Blue Heron fishing. I loved the colors and lighting of this photo.
Little Blue Heron
It was nice getting out early every morning and seeing some fun bird sightings. I actually got a 3rd lifer, but sadly my photo is just too poor to post. I saw a Brown Boobie. I never dreamed I would see this bird in San Antonio. It was a rare sighting indeed. Sadly, it was on the far side of a lake with no way to get closer. My lens just couldn’t get a clear pic, though the markings are clear enough to identify it for me. Someday I might see one to get a better photo! 🙂
This doe found a nice place to sit out the day’s heat
Over the past few weeks I’ve had a chance to get out and bird a time or two. I mostly went out to see some rare sightings that have shown up around town. I missed several, but managed to see a couple to add to my life list.
I visited Valle de Oro a couple times. I had heard there were a number of warblers there. It’s always fun to go find warblers, though my neck complains by the end of the day LOL!
When I arrived at Valle de Oro I saw a pair of coyotes out hunting. One disappeared right away, but the other stayed out long enough to let me get a few good pics.
As always, I saw several Western Meadowlarks out singing. I love their beautiful voice.
I walked along the main drainage ditch hoping to see some good birds. A scrub jay announced his presence.
Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
Then almost right away I heard a lot of birds singing. I just started taking pics of everything that moved. As you know, songbirds are small and fast!!! When I looked at the pics I was surprised to see a several birds I don’t see often. Mainly my nemesis, the Lazuli Bunting. Try my hardest, I can’t get a good pic of this bird.
Black-Throated Gray Warbler
I heard several Summer Tanagers singing. It’s amazing how a bright red bird can hide among green leaves. But they can just disappear! I only got a few pics and they weren’t very good. But I did see a Western Tanager female closer to me.
Western Tanager Female
I had been told where a Common Black Hawk’s nest was near the Valle de Oro. So I went on a 2-mile hike to find this beautiful bird. Once I was in the general location, I looked for the nest. I found it way up high in a cottonwood tree. There was no seeing if anything was in the nest. I waited around for a while and eventually heard the hawk calling from a distance. Then to my delight the bird flew in and landed near the nest. A lifer for me! At first I barely saw him as he was deep in the leaves.
Common Black Hawk
Eventually he moved to a better location for photos. This is a magnificent bird. From what I understand there are only about 250 breeding pairs in the US. They are easily disturbed by humans and are known to abandon nests if bothered too much. So after getting a few pics, I quietly left the area to let them raise their young undisturbed.
Common Black Hawk
On my way back I saw a flycatcher along the ditch. I believe it’s a Hammond’s Flycatcher.
Then I heard another bird calling that I only rarely hear – a Gray Catbird. Always a treat to see and hear! I only managed one pic and that was from behind.
While hiking along he ditch, I enjoyed the wild irises blooming.
While hiking at Valle de Oro I came across this interesting insect. I tried looking it up, but I can’t figure out what it is.
Not sure what this cute guy is….
I had heard about a very rare sighting in the East Mountain area that I just had to go find. There was a Golden-Winged Warbler sighted and it was practically in my back yard. After much searching I was rewarded with a short view of this bird. I took several photos before he disappeared into the deep brush. I managed to get a few decent pics. Another lifer!
While hiking there I was treated to some beautiful wild apple blossoms.
Wild apple tree blossoms
I visited the Rio Grande Nature Center. I hadn’t been there in a while, so it was a treat to see it in the springtime. Right away I heard a Yellow-Breasted Chat singing. I managed to find it in a tree on the island in the pond. So it was quite a distance away.
I also saw the resident roadrunners in the parking lot. Always fun to photograph!
While walking the paths, I heard some Summer Tanagers talking back and forth amongst each other. This time I had more success getting photos of the pair.
Summer Tanager male
Summer Tanager female
There were several Black-Chinned Hummingbirds visiting the feeders. Whenever there are several hummingbirds at a feeder, there’s always fights defending their food. For a tiny bird, they are fierce!
Uh oh! He sees another hummer coming for him!
Defending the feeder!
Here are some of the other birds I saw on my visit.
The gardens were beginning to bloom. The bees were happily gathering pollen.
Giant black bee
I was entertained by a resident White-Winged Dove that has become very tame. The gardeners told me his name was Lonesome Larry. He was so tame, he would take see from your hand. He stayed so close to me, that I barely got photos because my zoom lens had a hard time focusing on such a close subject. 🙂
Such beautiful coloring
I’ve been keeping an eye on a Red-Tailed Hawk’s nest not far from my house. When I visited recently, I saw the eggs have finally hatched. When I first looked, I thought there was only one baby. But the mother flew off the nest and I saw two babies!
Red-Tailed Hawk with babies
It’s been great getting out birding. It was nice to see all the summer birds returning to Albuquerque.
In mid-April I went to visit my parents in San Antonio, Texas. My dad had been getting weaker and weaker. I knew I needed to go see him sooner rather than later. Sadly, two days after I arrived he passed away. I’m so thankful I was able to visit him before he passed.
One of my favorite photos of me and my dad. My wedding day on October 18, 1996.
I wanted to dedicate this post to my dad. He always looked forward to reading about my adventures and looking at my photos.
I had taken Scarlett with me. She was upset when dad died at the house. And she was upset that mom and I were grieving. So to help her and me both cope with the loss, I got up early every morning to walk and bird. When I am out in nature, I find it a balm to my soul and a time to talk with the Lord.
There is a greenbelt near my parent’s home that I walk whenever I visit. The first morning I was there, I took a walk on the familiar trail. Since it was April, there were still a few Texas Bluebonnets blooming.
Scarlett walking in the greenbelt.
It was quiet for the most part, but I did find a couple of good birds. One bird was singing his heart out and it took me awhile to find him. Eventually I located him and was happy to see a White-Eyed Vireo.
A further ways down the trail, I saw a movement in a tree. To my delight it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk. He didn’t seem to mind me watching him hunt for breakfast. So I got lots of beautiful shots of this gorgeous bird.
Red-Shouldered Hawk as I first saw him.
He then moved to this great perch and posed nicely for me.
I love the beautiful color and pattern of the feathers on his wings.
Success getting some breakfast.
The next morning I went to a newly found spot called Lake Converse in Converse, Texas. It’s a pretty little park with a semi-wild lake. One of the first things I saw was a pair of Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings. I think they had hatched within 48 hours.
Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings
One of my favorite shots was of a Mute Swan. Such an elegant bird.
A lot of the birds preferred to stay on the far shore of the lake – really testing the limits of my long lens. I had hoped to get closer to the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, but no such luck.
This is the best photo I got of a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
As I walked around the lake, I saw quite a variety of birds. The air was filled with birdsong.
Clay-Colored Sparrow in the foreground and a Chipping Sparrow in the back.
Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Northern Cardinal with an inchworm
One special treat was a Martin House that was in use. Purple Martins were occupying most of the holes.
As I was leaving one day, I watched this Northern Mockingbird busy looking for insects. I watched him use his wings to try and flush out bugs.
Northern Mockingbird flushing out bugs
Another lake nearby called Live Oak Lake was another treasure for birds. It had a more park-like feel to it. It didn’t have as many birds, but was still a great place to visit. I got there very early one beautiful morning.
Black-Bellied Whistling Duck at dawn
Lake Converse at sunrise
There was a very tame Great Egret hoping for a free breakfast from a fisherman.
One a later visit that Great Egret was fishing along the lake shore. I thought it made for a beautiful photo op.