Alaska Birding, Sightseeing and Gold – Part 2

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.

The scenery in Nome was beautiful! I especially loved the Fireweed!

We arrived with several other visitors to the gold camp. Getting everything in the van (including ourselves) was a real challenge.

Tim trying hard to get the last suitcase in the van

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.

That’s the gold camp AKAU (Alaska Gold) at the top of the hill

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!

First bird sighting – Golden-Crowned Sparrow

While I birded I saw my husband Tim busily searching for gold with his metal detector.

Tim detecting for gold

I would call out “I got another lifer!”

Hoary Redpoll

He was still searching for gold…

Still searching….

“Wow! Another lifer!” I exclaimed

Common Redpoll

Tim was still searching….

Digging another target that wouldn’t be gold…

“There are so many birds! I got another lifer!” I cheered

Fox Sparrow

Hmmmm….Tim finally got a gold nugget! I was so happy for him!

Hard work getting gold – this hole had a little nugget!

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.

Sunset at 2:30 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.

Olive-Backed Pipit
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Not the best photo but the only photo I got of a lifer – Northern Shrike
Least Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Another lifer! Arctic Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler

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.

Northern Waterthrush

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!

Another lifer! Bohemian Waxwing

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.

Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover juvenile

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!

Red-Necked Phalarope

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 🙂

Whoville flowers 🙂

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.

Rough-Legged Hawk juveniles

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.

Muskox

I definitely had a wonderful day exploring. So many bird sightings and beautiful scenery.

I drove to the top of one of the hills on my cute red ATV. Epic 360 degree views!

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.

Bering Sea
The sand in the foreground is very unique – it’s crushed garnets! You can believe I brought home a little bottle of it!

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 🙂

Nome Dredge

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!



Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge

A couple of weeks ago I had to go to Las Vegas, New Mexico, for work. I decided to take a little time to see what might be at the local refuge. It was a cold, windy day so I wasn’t too hopeful of much being around.

Most of the small birds were hiding from the wind. There were a few Western Meadowlarks about but definitely weren’t interested in getting their picture taken.

Western Meadowlark

With the cold wind, the Canada and Cackling Geese were hiding out in a low-lying pond. You don’t usually see these two species hanging out with each other. While we have difficulty distinguishing the two species, they definitely know who’s who!

Canada and Cackling Geese

In the distance I saw several Northern Harrier’s searching for lunch.

Northern Harrier

What was out and not shy at all were Red-Tailed Hawks. They were all juveniles. Such beautiful birds! And they let me get close and take as many photos as I wanted. What could be better than that!?!

Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk

This particular hawk had already been successful getting something to eat as you can see dried blood on his feet.

Red-Tailed Hawk

While photographing that hawk, some Morning Dove came in looking all fearful of the hawk nearby.

Mourning Dove

Nothing much else at the refuge. But as I was driving down the country road back to Las Vegas, I came across one of the most beautiful bluebirds I’ve ever seen. His colors were glorious!

Mountain Bluebird

Then to my delight I saw a Ferruginous Hawk on a telephone pole. Such a beautiful bird!

Ferrugnious Hawk
There’s something intimidating about a Ferrugnious Hawk stare

One last bird I saw was a very large Common Raven. Fortunately the lighting was nice and I was able to get a nice photo of this all black bird.

Common Raven

As I was driving home I decided to stop in a Storrie Lake to see what might be about. There really weren’t any birds around. Most of them were out in the middle of the lake where I just couldn’t get a good visual.

Just as I was about to leave, a Rough-Legged Hawk came in and landed on a post right next to my car. How exciting! The daylight was waning, but I had enough light to get a few nice shots. These birds are rarely seen in New Mexico so I was delighted to get such an up close sighting.

Rough-Legged Hawk
Rough-Legged Hawk getting his feathers settled in

All in all I had two great side trips during my busy work day!

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!