Taking a break…

From blogging about my 20th Anniversary trip.  🙂   Don’t worry, I will get it finished here this coming week.  I’m sure you’re looking forward to seeing my photos from Zion National Park.

Fall is in full swing here in New Mexico.  I managed to get out for a few short hikes.

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Fall colors along Sandia Crest

One day Scarlett and I went to Corrales and walked the irrigation ditch.  Birding was pretty quiet that day.  But I managed to get a few decent pics.

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American Robin

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Western Tanager

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Blue Grosbeak juvenile

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Lesser Goldfinch

But the highlight of the day was seeing a porcupine that had come out of the brush to get a drink.  He took his sweet time getting a drink and then he started walking towards Scarlett and I.  I kept a tight hold on Scarlett’s leash in case she felt the need to go inspect him closer.  He came within a few feet of us.  He then stopped and shook himself several times.  Scarlett had her nose stretched out getting good sniffs in.  That guy was stinky!

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Porcupine

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Getting in a good shake

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You can see his orange teeth and big claws

Walking in the area around my home I came across a few good birds.  They are enjoying the various wildflowers that have started turning to seed.

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Mountain Chickadee

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Hammond’s Flycatcher

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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You can see pollen on its beak

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Lovely!

On one afternoon I was able to stop in at the Rio Grande Nature Center.  It was pretty quiet there except for an inquisitive Greater Roadrunner.  He cooperated nicely for a few pics.

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Greater Roadrunner

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I love the colors on these birds

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Watching me closely

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I love these birds!

I babysat Valerie’s dog Mya for 10 days.  We went on several short walks.  Scarlett was thrilled to have her best friend along.  Scarlett taught Mya how to pose for photos.  🙂

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Mya and Scarlett

Scarlett started her heat.  I have a small Chihuahua named Henry.  He normally snubs Scarlett whenever she tries to socialize with him.  But during her heat he’s been in love with her!

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Henry flirting with Scarlett

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She was loving the attention!

When Henry wasn’t flirting with Scarlett, he was hunting lizards in the yard.  I caught him watching a lizard on the side of the house.

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Henry watching a lizard who’s watching a grasshopper

While digging in the garden I dug up a juicy grub.  To reward the lizard for putting up with Henry, I tossed the grub where he could get it.  He quickly grabbed it up and ran behind the garden fence under a drain spout.  It took some doing, but I was able to get a photo of him trying to eat that fat grub.

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Happy lizard!

Scarlett and Mya were hanging out in the garden with me too.

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

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Beautiful Mya

I love fall but it never seems to last long enough….

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Summer is over….

Bird Walk at the Nature Center

The spring weather here has been very fickle.  One day it’s nice, the next it’s cold, rainy or even snowy.  So I’ve had a difficult time getting out and walking much this past week.  I had a couple hikes to interesting places scheduled, but had to cancel them due to the weather.

Yesterday looked promising to not rain even though there were big storm clouds moving across all day.  So I got up early and met up with the weekend bird walk at the Rio Grande Nature Center.  I haven’t been on one of their walks for quite some time.  I like them because they take you into areas where you normally cannot walk.

Overall it was a quiet morning for the small song birds.  But the Cooper’s Hawks were very active.  I saw one almost get a Red-Winged Blackbird not 5 feet from me.  Then another trying to catch a Greater Roadrunner.  That one gave up quick when that roadrunner fought back!  I wish I could have gotten some photos of that but it was too far away and happened too quickly.

Here’s a few of the birds I got on the walk.

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American Robin with nest building materials

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

After the tour was over, I walked around the Nature Center checking on the feeders.  You can always see something interesting at them.  This day I was surprised to see Gambel’s Quail.  I’ve never seen them there before.  From what I heard they have been clearing a lot of brush nearby that may be flushing them to the center.

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Gambel’s Quail

I was also happy to see a Black-Headed Grosbeak.  The males are so colorful.

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Black-Headed Grosbeak

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Bewick’s Wren

I also got my best photo yet of a Cinnamon Teal.  He swam right by me 🙂

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Cinnamon Teal

The highlight of my walk was getting several good photos of a hummingbird feeding on some cactus blooms.

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I believe this is a Black- Chinned Hummingbird female

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Next I headed into the bosque behind the center.  I thought I would check on the Great Horned Owls.  I saw and heard lots of birds.

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Summer Tanager with a bee

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Olive-Sided Flycatcher

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Western Tanager – female

The Rio Grande was full of activity.  Trying to get a picture of swallows on the wing is so difficult! And that Chat was a ways away just singing.

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Yellow-Breasted Chat

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Long-Billed Dowitcher

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Violet-Green Swallow

I finally made it to the owl nest.  Both babies have left the nest.  I only saw one of the young and it was way up high and buried in the foliage.  I only saw one of the parents.

When I was leaving the center, there was a volunteer standing in the parking lot holding this Great Horned Owl.  He had been injured on power lines at the petroglyphs.  He lost part of his wing so is unable to fly.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to photograph this beautiful bird.

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I wasn’t ready to end the day.  So I headed over to the Botanical Gardens.  They were having an Orchid Show.  So many beautiful orchids to see.  After viewing the orchids I toured the gardens.  Lots of spring flowers were in bloom.  It makes you happy to see pretty flowers in bloom…especially as I write the blog and it’s snowing outside!

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I love daisies!

There’s a Black-Crowned Night Heron that lives on the pond in the Japanese Garden.  Several years ago it was injured somehow and lost his toes on one foot and the tips of toes on the other.  I’ve seen him here at the gardens for several years now.  I spoke to the man that feeds the Koi in the pond, and he says the heron comes over and eats the fish food from his hand.  That’s one smart bird!

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Wood Duck

Overall I saw/heard 49 species of birds! And Scarlett and I walked 7 miles!  That’s a good day out!

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Tired Scarlett 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Just Birding Around…..

I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of the spring birds.  The weather has been so mild that I expect to see them any day.  But so far it’s just been the usual birds around town.  Of course, I never tire of seeing any bird, but I love the colors of the summer birds.  They can’t help but make you smile.

I checked on several of the owl nests around town, but I still didn’t see any of the babies.  The nest near the Rio Grande Nature Center has a young one.  Joe managed to get a photo of this year’s new ones, but the baby didn’t show itself the day I went by.  The mother is sitting higher in the nest so I know there’s a baby or two in there.  Dad was roosting nearby.

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Great Horned Owl

 

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Great Horned Owl

While there I saw a cute Western Bluebird enjoying a rest in the shade of a tree.  I just love seeing birds with their feathers covering their feet.  It makes them look so sweet.

 

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Western Bluebird

 

After checking on the owls I decided to stop in a the Los Poblanos Fields.  There were lots of roadrunners about.  They were very busy hunting so it was a challenge getting a photo.

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Greater Roadrunner

 

I checked on the Western Screech Owl… he’s still in the next box.  Several kestrel were about looking for lunch.

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Western Screech Owl

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American Kestral

 

A group of grackles were at a neighboring house posing for the girls.

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Great-Tailed Grackle

 

While watching the grackles I happened to see something enjoying the shade of a tree.  When I crept closer I realized it was a coyote.

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Coyote

When he saw Scarlett he moved away, allowing me to get some photos.  We moved along after a few minutes so as to not disturb him.  I noticed he went back in the shade after we moved off.   Just beautiful!

 

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Coyote

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Coyote

 

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Coyote

I saw a phoebe as I was leaving.  He was calling and calling.  Looking for a mate I suppose.

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Say’s Phoebe

 

Yesterday I decided to get up early and hike Embudito Trail.  I knew we had a major front coming in and the winds were going to be horrendous.  So I wanted to get some hiking in before I’m kept indoors for a couple days.

The morning was very overcast.  So the morning light was very weak for photos.  But that didn’t stop me! Lol!

I was thrilled to see 3 pairs of Cactus Wren building nests near each other in the Cholla Cactus.  I love wrens, and the Cactus Wren are just beautiful and the biggest of the wrens in the US.

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Cactus Wren

 

I must have stood and watched a pair of wrens building a nest for about 20 minutes.  I was within 10 feet of the nest and they didn’t seem to care.  So of course I took a lot of photos.  Came away with a few good ones even though the light was so low.

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While I was photographing the wrens, Scarlett lay quietly nearby.  I heard a Gambel’s Quail calling in a bush near her and saw her watching him. She stayed so still and watched as he looked for food all around her.  I tried to get a photo of them together, but whenever the quail came out in the open, it scurried quickly to the next bush.  She’s a good birding dog.  🙂

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Miss Scarlett watching a Gamble’s Quail

 

Also along the trail I saw the usual suspects.

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Gambel’s Quail

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Ladderback Woodpecker

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Western Scrub Jay with a pinon nut

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Canyon Towhee

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

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Black-Throated Sparrow

 

Soon the wind started picking up.  The front was here and building in intensity.  Time to head home and hunker down in the forecasted 45 mph winds with up to 70 mph gusts.  Yikes!

Hopefully I will be able to get out again soon.

Owl be looking for you :)

Since returning from Truth or Consequences, I’ve been going out most every day enjoying the extremely mild weather.  It has been absolutely gorgeous these past few weeks.

My friend Joe has been telling me about all of his owl sightings.  So, of course, I just had to go find them for myself.  It’s so exciting to see an owl!

After seeing the Great Horned Owl off of Montano, I decided to see if I could find the others.  I did find the one at Calabacillas Arroyo, but she’s way down in the nest and all you see is the tip of her tail sticking up.  The eggs take about a month to hatch.  So I’m expecting to see some babies by the end of this month.

Next up is the Great Horned Owl at the Rio Grande Nature Center.  They’ve nested a little further south from last year’s location.  Higher up in a tree too….grrrr! Makes it harder to get photos! LOL!

So Scarlett and I headed to the river and hiked the beautiful bosque.  I hadn’t been on this section of trail before, so it was nice to see new scenery along the river.  There were lots of Western Bluebirds out feeding in the clear areas.  I never can resist photographing them.

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Western Bluebird

Lots of Northern Flickers about too.  Such beautiful birds.

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Northern Flicker

I finally made it to the Great Horned Owl nest.  There was a breeze blowing and she was snoozing away in the swaying tree.  If you look closely though, she did crack one eye at me.

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Great Horned Owl

I was determined to find the male.  I was surprised to find him directly above me on the trail.  They really don’t seem to mind nesting next to human paths.  I wonder if it’s intentional??

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Great Horned Owl

While I was viewing the owls, little Miss Scarlett snuck off and dove into the river for some fun.  She was really enjoying running in the shallow water.  I could barely see her through the brush.  I let her play awhile before calling her back to head home.  We still had 2 miles to walk to get back to the car! 🙂

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Miss Scarlett playing in the Rio Grande

Once back at the Rio Grande Nature Center, I took a little time to see what might be about.  The feeders usually draw birds all day long.  So even though it was around noon, there was still some good bird activity.

I’m always amazed at how creative and crafty squirrels can be.  This one has figured out how to use its tail to hold itself up so it can reach across to the feeder.

Though the clouds were starting to thicken, the turtles were still determined to sun themselves.  I always wonder how many turtles are in that pond.  Some days you can look at every stick and shore and they are covered in turtles sunning.

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The next day I met up with Joe to try and find that Northern Pygmy Owl in the Sandias. We hiked in with high hopes.  Sadly, no owl again this time.  Drat! I tried again a couple days later with still no luck.   But there was lots of other bird activity.  I even heard and briefly saw the Gray Catbird that has been reported in the area.  I tried to get a photo, but he was there then gone.  He will be on my list next time I make that hike.

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Stellar’s Jay

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Spotted Towhee

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Mountain Chickadee

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American Robin

Scarlett had fun on the hike.  She played in the creek and any patch of snow she could find.  She makes me smile 🙂

Next stop was the Western Screech Owl at Elena Gallegos Park.  I followed Joe’s directions and found the location where it’s been sighted.  I didn’t see it and figured it found a different roosting spot.  But then I looked in one more place and there he was! I’m sure he knew I was there the whole time.  I clicked a photo and then poof! He was gone.  They fly so silently.  He had moved over to a different spot.  I hiked around to get a better shot and then left quickly so as not to disturb him further.

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Western Screech Owl

 

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Western Screech Owl

Since I wasn’t too far away from the Academy School, I thought I would go over there next to find the Great Horned Owl nest there.  And thanks to Joe’s excellent instructions, I found the nest fairly quick.  She was tucked deep inside the fork of a giant Ponderosa Pine.  Fortunately the landscape slopes upward from this tree, so I was able to get a good vantage point to photograph her in the nest.  Again, one eye cracked to keep an eye on me. 🙂

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Great Horned Owl

 

 

I looked around further in the tree and found the male sitting higher up enjoying the shade of the pine needles.  He was sound asleep when I first spotted him.  But a gust of wind came through and really shook the tree.  That woke him up.  Then he was on high alert when he spotted Scarlett lying on the ground below him.  He’s used to students walking under his tree all day every day.  But a dog is a different story!

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Great Horned Owl

 

Heading home after a good day of owl hunting, I saw my neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawk was out looking for an afternoon snack.  And also an American Kestrel.  I always love seeing the birds of prey.  Just gorgeous!  And a wonderful way to end a greet week of birding.

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American Kestrel

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Red-Tailed Hawk

 

I understand next week the weather is supposed to turn cold and wet again.  😦  Hopefully it won’t last long so Scarlett and I can get back on the trails!

Thursday Birders – Alameda Open Space

I was able to meet up with the Thursday Birders again. I had to work until 11 the night before but it was worth it. Such a beautiful day with good company and birds.

We met up at the Alameda Open Space which has a pond, an irrigation ditch that runs year round, trails along the Bosque and access to the Rio Grande river. It makes for a chance to see a wide variety of birds.

We started our walk at the pond but nothing of interest there. Just a bunch of Mallards.  So next we started walking along the irrigation ditch. Right away someone spots a Wilson’s Snipe. I saw it fly but lost it as soon as it landed. Thanks to Joe’s patience in showing me where he was, I finally was able to get a photo. Those birds can be completely camouflaged on just bare mud!

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Wilson's Snipe

As we made our way along the ditch the birds were pretty quiet. Which has been the case for a couple weeks now. Someone spotted a pair of Northern Flickers. I think they are so beautiful.

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Northern Flicker

Soon after we came upon a tree loaded with American Goldfinches with a few Pine Siskins mixed in.  Tough to get a photo as they were way up in the top of the tree among all the tiny limbs. But at times they would fly down for a drink in the ditch.  Not a great photo as they were in the shade at quite a distance.

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American Goldfinch with Pine Siskin behind him

We also saw a Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, House Finches, White-Crowned Sparrows, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet and Robins in this area.

We then moved into the Bosque. Pretty quiet in there. I heard a Bewick Wren. Lots of Juncos. Sadly no hawks, owls or the elusive Bald Eagle.

I did get a good photo of Scarlett on a log. She was so reluctant before to climb up on things. But now she loves it.

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Miss Scarlett

There’s one spot along this Bosque trail that has a neat path down to the river’s edge. I got a photo of Lefty at the end of this trail and I couldn’t resist a selfie 🙂

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Lefty

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Kelly

We made it to the river access last at the pump station next to Alameda.  The Ring-Billed Gulls like to hang out on the sandbars here. Along with them were lots of Mallards, a few Common Mergansers, Cackling and Canada Geese, a Pied-Billed Grebe and a few White-Fronted Geese. All the birds were at quite a distance so photos aren’t great. As usual, whenever I’ve seen the Common Merganser I can’t get a good photo. Someday I will.

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Greater White-Fronted Geese

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Ring-Billed Gull

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Common Merganser

We headed back to the parking lot. As we crossed a foot bridge over the ditch we saw some Yellow-Rumped Warblers and Ruby-Crowned Kinglets feeding at the water’s edge. They were really close for good photo ops.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Then Joe pointed out a Red-Tailed Hawk way up on the telephone pole. As I got ready to photograph him, I saw the crows badgering him to go away.

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Red-Tailed Hawk with an American Crow harassing him

Meanwhile the pigeons were oblivious to the danger. I watched a male dance on the power line to a potential girlfriend 🙂

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Rock Pigeon

After lunch I decided to stop in at the Rio Grande Nature Center. I hadn’t been there for awhile.

There was a female Common Merganser at the main pond. But once again she was at the furthest point away from me. So still no good photo.

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Common Merganser female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

There was some decent activity at the feeders.

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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House Finch

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Red-Winged Blackbird

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Downy Woodpecker

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White-Breasted Nuthatch

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Bushtit

And I finally got a good photo of a Chickadee! I was just telling Joe that morning that I can never get a good photo of those birds :). But this day I got 2!

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Black-Capped Chickadee

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Black-Capped Chickadee - this photo is my favorite

I heard some rustling in a huge cactus. When I peeked in, a big yellow eye looked back at me!

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

At the main viewing pond there were lots of Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls and Wood Ducks.

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Northern Shoveler

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Gadwall

I had hoped to see the Cinnamon Teal that has been seen there. But no luck this day.

I stopped by our office in Cedar Crest before heading home. And to my delight there were Western Bluebirds hanging out in the parking lot. I just had to get some photos.

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Western Bluebird

I was so excited when he flew and landed even closer to me. I was able to get one photo before he flew off again.

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Western Bluebird

What a fabulous way to end a great birding day!

Happy National Bird Day!

In honor of National Bird Day I went birding! 🙂

While driving into town I spotted a few birds along the road. We still have lots of snow in the East Mountain area. The birds were feeding along the road as that was the only place without snow. I found taking bird photos with bright white snow as a background was challenging.

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Western Meadowlark

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Horned Lark

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to go out and hunt for the sighting of a Common Goldeneye. I went to the Duck Ponds at Tingly Beach. Before heading into the Bosque I stopped at the northern pond at Tingly. There were some folks there feeding the ducks. Those were some happy ducks!

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Mallard

Also in the pond were a couple pairs of Northern Shoveler. I love watching how they feed together…spinning in a tight circle.

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Northern Shoveler

I realized while I was there I didn’t have a decent photo of a pigeon. How many times have I seen them but never photographed them? So I made an effort to get some good photos.

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Rock Pigeon

I investigated the northern duck pond first. It was pretty quiet. A few ducks on the water but no goldeneye.

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Redhead, Canvasback and American Coot

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Lesser Scaup

So I hiked over to the southern pond. I started on the west side of the pond. It was mostly frozen so the waterfowl were congregated in an area in front of the viewing blind on the east side.

I watched a man feeding apple slices to a Mallard. It was nice to see someone sharing the day with nature.

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Tim and Fred

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While watching them I saw the Common Goldeneye swim by right in front of them. So I quickly headed to the viewing blind.

And there he was! So close and handsome! I had only seen one once before at a great distance.

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Common Goldeneye

Since I wasn’t very far from the Botanical Gardens I headed over there. They have added bird feeders around the gardens and it has brought a lot of birds in to feed this winter. Plus I just love walking around the Japanese garden. They did a beautiful job creating those gardens. It is my favorite place in the park.

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Waterfall and pond in the Japanese Garden area

Scarlett has been training to be a therapy dog. She is doing so well. So since she is in training I could take her with me into the gardens. She’s a good birding dog as she just lays quietly while I take photos.

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Miss Scarlett showing off her vest

While at the feeder in the herb garden area I saw several birds.

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Curve-Billed Thrasher

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Black Phoebe

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Downy Woodpecker

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Mourning Dove

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Bewick Wren

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White-Winged Dove

But the biggest surprise was when a bright red bird flew over my shoulder to land in a bush in front of me. My first thought was Summer Tanager, but I know they aren’t here in the winter. The only other all red bird I know of is Northern Cardinal. Now they aren’t supposed to be here ever. So I tried my best to get a photo of that bird deep in the bush in the shade…tough job. But I did manage to get one photo that (after much post processing) I was able to see the bird. And to my surprise it was a Northern Cardinal! I posted the sighting on the Birdseye app and emailed my friend Joe. I was the first one in Albuquerque to spot this rare sighting! Joe said a Cardinal hasn’t been seen in Albuquerque since 2002. He also said two other birders posted the sighting the next day.

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RARE SIGHTING - Northern Cardinal

That was very exciting!

I also watched for some time a Red-Naped Sapsucker pound away deep inside a pine tree. Another challenging photo op.

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Red-Naped Sapsucker

I stopped at the pond in the gardens to see if there was anything interesting.  Just the usual suspects. But there  was no wind so the water looked like a mirror.

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Wood Duck

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Northern Shoveler

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Wood Duck

Yesterday I had a chance to stop in at the Rio Grande Nature Center.

Got a few nice shots.

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House Finch female - I like the leaves as a backdrop

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Red-Winged Blackbird female

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Black-Capped Chickadee

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Mallard - I love the colors on the male's head

Here’s wishing you a happy National Bird day!