Nutria Canyon Hike and the Ice Cave

Recently my friend Dia and I spent a whole day exploring the area around El Morro near Grants, NM.  Our main destination was to find Nutria Canyon.   I’ve heard very little about this hike and there is minimal information online.  But there was this one tantalizing photo online that drew me back again and again during the winter months.  I knew I just had to find this place during the summer when my friend could join me.  It’s about 3 hours away from where I live, so I didn’t want to venture out on my own.

We started out early with hopes of getting to the canyon by around 9.  Sadly there was a lot of road construction that slowed us down.  Then, when we were in the general area, we just didn’t know where to go.  Luckily I saw this one dirt road that said Nutria Lake.  It was 25 miles sooner on the highway than my online directions were saying.   Thankfully, just as we turned onto the road a local came driving by.  They were very helpful and told us we were definitely in the right place.

Since the lake was just a little side trip off the road, we headed over to see it.  It was a pretty place with a few ducks enjoying the water.  We got out to enjoy the view and let Scarlett have a bathroom break.

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Nutria Lake

Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Scarlett started doing her “business” a pack of reservation dogs came out of nowhere heading straight for us.  Dia and I were calling Scarlett to HURRY! HURRY! get in the car.  But she just couldn’t finish her “business” quickly enough.  We were panicking by this time.  Dia ran to drag Scarlett to the car if need be, and I was opening the doors and grabbing the gun! Thankfully Scarlett hurried up and jumped in the car along with us in the nick of time! Whew! Needless to say, we left the lake and headed to our original destination.

The valley we were driving into was very lush.  We saw lots of happy horses and other livestock.  And there were prairie dogs EVERYWHERE!!!

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As we neared the trail head, we came upon a marshy area where Nutria Creek spills out of the canyon.  Just gorgeous!

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Marsh area near the trail head

Dia had just gotten a new tattoo on her entire back.  So she wasn’t able to carry a pack.  I told her I would carry everything in my pack (I’d do anything to go see this canyon!).  So when we arrived at the trail head, she started loading up my pack.  Wow! Heavy!

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That pack had to weigh 40 pounds!

I told her she had to at least carry the gun.  She gladly accepted that task!

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Dia packing heat!

The trail headed into the narrowing canyon with lush green trees and bushes.  It definitely beckoned us to head inside.

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Entrance to trail – so green!

Almost as soon as we started the trail, there was water.  Scarlett immediately dove in!

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Scarlett in her happy place!

Thankfully enough people have been on this trail that they have constructed makeshift boardwalks out of old pallets and scrap lumber.  They were rickety but effective to walk over the mud.

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We started climbing up above the creek and into a lush forest of oaks.  There were Yellow Warblers everywhere!  I didn’t bring my birding lens, so no bird pics this trip.  But so much birdsong in the canopy made me regret my decision to leave that lens at home.

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Kelly on the very lush trail.

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It was nice and cool in the shade

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We eventually met up with the creek again.  Then we turned a corner in the canyon and it opened up to a stunning view.  Beautiful steep red canyon walls and gorgeous green foliage.  We were getting close to where I saw that tantalizing photo so many months ago.

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Dia enjoying the view on this perfect seat.

Then there it was! A picturesque pond in this hidden canyon.  Stunning!  I was so wishing we had found the trail much sooner.  By this time it was noon and not the best conditions for photography.  But I did my best to capture some images that did the view justice.

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Gorgeous!

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I loved the reflections in the pond.

I just had to have a photo of me and Scarlett in this beautiful spot.

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

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Scarlett and Kelly

The day was warming up quickly.  Scarlett was tempted to jump down into that pond.  We kept having to tell her no.

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It was sooooo tempting to jump in…

Eventually we made it around and down to that pond and she was a happy girl!

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Such a peaceful place

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Scarlett loved the ponds.  Cool and refreshing water to play in.

We hung around here for a while as the trail just became too congested with brush to continue on.  I had hoped to explore further but this is just not a well known place.  So there isn’t enough foot traffic to keep the trail open.

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Untouched beauty

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Scarlett kept on eye on me as I navigated the big boulders

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Beautiful

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Dia and Kelly

Eventually we headed back to the car.  We still had quite a bit of daylight left to the day.  So we decided to visit the Ice Cave.  I had never been, and Dia said it had been a long while since she had been there.

On the way out, we decided to stop at a few of the abandoned homes in the valley.  They are interesting to explore.  Just a plethora of things to photograph!

 

We had lunch at the Ancient Way Cafe.  It’s a tiny little place, but the food is good and the desserts were outstanding! They have quite a baker working there.

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Our sandwich was shaped just like a Bigfoot footprint!

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!

The visitor’s center at the ice cave was very interesting.  It’s amazing what they found down in that hole.  Centuries of history perfectly preserved.  I highly recommend you take the time to look around at all the treasures jammed into this small building.

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Look at those giant perfectly whole Indian pots!

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Fascinating!

The Ice Cave offers two hikes.  One up to the Bandera Volcano and one down to the ice cave. We hiked the volcano first since we knew we would cool off at the ice cave. 🙂

It was a short and relatively uninteresting hike.

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Bandera Volcano

At the top of the trail, Dia collapsed due to lack of a Starbuck’s for hours.  I told her to hang in there.  We will get her one soon.

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Where’s Starbucks????????? she wailed

The Ice Cave was much more interesting.  The trail to the cave takes you through the basalt fields left by the volcano.  It makes you wonder how anyone found that ice cave so long ago.  It had to have been quite the challenge to navigate through that jagged sharp basalt.

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Basalt field

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A blooming cactus brought beauty to the stark view.

The area was called The Devil’s Playground by early settlers.  It’s easy to see why.  While hiking to the cave we came across this unique dead juniper.  I took a picture of Dia there being her naughty self.  She then took my photo and edited it to fit the area’s nickname.  🙂

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Dia being evil…

At the cave you climb down a steep set of stairs.

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Kelly and Scarlett ready to descend

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Steep stairs

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There it is deep below the surface.

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As you descended you could really feel the temperature dropping.  It was quite refreshing after a hot climb up the volcano.

I didn’t let Scarlett go all the way to the bottom.  You could see what she thought about that…..

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The inside of the cave was beautiful.  I tried to capture the colors in the cave by setting my camera to a slow shutter speed.  Just beautiful.

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The colors in the rock ceiling were so beautiful.

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The ice had a green cast to it.  It made for a lovely contrast with all the colors in the rock formation.

Too soon we were heading home.  On the way out we saw a few Mule Deer.  One was more curious than the others and had a beautiful shaggy coat.

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Mule Deer

When we got to Grants, Dia had to have her Starbucks.  But she almost had a big tantrum when she realized there wasn’t a Starbucks there.  It was hilarious!

The drive home was long due to yet more road construction.  But the day’s adventures had been fabulous (even with the lack of Starbuck’s at the end).  🙂

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65 miles to go until home….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2-Year Anniversary and 11-Mile Hike

Today is the 2nd anniversary of my blog.  I can’t believe I’ve been posting my adventures for 2 years!  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my birding outings and other adventures.

Scarlett and I have been walking a lot lately.  And sometimes my fiends join us.  It’s been a lot of fun getting out there and seeing the bosque start to wake up for spring.

My friend Joe Schelling has told me about a couple of owl nests.  So I went to find them  over the past couple of weeks.  One is a Great Horned Owl nest.  The male was difficult to find, but I did manage to locate him after much searching.  He was hiding very well in a pine tree.  The female in the nest is very easy to see.  I’m looking forward to seeing babies soon.

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Great Horned Owl

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Can you see the owl among the branches?

The other owl nest is a Western Screech Owl.  He’s located near the duck ponds at Tingley Beach.   Which brings me to my 11-mile hike.

For awhile now, I’ve wanted to hike the trail along the Rio Grande from Tingley Beach to Alameda Open Space.  I knew it was going to be a long hike and I needed a full day to do it.  The weather has gotten so nice lately, that I decided I was ready to attempt this long hike.  My plan was to start at Tingley Beach and head north.  Once I got to Alameda, I was going to call a cab to take me back to my car.

So a couple of days ago, Scarlett and I headed out.  It was a glorious spring day.  At the parking lot, I was greeted by loads of beautiful daffodils blooming.  So cheerful.  A wonderful way to start a day.

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I started at the duck ponds.  I met up with a couple birder friends there and we enjoyed watching a very cooperative Neotropic Cormorant.  He was enjoying the beautiful morning as well.

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Neotropic Cormorant

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Love their teal-colored eyes

A Pied-Billed Grebe was also enjoying the morning.   As well as a gorgeous male Wood Duck.

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Wood Duck enjoying a good grooming

I’ve seen a particular coloring of duck over the past year.  For the longest time, I thought it was a mallard hybrid of some sort.  But recently I stumbled across a photo of this same duck on the internet.  Come to find out, it’s a Swedish Blue Duck.  Evidently it’s a domesticated duck in Sweden and over the past few years has spread among the states.  I’ve seen this duck in Utah, Nevada and now New Mexico.

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Swedish Blue Duck behind a Mallard female

There were lots of turtles out sunning themselves as well.  While taking photos, I guess I never realized there were so many varieties of turtles in the ponds.

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I then left the ponds and went in search of that Western Screech Owl.  He was looking out of his hole with slitted eyes.  I guess that bright morning sun wasn’t so pleasant to him.  But I was thrilled to get a cool shot of that owl looking out of the trunk of a cottonwood tree.

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Western Screech Owl

I made my way along the bosque.  I saw several porcupines up in the trees.  Soon the leaves will make it much more difficult to see them.

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Porcupine

Not far past the owl’s nest, I came across a pair of nesting Cooper’s Hawks.  The female was way down low in the nest and was difficult to see.  But the male was calling from a branch making himself very visible.  I was pleased to get such a nice photo of him.

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Cooper’s Hawk

During my hike, I saw a total of four Cooper’s Hawks.  The others were not nearly as cooperative for photos.

Further along the trail, I heard this guy making odd noises.  As I came closer,  I saw him in the water.  At first I thought he needed help, but as I got closer I realized he was doing some kind of training.  Not sure what, but I guess he knew what he was doing.  LOL!

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Hmmmmmm……

Just upstream of this guy, I saw a Canada Goose wondering about that guy as well!

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Canada Goose

I happened upon a pair of Lesser Goldfinches trying to glean a few more seeds from last season’s sunflowers.

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Lesser Goldfinch – male

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Lesser Goldfinch – female

At one point I heard a bunch of Gambel’s Quail.  I only managed to see this one male as he peeked out from behind some cacti.

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Gambel’s Quail

At one point, Scarlett stopped and was staring into the dense brush.  All of a sudden, I saw a coyote run out from behind a bush.  I managed to get a quick pic before he disappeared from view.

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Coyote

Flying overhead I saw a nice Red-Tailed Hawk.  He was enjoying the thermals.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I came across a few crows feeding on the ground.  They actually let me get pretty close.  Which was nice, because black birds are so difficult to get a good photo of .

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American Crow

I saw a few other birds along my hike.

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Say’s Phoebe

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White-Crowned Sparrows

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Downy Woodpecker

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Spotted Towhee

Five hours and 11-miles later I arrived at Alameda Open Space parking lot.  Whew!!! That was a long walk.  Scarlett and I were pooped!  But we had a great time.  It was so much fun, I think I will do it again soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hike Before the Storm

So I had heard that Thursday night we were supposed to have this terrible cold front blow through with blizzard conditions and road closures.  

So Scarlett and I headed out to go on a long hike and enjoy the decent weather before we got snowed in.  

We hiked a new trail in the Bosque along the Rio Grande at the northern end of Corrales.  Not any birds of any note, but the scenery was beautiful.  The Sandia Mountains were looking dark and moody. 

Here’s Miss Scarlett posing for me with the gloomy mountains in the distance.

I came across this old ladder in a tree. I immediately thought of my fellow blogger Donna in TorC.  She would have a witty title to go with the photo.  

Hmmmmm….the best I could come up with was “fun pastimes” 🙂

Needless to say, but the huge storm was a bust. So lucky for me and Scarlett we will get to hit the trails again this weekend! 

 

Silver City Area Adventure

Last October my friend Valerie and I went to Silver City for a long weekend.  I hadn’t been to that area since I was a young girl in the 70s.  I was anxious to see the area again and share it with my friend.  Though Valerie was born and raised in New Mexico, she had never been to the sights around Silver City.

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It takes several hours to get to Silver City from Albuquerque.  We got a late start so ended up driving through the mountains in the dark.  The highway from I-25 to Silver City is very windy and steep.  It was quite stressful driving that road at night.  But it was exciting too.  We saw several animals cross in front of us on the road:  a mountain lion, a mule deer, a racoon and a fox!

We stayed at an old historic hotel called the Palace Hotel.  It still had a nice “old timey” feel to it.

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Lobby of the Palace Hotel

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Lobby

We were given Room 55.  When we got to the second floor, we had to look twice for the door to our room.  Hmmmmm…..I told Valerie “I think it’s behind that lamp.”  WTF?!\

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There’s our room door behind that standing lamp….

We did eventually find another entrance to our room that wasn’t blocked by lamps, chairs and tables.  LOL!

I especially liked the main painting in the lobby.  I told Valerie, “It’s me all over!  Red dress and lipstick, holding a gun and showing lots of cleavage!”

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What I would have been like “back in the day”

One of my favorite memories from childhood was hiking the Catwalk Trail in the Gila Wilderness.  This trail consists of suspended walkways above Whitewater Creek.  Several years ago the original catwalk was destroyed due to severe flooding.  But in May of this year, a one-mile portion of the trail had been restored and opened up to the public.

So on an early October morning, we headed to the trail head.  The weather was perfect:  cool but sunny.  The shadows were long which made for great photography.  Here are some pics from the hike.

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What a unique hike

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Suspended above Whitewater Creek

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Beautiful!

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The walkway criss-crossed so we could see the walkway ahead

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Valerie enjoying the hike

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The walkway eventually ends and you walk down to the creek.

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The bridge ahead was the end of the trail.  The entire trail has not been cleaned up from the flood.  I hope they eventually open the entire trail again.

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Valerie and Kelly having fun!

After hiking the catwalk, we tried hiking another trail nearby, but the creek was too high.  There were several river crossings on the hike and no bridges available.  So we decided to drive up to Mogollon.  It’s a great historic town high in the mountains.  Sadly, the road to Mogollon was closed so we had to cancel that idea as well.  Drat!

So instead we headed back to Silver City to walk around town. On the way back we stopped to feed horses and photograph some rusty tractors.  Valerie got a pic of me in my new Jeep Wrangler!  I love my new vehicle!

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Those horses loved that apple Valerie fed them

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Cool old tractors

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Me in my brand new Jeep!

We browsed shopfronts and took some photos around town.  Eventually we ended up on a path that follows a creek that runs right behind Main Street.  Funny thing is, the creek was actually Main Street before a giant flood took out the street and many of the buildings along it in 1895.  So Main Street was moved over and the ditch created by the flood became permanent and is still in use today.

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We found a way down to the creek!

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I loved all the pools in among the limestone bedrock

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Stream flowing from pool to pool

The next day we headed out to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  Even though my family visited the Gila National Forest many times when I was young, we never went to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  So I was looking forward to seeing it as much as Valerie.  The road there was very windy and steep.   It was difficult driving.  But what made it worse was we were having to drive around and among a bunch of racing bicyclists.  Stressful!  So many blind curves with no shoulder.

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Windy road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

I was tempted by this car for sale… LOL!  After all, it only needs a battery!

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It was worth getting there even though it took over an hour to drive there from Silver City.  The hike to the dwellings was just beautiful.  We both said we could hike trails like this all day.  It was picturesque hiking in a forest, along a creek and scenic bridge crossings.

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Bridge over the Gila River

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A beautiful trail

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We loved all the bridges

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Wonderful!

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Valerie

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Lovely!

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Kelly

Eventually we climbed up to the dwellings.  They are small, but they allow you to walk inside the rooms and get a feel for what it must have been like to live there so long ago.

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Gila Cliff Dwellings

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What a beautiful view!

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Valerie

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While up at the top, a thunderstorm had moved in.  We had to hurry back down the trail to safety.  I’m glad we took our time going up and enjoyed the trail sights along the way.

On the rive back we stopped at one of the scenic pullouts to appreciate the stormy sky and wide vistas.

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Panorama of the scenic view

I turned one photo into black and white.  It made me think of the artist Ansel Adams.

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On the drive back to Silver City, we were soooo hungry!  We talked about what we wanted for dinner.  We both agreed fairly easily…Pizza and Wine!!!!  The restaurants in the downtown area were very busy so it took a while to find a place to eat.  But we eventually sat down to dinner and we even managed to find that pizza and wine!

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Delicious pizza!  It hit the spot!

On our last day in the area, we visited City of Rocks State Park.  It’s a cool piece of geology just stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a great place to explore all the nooks and crannies formed by erosion.

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It was fun exploring for a few hours.

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Panorama of the park

We had fun climbing the rocks to get fun photos of each other.

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We go to great lengths to get the “perfect” photo

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Some of the areas were scary to navigate on foot! LOL!

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My beautiful friend! 

Going home we got to see that beautiful drive coming in.  The views were amazing at the top of Emory Pass.

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View from the top of Emory Pass

I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures in Silver City!  It was a fabulous weekend!

Rare Bird Sightings :)

Temperatures have finally started getting cold in New Mexico.  It’s definitely feeling more like winter now.  And with the colder temps we’ve started seeing more birds arriving for their winter stay.  Along with the usual suspects, we’ve had a few seldom seen and rare birds arrive in the area.  It’s so exciting to hear about an unusual bird near home.

So of course, I just had to head out to find them.  Work has been so busy that it’s been difficult getting away for some birding.  But I managed an hour here and there.  I stopped in at the Alameda open space to check in on some gull sightings.  For some reason, the seagulls love to hang out there.

I first noticed a pair of Common Mergansers swimming among the gulls.  Someday I’d love to get a better photo of these birds.  This is about as good as I ever get.

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Common Merganser male and female

I scanned among the many local Ring-Billed Gull searching for any gulls that looked different.  Immediately what stood out was a couple of Lesser Black-Backed Gull juveniles.  They are much larger than the Ring-Billed and are dark brown speckled.  The juvenile birds could have been one of several species, as they are so similar.  Thankfully one of them flew and I was able to correctly identify the species based on the tail markings.

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Lesser Black-Backed Gull with Ring-Billed Gull behind him

After searching further I spotted several California Gulls.  They are also much larger than the Ring-Billed.

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California Gull

After walking along the river for a little while, I soon had to head back home and work.  Before leaving though I decided to see what might be on the pond next to the parking lot.  I  saw a couple of mergansers feeding.  I initially thought they were Common Mergansers, but after looking closer I realized they were Red-Breasted Mergansers.  A lifer for me! And a more rare sighting for our area.

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Red-Breasted Merganser

I watched them for a while and was thrilled when they swam closer to me.  I even got to see them successfully fishing!

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She caught a bluegill!

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Next she needed to position the fish for swallowing without letting it go

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That’s a big fish to swallow!

I had heard there were Tundra Swans spotted at Bosque del Apache.  I just had to go see them.  I begged my husband to have the day off so I could go see these beautiful birds.  Sometimes it’s a blessing to be self-employed, and sometimes it’s a curse.  LOL!!

Thankfully he let me go.  I got up at 4:30 am so I could get there at sunrise.  In the past I have always stopped at the ponds just before the refuge to watch the Sandhill Cranes take off.  But this time I decided to go to the main pond and take photos of the early morning light.  It was a beautiful winter morning.

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Bosque del Apache at sunrise.  Bald Eagles are perched on the dead tree.

I headed over to the marsh boardwalk to see what might be about.  In the early morning light I spotted a muskrat eating a fish for breakfast.

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Muskrat

I also saw a juvenile Common Gallinule but he was too far away for a good photo.  This is a rare sighting for the area in winter.  Also about were lots of Common Mergansers feeding in the distance.  Then from under the boardwalk a pair of female Hooded Mergansers swam out.  I was able to get some good closeup photos of them.

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Hooded Merganser female

A Pied-Billed Grebe made an appearance as well.

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Pied-Billed Grebe

While standing on the boardwalk, I heard a bird calling above and behind me.  I didn’t recognize it so I turned around quickly to see what it was.  And to my amazement it was a Tundra Swan! A lifer for me!

It landed a ways away on the pond but at least close enough for a photo to correctly identify it.  You can just see the yellow spot between the eye and the bill.

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Tundra Swan

It kept honking and then I heard more flying overhead.  I guess he didn’t want to be left behind.  He quickly took off again and joined his buddies.  In all I saw 6 of them fly off to the south.  My trip was successful!

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Tundra Swan.  You can see he’s quite a bit larger than the Canadian Geese

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Tundra Swan

I never saw the swans again that day so I was very thankful I had visited the boardwalk first thing.  I then drove the loop seeing what else might be about.  There was a Great Blue Heron snoozing in a picturesque setting.  I couldn’t resist taking several photos of him.

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Great Blue Heron

The bird of the day would have to be the Northern Pintail.  There were hundreds of them about.  Needless to say, it was easy to get many good photos.

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Northern Pintail

I saw lots of American Coots, a few Gadwall and Ruddy Ducks that I was able to get decent photos of.  I also saw several other variety of ducks, but they were always too far away for pics.

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American Coot

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Gadwall – male  and  female

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Ruddy Duck

I didn’t see very many little birds.   Here’s the few I managed to see.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

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House Sparrow

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Black Phoebe

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White-Crowned Sparrow

And of course, there were lots of Snow Geese about.  For the most part they were too far away for any great pics.  I took a few of them feeding in the fields.  Upon closer inspection of my pics, I noticed I got a Ross’s Goose among the Snow Geese.   I don’t see them nearly as often so it was a real treat.

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Ross’s Goose in the foreground.  Snow Goose behind him.

That day there were lots of raptors about.  I love seeing these birds.  They can be a challenge to photograph as they always manage to stay just out of reach of my long lens.  So my photos are rarely sharp.  But I’m still happy to see them.

I saw several American Kestral about.  Such beautiful little birds.

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American Kestral

As always there were lots Red-Tailed Hawks about.  I never tire of photographing them.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I spotted a large dark bird in a tree quite a ways from the road.  I took a few pics to see if I could identify it.  I couldn’t decided if it was a juvenile Bald Eagle or a Golden Eagle.  It was that big.

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Golden Eagle – eating a raven (you can see its feet hanging down)

But then it flew and I had a conclusive identification.  Golden Eagles legs are completely feathered.   I was thrilled!  Such a beautiful bird of prey.

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Golden Eagle

Now every time I visit the refuge, I always see people with those giant camera lenses.  You know what I’m talking about.  The lenses are so large they need their own tripod.   I always think someday it would be nice to have a setup like that but I don’t feel the need to go out and get in massive debt to get one.  But on this day at the refuge, I was truly jealous of those people.  The Bald Eagles were very active and just out of range of my little camera.  As I was taking photos of them, I was wondering what kind stunning photos these people were getting with their expensive lenses.  It would have been worth every penny to get some of the shots I know they got.  Ah well…….  here’s what I got of the Bald Eagles.

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Bald Eagles and a Raven

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One of the Bald Eagles took off after breakfast

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Success!  Bald Eagle eating a Snow Goose

The Sandhill Cranes finally got within camera range later that day.  Such beautiful birds.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Crane among the winter grasses – beautiful!

I went in the garden area of the refuge to see what might be about.  I heard a lot of birds, but not much luck seeing them.  I did get some good shots of a Great Roadrunner.  I love these birds! And it was a great way to end my day at the refuge.

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Greater Roadrunner

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Greater Roadrunner

One other day during the week I was able to pop in at Tingley Beach to see what might be about.  You can usually count on seeing lots of waterfowl during the winter months.  On this day I got to see a pretty ugly Muscovy Duck.  I don’t always see what looks like a pure bred Muscovy so I’m guessing it’s probably a more rare sighting for this species in Albuquerque.

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Muscovy Duck

Here’s some of the other waterfowl I saw that day.

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Wood Duck

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Canada Goose

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American Wigeon

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Canvasback

One day I was driving home and I saw a Mountain Bluebird in the middle of the road.  I thought it would fly, but it didn’t and I drove right passed him.  I quickly stopped and ran back to pick him up.   He looked pretty sad.  I brought him home to see if I could help him.  Here’s a pic of what he looked like when I picked him up.

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Mountain Bluebird

I set him on a towel in the sun on my couch in the living room.   He seemed very dazed.  I think he must have flown into a passing car and stunned himself.

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Mountain Bluebird

He sat there on that towel for several hours.  At one point I made him take a few sips of water then put him back on the towel.  After several hours he finally perked up and started looking around.  Truthfully I thought he was a gonner.  He looked that bad.  So I was so happy to see him looking more alert.  When he seemed coherent enough, I decided to take him back to where I found him.  I know he has a girlfriend there and that they live by the church.  I seem them every day I drive by.

He still couldn’t fly that great.  Probably had a hell of a headache.  But I put him on the ground and he quickly started gulping down juniper berries.  I figured that was a great sign and was happy to leave him there to find his gal.

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Mountain Bluebird – he was eating those berries you can see on the ground

Since that day I have seen him and his lady there at the church.  It feels good knowing I saved that beautiful bluebird!

I can’t wait to see what other rare birds might make there way into my area this winter.   During the past two weeks I’ve gotten 4 lifer birds.  It’s been awesome!  There is a Rusty Blackbird in town at the Albuquerque Open Space Visitor’s Center.  That would be a lifer for me to see him.   I’ve gone by there a few times and have yet to see him.  I heard him one day but no sighting yet.  Drat!  Hopefully I will see him soon.  I will keep you posted!  🙂

 

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 7 Zion Utah

At the end of Day 6 we had arrived at our cabin at the Zion Mountain Ranch.  I woke up early the next morning to go birding and hopefully see the buffalo.  The very first bird I saw when I started walking was a Sharp-Shinned Hawk.  It was searching the pastures for breakfast.

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Sharp-Shinned Hawk

As I headed to the back of the cabin area toward the large pasture surrounding the property, I heard lots of deep grunting.  When I came closer to the pasture I saw this huge herd of buffalo.  It was a beautiful sight.  You could hear the grass tearing as they ate big mouthfuls of it.  And they grunted while they ate.  They were so close that I had trouble getting photos because I had my big zoom lens on my camera.

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Beautiful buffalo

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Cute baby!

You can see how close they are to the cabins in this photo.  One woman was enjoying her morning coffee to the wondrous sight of all the buffalo.  I think I took over 500 photos of these magnificent animals.

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Perfect morning breakfast scenery

My favorite photo was of this bull staring straight at me with red eyes.

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Now I just couldn’t resist taking this buffalo moment…….

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She’s looking at me thinking….how embarrassing…

Hanging out on the periphery of the buffalo herd was this uniquely colored bull.  I loved the colors of his coat and the shape of his horns.  He was quite a distance away and would never face me, so this was the best photo I could get.

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I soon moved on and found a few other birds to photograph.  The birds were far and few between which surprised me.

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European Starling

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Western Bluebird

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Green-Tailed Towhee

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Mountain Bluebird

Around the farmhouse, the chickens were gearing up for the day.  I liked the white rooster…he looks like he’s enjoying that stretch.

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Silky Rooster

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Bantam Rooster

We had decided the evening before not to stay a second night at the ranch.  When we looked at the amount of hours we were going to have to drive to get home from the ranch, we thought it best to drive to Page, Arizona, the next evening and cut about 2.5 hours off our travel time the last day.  This meant we only had until about 5 pm to stay at Zion before leaving for Arizona.  While eating lunch, I searched the internet for the best hiking trail to take for our visit into Zion.  We wouldn’t have time to explore any more than one trail.  We eventually chose the Emerald Pools trail.  It’s a 3-mile out and back hike that takes you to three different pools with stunning scenery and waterfalls as you climb.

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Trail to the emerald pools…it starts out paved but eventually turns into a single track.

As we started the hike, the sun was shining brightly overhead and it was pretty hot.  Tim was ahead of me on the hike by this time because I was taking so many photos.  I looked up and saw him standing above everyone.  He loves being different from the masses.  LOL!

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Can you see Tim?

The first pool is very beautiful with a long waterfall filling it.  I bet that waterfall is stunning during the spring runoff.

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The first emerald pool

I liked that the trail took you around the pool and behind the waterfall.

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After the first pool, you start climbing more aggressively.  This quickly gives you a view from above the waterfall.

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Beautiful even at a trickle

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Gorgeous!

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Climbing above the waterfall.

The second pool you see is just above the waterfall that fills the first pool…or would that actually be the third pool as it is downstream….hmmmm…  I didn’t take many pics of the second pool because it was filled with people.  It was very shallow and on bedrock so it made for a cool stop for hot hikers.

Heading to the top pool the hike became more steep.  The views got more narrow as you headed into a canyon.  As we neared the upper pool, the sun went behind the cliff and it made the hike much more beautiful and cooler.

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Cliff surrounding the upper pool

Our favorite pool of the hike was the upper pool.  Well worth the climb!

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Kelly and Tim at the upper pool

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What a beautiful setting

We spent quite a while enjoying this beautiful place and visiting with people from all over the world.  I enjoyed the mystery the shadows created.

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Soon we were heading back down.  The sun was fully hidden from the trail by this time.  I couldn’t believe how it transformed the trail.  What was beautiful in the sunshine turned to breathtaking in the shade.

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So many colors in the rock

The bottom pool was totally transformed.

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With the sun gone I could appreciate the delicate stream of water

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Emerald pool indeed

I loved the colors that became more rich now that the sun was gone.

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Such a peaceful setting

Soon we were back at the trail head in the sunshine once more.  We saw a lizard soaking up the sun.  He had gorgeous coloring.

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Tiger Whiptail

I wish we could have spent more time here but sadly the day had grown late and we needed to head to Arizona.

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Kelly next to Virgin River

I love the drive that goes through the lower end of Zion on Highway 9.   The scenery is stunning.  It was difficult to do it justice from a moving car.  Here are a few of my better shots.

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I love the crisscross geology of this sandstone

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So majestic!

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Beautiful sandstone layers

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A giant arch in the making

The highlight of the drive along Highway 9 through the park was coming upon some Bighorn Sheep right next to the road.  They are very used to people and didn’t care one bit that I got out of the car to take photographs.  At one point I was only about 15 feet away from some of the females.

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We first saw this group of Bighorn Sheep climbing along the sandstone cliffs

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We rounded a corner and saw some right next to the road.  Beautiful!

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A young one running to catch up with the others

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This female was grazing right next to me!!

 

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A majestic ram!

 

All too soon we were on our way to Arizona.  I was sad to leave this beautiful part of the country.  Some day I will be back to explore all Zion has to offer.

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20th Anniversary Trip – Day 6 Nevada & Utah

This day was one of the funnest days of our trip.  We covered a lot of miles and saw some stunning scenery.

We left Ely, NV, and started heading to Utah.  Before we left the area, I had Tim stop again at the Comins Lake.  It was such a great place for birding.

This morning I saw completely different birds than I had seen the evening before.  Which I loved!

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Sagebrush Sparrow

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Solitary Sandpiper

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Eared Grebe

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Yellow-Headed Blackbird

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Sage Thrasher

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Barn Swallows

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Vesper Sparrow

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Brewer’s Sparrow

After birding for a short while, a Great Blue Heron came flying in.  I love these elegant birds.

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Great Blue Heron

He wasn’t too sure about me walking along the shoreline.  So he flew to the other side of the lake.  I captured a few photos in flight.  When I was editing the photos, I saw an elusive warbler flying in the photos as well.  Looked like a Yellow Warbler – so bright! Wish I could have gotten some good photos of that warbler.

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Great Blue Heron – see that bright yellow warbler!!!

I also saw a tiny bird feeding along the edge of the reeds.  It’s obviously a juvenile.  But I had a heck of a time identifying this bird.  My conclusion is that it’s a juvenile Virginia Rail.  But if someone knows the correct identification of this bird, I’d appreciate knowing.

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Juvenile Virginia Rail

Too soon we were on our way.  I never want to leave a good birding spot!  We started heading further south.  One of our planned stops on this trip was Cathedral Gorge State Park.  It’s a small park comprising about 1600 acres, but just beautiful!  We had a good time exploring all the small slots formed in the rocks.  I could easily spend a day investigating all the cracks and crevices. Very unique!

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Cathedral Gorge State Park

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Unique geology

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Tim exploring

 

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Just beautiful!

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Interesting holes and cracks

 

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Kelly exploring the slots

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View from inside the slot canyon

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My handsome husband!

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Kelly inside the deepest slot canyon

Tim spotted a lizard among the formation.  Yay!

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Plateau Fence Lizard

We next headed east toward Utah.  We headed up a scenic highway called Cedar Canyon that was truly breathtaking at every turn.  We climbed very quickly with some steep grades at times.  One of the most scenic highways I had ever seen.

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River along Highway 14 Cedar Canyon

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Gorgeous rock formations along the scenic drive

We soon had gone from 4,800 foot elevation at Cathedral Gorge to 10,000 feet.   The views were so expansive!

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Views from 10,000 feet

I saw on the map that there was a National Park just ahead of us:  Cedar Breaks National Park.  Of course we just had to stop in.  And I am so glad we did.  Just breathtaking!!!

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Cedar Breaks National Park

 

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Stunning!

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View from 10,000 feet

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From 10,000 feet the bottom of the canyon is 2000 feet below

The views looking down into that canyon were breathtaking.  I would have loved to see what the views looked like from down in the bottom of that canyon.

While there I saw (and heard!) and Clark’s Nutcracker.  These birds are big and loud.  Sadly it flew away before I could get a photo.

Further up the road was another turnoff that showed a different view of the park.

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Tim and Kelly

At the parking area of Cedar Breaks there were lots of wildflowers with butterflies busily feeding.  Along with the familiar butterflies, I actually got a new one!

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Hoary Comma

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Mourning Cloak

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Milbert’s Tortoiseshell – a new butterfly for me!

Heading down the other side of the mountain, we saw a beautiful lake, mountain meadows and small ponds.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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Sheep grazing in a high mountain meadow

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Navajo Lake – a high mountain lake formed by lava

 

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American Avocets

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Mallard female

We stopped at one pond that was full of ducks.  As we watched the ducks an osprey flew over looking for some lunch.  He circled a couple times but didn’t see anything worth trying for and flew away.

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Osprey

We finally made it off that mountain and to our destination of the Zion Mountain Ranch.  It’s an actual working buffalo ranch.  The buffalo were there but way far away.  I had hopes of seeing them up close before we left.

We stayed in a private cabin overlooking the horse pasture.  A very peaceful setting.

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Our cabin at Zion Mountain Ranch

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cozy…..

Tomorrow we see Zion!
P.S.  I just learned this was my 100th post!!! 🙂