Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 1

Recently my friend Dia and I took a long weekend to visit Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) near Estes, Colorado.  We have talked about going there for about 5 years.  Finally our schedules came together and we were able to go.  I have long wanted to visit this national park.  The photos I’ve seen from there are just stunning.  Water everywhere!  (Unlike New Mexico LOL!)

It took us about 10 hours to drive there, due to the many stops made at Starbucks 🙂

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Kelly and Dia getting their Starbucks fix!

We arrived at the entrance sign to Estes Park late in the day.  Of course, we had to take a pic there of us in our matches dresses.  🙂

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We made it!  Don’t you love our matching dresses!?  🙂

There were several Black-Billed Magpies around and one was happy to pose for me on the sign.  I guess they are no longer a nemesis of mine LOL!

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Black-Billed Magpie

We knew it was going to be crowded every day there as we were visiting during peak season.  So we made plans to go to bed early and get up very early to beat the crowds.  It proved to be a great plan as we found when we were leaving the trails that’s when most people were heading out.  Doing this allowed us to visit the spectacular park with minimal intrusion of other people.  There’s nothing more discouraging to a photographer than to have a beautiful setting for a photo crowded out with masses of tourists.

Dia has been to RMNP a few times in the past.  I had never been before.  So I followed her lead on what to see first.  Her favorite drive is up Old Fall River Road.  A one-way dirt road that climbs to the highest point in the park.  When I looked at the map, I realized a couple of the waterfalls I wanted to photograph were on this route.  Yay!

Our first stop was at the Allivial Fan Falls.  This waterfall was created by a major flood due to a failure in a dam upstream.

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Alluvial Fan Falls

Heading up Old Fall River Road, we saw so many beautiful sights.  Everywhere you looked, it was a Kodak moment. Dia drove my Jeep so I could take photos.  She loves driving my Jeep – especially off road.  🙂 At one point, Dia almost ran over a marmot who had no fear of the Jeep.  Evidently he’s used to tourists feeding him as they pass.

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Kelly and her Jeep (not her husband’s Jeep) 😉

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Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road

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Marmot

I especially loved this little waterfall at the beginning of the drive.  There was no formal trail, just enough of a path to view the water closer.

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Further up the road we came to Chasm Falls – another waterfall on my “must see” list.  What a beautiful waterfall coming through the narrow canyon.

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Looking downstream

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Scarlett, Kelly & Dia

Scarlett loves water – so of course we had to let her play a little before hitting the road again.

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Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂

Soon we were climbing higher and higher.  The views expanded.  Just glorious!

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Gorgeous views from Old Fall River Road.

We eventually rose above the tree line.  Beautiful!  We came across patches of wildflowers.  Everything was so green – way different from New Mexico.

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Just before reaching the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center, we came across more marmot.  I liked how this one posed nicely for me.

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Marmot

The views at the visitor center overlooking a glacial cirque were truly breathtaking.   The grasses were so lush and the snow provided a beautiful contrast to the photos.

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Glacial Cirque

There is a hike from the visitor’s center that takes you to a peak.  It was tough going considering there was very little oxygen at 12,000 feet above sea level.  The views from the top were amazing.  I love exploring!

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Trail from the visitor’s center.

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Breathtaking views!

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Dia

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Where’s Starbucks???!!!!!

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Views of the visitor center from the top of the trail.

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Dia, Kelly and Scarlett at the top!

After a brief stop at the Visitor’s Center, we decided to take the drive to Grand Lake.  We wound our way back down the other side of the mountain.  At the bottom we took a short hike to stretch our legs and enjoy the beautiful weather.  I saw several sparrows in this area but only managed to get one pic of a Savannah Sparrow.

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Such a lush valley of green

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These squirrels found a good home.

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Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂

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This was the only butterfly I saw that day. Terrible photo as I didn’t have my birding lens.  I believe this is a Mormon Fritillary

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Savannah Sparrow

As we made our way toward Grand Lake we saw a turn off for Lake Irene.  What a serene little lake.

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Lake Irene

As we left Irene Lake we saw a bunch of folks looking into the dense brush along the road.  We figured they’d spotted something good.  And indeed they had – a moose!  Actually two moose – a mother and calf.  They were a ways away and in dense brush, but I managed to get a couple photos.  I’d never seen a moose before!

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Moose with calf

We also saw some nice bull Elk along the road.  One was really enjoying the good life of summer.

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Very healthy bull Elk

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Enjoying summer

Near Grand Lake I spotted an Osprey nest.  It’s always a good day when you see a bird of prey.

 

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Osprey

Grand Lake was very touristy and actually not in RMNP.  So we turned around and decided to drive the Ridge Road back to Estes Park.  Once again we were in store for more stunning views way above the tree line.

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Click, click, click….I took over 5,000 photos on this trip! Yikes!

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Expansive views

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I love the high alpine meadow flowers – so small and delicate.

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Dia and Kelly

At one point we saw a nice herd of elk.  They were grazing in the high meadows well above 11,000 feet.  They have a very picturesque home.

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Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.

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So many smells!!!!

We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.

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Hmmmm…look at my Jeep keys precariously dangling from Dia’s hand….

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Glacier at 12,000 feet.  I love the blue pool of water in the lower right.

While taking photos, Dia noticed a little brown bird hopping just below us.  I quickly got my birding lens and was happy to see it was a Brown-Capped Rosy Finch.

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Brown-Capped Rosy Finch

Further down the road we stopped at another pullout.  There were lots of folks feeding the birds and squirrels here.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take close up photos of the rather tame squirrels.

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What a cutie!

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excuse me…you have something in the corner of your mouth…

But I was thrilled to see a Clark’s Nutcracker here looking for handouts.  I’ve only seen this bird once before several years ago in Santa Fe.  I’ve heard them a few times since then, but never saw them for a photo.  So it was great to see this bird close up!

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Clark’s Nutcracker

The views from this location were beautiful.  You could see the entire valley below.  You can even see the Alluvial Fan Falls area we had visited in the morning.

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It was a full day of fun!!!  Off to bed early for another full day of exploring!

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These flowers were extremely tiny!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend in Taos, New Mexico

My friend Dia and I went for a quick trip to Taos, New Mexico, recently.  My goal was to photograph several historic churches and see the Taos Pueblo and the graveyard there.

I needed to stop by a job site on the way there, so we decided to make a big circle for our road trip.  On the way to Taos we went through Las Vegas, New Mexico.   I mentioned to Dia there was a pretty little glacial lake just north of there.  One thing I’ve learned about Dia – take her to any kind of water and she’s a happy girl!

We were soon at Morphy Lake.  Such a peaceful place.  Set at a higher elevation, it was a nice 75 degrees there in hot summer.

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Morphy Lake

While walking the shore, I happened to notice a giant tadpole.  After further searching, we saw lots of them in different stages of changing into a frog.  We even saw some fully formed frogs.  I also saw an oddly colored fish.

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This frog still has his tadpole tail.

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hmmmmm….not sure what kind of fish this is

Then Dia saw a crawdad.  She’s fascinated by these guys! Soon she was trying to catch one.  After a couple of attempts, she got one!

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Slowly…..slowly…..closer……

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Got him!

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Success!

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Oh dear…. lol!

Soon we were on our way again.  We passed through a few small towns and past Sipapu Ski area.  We were climbing in elevation the entire drive.

We came upon a pretty stream.  Scarlett was wanting to get out for a bit.  Knowing how much she loves water, I figured this would be a nice place to stretch our legs.   Soon Dia and Scarlett were in the water having a fun time.  I swear I was traveling with two kids!  🙂

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Dia and Scarlett having fun! 

Once in Taos we ate lunch at a local restaurant called the Farmhouse that uses fresh farm grown produce.  Sadly the food really wasn’t very good and I can’t recommend a visit there to eat. But the grounds were pretty with a pond, wildflowers and garden spinners.

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Pond at the Farmhouse Restaurant

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I love garden spinners

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Funky Taos art

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Dia, Kelly & Scarlett

Then I noticed an old rusted truck out in a field.  As you’ve probably figured out by now, I can’t resist photographing old rusty things!!!

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I love all the different layers of paint (and a little bondo)

We also had to pose on this truck LOL!  But the metal was hot as fire making it difficult to do much. LOL!

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Kelly

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Dia

We ate at a local bar that is housed in the oldest building in Taos.  We had a great time having a couple of margaritas and playing shuffleboard.

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Delicious margaritas and it was happy hour!

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Kelly and Dia enjoying drinks on the patio

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Dia won both games of shuffleboard

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My silly friend!

Finally the sun was setting.  Time to get out for some sunset and blue hour photos of the mission at Ranchos de Taos.  This mission was built in 1772 and has been wonderfully kept over the years.

We got there just as the sun was setting.  It was a gorgeous evening.

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I especially loved this photo I captured.

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Dia wanted me to take a photo of her that made her look like a ghost.  After several attempts, I think I got a decent shot.  I’m only just learning how to do night photography.  I still have lots more to learn but having fun trying!

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Ghostly Dia

The next morning we got up early to visit Taos Pueblo.  We drove through the northern end of town to get there.  And wouldn’t you know it I saw one of my nemesis birds – the Black-Billed Magpie.  And I didn’t have my birding lens!  Ahhhhh!  These birds were everywhere.  After several attempts I did manage to get a decent pic with the setup I had on hand.

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Black-Billed Magpie

When we got to the pueblo, we found out it was closed due to a funeral.  😦  So I guess I will have to plan another trip there to see the sights on the pueblo.

We stopped for gas and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this crow in the parking lot.

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American Crow

Since our original destination was closed, we headed over to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  The morning was very hazy, so the photos really weren’t that good.  But we still had a fun time on the bridge and shopping the local artist tables there.  We each bought a pretty ring and earrings.  🙂

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Rio Grande Gorge

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Kelly’s feet – it’s a loooong way down to the river

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Dia and Kelly at the gorge bridge

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We even saw big horn sheep down in the gorge.

On the way home we took a different route.  We took the “High Road” back home.  This road takes you up high in the mountains through the quaint towns of Las Trampas and Truchas.  It was too bad the day was so hazy, because the views from this drive are amazing!

There’s a beautiful historical church in Las Trampas built in 1760.  It has some interesting details.  Plus there was also a House Sparrow pair busily building a nest.

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San Jose de Garcia Church

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This angel was carved above the door.

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House Sparrow

Further down the road is Truchas.  It’s perched high on a mountain with long reaching views.   As we were looking for the church there, we came upon a flock of Evening Grosbeak.  I still didn’t have my birding lens, so was challenged to get a decent pic. They are such beautiful birds.

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Evening Grosbeak

There is a quaint church off a small side road – Our Lady of the Rosary built in 1764.

Our last stop was at Chimayo.  The El Santuario de Chimayo is a National Historic Landmark and is famous for it’s healing holy dirt.  It was founded in 1816 and people pilgrimage here from all over to receive blessing and leave mementos of loved ones.  It would be easy to spend several hours here exploring and enjoying the peaceful setting.

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I loved the murals in this little side sanctuary

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While Dia and I walked around, we left Scarlett in the Jeep.  She was not happy with this decision.  LOL!

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Scarlett left in the Jeep – poor girl…..

We had a fun filled couple of days and saw lots of sights.  But I know I have to plan another trip in the future to see Taos Pueblo.

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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!  🙂