During the last week of December, I was able to take a trip to Bosque del Apache. I try to visit there every December as that’s when the winter bird count is pretty high.
I left well before sunrise. As I was driving down, I started getting into thicker and thicker fog. At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph on a 75 mph interstate.
It was difficult to bird first thing due to the thick fog, so I took a few scenic shots.
Boardwalk through the marsh
A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area
I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.
Beautiful coyote among the hoarfrost
Fortunately, the fog cleared up once the sun rose and I was able to start hunting for birds.
I first noticed a Great Blue Heron grooming.
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.
American Bald Eagles
I started driving around the ponds to see what waterfowl was about. I happened to notice two Northern Harriers squabbling. They were quite a ways away but I managed to capture a pic.
Northern Harriers fighting
I was surprised to find that there really wasn’t very many waterfowl about. I had to really search the ponds to find any. Not sure where they were all hiding.
Bufflehead – male
Bufflehead – female
Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.
I always hear there are wading birds that winter at the refuge, but I rarely see them. But on this day I saw three Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of a pond.
I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!
One of my favorite sightings of the day was a Crissal Thrasher singing his little heart out atop a bush. Surprisingly he let me get pretty close singing the whole time.
I sat and watched a roadrunner look for lunch. They are always entertaining. He hunted for awhile before he noticed me watching. I took this pic the moment he realized he wasn’t alone. 🙂
My last sighting of the day was a grebe off in the distance. When I zoomed in and took a pic, I was delighted to see it was a Clark’s Grebe. These are considered a rare sighting for the area, so that was a real treat.
I left around noon and decided to drive a different route home. I took the Quebradas Scenic Route home. I had heard a lot about this road. But to be honest I couldn’t really see why it was considered so beautiful. But there was one place on the road I found very picturesque, so I got out a took a pic.
Quebradas Scenic Route
Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.
I still had some light left in the day, so I stopped in at the Bernardo Refuge. The Sandhill Cranes seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache.
I got there near sunset, and all the cranes were coming in to the pond to drink. It was a beautiful sight seeing and hearing the cranes flying overhead in the soft light of sunset.
While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!
I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.
The weather here in New Mexico has been very mild for wintertime. So I took advantage of the nice day and went birding yesterday. I haven’t had much chance to bird lately, so it was a real treat to have a whole day to visit several places and get some fun bird sightings.
My first stop was to visit the Rio Grande Nature Center for their Saturday morning bird walk. When you go on their guided tours, you get taken into places of the park you normally can’t visit. So it’s always a treat to go behind the scenes.
The early morning temperatures were in the mid 20s, so it was definitely a cold start. The ducks didn’t seem very happy about standing on the ice instead of swimming in the water.
Mallards and Wood Ducks
A Black-Crowned Night Heron was hiding in the bushes nearby.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
On the main pond there were a few ducks enjoying the area that hadn’t frozen over. It was a treat to see a Hooded Merganser male. Even though they are common in our area during the winter, you just don’t see them that often.
Along with the Hooded Merganser there were a few other visitors.
Ruddy Ducks in the Foreground and a Canvasback female in the back
American Coot on the left and a Pied-Billed Grebe on the right
We saw a few other birds along our walk, but for the most part it was quiet.
A variety of blackbirds
After the guided tour, I walked around the park a little more to see what might be visiting the feeders. There was a nice variety of birds enjoying the free meal.
Red-Winged Blackbird female
I walked down to the Rio Grande to see what might be hanging out at the river. Over the past few years Albuquerque has had a flock of Ring-Billed Seagulls hanging out on the sand bars of the Rio Grande near Alameda Street. This year those sand bars got flooded over by the river. I had wondered where the seagulls had moved to since their usual spot was too deep for them. I was excited to see they had found a new area behind the nature center. I scanned the flock to see if there were any other breeds visiting the flock, but I didn’t see any this time.
While photographing the flock, a fly fisherman came down to fish the area. I managed to get a decent pic of him casting his line. It’s hard to see, but I still liked the photo.
Before leaving the nature center, I was lucky enough to see 3 Greater Roadrunners around the parking area. They are so used to people, that I swear they pose for the camera. Of course, I took about 500 pics of just the roadrunners. 🙂
Posing so nicely for me
Got a peek of those gorgeous purple feathers of the crest
From there I visited Los Poblanos Open Space. I had hoped to see the Western Screech Owls occupying the nesting boxes. But sadly none of them poked their heads out while I was there. But I found a few other treasures while hiking around the fields.
Black Phoebe that managed to find a bug in the cold weather
A leucistic American Goldfinch
My favorite sightings of that visit was seeing both a male and female American Kestral. Such beautiful, small birds of prey.
American Kestral male
American Kestral female
My third stop was to find the American Dipper that has been spotted in the drainage ditch along the Rio Grande. Though they are a common bird in our state, they are rarely seen in Albuquerque. They prefer fast flowing streams where they can dip and dive in the rapids looking for food. The Rio Grande in the Albuquerque area is mostly a wide, placid river. But there are a few spots in the year-round flowing drainage ditches that have man-made rapids coming out of culverts.
After walking a little ways along the ditch, I was thrilled to see the dipper bobbing along the water’s edge. He didn’t seem concerned to have an audience. It was a real treat watching him feeding in and around the water’s edge. Needless to say, I took another 500 photos of this bird. LOL!
American Dipper swimming
There were a few other visitors there along the ditch that I enjoyed watching as well.
Overall, I had a great day going from one birding spot to another. Scarlett had a great time walking all the trails with me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I watched them for a while and was thrilled when they swam closer to me. I even got to see them successfully fishing!
She caught a bluegill!
Next she needed to position the fish for swallowing without letting it go
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.
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.
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.
Hooded Merganser female
A Pied-Billed Grebe made an appearance as well.
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.
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!
Tundra Swan. You can see he’s quite a bit larger than the Canadian Geese
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.
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.
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.
Gadwall – male and female
I didn’t see very many little birds. Here’s the few I managed to see.
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.
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.
As always there were lots Red-Tailed Hawks about. I never tire of photographing them.
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.
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.
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.
Bald Eagles and a Raven
One of the Bald Eagles took off after breakfast
Success! Bald Eagle eating a Snow Goose
The Sandhill Cranes finally got within camera range later that day. Such beautiful birds.
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.
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.
Here’s some of the other waterfowl I saw that day.
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
It was finally time to leave Winnemucca, NV. Tim found 3 nuggets over the last couple days, so he was pleased. Upon further reading on the internet about the Rye Patch area, we learned that in September 2015 they had a nugget hunting rally in the area. This place is small, about 2 square miles. Last year they had over 600 people out there over a 3-day period swinging metal detectors looking for gold. So for Tim to find two nuggets there makes you realize he’s pretty good at finding elusive gold.
The night before when we were heading to the Mexican food restaurant, I told Tim I had seen a sign for a brothel. He said it couldn’t be for real. So the next morning we drove over there before heading out of town.
Sure enough, it was an active brothel! Of course, I wanted to take a picture of the sign before we left. While we were out taking pics, the owner came out to ask if we needed anything…really?? LOL!
Brothel in Winnemucca, NV
We told him no, we were just curious. He introduced himself as Mike and proceeded to tell us all about the place.
Mike – owner of the brothel
Next thing we know, we are getting a tour of the place. Sadly I was not allowed to take pictures inside. The brothel has been open nonstop since 1864 in that location. He showed us where the original building walls were and what had been added on over the years. It was a fascinating tour!
Sign at brothel
Tim being lured in!
He has a working girl that is 64 years old. She even married her latest husband there at the brothel and continues to work there. He said she keeps the lights dim so she looks better. LOL!
We asked him about rates. He said a basic hour, with no special requests, starts at a minimum of $400 a hour. Some girls charge more. If you want extras, like a party in the hot tub, it can cost $1,000 an hour. If you want a date outside the brothel, it starts at $700 a hour. He takes 50% of the fees and then charges them room and board. Crazy right!?!
Soon we were on our way to Ely, Nevada. Tim wanted check out an old ghost town outside of Ely called Osceola. The largest nugget ever found in Nevada was found there.
We saw some Sandhill Cranes in the lush valley while heading south to Ely. I’m sure they are in the process of migrating to my home state of New Mexico to the Bosque del Apache NWR.
To get to Ely you have to travel the “Loneliest Highway in America”. And I survived! according to the literature I came across 🙂
Eureka was a cool old town. It’s creation was attributed to the large silver deposit in the area. Today there is still a large silver mine in operation. We liked this town because it had a lot of its old buildings still in use. We enjoyed stretching our legs and walking main street. We also stopped in at the local saloon for fries and a root beer 🙂
Jackson Hotel in Eureka
Famous opera house in Eureka
Tim checking out the old mining equipment
Tim in front of the saloon where we had a snack
Next stop of Ely, NV. Another great town that was started due to a large copper deposit in the area. The Kennecott Mine is still in operation today.
Before stopping for the night in Ely, we drove on through to visit the old ghost town of Osceola. It is located in the Great Basin National Heritage Area. It is a fascinating town. You can learn more about the history of this area at this website Osceola District – Great Basin Heritage.
The highest peak in Nevada is known as Wheeler Peak – the same name as the highest peak in New Mexico.
Wheeler Peak – highest peak in Nevada at 13,065 feet above sea level
When we got to Osceola the wind was blowing at 40 mph+. Needless to say, I wasn’t too keen on spending much time out exploring and taking photos. But we did take time to walk around the famous Osceola cemetery.
The view from the cemetery was beautiful. I couldn’t think of a nicer resting place for these souls.
View from Osceola cemetery
There’s not much left of the old gold mining town of Osceola. But what was left was great for photos. Especially that old truck. I love rusty old trucks!
Osceola Ghost town
Stone foundation of old home
Great old truck!
There is still one gold claim still in production in the area. You can see the extensive workings from the road up the canyon. Tons and tons of earth have been removed to get to the elusive gold in the area.
Current mining operation at Osceola
This canyon has been worked for well over a 100 years
I saw several birds as Osceola. But with the strong winds, it was almost impossible to get a photo. I did manage to get a couple decent pics.
On the way back from Osceola, just outside of Ely is a small lake called Comins Lake and is part of the Steptoe Valley Wildlife Management Area. Of course I just had to stop there that evening so I could photograph some birds. By now I was in birding withdrawals as I hadn’t seen hardly any birds since we left Provo, UT!
At a long distance away – I believe these are Wilson’s Phalarope in winter plumage
We had dinner at hotel Nevada. It opened in 1929, was the tallest building in Nevada well into the 1940s and was the state’s first fire-proof building.
Great historical hotel and very popular with the bikers
It was nice touring the old part of town. There wasn’t anybody around, so I got some nice photos. I think they turned out nice in black and white.
The main building of the railway was built in 1910.
A lot of the original constructi0n is still standing and in great condition
I woke up again bright and early… ready for another full day of birding. Since I had pretty much birded the area out yesterday, I decided to head home first thing… with a stop at Bosque del Apache first of course.
I left well before sunrise. As I was driving down the interstate I couldn’t help but notice the full moon setting. It was just beautiful. But by the time I found an exit (they are scare in this area) and changed my camera settings to capture a night shot, the moon had almost set. I did manage to get a couple decent photos before it was gone. I had hoped to have time to set my camera so that the moon would be in focus instead of just a ball of light. Sadly I just didn’t have time. I rarely shoot at night so the settings just aren’t automatic for me. Now ask me settings for different lighting conditions to capture a bird, I’ve got those memorized!
When I arrived at the Bosque del Apache, I was very disappointed in the weather conditions. When I left TorC it was calm and warm. But when I got to the Bosque it was cold and extremely windy. The ponds were all choppy and nothing was out feeding. Big disappointment. I drove the loop once, saw two more skunks! But mostly things were just very quiet.
I took a few photos of birds trying to feed during the windy morning conditions. But it was so windy I had a difficult time taking photographs. Either the bird was moving all over because of a swinging branch and/or I couldn’t hold my camera steady in the gusts of wind.
Since it was so quiet at the Bosque and the weather conditions just awful, I decided to head up to Bernardo and see what was happening there. Of course, all the Sandhill Cranes were here. I can’t understand why they prefer this location over the Bosque del Apache, but they do. And surprisingly the wind had calmed down considerably in this area.
Since there was nothing new here, I drove further north and stopped at Los Lunas to see if I could find the Burrowing Owls that have returned for nesting. Sadly, they were not showing themselves either.
So far, this day has been a bust!
So I headed yet further north and popped in to the Valle de Oro. I usually always see lots here. But nope! Another quiet location. I did get a nice shot of a Horned Lark.
Horned Lark – female
So by now I’m back in Albuquerque. It was only 1:30 which meant I still had plenty of time to bird. So I took Joe’s instructions and decided to find a Great Horned Owl nest he told me about off Montano. It was literally off the main road way up in a tree. I couldn’t see the male, but she was fairly visible from the ground.
Great Horned Owl
I still wasn’t ready to call it a day. So I decided to head over to the Rio Grande Nature Center. There’s always activity there… right??! Nope, this day was definitely the birds day off.
Just before getting into my car, I saw a couple of folks taking pictures of something in the parking lot. My guess was a Roadrunner. And I was right! This guy was very tame. I sat on the ground at the picnic tables and he came up to me looking for a handout. I didn’t have anything to give him, but some other folks shared some tidbits. I got several great photos of him.
Finally! Something worth shooting! 🙂
Great Roadrunner – my favorite pic of the day!
So that concludes my late winter birding trip to TorC. I had a blast. Over the three days of birding, I saw/heard 76 different species of birds.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my birding weekend! I’m ready to go again once spring migration starts!!!! After all….I still need that Vermillion Flycatcher photo!
The last week or so I’ve been out birding when I can. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous. Very warm and sunny. It feels like spring…not February!
Last week we had to go back to Las Vegas, NM, for work. It was way nicer weather than the week prior. I got to bird for only short time as it was a busy work day. The birds were very quiet. But I got to enjoy watching a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks being playful.
I visited Corrales last week for a long walk. Again, the birds were quiet. But I saw another Red-Tailed Hawk sitting nicely across the ditch from me. I thought his breast feathers looked really red.
Then last Friday I had the morning unexpectedly available. So I got up early to bird. I went to Tingly Beach and the duck ponds. It was a great birding day. I saw 34 species that day. I love days like that!
Here’s some of my better shots.
Not often you see crows and ravens together. You can really see the size difference.
Lesser Scaup female
Rock Pigeon - i liked the coloring of this one
Pied-Billed Grebe in front of a Mallard
After walking the ponds, I wasn’t ready to go home. It was such a beautiful day. Scarlett wasn’t ready to stop hiking either.
So I decided to head over to Los Poblanos open space. See if I could find the nesting Western Screech Owls.
I saw 3 roadrunners at once busily looking for food. And an American Kestral hunting nearby.
Sandhill Cranes were also feeding close by.
Then I came upon a nesting box and was thrilled to see an owl occupied it.
Western Screech Owl
I wouldn’t get out for almost a week. But I finally got to go today. Joe Schelling met up with me this morning to help me look for the Northern Pygmy Owl seen at the Cienega picnic ground. The gates are closed go the picnic grounds until May on the east side of the Sandias. So we had a two-mile round trip hike to find this bird.
While hiking we saw lots of American Robins, Northern Flickers, Townsend Solitaires, and Mountain Chickadees. Most of them were high up in the trees making for difficult photography.
Scarlett had a blast running around in the snow. Just loving the chance to stretch her legs.
Sadly no Pygmy Owl for me today. While we hunted for the Owl we talked about our other sightings recently. He told me about some Barn Owls he’d seen at Los Poblanos. Of course, I just had to find them!
Before leaving the mountain, we decided to head to the Crest to see if there were any rosy finches about. I saw a Brown-Capped Rosy Finch but it flew away before I could get a pic. But a Gray-Crowned Rosy Finch stuck around long enough.
Gray-Crowned Rosy Finch
We didn’t see the large flock that usually swoops in. Ah well…
Heading to town later on I decided to stop at Tingly Beach where Joe mentioned seeing a Western Screech Owl. No Owl but I saw a porcupine sleeping in a tree very low to the ground. I could have reached out and touched him. Zoom in on the photo and you can see his orange teeth.
Next I drove to Los Poblanos, followed Joe’s directions, and sure enough there was a Barn Owl roosting right where he described. I was thrilled! This was the first time I’d ever seen one. It made up for not seeing the Pygmy Owl. Well…..mostly… Lol!
That brings my life list up to 348 seen and photographed birds!
While I was at Los Poblanos I saw this adorable Guinea singing to its reflection in the window.
Heading back home I saw lots of Bluebirds about. All three variety – Western, Eastern and Mountain. I love seeing Bluebirds. They make me smile.
These two male Mountain Bluebirds were fighting over a female
It was a wonderful day/ week. Looking forward to when I can get out again and enjoy this amazing spring-like weather.
Yesterday the weather was just beautiful for a January winter day. I just knew I had to take advantage of it. I’ve been wanting to go back to the Bosque del Apache. But the travel distance from my home is 2.5 hours away. When I travel there its a long all day excursion.
Then I remembered Bernardo Wildlife Refuge. It’s only an hour from my house. It doesn’t have the big ponds like the Bosque del Apache so waterfowl viewing is very limited. But it does have big open cultivated fields. Something the cranes, ducks and geese can’t resist in the winter.
So I headed there yesterday morning early. I had heard the numbers of cranes and geese were low this year at the Bosque. I can see why. They are all at Bernardo. When I arrived, the cacophony of bird calls was almost deafening. Bernardo is much smaller than the Bosque del Apache as far as open fields. So when birds gather they are tightly packed in and you drive all among them through the fields.
Sandhill Cranes with the Monzano Mountains in the background
My best guess, I think there were 6,000 Sandhill Cranes at Bernardo. It was awesome!
They were busy feeding in the fields. After working a section, a big group would take flight and move over a few yards and start feeding again.
Sandhill Cranes moving to the next feeding spot
There was a good number of Snow Geese there as well. My best guess was about 1,000 birds. They were staying in a tight flock. Just as I was almost adjacent to them in my car, something spooked the flock and they all launched. I immediately pulled over for some photo ops. It’s so beautiful to see them in flight.
They quickly settled down in about the same spot they started. So I got to sit and enjoy watching them. I noticed a lot of Sandhill Cranes among them as well. Crazy how birds don’t mind being crowded together.
Sandhill Crane among the Snow Geese
As I approached the far edge of the flock, a train came by next to the field. It scared up a whole flock of Mallards that were feeding next to the Snow Geese. I had no idea they were even there.
Mallards flying above the flock of Snow Geese
The views there at Bernardo are beautiful. Especially on a lovely winter day like this.
Ladron Peak in the background. Sandhill Cranes. Look closely at the right side of the photo and a Red-Tailed Hawk is flying by.
There were lots of Meadowlarks around. I love their beautiful yellow breasts and their song makes me happy.
There were a few House Sparrows and an American Kestral hanging out in the sagebrush.
In the distance I noticed something big roosting in one of the large Cottonwood trees near the fields. When I got closer I realized it was a Bald Eagle. How exciting! He flew as soon as I got my camera up for a photo. The picture is blurry because he didn’t give me any chance to focus before he disappeared over the tree tops.
As he flew off he was joined by another adult and a juvenile. Beautiful!
A much more cooperative Red-Tailed Hawk posed nicely for me.
I decided to go across the highway and see what might be about in the Sagebrush along the Rio Puerco.
Diversion channel next to the refuge. Sandia Mountains in the distance.
I love the old bridge here at Bernardo. I couldn’t resist photographing it.
While photographing the bridge I saw something fly by. To my delight it was a Loggerhead Shrike. I love these cool birds!
Church near Bernardo
The morning was still young and the weather mild. I remembered a hike nearby that I haven’t been to in years. So I headed over to San Lorenzo Canyon. Scarlett was with me and she had been very patient while I was birding. She deserved to have some fun.
So I headed down the highway to Lemitar to get a snack and more water. The road to the canyon is close by.
Church at Lemitar
While driving up the road to the canyon I had to stop to watch a huge flock of blackbirds. There were so many you almost couldn’t see through them.
Blackbirds swarming around this donkey
The flock was a variety of Red-Winged Blackbirds, Starlings and Brewer’s Blackbirds.
We finally made it to the canyon. Just before turning into the canyon, there’s this really neat rock formation. My geologist husband said it is an example of an angular unconformity.
San Lorenzo Canyon is a very wide slot canyon that you can drive through. It has smaller side canyons you can hike into. There are a lot of cool rock formations to see.
Scarlett had a blast exploring. She’d been cooped up in the car for a couple hours.
Road through San Lorenzo Canyon
Scarlett loved to scramble up the rock ledges.
Terminus of the road in the canyon. To continue exploring you have to scramble up this rock formation.
Scarlett didn’t like being in the bottom of the narrow arroyos. She couldn’t see anything. So she would run up the steep walls then expect me to follow. Too steep for me!
Can you see Scarlett way up there?
As the day progressed the high thin clouds were getting thicker taking away the beautiful blue skies. It was time to head home anyway.
On the drive out, the change in daylight had created a dramatic feel to the San Mateo Mountains. I thought the contrast between the desert scrub, the low purple-hued hills, the snow-covered mountains and the sky made a beautiful landscape photo. A breathtaking sight to end a perfect morning enjoying New Mexico’s landscape and wildlife.