Yesterday I had to drive almost to Grants to meet a client. It was a cold, dreary day. On my way home I decided to stop in at Piedras Marcadas Petroglyphs so Scarlett and I could stretch our legs.
There weren’t any birds about, but there was an adorable, curious squirrel.
I crept closer hoping to get a better pic.
And closer still….. He let me take several photos before diving behind the rocks.
Just too darn adorable!
There were some hot air balloons up while I was hiking. One of them was landing behind the mesa. I took this pic just before it disappeared.
After working most of the day today, I managed to take a couple hours to hike and bird before sundown. I wasn’t sure what I would see being so late in the day. But surprisingly I saw few nice goodies.
Over the last few days we’ve had some cold, snowy weather. A couple days ago while in town, I took a photo of the Sandia Mountains. I love it when they are covered in clouds and snow.
Stormy Sandia Mountains
Thankfully today was more sunny and warmer. I first stopped in at a small park in Albuquerque to find a Western Screech Owl that has been seen there snoozing in a tree. Considering 90% of the trees in the park were too small for an owl, it was pretty easy to find him.
Western Screech Owl
Snoozin’ the day away
I love seeing owls in the wild. It’s always a real treat. After taking a few pics, I moved so as not to disturb him or draw attention to him from the other folks playing in the little park.
I then headed over to Willow Creek. I hadn’t been there in a while so it sounded like fun to go see what was about. On my way in to the park, I spied this Western Bluebird hunting for dinner.
As I was taking photos, he saw something on the ground and I managed to get a few shots of him getting a grub.
It was a good find, so he took off with it to enjoy at his leisure. Beautiful!
My favorite photo of the day
Along the trail I saw Lesser Goldfinches, White-Crowned Sparrows, House Finches and Spotted Towhees. All of these birds were too shy to have their photo taken. But there were a lot of American Robins about. They were much more cooperative.
There’s one point on the trail that affords a great view of the Sandias. I took this pic there. You can see there’s still snow about half way up the mountain.
To my delight I spied a Red-Tailed Hawk that was looking for a meal. Such a beautiful bird! And look at those claws!
Just before leaving I saw a Say’s Phoebe looking for dinner.
He too found something to eat and quickly took off with it.
That’s about it for my short afternoon walks. But any time hiking, birding and doing photography is a time well spent.
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.
With my several trips this year and busy work, I haven’t had time to blog as often as I would have liked to. So I thought I would combine several sightings over the summer into one post. Now that fall is officially here, many of these birds are gone or will be gone soon.
During the summer I went on several day hikes within a couple hours of Albuquerque. Partly to see something new in scenery and partly to see some birds I don’t normally see around home.
One hike that was new for me was the Cave Creek hike in the Pecos Wilderness. It’s about a 5-mile round trip hike to some caves that were created by water eroding through limestone. It was a beautiful hike in thick forest along a creek. Of course, Scarlett enjoyed the water immensely!
So much fun at the water crossings!
Lovely stream to hike along.
The caves were very interesting. There were several that were big enough to walk inside of. I didn’t go very far in as it got dark quickly and I wasn’t sure how deep the water got. But lots of fun to explore. Scarlett was curious about the caves as well.
Unique caves created by water erosion.
Scarlett exploring a smaller cave.
On this hike I saw a flock of Dusky Grouse. This is pretty much the only grouse specie New Mexico has. I’ve only seen this bird a few times of the past 20 years and never very close. But I was lucky on this hike. When I startled them, they flew into a nearby pine and sat very still – which was perfect for a great photo.
Another day I ventured to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains next to Santa Fe. It was a very cloudy day and the birds were few, but I managed to get a few nice sightings. A favorite – Green Tailed Towhee – came close to check me out so I was able to see his colors nicely.
Green Tailed Towhee
Williamson’s Sapsucker – Juvenile
One of the highlights of this hike was seeing lots of mushrooms. I’ve seen photos of the red and white polka dot mushrooms, but never have seen one in person. It was a real treat seeing and photographing them. 🙂
Poisonous mushroom – but so pretty!
Aspen Vista is a beautiful hike at about 8,000 feet above sea level. As you know Scarlett loves water. But she also loves culverts. She’s always looking inside them to see what might be hiding. On this hike, she found a culvert that was big enough to run through and it had water flowing through it. Bonus!
Scarlett having a blast!
I walked along the Rio Grande several times. Most of the colorful summer birds love the Bosque. It’s so much fun looking for and photographing these beauties!
Great Blue Heron
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird enjoying the summer mimosa blooms!
House Finch – partial orange morph
One day while hiking along the river, I came across a Cooper’s Hawk enjoying breakfast. You could tell it had caught a songbird by the foot hanging out of it’s beak. Poor thing….
Songbird for breakfast anyone???
While reviewing my photos, I realized I had captured a lifer bird on one of my outings along the river. I love it when that happens! In this case, I had mistaken it for a Summer Tanager. But when I reviewed the photo more closely, I realized it was a Hepatic Tanager. Yay!!!
Of course, Scarlett always enjoys a visit to the river!
Look at that big grin on Scarlett’s face!
One day I took a drive out to Stanley. I hadn’t been there for quite some time. I saw a lot of the usual residents there. I never tire seeing a Western Meadowlark or the many hawks that live there. 🙂
Red-Tailed Hawk (juvenile) – I love the coloring of this particular bird
Around home I’ve had several new birds visit my yard this summer. It’s so exciting to see something new show up. I hope they find me again next year! Some were easy to photograph, while others were very elusive. The birds I was unable to photograph but saw were Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Brown-Headed Blackbird, Northern Saw-Whet Owl, and Green-Tailed Towhee.
I love their orange eyes.
Along with the new birds I’ve seen this year, I’ve had plenty of the resident birds stopping by the feeders and bird baths.
A very shy Ladderback Woodpecker (hence the blurry photo)
Wilson’s Warbler – coming to enjoy my bird bath
Holding down a sunflower seed to extract its goodness.
This summer New Mexico saw several forest fires in the Jemez Mountains. Because of this, a lot of the bird life has migrated south to new habitats. This summer we saw a large number of Lewis’s Woodpeckers in the greater Albuquerque area. We normally don’t see them here, so it was a real treat to see one only a couple miles from my house. It seemed to prefer this telephone pole as it was sighted there often. And it didn’t like the squirrel using its pole.
Get off my pole!!!
I drove down to the Monzano Mountains a couple weeks ago hoping to see the fall colors starting in 4th of July Canyon. Though the colors still haven’t begun, I did get to see several birds.
Steller’s Jay – so beautiful!
I saw a Brown Creeper – always a delight. They are very difficult to see against the bark and they move quickly.
Plus I got a lifer! A Golden-Crowned Kinglet. I’ve been looking for this bird for several years and just happened upon it on this trail. Yay! This guy was way up in the canopy shadows and moving so fast!
Among the many bird sightings I had over the summer, I came across some other interesting things. I thought you might enjoy seeing them. 🙂
Cool bee on a beautiful summer sunflower
Southwestern Fence Lizard
Police Car Moth
I love the colors on this dragonfly
This beetle “hisses” when you touch it. A unique defense!
Great Plains Skink (juvenile). This guy was so cool!!! I love the markings on the face. This skink will turn plain brown all over as an adult.
Yesterday I got up early so I could visit Capulin Spring in the Sandia Mountains. This is a great time to visit the spring because we get some fall migrating warblers. The most sought after warbler this time of year is the Townsend’s Warbler. We only get them here for a few weeks in September, then we have to wait another year to see them again.
So I had high hopes of seeing this warbler. I had my new camera after all! I was hoping to get a better photo of one than I have in the past.
When I first arrived there were the usual Dark-Eyed Juncos about. They are always here in great numbers. We get several variety of Juncos in New Mexico, but the most common is the “gray headed”.
Dark-Eyed Junco – Gray Headed
Then a group of Yellow-Rumped Warblers came in for a drink and a bath. We have these birds here year round. Now that it’s officially fall, their plumage is less vibrant than in the spring. But they are still a pretty warbler.
After sitting quietly for awhile I was rewarded with the Townsend’s Warbler. Two of them in fact! Beautiful! They were very cautious to come get a drink. As with all warblers, they were quick too! But I managed to get a few good pics. Here are a couple of my favorites.
Then a couple of fellow birders showed up – Sharon and Vicki. We had a great time birding together. With three pairs of eyes, we were able see more sightings. One of which was a new bird for me!
Sharon pointed out a soaring bird way up high overhead. I zoomed way in and was able to get one photo before it soared away. Not a great photo but I got it! A Northern Goshawk!
For awhile we had been seeing Steller’s Jays. They were acting very shy. But once us girls started visiting, they seem to relax and start coming in. Funny! You’d think sitting still and quiet would make them more brave. Instead, they were happier when they were ignored. LOL!
There were several Ruby Crowned Kinglets about but they were quick! I got a lot of bad photos and one decent one.
Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Vicki pointed out a different Junco – a “pink sided”. A pretty little bird.
Dark-Eyed Junco – Pink Sided
Happily another warbler showed up for a drink and bath – an Orange-Crowned Warbler.
A couple nuthatches showed up. I usually see more when I visit, but this day they were kinda scarce.
Here are picks of the other more common visitors to the spring.
Then to my great delight a Plumbeous Vireo showed up. He was very nervous and darted all about. Though not a great pic – it was the best of the bunch. Soon he will be leaving us for the winter.
Just before I was leaving I saw a Green-Tailed Towhee – always a delight to see and hear.
First off, let me just say, I LOVE my new camera! I’m definitely still in the learning phase, but it’s performance is superior to my old setup. It’s a joy to use, and I’m very happy with my images.
Not too long ago, we had a spring storm blow through and it dumped 12 inches of snow at my house. The birds were not very happy about this event, and neither were my plants.
A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.
The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.
I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂
My sweet Miss Scarlett
Thankfully the snow melted the very next day, and the temperatures returned to the mid to high 70s right away. I got to go out hiking several times this week. I visited Tingley Beach a couple days after the spring storm. The Rio Grande was raging and flooded most of the bosque trails. But it was worth trudging through it to see some new spring birds.
I have lived in the Albuquerque area for over 20 years. And during that time, I have never visited Sandia Lakes or Shady Lakes (they are next door to each other). So one day I decided to check out the lakes.
Sandia Lakes was very nice. Beautiful lawns and cottonwood trees and three separate lakes.
Sandia Lakes with the Sandia Mountains in the background
The first bird I saw was a Lark Sparrow (first one I’ve seen this year). He was singing way up high in a tree. Then I saw several Canada Geese with their babies.
While watching the geese, I saw something that looked different. I quickly realized it was a Western Grebe. We don’t see them often in our area, so it was a real treat.
I saw a pair of Say’s Phoebes busily hunting for bugs. I soon saw why they were so frantic to find bugs. They had three babies squeezed into a tiny nest.
I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well. They are such beautiful birds
While walking around the lake, an Osprey flew overhead. I thought to myself that he might be part of a nesting pair. This was confirmed recently by my friend Joe. I’m definitely going to have to check out their nesting progress.
I came across a pair of Black-Capped Chickadees that were acting very agitated. I never did figure out what they were so upset about.
As I was walking through the grass between lakes, I saw a Killdeer doing its “I’m injured, follow me” routine. So I knew there must be a baby nearby. It was acting pretty desperate, so I thought it must be very close.
Killdeer trying to lure me away from its baby
When I looked down, I realized it was only a foot away. I almost stepped on it! Yikes! It never did move. I took a quick pic and then quickly moved away. Soon I heard the baby calling for its parents. It was nice to see them all reunite and be assured all was fine.
I then headed over to Shady Lakes. What a beautiful place! It has several ponds all covered in beautiful lily pads and lined with irises. The ponds are stocked with different varieties of fish. But I was there for the birds.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron sitting beautifully on an old log. I then realized there were several of them gathered there. Fabulous! They are used to people so they let me get pretty close.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.
I noticed a moth feeding among the irises. These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.
White-Lined Sphinx Moth
The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!
My last hike was up to the Cienega picnic area. The forest service blocks the road for cars until mid-May. So you have to hike along the road to get to the upper picnic area. My goal was to try and find the Northern Pygmy Owl that has been seen nesting there. Now I have made this hike several times both last spring and this spring with no luck seeing that owl. Well, this time I was successful! This is a lifer bird for me!
He was calling repeatedly on a lower branch in the aspen tree where he’s been seen nesting. All the songbirds in the area were very agitated and were trying to scare him away. It was a wonderful sighting!
For those of you not familiar with this owl. He’s very small, only 6 inches from its head to the end of its tail. So you can see why he’s so difficult to find.
Northern Pygmy Owl
I decided to hike over to Bill Spring since I was in the area. A Hermit Thrush was enjoying a bath. And a baby was in a tree nearby.
A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.
I hadn’t been at the spring long when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in chasing a chickadee. After that, the birds were scarce. So I started hiking back to my car. I saw lots of Black-Headed Grosbeak singing and squabbling in the trees. I’m guessing they were vying for the attention of the females.
I’m thrilled spring is here. I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived. 🙂
For the past few years I was using a Nikon 1 V3 mirrorless camera for all of my birding photos. While I loved that camera when I had plenty of light, I was always let down with any photos I took that were in low-light conditions. The sensor in the camera just couldn’t handle low light, high ISO conditions.
So recentlly I purchased a new camera. An Olympus OMD EM1 Mark ii (could they have come up with any longer of a name??!!). This new camera is a micro 4/3 camera. It has a better sensor for low light and it has much better in-camera stabilization. I got a birding lens to go with it that has a reach of 800mm.
Of course, I just had to take it out right away to see how it performed birding. So I planned a whole day of birding in different locations and light conditions. When I shot with my Nikon, I mostly used shutter priority. So that’s what I set the new camera to. I was less than pleased with the first photos I took that day.
I headed over to Owlville in Los Lunas. I had heard there were lots of Burrowing Owls nesting there this year. I wasn’t disappointed either – I saw lots of owls. They are located right next to the road, so you can get pretty close sitting in your car. I played with the settings in my camera and my results were better. It was a lot of fun watching these little owls. It was early in the morning and the owls were very sleepy still.
Burrowing Owl snoozing in the morning sun
They seemed to be having a hard time waking up. 🙂
I just never seem to be able to get enough owl photos to satisfy me. They just make me smile.
Love this expression.
This one was a little more alert than the others.
Then I saw one on a bush. I think this made for wonderful photos. I really like the bokeh with my new setup.
I’m impressed with the details in the feathers with this new setup.
I then headed to Belen to the Taco Bell marsh. When you shoot there, you are looking toward the sun – always a challenge to get good photos in those conditions. I was pretty pleased with how the camera performed though still disappointed in the end results. I just couldn’t figure out how to set this camera. It has a very complicated menu system that is not intuitive.
As I was leaving the marsh, I saw someone had created a track that goes to the other side of the marsh. Seeing as I own a Jeep Wrangler, I was pretty confident I could drive on this sandy track and be ok. I knew if I got to the other side, the sun would be behind me making more perfect conditions for photos. And I wasn’t disappointed! I saw this Cinnamon Teal right away. Beautiful!
I then saw this Morning Dove fly in looking for nesting materials.
Getting some nesting material.
I then headed to a rookery I had recently heard about (thanks to my friend Joe!). Here the lighting was low due to all the shade trees.
As soon as I got there, I saw a Cattle Egret in the tree right above me trying to get just the right stick for its nest. I was amazed at how well this bird balanced itself on that skinny limb.
It took some skill to walk on that limb.
Of course it wanted the stick on the very end LOL!
While photographing this egret, the owner of the home came out. We visited for a while, and then he invited me into the yard to get a closer look. Wow! He was very kind and you could tell he enjoyed having the annual visitors.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
The owner leaves some of the fallen sticks on the ground for the birds to use. This Cattle Egret was taking advantage of this bounty.
This is just one small view of the trees in this yard. Look at all those nests!
The owner told me about a Sharp-Shinned Hawk next door. It was deep in the canopy and my camera was struggling to get a focus. So I put the camera in manual focus and was pleased with how easy it was to change the settings and focus on the bird.
I was still trying to shoot on Shutter Priority. While I like these images, I still think this camera could do much better. I know it’s all user error.
My next stop was in Santa Fe. I had to deliver some supplies to a job site there, so I visited the Randall Davey Audubon Center. I walked the trail behind the center that follows a steam in the woods. I immediately spotted warblers! I love warblers but they are a big challenge to photograph – especially with a new camera!
Black-Throated Gray Warbler
I spent a little time in the gardens of the center. I was really challenged trying to focus on my subjects. I just couldn’t figure out the settings for center focus.
I could see I still needed to practice and learn this camera.
My next outing I went to check on the owls at Academy School. I haven’t been there in weeks. I figured that baby might have left the nest by now. He had, but he was still hanging out in the same tree. I think he needs to grow into those feet!
Great Horned Owl
At my home I got more practice with my camera. Lots of good stuff showing up this spring!
House Finch in gorgeous breeding plumage
Black-Throated Gray Warbler – the second year in a row it has come to my home
Remember that Mountain Bluebird I saved last December? Well, he’s doing fine and is nesting with his lovely lady this spring. I love the photo I got of her, but I just couldn’t get a decent photo of him.
Mountain Bluebird – female
Mountain Bluebird – male
I made a brief stop at Kit Carson park to find the owls there. I had heard about them, but hadn’t had a chance to go by. I found one adult and one baby. The baby had left the nest and was way up high hiding well within the canopy. So well I couldn’t get a decent photo. But one of the parents was nicely out in the open.
Great Horned Owl
My last outing was to the Cienega Trail on the east side of the Sandias. It was a cold and cloudy morning. Very low light conditions. By this time I had switched to Aperture Priority. I was much happier with the results. I also learned I can set a maximum ISO when on Auto ISO. This is great because I know I can control the amount of noise in my low-light photos. I think these low-light photos are much better than what I would have gotten with my Nikon.
So all in all I’m much happier with my new gear. I know I have lots to learn, but I think I’m off to a good start!
Not sure what this little guy is…but he’s darn cute! I saw him at the Cienega Trail parking area.
I’ve been waiting for the February 2017 edition of the New Mexico Magazine to hit the stands before I made my announcement. I’m so excited! I won 2nd Place in the Animals Category of the New Mexico Magazine’s Annual Photo Contest.
It’s very exciting to have been chosen. They received over 1500 entries and only 24 photos were chosen. So it’s a real honor to have been selected. This coming weekend they are holding a banquet for the winners at the Tularosa Basin Gallery in Carrizozo, New Mexico.
From blogging about my 20th Anniversary trip. 🙂 Don’t worry, I will get it finished here this coming week. I’m sure you’re looking forward to seeing my photos from Zion National Park.
Fall is in full swing here in New Mexico. I managed to get out for a few short hikes.
Fall colors along Sandia Crest
One day Scarlett and I went to Corrales and walked the irrigation ditch. Birding was pretty quiet that day. But I managed to get a few decent pics.
Blue Grosbeak juvenile
But the highlight of the day was seeing a porcupine that had come out of the brush to get a drink. He took his sweet time getting a drink and then he started walking towards Scarlett and I. I kept a tight hold on Scarlett’s leash in case she felt the need to go inspect him closer. He came within a few feet of us. He then stopped and shook himself several times. Scarlett had her nose stretched out getting good sniffs in. That guy was stinky!
Getting in a good shake
You can see his orange teeth and big claws
Walking in the area around my home I came across a few good birds. They are enjoying the various wildflowers that have started turning to seed.
You can see pollen on its beak
On one afternoon I was able to stop in at the Rio Grande Nature Center. It was pretty quiet there except for an inquisitive Greater Roadrunner. He cooperated nicely for a few pics.
I love the colors on these birds
Watching me closely
I love these birds!
I babysat Valerie’s dog Mya for 10 days. We went on several short walks. Scarlett was thrilled to have her best friend along. Scarlett taught Mya how to pose for photos. 🙂
Mya and Scarlett
Scarlett started her heat. I have a small Chihuahua named Henry. He normally snubs Scarlett whenever she tries to socialize with him. But during her heat he’s been in love with her!
Henry flirting with Scarlett
She was loving the attention!
When Henry wasn’t flirting with Scarlett, he was hunting lizards in the yard. I caught him watching a lizard on the side of the house.
Henry watching a lizard who’s watching a grasshopper
While digging in the garden I dug up a juicy grub. To reward the lizard for putting up with Henry, I tossed the grub where he could get it. He quickly grabbed it up and ran behind the garden fence under a drain spout. It took some doing, but I was able to get a photo of him trying to eat that fat grub.
Scarlett and Mya were hanging out in the garden with me too.
My sweet Miss Scarlett
I love fall but it never seems to last long enough….
I’ve been hiking a lot lately trying to get in better shape before winter starts. And also for an upcoming trip in September for my 20th anniversary. So I’ve been putting in lots of miles over the past several weeks. Scarlett loves it of course.
Yesterday I didn’t really want to go hiking. But Scarlett all but pulled me out of my chair, handed me my keys and shoved me into the car! I’m glad I went though because it was perfect hiking weather.
As you can imagine, summers in New Mexico can be very hot. So I do a lot of hiking way up high in the mountains where the temperature is much cooler. The trails are very pretty this summer with lush grasses and wildflowers.
One of the hikes I really enjoy is a series of trails that take you to the top of the Sandias where there’s a huge meadow and a stone building called the Kiwanis Cabin. I visited the cabin last summer with Scarlett but hadn’t been back until the last few weeks.
Panorama of the views from Kiwanis cabin
Panorama of the Kiwanis meadow
Mule Deer with antlers in velvet
Of course, I had to make Scarlett pose at the cabin 🙂
Miss Scarlett posing for me at the cabin
There’s a sign at the cabin with an official letter from the forest service telling you not to climb on the cabin’s roof or you could be fined and/or jailed. I love the comment someone wrote on this notice.
The views from the Kiwanis Cabin are beautiful. You can see for miles and miles. This summer has been very humid for us so the views have been limited some. But still great nonetheless.
View looking south from Kiwanis meadow
Panorama of southern view from Kiwanis meadow
One of the days I was hiking, the clouds were hanging right at the top of the mountain. It made for a pretty photo. And really cooled things off!
Hiking in the clouds
Scarlett loves hiking. She loves to explore, run, sniff everything! She’s a great hiking companion.
Sweet Scarlett posing for me again. 🙂
I love this photo of Scarlett. The ground was wet so she left footprints on the rocks.
As you know by now, Scarlett loves water. There’s not much water to be had in the Sandias this time of year. But Scarlett still managed to have some fun in a water puddle left by the summer monsoons.
Scarlett loves water!
The birds have been very quiet this late summer. The raising of their young is just about finished and molting is starting. Sightings are much more difficult this time of year. But I still managed to see several variety of birds over the last few weeks.
Baby Western Bluebird
Western Tanager – female
I believe this is a Nashville Warbler
A very scrappy looking Yellow-Rumped Warbler
One day I hiked over to the tram for a little change of scenery. Scarlett and I met up with some sweet girls visiting here with their church group. They loved Scarlett.
Tram leaving the station
Scarlett’s newest fan club members (Hanna, Karli and Lexi)
From the tram, you can see the Kiwanis cabin in the distance at the top of the peak.
Kiwanis Cabin as seen from the tram (zoomed in of course!)
This year was a really good year for the House Wrens. I’ve seen lots of babies while hiking. They are just adorable. And they haven’t learned to fear people yet, letting me get close for some nice photos.
A pair of baby House Wrens. They were waiting at the top of a bush for a parent to come by and feed them.
This baby House Wren let me get really close.
Not very many butterflies were out on my hikes. But I did manage to get a few. There were lots of bees visiting the wildflowers. I found one bee that was wet and cold and just sitting on a flower trying to warm up. I took advantage of this to get a really close up pic.
Cold, wet bee
Some of the days I hiked over to the travertine falls. The falls are only a trickle this time of year, but still nice.
Travertine Falls with wild mint and grapes growing at the base.
I’ve noticed a lot of trail maintenance this summer. It’s nice that people volunteer their time to keep the trails cleared of fallen trees and overgrown brush. Someone got really creative on the South Crest Trail near the falls.
Natural art on the South Crest Trail
Scarlett posed for me at the falls. Such a good girl!
Around this time of year is when you are more likely to see baby horned toads. I love these little guys. I usually can’t resist picking them up. This also shows you how tiny they are!
Adult horned toad
Baby horned toad
This is the same baby. You can see it’s tiny!
Lots of lizards on the trails too!
Of course, no visit to the Sandia Mountains in the summer would be complete without a trip to Capulin Spring. But I have to say, I’m very disappointed in the recent work done at the spring. I had been told they were going to clean up the area around the spring. What happened in realty was way worse. It was almost complete devastation of the surrounding area. I met up with a woman there that had come upon the workers as they were “cleaning up” and she managed to stop the complete devastation of the area. What is more disturbing, is that this was organized by the local Audubon chapter.
There were a couple small trees that people sat under for shade and concealment that have been completely removed. Now when you sit to watch the birds you are completely exposed to the sun and to the birds.
There were two bushy trees to the right of the log that the birds loved. They would land there to be sure it was safe to visit the spring and also to sit in and groom after they bathed. One of the trees is a maple. We have very few maples in this state. The woman I spoke to stopped them from completely taking out these trees. But they are half gone now.
They had completely taken out the bushes on the way to the spring. This woman asked the workers if they had checked the bushes for nesting House Wrens before they chopped them down. They said no. The college students helping the workers were horrified when they realized they had chopped down a bush with baby wrens in a nest.
They took out several big trees too. The wood hasn’t been hauled off. The debris from chopping down the beautiful bushes is still piled up. The place is a disaster. And the birds are very skittish now. They are very hesitant to come to the spring when you are sitting there plain as day. Even the common Dark-Eyed Juncos are spooked.
I can only imagine how much worse it could have been if that woman hadn’t gotten there when she did. She said she had a big fight with them and made them stop. One of the guys said about one of the workers…
“He just loves to clean up stuff.” The woman replied that this wasn’t a back yard but a wild forest. Go clean up somewhere else!
I know there’s more work planned for next summer. I can only hope that future work there is considered and supervised much more carefully. Ultimately this spring is for the birds and wildlife of the area. We are just visitors there.
OK, I will get off my soapbox for now. Here are some photos of the birds I saw at the spring. It’s always a treat to see warblers!
Yell0w-Rumped Warblers having fun!
Dark-Eyed Junco – this one had a white tail.
I can never resist photographing the little chipmunks at the spring. They are always so adorable!
While driving to the trail head the other day, I saw a Yellow Warbler fly by and land in a juniper tree. I immediately turned around and parked for some photos. He was busy hunting for insects but I managed to get a couple of pics. I also saw a flock of Bushtits feeding in the same tree. Bonus!