Last Time to Bird at Port Aransas, Texas

This should be my last post from my trip to Texas last May/June.  It’s taken awhile to get caught up on my blog.

Birding in Port Aransas this last time was bitter sweet in many ways.  First off I knew it was most likely the last time I would be visiting there.  I lived in Corpus Christi from 1982 to 1994.  With my parents living in San Antonio, it was an easy drive for us to go to the beach whenever I visited them.  The last time I posted about birding in Port Aransas, my dad was still alive and me and my parents had taken a 5-day trip to the beach.  It was in May during spring migration.  I had plenty of time there to explore all the bird sanctuaries.  All the wonderful boardwalks into the marshes and estuaries were so much fun to explore.

Since that last visit, I had forgotten that Hurricane Harvey had come through and dealt a lot of damage to the coastal towns of Padre Island.  So while I was excited to visit the beach, I was sad to know my dad wouldn’t be there to join us and that all the bird sanctuaries had been destroyed.

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Demolition and construction was still ongoing while I visited.  This restaurant still hadn’t been addressed. 

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Going to cost a pretty penny to get this boat fixed.

Birding this year was tough.  I believe a lot of the birds did not linger during the spring migration because the usual areas they visited were completely destroyed.  Also, I think a lot of the local birds had left and not returned.  Needless to say, it took a lot of driving around to find any birds.  But I did manage to find a few good spots.

The first evening we were there I drove to the ferry and the walkway along the intra-coastal channel.  The damage from the hurricane was very evident here.  Huge pieces of concrete were lifted like they weighed very little.

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Destruction from Hurricane Harvey

While here I enjoyed the antics of several dolphin getting dinner.  It was interesting to watch them herd fish toward the wall so they could catch them.  I spotted a mother and her calf working the wall.

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Mother dolphin with calf looking at me

The sunset was gorgeous!

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Beautiful!

The next morning was when I realized all the local birding hot spots were destroyed.  Thankfully I saw signs saying they already had funding in place to repair all the boardwalks.  It looked like their plans were even going to improve what was originally there.  Someday if I make it back there I will have to see what they did.

I headed to the beach and jetty where I knew terns had gathered in the past.  Thankfully, this spot was still favored by the terns.  The surf was rough and the birds were gathered in big numbers fishing.

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Terns and gulls fishing the rough surf at the jetty

I found an area where the birds were resting and grooming after tackling the rough waters.  I was able to get several good pics of the terns resting.

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Black Tern Juvenile

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Black Tern

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Forster’s Tern

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Royal Tern

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Sandwich Tern

From there I headed down the road toward the big bridge going to Corpus Christi.  There is a marina there.  I’ve seen birds hanging out there in the past so had high hopes I would see some that morning.

Along the highway I saw a hawk looking for breakfast in the coastal grasslands.  I had to take a second look as I realized it was a new bird for me!  A White-Tailed Hawk.  Gorgeous!!!

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White-Tailed Hawk

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White-Tailed Hawk

I saw a Roseate Spoonbill fishing the shallows not far from the marina.  I pulled into a construction area to get closer for pics.  I managed a few photos before I was run off by the foreman.  🙂

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Roseate Spoonbill

As I was driving into the marina I spotted a beautiful Osprey hanging out on the electric wire.  He let me take a few pics before flying off.

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Osprey

The marina was not a disappointment.  There were several birds hanging out hoping for a free meal.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Brown Pelicans

Near the marina is an area that shorebirds have liked in the past.  I drove over there to see if I could find anything.  I was thrilled to see a pair of Willets with two young babies.  I’d never seen Willet babies before.  Adorable! I sat for some time just watching this little family.  You can’t help but smile and enjoy new life.

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Willet juvenile

Soon though the parents grew nervous and started telling me to move along.

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Willet telling me to move along

There were also some Black-Necked Stilts and a Reddish Egret enjoying the shallows.

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Black-Necked Stilt

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Black-Necked Stilt

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Reddish Egret

The next morning I decided to go the Horace Caldwell Fishing Pier.  Not sure if I would see anything here, but it was fun to go there at sunrise.

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Horace Caldwell Pier

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Beach at Port Aransas, Texas

I came across these two children fast asleep on the pier.  Their parent must have gotten them up really early to fish.  🙂

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Too early of a morning for these kids

The only birds I saw were White-Winged Doves and Pigeons.  What I found curious though, was a cross between these two species.  Interesting bird.

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The Rock Pigeons at the pier had very dark plumage.  Doesn’t make sense at a hot beach!

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Rock Pigeon and White-Winged Dove Cross Breed

After the pier I drove to the lone surviving boardwalk that overlooked a salt flat.  Most of the birds were too far away for photos.  I managed to see one bird closer to me.  And to my surprise it was a lifer!  A Black-Bellied Plover Juvenile.  Too bad it wasn’t an adult.  They are beautiful birds.   Even better, this is a rare sighting for the area!   I wouldn’t have believed I identified this bird correctly if it hadn’t been sighted by other birders on eBird.

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Black-Bellied Plover – juvenile

I spotted a few birds flying over and managed to snap a couple of photos on the fly.  🙂

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Black Skimmer

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White Ibis

During this trip I decided to take a ride on the Red Dragon.

While waiting to start the boat ride, I saw the local offshore fishing tour boats had come in as well.  They were hanging up the catch of the day.  Lovely Red Snappers with a few other interesting fish mixed in.

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Nice haul for the day

It’s was fun sailing with the pirates!

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Kelly sailing on the Red Dragon

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Arrrrrr…there be Pirates!

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Beautiful boat ride

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The Captain at his helm

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I took the sunset tour.  We boated along the intra-coastal and made it to the lighthouse.  We got there just as the sun was setting.  So lovely!

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Sunset over the lighthouse

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Gorgeous sunset!

One day at the ferry I spotted a juvenile Laughing Gull trying to swallow a whole fish.  He tried and tried to gulp that fish down.

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Laughing Gull juvenile

I love people watching.  I think most people do.  While there I captured a few fun moments of people watching.

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Skateboarding buddies

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The waiting line for the ferry was so long and slow, this girl had time to get into the back of the car and get cold drinks for everyone.  It was fun to watch her walk along with the car while digging in the cooler.

I saw lots of turtles about while birding.  I had never really seen turtles there before so it was fun to see several on this trip.

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Turtle moving along

I had a great time at the beach birding and spending time with my mother.  We enjoyed sitting on the beach, enjoying the warm summer days.  And we had fun shopping and eating delicious fish and shrimp dinners.  I’m so glad we took the time off to relax after all the stresses.

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San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden

While in San Antonio last June, I visited the Japanese Tea Garden.  It’s not a very big place, but it’s very unique.  This site was initially a limestone quarry that opened in 1840.  Many of the buildings in San Antonio during that time were built with the stone from this quarry.

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Entrance to the gardens

In 1880 it was changed to a cement quarry.  At this time a kiln was added to the site, which still stands today.

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Old kiln door

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Kiln stack and buildings

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Such unique craftsmanship

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Living quarters for the laborers

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More openings for the kiln

By 1917 the cement plant had shut down.  The City Parks department of San Antonio launched a program to convert the old quarry into a Japanese Tea Garden.  Prison labor was used to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda.

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Restored pagoda, gardens and pond

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What a wonderful idea for an old quarry.

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Quiet beauty

In 1919, at the city’s invitation, Kimi Elzo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden.  Him and his wife maintained the garden, lived in the garden and raised 8 children.  Kimi died in 1938 and in 1941 the family was evicted from the garden due to the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II.

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Arched path built by prison labor

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Such beautiful landscaping

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Beautiful!

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Bridge to the kiln stack.

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The Japanese Tea House up above.

For years the garden sat in neglect and disrepair, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism.  In 2005 the city started restoration on the pagoda-like pavilion.

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The roof was rebuilt in 2005. 

In 2007 restoration began to restore the ponds and waterfall.

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So beautiful!

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View from the pagoda

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Path to the waterfall.

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I loved the waterfall!

All work was completed by 2011.  The Jingu family members still alive returned for the public re-opening.  In recognition of the garden’s history, it has been designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, a registered Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Wonderful paths

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Hidden paths

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So peaceful

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Walkway from the gardens to the zoo nearby

I am so glad this precious gem of history has been saved and has been restored to its previous glory.  It was a wonderful place to visit.  So peaceful and beautiful.

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I loved walking these paths

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If I lived here, I would visit often!

Scarlett enjoyed touring the walkways as well.  She was curious of the Koi fish and they looked like they were just as curious.

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Scarlett was fascinated by the curious koi 🙂

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I love the colorful koi fish

I’m so glad I decided to visit the gardens.  I would have been sad if I had never taken the time to see such beauty that has been restored to its former glory.

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This flower was as big as my head!

Birding in Eagle Nest NM

On my last day at Red River I drove to Eagle Nest, NM, to do some birding and photography around Eagle Nest Lake.  It was a cool morning after evening showers.  As I drove along the highway, I came across a small herd of elk.  Always a welcome sight!

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Elk herd

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They have mostly lost their winter coat.

When I arrived at the lake, it had a layer of fog over the water.  I thought it made for a picturesque scene.

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Eagle Nest Lake

A lone boat of fishermen was on the lake.

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Fisherman on Eagle Nest Lake

There wasn’t much bird activity out over or on the water.  Just a few Canadian Geese flying by.

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Canadian Geese

There was a lot of bird activity around the lake.  Most notably swallows. There are very few trees around this lake.  So a house nearby was a top pick for the swallows nests.

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Swallows coming and going from their nests in the eaves.

As all birders know, swallows are fast! Trying to get a pic of one on the wing is very difficult.  But once I realized one of the species of swallows was a Tree Swallow, I was determined to get a pic.  This was a lifer bird for me!

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Tree Swallow

There were other birds along the shore of the lake.   Most of them were shy so it was difficult getting very close for any photos.  But I managed a few.

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Western Meadowlark

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Western Bluebird female

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Red-Winged Blackbird female

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Western-Wood Pewee

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Brewer’s Blackbird

While walking along the lake shore, I came across a half eaten jalapeno.  Where else but New Mexico would you see that?!?  🙂

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Only in New Mexico…

After spending some time around the lake, I decided to go exploring around Eagle Nest to see some of the sights for photos.  I came across the ruins of the old lodge.  I wish I could have gotten closer, but it was gated inside private property.

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Old Eagle Nest Lodge

There was a unique gate post nearby that looks like live hawks and eagles use it frequently for a perch   🙂

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While driving around I came across a Turkey Vulture enjoying a deer carcass.  Not much left, but still enough for a small meal.

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Turkey Vulture

I then decided to visit the old ghost town of Elizabethtown.  Not much left but a couple of buildings and a few old vehicles. My creative spirit just couldn’t seem to do much with the buildings….

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Old barn

So I moved on to the old vehicles.  I loved this old car.

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This used to be a high end car back in the 30s

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Of course, I had to get a pic of the old and the new 🙂

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But my favorite vehicle was this really cool old truck!  Isn’t it great!?!

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Love this!

Of course, I just had to get Scarlett to pose next to it.  Her picture didn’t come out so great as she was distracted by the horses nearby.

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Miss Scarlett

The horses were right across the street enjoying a lush pasture.  This Palomino was a real beauty.

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Enjoying spring in the mountains.

Sadly it was time to head back home.  The road back to Red River is very scenic.  This particular day had awesome clouds with New Mexico’s signature blue sky.

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Highway to Red River

Memorial Day weekend was coming up.  As I was driving home I passed by this very moving Memorial Day tribute.  It was very emotional seeing our American Flag blowing in the wind with signs saying how many of our countrymen had passed in our country’s wars.  Their lives have paid for our freedom in this wonderful country of ours.

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Memorial Day Tribute

Coming back through Taos, I stopped at a place where there’s a couple more cool trucks.   One of them I’ve posted before, but I can never resist photographing this vehicle.

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I love this truck!

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Beautiful Taos country!

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I had a great time visiting Red River.  It had been years since I had been there last.  It’s always a joy getting out and exploring God’s beautiful country.

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Red River Hiking – Day 2

On Day 2 we hiked to Middle Fork Lake.  It was a tough hike.  You climb 1200 feet in elevation in 2.5 miles.  Pretty steep and that was with switchbacks.  But the hike was beautiful.  We followed a stream called Middle Fork Red River up the canyon to the lake.

We started the hike at a high elevation of 9,579 feet.  It was beautiful right at the parking lot.  We parked right next to the stream.

The hike started climbing immediately.  Whew! Not much air at 9,579 feet and it got thinner as we climbed.  Scarlett didn’t seem to mind though.  She was thrilled to be out on a long hike.

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Scarlett and Kelly enjoying the hike.

The trail was beautiful.  I had to stop off and take photos every time we crossed the stream.

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Middle Fork Red River

There were little waterfalls all along the stream.

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I loved all the big rocks in the stream.

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After about a mile climb, we came to the stream again.  And this time there was a big waterfall.  Beautiful!  I just love waterfalls.  There aren’t many in New Mexico, so when you see one, it’s a real treat!

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A beautiful waterfall

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Rugged and natural

After taking a nice break at the waterfall, the climbing resumed.  Whew! The air was definitely getting thinner.  My legs were getting tired too.  We left the river and it was just one switchback after another.  If there wasn’t the lure of the lake ahead, I might have turned around.  I hadn’t been on a long, hard hike for several months.

Finally!  I made it to the lake.  All of a sudden you top a rise and it’s there before you.

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Middle Fork Lake

Well worth the effort of climbing to it.  The lake sits at 10,819 feet.  It’s a gorgeous glacial lake.  After standing there for a few wondrous minutes catching my breath, I walked down to the lake and took some scenic pics.

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Middle Fork Lake

To my delight there were some Gray Jays there hoping for some treats from visiting hikers.  I had almost left my birding lens behind since it’s a very heavy lens.  But thankfully I had carried it up the mountain.  So I was able to get some nice shots of this cool bird.

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Gray Jay

After sitting and having a nice lunch, I decided to walk around the lake.  Scarlett was thrilled when we came across a patch of snow left over from winter.  She had fun rolling and digging in the snow.  She was barking and letting everyone know how great it was.  LOL!  🙂

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Scarlett loved the snow patch!

I took a few more shots of the lake.  I was going to try and walk all the way around the lake, but storm clouds were brewing in the distance.  I figured I better start heading back down.

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Middle Fork Lake

When I got to the waterfall, I decided to try and climb to the upper part of the falls.  It was worth the scramble for the beautiful scene.

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Above the waterfall

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Above the waterfall

The waterfall was beautiful too as the light had changed since I had seen it earlier.

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Gorgeous lighting

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A wonderful part of the hike

Going down the trail was way easier than going up.  We made good time working our way down.  I let Scarlett have one more fun time in the stream before we got back to the car.  She just can’t get enough water.

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Scarlett enjoying the water

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My happy girl!

I’m so glad I went on the hike.  Everyone I hiked with was wonderful.  It was definitely worth the effort.

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Almost back to the parking lot.  Whew!

Stay tuned for my last day at Red River.  I will be birding in Eagle Nest! 🙂

 

 

 

Red River Hiking – Day 1

I recently went on a hiking trip to Red River, New Mexico.  I love Red River.  It’s a beautiful mountain town with amazing scenery.  New Mexico has been experiencing a severe drought.  Many of our forests are being closed to safeguard them from forest fires. I think my trip was timed just before the Carson National Forest is closed.

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I drove through Taos and was happy to see Black-Billed Magpies busily hunting for food.  I usually get terrible photos of these birds.  But on this occasion, I had a very cooperative bird and was able to get some nice photos.

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Black-Billed Magpie

While in Taos I came across several Rock Pigeons enjoying a puddle together.  I thought they looked adorable.

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Birds of a feather….

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Flock together….and enjoy a refreshing bath

I spent 3 days there and thankfully it rained each evening.  Hopefully they don’t experience any closures.  On Day 1 I drove to Red River and met up with the hiking group at the Columbine State Park trail.  This was a nice, easy trail.  I climbed about 500 feet in elevation over 2 miles.  The trail is along Columbine Creek, which is a lovely little creek.

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Scarlett was happy to be on a hike and water to play in! She needed a good hiking trip.  She ran and ran and splashed and splashed.  But occasionally she used one of the bridges (after she ran through the creek!).

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Scarlett

I loved how the trail crisscrossed the creek.  It always fun to walk along water – especially in New Mexico.

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Only rocks here to cross the water.

There were a few flowers trying to bloom even though we are experiencing a drought.  Even a few strawberries were determined to bloom.

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Shooting Stars

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Strawberry plant

I loved the scenery as I climbed.  The aspen trees were beautiful in their new leaves.

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Quakies as they are called in New Mexico

I came across one area that begged me to take some creative photos.  I love how the log crossed the small waterfall.  I couldn’t decide which one I liked best….

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I liked this area so much, I had someone take a pic of me and Scarlett.

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Kelly and Scarlett

There were several small waterfalls along this trail.  I’m glad I was wearing my waterproof hiking sandals so I could get in the water for fun photos.

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I eventually climbed higher and left the creek below.

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Scarlett ran ahead of me most of the time.  At one point I didn’t see her so I called her name.  The silly girl peeked at me from around a tree.  LOL!

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Scarlett hiding behind a tree.

I had wanted to hike further up the trail, but a storm cloud had been brewing while I hiked.  At one point it started rumbling, so I figured I’d better turn around and head to the condo.  Scarlett was happy to run back downhill!

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I passed a small lake on the way to the condo.  It must have interesting minerals in the water to give it a beautiful turquoise blue color.

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Eagle Rock Lake

Along the road I saw a beautiful little waterfall.  I just had to park and climb down the steep incline to photograph it.  Totally worth it don’t you think?

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Tune in next time for Day 2.  I hiked to a beautiful waterfall and a lake!

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Atlanta Botanical Gardens

In early April I flew to Atlanta to surprise one of my best friends, Kelly, on her 40th birthday.  She had no idea I was coming, so it was a wonderful surprise for her.

Her local friends put on a fabulous party for her.  It was first class! They even got her an ice sculpture!!!  I also stayed up the longest I ever had.  I got up at 3:30 am to catch my flight and when I landed I immediately went to the party.  Things didn’t wrap up there until 3:30 am and then we had an hour’s drive to Kelly’s house.  I don’t think I went to be until after 5 am!

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Kelly & Kelly

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Me with Bob Dylan – one of Kelly’s favorite artists

Another friend named Angie also flew in to surprise Kelly.  The three of us used to work together here in Albuquerque, but eventually Angie and Kelly moved away.  Thankfully we have kept in touch and manage to see each other periodically.

The day after the party, the three of us wanted to do something together.  But nothing too adventurous since we were slightly hungover and short on sleep.  It was a pretty nice day so we decided to visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  I’m so glad we went.  We strolled and visited and enjoyed beautiful scenery.

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The day we were there was the last day of an orchid show.  They had over 400 variety of orchids on display.  Stunning!  I had no idea there were so many varieties!

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Angie, Kelly & Kelly

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Kelly & Kelly

The show was held in the Conservatory.  A very large building that had several types of climates.

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Conservatory

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Conservatory

Here’s some of the stunning orchids we saw.  I could have posted so many more than this!  🙂

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I never would have guessed these were orchids.

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This one looks like the head of a cobra snake.

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Stunning colors and patterns

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Gorgeous!

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Interesting pattern

Touring the conservatory was just amazing.  Everywhere you looked, there was something unique.  No niche was left without some kind of plant.  You wanted to walk through slowly so as not to miss some little treasure.

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These strands are roots of plants planted 30 feet above in the ceiling.  I loved this!

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All of these colors are on one plant. 

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I thought this looked like the mouth of the Kraken!  Arrrgh!!!  🙂

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There were many varieties of pitcher plants.  Fascinating!

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These stripes looked painted on.

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Outside, we walked along an elevated footpath that offered stunning views of the gardens and you felt like you were walking in the tree tops.

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Elevated path.

There were wonderful statues throughout the gardens.  One of my favorites was of a bust of a woman.  It will be a living statue in the warmer months.  But for now, she’s bare but still beautiful.

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Fat, lazy frog!

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Adorable statue of a boy catching frogs.

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Creative fountain.

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I really liked this deer statue.

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The living statue.  I hope to see this woman transformed with living, blooming plants.

We visited the children’s garden.  Kelly hates snakes, she didn’t want to walk on this path.  LOL!

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A little gnome was trying to get my attention 😉

 

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psssst!

The grounds were just beautiful.  I can only imagine this place in the warmer months.  It must be spectacular!

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The pink tree is dead.  They painted it to give it a second life.

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So creative!

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I liked the perfect pine tree

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One of my favorite photos was of the English garden area.  Just beautiful!

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English Garden

I think we only saw maybe a 1/3rd of the gardens that day.  It’s a huge place. It was still pretty cold in Atlanta.  But there were a few blooming plants and trees outside.

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One of my favorite blooming trees – the Dogwood

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Azaleas!

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Not sure what this flower was, but this is exactly what it looked like.  Seriously!!

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Stunning Japanese Maple

We came across these vivid azaleas.  Such striking colors!

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Can you believe these colors!?!

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The trees in Atlanta are so tall.  I’m not used to trees that big.  Things are more stunted out here in the desert.

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I have a confession to make about this post.  Can you believe I didn’t bring my camera with me to Atlanta?!?  I was only going for 3 days and the forecast said rain the whole time.  I just figured we wouldn’t get out so didn’t want to keep up with my camera.  I was grieving for it!!!

My purse I used looks like a camera.  So Kelly took a picture of me acting like I’m taking a photo with my camera purse.  That’s how desperately I was wanting my camera!

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So what did I use to take these photos?  My phone!!!  Our phone’s cameras have improved tremendously over the last few years.  I was real pleased with what I captured.  I hope you agree!

I’m planning on visiting again in August.  I will definitely be bringing my good camera then!!!

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San Antonio Birding – Dedicated to my Dad

In mid-April I went to visit my parents in San Antonio, Texas.  My dad had been getting weaker and weaker.  I knew I needed to go see him sooner rather than later.  Sadly, two days after I arrived he passed away.  I’m so thankful I was able to visit him before he passed.

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One of my favorite photos of me and my dad.  My wedding day on October 18, 1996.

I wanted to dedicate this post to my dad.  He always looked forward to reading about my adventures and looking at my photos.

I had taken Scarlett with me.  She was upset when dad died at the house.  And she was upset that mom and I were grieving.  So to help her and me both cope with the loss, I got up early every morning to walk and bird.   When I am out in nature, I find it a balm to my soul and a time to talk with the Lord.

There is a greenbelt near my parent’s home that I walk whenever I visit.  The first morning I was there, I took a walk on the familiar trail.  Since it was April, there were still a few Texas Bluebonnets blooming.

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Scarlett walking in the greenbelt.

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Texas Bluebonnets

It was quiet for the most part, but I did find a couple of good birds.  One bird was singing his heart out and it took me awhile to find him.  Eventually I located him and was happy to see a White-Eyed Vireo.

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White-Eyed Vireo

A further ways down the trail, I saw a movement in a tree.  To my delight it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  He didn’t seem to mind me watching him hunt for breakfast.  So I got lots of beautiful shots of this gorgeous bird.

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Red-Shouldered Hawk as I first saw him.

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He then moved to this great perch and posed nicely for me.

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I love the beautiful color and pattern of the feathers on his wings.

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Success getting some breakfast.

The next morning I went to a newly found spot called Lake Converse in Converse, Texas.  It’s a pretty little park with a semi-wild lake.  One of the first things I saw was a pair of Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings.  I think they had hatched within 48 hours.

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Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings

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Adorable baby

One of my favorite shots was of a Mute Swan.  Such an elegant bird.

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Mute Swan

A lot of the birds preferred to stay on the far shore of the lake – really testing the limits of my long lens.  I had hoped to get closer to the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, but no such luck.

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This is the best photo I got of a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

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Cattle Egret

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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American Coot

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American Coot

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Great Egret

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Great-Tailed Grackle

As I walked around the lake, I saw quite a variety of birds.  The air was filled with birdsong.

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White-Winged Dove

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Barn Swallow

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Common Yellowthroat

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Savannah Sparrow

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Eastern Kingbird

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Killdeer

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Eastern Phoebe

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Clay-Colored Sparrow in the foreground and a Chipping Sparrow in the back.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Myrtle)

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Carolina Wren

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Northern Cardinal with an inchworm

One special treat was a Martin House that was in use.  Purple Martins were occupying most of the holes.

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Purple Martins

As I was leaving one day, I watched this Northern Mockingbird busy looking for insects.  I watched him use his wings to try and flush out bugs.

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Northern Mockingbird flushing out bugs

Another lake nearby called Live Oak Lake was another treasure for birds. It had a more park-like feel to it.  It didn’t have as many birds, but was still a great place to visit. I got there very early one beautiful morning.

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck at dawn

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Lake Converse at sunrise

There was a very tame Great Egret hoping for a free breakfast from a fisherman.

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Great Egret

One a later visit that Great Egret was fishing along the lake shore.  I thought it made for a beautiful photo op.

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Great Egret

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Small catch but tasty!

There were a several other waterfowl on the lake.

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Mottled Duck

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Mottled Duck babies – so adorable!

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Blue-Winged Teal

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck baby – beautiful markings!

I watched a Green Heron hunt for fish.  He didn’t care that I was only a few feet away.  He got so close that I couldn’t focus my long lens on him.  I had to keep backing up!

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Green Heron

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Green Heron

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Green Heron

While walking around this lake, I briefly saw a Cooper’s Hawk try to catch some Blue Jays.  I heard the Jays squawking about it, but never got any photos.

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Cooper’s Hawk

There were some other birds around the lake that allowed me to take their photos.

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Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

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Northern Cardinal

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Western Kingbird

One of the highlights for me at this lake was a very sociable Spotted Sandpiper.  He let me get within a few feet and take a number of photos while he groomed.  In the past when I’ve seen these birds, they fly away before you can get a decent shot. So this was a real treat for me!

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Spotted Sandpiper

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Spotted Sandpiper

One morning I walked along Mud Creek.   It’s only about a mile from my parent’s house, so I got there at sunrise without much effort.  I loved this sunrise shot with Texas Bluebonnets in the foreground.

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Texas Bluebonnet Sunrise

The foliage was thick in this area, but I managed to get a few bird shots here.  Mostly there were Northern Cardinals and Carolina Wrens.  But a Black-Crested Titmouse was busy singing from the tree tops.

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Black-Crested Titmouse

On my last day in San Antonio, I visited McAllister Park.  What a wonderful place.  Miles of trails in a park consisting of over 750 acres in the heart of San Antonio. There were lots of birds but very difficult to spot them.  What I saw the most was White-Tailed Deer.  They were everywhere!

Scarlett just couldn’t believe her eyes!!  🙂

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Look mom!  A deer is right there!!!!

While hiking along a road in the park, I was passed by a man riding a bike.  He stopped in front of me and threw out grain for the deer.  I think he does this often, as they seemed to recognize him.  One in particular let him pet her.  When he rode off, several of them followed him for awhile.  What a wonderful connection with nature!

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White-Tailed Deer

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How sweet this deer trusts this man and calls him friend.

At the southern end of the park is where I got most of my sightings and photographs.  A beautiful Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher posed for me then flew and showed off his seldom seen red feathers under his wings.

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Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

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Beautiful coloring under the wings.

Here are the other treasures I got at the southern end of the park.

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Carolina Chickadee

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Northern Mockingbird

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Summer Tanager Female

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Black Vulture

The highlight of my bird sightings during my visit was at McAllister Park.  While trying to photograph a Carolina Chickadee, I heard a noise behind me.  When I looked, I saw a Barred Owl sunning himself in the top of a tree.  A lifer sighting for me!!!  And so beautiful!!!

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Barred Owl

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Barred Owl

My last birding opportunity of my trip was a stop in Clovis, New Mexico, to check on the Great Horned Owls in Ned Houk Park.  They had successfully raised two young ones, and they were far enough along to leave the nest.  They kept a sharp eye on us.

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Great Horned Owletts

Just before leaving I managed to find one of the parents.  Such wonderful birds owls are.

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Great Horned Owl

A Lark Sparrow and a Western Meadowlark were singing happily for us.

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Lark Sparrow

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Western Meadowlark

Scarlett enjoyed her visit at the park.  🙂

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My sweet Scarlett

So while it was a sad visit to San Antonio, I found solace walking among the beauty God has created and seeing so many of his wonderful creatures.  I know my dad would have loved to see these photos.  The Texas Bluebonnets were always a personal favorite. I know he is at peace now and waiting for me in Heaven.

In memory of my dad:

Joseph Mathew Welch, Jr.  Born April 28, 1935.  Died April 18, 2018.