Birding in Southeast Arizona – Day 1

I have long wanted to go birding in Southeastern Arizona.  They have a wonderful variety of birds that can’t be found anywhere else in the US.  Many birds are residents of Mexico.  So when my husband suggested we plan a long weekend trip to SE Arizona, I was thrilled!

It takes over 7 hours to get there from our house.  The day we left, a front was blowing through and we were driving with a headwind that was 50 mph+.  Terrible conditions for traveling.  At one point, we lost quite a bit of visibility.

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Dust storm we traveled through on I10.

By the time we got to Tucson, the sun was starting to set.  Thankfully the wind had died down considerably.  We had just enough time to stop in at a beautiful historic mission located just south of Tucson.  It’s called the Mission San Xavier Del Bac and was completed in 1797.  When we arrived, it had just closed for the day.  Too bad….I would have loved to see the inside.  But the outside is just stunning!

The mission is undergoing restoration.  You can see the left side is all new and white.  The right side is now being restored.  They have removed the dome and will restore it at a later time.

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Mission San Xavier Del Bac

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Kelly at the entrance.

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I loved all the many details of the mission.  It was fun to explore.

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Several statues adorn the mission.

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Very detailed flourishes.

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Rustic window decor.

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Rattlesnake door handle

The desert gardens around the building were very nice.

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Beautiful desert gardens

There were a few birds around the mission.  I managed to get a few pics in the low light.

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Northern Cardinal

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Gila Woodpecker

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Cactus Wren

There’s a hill next to the mission with a shrine to Virgin Mary.  It had a gate with interesting lion statues.

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Lion statue on the hill. The clouds look like lion’s breath.

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Grotto of Lourdes

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Virgin Mary

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As we hiked to the top of the hill, the views got more expansive.

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View of the mission

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View looking north toward Tucson

As we were leaving I took this last shot of the property.  I thought it looked like God shining from the heavens.

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52-Week Photo Challenge – Week 5 “Wide Angle”

For me, wide angle usually means vistas.  Long reaching views.  But I thought I would reign  it in a little with this challenge.

I shoot with a Nikon 1 camera that has a really cropped view with a standard lens.  So I have a “wide angle” lens for my mirrorless camera that let’s me shoot a much wider view.  My camera also has some built in features that let you take different kinds of photos.  I used the HDR feature for this photo.  It blended the different exposures nicely.

I hike in Corrales quite often as it is very pretty there along the bosque and I usually don’t run into a lot of people.  I’m one of those folks that happiest if I hike all day and don’t run into a soul.  I like to experience nature all by myself.

Many times I have driven through Corrales and seen a sign about an historical church down a side road.  I have never taken the time to visit this church.  I figured a visit was in order with this week’s challenge.  I was not disappointed.  The church was built in 1868 and has the typical New Mexico church look.

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San Ysidro Church, Corrales, New Mexico

 

For Scarlett, wide angle meant “mom! get me doing something really cool!”  🙂  So she ran up this old deadfall and posed nicely for this week’s photo challenge.

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Miss Scarlett on a “wide angle” deadfall

 

Tour of Tularosa Basin – Part 1 of 2

Last weekend I traveled to Carrizozo, New Mexico, to attend a banquet in honor of the winning photographers of the 2016 New Mexico Magazine Photography Contest.  The  banquet was held at the gallery hosting the winning photographs:  Tularosa Basin Gallery of Photography.  This is a beautiful gallery of New Mexico Photography by New Mexico Artists.  I would love to be an artist hanging in this gallery.  Someday maybe 🙂

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The Tularosa Basin Gallery is located in a unique old building. 

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Inside the gallery – lovely displays

My friend Valerie was going to attend with me, but sadly she wasn’t feeling well.  But the attendees of the event were all wonderfully gracious and friendly.  I had a fabulous time speaking with other fellow winning artists, New Mexico Magazine staff, local attendees and the gallery staff.

The dinner was prepared by a local family and was absolutely delicious!  The dinner setting was in the basement of the building.  I love how the rooms had been kept as original as possible.

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Beautiful setting for dinner

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Warren (gallery owner) is standing and the New Mexico Magazine staff are seated. 

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Proudly standing by my winning photo

I left early in the morning to attend the event last Friday.  I wanted to have plenty of the day to explore the area.

I stopped briefly at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area.  This a big lava filled valley.  There was a one-mile loop trail built out into the lava field.  I had a fun time hiking the trail.

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Edge of Valley of Fires

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Trail through Valley of Fires

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You couldn’t walk very easily through this valley without the trail.

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Next stop was Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.  There are over 21,000 petroglyphs at this site.  I hiked about 1.5 miles exploring the rocks along the trail.  There were drawings everywhere.  It was amazing!   The trail starts climbing right away so that you end up walking along the ridge of a hill.  This made for a wonderful backdrop in some of my photos.  The Sacramento Mountains were  beautiful with the snow on them.

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I think the main drawing is a roadrunner catching a snake

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Stunning views

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Lizard

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I love how this drawing is peeking out from the rocks.

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Big Horn Sheep, Antelope, and Wolf Print among others

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Some of the drawings were quite detailed.  Real works of art.

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This looks like a man in the fetal position.

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I loved this big horn sheep with the arrows in it. Plus you can see the Native American designs on the body of the sheep as we still see them portrayed in their art today.

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Beautiful depiction of the native peoples

It was a cold (20 degrees) and breezy day, but I had a great time and ended it with a wonderful evening at the Gallery.

Part 2 coming soon!

 

52-Week Photo Challenge -Week 1 New Beginnings

I have often thought about joining a WordPress photo challenge, but most I’ve seen seemed to take more time than I was willing to give or covered categories that didn’t interest me.  But recently I became aware of one that was a 52-week challenge.  That seems more doable!

So I’ve decided to participate.  This challenge is hosted by From Moments to Memories.

The first week’s challenge is entitled “New Beginnings”.  Of course the first thing that comes to mind is a sunrise or a flower bud.  But for me it means a new beginning for myself.  I’ve made a new year’s resolution to exercise more this year.  While I have always enjoyed getting out and doing short hikes for birding and exploring, I know I could do better by exercising more often during the week.

So my photo for this week represents my new beginning of getting out hiking more often every week.

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My view of the White Mesa Trail in the Ojito Wilderness near Albuquerque, New Mexico

Revision:  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before I posted.  But Scarlett does everything with me.  So why not have her included in this challenge.  So here’s Scarlett’s photo for Week 1.  🙂

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Miss Scarlett enjoying the Ojito Wilderness

 

Hike Before the Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Silver City Area Adventure

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

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

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

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Lobby of the Palace Hotel

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Lobby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What a unique hike

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Suspended above Whitewater Creek

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Beautiful!

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

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Valerie enjoying the hike

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

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

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Valerie and Kelly having fun!

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

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

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Those horses loved that apple Valerie fed them

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Cool old tractors

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Me in my brand new Jeep!

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

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We found a way down to the creek!

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I loved all the pools in among the limestone bedrock

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Stream flowing from pool to pool

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

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Windy road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

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

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

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Bridge over the Gila River

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A beautiful trail

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We loved all the bridges

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Wonderful!

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Valerie

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Lovely!

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Kelly

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

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Gila Cliff Dwellings

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What a beautiful view!

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Valerie

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

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

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Panorama of the scenic view

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

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

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Delicious pizza!  It hit the spot!

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

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It was fun exploring for a few hours.

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Panorama of the park

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

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

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

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My beautiful friend! 

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

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View from the top of Emory Pass

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

Birding in Port Aransas, Texas (Part 1)

While visiting my parents in San Antonio, we decided to take a short trip to the gulf coast.  I hadn’t been to the beach in several years.  The weather was perfect for a beach trip.  We stayed in Port Aransas, which is at the northern end of Padre Island and at the opening of the shipping channel that leads to Corpus Christi.

We took the back way in to Port Aransas, so we got to ride the ferry across the channel.  It’s a short ride on the ferry, just barely enough time to get out of your car and look for dolphins.  We managed to see a couple in the distance before we had to return to our car.

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Dolphin in shipping channel at Port Aransas, Texas

There are lots of Brown Pelicans in Port Aransas.  They are so beautiful even in non-breeding plumage.  They love to hang out at the piers.

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Brown Pelican

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Brown Pelican

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Brown Pelican

We had to wait a few hours before we could check into our hotel, so we headed straight for the beach.  To our astonishment, the place was packed!!!   We learned later their was a Harvest Moon Regatta that had been held that day.

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Crowded beach in Port Aransas, Texas

We managed to find a spot to park the car that wasn’t too close to other people on the beach.  After sitting and having a snack and people watching, I decided to take a walk down the beach with Scarlett.  This was her first ever visit to the beach.  I figured since she loved water so much, she would love the ocean.  She HATED it! LOL!  To her it was hot, salty and the water chased her!   She did enjoy the walk down the beach though.  Lots of other dogs to see and everyone wanted to pet her.  She was constantly told that she was beautiful.  Of course, I had to agree.

I tried to get bird photos while walking Scarlett, but the beach was just too busy.  I did manage to get this heron relaxing on a sign post in the dunes.

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Great Blue Heron

We were finally able to check into the hotel and get ready for dinner.  We had wanted to go to a place called Doc’s which is about 15 miles from our hotel.  It is located on the intra-coastal channel further south on Padre Island.  But when we got there, we saw the place was packed.  The wait looked like it would easily be a couple hours and it was already well after 7 o’clock.  So we turned around and headed back to Port Aransas.  As we turned around, I told dad to stop the car.  To my delight I got my first lifer bird of the beach trip – Black Skimmers!!!

The sun was almost set so I didn’t have much light.  And they were almost between me and the setting sun, so it was a challenge to get a photograph.  But I was thrilled to see them.  Such an unusual bird!

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Black Skimmers

We ate at Virginia’s, which is a great restaurant right at the marina in Port Aransas.  Their food is delicious and the scenery can’t be beat.  By the time we got a table, it was dark outside.  We saw lots of boats coming in the for the night.  The one boat I had hoped to see was the Red Dragon Pirate Ship.  It came sailing in to the marina while we were eating dinner.  I had to reduce my shutter speed to very slow and had to take the photon while hand holding the camera – bad combination.  Plus, I only had a few moments in which to get a photo before it disappeared behind other docked boats.  I was surprised at how well my photo came out!

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Red Dragon Pirate Ship

The next morning I woke up very early so I could go bird at a local wildlife refuge.  What a wonderful location.  They had built lots of boardwalks in the marsh area so you could get out in the cattails to look for birds and other delights.

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Aransas Wildlife Refuge boardwalk

As soon as I stepped out onto the boardwalk, a heron jumped up on the railing squawking at me.  I couldn’t be more excited.  A lifer bird not 5 feet away!!!  It was a Tri-Colored Heron who was more than happy to pose for some photos in the gorgeous early morning light.

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Tri-Colored Heron

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Tri-Colored Heron

As I progressed along the boardwalk, I saw an opening in the cattails ahead.  I saw a high deck for viewing the extent of the marsh.  Whoever designed this place did a fabulous job.

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When I got to the clearing, I saw a Common Gallinule grooming itself.  Gallinules have developed extra long toes so they can walk across the cattails with ease.  You can see those long toes well in this photo.

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Common Gallinule

There were several grebes enjoying the morning as well as cormorants.

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Neotropic Cormorant

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Double-Crested Cormorant – love the feet! 🙂

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Pied-Billed Grebe

At the end of the boardwalk I looked down into the cattails and was surprised to see an alligator!  He was snoozing in the shallow water.  It is difficult to grasp the size of this alligator in photos.  But he’s easily 12 feet long!  The locals call him Stinky.

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Alligator

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There were lots of pelicans and avocets off in the distance.  I had to push the extent of my lens to get any photos of them.

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White Pelican with American Avocets in the background

Too soon it was time to head back so I could get some breakfast and go to the beach with my folks.  The beach was almost deserted compared to the day before.  It was great! The weather was perfect, a light breeze off the water to cool things off some.

I tried to get Scarlett to play in the water, but she just wasn’t happy…as you can see by her expression and body language here.  I guess she’s a mountain girl through and through.

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Scarlett was telling me she hated the beach

Mom tried to get her to play as well, but no luck.

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Unhappy Scarlett with my mom

After playing in the water awhile, I decided to walk down the beach again.  I figured I would have a lot better luck this day getting birds.  And I was right.  Lots of birds out enjoying the relatively quiet beach.  I got several lifers!

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Sanderling

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Royal Tern in foreground – a lifer for me!

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Forster’s Tern

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There was one cranky Royal Tern – you can see him in the middle of the photo

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Piping Plover – another lifer!

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Ruddy Turnstone – yet another lifer!!!

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Western Sandpiper

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Willet – another lifer!!!

Dad flew his kites and there were other great kites flying along the beach as well.

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Dad’s shark kite

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Dad’s other kite

 

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I loved this squid kite – it was easily 30 feet long

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Beautiful kites!

After a full day at the beach, we returned to the hotel for a swim in their pool.  Dad decided to take a nap and mom and I swam.  Mom found a lizard that had fallen in the pool.  I was able to rescue it before it drowned.  🙂

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Brown Anole – originally native of Cuba

After our swim, mom went to the room to clean up for dinner.  I took advantage of this and ran back over to the refuge.  It was such a great place!

When I arrived at the parking area, I saw about a dozen White Ibis feeding in the shallows.  Just beautiful!

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White Ibis

I saw some hummingbirds feeding on the Mexican Paradise bushes.  I had a hard time getting a pic but managed one decent one.  Yet another new bird for me – Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

It was pretty quiet on the marsh that afternoon.  But I ran into some people that said just down the road, there are more boardwalks and some whistling ducks there.  I immediately jumped in the car and drove over there.  As soon as I walked to the end of the boardwalk, I saw and heard a whole bunch of them.  They actually whistle!

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Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks – another lifer!

I looked around to see what else might be about.  I saw one other duck sleeping in the shade.  Otherwise, it was pretty quiet.

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Cinnamon Teal – female

Time to go to get cleaned up for dinner.  I was hungry!

This post has become way longer than I expected.  So I will break it up into two parts.  Lots more great photos to come!

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You never know what tiny treasures you might find on the beach…