Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 2

It’s been a little while since I posted Day 1.  Sorry about that!  Life has been busy!

Day 2 was my favorite of the 3 days at the park.  Dia and I hiked most of the morning.  We took a hike that passed by 3 lakes.  Just stunning!  I think it was the most beautiful hike I have ever been on.  Seriously!  You’ll see why when you see my photos.  And trust me….they don’t do it justice!

We started out very early in the morning to miss the crowds and to hopefully get some pretty photos of the lakes.    And our planning paid off.

The hike started off in deep forest with a slight incline.  About a 1/2 mile into the hike we came upon Nymph Lake.  A beautiful little lake full of lily pads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nymph Lake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lots of lily pads

Fortunately there was a couple there willing to take our photo.  Even though I had my tripod, sometimes it’s just easier to have someone take your pic.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett, Kelly and Dia

Scarlett was wearing her new backpack.  We had her carry all of our water and snacks!  🙂  Being a working dog, she loved it.  Plus, it slowed her down some LOL!

After Nymph Lake we started climbing higher.   Soon we were climbing above the forest and the view started opening up.  So beautiful!

20170722_155823

Panorama of the trail.  You can just see the shimmer of Nymph Lake below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stunning views

We came across the stream that fed into Nymph Lake.  It was flowing nicely.  I love hiking next to water.  Just that sound of the babbling brook can be so peaceful and rejuvenating.  Seeing as New Mexico really doesn’t have a lot of water, being in RMNP was so wonderful because it’s full of water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dia at the creek crossing. Neat tree!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sweet little waterfall in the stream

As we climbed higher on the trail, it just kept getting even more beautiful.  I was never bored.  Every step was a joy.

20170722_073651

We started leveling out and the waters became calmer.  I figured we were getting closer to another of the 3 lakes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At this point Dia joked that we were hiking to that snow in the background.  Little did we know she was pretty close to the truth.

Soon we rounded a bend and there was Dream Lake.  I absolutely loved this lake.  It was my favorite lake of the entire trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dia and Kelly at Dream Lake

OMG! This lake was just breathtaking!  I could have sat here for hours.  The water was so clear we could see trout swimming along the shore.  Just beautiful!  The picture below is my most favorite scenic photo from the trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dream Lake – Just stunning!!!

Too soon we had to leave Dream Lake and keep hiking up the trail.  Dream Lake was long and skinny so there was lots of time to enjoy it as we headed up the trail.  Other parts of the lake were unique and I couldn’t resist taking a bunch of photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Such a beautiful hike

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dia loved this cool tree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Clear water and perfect reflections

Soon we were climbing yet again.  Thankfully the trail was never too steep.  So it was an enjoyable hike the entire time.  And now that I think about it, Dia never once cried for a Starbucks.  That’s how great this hike was!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I loved that from this point forward we stayed next to the stream.  At times we crisscrossed over it.  And at several points there were small waterfalls.  Gorgeous!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What a great trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loved the bedrock this waterfall cascaded over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had to scramble down between big boulders for this shot.  What photographers do for a photo!

Finally we were getting close to our final lake and the turnaround point for the hike.  We had made it to the snow that Dia had earlier joked about.  Granted, it was just here and there but we were at around 10,000 feet so it was cool enough for some of it to stay even in the middle of summer.  And what was on that snow????  A lifer bird for me!!!!  A Pine Grosbeak.  A beautiful male so pretty in his pink plumage.  This is the southernmost area you can see these birds in the US.  I was so excited!  I didn’t have my birding lens on, but thankfully he was close enough I got a decent pic with my regular lens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pine Grosbeak

Right after seeing the grosbeak, we came upon Emerald Lake.  A stunning high alpine glacial lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Emerald Lake

My favorite photo of the trip of Dia and I together.   Such a stunning backdrop.  Thankfully I had lugged my tripod along on this trip so I could get such great shots and pictures of us together.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kelly and Dia at Emerald Lake

We stayed here awhile just soaking up the views.  You could hear the distant waterfall.  So peaceful.  A lovely hike on a lovely day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dia enjoying the view of the lake and distant waterfall.  Scarlett enjoying all the squirrels running around.  She let us know where every one was…

Too soon we had to head back down the trail.  Thankfully it was downhill the whole way back.  It was interesting to note how different the lakes looked when the sun was directly overhead.  I was so happy we got up at 5:30 to hit the trail early.  It paid off with gorgeous photos and no people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nymph Lake later in the day

We were tired at the end of the hike.  We had a snack in parking lot and talked about what we wanted to do next.  Since we had just hiked 6+ miles we decided we wanted to drive around and see more of the park.

We ended up stopping at another lake – Sprague Lake.

20170722_113459

Sprague Lake

It wasn’t nearly as scenic as the other lakes, but was still nice to walk around.  Plus, there were lots of birds in the area.  Always a plus!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lovely wildflowers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Juvenile Yellow-Rumped Warbler

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mountain Chickadee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mallard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cutie pie 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mountain Bluebird

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bank Swallow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Steller’s Jay

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dia couldn’t believe I got this dragonfly in flight 🙂

My favorite bird on this walk was a Song Sparrow.  He was kicked back, relaxing, and singing his little heart out.  So Sweet!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Song Sparrow

As if we hadn’t hiked enough that day, I talked Dia into hiking from Sprague Lake down to Glacier Basin.  It was a pretty little downhill hike.  But I tell you, we were wiped out at the end.  Thankfully they have shuttle buses running that were able to take us back to our car.  While waiting for the bus, I saw a wasp carrying a large caterpillar.  He was moving fast so it was tough getting a pic.  But I was fascinated by this.  That caterpillar is going to be food for its young.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Common Thread Waisted Wasp

After getting back to our car, we decided to drive around a little more.  We drove through the giant meadow of Moraine Park.  A beautiful area full of wildflowers and big vistas. And lots of birds!  I made plans with Dia to let me get up early the day we were to drive home so I could go birding in this area before we left.  I knew it was going to be great!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Moraine Park

20170722_135123

Lovely wildflowers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are six Northern Flickers in this photo. Wow!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Billed Magpie – no longer my nemesis 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bee Balm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brewer’s Blackbird male and female

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Williamson’s Sapsucker – I love this pic!

There was one river that we crossed every day.  It had beautiful rushing water.  I really wanted a picture of it.  We tried walking up next to it, but it didn’t do it justice.  Though we did see this sign…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So I decided to walk back out onto the bridge for a pic.  Much better! So beautiful!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gorgeous!

When we got back to the hotel, we were pooped!  While I was walking Scarlett for her potty break, Dia sent me this text.  LOL! We had hiked 10 miles this day.  Plus 10 miles the day before.

Screenshot_20170722-185312

As we were getting ready for bed (at 7:30 pm HAHAHAHAHAHA!), I decided to take Scarlett out one more time to go potty.  When I looked out, I saw Bull Elk right outside our room!  WOW!  Of course, I had to grab my camera and take a dozen pics following them as they grazed.  What a great way to end a day!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bull Elk

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 1

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

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

11900

Kelly and Dia getting their Starbucks fix!

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

20170720_182240

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Billed Magpie

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alluvial Fan Falls

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Marmot

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking downstream

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett, Kelly & Dia

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gorgeous views from Old Fall River Road.

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Marmot

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

20170721_083842

Glacial Cirque

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trail from the visitor’s center.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Breathtaking views!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Where’s Starbucks???!!!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dia, Kelly and Scarlett at the top!

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Such a lush valley of green

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These squirrels found a good home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Savannah Sparrow

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lake Irene

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Moose with calf

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Very healthy bull Elk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enjoying summer

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

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Osprey

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Expansive views

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

20170721_141647(0)

Dia and Kelly

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.

20170721_145853

So many smells!!!!

We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brown-Capped Rosy Finch

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What a cutie!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Clark’s Nutcracker

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

20170721_151838

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These flowers were extremely tiny!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonderful Spring Birding with a New Lifer Sighting

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bleeding Hearts

A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cooper’s Hawk

The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ash-Throated Flycatcher

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Green Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Baby Mallard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Summer Tanager

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.

20170503_124417

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Canada Geese

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Grebe

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Say’s Phoebes

I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well.  They are such beautiful birds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Phoebe

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Osprey

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Capped Chickadee

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

baby Killdeer

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.

20170503_141511 (2)

Shady Lakes

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Crowned Night Heron

I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I noticed a moth feeding among the irises.  These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hermit Thrush

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hermit Thrush

A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Tanager

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Headed Grosbeak

I’m thrilled spring is here.  I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Vegas NM Birding

Yesterday I went with my husband to Las Vegas, NM, to visit one of our job sites. I love going to this location because it’s outside of town on Sapello River. There’s always lots of wildlife around. Our clients said they’ve been seeing deer, elk, turkey and bobcat. But unfortunately this trip I didn’t see any of those animals. But we will be going back again soon. Maybe I will get lucky on that visit.

We picked the worst day of the week to travel there. It was quite cold, windy and snowy. I had to bundle up to go exploring with my camera.

The lighting conditions were a big challenge. Very low  light and white overcast sky.  It made it difficult to focus with white sky and snow covered ground.

I walked along the river enjoying the quiet beauty.

image

Sapello River

image

Not many birds about but a lot of Juncos braving the snow and cold.

image

But then I heard a familiar chatter of a Belted Kingfisher. I tried to get a photo but he kept flying. Through all my attempts to get that Kingfisher a Canada Goose laid low watching me.

image

Canada Goose

I started making my way over to the old abandoned buildings near the river.  There are a few trees next to the buildings that usually have birds hanging out. 

I saw about a dozen Western Meadowlarks. Their bright yellow breasts standing out in all that white. They were all puffed up trying to stay warm.

image

Western Meadowlark

image

Western Meadowlark

Then to my delight I saw a Black-Billed Magpie. I’ve been wanting to get a better photo of one. I did get a couple of good ones.

image

Black-Billed Magpie

image

Black-Billed Magpie - you can see the blue on the wing in this photo

A Kestral landed on the power line nearby. Some pigeons landed on the roof of the building. And a flock of Juncos kept hanging around the building near me.

image

American Kestral

image

Rock Pigeons

image

Dark-eyed Junco

I took a few photos of the buildings before heading back to our job site.

image

image

Our job site is near the homes of our clients. It’s always fun to see what critters they have about. To my surprise they had a pig! A very friendly pig!

image

image

They said they got it to butcher when it was full grown. But their granddaughter might not then them butcher Oinky! That’s her pet! Lol!

The chickens and geese were wanting out.  The owner has been keeping them penned up because of the bobcat hanging around.

image

While saying hello to the pig a cute little black kitten came up. Just adorable.

image

I picked it up but it wasn’t too happy about that!

image

Before leaving I found a cool old dump truck to photograph. My friend Valerie says I will photograph anything rusty! Too true!

image

As we were leaving town to head home we saw lots of Red-Tailed Hawks, one Bald Eagle flying by at Storrie Lake, and several Northern Harriers flying in the distance.

I managed to get one decent photo of a Red-Tailed Hawk.

image

Red-Tailed Hawk

Hopefully the weather will be nicer the next time we visit.  And maybe I will see that bobcat!

San Juan Basin Badlands – Mesa de Cuba

As a photographer and outdoor lover, I’m always looking for new places to explore. New Mexico has a lot of unique locations but they can be a challenge to learn about them. There aren’t a lot of information resources for my state. 

But I have learned of a few new places recently and I’m going to visit them throughout 2016. And my friend Valerie is eager to join me. She’s as crazy about photography as I am!

One of the areas I read about recently was the San Juan Basin Badlands near Cuba, NM. There are 5 unique areas to explore. I have found in the past these types of areas are best hiked during the late fall and winter months because they are way too hot in the summer.

So yesterday Valerie and I headed out to the first of the areas in the badlands called Mesa de Cuba.  There’s no signs marking the area. No trailhead markers. Just a simple dirt road with vague descriptions on hiking this area.

Most of the snow around Albuquerque has melted over the last couple weeks. So we were surprised when we got to Cuba that there were several inches still on the ground. We traveled about 60 miles north of Albuquerque and gained about 1,300 feet in elevation. I guess it was just enough to keep the snow on the ground.

The snow added to the beauty of the landscape but made for very difficult hiking. I was also hesitant to drive very far in on the icy/muddy dirt road. I really didn’t want to get stuck. Sadly my Jeep Wrangler isn’t running right now so I just had my AWD car.

But we still made the most of our outing. As soon as we got out of the car, the dogs started running around playing in the snow.

image

Scarlett and her best friend Mya

The area we stopped to hike had wide open vistas with a rocky Mesa as a backdrop.

image

image

Valerie tried hiking up on one of the hills but she quickly found it was very muddy.

image

As we hiked along the base of the Mesa we found some unique formations to photograph.

image

image

image

image

A mini hoodoo

image

Scarlett and Mya had fun exploring.

image

image

image

We found one ravine that we thought might be good to climb up to get some different views. I tried climbing first but the snow was deep and underneath was mud. I kept sliding back down. Valerie gave it a try and didn’t succeed either. Mya came to check on her out of concern. 🙂

image

By this time we were tired of slogging through snow. So we headed back to the car. The views on the hike back were stunning.

image

image

image

But of course a selfie needed to be taken before we left!

image

Valerie and Kelly

Our phones will take a photo on voice command. Very handy when you hold your arm way out. Valerie and I get some fun photos sometimes because we will both have our phones out to taking pics. So when one of us says “capture” both phones will take a photo. Here’s a fun photo from this trip 🙂

image

On our drive back we passed an old homestead. I can never resist taking pics of old buildings. Valerie says I will photograph anything rusty. Lol!

image

On our way back home we saw the turnoff for Cabezon Peak. We’ve never actually driven to the peak before. We had the time so thought “what the heck”, let’s go!

We passed through San Luis and it had a nice little church.

image

image

There were a lot of abandoned homesteads along the road to Cabezon Peak.

image

We finally made it to the base of the peak. There’s a trail to climb it but you’ll never see me doing it. Looks way too difficult for me.

image

Cabezon Peak

We kept driving along this road enjoying the views. Suddenly Valerie asks me ” How much gas do we have?”

Gas????!

I looked at the gas gauge and my heart leapt in my chest!  I told her we had a 1/4 of a tank….no….less than that! Gulp! Valerie checked Google maps and quickly realized we had no cell service. Crap!!!!!

I turned the car around and prayed we had enough gas to at least get to Highway 550. I turned the display on my car that tells me how many miles I have left in gas.  With no mapping service we weren’t sure how many miles we had to go to a gas station.

image

For the next 20 miles we were very nervous. Valerie finally got Google maps going. It was going to be close! I coasted whenever I could.

When we made it to the gas station we didn’t have much left!  We can laugh about it now since all turned out well.

A fun adventure! We loved it and say we will be exploring the San Juan Basin Badlands more with the Jeep as soon as conditions there dry out.  And next time I will make sure I have a full tank of gas!!!!

Three Gun Spring Hike

Today I decided to hike a trail I haven’t been on for a few years. I was hoping it wouldn’t be too muddy with all the melting snow. For the most part it was just moist so hiking wasn’t too difficult.

The views from this hike are pretty nice as  the trail is located at the southern end of the Sandia Mountains. There’s still snow on the north facing slope.

image

image

image

image

Some parts of the trail still had ice and snow

I was pretty sure I’d see a variety of birds. They seem to like this secluded canyon.

My first sighting was a Townsend Solitaire. It was at quite a  distance so photographing it was difficult.

image

Townsend Solitaire

There were lots of Mountain Bluebirds about. They make me happy when I see them. They are so bright and beautiful.

image

Mountain Bluebird

A Scrub Jay came up pretty close to check me out.

image

Western Scrub Jay

While hiking along this trail there are big granite boulders scattered about. I think some of them look like things. It’s like finding shapes in the clouds.

image

Alligator head

image

Bunny rabbit laying with its ears flat

image

Elephant laying on its side

Further up the trail I heard some thrashers singing. I was very pleasantly surprised to see it was a Crissal Thrasher. I’ve only seen them once before.

image

Crissal Thrasher

I also saw a Sage Thrasher deep in the brush.

image

Sage Thrasher

Scarlett had a blast on the hike. It had been awhile since we had gone on a long hike together. She loved the snow on the trail. The sun was shining and I think it warmed her up. So she cooled off in the snow every now and then.

image

Snow tastes good!

image

My beautiful girl!

While hiking back to the car I heard a Merlin calling. I peeked around the bush to try and get a photo. But he flew away as soon as he saw me.

Leaving the neighborhood where the trail located I saw a few birds on the telephone wires.

image

Western Bluebird

image

European Starling

image

Common Raven

It was fun to get out hiking and birding on such a nice sunny day.