Recently I decided to explore Plaza Blanca near Abiquiu, New Mexico. If any of you have seen the movie Cowboys and Aliens, then you may remember the white rock formation that was in the scenes of the final battle of the movie.
I have always wanted to explore this place, but never seemed to find the time to do so. We’ve gotten some small snows this winter, so I headed out on a day that I thought there might be some snow on the trail to enhance my photos.
It was a beautiful day and there indeed was some snow left on the ground.
When I arrived at the parking area, I had a wonderful view of the southwest landscape showing the many beautiful layers of color. I just love New Mexico landscapes.
I hiked down the trail and just started exploring. There’s not a lot of information about this area or the hike on the internet. At first you see the large, white rock formation that is the namesake of the hike. It is quite large and impressive.
Next to the white formation is a large brown one. I love how it stands alone. Looks like something from the set of a Star Trek show.
I then turned left along this formation and continued upstream in the arroyo. At first it was very wide. This is where the snow made beautiful accents to the landscape.
I came upon several trees in the bottom of the arroyo.
I turned around and love how the sun shone through the branches.
That’s when I noticed the hole in the formation. You can just see it behind the tree. I backtracked to get some photos of this.
I then saw another hole. Of course, I just had to see how creative I could get with the “window” in the rock.
I then went back up the arroyo. I came to a fork and decided to take the right fork as it seemed more interesting. The rock formations were really cool. I had Scarlett jump up on one to get a fun photo. She’s so cute in how she will do whatever I ask.
The canyon started narrowing as I followed it. For some reason I love hiking narrow canyons.
Soon we came across water in the bottom of the canyon. This is when I realized I had stumbled upon a slot canyon. I LOVE SLOT CANYONS!
Scarlett loved it too! She soon started running around and playing. She especially loved coming around the bend and jumping across the water.
This is a face of a very happy dog!
I followed the now very narrow canyon. It was so beautiful. The melting snow created some beautiful natural sculptures.
We continued further up the slot canyon until the end of the line. Well…then end for me. I wasn’t willing to scramble up this obstacle.
We headed back out of the canyon. It was a wonderful place to explore. When I got back to the main formation, I decided to take my time and get a few photos of the area.
After finishing up my hike I decided to go by Abiquiu Lake. I’ve never been to the lake before. I thought there might be wintering birds there. But when I arrived, it was dead quiet.
I did like the reflections in one of the coves of the lake. So I took a few photos there before moving on.
I was really wanting to see some birds on my outing. So I headed to a place that I know I will see birds. I went to Ohkay Owingeh Lakes near Espanola, NM.
On the way to the lakes, I stopped to get a nice photo of the Rio Grande. This stop always offers a beautiful view of the river.
I hiked around the two ponds at the park. There was surprisingly few birds about. But I managed to get a few pics.
It was nice to finish up the day with some nice bird sightings. Scarlett and I had a wonderful day. I highly recommend you visit the Plaza Blanca area.
Yesterday I had to drive almost to Grants to meet a client. It was a cold, dreary day. On my way home I decided to stop in at Piedras Marcadas Petroglyphs so Scarlett and I could stretch our legs.
There weren’t any birds about, but there was an adorable, curious squirrel.
I crept closer hoping to get a better pic.
And closer still….. He let me take several photos before diving behind the rocks.
Just too darn adorable!
There were some hot air balloons up while I was hiking. One of them was landing behind the mesa. I took this pic just before it disappeared.
After working most of the day today, I managed to take a couple hours to hike and bird before sundown. I wasn’t sure what I would see being so late in the day. But surprisingly I saw few nice goodies.
Over the last few days we’ve had some cold, snowy weather. A couple days ago while in town, I took a photo of the Sandia Mountains. I love it when they are covered in clouds and snow.
Stormy Sandia Mountains
Thankfully today was more sunny and warmer. I first stopped in at a small park in Albuquerque to find a Western Screech Owl that has been seen there snoozing in a tree. Considering 90% of the trees in the park were too small for an owl, it was pretty easy to find him.
Western Screech Owl
Snoozin’ the day away
I love seeing owls in the wild. It’s always a real treat. After taking a few pics, I moved so as not to disturb him or draw attention to him from the other folks playing in the little park.
I then headed over to Willow Creek. I hadn’t been there in a while so it sounded like fun to go see what was about. On my way in to the park, I spied this Western Bluebird hunting for dinner.
As I was taking photos, he saw something on the ground and I managed to get a few shots of him getting a grub.
It was a good find, so he took off with it to enjoy at his leisure. Beautiful!
My favorite photo of the day
Along the trail I saw Lesser Goldfinches, White-Crowned Sparrows, House Finches and Spotted Towhees. All of these birds were too shy to have their photo taken. But there were a lot of American Robins about. They were much more cooperative.
There’s one point on the trail that affords a great view of the Sandias. I took this pic there. You can see there’s still snow about half way up the mountain.
To my delight I spied a Red-Tailed Hawk that was looking for a meal. Such a beautiful bird! And look at those claws!
Just before leaving I saw a Say’s Phoebe looking for dinner.
He too found something to eat and quickly took off with it.
That’s about it for my short afternoon walks. But any time hiking, birding and doing photography is a time well spent.
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.
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. 🙂
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!
Panorama of the trail. You can just see the shimmer of Nymph Lake below.
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.
Dia at the creek crossing. Neat tree!
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.
We started leveling out and the waters became calmer. I figured we were getting closer to another of the 3 lakes.
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.
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.
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.
Such a beautiful hike
Dia loved this cool tree
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!!!
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!
What a great trail.
Loved the bedrock this waterfall cascaded over.
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.
Right after seeing the grosbeak, we came upon Emerald Lake. A stunning high alpine glacial 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Juvenile Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Cutie pie 🙂
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!
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.
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!
There are six Northern Flickers in this photo. Wow!
Black-Billed Magpie – no longer my nemesis 🙂
Brewer’s Blackbird male and female
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…
So I decided to walk back out onto the bridge for a pic. Much better! So beautiful!
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.
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!
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 🙂
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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.
Kelly and her Jeep (not her husband’s Jeep) 😉
Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road
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.
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.
Scarlett, Kelly & Dia
Scarlett loves water – so of course we had to let her play a little before hitting the road again.
Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂
Soon we were climbing higher and higher. The views expanded. Just glorious!
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.
Just before reaching the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center, we came across more marmot. I liked how this one posed nicely for me.
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.
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!
Trail from the visitor’s center.
Views of the visitor center from the top of the trail.
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.
Such a lush valley of green
These squirrels found a good home.
Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂
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
As we made our way toward Grand Lake we saw a turn off for Lake Irene. What a serene little lake.
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!
Moose with calf
We also saw some nice bull Elk along the road. One was really enjoying the good life of summer.
Very healthy bull Elk
Near Grand Lake I spotted an Osprey nest. It’s always a good day when you see a bird of prey.
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.
Click, click, click….I took over 5,000 photos on this trip! Yikes!
I love the high alpine meadow flowers – so small and delicate.
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.
Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.
So many smells!!!!
We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.
Hmmmm…look at my Jeep keys precariously dangling from Dia’s hand….
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.
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.
What a cutie!
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!
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.
It was a full day of fun!!! Off to bed early for another full day of exploring!
First off, let me just say, I LOVE my new camera! I’m definitely still in the learning phase, but it’s performance is superior to my old setup. It’s a joy to use, and I’m very happy with my images.
Not too long ago, we had a spring storm blow through and it dumped 12 inches of snow at my house. The birds were not very happy about this event, and neither were my plants.
A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.
The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.
I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂
My sweet Miss Scarlett
Thankfully the snow melted the very next day, and the temperatures returned to the mid to high 70s right away. I got to go out hiking several times this week. I visited Tingley Beach a couple days after the spring storm. The Rio Grande was raging and flooded most of the bosque trails. But it was worth trudging through it to see some new spring birds.
I have lived in the Albuquerque area for over 20 years. And during that time, I have never visited Sandia Lakes or Shady Lakes (they are next door to each other). So one day I decided to check out the lakes.
Sandia Lakes was very nice. Beautiful lawns and cottonwood trees and three separate lakes.
Sandia Lakes with the Sandia Mountains in the background
The first bird I saw was a Lark Sparrow (first one I’ve seen this year). He was singing way up high in a tree. Then I saw several Canada Geese with their babies.
While watching the geese, I saw something that looked different. I quickly realized it was a Western Grebe. We don’t see them often in our area, so it was a real treat.
I saw a pair of Say’s Phoebes busily hunting for bugs. I soon saw why they were so frantic to find bugs. They had three babies squeezed into a tiny nest.
I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well. They are such beautiful birds
While walking around the lake, an Osprey flew overhead. I thought to myself that he might be part of a nesting pair. This was confirmed recently by my friend Joe. I’m definitely going to have to check out their nesting progress.
I came across a pair of Black-Capped Chickadees that were acting very agitated. I never did figure out what they were so upset about.
As I was walking through the grass between lakes, I saw a Killdeer doing its “I’m injured, follow me” routine. So I knew there must be a baby nearby. It was acting pretty desperate, so I thought it must be very close.
Killdeer trying to lure me away from its baby
When I looked down, I realized it was only a foot away. I almost stepped on it! Yikes! It never did move. I took a quick pic and then quickly moved away. Soon I heard the baby calling for its parents. It was nice to see them all reunite and be assured all was fine.
I then headed over to Shady Lakes. What a beautiful place! It has several ponds all covered in beautiful lily pads and lined with irises. The ponds are stocked with different varieties of fish. But I was there for the birds.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron sitting beautifully on an old log. I then realized there were several of them gathered there. Fabulous! They are used to people so they let me get pretty close.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.
I noticed a moth feeding among the irises. These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.
White-Lined Sphinx Moth
The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!
My last hike was up to the Cienega picnic area. The forest service blocks the road for cars until mid-May. So you have to hike along the road to get to the upper picnic area. My goal was to try and find the Northern Pygmy Owl that has been seen nesting there. Now I have made this hike several times both last spring and this spring with no luck seeing that owl. Well, this time I was successful! This is a lifer bird for me!
He was calling repeatedly on a lower branch in the aspen tree where he’s been seen nesting. All the songbirds in the area were very agitated and were trying to scare him away. It was a wonderful sighting!
For those of you not familiar with this owl. He’s very small, only 6 inches from its head to the end of its tail. So you can see why he’s so difficult to find.
Northern Pygmy Owl
I decided to hike over to Bill Spring since I was in the area. A Hermit Thrush was enjoying a bath. And a baby was in a tree nearby.
A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.
I hadn’t been at the spring long when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in chasing a chickadee. After that, the birds were scarce. So I started hiking back to my car. I saw lots of Black-Headed Grosbeak singing and squabbling in the trees. I’m guessing they were vying for the attention of the females.
I’m thrilled spring is here. I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived. 🙂
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.
Not many birds about but a lot of Juncos braving the snow and cold.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I took a few photos of the buildings before heading back to our job site.
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!
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.
While saying hello to the pig a cute little black kitten came up. Just adorable.
I picked it up but it wasn’t too happy about that!
Before leaving I found a cool old dump truck to photograph. My friend Valerie says I will photograph anything rusty! Too true!
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.
Hopefully the weather will be nicer the next time we visit. And maybe I will see that bobcat!
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.
Scarlett and her best friend Mya
The area we stopped to hike had wide open vistas with a rocky Mesa as a backdrop.
Valerie tried hiking up on one of the hills but she quickly found it was very muddy.
As we hiked along the base of the Mesa we found some unique formations to photograph.
A mini hoodoo
Scarlett and Mya had fun exploring.
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. 🙂
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.
But of course a selfie needed to be taken before we left!
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 🙂
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!
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.
There were a lot of abandoned homesteads along the road to Cabezon Peak.
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.
We kept driving along this road enjoying the views. Suddenly Valerie asks me ” How much gas do we have?”
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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
There were lots of Mountain Bluebirds about. They make me happy when I see them. They are so bright and beautiful.
A Scrub Jay came up pretty close to check me out.
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.
Bunny rabbit laying with its ears flat
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.
I also saw a Sage Thrasher deep in the brush.
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.
Snow tastes good!
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.
It was fun to get out hiking and birding on such a nice sunny day.
We are definitely in an El Nino weather pattern. We have seen lots of rain and snow this winter so far and no sign of it letting up anytime soon. Plus the temperatures have been low…even in Albuquerque. So it’s been difficult for me to get out hiking and birding. I especially don’t want to venture out early in the morning.
But I did manage to get out yesterday for a couple hours in the afternoon. I had heard there were Brewer’s sparrows at the Rinconada Petroglyphs area west of Albuquerque. This would be a new bird for me. The last posted sighting was over a week ago so I wasn’t sure if it would still be in the area. But I was willing to go as I had never hiked this trail before so it would be some new scenery.
The forecast said over 50% chance of snow or rain. And all around me the weather was ominous.
Sandia Mountains mostly covered in clouds
I decided to hike the trail backwards and go through the open sagebrush area first instead of hiking along the basalt Mesa where the petroglyphs are located. I figured I had a better chance of finding the sparrows in the foliage.
My first sparrow sighting was the Sagebrush Sparrow. I have only just seen these birds for the first time recently. So it was a real treat to see them again.
Continuing along the trail I saw one juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow (WCS) . Which was a shame as I understand a lot of migratory sparrows will flock with the WCS while wintering here.
Getting closer to the basalt Mesa I saw a large flock of Black-Throated Sparrows. I just love these birds. I think they are beautiful and they are usually not afraid of people. Making it easy to watch them and get some nice pics. They have a pretty voice too.
Black-Throated Sparrow - this one was cold
I finally made it to the petroglyphs. There were a few nice specimens but I felt the Piedras Marcadas trail is much better with a lot more specimens and you are able to climb the basalt Mesa there. This trail has a fence keeping you solely on the trail.
Some kind of duck
These look like fluffy antelope 🙂
Self portrait perhaps?
I saw a couple rocks with dates on them. This one was the most legible. It was carved into this rock almost 100 years ago.
Among the petroglyphs I saw six or so Canyon Towhee.
And a roadrunner ran across my path up into the rocks. He then stopped and fluffed up. Maybe trying to make himself look bigger?
Still no sign of the Brewer’s sparrow. Off and on I’d see the Black-Throated Sparrows and briefly saw a Rock Wren. I also saw a Crissal Thrasher. I have only seen this bird once before. I got a terrible photo then. And got a terrible photo now too. He wouldn’t come out of the bush he was hiding in.
By now I’m almost to my car. I had despaired I wouldn’t see the sparrow today. The weather was turning much colder. The weak sun had disappeared behind some ominous clouds. I could see it was snowing all along I40 so it was going to be fun driving through the canyon to get home.
Then I spied a bird quite a distance away in the top of a bush. I took a photo….zoomed it in to inspect…and what did I see? A Brewer’s Sparrow! Success! Not the best photo but I’m happy with it.
It was a great way to end the hike. Hopefully I can get out again soon. There are other birds out there being seen that I don’t have on my list!