Weekend at Pagosa Springs

Back in July my friend Dia and I spent a long weekend at Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  I had never been there before, so I was really looking forward to a long, relaxing weekend hiking and soaking in the hot springs.

On our way we stopped in for lunch at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  (Pronounced Ab-eh-Q)  It was a beautiful place to stroll and the lunch was delicious.

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Purple Adobe Lavender Farm

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Wonderful lavender!

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Kelly enjoying a wonderful lunch

We also enjoyed shopping in the little store.

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Beautiful store

 

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Shopping at the cafe

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Mmmmmmm…

As we drove down the road, we decided to pop in and check out the famous Ghost Ranch.  When people hear Ghost Ranch they usually think of the artist Georgia O’Keefe who loved to paint the beauty of the desert here.  We didn’t spend long, but I did take some time to take a few photos.

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Great old western wagon

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Storms over Abiquiu Lake

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Old hand-hewn log cabin

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Beauty of the Ghost Ranch

As we neared Chama, New Mexico, we passed an Osprey nest.  Of course, I had to turn around to get a photo.  🙂

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Female Osprey on the nest

While I was photographing the female on the nest, the male showed up with lunch.

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Male Osprey with a meal

We stayed at the beautiful Springs Spa and Resort.  They have 25 different soaking pools that vary in temperatures from 96 degrees to as hot as 111 degrees.  HOT!  The hottest pool was called the Lobster Pot.  I couldn’t get more than my foot in before I was yelping in pain!

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The Springs Resort and Spa

After checking in we decided to go have lunch and let Scarlett run around a bit.  Of course, she was thrilled to play in the river.

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Scarlett stretching her legs after a long drive.

We ate at a restaurant across the river that had a great view of the resort.  We couldn’t wait to get in those pools!

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View of the resort and the San Juan River

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Looks fabulous doesn’t it?

Of course, we had ourselves a giant margarita at lunch to kick off the relaxing weekend.

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Yum!

One of the things I really wanted to do while staying at the resort was take night photos.  I don’t get many opportunities to do night photography, so this was a real treat to have a unique setting.

I first photographed the resort’s hotel.  Such a beautiful place.

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While photographing the hotel, a pair of girls were playing the outdoor chess game.  I was thrilled they consented to let me take their photo.  I think it came out nice.

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Outdoor chess game under the stars

From there we toured the pools.  The first pool we came to overlooked the resort.  I liked that there were some people relaxing the in pool.  I think they added interest to the view.

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Soakers enjoying the beautiful evening

Here’s some other shots I got touring the pools.

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Sunken foot bridge through the warm springs

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I loved the travertine formations that builds up with the flowing waters of hot springs

I took a few shots from the bridge across the river and from the other side of the river.  Beautiful with the reflections in the water.

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Gorgeous at night

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Definitely a special place

The next day we went on a couple of short hikes.  I really wanted to see the waterfalls in the area.  I never seem to tire of photographing water.

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The views during the hike were spectacular.

Our first hike was to Treasure Falls.  It’s not a very long hike, but really beautiful.   Of course, where there’s water, there is always wildlife.

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MacGuilvray’s Warbler

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Adorable chipmunk

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American Robin with a mouthful of moths

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Northern Flicker digging for grubs

This year the southwest had experienced a pretty severe draught at the beginning of the summer.  Because of this, the waterfalls were pretty thin.  But I think they were still beautiful.

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Lower part of Treasure Falls

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Gorgeous!

My favorite shot of the entire trip was taken at this waterfall.  I hiked all the way to the base of the falls to discover a tranquil pool.

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Tranquil pool

To my delight, I spotted an American Dipper.  It’s always a real treat to see one of these birds.  I love how they dip and bob along the water’s edge and dive into the pools looking for food.

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American Dipper

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Looking for goodies in the falling water

The other hike we did was to Silver Falls.  Dia was my co-pilot and was responsible for finding the trailhead.  She led me on a one-hour 4WD goose chase!!! DIA!!!!!   I was so busy stressing over the drive, I didn’t take any photos! LOL!

We finally realized we had driven past the falls.  We turned around and found the trailhead.  This was also a short hike, but very steep! We followed Silver Creek the entire way.  There were small waterfalls along the trail.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got to the main waterfall.  All I can say is WOW!  It was spectacular!  I think it was about 5 stories tall!  The sounds of the falls was almost deafening.  I can only imagine what they would look like if it hadn’t been a drought year.  Dia and I spent quite some time here enjoying the view and taking a few photos.

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Lower portion of Silver Fall

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Silver Falls

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WOW!

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Just spectacular!

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Lower portion of Silver Falls

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My beautiful friend Dia

Dia took a picture of me at the falls.  I look terrible after a stressful Jeep drive!  LOL!  My headband says “Jeep Hair, Don’t Care!”  🙂

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We spent the rest of the afternoon and the next morning soaking in the pools.  It was sooooooo relaxing.  We spent some time shopping the great shops on main street before we left town.   We found lots of goodies!

On the way out of town I spotted a Black-Billed Magpie.  I wish we had these birds closer to home.

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Black-Billed Magpie

When we drove through Chama we spotted a little foal in a pasture along the highway.  We just had to stop and say hi.

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Dia made new friends fast 🙂

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Beautiful!

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This guy was so new he still has his dried umbilical cord

The drought was about to be over on this trip.  The monsoons started in earnest on our drive home.  I stopped to take a photo of the storms over Abiquiu Lake.   Monsoons in the desert can be very dramatic!

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Storms over Abiquiu Lake

All the rain made the Rio Grande turn red.

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Rio Grande

I hope you enjoyed reading about my lovely weekend at Pagosa Springs!  I’m so ready to go back!

 

San Antonio Summer Birding

At the end of May I drove my mom back to San Antonio so we could get her house cleaned up to sell.  I stayed for about 2 weeks.  Summertime in Texas is HOT and HUMID. Ugh! Because of this, there weren’t very many birds about during the dog days of summer.  All of the migrants were gone leaving only the local birds.

In order not to die while birding, I got up at 6 am every morning to head out before it got to 100 degrees.  Yikes!  I drove to several locations during my stay.  I found the best opportunities for birds was if I visited the small lakes all around San Antonio.

On of my favorite birding spots I discovered was Live Oak Lake in Live Oak, Texas.  It was only about 7 miles from mom’s house.  It had a nice path all the way around the lake.  Believe me, you don’t want to wander off path into the grasses there.  That lake was loaded with snakes!

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They even had signs saying so!

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I thought it was a joke until I saw this!

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Needless to say, I tread carefully wherever I went.  Yikes!

The resident Northern Mockingbird greeted me when I pulled into the parking lot.  I have never found a shy Mockingbird.

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Northern Mockingbird

Live Oak Lake is home to lots of herons and egrets. They are used to people walking around the lake, so they just seemed to ignore me and go about their business…as evidenced by this Yellow-Crowned Night Heron.  He caught a monster crawdad!

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

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While I was photographing him, he quickly lunged and came up with the huge crawdad!

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It’s like the size of a lobster!

There was a juvenile looking on with envy…

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Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

There lots of Green Herons about.  In Albuquerque I’m lucky to come across one here and there.  But at this lake, there were so many they constantly chased each other trying to keep a preferred fishing spot to themselves.

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Checking me out 🙂

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Needed a better look LOL!

The resident Great Egret was fishing along the edge of the lake.  I saw him intent on something in front of him.

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Great Egret

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Great Egret

Then all of a sudden he lunged!  Fortunately I managed to get a great pic of him diving for his prey.  Sadly, he missed on that attempt and decided to move to a different part of the lake for better luck fishing.

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Great Egret fishing

There was a pair of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks watching all the goings on around the lake.  I think they are beautiful waterfowl.

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Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

The Muscovy Ducks had some babies while I was gone for several weeks.  I saw this one mother with a huge brood!

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Muscovy Ducks

All the while I’m photographing birds, Scarlett was kicked back relaxing and watching all the people and birds.

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Miss Scarlett

And Squirrels!!!  She was on high alert when she spotted the squirrels!

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Scarlett keeping a sharp eye on the squirrel nearby.

The squirrels kept on eye on her as well.

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Staring contest between the squirrel and Scarlett

There were some other small birds about.  But overall it was pretty quiet for them.  So I ventured over to Converse Lake.  It’s a more wild lake.  You pretty much can only walk along one edge of the lake.  The rest of it is overgrown.  Because of this, the smaller birds tend to hang out here more.  I got 2 lifers at this lake!!!  A Rusty Blackbird and a Couch’s Kingbird.

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Rusty Blackbird

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Couch’s Kingbird

The Mute Swan I saw last time I visited was joined by his lady and their two new babies.  Adorable!  I’d never seen baby swans before.

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Mute Swan male

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Mute Swan female and babies

Here are some of the other small birds I saw around this lake.

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Kildeer

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Scissortail Flycatcher

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Black-Crested Titmouse enjoying a bird drip fountain

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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

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House Sparrow

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Brown-Headed Cowbird female and male

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Painted Bunting

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Eastern Phoebe

While photographing the little birds, I heard a commotion behind me.  I looked across the open field and saw a Red-Tailed Hawk had caught a White-Winged Dove.  Surprisingly a Northern Mockingbird harassed the hawk until it took its breakfast elsewhere.

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Red-Tailed Hawk being attacked by a Northern Mockingbird

One delight while visiting Converse Lake was that the water lilies were in full bloom.  Just beautiful!

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One of my favorite photos of the visit

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One thing I noticed about San Antonio is that there is a huge population of Black Vultures.  These birds are huge and were everywhere I went in great numbers.

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Ewwwww……

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Black Vulture

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mmmmmm…armadillo

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Must be tasty as a squabble broke out over it

There are always lots of White-Tailed Deer around the San Antonio parks.   I really liked this photo I took of a doe enjoying the wildflower field.

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White-Tailed Deer

There were a few other blooming flowers about, but not many as San Antonio was experiencing a drought.

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Honey bee enjoying the clover blooms

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This squirrel appreciated the water put out for the birds.

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ahhhhhh…..

While driving around,  I came across this sign.  I had to turn around to take a picture.  Don’t you wonder how this creek was named???

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Really?????

One morning I arrived well before sunrise.  I came across this Little Blue Heron fishing.  I loved the colors and lighting of this photo.

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Little Blue Heron

It was nice getting out early every morning and seeing some fun bird sightings.  I actually got a 3rd lifer, but sadly my photo is just too poor to post.  I saw a Brown Boobie.  I never dreamed I would see this bird in San Antonio.  It was a rare sighting indeed.  Sadly, it was on the far side of a lake with no way to get closer.  My lens just couldn’t get a clear pic, though the markings are clear enough to identify it for me.  Someday I might see one to get a better photo!  🙂

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This doe found a nice place to sit out the day’s heat

A Few Goodies

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.

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Antelope Squirrel

I crept closer hoping to get a better pic.

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And closer still….. He let me take several photos before diving behind the rocks.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Western Screech Owl

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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.

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Western Bluebird

As I was taking photos, he saw something on the ground and I managed to get a few shots of him getting a grub.

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yummy….

It was a good find, so he took off with it to enjoy at his leisure.  Beautiful!

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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.

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American Robin

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.

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To my delight I spied a Red-Tailed Hawk that was looking for a meal.  Such a beautiful bird!  And look at those claws!

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Just before leaving I saw a Say’s Phoebe looking for dinner.

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Say’s Phoebe

He too found something to eat and quickly took off with it.

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That’s about it for my short afternoon walks.  But any time hiking, birding and doing photography is a time well spent.

Rocky Mountain National Park – Day 4

Our last day in Estes Park.  I really didn’t want to leave.  There was so much to explore!

Dia said she wanted to sleep in.  So Scarlett and I headed out very early to go birding in Moraine Park where I had seen so many birds before.  It was a gorgeous morning.  And when I arrived at the trail head, there was birdsong everywhere.  Yay!

The trail I chose crossed a creek flowing through the meadow and headed for a rock outcropping with large pines and oaks.  I figured this would give me a bigger variety of species to look for with the range of habitat available.

My first bird sighting was a Lincoln’s Sparrow.  I could hear him singing among some dead trees along the creek.  But it took me forever to spot him.  He was very camouflaged among the dead branches.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

Up ahead on the little bridge crossing the creek I saw several American Crows enjoying the morning sun.

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Soon I was at the treeline edge.  Lots of birds here.  There were many House Wrens busy flitting here and there so it was a challenge to get a decent pic.

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House Wren

While photographing the wrens, a pair of juvenile Williamson’s Sapsuckers came over to check me out.

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Juvenile Williamson’s Sapsucker

A White-Breasted Nuthatch was busy feeding above me.

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White-Breasted Nuthatch

I saw several Northern Flickers. For the most part they stayed a ways away.  I did manage to get a decent pic of one before it saw me and took off.

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Northern Flicker

Then I saw a quick peek of yellow.  At first I thought it might be a warbler, but when I finally got a good look at it, I realized it was a young male Western Tanager.  Always a pleasure to see!

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Western Tanager

A cute little bunny was feeding next to the trail.  I always think they are so adorable.

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All of a sudden Scarlett let out a low growl.  I saw where she was looking and realized there was a coyote in the meadow.  It decided it didn’t want anything to do with Scarlett, so it quickly headed off deeper into the meadow.  He was between me and the morning sun, so I didn’t get a great pic.  But I always love seeing coyotes.  For some reason, Scarlett always growls when she sees one.   That’s a good thing I guess!

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Coyote

There were several hummingbirds about.  I believe they were all Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds. In that same area where we saw the coyote, there was a patch of Bee Balm.  I love these flowers.  Such unusual blooms and hummingbirds love them.  I managed to catch one feeding but that low morning sun didn’t make for very good photos.  Sigh….

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird feeding on Bee Balm flowers

Further up the trail I saw a LBB (little brown bird).  That’s usually how I end up identifying sparrows when you can’t get a good enough look at them.   This one caught my attention because it had two wing feathers sticking out funny.  🙂

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I believe this is a Brewer’s Sparrow

I only got one butterfly photo the whole trip.  There were wildflowers everywhere but very few butterflies.

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Small Wood Nymph

There were squirrels everywhere.  This park has a healthy population of a large variety of squirrels and chipmunks.  I almost didn’t see this chipmunk as it blended very well with the rock it was sitting on.

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To my delight a Steller’s Jay landed nearby and the sun was behind me!  🙂  This one looks to be a young one starting to get more adult plumage.

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Steller’s Jay

Out in the meadow I saw a flock of Red-Winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds feeding on the grass seeds.

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Brewer’s Blackbird

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Red-Winged Blackbird – female

 

I saw many American Robins while in the park, but I only managed to get one good photo of one.

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American Robin

As I was getting into my car to leave, I got one last photo of a Black-Billed Magpie.  I love these birds.  I’m so glad I was able to see so many of them and get some nice photos.

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Black-Billed Magpie

 

I was sad to leave the park.  I am definitely coming back again in the future!

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Mule Deer

Dia called me as I was heading back to town.   I asked her where she was.  Where else?!? Starbucks!   So I met her there and we enjoyed sitting by the river that runs through Estes Park.   Such a beautiful town.

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Dia at her happy place!

Before I end this trip, I thought I would share some of the fun and silly photos we took over the weekend.  🙂

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I made Scarlett get in the water.  She was not happy with me.  I think the loud waterfall nearby was scaring her.

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Scarlett didn’t know what to think of all the raging rivers and waterfalls.  Even though she loves water, this kind of water was scary!

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These marmots knew how to beg for treats

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This is definitely NOT my husband’s Jeep LOL!

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Dia photo bombing me

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Dia enjoying all her pleasures

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Kelly and her precious Scarlett

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What I do to get that “perfect” photo LOL!

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I just couldn’t get my new tube scarf thing to work 😐

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Enjoying gourmet ice cream on main street

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And of course, Scarlett wanted ice cream too! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Nymph Lake

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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. 🙂

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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!

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

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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.

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Dia at the creek crossing. Neat tree!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Such a beautiful hike

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Dia loved this cool tree

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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!!!

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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!

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What a great trail.

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Loved the bedrock this waterfall cascaded over.

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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.

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Pine Grosbeak

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Lovely wildflowers

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Juvenile Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mountain Chickadee

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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Mallard

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Cutie pie 🙂

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Mountain Bluebird

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Bank Swallow

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Steller’s Jay

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Moraine Park

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Lovely wildflowers

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There are six Northern Flickers in this photo. Wow!

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Black-Billed Magpie – no longer my nemesis 🙂

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Bee Balm

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Brewer’s Blackbird male and female

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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…

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

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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.

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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!

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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 🙂

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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.  🙂

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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Dia and Scarlett enjoying the drive up Old Fall River Road

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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.

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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.

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Looking downstream

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Scarlett, Kelly & Dia

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

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Scarlett enjoying the falls in her own way 🙂

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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Trail from the visitor’s center.

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Breathtaking views!

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Dia

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Where’s Starbucks???!!!!!

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

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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.

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Such a lush valley of green

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These squirrels found a good home.

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Dia happy with her Starbucks! 🙂

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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

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Savannah Sparrow

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

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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!

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Moose with calf

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

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Very healthy bull Elk

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Enjoying summer

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

 

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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.

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

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Expansive views

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

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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.

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Scarlett was enjoying all the sights and smells.

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So many smells!!!!

We stopped at one pullout to view a glacier.

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

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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.

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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.

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What a cutie!

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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!

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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.

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

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These flowers were extremely tiny!