San Antonio Birding – Dedicated to my Dad

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

20180504_221301

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

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

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

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

20180417_081857

Scarlett walking in the greenbelt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Texas Bluebonnets

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Eyed Vireo

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red-Shouldered Hawk as I first saw him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Success getting some breakfast.

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Egyptian Geese with 10 goslings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Adorable baby

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mute Swan

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cattle Egret

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pied-Billed Grebe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

American Coot

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

American Coot

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Egret

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great-Tailed Grackle

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Winged Dove

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Barn Swallow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Common Yellowthroat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Savannah Sparrow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eastern Kingbird

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Killdeer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eastern Phoebe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Myrtle)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lincoln’s Sparrow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carolina Wren

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Northern Cardinal with an inchworm

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Purple Martins

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Northern Mockingbird flushing out bugs

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck at dawn

20180423_080506

Lake Converse at sunrise

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Egret

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Egret

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Small catch but tasty!

There were a several other waterfowl on the lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mottled Duck

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mottled Duck babies – so adorable!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blue-Winged Teal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck baby – beautiful markings!

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Green Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Green Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Green Heron

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cooper’s Hawk

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Northern Cardinal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Kingbird

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spotted Sandpiper

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spotted Sandpiper

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

20180419_074329

Texas Bluebonnet Sunrise

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Crested Titmouse

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

Scarlett just couldn’t believe her eyes!!  🙂

20180424_080252

Look mom!  A deer is right there!!!!

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Tailed Deer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful coloring under the wings.

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carolina Chickadee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Northern Mockingbird

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Summer Tanager Female

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Vulture

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Barred Owl

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Barred Owl

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Horned Owletts

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Horned Owl

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lark Sparrow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Meadowlark

Scarlett enjoyed her visit at the park.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My sweet Scarlett

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

In memory of my dad:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood Moon and Birds

Well…it just doesn’t get any better than that!

On January 31 there was a lunar event that hasn’t happened in 150 years in the United States:  A Blue Moon, Super Moon, Blood Moon Eclipse.  What does that mean?  A Blue Moon is a second full moon in the same month.  A Super Moon is when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth making the moon appear 14% larger and 30% brighter.  And a Blood Moon Eclipse is when the moon moves directly behind the Earth’s shadow where it cannot receive any light from the sun causing it to appear red in our atmosphere.

Of course, seeing as I wouldn’t be around for the next one unless I lived to be 203 years old, I just had to photograph this event.  I got up a 4 am to drive into town to a predetermined location.  I was fortunate that our local camera club had scouted out a great area that gave an elevated vantage of the city below.  When I arrived, I saw the temperature was 27 degrees.  Brrrrr!  It was going to be a cold photo shoot!

As I hiked to the earthen dam at the northeast end of Albuquerque, I could see the eclipse had already begun.   At the time the moon was still white but was starting to show a hint of red.  I quickly set up my camera gear and started shooting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Moon over Albuquerque

The eclipse happened fast.  Just a few shots later, the moon was becoming mostly red.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eclipse well underway

Then it finally happened!  It was a Blood Moon.  I zoomed as far in as I could and it was a beautiful sight!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blood Moon

The full eclipse was to be a 6:30 am.  My last shot was around 6:15.  The sun was rising and the sky had really started to lighten.  I quickly changed lenses and took a picture of the Blood Moon hanging over Albuquerque.  As you can see, I was definitely shooting in the “blue hour” by this time.  But I thought the photo was so beautiful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blood Moon over Albuquerque

After that last shot, the sky just became too light and the moon had dipped into the hazy horizon above the city.  So I packed up my gear and hoofed it back to my car.

I figured since I was already in town and it was dawn, I should take the opportunity to go birding.  Logical train of thought right???  🙂

I headed over to Alameda Open Space to see what might be around at the pond and along the river.  I had heard a Mew Gull has been sighted among the Ring-Billed Gull flock.  That would be a lifer for me if I could find it.

I started systematically taking photos of the flock as they rested on the sandbar in the Rio Grande.  I figured I could look through photos later to see if I captured the Mew Gull.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ring-Billed Gulls with rare visitor California Gull in the middle

I had snapped a few photos working my way down the line, when all of a sudden they all erupted into flight.  Startled me good!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ring-Billed Gulls

I had wondered what frightened them.  I was thinking maybe a coyote had tried to sneak up on them or something.  No sign of any ground attack, I looked up for a possible aerial attack.  And right above me was a Bald Eagle!  Beautiful!  We get them here every winter, but you just don’t see them that often.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You can see the size difference of the gull to the Bald Eagle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Look at that wingspan!!

He soon caught a thermal and soared higher and higher until eventually he was gone.  Since now the gulls were all stirred up, I figured my chance to see the Mew Gull were pretty much nil.  So I started hiking along the river to see what other goodies might be about.  Here’s some pics of my finds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Common Merganser female

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are 3 Black-Crowned Night Herons in the trees

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Blue Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Common Mergansers – 2 males and 1 female

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Phoebe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wood Duck pair

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mallards with a Killdeer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Bluebird – so beautiful!

We came across a giant beach along the river and Scarlett decided it was a great place to run and play in the water.  Even though that water had to be freezing she wanted to play.  I had fun capturing some photos of her while she played.  Goofy dog!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scarlett having fun in the water

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So much fun to run in the shallow water

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She likes to bite at the water as she plays

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My beautiful girl

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Isn’t that a look of pure joy!  LOL!

After a couple hours of hiking, we headed back to the car.  I stopped briefly at the bridge crossing the bar ditch next to the parking lot.  There’s usually some good small birds in the area.  I heard a constant buzzing noise.  It took me a minute to narrow down where it was coming from, but eventually I fount its source.  A Marsh Wren – in plain sight!  Now many of you know those Marsh Wrens can be a real challenge to photograph as they mostly live deep in cattails.  So I was thrilled to be able to watch one work along the edge of the water for a little while.  He was deep in shadows and at a little distance, so it was a challenge getting a good image.  But I was pleased with what I got.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Marsh Wren

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hmmmm…anything good under water?

I had a little time left before I needed to head home and get back to work.  So I stopped in at the Embudito Trail parking lot.  There’s been sighted a Golden-Crowned Sparrow among the White-Crowned Sparrows feeding at a feeder next to the parking lot.

When I arrived I saw a Cactus Wren singing in a tree.  I can never resist photographing these beautiful birds.  And their song is the epitome of desert birdsong.  I think it’s the most used birdsong in commercials and movies depicting the southwest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cactus Wren

I then saw a bunch of White-Crowned Sparrows fly in to the bushes next to the feeder.  I was hopeful the Golden-Crowned Sparrow was among them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Crowned Sparrow

I searched and searched and finally! there he was!  By this time the sun was bright and trying to get a good pic was a challenge.  But finally I managed one that showed his beautiful gold crown even though it’s muted in his winter plumage.  A lifer for me!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Golden-Crowned Sparrow

Now it was time to go home and take a nap!!! (work could wait LOL!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mallard feather on the frozen beach of the Rio Grande

 

Miscellaneous Birds and Other Fun Stuff in Port Aransas, Texas

I saved the most difficult category for last – miscellaneous birds.  Specifically flycatchers.  I am challenged when it comes to identifying flycatchers.  Thankfully, there was a local birding expert nearby when I saw the flycatchers, and she was able to identify them for me.  You can see why it’s challenging to identify them…they almost look identical!

Here’s the many variety of flycatchers I saw at Port Aransas.  And they are all lifers!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alder Flycatcher

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Acadian Flycatcher

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eastern Wood-Pewee

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Least Flycatcher

While visiting there, I went out every morning before dawn.  I saw some beautiful sights around the town.  One morning I toured the marina and took a few pics.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful sailboats

20170520_062847

Homes on the Port Aransas Marina

The beach at dawn is gorgeous.  Very  few people, calm winds, the sounds of the surf and birds.

20170521_075600

Horace Caldwell Pier at sunrise

I found some sand sculptures one morning.  They must have had a contest the day before that was sponsored by Crown Royal.  I was pretty impressed with the sculptures, though I can’t figure out why the pig was the grand champion.  Hmmmmmm…..

20170521_080417

Willie Nelson

20170521_080505

It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere

20170521_080544

Lovely mermaid

20170521_080600

Grand Champion Pig

While walking Charlie’s Pasture I did encounter a few butterflies.  They were difficult to find as the wind blew pretty good almost my entire trip.  I found other fun stuff too while hiking the boardwalks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A gorgeous passion flower

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I believe this is a White Peacock that survived a close call!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Funereal Duskywing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ceraunus Blue

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Green Anole shedding its skin.  I loved to catch these lizards when I was a little kid living in Houston!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Common Buckeye

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A very fresh Pipevine Swallowtail

One morning at Charlie’s Pasture I came across a coyote.  Just beautiful!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Coyote

While visiting the Leonabelle Refuge I saw lots of Great-Tailed Grackles and a few other fun things.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Crab

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The sightings of the day 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great-Tailed Grackle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mullet – this fish was 2.5 feet long!

I had two birds I really wanted to see while visiting the Gulf Coast.  The first was the Roseate Spoonbill, which I did see and posted about previously.  The second bird was the Crested Caracara. I have looked for this bird for years.  On this trip I finally saw it.  Then like my blogging friend Aussiebirder who recently commented “it takes you forever to see that lifer bird, then it seems like once you see it, you see it everywhere!”  I think I saw over 10 individuals while there this last trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Crested Caracara

Along with the Crested Caracara I saw these other two birds I scared off a dead coyote.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Turkey Vulture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Harris’s Hawk

One day we visited Aransas Wildlife Refuge.  It took about 1.5 hours to get there, but was well worth the trip.  That particular day was extremely windy.  The beach would have been miserable.   But with all the trees at the refuge, it was a beautiful day.  The very first thing we saw were 3 alligators!!!  🙂  That was awesome!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alligator

20170516_125045

Alligators

We drove around this large refuge and came across some fun stuff.  There was this 80-foot high catwalk.  It was so fun to walk that climbing, winding cawalk.  At the top the views of the coastline were amazing!

20170516_133510

Scarlett loved running up the path

20170516_134440

My mom waving from further down the path.  Such fun!

20170516_134320

Gorgeous view!

While hiking this catwalk, we spotted a huge butterfly.  It landed very briefly for one photo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Palamedes Swallowtail

And I got a beautiful shot of a dove.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Winged Dove

We had a picnic in a lovely spot.  A deer greeted us as we drove up. This would be one of several deer we would see that day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Tailed Deer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Me and Scarlett

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful picnic area

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love the oak trees in Texas

I took mom and dad out to a nice dinner for Dad’s birthday.  The restaurant was small and intimate and the food was delicious.

20170518_174639

My dad (Joe) at his birthday dinner

But our favorite place to eat was Trout Street.  We ate there twice on the patio enjoying the marina view.  After dinner on one visit, mom and I toured the docks.  I really considered buying this yacht that was for sale (NOT!).  🙂

20170520_180736

Mom and Dad (Dorothy and Joe)

20170520_180159

Dad looking very nautical in his blue and white striped shirt 🙂

20170520_180128

Me enjoying a lovely dinner on the marina

20170520_181219

My beautiful mother!

20170520_181926

Tempting to buy….. LOL!

One day visiting the beach we drove past a Jeep Rally.  I was really wishing I was in my Jeep.  But sadly we were in my dad’s Ford pickup.  I need to see about Jeep Rallies in New Mexico!

20170520_143234

Jeep Rally at the Beach

20170520_143024

Lots of great Jeeps were there

It was a wonderful trip to the Gulf Coast!!! I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures there.

20170519_064919

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shorebirds in Port Aransas, Texas

This is a big category.  There were so many different kinds of shorebirds when I visited.  Of course, I wasn’t complaining. 😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gorgeous sunrise on the Gulf Coast of Texas

I visited the beach a couple of times at sunrise.  This proved to be a good idea as the terns were hanging out on the beach grooming before taking off to eat breakfast.  I saw a nice group of terns one morning with a lifer among them – the Sandwich Tern.  I wonder how it got its name???

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sandwich Tern

Also in the group were Royal Terns (gorgeous birds) and a juvenile Black Tern.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Royal Tern

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Tern – juvenile

While driving along the beach I saw a group of Black Skimmers fly by feeding.   Such a unique bird. You’ll notice the upper beak is shorter than the lower enabling it to skim the water while flying fast.  I never saw any sitting still, so I was happy I managed to get one decent photo of one flying.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Skimmer

As always on the beach, lots of seagulls!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Laughing Gulls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Laughing Gull

One variety of birds I just love are the sandpipers.  When I was little living in the Philippines, I called the sandpipers “step and pecks” because that’s exactly what they do!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Western Sandpiper

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sanderling – I love this photo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ruddy Turnstone

One day at the beach, I witnessed a very disturbing sight.  I was looking at a particular bird that seemed different from all the Western Sandpipers around.  So I went to grab my camera.  When I turned around to take a picture, I didn’t see it.  That’s when I noticed some grackles that were ganging up on something.  I took a couple quick pics with my camera to see what they were attacking.  I realized they were attacking the bird I wanted to photograph!!!  What!?!  I didn’t know grackles would kill anything.  I thought they were scavenger birds.  I put down the camera and went to see if I could save the little bird.  Sadly,  I was too late 😦  I now hate grackles…..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This Great-Tailed Grackle is attacking a Sanderling, which is trying to fight back. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The grackle was just too big to fight off.

20170518_124832

So sad……

Out at Charlie’s Pasture I sat quietly on a shaded bench for about an hour.  Different varieties of birds would come and go from the pond.  The highlight of that particular visit was when a large group of American Avocets flew in.  I had never seen a large group in breeding plumage feed together before.  It was like a beautiful ballet.  They were a synchronized group that chattered constantly among themselves.  It was a real delight to watch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

American Avocets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

American Avocets in a beautiful synchronized dance

Another day at Charlie’s pasture I got another lifer – Gull-Billed Terns!  They were quite a ways away so getting a decent pic was a challenge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gull-Billed Terns

In great breeding numbers was the Least Tern.  I searched in vain for any babies, but never did see any.  The parents were clever enough to not feed any while I watched.  They would land and just sit – waiting for me to leave.  Oh well……

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Least Tern

A favorite every time I visit the coast is the Brown Pelican.  These birds are so unique looking.  They are a joy to watch fish as they dive into the water and fill that giant bill with fish.  The Brown Pelican during breeding season has beautiful coloration. On this trip, I got my most favorite photo I’ve ever taken of one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brown Pelican

I was excited to find Dunlins on several of my outings.  They are a lifer for me!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dunlin

There was such a variety of marsh and shorebirds everywhere I went.  It was such a joy to see such unique birds!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Greater Yellowlegs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Necked Stilt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stilt Sandpiper

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wilson’s Phalarope

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Willet

While hiking around Charlie’s Pasture, I noticed a couple of plovers.  One in the very far distance was a Snowy Plover.  Happily one close by was a lifer for me.  A Wilson’s Plover!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Snowy Plover

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wilson’s Plover – look at all the bands he’s wearing!

I love birding at the beach during spring!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Horace Caldwell Pier at sunrise

 

 

 

 

Rare Bird Sightings :)

Temperatures have finally started getting cold in New Mexico.  It’s definitely feeling more like winter now.  And with the colder temps we’ve started seeing more birds arriving for their winter stay.  Along with the usual suspects, we’ve had a few seldom seen and rare birds arrive in the area.  It’s so exciting to hear about an unusual bird near home.

So of course, I just had to head out to find them.  Work has been so busy that it’s been difficult getting away for some birding.  But I managed an hour here and there.  I stopped in at the Alameda open space to check in on some gull sightings.  For some reason, the seagulls love to hang out there.

I first noticed a pair of Common Mergansers swimming among the gulls.  Someday I’d love to get a better photo of these birds.  This is about as good as I ever get.

dsc_8494

Common Merganser male and female

I scanned among the many local Ring-Billed Gull searching for any gulls that looked different.  Immediately what stood out was a couple of Lesser Black-Backed Gull juveniles.  They are much larger than the Ring-Billed and are dark brown speckled.  The juvenile birds could have been one of several species, as they are so similar.  Thankfully one of them flew and I was able to correctly identify the species based on the tail markings.

dsc_8539

Lesser Black-Backed Gull with Ring-Billed Gull behind him

After searching further I spotted several California Gulls.  They are also much larger than the Ring-Billed.

dsc_8541

California Gull

After walking along the river for a little while, I soon had to head back home and work.  Before leaving though I decided to see what might be on the pond next to the parking lot.  I  saw a couple of mergansers feeding.  I initially thought they were Common Mergansers, but after looking closer I realized they were Red-Breasted Mergansers.  A lifer for me! And a more rare sighting for our area.

dsc_9740

Red-Breasted Merganser

I watched them for a while and was thrilled when they swam closer to me.  I even got to see them successfully fishing!

dsc_9694

She caught a bluegill!

dsc_9704

Next she needed to position the fish for swallowing without letting it go

dsc_9722

That’s a big fish to swallow!

I had heard there were Tundra Swans spotted at Bosque del Apache.  I just had to go see them.  I begged my husband to have the day off so I could go see these beautiful birds.  Sometimes it’s a blessing to be self-employed, and sometimes it’s a curse.  LOL!!

Thankfully he let me go.  I got up at 4:30 am so I could get there at sunrise.  In the past I have always stopped at the ponds just before the refuge to watch the Sandhill Cranes take off.  But this time I decided to go to the main pond and take photos of the early morning light.  It was a beautiful winter morning.

dsc_5441

Bosque del Apache at sunrise.  Bald Eagles are perched on the dead tree.

I headed over to the marsh boardwalk to see what might be about.  In the early morning light I spotted a muskrat eating a fish for breakfast.

dsc_8745

Muskrat

I also saw a juvenile Common Gallinule but he was too far away for a good photo.  This is a rare sighting for the area in winter.  Also about were lots of Common Mergansers feeding in the distance.  Then from under the boardwalk a pair of female Hooded Mergansers swam out.  I was able to get some good closeup photos of them.

dsc_9291

Hooded Merganser female

A Pied-Billed Grebe made an appearance as well.

dsc_9308

Pied-Billed Grebe

While standing on the boardwalk, I heard a bird calling above and behind me.  I didn’t recognize it so I turned around quickly to see what it was.  And to my amazement it was a Tundra Swan! A lifer for me!

It landed a ways away on the pond but at least close enough for a photo to correctly identify it.  You can just see the yellow spot between the eye and the bill.

dsc_8790

Tundra Swan

It kept honking and then I heard more flying overhead.  I guess he didn’t want to be left behind.  He quickly took off again and joined his buddies.  In all I saw 6 of them fly off to the south.  My trip was successful!

dsc_8812

Tundra Swan.  You can see he’s quite a bit larger than the Canadian Geese

dsc_8862

Tundra Swan

I never saw the swans again that day so I was very thankful I had visited the boardwalk first thing.  I then drove the loop seeing what else might be about.  There was a Great Blue Heron snoozing in a picturesque setting.  I couldn’t resist taking several photos of him.

dsc_8961

Great Blue Heron

The bird of the day would have to be the Northern Pintail.  There were hundreds of them about.  Needless to say, it was easy to get many good photos.

dsc_9328

Northern Pintail

I saw lots of American Coots, a few Gadwall and Ruddy Ducks that I was able to get decent photos of.  I also saw several other variety of ducks, but they were always too far away for pics.

dsc_9068

American Coot

dsc_9331

Gadwall – male  and  female

dsc_9520

Ruddy Duck

I didn’t see very many little birds.   Here’s the few I managed to see.

dsc_9397

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

dsc_9522

House Sparrow

dsc_9510

Black Phoebe

dsc_9542

White-Crowned Sparrow

And of course, there were lots of Snow Geese about.  For the most part they were too far away for any great pics.  I took a few of them feeding in the fields.  Upon closer inspection of my pics, I noticed I got a Ross’s Goose among the Snow Geese.   I don’t see them nearly as often so it was a real treat.

dsc_9033

Ross’s Goose in the foreground.  Snow Goose behind him.

That day there were lots of raptors about.  I love seeing these birds.  They can be a challenge to photograph as they always manage to stay just out of reach of my long lens.  So my photos are rarely sharp.  But I’m still happy to see them.

I saw several American Kestral about.  Such beautiful little birds.

dsc_9076

American Kestral

As always there were lots Red-Tailed Hawks about.  I never tire of photographing them.

dsc_8459

Red-Tailed Hawk

I spotted a large dark bird in a tree quite a ways from the road.  I took a few pics to see if I could identify it.  I couldn’t decided if it was a juvenile Bald Eagle or a Golden Eagle.  It was that big.

dsc_9340

Golden Eagle – eating a raven (you can see its feet hanging down)

But then it flew and I had a conclusive identification.  Golden Eagles legs are completely feathered.   I was thrilled!  Such a beautiful bird of prey.

dsc_9347

Golden Eagle

Now every time I visit the refuge, I always see people with those giant camera lenses.  You know what I’m talking about.  The lenses are so large they need their own tripod.   I always think someday it would be nice to have a setup like that but I don’t feel the need to go out and get in massive debt to get one.  But on this day at the refuge, I was truly jealous of those people.  The Bald Eagles were very active and just out of range of my little camera.  As I was taking photos of them, I was wondering what kind stunning photos these people were getting with their expensive lenses.  It would have been worth every penny to get some of the shots I know they got.  Ah well…….  here’s what I got of the Bald Eagles.

dsc_9088

Bald Eagles and a Raven

dsc_9097

One of the Bald Eagles took off after breakfast

dsc_9269

Success!  Bald Eagle eating a Snow Goose

The Sandhill Cranes finally got within camera range later that day.  Such beautiful birds.

dsc_9527

Sandhill Cranes

dsc_9551

Sandhill Crane among the winter grasses – beautiful!

I went in the garden area of the refuge to see what might be about.  I heard a lot of birds, but not much luck seeing them.  I did get some good shots of a Great Roadrunner.  I love these birds! And it was a great way to end my day at the refuge.

dsc_8650

Greater Roadrunner

dsc_8643

Greater Roadrunner

One other day during the week I was able to pop in at Tingley Beach to see what might be about.  You can usually count on seeing lots of waterfowl during the winter months.  On this day I got to see a pretty ugly Muscovy Duck.  I don’t always see what looks like a pure bred Muscovy so I’m guessing it’s probably a more rare sighting for this species in Albuquerque.

dsc_8404

Muscovy Duck

Here’s some of the other waterfowl I saw that day.

dsc_8391

Wood Duck

dsc_8367

Canada Goose

dsc_8332

American Wigeon

dsc_8331

Canvasback

One day I was driving home and I saw a Mountain Bluebird in the middle of the road.  I thought it would fly, but it didn’t and I drove right passed him.  I quickly stopped and ran back to pick him up.   He looked pretty sad.  I brought him home to see if I could help him.  Here’s a pic of what he looked like when I picked him up.

20161212_132811

Mountain Bluebird

I set him on a towel in the sun on my couch in the living room.   He seemed very dazed.  I think he must have flown into a passing car and stunned himself.

dsc_8690

Mountain Bluebird

He sat there on that towel for several hours.  At one point I made him take a few sips of water then put him back on the towel.  After several hours he finally perked up and started looking around.  Truthfully I thought he was a gonner.  He looked that bad.  So I was so happy to see him looking more alert.  When he seemed coherent enough, I decided to take him back to where I found him.  I know he has a girlfriend there and that they live by the church.  I seem them every day I drive by.

He still couldn’t fly that great.  Probably had a hell of a headache.  But I put him on the ground and he quickly started gulping down juniper berries.  I figured that was a great sign and was happy to leave him there to find his gal.

dsc_8726

Mountain Bluebird – he was eating those berries you can see on the ground

Since that day I have seen him and his lady there at the church.  It feels good knowing I saved that beautiful bluebird!

I can’t wait to see what other rare birds might make there way into my area this winter.   During the past two weeks I’ve gotten 4 lifer birds.  It’s been awesome!  There is a Rusty Blackbird in town at the Albuquerque Open Space Visitor’s Center.  That would be a lifer for me to see him.   I’ve gone by there a few times and have yet to see him.  I heard him one day but no sighting yet.  Drat!  Hopefully I will see him soon.  I will keep you posted!  🙂

 

 

Birding in Port Aransas, Texas (Part 2)

I ended my last post heading out to dinner.  We decided to eat dinner at Virginia’s again.  Their food is delicious and the scenery is great.  We ate a little earlier the second night so we had plenty of daylight to enjoy the sights.

We had a perfect view of the lighthouse in the distance.

dsc_4230

While enjoying the views of the marina, an osprey flew by looking for a landing spot.  He thought he could land on a large stick stuck in the jetty.  But after a couple of attempts, he realized it was too small for him.

dsc_4286

Osprey

I had a grackle trying to beg for food while we ate.  I didn’t give him anything, so he gave me the evil eye.  🙂

dsc_4318

Great-tailed grackle

Dinner was soooo good.  Fried shrimp cooked perfectly.

20161016_181540

My dad enjoying dinner!

After dinner mom and I took some photos in the soft evening light.

dsc_5399

Gorgeous sunset at the marina

dsc_5401

Mom looking beautiful as always

dsc_5402

I got a lot of sun on this trip!

The moon was full and bright!

dsc_3012

Harvest Moon

While talking to Tim on the phone that evening, a was entertained by a hunting toad.

dsc_3020

Gulf Coast Toad

I got up early again the next morning to visit the refuge one last time.  I was going to miss this place!

dsc_3021

 

I was the first one there that morning.  Which I think was to my benefit as the wildlife hadn’t been disturbed in any way.  I walked very slowly and quietly.  Determined to blend in LOL!

I was greeted by lots lots of lizards.

dsc_4613

Brown Anole

The first bird I saw was a juvenile Green Heron snoozing right next to the boardwalk.  He cracked an eye open at me, but otherwise didn’t move a muscle.

dsc_4600

Juvenile Green Heron

dsc_4608

Back to sleep 🙂

Further down the boardwalk, I was thrilled to see another lifer for me – a Least Bittern.  He didn’t seem to mind that I was there.  He groomed, stretched his wings, grabbed a snack and then moved on.  I wish the lighting had been better for photographs as I couldn’t have asked for a better subject not 5 feet from me.

dsc_4412

Least Bittern

dsc_4454

Looking up at me

dsc_4483

Stretching his wings

dsc_4497

Time to move on into the cattails

At the end of the boardwalk I saw several Marsh Wrens and Common Yellowthroat feeding.  They didn’t want to cooperate for photos.  I managed to get one semi-decent photo of the Common Yellowthroat.

dsc_4535

Common Yellowthroat

There was a Great Egret feeding in the open area of the marsh.

dsc_4048

Great Egret

A few other birds made an appearance at the boardwalk.

dsc_4134

Green Heron

dsc_3049

Tri-Colored Heron

dsc_3055

Great-Tailed Grackle

dsc_3111

Pied-Billed Grebe

In the shallows at the parking lot, there were a few shorebirds feeding in the morning light.

dsc_3568

Lesser Yellowlegs

dsc_3511

Stilt Sandpiper – another lifer!

dsc_3354

Long-Billed Curlew

I hated to leave, but it was time to go get my parents and head to the beach.  It was another beautiful day at the beach.  We had a wonderful time.

20161016_135332

Beautiful day at the beach!

I fed the birds at the beach.  It wouldn’t be a proper trip without doing so!  It was harder than I realized it would be getting a picture of a seagull in flight waiting for me to toss more food.

dsc_3948

Laughing Gull – another lifer!

dsc_3906

Great-Tailed Grackle

dsc_3667

Laughing Gull

dsc_3661

Lots of colorful clams

dsc_2990

Horseshoe crab – not much has changed in the last 450 million years!

I hope you enjoyed my visit to the Gulf Coast.  If you have never been there, I highly recommend it!

dsc_5405