Alaska Birding, Sightseeing & Gold – Part 3

This is my last installment of my Alaska trip. It has been fun writing this blog series on my trip. I had forgotten all the wonderful birds and sights I had seen while there.

On one of the days, I hitched a ride with one of the owners to go into town. I knew of a couple of ponds that looked promising for bird sightings. When I arrived I was not disappointed! My first sighting was of a Wilson’s Phalarope. I love these little birds.

Wilson’s Phalarope

I soon saw a Glaucous Gull – a lifer for me!

Glaucous Gull

Then to my delight I saw a pair of Red-Throated Loons (another lifer!). I got to watch them do a mating dance together. So much fun!

Red-Throated Loon

Also at the pond were several pairs of Artic Terns (lifer!). They loved hanging out on an old piece of mining equipment. They were so tame I was able to get very close to them for photos.

Arctic Tern

While birding at the ponds, another birder drove up and stopped to talk to me. It was obvious he was a birder by all the high dollar camera equipment in his car!

He was specifically looking for the Slaty-Backed Gull. The Nome area is known for this rarely sighted bird. I told him I hadn’t seen one but I had only been there for a short time. He glanced around, seemed disappointed in what was there to see and drove off down the highway.

To my delight and his loss, not long after that two Slaty-Backed Gulls flew overhead. They were there then gone. I barely got a photo but I did. Lifer!

Slaty-Backed Gull

After that excitement I decided to cross the highway to walk along the beach and see what might be about. I saw a Common Raven eating some kind of shorebird. He posed briefly for a nice portrait photo.

Common Raven

Then a Ruddy Turnstone came walking by me. I followed him for some time taking lots of photos. The thing I’ve noticed about the birds in this area is their lack of fear of people. It’s a wonderful thing for a birder!

Ruddy Turnstone

Also on the beach was a Glaucous-Winged Gull.

Glaucous-Winged Gull

Back at camp I was excited to see it was King Crab for dinner. Yum!!! They get them live in town and butcher them in camp. I kinda of felt sorry for the crab…well, no I didn’t.

Here’s me holding up my dinner. You can see some of the gold mining equipment behind me. I have to say, the entire time at the gold camp I looked like crap. Ah well! I was too busy having fun outside to take time to do my hair or makeup.

While checking out the crab another lifer showed up for scraps. A Mew Gull.

Mew Gull

While the husbands were busy searching for gold, one of the camp helpers took the wives out sightseeing. I’m so glad they offered that because otherwise I would not have seen some of the beautiful sights within the area.

The first place we visited was called “The Trains to Nowhere”. These trains were brought in to haul gold from the hills back in the late 1800s. When the gold played out, they brought the trains down to shore to take them away. But for some reason they decided not to ship the trains back to their originating destination. So for the last 100+ years they have sat on the shore of the Bering Sea rusting away. I thought they were very picturesque!

Trains to Nowhere

While driving there we passed by a large patch of Fireweed. These flowers are so pretty. They are also tasty. The locals make Fireweed jelly and it’s delicious.

Fireweed

I also had some opportunities to photograph the coastline again.

Bering Sea

While driving down there, the girls knew I was looking for any birds. They were helpful in seeing some of the sea birds hanging out in the bays. I got another lifer here – a Common Eider. The birds were quite a distance away, but I managed to get a good enough photo to identify them.

Common Eider

Another trip we took was to Teller, Alaska. It’s about a 75-mile drive there on a lonely dirt road. It took us almost 3 hours to get there. It is a tiny little town on the Bering Sea inhabited by about 100 Eskimos. We went there to see if they had any of their art for sale. We were told you could get some nice handmade items for a fair price. It was to be the only shopping I did on the entire trip.

The drive was very picturesque. We went from sunny, to rainy, to snow to sun again. Crazy weather. I got a nice full rainbow after one of the spells of rain.

Rainbow of the Tisuk River valley

We also crossed several large rivers. So much water! I’m not used to that living in New Mexico.

Sinuk River

We arrived in Teller and it was a miserable day. But it was worth the trip to meet the locals and buy beautiful handmade items directly from the artist. The people there were very friendly.

Bering Sea at Teller
While waiting for the local artists we walked the coastline
Thomas Weyanna carved this little bird out of Walrus Tusk
Donald Weyanna holding a carved Whale Rib inlaid with Caribou Antler. And I look like crap again. It had rained and snowed on me and the wind was blowing 40+ mph. Ugh!

On the way back we stopped at the bridge crossing the Sinuk River to see if there were any bears feeding on the running salmon. No bears but I got another lifer! A Green Sandpiper!

Green Sandpiper

The whole time I was there in Nome, everyone but me had seen the Rock Ptarmigans in the area. I was so upset that I hadn’t seen any. This would be a lifer bird for me.

Can you believe on the trip home from Teller, which was my last day in Nome, I finally saw a Rock Ptarmigan! Yay!

Rock Ptarmigan

All the while I was birding and sightseeing, Tim was busy hunting for gold. When I got back to camp, he had me follow him to a hole he had been digging. It was 4 feet deep! Sadly no gold in this whole.

Tim by his monster hole. And look how good he looks. It’s maddening! Men can look good even in the worst conditions.

While my husband was looking good digging for gold, this was me. LOL! Do I look tired or what!?!

Bundled up against the cold rain and wind!

But he did find gold on the trip. Here’s a pic of him with his nuggets. He found the most gold that week at camp. He was pretty happy.

Here’s a picture we took on the plane. Admiring his gold!

Sadly we had to head home. As we were flying out of Nome I got a beautiful sunset from the plane.

Alaska Sunset above the clouds

As we flew into Albuquerque, we were greeted by the summer monsoon rains as we headed for the hot summer days in New Mexico.

Monsoons over New Mexico

I hope you enjoyed my adventures in Alaska. It was a fun trip for us!

One of my favorite photos of the trip. My handsome husband looking for sea glass along the shore of the Bering Sea at midnight




Alaska Birding, Sightseeing and Gold – Part 2

The next day we flew to Nome to stay at a gold camp in the hills above the town. The terrain here is way different than Anchorage. No majestic mountains or old forests. Just rolling hills and tundra along the Bering Sea. That’s not to say it isn’t beautiful, quite the opposite.

The scenery in Nome was beautiful! I especially loved the Fireweed!

We arrived with several other visitors to the gold camp. Getting everything in the van (including ourselves) was a real challenge.

Tim trying hard to get the last suitcase in the van

We arrived mid-day so we had lots of time to settle in and then get out and explore. This far north in the summertime, it only gets dark a few hours a night. So at 8 o’clock it seemed like noon.

That’s the gold camp AKAU (Alaska Gold) at the top of the hill

We each had a our own ATV to explore. We quickly headed out – Tim to find gold and me to find birds! It didn’t take long for me to find some lifers. It looks flat and uninhabited but there were birds everywhere!

First bird sighting – Golden-Crowned Sparrow

While I birded I saw my husband Tim busily searching for gold with his metal detector.

Tim detecting for gold

I would call out “I got another lifer!”

Hoary Redpoll

He was still searching for gold…

Still searching….

“Wow! Another lifer!” I exclaimed

Common Redpoll

Tim was still searching….

Digging another target that wouldn’t be gold…

“There are so many birds! I got another lifer!” I cheered

Fox Sparrow

Hmmmm….Tim finally got a gold nugget! I was so happy for him!

Hard work getting gold – this hole had a little nugget!

We were having a great time! The day was warm and sunny. Soon we started getting tired and headed back for dinner and some sleep. The sun didn’t set until 2:30 am and was up again by 6 am.

Sunset at 2:30 am

The next day was another beautiful sunny day. Tim went off with some other guys to hunt for gold along a river. I stayed at camp and happily birded. I’m not very adventurous riding an ATV, and it sounded like a challenging drive for the guys.

This day turned out to be one of my best birding days of the trip. I birded for hours and saw so many species of birds. Some new ones and some old friends.

Olive-Backed Pipit
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Not the best photo but the only photo I got of a lifer – Northern Shrike
Least Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Another lifer! Arctic Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler

One of my favorite sightings was of a Northern Waterthrush. He was very curious and a great singer! I have seen this bird once before and only had a terrible photo. This time I got so many good photos! And he got so close to me I had to back up to get any photos.

Northern Waterthrush

Another exciting sighting for me was the Bohemian Waxwings. There was a whole flock of them feeding at a small pond. They didn’t seem to mind me at all. It was so much fun watching them dart out to get a bug and then land again to look for another. Such a stunning bird!

Another lifer! Bohemian Waxwing

While at the pond with the waxwings, I noticed a Semipalmated Plover. And to my delight it had two babies that looked like they had only recently hatched.

Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover juvenile

At another little pond nearby I saw a phalarope. It took me awhile to identify it as it was clearly a juvenile. But I finally realized it was a Red-Necked Phalarope – another lifer!

Red-Necked Phalarope

I loved exploring the little ponds. So unique and so much bird life.

I especially loved the little flowers that looked like something from Whoville 🙂

Whoville flowers 🙂

Something large caught my eye flying overhead. I quickly headed over to where I thought I saw it land. As I approached I heard a hawk giving warning calls to me. To my delight I saw it was another lifer for me. A Rough-Legged Hawk – and it had 2 babies!!!

I never did get very good photos of the adults. But I got some great photos of the babies. I was lucky to see them because within the next day or so they had fledged and left the nest never to be seen again.

Rough-Legged Hawk juveniles

While exploring the area I came across a big male Muskox. I had heard not to get too close as they can be very dangerous. Thankfully I had my 800mm lens and could get a decent photo without it knowing I was doing so.

Muskox

I definitely had a wonderful day exploring. So many bird sightings and beautiful scenery.

I drove to the top of one of the hills on my cute red ATV. Epic 360 degree views!

One day Tim and I drove our ATVs into Nome. I’d never been to the Bering Sea before and was dying to take some photos. It’s not a very picturesque beach like so many out there. But I still found it beautiful.

Bering Sea
The sand in the foreground is very unique – it’s crushed garnets! You can believe I brought home a little bottle of it!

One of my favorite photos of the trip I took just outside of Nome. It is a preserved gold mining dredge. Such wonderful lighting at midnight 🙂

Nome Dredge

I hope you enjoyed all of my photos of the great birds and scenery I saw. Stay tuned for Part 3. Lots more to come!



Last Time to Bird at Port Aransas, Texas

This should be my last post from my trip to Texas last May/June.  It’s taken awhile to get caught up on my blog.

Birding in Port Aransas this last time was bitter sweet in many ways.  First off I knew it was most likely the last time I would be visiting there.  I lived in Corpus Christi from 1982 to 1994.  With my parents living in San Antonio, it was an easy drive for us to go to the beach whenever I visited them.  The last time I posted about birding in Port Aransas, my dad was still alive and me and my parents had taken a 5-day trip to the beach.  It was in May during spring migration.  I had plenty of time there to explore all the bird sanctuaries.  All the wonderful boardwalks into the marshes and estuaries were so much fun to explore.

Since that last visit, I had forgotten that Hurricane Harvey had come through and dealt a lot of damage to the coastal towns of Padre Island.  So while I was excited to visit the beach, I was sad to know my dad wouldn’t be there to join us and that all the bird sanctuaries had been destroyed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Demolition and construction was still ongoing while I visited.  This restaurant still hadn’t been addressed. 

20180817_194243

Going to cost a pretty penny to get this boat fixed.

Birding this year was tough.  I believe a lot of the birds did not linger during the spring migration because the usual areas they visited were completely destroyed.  Also, I think a lot of the local birds had left and not returned.  Needless to say, it took a lot of driving around to find any birds.  But I did manage to find a few good spots.

The first evening we were there I drove to the ferry and the walkway along the intra-coastal channel.  The damage from the hurricane was very evident here.  Huge pieces of concrete were lifted like they weighed very little.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Destruction from Hurricane Harvey

While here I enjoyed the antics of several dolphin getting dinner.  It was interesting to watch them herd fish toward the wall so they could catch them.  I spotted a mother and her calf working the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mother dolphin with calf looking at me

The sunset was gorgeous!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful!

The next morning was when I realized all the local birding hot spots were destroyed.  Thankfully I saw signs saying they already had funding in place to repair all the boardwalks.  It looked like their plans were even going to improve what was originally there.  Someday if I make it back there I will have to see what they did.

I headed to the beach and jetty where I knew terns had gathered in the past.  Thankfully, this spot was still favored by the terns.  The surf was rough and the birds were gathered in big numbers fishing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Terns and gulls fishing the rough surf at the jetty

I found an area where the birds were resting and grooming after tackling the rough waters.  I was able to get several good pics of the terns resting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Tern Juvenile

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Tern

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Forster’s Tern

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Royal Tern

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sandwich Tern

From there I headed down the road toward the big bridge going to Corpus Christi.  There is a marina there.  I’ve seen birds hanging out there in the past so had high hopes I would see some that morning.

Along the highway I saw a hawk looking for breakfast in the coastal grasslands.  I had to take a second look as I realized it was a new bird for me!  A White-Tailed Hawk.  Gorgeous!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Tailed Hawk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White-Tailed Hawk

I saw a Roseate Spoonbill fishing the shallows not far from the marina.  I pulled into a construction area to get closer for pics.  I managed a few photos before I was run off by the foreman.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Roseate Spoonbill

As I was driving into the marina I spotted a beautiful Osprey hanging out on the electric wire.  He let me take a few pics before flying off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Osprey

The marina was not a disappointment.  There were several birds hanging out hoping for a free meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Crowned Night Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Blue Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Blue Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Crowned Night Heron

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brown Pelicans

Near the marina is an area that shorebirds have liked in the past.  I drove over there to see if I could find anything.  I was thrilled to see a pair of Willets with two young babies.  I’d never seen Willet babies before.  Adorable! I sat for some time just watching this little family.  You can’t help but smile and enjoy new life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Willet juvenile

Soon though the parents grew nervous and started telling me to move along.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Willet telling me to move along

There were also some Black-Necked Stilts and a Reddish Egret enjoying the shallows.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Necked Stilt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Necked Stilt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Reddish Egret

The next morning I decided to go the Horace Caldwell Fishing Pier.  Not sure if I would see anything here, but it was fun to go there at sunrise.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Horace Caldwell Pier

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beach at Port Aransas, Texas

I came across these two children fast asleep on the pier.  Their parent must have gotten them up really early to fish.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Too early of a morning for these kids

The only birds I saw were White-Winged Doves and Pigeons.  What I found curious though, was a cross between these two species.  Interesting bird.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Rock Pigeons at the pier had very dark plumage.  Doesn’t make sense at a hot beach!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rock Pigeon and White-Winged Dove Cross Breed

After the pier I drove to the lone surviving boardwalk that overlooked a salt flat.  Most of the birds were too far away for photos.  I managed to see one bird closer to me.  And to my surprise it was a lifer!  A Black-Bellied Plover Juvenile.  Too bad it wasn’t an adult.  They are beautiful birds.   Even better, this is a rare sighting for the area!   I wouldn’t have believed I identified this bird correctly if it hadn’t been sighted by other birders on eBird.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-Bellied Plover – juvenile

I spotted a few birds flying over and managed to snap a couple of photos on the fly.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Skimmer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

White Ibis

During this trip I decided to take a ride on the Red Dragon.

While waiting to start the boat ride, I saw the local offshore fishing tour boats had come in as well.  They were hanging up the catch of the day.  Lovely Red Snappers with a few other interesting fish mixed in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nice haul for the day

It’s was fun sailing with the pirates!

20180606_185710

Kelly sailing on the Red Dragon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arrrrrr…there be Pirates!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful boat ride

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Captain at his helm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I took the sunset tour.  We boated along the intra-coastal and made it to the lighthouse.  We got there just as the sun was setting.  So lovely!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunset over the lighthouse

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gorgeous sunset!

One day at the ferry I spotted a juvenile Laughing Gull trying to swallow a whole fish.  He tried and tried to gulp that fish down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Laughing Gull juvenile

I love people watching.  I think most people do.  While there I captured a few fun moments of people watching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Skateboarding buddies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The waiting line for the ferry was so long and slow, this girl had time to get into the back of the car and get cold drinks for everyone.  It was fun to watch her walk along with the car while digging in the cooler.

I saw lots of turtles about while birding.  I had never really seen turtles there before so it was fun to see several on this trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Turtle moving along

I had a great time at the beach birding and spending time with my mother.  We enjoyed sitting on the beach, enjoying the warm summer days.  And we had fun shopping and eating delicious fish and shrimp dinners.  I’m so glad we took the time off to relax after all the stresses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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