Southern Utah Photographic Trip – Part 2

After getting all rested up after hiking The Wave the day before, I was ready for my next tour. I hired a tour company to take me to a remote slot canyon that required true 4WD to get there. The road there must have had 2 feet of very soft sand that I would have definitely not felt comfortable to drive.

We finally arrived at Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon. Right off the bat it was just beautiful!

Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon

Scarlett loved it because it was shady and cool and she liked running up ahead and racing back through the narrow slot. I got her to slow down enough for a photo op.

Kelly and Scarlett

The tour guide was amazing. He was very patient and knowledgeable in photographing slot canyons. The best part was that he would help me frame up a shot and then help me with the manual settings to capture the moment with the best possible light.

Sometimes the canyon was very narrow and sometimes it would widen up. I loved how it changed with each curve.

One of my favorite spots of the canyon was photographing this big log. I loved having this focal point in the photo.

Here’s some other photos I took during the tour.

I loved the really narrow areas
The notches in the rock face were hundreds of years ago by Native Americans.

Too soon we reached the end of the slot canyon. A Western Whiptail had fallen into the canyon and was in deep shade. It was so cool in the shade that he was very still. This enabled me to take a few fun photos. Afterwards I picked him up and carried him to a sunny area. He woke up then!!!

Western Whiptail
Beautiful colors and markings

After the tour I realized I had plenty of time to drive to Zion National Park and do a hike for evening photos. I had picked out a hike that is not well known. I wanted to hike a trail that wasn’t crowded by loads of tourists. The trail is called Lower Pine Creek Waterfall Trail. It isn’t listed on any of the park maps so most tourists don’t know it exists.

To get there I had to drive the famous park highway. It’s a very scenic drive with lots of places that make you want to stop for photos.

Western end of the scenic drive with the Virgin River in the foreground.

At one stop there were loads of Big Horn Sheep grazing near the road. I didn’t have my zoom lens with me, but they were so close it didn’t matter!

Big Horn Sheep feeding right below me
I love how they walk a line along the sandstone face of the canyon
Mother and baby
One stopped to check me out

The trail was short but beautiful. It headed into a narrow canyon along Lower Pine Creek. I arrived at the trailhead just before sunset. I was hoping to get some nice golden hour/blue hour photos.

Scarlett was thrilled to have water to play in. We had to cross the creek several times. We also had to scramble over large boulders.

Our first creek crossing and it was so pretty.

There were several nice spots to take photos.

Something about this prickly pear cactus compelled me to take a photo 🙂
This is how rocky the trail was. I love how the sun was still shining on the mountains in the distance.
Beautiful golden hour colors

The trail was supposed to end with a beautiful waterfall. I had seen photos of this waterfall and was really looking forward to photographing it. However, this past winter was a very wet winter and all the creeks in the park were way up.

I got to this huge pond in the creek just before the waterfall. It was at least 6 feet deep. Too deep to cross and keep my camera gear dry! Sadly I had to turn around without seeing the waterfall (which was literally just around the corner from this pond).

End of the trail for me and Scarlett

As I was heading out I heard all of the Bighorn Sheep coming down to the creek for a drink. They were bleating loudly to each other. I looked and looked but never saw a one even though I could hear they were very close.

That hike was a great way to end a fun day!

Southern Utah Photographic Trip – Part 1

In early June I took a trip of a lifetime for a photographer. I have dreamed for years of hiking to and photographing “The Wave” formation in the desert of Utah/Arizona.

In order to hike to “The Wave” formation you have apply to a lottery and hope to win one of 20 tickets available for each day. Based on an average of how many people apply for each day, I calculated that I had a .001% chance of winning a ticket. AND I WON!!!

My hiking date was for Tuesday, June 4. I figured I was pushing it pretty close to the “too” warm weather to hike it comfortably. But based on average temperatures for the area, the high of the day was to be 84 degrees. Not too bad, but hiking on red sandstone was definitely going to be warm.

So I set out for southern Utah on Monday, June 3, and was going to stay for 5 days and see the sights around Kanab, Utah. This town is a cute, quaint town and central to so much desert beauty.

I try to see as many of our country’s National Parks as possible. I believe we should support the preservation of these sites that are so unique to our country. So I planned on stopping at the Hubbell Trading Post National Monument. This is the oldest operating trading post in the Navajo Nation. The trading post was built in 1878 by John Lorenzo Hubbell.

Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona

I couldn’t stay long but had a little time to see the store and the barn next door. The inside of the post had the original wood floors and glass cabinets. Sadly no one was available to show me the Hubbell home. This was a shame because it’s an 11,500 square foot home full of Hubbell Family heirlooms.

The plaque says “Sawyer, May 1901)
Inside the Hubbell Trading Post

I was quickly back on the road. My goal was to get to Kanab before sunset so I could visit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for sunset photos.

The sand of the dunes is a beautiful color and the texture is like powder. It was very difficult to walk in. Scarlett was so happy to finally get out of the car and stretch her legs.

One Happy Scarlett!!!

We hiked around for a while to find a good place for sunset photos. Tough climbing up the steep dunes.

Steep dunes to climb

We finally found us a good spot to wait for the sun to reach a nice level for photos. While sitting and enjoying the beautiful evening, Scarlett kept running around and exploring. Getting rid of the pent up energy after sleeping in the car all day.

Having fun in the sand!!!

Finally the sun started setting and the air began to cool. Once this happened all kinds of critters started coming out from the sand. I really liked this translucent grasshopper that popped up right beside me. He was only about 1/4 inch long.

Tiny little sand grasshopper

At last the lighting was perfect to start taking pictures. This one was my favorite.

The sunset set off the color of the sand beautifully

I had thought I could get nice blue hour photos, but the sand just turned dark and didn’t look nice. It would have been nice to stay for milky way photos but I was just too tired to stay up late for that. Plus! My big hike to the Wave was going to start early the next day.

Scarlett and Kelly enjoying the sunset

I decided to hire a tour guide to take me to The Wave. There is no formal trail to take you there which made me nervous to hike by myself. I’m glad I did because I know I would have made a few wrong turns adding a few miles to my overall hike. As it was, I hiked 7 miles that took 5 hours.

I knew it was going to be hot so I got Scarlett a vest that held water and cooled her as it dried. It worked great! I also had her carry a lot of water to keep hydrating it.

We started the hike at 7:30 am. First we followed along the bottom of an arroyo. There were birds singing everywhere but I never saw a one. This was to be the case for my entire trip!

We started our hike in this arroyo

We eventually left the arroyo and started walking along a sandy trail. This led to a large area of sandstone that we had to walk across. This is when the views got so pretty.

Scarlett walking with our guide Larry

The red sandstone was so beautiful. And the formations formed by the wind were stunning.

We had to climb this sandstone rock face

We climbed and skirted along the sandstone formations for a couple of miles.

Look at my Scarlett blazing the trail for us

I really enjoyed this part of the hike. Walking on sandstone is nice because of the firm footing. But eventually the sandstone really started to have an incline to it. It was tough hiking for a good mile.

Hiking along this steep section was tough!

Then we came to another arroyo. We had to climb down the steep sandstone and then back up another steep section. But at this point I could see we were only about 1/4 mile from the wave. That was enough to motivate me!

I loved these yellow flowers! The Wave is straight ahead just below that shady spot on the mountainside.
This was the arroyo I had to cross to get to the Wave
It was a very steep climb up this sandstone face. My guide had to lend a helping hand several times.

Finally I was at The Wave!!!!! You enter from the back of the Wave to the north and the Wave faces south. When I got to the back of the Wave I was happy to see a small puddle of water left from the recent rains in the area. Scarlett was happy too and wanted to jump in and cool off.

I made her wait until I took a few photos. She waited but you could tell she really wanted to play in that water.

Kelly and Scarlett

I finally let Scarlett get in the water. Happy girl!

Having fun!

At first I thought this was the Wave and was thinking, “it sure looked bigger in photos I saw on the Internet…”

My guide must have seen my expression because he laughed and said, ‘This is just the entrance to the Wave!” Yay!

So I walked through that opening to the left behind me. And all I can say is WOW!!! It was stunning! So worth the hike there.

We made it!!!

We stayed about an hour there at the Wave exploring all the nooks and crannies. I couldn’t believe no one else showed up while I was there. It was great having the place to myself for all that time.

There was a cool mini slot canyon next to it. The lighting was perfect when I got there.

Relaxing in the shade of the mini slot
Gorgeous lighting

I hiked above the Wave to get a bigger view. It was so beautiful. The swirling rock was just stunning!

Looking down on the Wave

The views from this area were so pretty. Even though my guide has been here many times, you can tell he still enjoys the views.

My guide Larry taking in the stunning views

I climbed even higher and found a very deep water pool. Scarlett was ecstatic to have so much water to play in.

A nice deep pool reflection
This pool was deep. It was great because it re-hydrated her hiking vest.
You can see the water trail left by Miss Scarlett

Sadly it was time to head back. The day was growing warmer by the minute. My guide offered to take me to another formation but that would have added another 2 hours to my hike. I felt Scarlett and I would do better to just head back now.

On the way back we finally started running into the other hikers that won permits. I couldn’t believe they were just starting their hike at the beginning of the hottest part of the day. I hope they all made it there ok.

Scarlett and I had a wonderful day hiking. We took a 2-hour nap when we got back to the hotel. Then I went out and had a fabulous steak dinner to celebrate. A wonderful way to end the day.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – slot canyons and a river hike in Zion.

My Blog’s 4th Annivery and Scarlett’s 4th Birthday

It’s been awhile since I last posted on my blog. I apologize for that. I have had terrible internet connection for months now. No fun writing and uploading photos when it takes you hours to do anything.

But I finally have fast internet at home so it’s time to start blogging again.

In March I celebrated my blog’s 4th anniversary and Scarlett’s 4th birthday!

To celebrate I decided to take the 4-hour drive to Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area. I have seen photos of this place for years and have always wanted to see it.

I left the house at 5 am so I could get there close to sunrise. On my way I had to stop and take a photo of the moon setting over Cabezon Peak. The blue hour light was beautiful.

Moon setting over Cabezon Peak

It took me quite a while to find the right place to park to see a particular hoodoo in the vast wilderness area. Try as I might there’s really not much information on the internet about this area. So it took turning up and down a few faint dirt roads to find the right spot.

Finally I was positive I was in the right spot. I was searching for the Alien Throne rock formation. It is very unique and difficult to find. Which is probably a good thing because it seems very fragile.

Scarlett and I started walking out into the middle of nowhere heading toward some hoodoos about 3 miles away. The first cluster of hoodoos we came across wasn’t very large but were unique.

Small hoodoos to begin with

We then wandered to the next cluster. It was a little larger. I especially liked one formation that looked like an angel with its wings spread.

Angel rock formation in upper left

I realized we still had further to go. Scarlett ran ahead enjoying the morning hike.

Scarlett running ahead to the main area of hoodoo formations

I finally made it to the main hoodoo area. It was quite large. I enjoyed walking around all the crevices and ravines looking at all the uniquely shaped rocks.

Big piece of petrified wood in the foreground
Beautiful hoodoo sculptures

After about a hour of searching I finally found the Alien Throne. You can see it is quite unique. It’s about 12 feet high and very fragile. It might stand for another 100 years or it might topple in the next 100 days. Sadly by the time I located this rock formation it was almost high noon. So I didn’t get very good photos of this area.

Alien Throne

I wandered around here for about another hour then headed back to the car. On the way back the sun had finally lowered some in the sky and the clouds were becoming more interesting.

The photo conditions were improving

By now I had been hiking for about 4 hours. All of a sudden I see Scarlett crazily digging in the sand and barking. I was wondering what the heck was going on.

Scarlett started barking and digging

I soon realized that she sensed cool wet sand just under the surface. I guess she had gotten pretty warm hiking all that time.

Finally getting down to the wet sand

After she exposed a big enough area, she lay down on that cool wet sand. She was happy as could be even with a nose full of sand. Silly Scarlett!

Silly Scarlett!!!

I finally talked her into continuing on to the car. Next thing I now she’s all barking happily and playing with something pretty big. When I got closer I saw she had a big cow bone. Silly Scarlett indeed!!!

Scarlett was thrilled finding this old cow bone.
She wanted to just stay there and chew on it.
Scarlett thought she was going to take that prize home…after all it was her birthday!

Once back at the car I decided to check out another area of hoodoos nearby. When I first came upon the hoodoos it was breathtaking. Hoodoos as far as the eye can see. Even Scarlett had to stop and take in the view.

Scarlett and I couldn’t believe the view!

I made by way down into the arroyo to explore all the side canyons. By now the sun had lowered in the sky and some clouds had rolled in. It made for some better photography conditions.

Hoodoos everywhere!
Beautiful skies!

With the better lighting the side canyons photographed beautifully!

My pretty girl!

After hiking a couple of hours, Scarlett and I were tired. I had planned to stay until sunset to get some pretty photos of sunset and blue hour. But by this time I had hiked 12 miles. I was tired and it was still 1.5 hours until sunset. I realized I shouldn’t have gotten up early to go out there. I would have been much better off leaving mid-day.

While sitting in my car deciding if I wanted to stay until sunset, I saw a herd of horses coming towards me. Of course, I just had to get out and take photos of them! I love photographing horses. These guys were pretty wild so weren’t too cooperative for photos. But I still enjoyed seeing them.

I loved this photo
Navajo Horses

I finally decided I wasn’t willing to stay for sunset. The sky just didn’t look like it was going to be worth staying. The clouds seems to be getting too overcast.

About an hour into my drive home, I noticed the sun setting and decided to pull off and take a photo.

As I stood there watching the sun set, I realized it was actually going to be a spectacular shot.

Glorious!!!!!

Believe me, by the time the sun set I was was crying about all the wonderful photos I could have gotten at the hoodoos with that beautiful sky in the background. 🙁

The sky was on fire!

But overall Scarlett and I had a fun day exploring. She definitely enjoyed her birthday outing. And she got to sleep the whole way home!


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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Mother dolphin with calf looking at me

The sunset was gorgeous!

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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.

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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.

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Black Tern Juvenile

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Black Tern

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Forster’s Tern

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Royal Tern

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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!!!

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White-Tailed Hawk

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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.  🙂

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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.

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Osprey

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

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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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.

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Willet juvenile

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

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Willet telling me to move along

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

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Black-Necked Stilt

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Black-Necked Stilt

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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.

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Horace Caldwell Pier

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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.  🙂

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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.

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

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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.

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Black-Bellied Plover – juvenile

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

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Black Skimmer

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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.

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Nice haul for the day

It’s was fun sailing with the pirates!

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Kelly sailing on the Red Dragon

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Arrrrrr…there be Pirates!

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Beautiful boat ride

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The Captain at his helm

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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!

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Sunset over the lighthouse

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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.

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Laughing Gull juvenile

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

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Skateboarding buddies

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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.

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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.

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Last Birding Trip of 2017

During the last week of December, I was able to take a trip to Bosque del Apache. I try to visit there every December as that’s when the winter bird count is pretty high.

I left well before sunrise. As I was driving down, I started getting into thicker and thicker fog. At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph on a 75 mph interstate.

It was difficult to bird first thing due to the thick fog, so I took a few scenic shots.

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Boardwalk through the marsh

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A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area

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Quiet solitude

I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.

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Beautiful coyote among the hoarfrost

Fortunately, the fog cleared up once the sun rose and I was able to start hunting for birds.

I first noticed a Great Blue Heron grooming.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.

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Northern Harrier

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Cooper’s Hawk

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American Kestral

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Northern Harrier

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American Bald Eagles

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I started driving around the ponds to see what waterfowl was about. I happened to notice two Northern Harriers squabbling. They were quite a ways away but I managed to capture a pic.

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Northern Harriers fighting

I was surprised to find that there really wasn’t very many waterfowl about. I had to really search the ponds to find any. Not sure where they were all hiding.

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Bufflehead – male

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Northern Pintail

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Bufflehead – female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Northern Shoveler

Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.

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Snow Geese

I always hear there are wading birds that winter at the refuge, but I rarely see them. But on this day I saw three Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of a pond.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!

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Song Sparrow

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Gambel’s Quail

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Marsh Wren

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White-Winged Dove

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House Finch

One of my favorite sightings of the day was a Crissal Thrasher singing his little heart out atop a bush. Surprisingly he let me get pretty close singing the whole time.

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Crissal Thrasher

I sat and watched a roadrunner look for lunch. They are always entertaining. He hunted for awhile before he noticed me watching. I took this pic the moment he realized he wasn’t alone. 🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

My last sighting of the day was a grebe off in the distance. When I zoomed in and took a pic, I was delighted to see it was a Clark’s Grebe. These are considered a rare sighting for the area, so that was a real treat.

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Clark’s Grebe

I left around noon and decided to drive a different route home. I took the Quebradas Scenic Route home. I had heard a lot about this road. But to be honest I couldn’t really see why it was considered so beautiful. But there was one place on the road I found very picturesque, so I got out a took a pic.

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Quebradas Scenic Route

Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.

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Mule Deer

I still had some light left in the day, so I stopped in at the Bernardo Refuge. The Sandhill Cranes seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache.

I got there near sunset, and all the cranes were coming in to the pond to drink. It was a beautiful sight seeing and hearing the cranes flying overhead in the soft light of sunset.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Cranes

While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!

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Super Moon

I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.

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Just beautiful…

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While hiking the trails, a train came through. 🙂

Pecos at Night

Recently I was invited to a night photography workshop held near the Pecos National Monument.  I have dabbled in night photography a couple times in the past with poor results.  Mostly because my camera I was using at the time was not meant to do night shots.  But also because I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing.  :-\

So when I was invited to do a workshop that was going to be hosted by several people that were much more experienced at it then me, I jumped on the opportunity.  I invited my friend Valerie to join me.  We love going out together for camera time.

We drove to Pecos and arrived late afternoon.  I had believed the Pecos National Monument was open until 5:30.  But sadly, they closed as soon as we got there at 4:30,.  Winter hours had begun.  🙁  We weren’t going to meet our group until 6 so we had a 1.5 hours to kill.

I decided to drive up Highway 63 to see what might be interesting to see.  We stopped at an old historic church for a few brief photos.  Usually these old churches are locked whenever I am there.  But on this day, it was open!  Such a beautiful sanctuary.

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Gorgeous chandeliers

Further up the road we crossed the Pecos River.  We just had to stop.  The setting sun was glorious on the water with the stunning fall colors.

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Pecos River

Next stop was Monastery Lake.  I’ve driven by the turn off for this lake several times this summer without stopping.  So it was nice to stop in this time.  It was a small little lake that seemed popular for fishing.  Lovely fall colors surrounded the lake.

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Monastery Lake

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Fishermen along the shore

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Beautiful shore

We figured we better start back to the meeting place.  But I had one more stop to make.  I had seen this cool old garage as we pulled out from the church earlier.  So I quickly pulled into the driveway and snapped a few pics.

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I loved the patina of the paint

There were a couple of dogs in the driveway that seemed friendly enough.  But when it came time to leave, they were determined to chase the car and run in front of us.  I couldn’t go very fast for fear of running them over.  We had to drive down the road slowly for a ways before they finally gave up.  Whew!  They almost made us late for our workshop!

We had to be at the meeting spot on time or we would be locked out.  We were allowed to shoot at an old ranch that isn’t open to the public.  We drove up to the gate with moments to spare!

After a quick meeting, the group broke up into smaller groups around the ranch.  Valerie and I decided we wanted to go down to this bridge to get shots of the bridge, river, moon and milky way.  Several of us went to the bridge – including an experienced night photographer.  Yay!

We had to wear red headlamps to save our night vision.  I took a quick pic of Valerie for fun.  I thought I took a selfie but I guess it didn’t take.  🙁

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Valerie bundled up for the cold night ahead

So we made it to the bridge, got some great advice from our expert in the group, and set up our tripods and cameras.  We checked our apps to see where the Milky Way was going to be and pointed our cameras that direction.  And there was a sliver of a moon getting ready to set.  The sky was the most beautiful purple hue.

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Beautiful purple skies

The sun set quickly and I took my first photo of the Milky Way.  It was thrilling!  I took a 20 second exposure with a 20 second high noise reduction setting.  I was anxiously waiting to see what I got.  And then it appeared on my camera screen.  I was so excited to see my first photo come out so beautifully!

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My first Milky Way shot!

The group then decided to try light painting the Pecos River.  I have tried light painting in the past with OK results.  I realized later than I used too much light to highlight my subject.  On this night we literally just lit the river a couple of seconds over a 20 second exposure.  I think it turned out nice.

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Light painting of the Pecos River

We then light painted the bridge we were standing on.  It was a little more difficult as the bridge was white.  It really reflected the light.  We only had to very briefly shine the light.  Even then the bridge is pretty bright.  But I like the photo I got.

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Bridge over the Pecos River

We were really concentrating on the south side of the bridge.   When I turned around and looked to the north, I saw this great deciduous tree silhouetted by the lights of Santa Fe in the distance.  I just had to capture it with the purple skies and wonderful light.  I was very pleased with my shot.  We tried light painting the tree, but I  wasn’t as happy with those pics.

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Beautiful skies

By this time, several hours had passed.  It went so quickly!  We needed to move to warm up.  By now the temperature was 32 degrees and we were getting cold standing still.  We headed up the hill to the old ranch house.  There’s this giant steer head sculpture on the fireplace.  We took several exposures of this view but I wasn’t happy with most of them.  This is probably the best shot I got.

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Steer Sculpture

By now we were very cold.  It was time to go home.  On one hand I wanted to stay longer, but on the other I was ready to leave.  Those heated seats in my Jeep were pure heaven!!!

I had a great time on my first night shot outing.  I’m definitely ready to do more!

 

 

 

A Weekend in Taos, New Mexico

My friend Dia and I went for a quick trip to Taos, New Mexico, recently.  My goal was to photograph several historic churches and see the Taos Pueblo and the graveyard there.

I needed to stop by a job site on the way there, so we decided to make a big circle for our road trip.  On the way to Taos we went through Las Vegas, New Mexico.   I mentioned to Dia there was a pretty little glacial lake just north of there.  One thing I’ve learned about Dia – take her to any kind of water and she’s a happy girl!

We were soon at Morphy Lake.  Such a peaceful place.  Set at a higher elevation, it was a nice 75 degrees there in hot summer.