Birding in Southeast Arizona – Day 1

I have long wanted to go birding in Southeastern Arizona.  They have a wonderful variety of birds that can’t be found anywhere else in the US.  Many birds are residents of Mexico.  So when my husband suggested we plan a long weekend trip to SE Arizona, I was thrilled!

It takes over 7 hours to get there from our house.  The day we left, a front was blowing through and we were driving with a headwind that was 50 mph+.  Terrible conditions for traveling.  At one point, we lost quite a bit of visibility.


Dust storm we traveled through on I10.

By the time we got to Tucson, the sun was starting to set.  Thankfully the wind had died down considerably.  We had just enough time to stop in at a beautiful historic mission located just south of Tucson.  It’s called the Mission San Xavier Del Bac and was completed in 1797.  When we arrived, it had just closed for the day.  Too bad….I would have loved to see the inside.  But the outside is just stunning!

The mission is undergoing restoration.  You can see the left side is all new and white.  The right side is now being restored.  They have removed the dome and will restore it at a later time.


Mission San Xavier Del Bac


Kelly at the entrance.


I loved all the many details of the mission.  It was fun to explore.


Several statues adorn the mission.


Very detailed flourishes.


Rustic window decor.


Rattlesnake door handle

The desert gardens around the building were very nice.


Beautiful desert gardens

There were a few birds around the mission.  I managed to get a few pics in the low light.


Northern Cardinal


Gila Woodpecker


Cactus Wren

There’s a hill next to the mission with a shrine to Virgin Mary.  It had a gate with interesting lion statues.


Lion statue on the hill. The clouds look like lion’s breath.


Grotto of Lourdes


Virgin Mary


As we hiked to the top of the hill, the views got more expansive.


View of the mission


View looking north toward Tucson

As we were leaving I took this last shot of the property.  I thought it looked like God shining from the heavens.


Birding in Port Aransas, Texas (Part 2)

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

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


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



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


Great-tailed grackle

Dinner was soooo good.  Fried shrimp cooked perfectly.


My dad enjoying dinner!

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


Gorgeous sunset at the marina


Mom looking beautiful as always


I got a lot of sun on this trip!

The moon was full and bright!


Harvest Moon

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


Gulf Coast Toad

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



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

I was greeted by lots lots of lizards.


Brown Anole

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


Juvenile Green Heron


Back to sleep 🙂

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


Least Bittern


Looking up at me


Stretching his wings


Time to move on into the cattails

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


Common Yellowthroat

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


Great Egret

A few other birds made an appearance at the boardwalk.


Green Heron


Tri-Colored Heron


Great-Tailed Grackle


Pied-Billed Grebe

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


Lesser Yellowlegs


Stilt Sandpiper – another lifer!


Long-Billed Curlew

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


Beautiful day at the beach!

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


Laughing Gull – another lifer!


Great-Tailed Grackle


Laughing Gull


Lots of colorful clams


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

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


Birding from Roswell to San Angelo

In October I went to San Antonio to visit family.  I took a different route than usual on the way there so I could stop overnight in San Angelo.  I’ve been following Bob Zeller’s blog Texas Tweeties for some time and have wanted to bird there after seeing all his wonderful photos.

On the way to San Angelo I stopped in at Bitter Lake in Roswell, NM.  It was pretty quiet there.  The fall migration has been slow this year due to unusually warm weather.  Here’s some of the birds I saw.


Lesser Yellowlegs


American Coot


Snowy Egret


Least Sandpiper


Long-Billed Dowitcher


Savannah Sparrow

I noticed this one duck was reluctant to swim away.  Upon a closer look, I realized it had been injured.  Looks like it had a close call with a coyote or some other predator.


Injured female Mallard

As I was leaving the refuge, I noticed a turtle crossing the road.  I got out and took a few photos before picking him up and moving him fully across the road.  I would hate for him to get run over.


Western Painted Turtle

I stopped to get an iced tea at Starbucks in Roswell and couldn’t resist photographing the grackles hanging out there.


Great-Tailed Grackle female

Between Roswell and San Angelo, I came across this hawk enjoying the afternoon sun.


Ferruginous Hawk

I arrived in San Angelo with about 2 hours of daylight left.  So I headed straight for San Angelo State Park.  It was quite active with birds and butterflies.  My first bird sighting there was a much hoped for one.  I saw several Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers busy catching bugs.   They weren’t very shy, so I was able to get some nice photos.


Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher


My favorite bird photo in San Angelo.  Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

I saw a few other birds that afternoon.


Loggerhead Shrike


Canyon Towhee

I visited the bird blind there, but no birds were about.  But about 5 javalena came through to get a drink.



What I mostly saw were butterflies.  Lots of butterflies.  Most of them were one variety – Bordered Patch.  This was a new butterfly for me 🙂


Bordered Patch


Gulf Fritillary


Painted Lady







Pipevine Sawllowtail

As I was leaving that evening, I saw a vulture settling in for the night on a handicap sign in a parking lot.  It was pretty much dark, but he was tame and let me drive right next to him and use a flash.  🙂


Turkey Vulture – juvenile

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the sunset as I left.


Typical Texas sunset

I got up early the next morning for another quick birding outing before heading on to San Antonio.  I first stopped in at Spring Park to see if I could see a Great Kiskadee that has been see there.  But no luck.  All I saw were deer….lots of deer….


White-Tailed Deer – they flip their tail up when they run


The young one still has some spots


Female White-Tailed Deer


Beautiful buck

I then headed back over to San Angelo State Park to see if the birding was better in the early morning.  It definitely was!  As I approached the entrance to the park, I saw a roadrunner busy hunting for breakfast.


Greater Roadrunner


Greater Roadrunner eating a Painted Lady

I hiked several trails through the park and saw quite a variety of birds.



Eastern Phoebe


Northern Mockingbird


Cactus Wren


Lincoln’s Sparrow


Carolina Wren


Curve-Billed Thrasher

After hiking awhile, I visited the bird blind one more time before I had to leave.  It was much more busy with birds in the morning.


American Goldfinch female


Lincoln’s Sparrow




Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

White I was sitting quietly in the bird blind, a Gray Fox made a very brief appearance.  I managed to get a couple pics before it was gone.  Very exciting!  I’ve never seen one in person before and so close!


Gray Fox

Sadly it was time to put the camera away and hit the road.  I really enjoyed my short visit to San Angelo.  Hopefully I will get another chance in the future to visit again.





20th Anniversary Trip – Day 3 Nevada

We finally made it to Winnemucca, Nevada.  You’re probably scratching your head asking, “Where are they? Why did they go there? How do you pronounce that?!”  All valid questions!  LOL!  We got that a lot when we would tell friends and family where we were going on our trip.

As you know, my passions are birding and photography.  I’m happiest outdoors with camera in hand. Well, my husband is happiest when he has his metal detector in his hand.  He’s a geologist and loves to hunt for gold.  There aren’t too many hobbies out there that actually make money instead of spending it.  🙂

Tim had read about a well known area in northern Nevada that was known for shallow placer gold.  It’s called Rye Patch.  And it’s located about 40 miles west of Winnemucca, Nevada.  It was discovered in the 1970s and has been a popular destination for gold hunters ever since.

So we got up early and drove out to Rye Patch State Recreation Area, a man-made lake which is fed by the Humboldt River.  We crossed the dam and headed to the Majuba Mountain range.  The gold is reported to be at the base of these mountains.


I wasn’t sure what to expect the countryside to be like when we were planning this trip.  I had imagined beautiful forested mountains with a peaceful lake.  It definitely wasn’t that.
The terrain was actually high plains.  There wasn’t one cactus that I could see, which was great!  It made for much easier walking through the grasses.  There wasn’t one tree in sight.


Rye Patch gold area in the foreground with Rye Patch lake in the background


Golden grasslands for miles

When we finally parked after driving for 15 miles or so on dirt roads, Tim noticed right away we had gotten a punctured tire.  Drat! But fortunately, he had a mini compressor in the truck and we were able to air up the tire which would give us time to drive the 30 miles to a little town near Rye Patch to get it fixed.  So with no worries, we each started exploring the area.


So glad Tim had this compressor or he would have had to change a tire!

There weren’t any trees, but I did notice a thick stand of bushes about 100 feet away.  So I headed in that direction hoping to find some birds.  I figured any birds in the area would be drawn to those bushes.  It turned out to be a good idea.  I saw most of my birds in this small area.  I was excited to see a warbler as my first bird sighting of the day.


Orange-Crowned Warbler

The most prolific bird of the day was Sagebrush Sparrows.  They were everywhere and didn’t limit themselves to the little area of bushes.  They migrate to New Mexico for the winter and are not easy to find there.  So I was thrilled to have so many subjects to see.


Sagebrush Sparrow


Here are the other birds I saw in that little area of bushes.  Birds were scarce!


Brewer’s Sparrow


Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

My friend Valerie texted me to see what I was up to that day.  So I took this picture just for her.  LOL!  She tells me I take photos of every rusted thing I see.  😉


Rusty soda can circa 1970s  😉

I had thought I would see lots of lizards.  Back home in New Mexico I usually see lizards often when I’m out hiking.  But not so in this part of the country.  I had gone most of the day without seeing one lizard.  Then finally I spotted a tiny lizard sunning himself on a rock.  I slowly crept closer to get a photo.


Western Fence Lizard

I soon realized he was very tame and didn’t seem to mind me coming closer.  Before I knew it, I was 3 feet away taking photos of all angles.  🙂  At one point I reached out a finger to see if he would move.  And he licked it!   LOL!!


Western Fence Lizard

I noticed some movement on the ground while photographing this lizard.  When I turned, I saw there was a sparrow foraging on the ground.  So I quickly got a pic.


Savannah Sparrow

While I was entertaining myself with birds and lizards, Tim was busy looking for gold.  I could tell he had covered a lot of ground.


Tim working hard looking for gold


At one point, Tim got my attention and pointed to the sky.  There we saw a Red-Tailed Hawk looking for brunch.


Red-Tailed Hawk

I decided to head back to the truck for a cold drink.  The day had gotten warm at 90 degrees.  As I neared the truck, I saw a giant lizard run under a bush.  I quickly forgot about that drink.  I wanted to see this lizard! I stayed still and watched the opening at the base of the bush where I saw it run in.  Soon I was rewarded with my patience!  He started creeping out of his lair.  This big guy was easily 12 inches long if not longer.


Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard coming out of his lair

I guess he decided I wasn’t a threat and quickly started hunting.  I was able to take quite a few photos of this beautiful lizard.  A real treat!


Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard


Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

Then I heard Tim calling me.  He wanted me to video him digging up a target.  Now I always tell him every time he asks me to video him, the target usually is trash.  It’s like I jinx it.


Narrowing down the location of the target. 


Using tweezers to scrape in the cracks of bedrock.


He then uses a straw (or in this case a dismantled ball-point pen) to blow out the dirt and hopefully reveal the gold in a crack

Sure enough, this target was trash…a .22 bullet.  Sigh….  But in the end he did find a nugget.  And what he thought might be a silver nugget.  But when he was able to clean it up, he decided it was a piece of lead.


While exploring the area, I came across a lone blooming bush.  Most of the area’s bushes were done blooming.  So this was a very popular bush with the bees and wasps.


I like the green eyes


A busy bee 🙂



While photographing the bees, I noticed this spider lair.  The opening to the hole was about an inch in diameter.  That’s a big spider!  I caught a few bugs and threw them in the web in hopes of getting a photo of this spider.  But he was just too fast! I didn’t think to video him at the time.  Ah well….


Funnel Web Spider lair

After a full day of fun, we aired up the tire and headed to Lovelock, NV, to get the tire repaired and get a bite to eat.  We stopped briefly at the campground along the Humboldt River to see what birds might be about.  We couldn’t stay long as the tire was losing air!

But I did get a few more bird photos.  🙂


A hot Horned Lark


Great Egret


Snowy Egrets


Snowy Egret

As we entered Lovelock Tim spotted a nice group of Wild Turkeys in a farm field but I didn’t have my camera ready and missed the shot.  Dang!

We still had some daylight left after visiting Lovelock.  So we decided to explore the area some before heading back to Winnemucca.  I had seen on the map there were Tufa Formations nearby.  We didn’t know what these were, so we went looking for them.  We drove, and drove, and drove and climbed up a mountain…but no Tufa Formations.  We were on a very curvy dirt road.  At one point we had a horrifying experience!  A Sheriff’s SUV came flying around a curve  going about 60 mph and saw us at the last minute.  He slammed on the breaks and turned sideways sliding towards us, dirt flying, and me screaming! Thankfully he narrowly missed us and just kept on going.   He didn’t have any lights or sirens going, so we had not idea he was heading towards us at such a breakneck speed.  I’m so glad we escaped what could have been a horrible accident.

Along this dirt road, Tim spotted a cool rock formation.  It’s handy having a geologist in the car.  🙂


Columnar Jointing

Soon we were at the top of the mountain.  Tim asked me, “Where are these Tofu formations supposed to be?”   I laughed and said it’s “Tufa” and I think we passed them.


View from the top of the mountain outside of Lovelock, NV

So we headed back down the mountain, with one eye looking out for that crazy sheriff.  When we got back to the highway, we realized the Tufa Formations were right there.  Pretty nondescript and not worth hiking to them to get a photo.  But during our day we had seen a squirrel that moved as fast as lightening.  Now I had tried to get a photo of this speedy guy, but he was just too quick! We saw another one of these squirrels as were we heading back to the highway.  This one ran lickety split to a far hill and stopped briefly.  Long enough to get a quick pic.  Then off in a flash he was gone!


Harris’s Antelope Squirrel – it holds it’s tail over its back to shade itself.

We then drove to the Humboldt Mountain range looking for an old ghost town called Willow Creek.  We didn’t find Willow Creek but we did find Star City.



Road to Star City

It was a beautiful drive up the mountain on a skinny dirt road following a stream.  Most of the time you couldn’t see the stream as it was hidden by thick vegetation.  But at the base of the mountain, the stream was dammed and rerouted.  We passed a few folks camping by the stream.


Small dam on the way to Star City


We didn’t see but a few crumbling foundations at the site of Star City.  We were running out of daylight to explore for more ruins.  But the drive was beautiful and the views were grand.


View from Star City

By now it was almost dark, so time to head home.  We were treated to a beautiful sunset.


Beginning of a beautiful sunset

Stay tuned for Day 4!












20th Anniversary Trip – Day 1

For our 20th anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a long road trip and visit some places we’ve never seen.  Our trip would last 8 days, travel through 5 states, drive more than 2,400 miles, visit 5 different national parks, pass by several more and I would take 3,499 photos.  Whew!!!

Day 1 we left Albuquerque, NM, and headed north. The weather was perfect for a road trip.


You gotta love those southwest skies!

We briefly passed through the southwest corner of Colorado.  We drove through Cortez, CO.  My grandparents used to live here, and we would visit them most Christmases.  The scenery here really looks like backdrops on those old western movies.


Chimney Rock

We passed our first national park called Mesa Verde just outside Cortez, CO.  But no time to stop! A couple years ago Valerie and I took a photo road trip, and we visited Mesa Verde.  It’s a fabulous place to see.  Here’s a photo I took on that trip.


Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park

We then turned northwest and headed into Utah. In the southwest, we have the funnest roadside stops.  🙂


Roadside stop just before Moab.  It wasn’t until I got home and reviewed the photos that I realized there was a 4-wheeler on the top of the rock above the tourist trap.  🙂

We stopped in Moab for a bite to eat.  This was a great small town and very outdoors oriented.  After a great BBQ dinner, we drove to Arches National Park.  I have always wanted to visit here.

We knew we were getting close to the park when we saw this arch off the side of the highway.


Arch just before Moab, UT

We arrived at the park very late in the day.  The visitors center was going to close soon and the sun was going to set in just a couple hours.  I collect the National Parks Passport Stickers.  I was torn between stopping for a sticker and getting to the sights before sundown.  Tim asked me, “Do you want a sticker or shutter time?”  Of course I opted for shutter time!


We only had a short time before sunset to see the park.  So we quickly drove to the furthest end of the park.  The views from the road were amazing.


Beautiful view at Arches National Park


You can see this arch from the road


Unique rock formations

From there we had to hike about a mile to the arches.  There were four arches on this trail but split down two different trail ends.  The trail itself was very picturesque.


View from the hiking trail to an arch

We finally made it to the arches.  I couldn’t believe how delicate this arch looked.  The sun was setting behind it, which made for challenging photography.


Landscape Arch


In front of Landscape Arch with Partition Arch on the far right


My handsome husband


Uniquely shaped juniper tree

We then heard from other visitors that we needed to hurry and get to the Delicate Arch for sunset photos.  So we quickly headed back down the trail.  We  briefly stopped at the arch near the road for  a quick photo.  Then back in the car to see Delicate Arch.


Skyline Arch

When we got to the trail head for Delicate Arch, we realized it was a 2-mile hike to the arch.  We knew we didn’t have enough time to make it to the arch before sunset.  So we hiked an alternate trail that gives you a distant view of the arch.   We made it just before sunset!  The trail was steep but well worth it for the view.


Delicate Arch – we laughed because if you look closely you can see people lined up along the ridge behind the arch.  We thought it looked like an old western movie where the indians are along the ridge looking down at the cowboys in the valley below.  Ready to attack the unsuspecting cowboys.  🙂


I love this photo of Tim and I!

Daylight was quickly disappearing.  We had just enough light to photograph Balanced Rock.  The lighting was glorious for photography.


Just stunning!


Tim and Kelly – still in love after 20 years of marriage!

Tim took the camera to get some photos of me.  This is what he took.  I quickly realized we needed to talk about “mergers” in photos.  LOL!!!


Tim purposely framed the rock above me.  LOL!


This is me taking a panorama photo with my phone. 


This is the photo I was taking. 

I only had enough daylight after this stop to get a couple more photos before dark.


Beautiful sunset on the red rocks


Low light hiking down the last trail made for a beautiful landscape photo.

After touring the park, we got back in the car to drive to Provo, UT.  We went through a lot of road construction which really slowed us down.  We didn’t get to the hotel until 11 pm.  We were pooped!

Stay tuned for Day 2!