Wonderful Spring Birding with a New Lifer Sighting

First off, let me just say, I LOVE my new camera!  I’m definitely still in the learning phase, but it’s performance is superior to my old setup.  It’s a joy to use, and I’m very happy with my images.

Not too long ago, we had a spring storm blow through and it dumped 12 inches of snow at my house.  The birds were not very happy about this event, and neither were my plants.

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Bleeding Hearts

A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.

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Cooper’s Hawk

The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.

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Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

Thankfully the snow melted the very next day, and the temperatures returned to the mid to high 70s right away.  I got to go out hiking several times this week.  I visited Tingley Beach a couple days after the spring storm.  The Rio Grande was raging and flooded most of the bosque trails.  But it was worth trudging through it to see some new spring birds.

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Ash-Throated Flycatcher

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Green Heron

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Baby Mallard

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Summer Tanager

I have lived in the Albuquerque area for over 20 years.  And during that time, I have never visited Sandia Lakes or Shady Lakes (they are next door to each other).  So one day I decided to check out the lakes.

Sandia Lakes was very nice.  Beautiful lawns and cottonwood trees and three separate lakes.

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Sandia Lakes with the Sandia Mountains in the background

The first bird I saw was a Lark Sparrow (first one I’ve seen this year).  He was singing way up high in a tree.  Then I saw several Canada Geese with their babies.

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Canada Geese

While watching the geese, I saw something that looked different.  I quickly realized it was a Western Grebe.  We don’t see them often in our area, so it was a real treat.

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Western Grebe

I saw a pair of Say’s Phoebes busily hunting for bugs.  I soon saw why they were so frantic to find bugs.  They had three babies squeezed into a tiny nest.

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Say’s Phoebes

I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well.  They are such beautiful birds

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Black Phoebe

While walking around the lake, an Osprey flew overhead.  I thought to myself that he might be part of a nesting pair.  This was confirmed recently by my friend Joe.  I’m definitely going to have to check out their nesting progress.

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Osprey

I came across a pair of Black-Capped Chickadees that were acting very agitated.  I never did figure out what they were so upset about.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

As I was walking through the grass between lakes, I saw a Killdeer doing its “I’m injured, follow me” routine.  So I knew there must be a baby nearby.  It was acting pretty desperate, so I thought it must be very close.

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Killdeer trying to lure me away from its baby

When I looked down, I realized it was only a foot away.  I almost stepped on it!  Yikes!  It never did move.  I took a quick pic and then quickly moved away.  Soon I heard the baby calling for its parents.  It was nice to see them all reunite and be assured all was fine.

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baby Killdeer

I then headed over to Shady Lakes. What a beautiful place!  It has several ponds all covered in beautiful lily pads and lined with irises.  The ponds are stocked with different varieties of fish.  But I was there for the birds.

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Shady Lakes

As soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron sitting beautifully on an old log.  I then realized there were several of them gathered there.   Fabulous!  They are used to people so they let me get pretty close.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.

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I noticed a moth feeding among the irises.  These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.

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White-Lined Sphinx Moth

The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!

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My last hike was up to the Cienega picnic area.  The forest service blocks the road for cars until mid-May.  So you have to hike along the road to get to the upper picnic area.  My goal was to try and find the Northern Pygmy Owl that has been seen nesting there.  Now I have made this hike several times both last spring and this spring with no luck seeing that owl.  Well, this time I was successful!  This is a lifer bird for me!

He was calling repeatedly on a lower branch in the aspen tree where he’s been seen nesting.  All the songbirds in the area were very agitated and were trying to scare him away.  It was a wonderful sighting!

For those of you not familiar with this owl.  He’s very small,  only 6 inches from its head to the end of its tail.  So you can see why he’s so difficult to find.

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Northern Pygmy Owl

I decided to hike over to Bill Spring since I was in the area.  A Hermit Thrush was enjoying a bath.  And a baby was in a tree nearby.

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Hermit Thrush

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Hermit Thrush

A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.

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Western Tanager

I hadn’t been at the spring long when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in chasing a chickadee.  After that, the birds were scarce.  So I started hiking back to my car.  I saw lots of Black-Headed Grosbeak singing and squabbling in the trees.  I’m guessing they were vying for the attention of the females.

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Black-Headed Grosbeak

I’m thrilled spring is here.  I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived.  🙂

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2-Year Anniversary and 11-Mile Hike

Today is the 2nd anniversary of my blog.  I can’t believe I’ve been posting my adventures for 2 years!  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my birding outings and other adventures.

Scarlett and I have been walking a lot lately.  And sometimes my fiends join us.  It’s been a lot of fun getting out there and seeing the bosque start to wake up for spring.

My friend Joe Schelling has told me about a couple of owl nests.  So I went to find them  over the past couple of weeks.  One is a Great Horned Owl nest.  The male was difficult to find, but I did manage to locate him after much searching.  He was hiding very well in a pine tree.  The female in the nest is very easy to see.  I’m looking forward to seeing babies soon.

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Great Horned Owl

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Can you see the owl among the branches?

The other owl nest is a Western Screech Owl.  He’s located near the duck ponds at Tingley Beach.   Which brings me to my 11-mile hike.

For awhile now, I’ve wanted to hike the trail along the Rio Grande from Tingley Beach to Alameda Open Space.  I knew it was going to be a long hike and I needed a full day to do it.  The weather has gotten so nice lately, that I decided I was ready to attempt this long hike.  My plan was to start at Tingley Beach and head north.  Once I got to Alameda, I was going to call a cab to take me back to my car.

So a couple of days ago, Scarlett and I headed out.  It was a glorious spring day.  At the parking lot, I was greeted by loads of beautiful daffodils blooming.  So cheerful.  A wonderful way to start a day.

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I started at the duck ponds.  I met up with a couple birder friends there and we enjoyed watching a very cooperative Neotropic Cormorant.  He was enjoying the beautiful morning as well.

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Neotropic Cormorant

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Love their teal-colored eyes

A Pied-Billed Grebe was also enjoying the morning.   As well as a gorgeous male Wood Duck.

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Wood Duck enjoying a good grooming

I’ve seen a particular coloring of duck over the past year.  For the longest time, I thought it was a mallard hybrid of some sort.  But recently I stumbled across a photo of this same duck on the internet.  Come to find out, it’s a Swedish Blue Duck.  Evidently it’s a domesticated duck in Sweden and over the past few years has spread among the states.  I’ve seen this duck in Utah, Nevada and now New Mexico.

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Swedish Blue Duck behind a Mallard female

There were lots of turtles out sunning themselves as well.  While taking photos, I guess I never realized there were so many varieties of turtles in the ponds.

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I then left the ponds and went in search of that Western Screech Owl.  He was looking out of his hole with slitted eyes.  I guess that bright morning sun wasn’t so pleasant to him.  But I was thrilled to get a cool shot of that owl looking out of the trunk of a cottonwood tree.

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Western Screech Owl

I made my way along the bosque.  I saw several porcupines up in the trees.  Soon the leaves will make it much more difficult to see them.

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Porcupine

Not far past the owl’s nest, I came across a pair of nesting Cooper’s Hawks.  The female was way down low in the nest and was difficult to see.  But the male was calling from a branch making himself very visible.  I was pleased to get such a nice photo of him.

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Cooper’s Hawk

During my hike, I saw a total of four Cooper’s Hawks.  The others were not nearly as cooperative for photos.

Further along the trail, I heard this guy making odd noises.  As I came closer,  I saw him in the water.  At first I thought he needed help, but as I got closer I realized he was doing some kind of training.  Not sure what, but I guess he knew what he was doing.  LOL!

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Hmmmmmm……

Just upstream of this guy, I saw a Canada Goose wondering about that guy as well!

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Canada Goose

I happened upon a pair of Lesser Goldfinches trying to glean a few more seeds from last season’s sunflowers.

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Lesser Goldfinch – male

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Lesser Goldfinch – female

At one point I heard a bunch of Gambel’s Quail.  I only managed to see this one male as he peeked out from behind some cacti.

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Gambel’s Quail

At one point, Scarlett stopped and was staring into the dense brush.  All of a sudden, I saw a coyote run out from behind a bush.  I managed to get a quick pic before he disappeared from view.

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Coyote

Flying overhead I saw a nice Red-Tailed Hawk.  He was enjoying the thermals.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I came across a few crows feeding on the ground.  They actually let me get pretty close.  Which was nice, because black birds are so difficult to get a good photo of .

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American Crow

I saw a few other birds along my hike.

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Say’s Phoebe

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White-Crowned Sparrows

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Downy Woodpecker

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Spotted Towhee

Five hours and 11-miles later I arrived at Alameda Open Space parking lot.  Whew!!! That was a long walk.  Scarlett and I were pooped!  But we had a great time.  It was so much fun, I think I will do it again soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lot of Bad Bird Photos

I’ve been out walking as often as I can.  Work has been hectic lately so I haven’t had a lot of time for long walks.  But I’ve managed to get out here and there and walk and photograph birds.

The skies have been overcast quite a bit which has caused low light conditions for photography.  Added to the frustrating photography conditions, the birds have insisted on staying in the shadows and diving for cover every chance they get.  Or they were always at the far range of my lens.  It was a challenging week trying to get a decent photo of a bird.  I’m so ready for summer!

So here’s a collection of all the bad bird photos I’ve gotten lately.

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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Crissal Thrasher

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Red-Tailed Hawk

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Common Merganser

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Western Bluebird

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Hermit Thrush

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American Robin

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Northern Shoveler

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Black-Capped Chickadee

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Bewick’s Wren

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Sandhill Cranes

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Black Phoebe

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Dark-Eyed Junco

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White-Breasted Nuthatch

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Lesser Goldfinch

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Song Sparrow

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Northern Flicker – it snowed at my house but he didn’t seem to mind.  He groomed on this perch for some time.

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House Finches

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Spotted Towhee

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Kildeer

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Northern Harrier

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American Kestral

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Say’s Phoebe

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My most common view of birds lately…..

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Eastern Bluebird

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Great Blue Heron

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This scarecrow isn’t scaring these guinea fowl much.

I did manage to get a few decent photos.  These few stood out of the bunch.

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Rock Wren

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Ring-Necked Duck – male

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Ring-Necked Duck – female

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Belted Kingfisher

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Great Blue Heron – he flew fairly low right over my head.  I loved it!

The best photo of the bunch was of this Black Phoebe.  It let me get very close and the sun actually shone weakly helping the shot.

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Black Phoebe

I saw some nice wildlife on the trail as well.

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Coyote

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Red-Eared Turtle

Of course, Scarlett wasn’t concerned that photography conditions weren’t ideal.  She always makes the best of a walk.

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Scarlett loves to jump over logs. 🙂

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.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

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American Coot

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Snowy Egret

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Least Sandpiper

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Long-Billed Dowitcher

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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.

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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.

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Western Painted Turtle

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

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Great-Tailed Grackle female

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

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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.

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Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

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

I saw a few other birds that afternoon.

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Canyon Towhee

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

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Javalena

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

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Bordered Patch

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Gulf Fritillary

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Painted Lady

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Queen

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Monarch

 

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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.  🙂

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Turkey Vulture – juvenile

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

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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….

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

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The young one still has some spots

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Female White-Tailed Deer

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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.

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Greater Roadrunner

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Greater Roadrunner eating a Painted Lady

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

 

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Eastern Phoebe

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Northern Mockingbird

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Cactus Wren

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Carolina Wren

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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.

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American Goldfinch female

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Pyrrhuloxia

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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!

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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.