It’s been a few years since I hiked the Hondo Canyon trail. It’s one of the few places you can see water year round in the Sandia Mountains.
I got up early to beat the summer heat. Scarlett was thrilled to be out during the cool morning. I was enjoying the morning as well.
The first part of the hike is fairly easy and I think pretty with the rock wall and trees.
After a short while I could see the caves next to the waterfall.
Soon we arrived at the small travertine waterfall. This time of year the spring flow is very low. This created just a trickle for the falls.
I was surprised to see dozens of hummingbirds swarming around the falls. They were drinking and bathing. I was fascinated that they would actually cling to the wall of the waterfall to bathe. I stayed here at the waterfall for a good 30 minutes watching and photographing all the beautiful hummingbirds.
Sometimes I was lucky enough to have one perch nearby for a few moments.
People often ask me how I bird with Scarlett. Doesn’t she scare the birds away??? She’s so good. She just lays down and sits quietly. And sometimes she point out birds to me by staring at them.
After an enjoyable 30 minutes, I climbed above the waterfall to where the spring starts. It’s a beautiful, lush area.
After the spring, the trail really starts to climb. I had forgotten how steep this trail is. Scarlett didn’t seem to notice. She would run ahead and then wait, wondering what was taking me so long.
After the short but steep climb, the views start to open up. But difficult to see with all the vegetation.
One of the parts of the trail I like is climbing up to a small Ponderosa Pine grove. Ponderosa Pine forests are my favorite because of the openness below the canopy. This area is always good for sighting the pygmy nuthatch. I love their piping voices. I heard lots of them today, but sadly couldn’t get a photo.
After reaching this point, I decided to turn around. The morning was really starting to warm up fast. When we reached the spring on the way back, Scarlett stretched out in it to cool off. Smart girl! Of course, she loves water and looks for any excuse to get in it.
Back at the waterfall, the hummingbirds had gone quiet but other birds were out and about.
It was interesting to see a Lesser Goldfinch land on the wall of the falls and peck a the surface. I figured she must be getting important minerals from the travertine wall.
Before leaving the trail, I made Scarlett pose for me on the pretty rock wall. She loves to climb on things and pose for me. I guess she knows it makes me happy.
It was fun to get out again and seeing nature’s beauty and forget about all the stressful things in my life right now.
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.
We arrived with several other visitors to the gold camp. Getting everything in the van (including ourselves) was a real challenge.
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.
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!
While I birded I saw my husband Tim busily searching for gold with his metal detector.
I would call out “I got another lifer!”
He was still searching for gold…
“Wow! Another lifer!” I exclaimed
Tim was still searching….
“There are so many birds! I got another lifer!” I cheered
Hmmmm….Tim finally got a gold nugget! I was so happy for him!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
I definitely had a wonderful day exploring. So many bird sightings and beautiful scenery.
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.
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 🙂
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!
Recently I decided to explore Plaza Blanca near Abiquiu, New Mexico. If any of you have seen the movie Cowboys and Aliens, then you may remember the white rock formation that was in the scenes of the final battle of the movie.
I have always wanted to explore this place, but never seemed to find the time to do so. We’ve gotten some small snows this winter, so I headed out on a day that I thought there might be some snow on the trail to enhance my photos.
It was a beautiful day and there indeed was some snow left on the ground.
When I arrived at the parking area, I had a wonderful view of the southwest landscape showing the many beautiful layers of color. I just love New Mexico landscapes.
I hiked down the trail and just started exploring. There’s not a lot of information about this area or the hike on the internet. At first you see the large, white rock formation that is the namesake of the hike. It is quite large and impressive.
Next to the white formation is a large brown one. I love how it stands alone. Looks like something from the set of a Star Trek show.
I then turned left along this formation and continued upstream in the arroyo. At first it was very wide. This is where the snow made beautiful accents to the landscape.
I came upon several trees in the bottom of the arroyo.
I turned around and love how the sun shone through the branches.
That’s when I noticed the hole in the formation. You can just see it behind the tree. I backtracked to get some photos of this.
I then saw another hole. Of course, I just had to see how creative I could get with the “window” in the rock.
I then went back up the arroyo. I came to a fork and decided to take the right fork as it seemed more interesting. The rock formations were really cool. I had Scarlett jump up on one to get a fun photo. She’s so cute in how she will do whatever I ask.
The canyon started narrowing as I followed it. For some reason I love hiking narrow canyons.
Soon we came across water in the bottom of the canyon. This is when I realized I had stumbled upon a slot canyon. I LOVE SLOT CANYONS!
Scarlett loved it too! She soon started running around and playing. She especially loved coming around the bend and jumping across the water.
This is a face of a very happy dog!
I followed the now very narrow canyon. It was so beautiful. The melting snow created some beautiful natural sculptures.
We continued further up the slot canyon until the end of the line. Well…then end for me. I wasn’t willing to scramble up this obstacle.
We headed back out of the canyon. It was a wonderful place to explore. When I got back to the main formation, I decided to take my time and get a few photos of the area.
After finishing up my hike I decided to go by Abiquiu Lake. I’ve never been to the lake before. I thought there might be wintering birds there. But when I arrived, it was dead quiet.
I did like the reflections in one of the coves of the lake. So I took a few photos there before moving on.
I was really wanting to see some birds on my outing. So I headed to a place that I know I will see birds. I went to Ohkay Owingeh Lakes near Espanola, NM.
On the way to the lakes, I stopped to get a nice photo of the Rio Grande. This stop always offers a beautiful view of the river.
I hiked around the two ponds at the park. There was surprisingly few birds about. But I managed to get a few pics.
It was nice to finish up the day with some nice bird sightings. Scarlett and I had a wonderful day. I highly recommend you visit the Plaza Blanca area.
Recently I had the privilege to take photographs of rescued raptors at 3 different events! It is a wonderful experience getting up close and personal with these beautiful birds. Plus! All fees associated with these events goes to help the rescued birds.
My first event was the 25th anniversary event of Hawks Aloft. They are a wonderful group of giving, loving people. They take wonderful care of the birds they receive through rescue. Gladly they get to rescue and release a lot of the birds they receive. But if they get a bird that cannot be released back to the wild, they take amazing care of these birds. And a few times a year, they allow the public the opportunity to photograph these amazing birds of prey.
The 25th anniversary event was a wonderful evening. We got to see and speak to many of the “behind the scenes” people of the organization. They had several birds there, but the photo opportunities weren’t that great. But I still had a wonderful time!
I manged to get a few photo ops of the stars.
Western Screech Owl – this photo gives you an idea of how small they are
They were going to have falconry demonstrations, but our unseasonably hot weather prohibited that event. Darnit! I was really looking forward to seeing that!
I did get a chance to photograph one of the participants – a beautiful Apomado Falcon. The coloring of this birds is superb!
The next event I attended was with Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico. They have an annual event known as “Breakfast with the Birds”. They held this year’s event at the Rio Grande Nature Center in one of the areas that you normally can’t see.
It was a wonderful morning! I got to see so many beautiful birds. Some of the birds were injured but some were “human imprinted”, which means they associated with humans to a level that they cannot survive in the wild on their own.
Here’s some of best photos I got that morning.
Western Screech Owl
Great Horned Owl
I liked the perspective of the next photo. I love getting their wings when they are outstretched.
My favorite photo of the event was of this Barn Owl. So beautiful! I think the coloring of the Barn Owl is so unique.
While photographing the raptors, an inquisitive Greater Roadrunner came through. He was very curious of us. You’d think he would have been terrified of all the bird of prey around him!!!
When the event was over, I took a stroll through the Rio Grande Nature Center. I was surprised to see some hummingbirds still hanging around. I really liked this photo I got of a Broad-tailed Hummingbird.
And any chance to photograph a warbler is always treat!
My 3rd event I attended was the annual Hawks Aloft Photo Event. They held it this year in a remote area of the Sandia Foothills. A wonderfully quiet place.
On the way I couldn’t resist stopping to take a quick pic of this Curve-Billed Thrasher. I just love these birds!
I got to get some great photos of the raptors they brought. Here’s my favorites of that event.
Harlon Red-Tailed Hawk – such unusual coloring for a Red-Tailed Hawk
Near the end of the event they brought out “Beautiful”. Believe it or not! A Turkey Vulture can be beautiful!
Turkey Vulture – look at the size of that wingspan! 6 feet of total beauty!
Beautiful enjoying the attention. She is one of the birds that has been human imprinted.
My favorite photos of that event were of the Long-Eared Owl, the Great Horned Owl and again the Barn Owl. Beautiful!
Long-Eared Owl – I loved getting the fall foliage coloring in the background
Great Horned Owl with attitude
I captured a couple of photos of the handler with their birds. Wonderful people!
Handler with the Prairie Falcon. You can tell they adore each other!
One of the attendees getting an introduction. This photo gives you an idea of the size of Turkey Vultures.
Someone suggested the “two old buzzards” take a photo together 🙂 Larry and Beautiful
I hope you enjoyed the many photos I took during these events! It’s been awhile since I last posted. This summer and fall were busy times for me. It’s good to be back blogging!
Back in July my friend Dia and I spent a long weekend at Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I had never been there before, so I was really looking forward to a long, relaxing weekend hiking and soaking in the hot springs.
On our way we stopped in for lunch at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm in Abiquiu, New Mexico. (Pronounced Ab-eh-Q) It was a beautiful place to stroll and the lunch was delicious.
Purple Adobe Lavender Farm
Kelly enjoying a wonderful lunch
We also enjoyed shopping in the little store.
Shopping at the cafe
As we drove down the road, we decided to pop in and check out the famous Ghost Ranch. When people hear Ghost Ranch they usually think of the artist Georgia O’Keefe who loved to paint the beauty of the desert here. We didn’t spend long, but I did take some time to take a few photos.
Great old western wagon
Storms over Abiquiu Lake
Old hand-hewn log cabin
Beauty of the Ghost Ranch
As we neared Chama, New Mexico, we passed an Osprey nest. Of course, I had to turn around to get a photo. 🙂
Female Osprey on the nest
While I was photographing the female on the nest, the male showed up with lunch.
Male Osprey with a meal
We stayed at the beautiful Springs Spa and Resort. They have 25 different soaking pools that vary in temperatures from 96 degrees to as hot as 111 degrees. HOT! The hottest pool was called the Lobster Pot. I couldn’t get more than my foot in before I was yelping in pain!
The Springs Resort and Spa
After checking in we decided to go have lunch and let Scarlett run around a bit. Of course, she was thrilled to play in the river.
Scarlett stretching her legs after a long drive.
We ate at a restaurant across the river that had a great view of the resort. We couldn’t wait to get in those pools!
View of the resort and the San Juan River
Looks fabulous doesn’t it?
Of course, we had ourselves a giant margarita at lunch to kick off the relaxing weekend.
One of the things I really wanted to do while staying at the resort was take night photos. I don’t get many opportunities to do night photography, so this was a real treat to have a unique setting.
I first photographed the resort’s hotel. Such a beautiful place.
While photographing the hotel, a pair of girls were playing the outdoor chess game. I was thrilled they consented to let me take their photo. I think it came out nice.
Outdoor chess game under the stars
From there we toured the pools. The first pool we came to overlooked the resort. I liked that there were some people relaxing the in pool. I think they added interest to the view.
Soakers enjoying the beautiful evening
Here’s some other shots I got touring the pools.
Sunken foot bridge through the warm springs
I loved the travertine formations that builds up with the flowing waters of hot springs
I took a few shots from the bridge across the river and from the other side of the river. Beautiful with the reflections in the water.
Gorgeous at night
Definitely a special place
The next day we went on a couple of short hikes. I really wanted to see the waterfalls in the area. I never seem to tire of photographing water.
The views during the hike were spectacular.
Our first hike was to Treasure Falls. It’s not a very long hike, but really beautiful. Of course, where there’s water, there is always wildlife.
American Robin with a mouthful of moths
Northern Flicker digging for grubs
This year the southwest had experienced a pretty severe draught at the beginning of the summer. Because of this, the waterfalls were pretty thin. But I think they were still beautiful.
Lower part of Treasure Falls
My favorite shot of the entire trip was taken at this waterfall. I hiked all the way to the base of the falls to discover a tranquil pool.
To my delight, I spotted an American Dipper. It’s always a real treat to see one of these birds. I love how they dip and bob along the water’s edge and dive into the pools looking for food.
Looking for goodies in the falling water
The other hike we did was to Silver Falls. Dia was my co-pilot and was responsible for finding the trailhead. She led me on a one-hour 4WD goose chase!!! DIA!!!!! I was so busy stressing over the drive, I didn’t take any photos! LOL!
We finally realized we had driven past the falls. We turned around and found the trailhead. This was also a short hike, but very steep! We followed Silver Creek the entire way. There were small waterfalls along the trail.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got to the main waterfall. All I can say is WOW! It was spectacular! I think it was about 5 stories tall! The sounds of the falls was almost deafening. I can only imagine what they would look like if it hadn’t been a drought year. Dia and I spent quite some time here enjoying the view and taking a few photos.
Lower portion of Silver Fall
Lower portion of Silver Falls
My beautiful friend Dia
Dia took a picture of me at the falls. I look terrible after a stressful Jeep drive! LOL! My headband says “Jeep Hair, Don’t Care!” 🙂
We spent the rest of the afternoon and the next morning soaking in the pools. It was sooooooo relaxing. We spent some time shopping the great shops on main street before we left town. We found lots of goodies!
On the way out of town I spotted a Black-Billed Magpie. I wish we had these birds closer to home.
When we drove through Chama we spotted a little foal in a pasture along the highway. We just had to stop and say hi.
Dia made new friends fast 🙂
This guy was so new he still has his dried umbilical cord
The drought was about to be over on this trip. The monsoons started in earnest on our drive home. I stopped to take a photo of the storms over Abiquiu Lake. Monsoons in the desert can be very dramatic!
Storms over Abiquiu Lake
All the rain made the Rio Grande turn red.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my lovely weekend at Pagosa Springs! I’m so ready to go back!
Over the past few weeks I’ve had a chance to get out and bird a time or two. I mostly went out to see some rare sightings that have shown up around town. I missed several, but managed to see a couple to add to my life list.
I visited Valle de Oro a couple times. I had heard there were a number of warblers there. It’s always fun to go find warblers, though my neck complains by the end of the day LOL!
When I arrived at Valle de Oro I saw a pair of coyotes out hunting. One disappeared right away, but the other stayed out long enough to let me get a few good pics.
As always, I saw several Western Meadowlarks out singing. I love their beautiful voice.
I walked along the main drainage ditch hoping to see some good birds. A scrub jay announced his presence.
Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
Then almost right away I heard a lot of birds singing. I just started taking pics of everything that moved. As you know, songbirds are small and fast!!! When I looked at the pics I was surprised to see a several birds I don’t see often. Mainly my nemesis, the Lazuli Bunting. Try my hardest, I can’t get a good pic of this bird.
Black-Throated Gray Warbler
I heard several Summer Tanagers singing. It’s amazing how a bright red bird can hide among green leaves. But they can just disappear! I only got a few pics and they weren’t very good. But I did see a Western Tanager female closer to me.
Western Tanager Female
I had been told where a Common Black Hawk’s nest was near the Valle de Oro. So I went on a 2-mile hike to find this beautiful bird. Once I was in the general location, I looked for the nest. I found it way up high in a cottonwood tree. There was no seeing if anything was in the nest. I waited around for a while and eventually heard the hawk calling from a distance. Then to my delight the bird flew in and landed near the nest. A lifer for me! At first I barely saw him as he was deep in the leaves.
Common Black Hawk
Eventually he moved to a better location for photos. This is a magnificent bird. From what I understand there are only about 250 breeding pairs in the US. They are easily disturbed by humans and are known to abandon nests if bothered too much. So after getting a few pics, I quietly left the area to let them raise their young undisturbed.
Common Black Hawk
On my way back I saw a flycatcher along the ditch. I believe it’s a Hammond’s Flycatcher.
Then I heard another bird calling that I only rarely hear – a Gray Catbird. Always a treat to see and hear! I only managed one pic and that was from behind.
While hiking along he ditch, I enjoyed the wild irises blooming.
While hiking at Valle de Oro I came across this interesting insect. I tried looking it up, but I can’t figure out what it is.
Not sure what this cute guy is….
I had heard about a very rare sighting in the East Mountain area that I just had to go find. There was a Golden-Winged Warbler sighted and it was practically in my back yard. After much searching I was rewarded with a short view of this bird. I took several photos before he disappeared into the deep brush. I managed to get a few decent pics. Another lifer!
While hiking there I was treated to some beautiful wild apple blossoms.
Wild apple tree blossoms
I visited the Rio Grande Nature Center. I hadn’t been there in a while, so it was a treat to see it in the springtime. Right away I heard a Yellow-Breasted Chat singing. I managed to find it in a tree on the island in the pond. So it was quite a distance away.
I also saw the resident roadrunners in the parking lot. Always fun to photograph!
While walking the paths, I heard some Summer Tanagers talking back and forth amongst each other. This time I had more success getting photos of the pair.
Summer Tanager male
Summer Tanager female
There were several Black-Chinned Hummingbirds visiting the feeders. Whenever there are several hummingbirds at a feeder, there’s always fights defending their food. For a tiny bird, they are fierce!
Uh oh! He sees another hummer coming for him!
Defending the feeder!
Here are some of the other birds I saw on my visit.
The gardens were beginning to bloom. The bees were happily gathering pollen.
Giant black bee
I was entertained by a resident White-Winged Dove that has become very tame. The gardeners told me his name was Lonesome Larry. He was so tame, he would take see from your hand. He stayed so close to me, that I barely got photos because my zoom lens had a hard time focusing on such a close subject. 🙂
Such beautiful coloring
I’ve been keeping an eye on a Red-Tailed Hawk’s nest not far from my house. When I visited recently, I saw the eggs have finally hatched. When I first looked, I thought there was only one baby. But the mother flew off the nest and I saw two babies!
Red-Tailed Hawk with babies
It’s been great getting out birding. It was nice to see all the summer birds returning to Albuquerque.
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.
Boardwalk through the marsh
A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area
I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.
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.
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.
American Bald Eagles
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.
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.
Bufflehead – male
Bufflehead – female
Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.
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.
I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
Quebradas Scenic Route
Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.
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.
While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!
I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.
The weather here in New Mexico has been very mild for wintertime. So I took advantage of the nice day and went birding yesterday. I haven’t had much chance to bird lately, so it was a real treat to have a whole day to visit several places and get some fun bird sightings.
My first stop was to visit the Rio Grande Nature Center for their Saturday morning bird walk. When you go on their guided tours, you get taken into places of the park you normally can’t visit. So it’s always a treat to go behind the scenes.
The early morning temperatures were in the mid 20s, so it was definitely a cold start. The ducks didn’t seem very happy about standing on the ice instead of swimming in the water.
Mallards and Wood Ducks
A Black-Crowned Night Heron was hiding in the bushes nearby.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
On the main pond there were a few ducks enjoying the area that hadn’t frozen over. It was a treat to see a Hooded Merganser male. Even though they are common in our area during the winter, you just don’t see them that often.
Along with the Hooded Merganser there were a few other visitors.
Ruddy Ducks in the Foreground and a Canvasback female in the back
American Coot on the left and a Pied-Billed Grebe on the right
We saw a few other birds along our walk, but for the most part it was quiet.
A variety of blackbirds
After the guided tour, I walked around the park a little more to see what might be visiting the feeders. There was a nice variety of birds enjoying the free meal.