Here’s wishing everyone a very safe and Blessed Christmas!
I recently attended the annual River of Lights held at the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens. Each year they make it bigger and better! I hadn’t been for awhile so it was a real treat.
I went with my friend Dia and we had so much fun. This year they offered a “magic hour” from 5-6. You could purchase tickets for this time and they limited the number of participants so you could get some great photos without the crowds. We loved having the place practically to ourselves. The gardens are big enough that we really didn’t see many people.
We took a few photos of each other in the beautiful lights. It felt very festive!
Here’s a slideshow of all the fabulous lights we saw. If you are viewing this post on a cell phone, click on the photo below and you can scroll through the images.
I am so excited to tell you that I won some ribbons at the New Mexico State Fair this year. I submitted 3 photos to the photography contest (the max number you can enter). This year I decided to enter in the professional category. I figured I’ve been getting noticed in other ways that I might as well give it a shot.
To submit a photo in professional you have to frame and mat your work. I had planned on framing these photos for the office, so I thought I might as well go professional and frame them the way I like with matching mats and frames.
I won 2nd place in the Miscellaneous category with this photo titled “American Steel”.
I won 3rd place in the Urban category for this photo titled “Ranchos De Taos.
Both were from my weekend trip to Taos this summer.
I submitted my pelican photo but it didn’t place. The Animal category is the largest and has stiff competition when people go on safaries and such.
The best I’ve ever did before in the state fair was an honorable mention so I’m very happy with my wins this year. 😃
I believe the tiny little hummingbirds I get every summer are truly little jewels of the desert. Their iridescent colors just shine like the most precious stones when the light hits them just right.
July and August are my peak months for hummingbirds. In spring I get the Broad-Tailed and Black-Chinned Hummingbirds. They nest here every year. But starting early July, I get the migratory Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds. It’s a wonderful time of year having all four variety of hummingbirds visiting my feeders. I have 3 feeders that hold 2 cups of sugar water each. During July and August I have to fill these feeders twice a day!
These little birds are very fast. Catching them in flight is a real challenge. I got a couple of decent shots in flight but I definitely need to improve on this technique.
Some years it seems the birds are more brave than others. This year they were a little more hesitant to let me photograph them. I did manage to get a few nice shots. Of the 4 species, the most bullying to other hummers and yet the most shy around people is the Rufous Hummingbird. He’s the most challenging to get a decent photo.
The most challenging to get colors to show is the Black-Chinned Hummingbird. They have to turn just right in the light to catch that gorgeous purple throat. After many, many attempts, this is the only photo I got recently that shows the color. Sadly it’s not a very good pic. But I will keep trying!
The most common visitor to my feeders is the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird. Over the years I’ve only managed to find a couple of nests though I see plenty of females out there busily gathering nesting materials. And come summer there are lots of young hummers at the feeders.
Look at that gorgeous color on his throat!
But my most favorite hummer is the Calliope Hummingbird. I love their unique feathers on their throat. When fending off other hummers from the feeder, they can flare out those long pink feathers. Just beautiful! They are considerably smaller than the other 3 species I get. They are the smallest breeding hummingbird in the US. While the other species are generally 3 inches in length, this little guy is around 2.5 inches. They have to really stretch their necks to sit and feed on my feeders.
So I think you will agree, hummingbirds are definitely little jewels of the desert!
About a week ago I got up extremely early and drove up to Capulin Spring. I think this was the earliest I had ever gotten there – practically still dark as I pulled into the parking area. But the early rising from bed paid off big time! Plus I was excited to use my new camera. I upgraded from a Nikon 1 V1 to a V3. It’s a much better camera with lots more features. It didn’t disappoint in it’s performance in the low light of dawn!
On the drive up the crest road there were lots of mule deer grazing right on the side of the road. I drove very slowly and creeped up to them. They didn’t spook and I was able to get some nice closeups of both the male and female.
Mule Deer Doe – such a sweet face
Buck still in velvet
There were so many birds coming in first thing. I didn’t know where to look as they were EVERYWHERE! A real dilemma for a birder!
I have noticed there at the spring that birds tend to come in by species. You will see mostly one species at a time. First thing I saw that day was lots of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. There were several and they all wanted a bath. One got completely soaked and sat in front of me grooming for at least 5 minutes.
Soon after the kinglets were done bathing the Townsend’s Warblers came in. A real treat as they are so beautiful! One got in a spat with a Yellow-Rumped Warbler and won – surprising because they are quite a bit smaller.
Townsend’s Warbler bullying a Yellow-Rumped Warbler
I usually see lots of Juncos when I’m there but not so many this day. Mostly the really pretty birds came in – to my delight.
Next came the crossbills. I’m always fascinated by their bills. I can see how they are very useful in prying open the pinecones but wonder how difficult it must be to drink and groom.
Red Crossbill – Male
Red Crossbill – Female
Red Crossbill using that unique beak to pry apart a pinecone
While all this activity was happening at the spring, there were about 5 Band-Tailed Pigeons wanting to come in for a drink and a Sharp-Shinned Hawk way up in a dead tree. He never got the nerve up while I was there. I kept as still as I could and was finally rewarded with the pigeons coming in for a drink. They are so nervous.
Band-Tailed Pigeon – there is also one behind him getting a drink
After they left lots of song birds started coming in and the spring got very busy. It was so wonderful to just sit and enjoy seeing all the beautiful birds flying about and getting baths. My jaw hurt from the constant smiling.
Wilson’s Warbler with a Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Western Tanager – Female
Virginia’s Warbler irked that another bird was splashing him 🙂
I’m always entertained by the little chipmunks running around the area. They are always so busy. While I was there one crawled into my camera bag. Probably smelled the lingering scent of a protein bar I had carried in it. I was especially entertained by a young one. I got a great pic of him enjoying some little morsel he had found.
There was a Steller’s Jay squawking in the canopy for a while. He didn’t like me there. But my patience was finally rewarded when he came down for a drink. They are my favorite jays. For some reason the white markings on their face make me think of Spy vs Spy (hmmmm…showing my age LOL!)
I got to see a Brown Creeper as well. I’ve gone several years with only seeing one briefly. But this summer I’ve seen several and am always thrilled when I do. This particular creeper flew to the spring but was so nervous he immediately flew back into the trees. I managed to get one decent photo of him in the deep shadows.
There was one bird I photographed that I just can’t figure out what it is. I’m hoping someone seeing this blog can let me know what they think. My first guess was a juvenile Hermit Thrush but I’m not so sure after studying the photo.
Mystery bird for me
As the morning passed I was so thankful to have seen so many variety of birds. I will miss this place once winter comes. But for a little while longer I can enjoy it’s bounty.
I sat there for about 4 hours. My behind was numb! Next time I need to bring a cushion!
On the way out I noticed the sunflowers in bloom. There were lots of interesting bees on them. I couldn’t resist photographing a couple of them.
Interesting red bee / fly?
I liked the fuzzy butt on this one 🙂
I hated to leave but work was waiting for me. I will have to return again soon before all the birds fly away for the winter.
This past week I was able to get out birding several times. The weather was beautiful and my schedule was lighter. So I strapped on my hiking boots, grabbed my camera and hit the trails.
My first stop was Embudito. I knew the orioles had to be there soon and was hoping to get the Scott’s Oriole. I climbed the higher trail instead of hiking along the arroyo. The last couple times I had been there I had heard a lot of birdsong up the hillside. It was a good choice that day. I came around a bend and saw both the Scott’s and Bullock’s Orioles feeding in a bush. They saw me at the same time and flew off. I spent the next 20 minutes hunting them down for a photo. The effort was worth it. The Scott’s Oriole was a lifer for me.
I also got pretty close to a Rufous-Crowned Sparrow singing in a bush along the trail. I made my way down to the spring so I could hike along the arroyo on my way out. I saw a pair of Spotted Towhees and a Juniper Titmouse trying to get the attention of a female. He was so camoflauged that the only way I saw him was because he was singing at the top of his lungs and chasing the female.
Another day I had to go to Los Lunas so I thought I would take the opportunity to check on the burrowing owls. While there I had a road runner cross my path. He was busy hunting for lizards and didn’t seem to mind me following along with the car. Soon I came to the owls and there was a pair right next to the road. I sat and watched for a while. There was a bush nearby that they loved sitting in for a better view of the surroundings. I think they are used to people watching them because they didn’t seem too concerned about me.
Burrowing Owl keeping an eye on the sky for predators
Since I had the time I thought I would drive through the Valle de Oro Refuge to see what might be around. I never seem to have any luck there. I always hear of all these sightings of birds that I need for my life list, but they have never been there when I visit. This day didn’t provide anything new, but I did get some nice shots of a variety of birds there enjoying the field being flooded.
Black-Chinned Hummingbird – giving the evil eye 🙂
One day I took advantage of being on the very north end of town one day and stopped in at the Tramway wetlands. I was rewarded with a pair of Canada Geese with two babies. I’d never seen baby geese before so it was a real treat. Not much else there that day though.
Lastly I hiked Bear Canyon for the first time. I didn’t have much time and thought it looked like a nice hike. There weren’t many birds out that day. It was windy and there were spotty rain showers all over town. I saw lots of Black-Throated Sparrows. I never tire of these birds. They make me smile every time. Always sitting in the top of a bush or cactus singing away. I especially liked the photo I got of one singing in a bush with flowers around him.
The other bird I saw plenty of was the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. These little guys are so adorable. This particular male wasn’t shy at all and let me get within 10 feet of him. Made for a crisp photo.
The view of the Sandias was specatular that day. That trail makes for a nice photo as there aren’t very many houses along the foothills. I soon had to hurry back to my car as the rain showers seemed to be headed my way.
Storm over the south end of Albuquerque
Bear Canyon Trail
Sandia Mountain Range
The week was a success getting that Scott’s Oriole! Next stop the Birdathon at Fort Sumner!