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.

Hiking Plaza Blanca and Birding at Ohkay Owingeh Lakes

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 love the New Mexico landscape

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. 

Plaza Blanca Formation

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. 

Snow and shadow have created beautiful textures

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. 

Natural arch

I then saw another hole.  Of course, I just had to see how creative I could get with the “window” in the rock. 

Window rock showing Plaza Blanca in the distance

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. 

Can you see Scarlett?

The canyon started narrowing as I followed it.  For some reason I love hiking narrow canyons. 

The canyon started to narrow

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!

Slot canyon

Scarlett loved it too!  She soon started running around and playing.  She especially loved coming around the bend and jumping across the water. 

Scarlett begging me to chase her…I don’t think so!
Having fun jumping the water

This is a face of a very happy dog!

One happy Scarlett!!!

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. 

End of the slot canyon

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. 

Abiquiu Lake

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.

Rio Grande below Abiquiu Lake

I hiked around the two ponds at the park.  There was surprisingly few birds about.  But I managed to get a few pics. 

American Kestrel being shy
Northern Flicker
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Song Sparrow
Canada Geese
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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. 

Birding in Southern New Mexico – Part 2

The next morning of our anniversary trip we drove our ATVs for about 30 minutes to get to a lucky gold spot for my husband.  Unfortunately, we can’t ride the ATVs all the way to the location he likes to prospect so we had to hike for another 30 minutes.

On the way to our destination I came around a bend and saw a beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk in the top of a tree.   He was at the max range of my lens but I managed to get a pretty good photo.


Red-Tailed Hawk

After a full exciting day in the sun the day before, I wasn’t looking forward to spending another day in the sun. So I parked myself under a big shade tree and birded while sitting down.  Lazy right?!  LOL! But it was great because none of the birds wanted to be in the sun either and the shade is sparse.  So my spot was quite popular with the area birds.


Cactus Wren


Canyon Towhee


Cactus Wren

While relaxing in the shade, I was full entertained by a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.  The day before at Caballo Lake I saw quite a few of them but didn’t get any photos as they were staying high up in the foliage.

Well, I was rewarded this day by a very tame male.  At first he didn’t like me being so close to his tree.  He started scolding me and raised his ruby crown.  I didn’t get any photos of him posturing in the sun to really show off that ruby crown.  But I am still pleased with the shots I did get.


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet – my first shot of him scolding me


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Eventually he settled down and got used to me.  Pretty soon he was foraging all around me within a foot.  I could have reached out and touched him.  I took full advantage of this opportunity and took as many photos and videos as I could. He was happily singing the whole time. I loved that little bird!


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. You can really see his beautiful markings on his back.


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. I think he was curious of me. He would land very close to me and look at me before going back to foraging.


Ruby-Crowned Kinglet – my favorite photo I took of him. He was so close to me that I almost couldn’t get a photo with my zoom lens.

On the walk back to the ATVs I spotted several variety of butterflies.


Note sure what this one is. Only photo I got.


Acmon Blue


Common Buckeye


Orange Skipperling – I was able to get a better shot of this tiny fast butterfly!

And yes…my husband did find some gold!


My husband metal detecting


The nuggets he found that day

We had a wonderful time enjoying nature together and enjoying the hot spring soaks in the evening.  We needed the break together as work has been extremely busy.  It was a very fun weekend!


The End! 🙂

Birding in Southern New Mexico

My husband and I had another opportunity to go to Truth or Consequences, NM, for a weekend before it just gets too hot to visit.  We love to get out and go four-wheeling and explore the countryside.  As it’s still spring I was hopeful for some good birding opportunities.

Last Saturday we went to Caballo Lake for the day.  It was forcasted for sunshine but windy.  Wow…it got very windy.  My husband loves to prospect for gold.  So while he went to a favorite canyon, I headed out to bird along the roads and around the lake.  I was able to bird for about 2 hours in the morning but even then it was blowing pretty good.  I mostly saw Black-Throated Sparrows and a variety of flycatchers.  I was amazed even in that wind that they were able to pluck bugs out of the air with ease.


Western Wood-Pewee


Least Flycatcher


Black-Throated Sparrows Adult above and softly colored juvenile below

As the morning progressed it got extremely windy.  So I headed back to the truck and took a nice long nap.  Upon waking I realized the wind had died down.  So I jumped back on the four-wheeler and headed out.  I remember last time I was there I saw my first Pyrrhuloxia in a specific canyon. So I decided to head back in that canyon for a second try as my first photos were barely discernible.  And I was quickly rewarded with a sighting.  And I got some good pics too!



Heading back to the truck I saw a few hummingbirds hanging out in a blooming tree.  I managed to get a pic of a couple of them.


Black-chinned hummingbirds

The views of the mountains and lake were beautiful.  I love photographing vistas.


Caballo Mountains


Caballo Lake

The next morning I saw the hotel owner filling the bird feeders in the front garden area.  The birds must be used to the routine because as soon as they saw him they all came flying in.  I got a few good pics before we headed out for another day of fun.


Lesser Goldfinch


House Sparrow


House Finch

On Sunday we headed to the hills around Hillsboro, New Mexico.  As I’ve said before, they are like night and day from the Caballo Mountains and they aren’t that far away from each other.  I love the more lush landscape and fewer cactus.  Plus there’s more historical items left behind to investigate.

DSC_0539The morning weather was beautiful…calm, slightly overcast, cool.  The lighting was perfect for photos.  As soon as we parked our four-wheelers to hike up a particular canyon, I saw a Scaled Quail calling from atop a bush.  I even video taped him singing.


Scaled Quail

As my husband began prospecting for gold, I started hiking, birding and butterflying 🙂

I was rewarded by a sighting of a Macgillivray’s Warbler.  I then saw the female and found their nest.  Took a quick pic of the nest and then moved on so as not to disturb them.  I managed to get one photo of the male.  They stayed deep in the foliage.


Macgillivray’s Warbler


Macgillivray’s Warbler nest

I had a great day birding.  Because it was cooler the birds were active all day.  While eating my lunch I sat beneath a shade tree and was entertained by a pair of Say’s Phoebes who were busy all day feeding their babies.  They picked a very unusual location for their nest.  There is an old well in the area and the birds have figured out how to dive into it for a drink.  The Phoebes have built their nest down in that well.  They were busy catching bugs, landing on the barbed wire surrounding the well, and then diving in to feed their babies.


Say’s Phoebe with butterfly for the babies. Maybe Joe can identify this butterfly for me 😉


Old Well that birds fly down to drink. The Phoebes have a nest down there and loved perching on the barbed wire before diving down the well.


Western Tanager coming in for a drink at the well. And this photo is SOOC for those photographers out there 😉


Summer Tanager Female

Because the winds were calm I was able to get several photos of butterflies.


Dainty Sulpher


Mexican Yellow is the butterfly with the white open wings. The other butterfly with the orange inside is a Sleepy Orange.


Acmon Blue


Orange Skipperling


Gray Hairstreak – it must have just emerged because it was sitting and rubbing its wings and was unwilling to fly.


Marine Blue


Small Checkered Skipper


Mexican Cloudywing

The views in Hillsboro were very nice this trip.


Walls left from an old building. This was a pretty large structure for the area.


Unique cloud formations.

DSC_2234 DSC_2248On our way back to our four wheelers we scared a bird off the nest which was located in a small, skinny bush not 3 feet high.  Didn’t see the bird as it flew off in a flash so not sure what species the eggs are.  Then, as we were riding our four wheelers back to the truck Tim came very close to a dove’s nest.  The parent went flying off acting injured to lure us away.  When we investigated we found two babies.  It was a close call because the four wheeler tracks went to each side of the nest.  I’m so glad we didn’t run over them.


Baby doves

DSC_2255During our trip we saw quite a variety of lizards.  I have always enjoyed watching lizards.  Many of these were not scared of me and let me take some good pics.


Common Checkered Whiptail

DSC_0544 DSC_0609 DSC_9804It was a relaxing weekend with lots of photo opportunities and long soaks in the hot springs at night….wonderful

A week of Birding around Albuquerque, NM

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.


Bullock’s Oriole


Scott’s Oriole

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.


Rufous-Crowned Sparrow


Juniper Titmouse


Spotted Towhee

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.


Greater Roadrunner


Burrowing Owl keeping an eye on the sky for predators


Burrowing Owl

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.


Lark Sparrow


Brown-Headed Cowbird


Snowy Egret


Cattle Egret


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.


Canada Geese

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.


Black-Throated Sparrow

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.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

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!

Hiking the Domingo Baca Trail, Sandia Mountains, NM

This year I have decided to take every opportunity to re-explore the trails in the Sandia Mountains.  I have always enjoyed exploring the varied trails and am looking forward to seeing some favorites as well as some new ones.

I haven’t hiked the Domingo Baca trail in over 10 years.  I went with friends to see the airplane crash then.  It was a tough hike but well worth the effort.  This time I only went as far as the spring as I was by myself.

The weather this spring has been cool and rainy.  The view of the Sandia Mountains was very beautiful the morning I set out.  It had rained during the night and the clouds were still hovering along the peaks.  The air was cool and crisp and the views of Albuquerque were amazing.  I was wishing I had my polarized filter for better pics.


City of Albuquerque

DSC_2791 DSC_2790 DSC_2009 DSC_2088

I didn’t see too many birds or butterflies but managed to get a few shots.  The highlight was seeing a Cooper’s Hawk building a nest in one of the cottonwood trees in the Elena Gallegos picnic area.  He was a little too far way for a good pic but it was exciting to see him nonetheless.  He flew over me a couple times during the hike as well.


Cooper’s Hawk

I heard several blue-gray gnatcatchers in the trees and bushes while I hiked.  I managed to get a couple of nice pics of them even though they are so small and quick!


Blue-gray gnatcatcher


Black-Chinned Hummingbird

I finally made it to the spring.  It was flowing very nicely since we’ve had a lot of rain.  It was so nice to sit and relax and enjoy the sound of flowing water (a rarity here in NM).  The signs of spring growth were a cheery sight.  I am so ready for warm weather!


I don’t know what this growth is on the tree. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was in patches all over and such a bright orange!

DSC_2068 DSC_2057 DSC_2839 On the way back down the trail I heard the tram overhead and managed to get a quick pic before it disappeared into the clouds above.  I saw several butterflies and was able to get pics as they weren’t flying to energetically in the cooler weather.


Painted Lady


Mormon Metalmark


Hmmm….maybe Joe and help me identify this one. He says “they’re easy!” uh….I don’t think so LOL!


No clue yet what this one is either. I can definitely tell I’m a beginner butterfly enthusiast. I will have to spend some time thumbing through my book to identify some of my finds.

I really enjoyed revisiting the Domingo Baca canyon.  I’m not sure why I stayed away so long…..


Birding and Hiking in Atlanta, GA

A while back my friend Kelly B moved to Atlanta, GA.  She travels a lot with her work so she has built up frequent flyer miles.  She used some of her miles to buy me a ticket to come see her.  It was great to see where they live and spend some quality time with her and her family.  Her children are wonderful and it was great to visit with her husband Mike.  We ate wonderful southern food.  The fried green tomatoes at Mary Mac’s Tea Room were amazing!

The weather was rainy almost the whole time I was there.  But we didn’t let it stop us.  Kelly knows I’m almost obsessed with birding.  She was happy to combine birding with hiking and exploring the sights around Atlanta.

Our first day we stopped in Henderson Park which was very near Kelly’s house.  My birding apps were showing a lot of warbler activity in this park.  Kelly didn’t even know it existed so it was a nice surprise for her.  The park had nice trails, open areas and a small lake.


Hooded Warbler – see what I had to deal with trying to get a photo! I almost didn’t get this bird. Thankfully we can see enough of the bird to identify it properly.


Northern Rough-Winged Swallow. I happened to catch it when it landed for a brief moment.


Eastern Towhee


Gray Catbird


Northern Cardinal


Song Sparrow

But I found the conditions very difficult to bird in.  I’m used to low open trees, desert areas and sunny blue skies in New Mexico.  Atlanta has 100’+ high trees, dense undergrowth and low light.  Add in rainy weather and I was feeling way out of my element.  Good thing Kelly was helping me look for birds or I never would have seen any much less got a few photos.  Most of my pictures aren’t worth posting because they are blurry or the bird is behind way too much foliage or the light was just too low.  But I did manage to get a few decent photos of birds.


Trail at Kennesaw National Battlefield Park

After the short stop at Henderson Park we went to Kennesaw National Battlefield Park.  The park was really nice but the weather really prohibited us from exploring too much.  The main mountain was completely covered in low clouds.  The staff at the park suggested we walk the one-mile trail near the parking area.  It was a beautiful trail and identified the various trees and foliage in the area.  It had a pretty babbling brook too.  But again the foliage was very dense and the canopy very high.  The birdsong was abundant and I was so excited to hear all the variety of birds, but the photo opportunities were very small.  But I did manage to get several new birds walking the trail.

From there we went to downtown Atlanta to Piedmont Park.  Kelly figured we had a better chance of seeing birds since the park is very open with trees spaced far apart and open grass areas.  When we got there the rain was really coming down.  But we weren’t to be stopped.  We carried umbrellas and braved the weather.  There were almost no people out there (they weren’t as crazy as us!).  Just the odd jogger out for a run.

We walked to the lake at the park and the sight took my breath away.  The rainy weather created the most beautiful setting of the lake and Piedmont Park Conservancy building.  I just had to take some pictures.  I wasn’t sure how the photos would turn out since the light was so low and it was lightly raining.  I had to balance the umbrella with one hand and take the photo with the other.  I just hoped for the best.  But I couldn’t be happier with the results.


Piedmont Park Conservancy Building

We walked the park for a while but eventually we had had enough of the wet weather.


Chipping Sparrow


Bea with a giant earthworm!

The next day we again stopped at Henderson Park and the morning was very nice.  We took Kelly’s daughter Beatrix (Bea) with us.  She loves the outdoors.  Since it wasn’t very wet and rainy we were able to explore more of the trails around the park.  Bea found a variety of insects to play with.  Her favorite being an earth worm that was the longest we had ever seen! Thankfully we convinced her it didn’t want to go home with us but instead wanted to stay in the forest with its friends.  Whew!


Kelly and Bea at Cochran Shoals park on the Chattahoochee River


Kelly, Kelly and Bea on a trail at Cochran Shoals


Chattahoochee River


Me and Bea on the Chattahoochee River


Boardwalk through the wetlands at Cochran Shoals park on the Chattahoochee River

From there we went to Cochran Shoals park which is part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.  The river was huge! Made the poor Rio Grande look small and shallow.  The trails were really nice.  I especially enjoyed the boardwalk through the wetlands area.  No new birds were seen there but it was lots of fun to explore together.

We dropped Bea off at home and went back out for more fun.  We next went to Stone Mountain Park.  The weather was cooperating very well.  So we decided to hike to the summit.  It was tough! But a fabulous experience! The views were amazing since it had rained so much.  There was virtually no haze and there was even bits of blue sky trying to show itself.  Kelly is a geologist so she gave me a geology lesson while climbing and pointed out interesting things.  It made the hike very enjoyable and interesting.  I saw a butterfly while hiking Stone Mountain (the only one I saw the whole trip!).


Red-Spotted Purple Admiral (Limenitis Arthemis)


View from the top of Stone Mountain

We still had some time to us after hiking the mountain so we decided to check out more of the park.  We walked the Songbird trail which is a trail designed to encourage a large variety of birds with a variety of habitats.  I got several new birds hiking this trail.

The trip seemed to end too soon.  I had so much fun with Kelly and her family. And I got 11 new birds to add to my life list.  I wonder what all I might have seen if the weather had been nicer?

We took one more wet rainy drive through Stone Mountain park before Kelly took me to the airport.  No birds were out but we did see a coyote.  When we were at the Stone Mountain visitor’s center we saw a poster showing the mammals around the area.  They showed a coyote and Kelly said she didn’t believe there were any coyotes in Atlanta.  We we were shocked to see one run right across the road in front of us.  She said that there’s one coyote in Atlanta. 🙂  DSC_1970

It was sad to say goodbye but Kelly assures me she will fly me out again later this year.  We laughed because we spent our whole time outdoors.  Usually we fit in some thrift store shopping together.  Next time!

Four-Wheeling in the Hills around Truth or Consequences, New Mexico – Sunday

Sunday we went across I-25 to Hillsboro.  I love these hills.  While the area around Caballo Lake is dry, full of thorns, hot, inhospitable…need I go on….Hillsboro is the complete opposite.  It’s lush in comparison.  Native grasses, lots of wildflowers, birds aplenty, trees, a nice cool breeze and very few thorns.

We hiked up a canyon that has a well at the end.  The old timers used it to mine gold.  Now the birds know to swoop down into this deep well for a drink.

We had a great day exploring the canyon.  But as the day progressed it became very cloudy and cold.  I was sunburned so felt even colder.  But it was still a fun day.  No new birds but enjoyed seeing some of my favorites.  I saw and/or heard 20 different species this day. I also got several butterflies and a cute little tiny round beetle…I mean tiny! The wildflowers were varied and aplenty.  And we even saw a bull snake!

Was a very fun weekend together!

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Rock Wren


Desert Spider Beetle


Doesn’t this bone look like a human skull?? Made me take a second look when I first saw it! 😐


Say’s Phoebe


Brewer’s Sparrow


Chipping Sparrow


White-Crowned Sparrow


Black-Throated Sparrow

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Four-Wheeling in hills around Truth or Consequences, New Mexico – Saturday

This past weekend my husband and I went south to go four-wheeling in the hills around Caballo Lake and around Hillsboro, New Mexico.  The weather was typical spring…warm and sunny on Saturday and cloudy and cold on Sunday.  But we still had a lot of fun.

Saturday we spent the day exploring the Caballo Lake area.  I was amazed at the variety of birds around.  I heard and/or saw 28 different birds.  It was fabulous! There were lots of wildflowers blooming…lizards sunning themselves….birds singing away…and butterfies floating on the breeze.  A wonderful day for enjoying one of nature’s beautiful spring days.


Caballo Lake


Caballo Mountain


American Pipit


Snowy Egret


Ash-Throated Flycatcher


Wilson’s Warbler


Yellow-Rumped Warbler


Western Kingbird


Red-Tailed Hawks

I got a new bird on – a pyrrhuloxia! I have been hunting for this bird for 3 years! I finally saw a pair of them.  But they didn’t cooperate at all…dang it.  The only photos I managed to get was facing into the noon day sun and zoomed to the max.  Terrible photo….but it counts!


Pyrrhuloxia – Finally! Now my goal is to get a much better photo someday.

I saw several lizards around.  They were thoroughly enjoying the sunshine.

And I got several pretty butterflies!  I’ve included the prettier ones.  🙂 DSC_0091 DSC_0086 DSC_0170 I don’t know the names of them yet.  I’m waiting for a butterfly identification book.

The highlight of the day was seeing a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks together in a nest.  I managed to capture a photo of one of the hawks leaving the nest carrying a mouse.  It was really cool to watch them together.

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