A couple of weeks ago I had to go to Las Vegas, New Mexico, for work. I decided to take a little time to see what might be at the local refuge. It was a cold, windy day so I wasn’t too hopeful of much being around.
Most of the small birds were hiding from the wind. There were a few Western Meadowlarks about but definitely weren’t interested in getting their picture taken.
With the cold wind, the Canada and Cackling Geese were hiding out in a low-lying pond. You don’t usually see these two species hanging out with each other. While we have difficulty distinguishing the two species, they definitely know who’s who!
In the distance I saw several Northern Harrier’s searching for lunch.
What was out and not shy at all were Red-Tailed Hawks. They were all juveniles. Such beautiful birds! And they let me get close and take as many photos as I wanted. What could be better than that!?!
This particular hawk had already been successful getting something to eat as you can see dried blood on his feet.
While photographing that hawk, some Morning Dove came in looking all fearful of the hawk nearby.
Nothing much else at the refuge. But as I was driving down the country road back to Las Vegas, I came across one of the most beautiful bluebirds I’ve ever seen. His colors were glorious!
Then to my delight I saw a Ferruginous Hawk on a telephone pole. Such a beautiful bird!
One last bird I saw was a very large Common Raven. Fortunately the lighting was nice and I was able to get a nice photo of this all black bird.
As I was driving home I decided to stop in a Storrie Lake to see what might be about. There really weren’t any birds around. Most of them were out in the middle of the lake where I just couldn’t get a good visual.
Just as I was about to leave, a Rough-Legged Hawk came in and landed on a post right next to my car. How exciting! The daylight was waning, but I had enough light to get a few nice shots. These birds are rarely seen in New Mexico so I was delighted to get such an up close sighting.
All in all I had two great side trips during my busy work day!
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.
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.
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
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. 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.
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!
Wow…October was a very busy month for me. All throughout the year I didn’t realize I was scheduling everything in October. I had something planned for practically every weekend!
So the last time I posted it was the first weekend of October and I was in Denver. I called it Part 1. I will write Part 2 soon, but I just had to skip to the second weekend in October. Every year my husband and I go to Truth or Consequences (TorC) for our Anniversary. We ride our ATVs and he hunts for gold and I go exploring and birding. This year was our 19th anniversary! (For our 20th I want to change things up and do an Alaskan cruise…..)
Anyway…we left later on Friday than we originally planned so didn’t get to explore a box canyon my husband told me about in the area. I guess we will save that for next time we visit the area. So I talked him into stopping at Elephant Butte Lake on the way to TorC. I was hoping to see some birds there as the fall migration has begun. We stopped a marina and saw right away lots of Western Grebes. One was looking down and all around him. So I was curious what he was doing.
And I was able to catch a funny photo. This grebe looks like it has a fish tail. 🙂 The carp in the lake are very large and this one must have been biting at the grebe’s feet.
Western Grebe with carp under him 🙂
The dock master saw me taking photos and came over. I asked him if he had seen any Clark’s Grebes. This would be a new bird for me. He said he has seen them but they tend to stay out on the lake and not near the shore. He said a rental boat was coming in shortly and if we wanted to wait for it he would take us out on the lake to the grebes. Of course I happily agreed to wait. I thought that was very kind of him to offer.
And sure enough there were lots of Clark’s Grebes out away from the shore. I was so excited to see them! My husband said he couldn’t tell the difference of these from the ones at the dock. So I explained that the Western Grebes have black on their heads that go down to the eye while the Clark’s have white around the eye.
While at the lake I enjoyed seeing a couple of American Coots snooping around the dock and a very tame Ring-Billed Gull.
When we got to TorC we decided to walk down to the park along the Rio Grande River. There’s a pond there that sometimes has water and with all the rain we’ve had this year that pond was pretty full. We had fun looking for all the pretty green frogs coming to the shoreline to sun themselves. I had hoped to see some birds in the cattails but no luck. But we did see several birds along the river’s edge.
I’m guessing, but I think this is a Northern Leopard Frog
Great Blue Heron…love the knobby knees
The next day we headed to Caballo Lake for the day. Now in the past I have said how I hated the Caballo Mountains as they are just hot, dry, and full of plants with thorns. It’s an awful place. Well….I changed my mind once I got my own ATV. I could now explore to my heart’s content without getting stabbed every 5 steps!
I started my day exploring around the shore of the lake. I usually see quite a few birds in the cottonwood trees at the lake shore. I wasn’t dissappointed. On my way to the shore I saw a whole bunch of Yellow-Rumped Warblers. They were so pretty foraging in a field of yellow flowers. I stood very still and eventually they ignored me and I was able to get good close-up photos of them.
Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Here you get a good look at that yellow rump!
Yellow-Rumped Warbler I especially liked this photo as you get the yellow flowers blurred in the background.
After spending a good while enjoying the warblers I made my way to the beach. There I saw lots of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets but couldn’t get any decent photos as they wanted to stay high up in the trees. But I did manage to get a Verdin. These birds are so cute.
While at the lake shore some bushes were blooming that drew in lots of bees and a few butterflies.
Tarantula Hawk Wasp. These guys actually catch tarantulas for their young
I believe this is a blue-winged wasp.
While at the shore I saw a variety of birds including one very shy Red-Naped Sapsucker and a couple of Turkey Vultures eating something that had been dead so long it looked like leather.
Chipping Sparrow in winter plumage
Turkey Vulture…ugly aren’t they?
Scaled Quail…these guys were fast!
I then headed to an arroyo that I enjoy visiting. It has a natural waterfall that flows when it rains. We have had a lot of moisture this year and the waterfall did have a trickle of water running down it. This usually brings in some nice birds. I did see a rock wren and one of my favorite birds, the Black-Throated Sparrow.
I also saw my first American Snout butterfly. It landed on my ATV as if saying “here i am!”
After exploring the natural waterfall area, I started heading back to find my husband and see if he found any gold. I stopped along the way to try and photograph a butterfly that had landed in the road in front of me. I had turned off my ATV so it was quiet. As I was focusing in on that butterfly I heard rocks tumbling down the steep side of the arroyo. I thought maybe it was cows as I see them often on these sloped sides foraging. But I didn’t see any cows. I kept hearing one or two rocks tumbling and I was starting to get creeped out. Then suddenly I saw what was making the rocks move. Big Horn Sheep!!!!!!
I slowly walked toward them so I could get some photos. They were just beautiful! I was so excited to see not only a ram with ewes but a young one too! I took a bunch of photos in hopes of a few good ones. They knew I was there but grazed for awhile. I kept creeping closer and eventually they decided to move on. I will never forget the first time I saw these majestic animals. I wasn’t expecting to see them so it was an amazing surprise!
In this photo you can see how they are easily overlooked. They blend right in to the scenery. One of the ewes had a radio collar on.
Big Horn Sheep – mother with a young one
Big Horn Sheep
Big Horn Sheep Ram – beautiful!
Big Horn Sheep
I couldn’t wait to meet up with my husband to tell him what I saw! And he did find some gold 🙂
Can you see the flake of gold? Personally, I have no idea how he sees those small pieces!
While watching him search for gold I captured a couple more butterflies that day.
Common Checkered Skipper
Orange Skipperling – this guy was super tiny and quick!
On the way back to the hotel that evening we saw some deer foraging in the fields. Always a beautiful sight.
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.
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.
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
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. 🙂
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!
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!
Desert Spider Beetle
Doesn’t this bone look like a human skull?? Made me take a second look when I first saw it! 😐
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.
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. 🙂 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.
I have been searching for Longspurs since the early part of last winter when I heard they were spotted out on the west mesa of Albuquerque. I don’t know how many times I drove all the way out there looking for them without luck.
I recently noticed there have been sightings on Feed Lot Road in Stanley, NM. That’s definitely much closer to home. So I headed out there yesterday morning to see if I could finally spot one.
Unfortuntely…I’m still on the hunt as I didn’t see any. 🙁
But I still had a fun morning birding. Of course, I can’t ever recall a time when I didn’t have fun birding!
I drove down Valley Irrigation Road but it was rather quiet until almost the end of the road where it connects with Dinkle Road. I saw a Loggerhead Shrike and several Meadowlarks.
At the Otto Pond I did see lots of Red-winged Blackbirds. I have tried many times to get a male posturing and singing with no luck. But I finally got a great shot!
I then headed down King Road. I remembered I had made a note to myself last fall to check a large nest in a lone tree among the rolling grass plains. I figured it could be anything from a hawk to an owl to a raven. As I was driving down King Road I saw a White-Crowned Sparrow singing away. I also saw a neat old drilling rig and a pretty horse grazing.
Soon I saw the big nest ahead anxious to see what has taken residence this spring. To my delight it is a pair of Ferruginous Hawks! One of the pair was sitting on eggs while the mate was soaring overhead. The nest isn’t too far from the road and is pretty low to the ground so I was able to get some great pics. Of course, I guess my constant staring with my zoom lens made her (?) nervous so she stood up in the nest. Then decided she needed to fly out and land up in the tree. I figured I had overstayed my welcome so moved on. But I am going to be checking this nest often to hopefully get some pics of the babies.
Throughout the morning I saw lots and lots of Horned Lark. I love their soft singing.
Heading home on Highway 41 I saw a herd of Antelope. I always enjoy seeing them and can never resist photographing them.
And the last bird of the day was a Swainson’s Hawk. A pair of them to be precise. 🙂