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This was not a scheduled stop on our trip but we noticed a sign for the area as we were driving from  Alamogordo to Belen. It was a weekend and there were a fair number of campers in the park. It proved to be a nice break stop along the road. The park showcases an overgrown lava flow. The short nature hike was very informative.

More photos from the Valley of Fire can be found on my website.

 

 

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When we left for our road trip to the southwest we thought we were done with winter. I even thought of taking the snowblower off of the tractor but didn’t have time. Lucky I didn’t. It snowed at least four times while we were gone and last weekend we had a blizzard that lasted from Friday evening until Monday morning. Nothing to do but photograph the birds.

 More photos from Canadian Hill Farm can be found on my website.

Given the weather I was a little surprised when a Song Sparrow turned up at the suet feeder.

Song Sparrow

The wind was blowing about 40 mph and I had problems photographing the goldfinch because the feeder was swinging back and forth. The sparrow was leaning into the wind.

American Goldfinch

House Sparrow

The Northern Cardinals were around in large numbers. The second photo shows one with a bad case of Mange. She was around most of the weekend.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

The Red-breasted Woodpecker was a frequent visitor.

Red-breasted Woodpecker

For some reason I find the female House Sparrow much more photogenic than the male.

House Sparrow

There were a large number of House Finches at the feeder early in the morning before the storm arrived but only one lone female turned up during the storm.

House Finch

Woodpeckers were around the feeder most of the weekend.

Hairy Woodpecker

Red-breasted Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

The most frequent visitors to the feeders were the Dark-eyed Juncos and Black-capped Chickadees. The day before the storm there were hardly any birds at my feeders but they returned in large numbers once the storm started.

Black-capped Chickadee

Dark-eyed Junco

 

 

On the morning of the fourth day of our trip we arrived at White Sands National Monument. We started with a few short hikes but found the short hikes were not that great for photography because folks had walked all over the sand dunes. Finished the The Dune Life Nature Trail before deciding to drive around the park looking for a longer hike.

More photos from White Sands can be found on my website.

We decided we might have better luck taking a longer hike so we decided to hike on the Alkali Flat Trail. This proved to be more interesting and we encountered fewer people and tracks.

We didn’t have time to do the whole trail because we wanted to take in the New Mexico Museum of Space History and we were hiking at high noon. We cut our hike short and headed back to town to visit the museum and check into our hotel. We enjoyed the Museum and my wife is a big Star Trek fan so I couldn’t resist taking her photo in the transporter.

We had an early bite to eat and then headed back out to White Sands. It was starting to cool off a bit. We picked the Backcountry Camping Trail hoping we would not find as many people. We were surprised at the number of backpackers we encountered heading out into the backcountry. This was a nice hike and we were able to find more sand dunes that were undisturbed.

There were a lot of folks out in the park flying kites and sliding down the sand dunes. Fortunately most of them stayed fairly close to the roads.

Surprisingly we did not encounter much wildlife. We managed to find some Roadrunner tracks but no Roadrunner. We also fund a few Darkling Beetles as evening approached.

On the afternoon of the third day we made it to Carlsbad Caverns National Park which was our first scheduled stop on our spring road trip. The previous day I noticed an alert on the sites web page indicating that the elevators were not working. I assumed that it was a temporary thing but when we arrived they were still out of order. As a result we had a 750 foot altitude loss hiking into the Cavern and a 3.75 mile round trip.

More photos from Carlsbad Caverns National Park can be found on my website.

We had problems hiking the first section of the trail because our eyes had trouble adjusting to the dark. When we started down there were quite a few people hiking up. Although the trail is fairly wide and paved it was difficult to avoid running into people when we couldn’t see them or the railings. As we discovered when we exited the trail the people coming up could see us.

We didn’t realize we could walk into the Cavern. The entrance was truly impressive. At night visitors can watch the bats emerge. However, the bats in Carlsbad migrate and they were just starting to return when we were there. On the previous night the ranger had see one bat. My wife was happy that there were no bats in the Cave.

For the most part the hike into the Cavern is not all that spectacular although the Whales Mouth is impressive.

When we reached the bottom of the Cavern it was truly spectacular. At one point we stopped to talk with a ranger. Turns out the elevators are old and they frequently fail. At one point the were out of order for six months. When they fail it is quite a problem because people are stuck in the elevator and there will likely be people who have taken the elevator to the bottom who are really not in condition to hike out. He related one case of a man who was 400 pounds, had two knee replacements and several stints. He did hike to the bottom but then decided he couldn’t get back up. Normally you have to be out of the Cavern by 4 pm. They finally got this person out by 7:30pm.

We spent several hours wandering the trails in the Cavern.

 

 

This spring we embarked on a road trip to the southwest. On the way we didn’t make many stops.  It was really hard to find some compelling landscape photography locations as we traveled through Iowa, Missouri and Kansas on the first leg of the trip. The hawks must have been migrating because we seemed to see one at about every mile marker. Unfortunately one can’t stop while driving of the interstate system. On the second leg of the trip we did stop at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in Kansas. It was just a few mile off of the highway and I like to photograph birds. There were a lot of Coots in the Area.

There were several large flocks of American White Pelicans in the area but most of them were too far away to photograph.

There were also quite a few Northern Shovelers on the flowage.

When we left on the trip the Red-winged Blackbirds had not returned yet but we found quite a few of them around.

Blue-winged Teals and Northern Shovelers were hanging out together.

I thought we would find more shorebirds around but we only saw Yellowlegs in a couple of places.

At the end of the second day we ended up in Amarillo Texas. Not much to see in Amarillo but we did stop at the Big Texan Steak House. It looked like a Wall wannabee. We ordered the special of the day and decided to split the order. My wife likes her steak well done and I like mine a little on the rare side so we ended up selecting medium. When it came the cow was still kicking which was fine with me but my wife sent her half back twice before it ended up well done. By the third trip to the kitchen it was like shoe leather. I liked the visit she didn’t.

When we arrived at out hotel in Amarillo we were surprised to find a large number of Chinese. Turns out they were installing windmills in Texas. Seems our government is so busy pushing coal technology they are leaving the technology of the future to the Chinese.

I happened to be watching my bird feeders when a Northern Flicker appeared at the suet feeder. This the first time I’ve seen a Northern Flicker on the farm. She spent most of her time hiding on the other sided of the feeder.

Skiing is done for the season and the barriers have been removed from the trial head so it is now OK to hike on the trail. We walked down South from Irivington.  It was a beautiful day. We saw Sandhill Cranes, Wild Turkeys, a Pheasant, Deer and Robins. The trail is still mostly covered in packed snow from the grooming although there are starting to be some bare spots. Once the snow is gone the trail will likely be muddy during the day. typically it hardens up overnight and then gradually softens up during the day making walking difficult.

This a shot of grass floating in the spring melt water.

 

The leaves are melting into the snow.

There is still ice on some of the spring melt .

Last years cattails can still be found along the trail.

 

 

Last week we went out skiing early in the morning several times. It was our last ski trips of the season. By noon it was way to warm to be skiing. We noticed this nest in the trees above the trail.

 

The Canada Geese were out enjoying the spring like weather.

The ice wall was still standing but quickly disappearing. We checked both of the Bald Eagle nests near the ice wall and neither on had nesting eagles.

It was a beautiful day on the trail.

I’ve wrapped up my winter bird photography. These are a few of my last shots.

Blue Jay

Hairy Woodpecker

House Sparrow

Black-capped Chickadee

White-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Woodpecker

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Pileated Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco

American Goldfinch

 

Bond Falls is know as a great place to photograph in the fall and is known for its iconic Z which is photographed with fall color reflections. However it also a great place to photograph in the winter because is always has open water flowing. It is located just below a dam so the falls area never completely freezes.

Bond Falls