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Monthly Archives: April 2018

After leaving Acoma Pueblo we drove on to El Malpais National Monument. We stopped at the visitors center which was some distance from the park. In talking with the ranger we mentioned that our next stop on the trip was going to be El Morro National Monument. The ranger mentioned that the trails at El Morro closed at 4pm. Given that we wanted to do some hiking at El Morro we decided to make just a brief stop at El Malpais. We decided to drive out to La Ventana Natural Arch and look around before heading back out of the park for El Morro. In retrospect it was a waste of time to drove out to La Ventana Natural Arch. While it was nice we spent several days hiking to arches on our last trip to the southwest so the 40 mile drive really wasn’t worth it.

This is a panorama shot on the ridge opposite the arch.

 

On the way out we passed this watering hole and a panorama shot of the vast lava fields.

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After last weekends blizzard things finally started to warm up so my wife and I drove out to Hoffman Hills looking for birds. When we arrived we found the water in the prairie ponds was the highest we have seen it. It was flowing over the pond banks in several places. The first pond we approached was still mostly frozen. Several ducks flew as we approached the pond. I think they were Blue-winged Teals. We noticed a Hooded Merganser across the pond.

The Pussy Willows are starting to bloom although they were further ahead in the Gilbert Creek area.

As we approached the second pond we noticed a pair of Belted Kingfishers. I was able to get a shot of one through the trees before it flew. They seem to be very shy.

As we returned to the first pond all heck broke loose. Two Canada Gee

se were in the pond and a third flew in causing quite a ruckus. One of the initial pair chased the third goose into another small pond and then chased it away entirely. Then the two geese few to another area.

We started tracking the pair of Belted Kingfishers before they finally both flew away. About that time we heard some Sandhill Cranes fly into the area and another pair fly in from a different direction. They were all calling at once.

After things quieted down we noticed what appeared to be a third Belted Kingfisher sitting on a dead birch tree. It was fishing in a small pond of open water. We watched it fish for about an hour. It dove off his perch about a half dozen times three times hitting the water. Finally it caught something. Since the ice was just off the pond there didn’t seem to be a lot of things to eat.

It was a very productive visit.

We were on the road fairly early in the morning because we had a long day. It happened to be Easter Sunday so we hoped that all of the places we wanted to visit were open. Our first stop was Acoma Pueblo. As we approached the city we could see the butte that was a previous home of the tribe.

More photos from Acoma Pueblo can be found on my website.

When we reached the visitors center it was closed. There were no hours posted so we hoped that it would open at 9 am. In the mean time we took a short drive around the surrounding countryside. There were cattle grazing among the beautiful rock formations.

We drove back to the parking lot and noticed several cars drive into the employee parking lot so we were encouraged that the Visitors center would soon open. It did and we purchased tickets for the tour. A bus takes visitors to  the top of the butte. On the ride up I noticed quite a few interesting photo opportunities.

This is the church at Acoma Pueblo.

We spent several hours wandering around the Pueblo listening to the guide and taking photos.

 

This is one of the ladders used to reach the top of the Pueblo. It was used in religious ceremonies.

This is an oven. It is filled with wood which is burned to heat the oven then the ashes are removed. Bread is then placed in the oven for baking and the opening sealed to keep in the heat.

In the past this was one of the rain catch basins on the butte which was a source of water for the inhabitants.

As you can see from the following shots the Pueblo is far above the valley floor.

 

As we walked through town I took photos of various architectural features on the buildings.

When we were ready to leave we had a choice of taking the bus back down or walking down the original access path. We planned on taking the bus down because my wife doesn’t like heights but on the way up I notice some interesting photo opportunities so I suggested we should walk down. It was quite the experience using handhold from ancient times.

 

At the bottom the fruit trees were in bloom.

There were a number of old corrals next to the rock faces. The Sky City Cultural Center was very impressive.

 

In the last week the following spring birds have returned to the Farm.

Song Sparrow

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Chipping Sparrow

Tree Swallow

Eastern Bluebird

 

 

On April 22 I put out my Eastern Bluebird houses for the year and the following day I had bluebirds checking them out.

Eastern Bluebird male

This weekend was the annual Midwest Sandhill Crane Count. Actually it was scheduled for April 14th but we were in the middle of a three day blizzard so the count was postponed one week. This year my wife agreed to go with me as long as I took her to breakfast afterword. We were up before sunrise and headed to my designated area which happened to be Gilbert Creek. The area is surrounded by roads so I typically drive around stopping along the way to listen and watch. We had already gone around once without seeing anything but things picked up just after sunrise. We noticed a pair of cranes in a backwater area. We watched them for a while before I heard several cranes calling some distance away. As we drove past a pond we noticed a second pair of cranes in the pond. I photographed them before continuing on to where I heard the cranes calling. There was a third pair at that location. In all we saw six cranes. This is the most I have counted during the years I’ve been counting.

There were also some Wood Ducks in the pond.

A pair of Pied-billed Grebes were also swimming around.

Lots of Red-winged Blackbirds were singing.

There was also a Muskrat swimming in the pond.

There were a bunch of American Coots in the pond.

I was surprised to find a number of Canada Geese on the nests considering we were a week away form a three day blizzard.

This was one of the best count days I’ve had over the years.

One of the items on my bucket list was to visit the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. It is world renowned for its late fall and winter birds. I knew there would not be a lot of birds around but since we were driving by I wanted to stop and look around. I had hoped that there would be quite a few shore birds around by I was disappointed to find few birds. It is a place I would love to visit again when the birds are around.

There were a few ducks in the flowages.

Cinnamon Teal

Northern Shoveler

As we drove along the road we spotted a number of softshell turtles sunning themselves along the bank.

Spiny Softshell Turtle

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.

 

 

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.