Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, part 2

There was an abundance of bluebirds on the refuge - I think they were Western bluebirds. Here are a few photos of some. The second photo is a Loggerhead Shrike. There were a couple of them we saw there on the refuge in the same area as the bluebirds.

And here is another view of the southern Rocky Mountains in south central Colorado, the Sangre de Cristo range. That is Lake McAlister in the foreground.
A pair of bald eagles hanging around Crane Lake on the refuge. There was an abundance of waterfowl around these birds, namely Sandhill cranes, snow geese, and plenty of ducks, mostly mallards. The eagles had their choice of fare.
And here are the snow geese in flight over Crane Lake.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

After our Mountain Birding Tour it was time to leave Socorro, New Mexico and head north. We drove to Albuquerque planning to eat lunch at one of our favorite restaurants before heading farther north (and east) to Las Vegas, New Mexico. When we arrived at the location of one of our favorite restaurants we found that Pereas wasn't there. Instead, it had a new name, Seferinos - located on Central and Alvarado. While waiting to be seated we found that the restaurant is run by the same family - known for some of the best true New Mexican fare. My husband had one of his favorite dishes, Carne Adovado, and I had a beef taco plate. We also ordered a couple of sopapillas. After lunch we headed north to Las Vegas, NM, about 60 miles east of Santa Fe. Once we arrived in Las Vegas we felt we should locate a motel before heading over to the refuge. As we exited from I-25 we saw what looked like a brand new, just opened Holiday Inn Express. We found out that it had just recently opened - they had only been opened for two weeks. I can't imagine a motel/hotel having a grand opening in a small (out of the way) town in early November (unless they are anticipating a lot of holiday traffic). We managed to get a suite for the night for only $85. It sure was luxurious. It had a flat panel TV and a king-size bed, with a fridge, microwave and a bar sink. We then headed over to the Wildlife Refuge to see if we could see any cranes flying in for the night. By now it was getting close to sundown. We did see some cranes flying in as well as snow geese. Most ducks and Canada geese had already arrived earlier. Below is what I attempted to capture of a virga in the clouds. And the second photo is the sunset we saw while driving through the refuge. That is Lake McAlister in the sunset photo, which is the largest lake on the refuge.

We headed back out to the refuge around 10 a.m (Mon, Nov 19). Below is a flock of Canada geese we saw while driving around.
We also saw many ravens throughout the refuge, in the fields and perched in trees.
And then we saw sandhill cranes in several fields. Here are a few photos of what we saw.
Notice ravens perched in the trees in the distance.

Here we found a red-tailed hawk surveying his territory.
This is a view of the Sangre de Cristo range, part of the Rocky Mountains, in south central Colorado from the refuge.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge. The next post I will provide more photos of other birds we saw.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Bosque del Apache and Water Canyon

On Saturday, Nov 17th, the Festival of the Cranes was in full force with many exhibits, including art exhibits all around. Several educational animals were also available, mostly birds, but there was also a captive wolf which I did not get a photo of. Here are just a couple of shots of a hawk. Aren't they beautiful? Just look at those feathers, especially on the second photo.

Great horned owl

American Coot on the Refuge admiring his reflection

Below, an alligator juniper tree in Water Canyon.

Here is a close-up view of the bark. You can see why it is called "alligator" juniper.

The Mountain Birding Tour was led by Mary Alice Root, Bill Thompson and Julie Zickefoose. On the way to Water Canyon we saw a herd of pronghorn antelope grazing in the field. I haven't seen any pronghorn for many years, so I really enjoyed seeing them out "on the range." Also, before getting to Water Canyon, the group stopped where there was a huge rock wall (in the distance). We stopped to look for a great horned owl that was spotted the day before. The owl was still there; and it was also noted that there was a honeybee hive attached to the cliff wall. Once we got to Water Canyon, we saw a cliff chipmunk and a young rock squirrel (identified by JZ). They sure were cute to watch. The birds we saw were: bushtits, juncos, a ruby-crowned kinglet, white-breasted nuthatches, bluebirds, a couple of Stellar's jays, acorn woodpecker, red-naped sapsucker, and a Williamson's sapsucker. Many of these were lifers for me, and you can read more about these birds and the Water Canyon trip in Julie Zickefoose's and Bill of the Birds blogs. You'll also see photos of many of the birds that I did not get. Most of the birds were in areas that were too dark and/or too far for me to get any decent photos; so I didn't bother. While heading back to the cars I took this photo of a few birders - namely, my husband, Liam (JZ's and BT's son), and Linda (who we had carpooled with).

Below is the photo of the great-horned owl that was found perched in the cliff wall. We took this shot on our way out of the canyon since the lighting was better than when we first saw it on the way up to Water Canyon.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Raptors on the Refuge

This year it seemed we saw many more raptors than we did previous years. There were Red-tailed hawks and Northern Harriers just about everywhere. Of course, if you would have seen all the waterfowl you would certainly understand why so many winged predators were present.

These two photos are of the same bird, but they were the best shots I could get of the Aplomado falcon, found on the Farm Loop of the Bosque del Apache NWR. This bird has not been seen in this area for many years. It is now being re-introduced by being raised on the Armendaris Ranch, owned by Ted Turner and managed by Tom Waddell. These birds may have been "raised" on the ranch south of the Refuge, but two of these falcons were recently seen on the Refuge which would mean they had been released into the wild. The two falcons found on the Refuge were noted as one adult female and one juvenile (possibly male). And I'm thinking this may be a juvenile male, but I'm not positive.

A great explanation of this program and much better photos of the Aplomado falcon can be found on another blog called Wildbirds Broadcasting. Click on the link and read more about these fascinating birds.

And here is a red-tailed hawk also found on the Farm Loop of the Bosque.

All of these photos were taken on Friday, November 17th, while we were touring the Refuge.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cranes, cranes, cranes of the Sandhill kind

All of the following photos were taken on the same day - Saturday, Nov 17th, at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. As you can probably tell from the pictures, skies were clear and the weather was beautiful.

Below are Sandhill cranes flying in for the evening.

More cranes flying in.

And our sunset for the evening.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Socorro, New Mexico

Late Friday afternoon and early evening, the city of Socorro hosted an open house to their historic plaza area. One of the places we toured during the open house was San Miguel Mission church. This church is still active and holds masses everyday. Below is a shot of the front of the church. Within the walls is a courtyard. See the second photo.
Yes, you see a couple of headstones here in the courtyard. When the church was rebuilt remains were found in this area. And it was decided to leave the buried dead where they were and dedicate the courtyard in their memory.
This next photo is a shot of the sanctuary from the church entrance. The adobe walls are five feet thick. Now that's what I call good insulation!
Below is the statue of the Sacred Heart - placed to the right of the altar. We were told that the artistic design had possibly a French influence due to one of the pastors in charge during its past history.
Here is one of the stained glass windows. Take note of the depth of its placement. I think it was about 2-1/2 feet deep.
I would have shown you a picture of the choir loft, but my photo was too dark to really see and appreciate its beauty. You can see just a smidge of the choir loft in this pic, but I was trying to get a shot of the woodwork, especially the corbel. Most of the wood in the church was still the original wood. Only a few pieces, due to rot or other damage have been replaced. But it is difficult to tell which pieces are original and which are recent.
This next photo is a mural of the coffeehouse on the plaza of historic Socorro.
And below is one of the street signs right in the center of the plaza.
I attempted to get a picture of the sun setting while we were walking around the plaza. This was the best I could do.
After the tour of the San Miguel Mission Dave and I walked over to the "Spirits Tent" where the locals and visitors were invited to sample some wine and beer while enjoying some of the local music provided. The wine and beer was provided by local wineries and breweries. Bottles were sold to those who desired to make purchases. We were also given a couple of commemorative glasses of the 20th anniversary of the Festival of the Cranes. Dave got a beer glass, and I got a wine glass - nice souvenirs.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Festival of the Cranes, Friday, Nov 16, 2007

All of Friday was spent in the town of Socorro. All three presentations were held at the Macey Center of New Mexico Tech. Our first event was "Birds of New Mexico" presented by Mary Alice Root, former president of the New Mexico Ornithologists' Society. Mary Alice's presentation was very good; she is so knowledgeable about birds as well as where one can find specific birds and the seasons when the birds can be located. Mary Alice was also one of the tour leaders for the Mountain Birding Tour that was also led by Julie Zickefoose and Bill Thompson. When the event was over, we had about half an hour before the next event began. So I went downstairs to take a couple of pictures of some artwork I think was done by some NM Tech students that I found so fascinating. These two pieces of artwork were in glass cases, so I tried to eliminate the glare by taking the pix without a flash. These art pieces were created with several different types of fabric. Everything you see (including the banjo) were all made from fabric. Click on the photos to get a larger view.

The next event was called "The Night Shift." It was presented by Matt Mitchell, a local resident (living in San Antonio, New Mexico), who is a falconer and wildlife rehabilitator. Matt's talk was specifically focused on owls of New Mexico; and he brought along some friends who are used for educational purposes - a saw-whet, burrowing, great horned, and a barn owl. This was another very informative presentation and enjoyed by all who attended. Afterwards we had time in between again. So this time I went outside to see what I could find. First of all, so many of the cottonwood trees both here on the campus and at the Rufuge were so brilliant, but I kept forgetting to get a photo or two of the best and most brilliant ones. So here is at least one photo which really doesn't do justice for the vibrancy or intensity of the yellow on the trees. In the past when we have attended the Festival, all of the trees were bare. But this year the area has experienced an autumn that has been quite mild in temps. So it was rewarding to be able to see the fall foliage this year at its peak.

As I walked around the campus I came across a children's playground. I guess there is child care for those students who need it. Anyway, I stood around watching some activity going on in the bushes behind the playground equipment. Birds were flitting in and out and all around. I had to keep my distance because when I would try to approach the birds to better identify them they would fly back into the bushes. I'm glad I had my binocs handy along with my camera. While looking at the birds through my binoculars I finally realized they must be juncos. These juncos looked a little different from the ones I see in my back yard at home. They seemed to be a little bigger and more colorful, rosier on their sides and more chestnut on their backs. You can click on the photo to see a closer view of them. They sure were cute to watch.


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