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.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Festival of the Cranes, Thursday, Nov 15, 2007

As mentioned in a previous post, our first event for Thursday was the Raptors presentation held at the Refuge. This was a Power Point slide presentation along with several live education birds. These birds have been brought to The Wildlife Center for rehabilitation and it had been found that they could not be released back into the wild. So they are used for educational purposes. It was so exciting to see so many raptors "up close and personal." After the presentation and showing of the captive birds, along with time for questions and answers, we were then grouped to go over to the Refuge's observation decks. This is the field trip where Jeff Bouton and Julie Zickefoose accompanied the group and added so much more to the day's event. This is also where the Peregrine Falcon was released, and where Jeff Bouton found a Harlan's red-tailed hawk flying over us.

This event went from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Our next event we had signed up for was for 1:30 p.m. at the Macey Center (another 20-25 minutes away). So we hustled to get to our next event which was about Cave Swallows. It was presented by Steve West who is a cave swallow bird bander, and does much of his banding at Carlsbad Caverns. My husband and I were there to watch the bats at Carlsbad about ten years ago. That's another exciting thing to watch how the bats exit the caves enmasse. After the presentation we went over to the pond behind the Macey Center to see what birds (mostly ducks, etc) were there. Here are a few photos of what I saw there. So many of these species of ducks seem to interbreed, thus many strange looking hybrid mallards.

These are one of my favorites - the American Wigeon. They actually sound more like a passerine than a duck. I enjoy hearing and listening to them.

The photo above shows a female mallard behind a ?domestic goose?

Here is a male mallard.

And a female mallard.

And maybe someone can identify this bird. My husband and I think it is a "domesticated" type of goose. Is it? There are so many of these guys waddling or swimming around the pond.

And is this also a goose? Or is it some form of duck? A white form of a mallard? A hybrid duck/goose?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Festival of the Cranes, Wed, Nov 14, 2007

My husband, Dave, and I flew into Albuquerque on Tuesday. We arrived around 5 p.m. and after picking up our rental car enjoyed the beautiful sunset while finding a good place to eat dinner. When we used to live in ABQ, we had some favorite restaurants we visited. One of our favorites is located across the street from the University of New Mexico. The restaurant is called Frontier Restaurant and they are well known for their famous green chile stew. I ordered a Frontier Burrito which included green chili, beef, beans and lots of cheese. Yum!

After dinner we headed for Socorro, about 75 miles south of ABQ and checked into our motel. We wanted to be in town for the first event we signed up for that would begin at 9 a.m., Wednesday, at the Wildlife Refuge, which is another 20 minutes south of Socorro. Our first presentation was by Tom Waddell, the ranch manager for Armendaris Ranch. This ranch is owned by Ted Turner, and is located south of the Bosque del Apache NWR and runs all the way down to Truth or Consequences, a total of 600 square miles. The ranch is known for raising bison, but also raises other animals on the ranch through study programs. Those animals are oryx, pronghorn antelope, bats, and Aplomado falcons.

When the presentation was over (around 11 a.m.), Dave and I figured we would look for a place to eat lunch. Rather than head to Socorro, we decided on getting lunch at the "original" Owl Cafe in San Antonio, New Mexico, the birthplace of Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels). This town is about 9 or 10 miles north of the Wildlife Refuge. The Owl Cafe is renowned for its world famous green chile cheeseburgers, which is what we enjoyed. Below are a couple of photos I took of the Owl Cafe. And take note of the beautiful blue sky! Weather was gorgeous - blue sky, no wind, and about 70 degrees in the middle of the day.

After lunch, we drove north to Socorro to attend our next lecture/presentation. All lectures or presentations are held either at the Refuge or at New Mexico Tech's Macey Center, in Socorro. This lecture was called "Mapping the Rio." We saw a filmed documentary on the Rio Grande River and its possibility of being endangered. The lecture part was more of a round table geared toward preservation of the river and what individuals or groups are doing to preserve this precious resource.

Later, Tuesday evening we had dinner at the Garcia Opera House and were treated to a comedy called "The Foreigner" (by Larry Shue) presented by the Socorro Community Theater.

Friday, November 23, 2007

All About Raptors class and field trip

One of the events we chose to attend at the Festival of the Cranes, at Bosque del Apache, was the lecture and field trip called "All About Raptors," held on Thursday morning (Nov 15). Two raptor handlers gave the attendees a plethora of information regarding all types of raptors. They even brought many birds they use for education purposes, such as a red-tailed hawk and a great horned owl. These women were from The Wildlife Center located in Espanola, New Mexico, which is about 25-30 miles north of Santa Fe. Once we took to the "field" which was on the Wildlife Refuge, we got to see the release of a peregrine falcon. There were some extra "guests" who accompanied this group of attendees, namely Jeff Bouton (Leica Birding Blog) and Julie Zickefoose. Here is a link to a very short video I took of the release of the peregrine falcon. While also in the "field," Jeff Bouton spotted a "different" type of red-tailed hawk, a Harlan's red-tailed hawk. He was so good at describing the differences in the morph and coloring. If anyone should ever have the opportunity to go birding with this expert, please don't miss out on it, especially if you want to learn more than one can absorb in a day.

** Just a note to let you know that Blogger is giving me trouble today with uploading this 14 second (3 MB) video - so that is why there is a link rather than the Blogger video I tried to upload. I'll try to upload the video itself when Blogger decides to cooperate. ;o)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm home!

We just got back from our trip to New Mexico earlier this afternoon. Great weather, great food, and great experiences! I took over 150 pictures and will have to sort through them, but I will eventually get some of them posted.

I mentioned in my last post about the reading material I took with me. I finished James Michener's "Chesapeake." And I am already half-way through Kenn Kaufman's "Kingbird Highway." I will also post on these two books soon.

Meanwhile, I did not have any time while in Socorro to check all the blogs I subscribe to; I only had 1/2 an hour to check email and blogs Sunday morning before heading for the Las Vegas NWR (Las Vegas, New Mexico). And then I took the time (about an hour) to check blogs and email again once we arrived in Albuquerque yesterday afternoon. But I was overwhelmed with the amount of email, and over 200 blog posts to catch up on. Whew!

If I don't get something posted in the next day or two, I want to take this opportunity to wish all of my blogging buddies a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Getting Ready

Wow! I can't believe it's been more than a week since I last posted. By the way, for those who are still curious about mama lynx spider and her babies, they are doing well. Babies are still hanging around. We had rain Saturday night, but Sunday morning we found mama and her babies had taken refuge under a leaf of their resident rose bush. I haven't posted a picture of them since last Sunday because they don't seem any bigger now than last weekend. I'm fairly certain they will look bigger when I return from my trip.

Trip? Yes, this is my trip I've looked forward to since early summer. This is the Festival of the Cranes in Socorro, New Mexico. I am so hyped up about going, you'd think this was my first time attending. But, I get more excited about this birding event every year. Last year, Julie Zickfoose was the keynote speaker. This year Julie and Bill return and will be leading a couple of birding tours. Both tours are the same; one on Saturday morning, and the other on Sunday morning. It's called "Mountain Birding Tour." It will be a 1-2 mile walk/hike at 7,000 feet elevation. We should be able to see woodpeckers, jays, bluebirds, nuthatches, etc. Here is the cover for this year's event.

And for reading material, I've decided to bring along Kenn Kaufman's book, Kingbird Highway. I really liked Delia's recent book review (beginning to bird), and decided to buy the book to take along on my trip.

Another book I started to read when I flew back east earlier this summer, and haven't finished reading it yet, is Chesapeake by James Michener. I really want to finish this one before starting the Kingbird Highway. Hopefully, I will have time in the evenings to read. I should at least be able to read on the plane and in the airports.

Some of the other programs/workshops happening during the festival that my husband and I signed up for and are looking forward to attending: All About Raptors, Cave Swallows, Birds of New Mexico, Raptors on the Rio, Hummingbirds. This is not a complete/comprehensive list, but just the ones that highlight birding events. There will be plenty more to see and do. And hopefully, I will have Internet access so I can keep up with reading everyone's posts.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Lynx Spider update

These little critters are growing fast! These pix give a better view of their legs. Remember, yesterday, all we saw was their bodies. But today you can see their legs. Yes, they are dispersing. Mama will be all alone before too long. Be sure to click on the photos to get a larger view.

For those of you who are fascinated with these critters, please visit Red's blog. She posted a few macro shots to give a closer view of the baby spiders.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

It has finally happened!

I pretty much gave up that "mama" lynx spider's egg sac would produce a bunch of spiderlings. But it finally happened. Red and I saw an inkling of what probably started sometime yesterday. And then we checked again this morning; and lo and behold! There were hundreds of teeny-tiny little "specks" all over the sac. I first became suspicious of something happening Thursday afternoon, because I saw two small holes on the top portion of the sac. But my thought was that the sac was deteriorating and if anything was inside the sac it was probably dead. But I was so wrong, and I'm glad I was. Here are a few photos and a video (not the best quality - sorry about that). You have to look really close; anything that looks like a "speck" is a little lynx spiderling. Please click on the photos to see a larger close-up.


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