Sunday, December 13, 2009

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

Our first Festival of the Cranes event took place away from the Bosque del Apache. After picking up our luggage at the Sunport International Airport in Albuquerque we drove south to Truth or Consequences. We stayed there overnight so we could arrive at Marina del Sur at Elephant Butte Lake State Park the next morning by 8:30. The first half of our 5-hour event was to enjoy the birds and landscape on the lake via a houseboat. Our leaders were Steve Green and Tamie Bulow from the American Birding Association. Steve was our houseboat pilot, and Tamie was the hostess who pointed out the various birds around the lake. Grebes (both western and clark's) were probably the most numerous we saw on the lake, but to get a decent photo of them was most challenging. This event proved to be quite chilly, especially on the lake. I dressed in layers, but I was still cold, and spent a lot of my time in the back of the houseboat where the wind was not whipping around me. This event was still lots of fun; it was limited to 14 people. I love small groups; you get to associate with fellow birders on a more intimate level. And this was one event that constantly provided lots of food! While on the houseboat we were given all kinds of pastries and locally grown produce along with plenty of coffee/hot cocoa. Elephant Butte is located near Truth or Consequences -- about 65 miles south of the Bosque del Apache.

To get a better view of the photos you can click on them to enlarge them. This was a place where we saw several double-crested cormorants, and one lone white pelican in the midst of them.
This particular "island" is called Rattlesnake Hill. Steve, while piloting the boat, explained how it was named, but I missed a lot of what he said.
Elephant Butte Lake is the largest and most popular recreation spot in New Mexico. Historically speaking, a dam was constructed (which created the lake) here in 1916 in order to provide irrigation and flood control of the Rio Grande River. Much of the landscape is the result of an ancient non-active volcano.
Here is another photo of the landscape which includes Tami's back. She was looking at and identifying a number of water birds in and around the lake.
Here is the area where white pelicans were spotted.

There is an island on the lake that has goats living on it. This photo shows two goats we saw. Kind of cute -- one white and one black.
And here are a couple shots of the "ram." Look at those horns; what a handsome looking animal. How cool is that?

When we got back to Marina del Sur we enjoyed a delicious box lunch before heading out on land to observe other types of birds. I don't have any photos of our afternoon outing which was walking a trail around a riparian area on the other side of the dam. The few photos I took are not worth posting -- they came out too dark and far away. We saw a lone great blue heron. Another large bird we saw was an osprey. Other smaller birds were the more common birds one would see in a drier climate, such as sparrows, finches and titmice.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Mexico vacation


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This year the annual Festival of the Cranes held at Bosque del Apache was November 17-22. My husband, Dave, and I flew from San Jose into Albuquerque on Monday, Nov 16. We arrived shortly after 11 a.m., but our baggage "missed the flight." It was a good thing that we had a few hours to spare; we had a long drive ahead of us to get to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. So after filling out a missing baggage report we picked up our rental car and headed over to the Rio Grande Nature Center to see some wildlife, mostly birds, and wait for the airlines to call us about our bags. We were there less than an hour when we got the call, and so we headed back to the airport to pick up our luggage. Meanwhile, here are some photos of what we saw at the Nature Center.

As it is most everywhere else in the country and Canada there is an abundance of Canada Geese.

And there seems to be an abundance of mallards, too.
On the path/trail to the visitor center there is a bird feeder where many passerines catch a bite to eat, including Mourning Doves.
There are several white-winged doves that visit the feeder, too. At quick glance they look like mourning doves, but the white edging on their wings catches our attention. Then if you look closer you can tell the color of their eyes are different -- they have red eyes. And an even closer look you can see the dove has a dark malar spot and lacks the black spots on its back.

My next post will be Elephant Butte Lake State Park. That was our first event we attended for the Festival of the Cranes.


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