October 31, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

Sunrise Sandhill Flight
Sunrise Sandhill Flight

Lone Rock, Utah to Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

One week ago today, I awoke early at Lone Rock and hit the road just as the sun was coming up. Ended up being a long day on the road as I fought tire problems all day long and logged the 400+ miles to San Felipe, New Mexico. Back down Route 89 through Page, then picked up Route 98 east and before I had travelled more than 50 miles my tire monitoring system alerted me to a low pressure warning for my passenger side outside dually.

Found a place to pull off the highway and removed the valve extender for that tire, dragged out the compressor and reinflated the tire. That took care of that problem, but another 50 miles and the monitoring system alarm sounded again, this time for one of the tow dolly tires. Not wanting to take the Prius off the tow dolly so I could change the tire, I got the compressor out again and reinflated the tire, hoping that it was just a slow leak and I could get to my overnight destination without having to change the tire. I continued east on 98 then Route 160, then Route 64 into New Mexico, all fairly decent 2 lane roads with some rough sections and with very little traffic. Route 64 took me to Route 550 east ( actually goes south ) and that road took me down to I-25 at Bernalilo, where I headed a few miles north to the San Felipe Casino to overnight.

I had to stop and reinflate the tow dolly tire two more times, making a long day on the road seem even longer. Fortunately,  Route 550 is a 4 lane highway, with no hills and I was able to make up for lost time on this long stretch of road.

The San Felipe Casino camping area is a flat gravel lot with pull throughs and 50 amp electric hookups, no water at the campsite though there is water at the on site dump station. There were only two others camped there the two nights I spent there and there is a fair bit of noise from the Travel Center just across the road.

Hal Burns in Santa Fe for a Brake Job

I have needed to have the rear brakes on the motorhome looked at since late this summer in the Rockies and hoped to be able to make them last until I could get to Hal Burns in Santa Fe, where I have had major work done twice in the past. They were able to get me in on Wednesday and figured they would have me done the same day. I knew better than to think that would actually be the case and sure enough, it wasn’t, so I did spend one night at the luxurious Hal Burns RV Resort.

They do let you stay in your rig in their yard overnight and even will give you an electric hookup if one is available. It’s brightly lit, it’s noisy, and the atmosphere is lacking a little, but it’s free! Next day, they had me finished up around 3 PM and I was back on the road with fully functioning brakes again.

Only had to cover 150 miles to Bosque del Apache and made it to the Birdwatcher’s RV Park around 6 PM and got myself checked in and set up. This is a very basic campground with flat sites on gravel, essentially a large parking lot, with several pull throughs, with full hookups. The attraction here is the close proximity to the refuge and the price. I plan on staying a month or perhaps even more so I was charged the monthly rate of $350, or around $11 a day for a full hookup site, hard to beat.

First Trip Into Bosque

Pintails and Mallard
Pintails and Mallard

Since it was still light after getting set up, I zipped down the road a couple miles into Bosque del Apache NWR and instantly came across a rare sighting, for me at least. In a narrow stretch of water on the side of the road were about a hundred Pintail and Mallard ducks …

Stalking Bobcat
Stalking Bobcat

… and about 20 yards from them was this bobcat, crawling on it’s belly through the short field grasses cover towards the ducks! Even though I have been doing this wildlife thing for a long time, this was the first time I have ever had a close shot at a bobcat, and it looked like there was going to be some neat action as he continued slowly advancing on the ducks.

Bobcat
Scared Off

Unfortunately, a woman driving a pickup camper saw me parked on the shoulder of the road with a long camera lens showing out the window, so she came flying up in a cloud of dust to see what I was shooting. When she jumped out to get closer, of course, that was it for the bobcat and he bolted across the field to cover.

And Then Another Rarity!

Leucistic Sandhill Crane
Leucistic Sandhill Crane

It was getting dark when I spied something odd out on a burned section of the refuge. I could  make out a couple sandhill cranes working their way through the recently burned area, but, from a distance at least, I could have sworn that one of the cranes looked like a Whooping Crane, and I didn’t think they were ever found here. The shot above is a low quality image ( shot with my 600mm lens from a great distance in very low light ) of what turned out to be a leucistic Sandhill Crane, the first I have ever seen. The rangers here tell me this is his third year showing up here, so I hope I may encounter him again under better conditions during my stay here.

First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese
First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese

A Bit Early for Many Birds Here at Bosque del Apache

First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese
First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese

The last couple days I have been going into the refugee early each day to check on new arrivals. These snow geese are the first I have seen here this year, and while there are sandhills here, there certainly are not anything like the numbers that should show up in a few more weeks.

Sandhills Greeting the First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese
Sandhills Greeting the First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese

I knew I was going to be a little early arriving here before the start of November, but as a full timer, I am able to just sit back and relax and wait until the birds arrive in numbers, usually around the middle of the month. In the meantime, I have the place pretty much all to myself, nice not to battle crowds or traffic and driving the loop road through the refuge at sunrise each day, without traffic, is a wonderfully peaceful experience, whether you see any wildlife or not.

Pre-dawn Takeoff
Pre-dawn Takeoff

And each day, there are a few more birds arriving, and it’s kind of fun to see the numbers grow, and watch the fields being flooded and the refuge staff out cutting roadside vegetation to provide birders with views of the distant fields.

Pre-dawn Takeoff
Pre-dawn Takeoff

The first morning I went down the highway to the refuge there were absolutely no cranes on the ponds along the highway, the second day, I stopped and counted maybe 20, wading on the distant shore waiting for sunrise to takeoff and head out to feed. The two shots above were taken this morning just before sunrise, when some of the more than 100 cranes around the ponds were taking flight.

I can’t wait for tomorrow!

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February 3, 2015 Yuma, Arizona

Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails

Motorhome Service Day and a Trip to Cibola NWR

Appointment at Fisher Chevy in Yuma for drive belt replacement, front brake job, transmission flush, rear differential service, power steering flush, air and gas filter replacement, plus a few other minor items, all preventative measures for my Alaska trip this summer. With the solar upgrade, the jack replacement and frig and generator work yesterday, and today’s major expenditure, I feel like I am hemorrhaging cash, but it all did have to be done, and I am living in an eleven year old motorhome and maintenance expense is to be expected. But boy, does this hurt.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

The gathering
The gathering

Cibola NWR

Since I knew I was going to have to find a way to kill at least 8 hours while my home was being worked on, I had decided earlier to head up to Cibola NWR and check the place out. So, I backtracked to Ogilby Road and headed north to Route 78 East hoping to find a some signs directing me to the refuge. This refuge is indicated on Google Maps, but nowhere does it show the refuge headquarters or Visitors Center. The Refuges own web page map doesn’t show anything either. So I drove up Route 78 all the way to I-10, checking out a couple of dirt roads off of 78 to see if I could luck into finding the refuge, but no such luck. Only after turning around at I-10 and retracing my steps south on Route 78, did I encounter a sign for the refuge. Just one sign, and visible only if traveling south ( west ) on 78, nothing if coming from the other direction.

Without a doubt, one of the hardest NWR to find. But I certainly was glad I persisted, because it was well worth the trouble finding.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

I finally got some shots of a burrowing owl,

Northern Harrier male, the " Grey Ghost "
Northern Harrier male, the ” Grey Ghost “
Northern Harrier male, the " Grey Ghost "
Northern Harrier male, the ” Grey Ghost “

I almost got some useable shots of one of my greatest nemesis, the “ grey ghost “, a raptor I see now and then, but can never digitally capture, the elusive male Northern Harrier,

Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails

and I got some nice flight shots of Northern Pintails.

Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails circling for a landing
Northern Pintails circling for a landing

In case you couldn’t guess from these shots, one of my absolute favorite ways of passing time on a gorgeous day is to sit in a blind on the edge of a pond and shoot flight shots of ducks. Here in Cibola NWR, they request that you stay in your car, so as not to unduly disturb the birds, so my blind today was the Prius. Actually a car is one of the better blinds for wildlife photography anyhow, but I prefer my camp rocking chair inside my Doghouse Blind, just couldn’t use it today.

Northern Pintail
Northern Pintail
Canada Geese landing
Canada Geese landing

On my way back to Yuma, I had to drive right past my campsite off Ogilby Road, so went in to make sure my perfect spot was still unoccupied, and was very, very disappointed to find that not one, but three RVs had moved in right on top of this previously perfect boon docking site, so very disappointing. I had told RV Sue last night that I was definitely returning here after the work was done on my motorhome, for where would I ever find a better spot, but now I will have to relocate.

So after picking up my motorhome, paying my $1728 bill ( Ouch! ), and loading the toad, I headed back to I-8 west, but instead of going back to my previously perfect spot, took the Algodones Exit and squeezed in to a spot along the All American Canal, just south of the Casino, quite a change of pace from my previous spot, but close to the cross border town where I hope to investigate finding a place to have some dental work done.

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February 27, 2014 New Orleans

 

 

Wood duck in flight
Wood duck in flight

At Long Last Some Sun…and Wood Ducks

Woke up to chilly temps and clear skies, finally a break from the rain. As I headed out of the park very early this morning, I thought I saw some wood ducks feeding in the shallows of one of the canals along the park entrance road. Since I have unsuccessfully been trying to get a shot of these guys for more than two years, I looked for a spot where I could find some cover to wait for them to come within range. I walked along the edge of the woods, actually after days of heavy rain, it was more like I waded along the edge of the woods, to a spot where I was mostly concealed from their view and waited.

Geesh, these guys are wary, the second I moved the tripod, even though I thought I was out of their line of sight, off they went. I was able to get a couple useable shots, though not what I hoped I might get. If it’s not raining, I’ll be here to try again tomorrow.

Wood duck in flight
Wood duck in flight
Wood duck in flight
Wood duck in flight

 

 

 

 

 

Not wanting to waste a nice day, I continued out of the park and figured I would just wander and look for back roads and wetlands, not terribly hard to find around this part of the country.

Redhead Pair resting
Redhead Pair resting

I stumbled on a farmer’s pond on a back road west of New Orleans and got this shot of a pair of  Redheads and some unidentified, but darn colorful rooster.

A shady rooster
A shady rooster

Also found a fulvous whistling duck out on it’s own, no others around, kind of odd.

Fulvous whistling duck
Fulvous whistling duck
Fulvous whistling duck
Fulvous whistling duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another duck I have never seen before, I believe this is a white cheeked pintail.

White cheeked pintail
White cheeked pintail

And then there is this mystery duck, in with a few cinnamon teal and some redheads, again one I have never seen, and can’t find in my bird books, if anyone can ID it, I would like to know who he is.

Mystery duck
Mystery duck

Finally made it back to Bayou Segnette State Park around 5, I had hoped to avoid the rush hour traffic since the city drivers seem to enjoy playing demolition derby on the roads down here. This campground is kind of neat, being only half a mile from one of the major arteries around New Orleans, yet feeling like you are out in the wilderness once you make it back to your campsite.  Here’s hoping today’s weather is not an isolated incident!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 5, 2014 Last Day in Iowa, Louisiana

Green winged teal pair
Green winged teal pair

Cameron NWR and Lacassine NWR

With a little sun peeking through, though still very chilly, I decided to do one last trip this morning to Cameron NWR and then on to Lacassine NWR.

Gadwall takeoff
Gadwall takeoff

Click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

 

Northern shoveler take off
Northern shoveler take off

 

Northern shoveler take off
Northern shoveler take off

I did have some nice early AM light at Cameron and got a couple of duck shots before it turned too harsh, but the stiff wind is keeping most of the birds up against the reed beds and out of my reach. Same situation at Lacassine and, if anything, the wind is getting stronger.

Satellite Woes Continue

Back home and up on the roof I go to replace the temporary coax fix from the turret to the LNB head with the new coax from Winegard. Did not solve the problem, so once again called Winegard for the next possible solution. They have decided now to send me a new turret that I am expected to install, we shall see how that goes.