April 21-25, 2017 Malhuer NWR, Oregon

Grey Ghost
Grey Ghost

I arrived at The Narrows RV Park and set up camp. Very nice, well maintained campground where I have stayed a few times before. About 20 miles south of Burns and only a couple of miles from the refuge headquarters, this is a convenient spot to stay.

My first day out I encountered nine different male Northern Harriers, the grey ghosts, and Malhuer is one of the few places I have ever found that these guys can be found in numbers. But for some strange reason, I never again encountered more than one or two of them again during the rest of my stay.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

Meadowlarks were out singing for mates all throughout the refuge.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant

I almost always get some good chances at capturing the brilliantly colored male Ring-necked Pheasants here, but never quite like this sequence.

Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant

He was escorting two hens and not 30 feet from me started this “rooster crowing” display.

Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant

Can’t say it really sounded anything like a “cookie-doodle-dooo”, but it must do something for the gals.

Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
American Bittern
American Bittern

Another pleasant surprise was getting a chance at a couple of bitterns, this guy assuming his classic camouflage position, apparently not realizing he was surrounded with short green grass, not his usual hiding spot within the taller straw colored grasses.

Long-billed Curlew
Long-billed Curlew

Curlews and white-faced ibis were plentiful throughout the refuge this spring…

Willet
Willet

… as were willets, this one perched high up on the smokestack of an incinerator, kind of an unusual spot to see one.

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January 23, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Desert Rainbow
Desert Rainbow

A Little Rain in the Desert

Desert Rainbow
Desert Rainbow

I was just setting up to do a little painting early this morning when I glanced out the dinette window and noticed some dark clouds approaching from the north. Several minutes later, a fairly brilliant rainbow appeared, so I grabbed the camera and ran outside for a few shots.

Desert Rainbow
Desert Rainbow

As the rain began falling a little harder a second rainbow started to form, but unfortunately, the wind was blowing the rain directly at the camera and I was forced to retreat inside.

Desert Rainbow
Desert Rainbow

Still, a nice way to begin your day!

House Finches
Full House

The tray feeder continues to attract a crowd, with the finches, sparrows, and doves feeding here pretty much all day long.  I never thought I would see this number of birds here in the desert. Unfortunately for a few of these little guys, the large number of birds now gathering on and around the feeder has attracted the attention of a Coopers Hawk who checks in on the situation several times a day and causes quite a commotion when he appears. I haven’t actually seen the hawk grab anyone yet, but there have been a couple of times when I have gone out to replenish the feeder and seen him take flight from the ground just 30 feet away. The fact that he is on the ground most likely means he did grab somebody. Cruel, but I suppose everybody does have to eat.

If you right click on the image above ( or any image ) you should be able to see a larger version of the image.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

Finally got a few poor shots of the Gambel’s Quail as they bob around under the feeder and scratch around the rocks.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

They are very wary and flush at the slightest sound or movement, so these images were taken through the glass. They are very amusing to watch as they chase off the doves and sparrows feeding on the ground with them.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

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April 19, 2016 Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Santa Rosa Lake State Park
Santa Rosa Lake State Park

Santa Rosa Lake State Park

Monday, I left Oliver Lee State Park around 8 AM and drove about 180 miles north to Santa Rosa Lake State Park via Route 54. An uneventful drive through some pretty uninspiring high desert landscapes. Initially, this park was a bit of a disappointment after Brantley Lake and Oliver Lee State Parks. I arrived to find that most of the 20 plus sites in the utility section of the campground were all reserved sites and the few that were first come first served were all backins and all but one were occupied. The campground host told me that they were full here almost every night.

So I decided to set up in the primitive Juniper Campground down the road a little and ended up on Site #15, sharing the entire campground with just two others. The place looks a little rundown and some of the sites are a little too close to one another. No great view of the lake, or of anything really, and the lights from the dam are a little too bright to be able to enjoy the night sky here. But I certainly can’t complain about the crowds. Nice and quiet here and the weather is great, cool nights, and sunny days with temps around 80.  Like I did at Oliver Lee, I put out the bird feeders but I have yet to see any takers.

The opening image above is an overview of the primitive Juniper Campground at Santa Rosa lake State Park.

Santa Rosa Lake State Park, Juniper Campground Site #15
Santa Rosa Lake State Park, Juniper Campground Site #15

And here is a closer shot of my campsite. The wind is howling, as you might see if you got a closer look at a very windswept Jenny being blown along the drive from the campsite. Several nice pull throughs here in this campground with somewhat reasonable spacing between campsites. Most sites have a picnic table under a sturdy shelter but there are no electric or water hookups here. Unfortunately, most sites are not very level. Verizon internet signal is quite weak also, but just strong enough to be able to check email and the weather, but not strong enough to do much with blog posts.

Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, NM
Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, NM
Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, NM
Blue Hole, Santa Rosa, NM

I checked out the Blue Hole on one of my drives into town. This must have been quite a discovery to the first pioneers coming through here. Just about the last thing one would expect to find in this harsh dry high desert environment. In the warmer months, scuba divers come here to explore this unique spot. At the bottom of the image above are some goldfish swimming around, I have a feeling they may have been recently introduced. They really stand out in the blue tinted water, the blue being more than simply sky reflection.

Abandoned Buildings
Abandoned Buildings

I also took a drive over to Conchas lake State Park to check out camping there, most likely my next stopover point. They don’t take reservations until May 1 so all sites are first come/first served and there were plenty of sites available as I drove through the three campgrounds. Office was locked so I couldn’t ask any questions. Will probably head that way next Monday. The image above is of what may have at one time been quarters for ranch hands, I really don’t know. Obviously has been abandoned for some time and would make a great candidate for a watercolor somewhere down the road.

While out, I stopped at  Silver Moon Auto in Santa Rosa to see about getting yet another new tire for the dolly and getting my most recent new/old tire with the tube repaired. While there also asked about fixing my onboard generator gas leak and taking care of my six foot mud flap angle iron replacement. Made an appointment to leave the RV with them Monday.

Last of the Birds From Oliver Lee

Gambel Quail
Gambel Quail

These guys, with that strange feather in their cap, always amuse me.

Green-tailed Towhee
Green-tailed Towhee

This Green-tailed Towhee is a first for me.

Black-throated Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow

A handsome Black-throated Sparrow. I was amazed at the number of species in the campground at Oliver Lee State Park.

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April 12, 2016 Alamogordo, New Mexico

Route 82 Heading to Cloudcroft, NM
Route 82 Heading to Cloudcroft, NM

On to Alamogordo

Bright and early Monday morning, I loaded up the Prius and departed the Brantley Lake State Park after eleven great days there. I would definitely return here in the future, though not a lot to photograph in the immediate area, I found my campsite to be quiet and peaceful and I managed to accomplish a few chores I had been avoiding for too long, such as restringing my two large day/night shades and taking out the paintbrushes and actually starting a few bird paintings.

Scaled Quail
Scaled Quail

Rattlesnake Springs

One of the two day trips I took while at Brantley Lakes was down to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park to drive the 9 mile loop road through the desert above the caverns and then down to Rattlesnake Springs, just a few miles south of the caverns, where I had been told I might find some desert birds.

Scaled Quail
Scaled Quail

And one of the birds I have been looking for, the Scaled Quail, turned out to be there in good numbers and I finally was able to add a few images of this bird to my library. In addition to the quail, I found wild turkeys, Canyon Towhees, Vermillion Flycatchers, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Gadwalls, Coots, Northern Shovelers, Yellow Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a few more individuals that I couldn’t quite identify. If in the area, this is an interesting little oasis in the desert worth checking out.

White Sands in the Distance
White Sands in the Distance

White Sands National Monument

I have driven past White Sands more than once over the years, heading to California, or back through the desert to the midwest, but have never stopped to check out this unique landscape.

So, yesterday I headed north on Route 285 from Brantley Lake State Park and made the unfortunate decision to head west on Rocking R Red Road ( Route 21 ) to avoid driving through Artesia. What looked like a decent paved road on Google maps turned out to have about a seven or eight mile stretch of some of the worst gravel road my poor motorhome has ever been subjected to just before it joined up with Route 12. Even slowed down 15 mph and less, I’m afraid I probably did some damage to the rig bouncing over this extremely rough section of road. There really is no reason to go this way since Route 285 joins Route 82 in Artesia and I definitely recommend not making the same mistake I did here.

Route 12 north took me up to Route 82 heading to Cloudcroft, New Mexico. I did some research on the internet and asked a few locals about the descent on Route 82 from Cloudcroft to Route 54 and Alamogordo. The internet search was fairly evenly split between, yes, you can manage the long, steep, downgrade, and no, if you attempt it, you will most definitely die doing so. The locals who were familiar with the road all said I would best want to avoid it.

So I took Route 244 from Cloudcroft north to Route 70, down through Mescalero, and got on Route 54 south to Alamogordo. Route 82 from Artesia to Route 244 just short of Cloudcroft is a very good road with no serious grades and only the first few miles of Route 244 has one short steep climb and then an easily managed steep descent before becoming a very easy drive to Route 70. I intend to drive back up to Cloudcroft in the Prius to see just how bad the grade on that road really is.

Campsite at Oliver Lee State Park
Campsite at Oliver Lee State Park

Oliver Lee State Park

Since I purchased an annual camping pass for New Mexico State Parks, I set my sights on the Oliver Lee State Park, about ten miles south of Alamogordo. It is a nice little two loop park nestled against the base of some imposing hills at the mouth of Dog Canyon overlooking a vast expanse of desert. Only six of the sites are reservable, all the others being first come, first served, so I figured I would most likely be able to snag a site on a Monday at midday. And that turned out to be the case.

However, finding a site I could somehow manage to get myself level on was another story. Most of the sites are fairly severely sloped, many of them I could see no way at all that the site was usable for my rig. After trying a couple sites, I finally got myself situated on Site 48, and by parking at an angle was able to level my rig, and the site was large enough that I didn’t have to unhook the tow dolly.

Campsite at Oliver Lee State Park, Dove Nest
Campsite at Oliver Lee State Park, Dove Nest

When I let the dogs out, I happened to notice a White-winged dove sitting on a nest in a short yucca, not fifteen feet from the front on my RV. After seeing a few other birds hopping through the undergrowth and flying by, I decided to set out some feeders and see what I might be able to attract here.

White-winged Dove on the Nest
White-winged Dove on the Nest

It should be kind of fun to see if her eggs hatch while I am staying here ( I have signed up for a week ).

White-winged Dove on the Nest
White-winged Dove on the Nest
Ocotillo in Bloom
Ocotillo in Bloom

Right next to my site, there are a couple ocotillos in full bloom, though not a single green leaf is showing on either of them. But with the ocotillos in bloom, I decided I may as well hang out a hummingbird feeder too, since it would seem they might just be in the area.

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