January 11, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

 Back to the Birds Again

After getting settled in at Falcon Lake State Park, I took a short drive over to the Salineno Birding Area where I volunteered a couple winters ago to say hi to Lois and Merle and see what changes may have occurred over the the last couple of years.

Not much changed, still a premier spot to see lots of birds up close in comfort with a couple of knowledgeable hosts to help with identification. A few trees have drooped a bit more and that led to a relocation for the host’s fifth wheel and thus the seating area is now a bit farther away from the action, but the colorful orioles, kiskadees, and green jays are still there in abundance.

Falcon Lake State Park

I chose a campsite with water and electric only rather than one with full hookups since the full hookup section is more open and the sites are a little closer together than I like. My pull through site is surrounded by dense shrubs and trees providing nice privacy, but, more importantly, the same shrubs and trees provide cover and perches for my feathered friends.

I set out a hummingbird feeder, an oriole feeder, a couple of platform feeders, my old reliable fencepost for the lard/peanut butter/cornmeal concoction, then spread a little cracked corn and sunflower seed around the edges of my feeding area, sat back and waited to see who would arrive.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

It didn’t take long for two types of thrashers to come scooting out from the edge cover to grab some corn and scurry back to cover to eat.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

This thrashers seem quite reluctant to spent much time in the open, lurking just on the edge of the feeding area …

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

… then dashing out and grabbing a couple of kernels of corn before retreating to the shadows.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

 

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

This cute little guy is all but impossible to keep up with, constantly on the move with herky jerky action, hopping from bush to bush, bush to ground, up and down the feeders, just never standing still.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

 

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

The Olive Sparrow is one of the birds folks come here to add to their birding lists.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

He’s another bird of the edges like the thrashers, reluctant to leave the cover of the bushes on the edges of the feeding area.

 

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

There are a couple of pairs of Pyrhuloxia coming in regularly and this is the first time I have been able to get some nice close shots of these guys.

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

 

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

So far, these small Inca Doves are the only doves that have shown up here.

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

 

Orange Crowned Warbler
Orange Crowned Warbler

Lots of Orange -crowned Warblers coming in.

 

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite

I was pleasantly surprised when this lone male Northern Bobwhite came strolling in right next to my chair and began feeding on cracked corn, seemingly oblivious to my presence.

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite

A little unusual to see a lone Bobwhite, but I assume the rest of the flock must be somewhere near by and hope they will eventually all come in.

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

So far at least two pair of Northern Cardinals have made an appearance.

Female Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

 

Black Crested Titmouse
Black Crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmice come and grab their single seed and hop off to the bushes to break them open.

Black Crested Titmouse
Black Crested Titmouse

 

Green Jay
Green Jay

One of my all-time favorite birds, the colorful Green Jay, is here in abundance.

Green Jay
Green Jay

As you can see above, they are not shy about helping themselves to plenty of my offerings.

 

Female Great-tailed Grackle
Female Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackles arrive in large flocks, along with the ever present scourge of Red-winged Blackbirds. These pests I have to actively discourage to keep the food available for the birds I am looking to photograph. They do get to clean up the area ( along with the javelinas ) in late afternoon when I quit shooting for the day.

An Agility Test

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I put out an old two liter Coke bottle that I had crudely cut up to make a hanging feeder, more to show my presence than to actually have birds use it since the platform feeders are much, much easier to access.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

But here, a few birds have mastered the ability to land on this feeder and have unfettered access to some sunflower seeds without having to share with other birds.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Watching them land and then try to hang on as the feeder blows around in the stiff breeze is quite interesting.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

The weather here since my arrival has been absolutely perfect, sunny 70 degree days and clear starlit skies with night time temps in the lower 50’s. Not real sure how long I will stay here before heading up the coast to shoot Whooping Cranes and ducks, as well as check out the hurricane damage around Port Aransas and Lockport.

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December 17, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

House Finches
House Finches

LBB’s ( Little Brown Birds ) at the LTVA

Feeder Setup
Feeder Setup

It has been a long time since I have done a bird post, but the last two days I finally got out and did a little bird photography. When I first arrived here at Imperial Dam, I was greeted by a small flock of Gambel’s Quail right in front of my motorhome. So, I set up my platform feeder and spread some scratch feed on the ground where I could keep an eye on it from the front windshield, as seen in the image above.

Well, for a week I did not see a single bird take advantage of this free food. Then, slowly they began to show up, first just a couple house finches, then some sparrows, and finally the quail returned.

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow

All pretty much just LLB’s, but since there were a couple I did not immediately recognize, and since quail are some of my favorite birds to shoot, I finally made myself drag out the camp chair and the tripod and semi concealed myself against the side of the motorhome and shot these images, all taken with a 600mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter attached.

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

The Chipping Sparrow and the White-crowned Sparrow, I was familiar with, and have shot before.

Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove

Same with this Mourning Dove, a rare single dove, I never saw another one show up..

Albert's Towhee
Albert’s Towhee
Albert's Towhee
Albert’s Towhee

But the Albert’s Towhee …

Sagebrush Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrow

… and the Sagebrush Sparrow sent me to my Sibley Birds guide to identify.

Sagebrush Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrow

Both, though not rare, were firsts for me.

House Finches
House Finches

As is most often the case in the desert, most numerous of all that showed up were the House Finches.

House Finch
House Finch
House Finch
House Finch
House Finch
House Finch

Initially, I tended to overlook them, but upon closer examination, I became quite fascinated with the color variations in the males.

House Finch
House Finch

While most of them were not that brightly colored, there were several males that really stood out. There were two in the flock that sported quite a bit of yellow.

House Finches
House Finches
House Finches
House Finches
House Finches
House Finches

My perch on a small gravel hill here overlooking some wetlands provided a wonderful out of focus background for these images.

Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail

It took a while, but the Gambel’s Quail finally showed up in numbers, probably a couple of different flocks, one numbering  eight individuals and a second group probably between fifteen to twenty birds. Both groups were coming in several times a day, but were extremely skittish. At one point, I had to go in the motorhome and put up a barricade to keep Sam from jumping up on the dashboard ( her favorite lookout position ), since every time I heard her up there the quail would hightail it out of the feeding area.

Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail

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April 14, 2016 Alamogordo, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument and Campsite Birds

Wednesday, I drove the Prius back up to Cloudcroft to check on the descent Route 82 makes coming down from the mountaintop to Alamogordo. When coming this way in the motorhome Monday, I chose to go a few miles out of my way to avoid this long downgrade I had been told it would be wise to avoid. After driving it in the Prius, I guess I would have to say I made the right decision, it is a loooooooong downgrade that is best avoided in a rig like mine. The grade probably is no worse than others I have done, but it does go on forever and could well prove to be too much for my old motorhome.

Campsite Birds

Canyon Towhee
Canyon Towhee

I noticed a number of little birds hopping around in the underbrush around my campsite so I dug out the feeders and my post prop from Salineno and also spread a bit of seed on the ground to see if I could entice any of them into the open. The Canyon Towhee, a first for me, was one of the first to show.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

The curve-billed thrasher, just like his cousin, the long-billed thrasher back in Salineno, enjoyed the peanut butter/lard/cornmeal mix.

House Finch on Ocotillo
House Finch on Ocotillo

Wasn’t long before a small flock of house finches turned up.

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

Several white-crowned sparrows also came in to feed.

White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove

A couple white-winged doves have shown up, although I have yet to ever see the dove on her nest hop down to feed, though I’m sure she must?

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands national Monument

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

This was my first trip into White Sands N.M. though I have driven past on a few occasions. Certainly worth doing if you are ever in the area. There is a paved road into the dunes that turns to a sand ( gypsum ) loop road about 6 miles into the monument. The glistening white gypsum dunes are quite impressive on a blue sky day and I would love to be able to catch them at sunrise or sunset, but, unfortunately, the road is only open from 7 -7 daily, and at this time of year, that misses both sunrise and sunset.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

When you come here, be sure to park and walk out into the dunes. Easy to walk on and you will discover a lot of interesting details, such as animal tracks and interesting vegetation, once you venture a ways from the road.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Aguirre Springs Recreation Area

Leaving the Monument, I drove west on Route 70 about 30 miles to check out the Aguirre Springs Recreation Area that I had noticed on my New Mexico Benchmark Atlas. I was curious to see if the campsites there were accessible to a rig like mine and if so, what the campground looked like, to see if it might be a boon docking option sometime down the road.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers

On the road into Aguirre Springs I saw my first wildflowers of the spring.

Aguirre Springs Rec Area
Aguirre Springs Rec Area

This imposing peaks hover over the campground and can be seen from miles away as you approach the area on Route 70 West.

Aguirre Springs Campsite
Aguirre Springs Campsite

There is a sign stating that the narrow winding road to the campground is not recommended for trailers over 23 feet long. Now, the paved road is narrow and winding, but I really do not think it would be anything to worry about for a rig like mine.

There are a few, not many, campsites that could accomodate a large rig once you get up to the campground. The setting is gorgeous and when I was there midweek in mid-April, there was no one camping in any of the 60 plus sites there. No water, dump station, or electric at the campground, but it is a wonderful secluded setting, way off the beaten track and I definitely will consider staying here sometime down the road.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

This last shot was kind of a surprise to me. A left over shot from Salineno that was on a disc I hadn’t removed from my backup camera in a while.

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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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