April 24, 2017 Malhuer NWR, Oregon

Abandoned Ranch
Abandoned Ranch

More From Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge

Ruddy Drake
Ruddy Drake

Always get a kick out of the male Ruddy Duck and his sky blue bill during breeding season.

Redhead Pair
Redhead Pair
Redheads Takeoff
Redheads Takeoff

Plenty of ducks encountered this week while driving through the refuge and was able to get a few decent flight shots when there was enough light, lots of overcast mornings.

Ring-neck Drake Takeoff
Ring-neck Drake Takeoff
Mallard Drake in Flight
Mallard Drake in Flight
Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff
Cinnamon Teal Pair
Cinnamon Teal Pair

This pair of Cinnamon Teal have been found on this spot every day this week, so I assume she is sitting on some eggs.

Cinnamon Teal Drake
Cinnamon Teal Drake
Avocets
Avocets

American Avocets hunting along the flooded fields.

Long-billed Curlew
Long-billed Curlew
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

This Sandhill was one of several pairs out hunting the flooded cow pastures along the highway.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

A completely drenched Ferruginous hawk manning his roadside hunting perch during one of this week’s showers.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

The look says it all, he doesn’t care for this weather any more than I do.

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June 3, 2016 Questa, New Mexico

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Columbine Canyon Campground, Carson National Forest

After reluctantly packing up and leaving the Soda Pocket Campground at Sugarite Canyon State Park, I headed south on Route 25 and picked up Route 64 west to Eagle Nest, then Route 38 west, struggling up and over Bobcat Pass, at an elevation of 9820′, and down to Red River, then on towards Questa stopping at the Columbine Canyon National Forest Campground, just a few miles short of Questa.

Chevron's Closed Molybdenum Mine, Questa, NM
Chevron’s Closed Molybdenum Mine, Questa, NM

Arrived at the campground, that is located just past Chevron’s now closed molybdenum mine, between thunderstorms and hesitantly got myself set up in Site #10, that I had reserved online when planning the summer’s stops a couple months ago. I say hesitantly, because the site is severely sloped and has another site all but attached to it, as in, the fire pit for that site would be within 10 feet of my bedroom window, way too close for comfort when the site is occupied, and the reservation ticket on that site’s post says that it is reserved for a couple nights during my stay here.

After unhooking the tow dolly and backing it in by hand, then backing the motorhome in to the site, I blocked the wheels and put down the hydraulic jacks until the rear wheels were just about lifted off the ground, something I feel very uncomfortable doing. But when I checked with a level, I still wasn’t even close to being level. About that time, I noticed the campground host come driving in, so I went down and asked if it would be possible to move from my reserved site. The campground being all but empty, he told me to feel free to move down to Site #5, just down the hill from where I was now set up. So, even with rain falling and thunder in the distance, I decide to make the move and not risk losing my frig or being burned down by my neighbor on Site #11.

Columbine Canyon NF Campground
Columbine Canyon NF Campground

There are 9 sites laid out like the spokes of a wheel on a flat area by the highway right at the beginning of the campground loop road. This is where the campiest is stationed as well as two handicapped sites. All the sites here are level, paved bacon sites , but do not have any hookups. These sites are apparently newer additions to the campground and most will hold an RV of my length with a little room for a toad as well. The sites are fairly open and have decent spacing, though certainly not private. These are also the only spaces in this campground, or in the three other National Forest Campgrounds close by, that would accomodate a larger rig. Though in a woodland setting, surrounded by heavily forested mountainsides, there was enough sun here to allow my solar system to function fairly well, as well as no problem getting my DirecTv satellite dish aligned. Surprisingly, There is enough of a Verizon signal here that I could even do this blog post.

Río Grande Del Norte National Monument

Drove over to the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument and the Wild Rivers Recreation Area just north and west of Questa to see what was there. A very isolated and quiet spot with several hiking trails that descend to the river valley below the park. To me, not the most interesting place I have seen, but a quiet out of the way spot to get away from it all. Most of the campgrounds were all but empty the day I drove through, and I think I only saw two other vehicles on the roads here while i made my way around the monument. The Montoso and Little Arsenic Campgrounds are the only two that may have a couple sites large enough to handle an Rv like mine, though even they would be a little tight. Each site has a shelter with picnic table and fire ring. The sites were definitely designed for tents and small RV’s.

Drive Around “The Enchanted Circle”

Abandoned Settler's Cabin
Abandoned Settler’s Cabin

Wanting to visit Taos for grocery shopping if nothing else, I backtracked on Route 38 east, again going over Bobcat Pass, a little easier in the Prius than the motorhome, and descend to the village of Eagle Nest where I stopped to check out Eagle Nest State Park. Certainly nothing fancy about the campground there, but it is one that will easily take any size RV on flat gravel sites, half backin and half pull through, with sheltered picnic tables but no hookups. All wide open with no trees and all have a view of the lake.

Prairie Dog Sentinel
Prairie Dog Sentinel

More prairie dogs here at Eagle Nest State Park than I have seen anywhere else on this trip through New Mexico.

Dog
Prairie Dog
Abandoned Settler's Cabin
Abandoned Settler’s Cabin

A neat roadside abandoned building not too much longer for this world, judging from the serious leaning of the log walls.

Abandoned Settler's Cabin

Then on to Taos and probably the worst Walmart I have ever encountered, walked out without buying anything and headed down the road to a nice Smith’s Grocery Store. There also is a large Albertson’s nearby. Taos seemed a little more run down and ragged than the last time I was here and the local newspaper was lamenting it’s fiscal problems and the loss of tourists’ dollars.

A Search for Wild Horses

New Mexico Wild Horses
New Mexico Wild Horses

Headed north out of Questa on Route 522 towards Fort Garland, Colorado, hoping to encounter some of Northern New Mexico’s wild mustang population.

New Mexico Wild Horse
New Mexico Wild Horse

Despite covering many miles in both northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, I was only able to locate one small band of four horses.

New Mexico Wild Horse
New Mexico Wild Horse

Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge

Ruddy Duck Drake
Ruddy Duck Drake

I hadn’t planned a visit here, and it really isn’t the best time of year for this sort of place, but since my search for wild horses brought me right by here, I drove into the refuge and took the short drive around the refuge road.

Cinnamon Teal Pair
Cinnamon Teal Pair

There were several duck species present, though not in any kind of numbers. Seen were some Cinnamon Teal, some Blue-wing Teal, Mallards, Redheads, and some Ruddy Ducks with the male’s impossibly blue bill.

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird

Numerous unidentified LBJ’s flew by and a single Yellow-headed Blackbird was caught singing for a mate while hanging onto it’s favorite perch, a cattail.

There were many of the Yellow-headed’s cousins, the Red-winged Blackbird, present, but after my winter of fighting these repulsive birds, I certainly was not about to take any shots of them.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Again, since I was in the area, I decide to also drive the 16 miles into Great Sand Dunes National Park, a place I have visited before, though never during the summer season. There was a long double line of cars backed up at the entrance, but it didn’t take long to get through. I absolutely avoid the popular National Parks during the summer since I just can’t stand the crowds, but I thought this might still be considered a little early for peak numbers.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Guess I was wrong, since when I drove down to the main Dunes access parking lot, it was completely full. with folks driving round in the loop desperately hoping to find someone leaving so they could secure a parking space … and this was at 9 AM!

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Despite the crowds, this is a unique spot and I get a kick out of the folks on the dunes looking like swarms of ants when viewed from the park road.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Also drove through the two loops of the completely booked campground, what a mob scene! I could never imagine camping in a place this cramped and crowded, but won’t have to worry about it anyhow since there are no spaces that could handle a rig of my size, let alone a seriously large RV, yet another National Park campground designed exclusively for tenters and very small RV’s. There is a private campground that can accomodate any size rig just a few miles outside the park.

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April 28, 2015, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff

Yet Another Interesting Day at Malheur

Every day, when I leave home in the morning, I never know what I am going to find here at Malheur. Today was no exception.

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

Cattle Drive
Cattle Drive

I had decided to drive the Diamond Loop and check out the Peter French Round Barn and, on the drive there,  found myself face to face with about 100 head of cattle, being driven down the highway, as I was later told, a fairly common practice here.

Cattle Drive
Cattle Drive

No vehicle out in front on them to give oncoming motorists warning, I just came around a fairly sharp corner on a 65 mph road and there they were. A local person soon pulled up behind me and explained that the correct thing to do in this event is not to stop, as I did, but to simply proceed through them …  carefully and at a slow speed. They will make way for you, he assured me. And, of course, they did as he said they would and soon I came to the end of the herd and three real life cowboys that were driving them along ( the third cowboy had just cut off to the right to drive a stray back to the herd ).

Cattle Drive
Cattle Drive

All’s well that ends well !

Bing Mapper
Bing Mapper

Only a half mile down the road behind the cattle drive, I saw this fellow stopped in the road. After zipping by him, my curiosity got the better of me and I turned around and went back to ask a few questions.

Bing Mapper
Bing Mapper

This is Bing’s answer to Google Earth. The driver/operator of this vehicle was kind enough to show me the equipment used, camera, 10 TB hard drive, GPS, etc., and explained the process of collecting all the data. I asked if I went on Bing and highlighted this stretch of road, then hit their ” street view “, would I see images of him stuck in the middle of the cattle drive, and he assured me that, yes, I would. Just need to wait a couple months for all these new images to be upload, he said. Over the next two days, I saw two more of these Bing cars during my travels around Malheur and Burns.

Palomino
Palomino

Caught this beautiful creature gracefully trotting down a hill to a water hole by the side of the road.

Mallard Drake
Mallard Drake

I know, it’s only a mallard.

Mallard Splashdown
Mallard Splashdown

I liked the refection of this Northern Shoveler as he splashed down, something I had never caught before.

Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff

These two images show the takeoff sequence of a male gadwall. Notice how hard his wings drive down in the water to provide his initial lift. The second image of him in flight is about as good a shot of this type as I have been able to get to date, at least. The focusing system of my camera always has a very difficult time isolating the bird from the busy background of reeds and most images like this are always rendered out of focus.

Love Them Lips, Ruddy Duck
Love Them Lips, Ruddy Duck

Gotta love them lips, looks like he is puckering up to give his honey a big old wet one ! During mating season, the Ruddy duck’s bill turns this bright shade of blue to help make him irresistable to the ladies.

Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck
Teaching the Kids How to Hide
Teaching the Kids How to Hide

I always get a kick out of Canadian Geese dropping their necks to the water to ” hide ” themselves to me as I pass by.

Teaching the Kids How to Hide
Teaching the Kids How to Hide

These parents were doing a good job of showing their kids how to hide from dangerous photographers, but the little ones don’t seem to have caught on to the neck flattening thing.

Unescorted Ducklings
Unescorted Ducklings

The goslings are the first to hatch and the ducklings follow a week or two later in the spring. These are the first ducklings I have seen this year. These ten ducklings are only about half of this group, that must consist of the offspring of more than one set of parents. They were quickly trying to get themselves concealed from me by heading behind a dense bunch of willows growing on the water’s edge. It seemed odd that I never saw any parent’s anywhere near these cute little guys.

Old Dump Truck
Old Dump Truck
Old Dump Truck Detail
Old Dump Truck Detail

In the afternoon I drove back north towards Burns to check on the fields south of town. I happened upon this old dump truck on the way. Nice watercolr subject, when, and if, I ever get the brushes out again.

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt

A Black-necked Stilt searching for morsels among the submerged grasses of a cow pasture.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

 

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
Meadowlark
Meadowlark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It truly is starting to look like spring as there are now all kinds of songbirds singing their hearts out along the road.

Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow
Barn Swallows
Barn Swallows

Not often I find these guys so easy to capture.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Robin
Robin
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Yellow-headed Blackbirds

The Yellow-headed Blackbirds have arrived in clouds the past few days and sometimes you may see as many as a hundred of them perched on the fences here along Hotchkiss and Greenhouse Lanes.

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird

This one was really getting into it, belting out his melody.

So, Spring has definitely sprung, and much as I am enjoying my time her at Malheur, I really do have to think about leaving and getting on my way north to Alaska.

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