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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March 24, 2015 Sierra Vista, Arizona

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

Drawn Back to the Birds at Ash Canyon B & B

Rising early, once again I headed south to the Ash Canyon B & B to see if any new birds had yet arrived. I arrived around 7:30 AM on yet another beautiful, warm, blue sky Arizona day.

Ash Canyon B & B Driveway
Ash Canyon B & B Driveway

Don’t let the driveway scare you, the B & B is located just a short distance off Route 92. You turn west on Turkey Track Road off 92 and follow it out until it ends about a quarter mile in at this simply incredible bird viewing venue.

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

Ash Canyon B & B
Ash Canyon B & B

You will see the sign as you come to the gated end of the gravel drive.

Ash Canyon B & B Gateway to the birds
Ash Canyon B & B Gateway to the birds

Parking spaces for birders are clearly delineated and a collection jar hangs on the back side of the wrought iron gate. Be sure to drop your $5 in the jar, although there is nothing to stop you from adding a donation of any size to your price of admission, I’m sure you will agree it is well worth the price.

Ash Canyon B & B Hummingbird Garden
Ash Canyon B & B Hummingbird Garden

Just inside the gate there is a hummingbird garden with flowers and feeders to attract the many different species of hummingbirds found here as well as butterflies. Unfortunately for me on this trip, since it turns out that I am a little early for the big show, Mary Jo hasn’t yet hung all the nectar feeders ( since the hummers aren’t here just yet and the nectar feeders have to be changed and cleaned very few days ).

Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda
Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda

Mary Jo keeps a library of books for identifying birds and more, as well as a small refrigerator with drinks, on the shaded veranda. This area gives viewers a chance to get  out of the sun and I am sure is quite welcome a little later on in the season.

Ash Canyon B & B Morning Birdwatchers
Ash Canyon B & B Morning Birdwatchers

When I usually arrive, early around 8 AM, I generally have had this area to myself, but by late morning, it tends to fill up a little. On this particular day, there happened to be a delightful group from England here admiring North American birds. I have always been a sucker for the British accents and got a kick out of chatting with these friendly bird watchers.

Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda Afternoon Shade
Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda Afternoon Shade

Some of these folks shifted over to the veranda in the afternoon. As you can see from these two images there are plenty of chairs around, all with a great view of the many feeders Mary Jo keeps filled with food. On all three occasions I have been here this spring, Mary Jo has been out with her guests, providing identifications of the many species of birds and animals drawn in here. She is incredibly knowledgeable, as well as friendly and accommodating to all. If you look closely at the first image, you will notice a woman who just happens to have a parrot perched on her shoulder, and that woman would, of course, be Mary Jo.

She tells me that the best time to be here is mid-April through mid-May, as the yard fills with the arrivals of birds that nest in the area as well as all kinds of migrants that stop here on their way farther north to take advantage of the bounty that Mary Jo provides. She stocks this feeding area year round and has been doing so for twenty years. In late August, after the monsoons, and through September is also a peak viewing period, when the surrounding area is lush with new green growth and many of the migrants are heading back south. Now I have missed both of these prime time periods and am still blown away with the number and variety of birds here, as well as with the comfortable and friendly atmosphere of the Ash Canyon B & B.  There is a wealth of information on her website, so please go and check it out.

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey

There was a new arrival here today, a male wild turkey ( Gould’s subspecies ). He wasn’t the least bit shy and wandered in only 20 or 30 feet from a crowd of admirers.

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey

Quite neat to be able to see such a colorful beautiful/ugly bird at such a close range.

Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole

There seemed to be more Scott’s Orioles here today, although the Hooded and Audubon Orioles still haven’t made an appearance.

Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole
Immature Scott's Oriole
Immature Scott’s Oriole

A few immature Scott’s were mixed in with several mature males.

Immature Scott's Oriole
Immature Scott’s Oriole
Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

Though not very colorful, this tiny Bewick’s Wren was one of my personal favorites …

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

… lots of attitude for a small guy, and very active.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Red-shafted Northern Flicker
Red-shafted Northern Flicker

The outstanding Red-shafted Northern Flicker made another appearance.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acorn Woodpeckers were constantly flying in and out, along with Gila and Ladderback Woodpeckers.

Mexican Jay
Mexican Jay

The large Mexican Jays were once again present in large numbers.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

Gambel’s Quail were here along with other ground feeders such as several species of sparrows  ( Lincoln, Rufous Crowned, Chipping, and others ) ….

Dark eyed Junco
Dark eyed Junco

…Dark-eyed Juncos ..

Canyon Towhee
Canyon Towhee

… and Canyon Towhees.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher,

Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warblers were present.

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

And lastly, although the crowd has yet to arrive, there were Broad-billed, as well as Magnificent, Black-chinned, and Rufous Hummingbirds here today. I truly wish I did not have to start heading north so soon, I would love to stay for the arrival of all the spring birds, but Oregon and Alaska await !

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

 

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

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March 17, 2015 Sierra Vista, Arizona

Mexican Jay
Mexican Jay

Another Morning at the Ash Canyon B & B

Still sitting in Sierra Vista awaiting my permanent crown ( that would be dental, not royalty ) and hoping the spring birds arrive soon. Since the weather forecast called for a mostly cloudy day, i once again drove out to the Ash Canyon B & B to see what I could get for bird shots.

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

Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole
Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole

Although i couldn’t get any great shots of them, it was nice to see a pair of Scott’s Orioles have finally arrived.

Magnificent Hummingbird
Magnificent Hummingbird

Ditto for the magnificent, Magnificent Hummingbird. This is the largest hummingbird you will find in this country and actually is a year round resident in this area. Mary Jo doesn’t have her full arsenal of hummingbird feeders out yet, since the crowd has yet to arrive, so I am unable to get close enough for any good shots. maybe next week ?

Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee

This morning I was able to get this spotted towhee to stay out in the open long enough to get a shot. He seems a little shy and spends most of his time here hiding in the brush pile.

Bushtit
Bushtit

This tiny guy is a Bushtit, hard to shoot because they are very small and very active.

Audubon Warbler
Audubon Warbler

There are many Audubon Warblers here, but this was the first decent pose I was able to catch, again very active birds, hardly ever sitting still for more than a second.

Orange-crowned warbler
Orange-crowned warbler

Yet another tiny individual, I believe it is an Orange-crowned Warbler, but I could have that ID incorrect.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

A female Acorn Woodpecker ….

Gila Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker

… and a male Gila Woodpecker. These woodpeckers are positioned on the same branch at the same feeder, but notice how the background has seemingly changed. As I mentioned earlier the forecast for today was for mostly cloudy skies, but every so often the sun would break through, thus the different lighting on the background. This type of day makes setting exposures a bit of a pain with the constantly changing light.

Curve-billed thrasher
Curve-billed thrasher

Some dramatic lighting for this Curve-billed Thrasher.

In the post for my trip out here last week, I mentioned that there were also some rodents drawn in here by the banquet Mary Jo provides for the birds, here’s what they look like.

Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat
Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat

This is the Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat, an animal Mary Jo speaks kindly of, not a household pest like the Norway rat, much cuter also.

Rock Squirrel
Rock Squirrel

And this is a Rock Squirrel, filling his pouches with seed,

Arizona Gray Squirrel
Arizona Gray Squirrel

whereas the Arizona Gray Squirrel has no pouches to stuff and thus must dine on the spot. This gray squirrel is quite a bit larger than the gray squirrels I am used to back in New Hampshire.

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March 8, 2015 Sierra Vista, Arizona

Gambel's quail
Gambel’s quail

Two Old Age Casualties in Sierra Vista

Today marks a week that I have been parked in the Thunderbird RV Park here in downtown Sierra Vista. After feeling like it was finally time, Wednesday I had a root canal done at 1st Dental here in Sierra Vista. Absolutely painless procedure … sure wish I could say the same for the next two days. Stayed in and dealt with the pain meds for two days, feeling like like my head was going to explode, before the pain finally subsided on Saturday and I could quit the pain meds.

Making all this even worse, Jenny, my 15 year old Maltese, apparently injured her right rear leg, probably from jumping down from the windshield deck where the pups spend their day when I leave them in the motorhome alone. She doesn’t act like she is in much pain, but now is hopping around on three legs and is unable to get to any of her favorite spots ( off the floor ). She is a very active senior citizen and I hate to see her now have to act her age.  I can’t feel anything broken or out of place, so will have to watch to see if she can recover from this on her own over time.

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

Feeder Portraits

House Finch
House Finch

I happen to have a tree right next to my dinette window, so when I arrived here, I put out a platform feeder and hummingbird feeder to see if I could attract some photo subjects to my campsite.

Feeders
Feeders
Portrait Studio
Portrait Studio

Although no hummingbirds have shown up ( yet ) …

Gila Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker

… this Gila Woodpecker being the only taker so far, the seed tray has attracted several city dwellers over the week It has been out, so on Sunday, I figured I would try and get some closeup head shots of the various birds using the feeder. The tree is actually too close for me to use my 600mm lens so these shots were all taken with my 200-400mm lens, and all were taken through the window glass, yet are quite sharp considering.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove

There are actually four different types of doves coming in, Mourning, White-winged, Common Ground, and Eurasian-collared. Only the White-winged and Mourning doves flew up to the feeder, the other two types stayed on the ground below, out of range for the camera.

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

Though true gluttons, thus forcing me to replenish the feeders a couple times a day, these White-winged doves are quite handsome and kind of fun to watch when they have emptied the tray feeder and then attempt to squeeze themselves down onto the smaller house style feeder I added to the tree a couple days ago. Love the blue eye liner these guys show off so well.

House Finch
House Finch
House Finch
House Finch

House finches are the most numerous visitors and I find the variations in color kind of interesting. Some sport a lot of yellow feathers in addition to their red, and one individual is a gorgeous orange rather than red ( unfortunately I haven’t been able to get him to come out of the shadows for a good shot ).

House Finch
House Finch

This coming week, after a dental appointment for crown work,  I hope to be able to get started finding some early arrivals at the various birding spots south of Sierra Vista, stay tuned.

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