Clouds, Mountains, Desert. Near San Augustin Peak, NM. 7 frame panorama.
I find western landscapes extremely appealing. Maybe it’s just that they’re so different from Florida. When I saw these mountains, I made MK pull over so I could make this image.
Volcano Cinder Cone. IR, B&W, 3 frame panorama
This is a view of one of the three Volcanoes visible from the Volcano Day Use Area in Petroglyph National Monument, a little west of Albuquerque. When I got back to the car, I realized I’d dropped a lens cap somewhere along the path. I did go back and look for it and of course, couldn’t find it. Does that happen to you too?
The birds we saw in New Mexico varied from what we’re used to in Florida (of course). I saw 12 life birds while we were there. And this was really with just casual birding. I’m sure my more serious birding friends (thinking of you Kevin M.) would have found many more!
Gambel’s Quail – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
MK wanted to visit White Sands National Monument. I did too, but I’d heard a lot about the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge so we agreed to get up early and stop by there on the way. I was really glad we did!
Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Broad-tailed Hummingbird (on the left) – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
The volunteers at the Visitors Center were very helpful and pointed out where to look for the Golden Eagle. We would have missed it without their help. At first glance, I mistook it for a vulture! They also apologized since there were no Sand Hill Cranes (they migrate through in the winter). I assured them that we see plenty in Florida. Hopefully I can go back when it’s cold. Seeing huge flocks of cranes would be an experience!
Golden Eagle – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
MK was an excellent spotter. We found the Caissin’s Kingbird when she stopped to look at a road side field on the way home from White Sands. She also found the Yellow Warbler at the top of Sandia Peak – thanks MK!
Caissin’s Kingbird – Carrizozo, NM
I’ve called myself a “beginning” birder for too long. Maybe it’s time to change this to “casual” birder. I like birding and enjoy finding / seeing new birds and figuring out what they are. But I mostly enjoy the photography and get a bit disappointed if my images are poor. So, from me to you, here are my…
Birding hints from a casual birder:
Take advantage of travel. New locations can be an easy way to add to your life list.
Consider going even if it’s a slow time of year. Bosque is well-known for its Festival of the Cranes in November. But we found lots to see even in the middle of summer.
Research the local hot spots and add some to your itinerary. Find and check local sightings or species lists so you’ll know what to look for. I read through the wildlife list on the Bosque web site before we went. It lists bird species by month observed and was a big help.
Try to look at the right times of day when birds are more active. We saw the Yellow Warbler near dusk on Sandia peak, and had good luck at Bosque early in the morning. I strongly doubt we’d have seen as much in mid-afternoon.
Stop by the Visitors Center and talk to other birders there. The volunteers at Bosque were very helpful.
Don’t let birds you’re familiar with fool you. I might have missed the Golden Eagle and the Neotropical Cormorants if I hadn’t been looking for them. They look similar to other birds I’m familiar with in Florida.
A second set of eyes is very helpful. With two of us looking, MK and I saw more than we would have by ourselves.
Birding friends are helpful too. I probably could have figured out what all the life birds were on my own, but it was faster with Kevin helping. And having a second opinion is good too.
Photograph everything you see and confirm later. I wasn’t sure about the Golden Eagle until I enlarged the image on the back of my camera.
If you think you might be birding, bring your long lens. I didn’t and regret that. Thinking back on it, I should have left my ultra-wide at home and taken my longest lens instead. You can always stitch multi-frame panoramas to get a wider field of view. But you can’t get a longer focal length in post processing without losing quality.
I never expected to see so much – it was a great trip! Here’s what we saw:
Life birds: Golden Eagle, Gambel’s Quail, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Ring-necked Pheasant, Neotropic Cormorants, Swainson’s Hawk, Cassin’s Kingbird, Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, House Finch, Yellow Warbler
Other birds: Blue Grosbeaks (M & F), Crows, Common Ravens, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Road Runner, Barn, Tree, and Cliff Swallows, Wild Turkeys, Canada Geese, Blue Wing Teals, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Herons, Turkey Vulture, Mourning Dove, Robin, Grackles, …
Other wildlife: Prairie Dogs, Snakes (no ID, although one roadkill might have been a Rattlesnake), Deer, Rabbit
MK and I went out to New Mexico for a short visit over the July 4th holiday. I’d been there several times on business travel but never got to see much of the state. This trip fixed that!
One place we very much enjoyed was the Acoma Pueblo (also known as Sky City). It’s a lovely spiritual site, and provides a glimpse into what Native American life was like as long ago as the 13th century. The Pueblo is about 60 miles west of Albuquerque – it’s a lovely drive. Mesa Encantada – Along Route 23 just east of Acoma Pueblo (visible in the distance on the right). According to Acoma Pueblo oral history, it was their first home before they moved to the current location.
If you enter “Acoma Village” in your GPS, it will try to lead you up on the mesa, which you can’t get to unless you’re on a tour. Search for the visitor center instead!
Looking up – This B&W IR view of Acoma Pueblo is from about 360 feet below, just across the highway from their visitors center
At the visitors center you can learn about the culture and history of the area. Their tour includes a bus ride to the top of the mesa and a guided walk around the pueblo. Also included in the tour price is a “photo permit” for one camera. You’ll have to buy more permits if you want to use multiple cameras. I decided to just bring my Olympus Pen F with the 24-200 mm equivalent lens and it worked for most situations on the mesa. I used the extra space in my camera bags for two bottles of water. Nice to have while walking around in the hot sun!
The horno is a traditional outdoor, wood fired oven. People were selling bread made in these ovens in the pueblo.
Homes, horno and wood fuel
Even though there’s no electricity or running water up there, many of the homes on the mesa are still lived in. I liked how occasional colorful paint accents contrasted with the tan walls.
Door and windows – One of the homes on the mesa
Our guide told us that the Acoma adopted Catholicism from missionaries in the 1500s but they still practice their own spiritual traditions too. Although they’re very private about this, outsiders can attend celebrations during the Feast of St. Stephen(September) and at Christmas.
Kiva – The Acoma concealed their traditional worship places inside homes and entered via a ladder through the smoke-hole in the roof.
As you’d expect, the views from the mesa are spectacular and the visibility is awesome.
View north toward Mount Taylor (on the horizon, about 40 miles away). Ponderosa Pine used to build the mission was hand carried from Mount Taylor and up to the mesa.
Photography isn’t allowed in the cemetery (to the left of the mission) or inside the church itself. This spot is about the best vantage point I could find.
San Estevan del Rey Mission Church – Built between 1629 and 1641. According to Acoma oral tradition, their people were forced by Friar Juan Ramirez to build the mission.
For those of you that are wondering why I haven’t posted any bird or wildlife photos in a while, please be patient. We did some birding while we were in New Mexico and I’m planning to blog about that next.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!