Festival of the Cranes – part 12

This is last post about our trip to New Mexico and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (unless my husband eventually wades through his photos and provides me some good owl pictures…or photos from when he went to the Very Large Array). Our last field trip of the festival was with a refuge biologist…to talk about endangered species they are providing habitat for. We spent the most time on the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse which are already hibernating in November. Winter is the time of year when the refuge managers tweak the habitats to help the endangered species; for the mouse they provide areas for day nests, maternal nests, food (the mice like seeds on stalks), saturated soils. The mice can swim the irrigation canals but have problems climbing up steep banks…and avoiding the bull frogs there that can eat them!

We saw a Great Blue Heron in an area that will be reworked with the mouse in mind and it will be better for other wildlife as well.

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The refuge has milkweed….and supports monarchs in season. The pods looked a little different than the common milkweed we have in Maryland…but I knew it was a milkweed relative as soon as I saw it.

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The Southwest Willow Flycatcher is also a species they manage for. The bird will nest in salt cedar but the invasive plant is a fire hazard (burns very hot and fast); the refuge is removing it and encourages the native willows to return. That is the natural progression from grassy meadows in the area so there is some balance to helping the mouse (that needs meadow) and having good stands of willows for the flycatcher.

We went back to a part of the refuge not on the wildlife loop and saw turkeys.

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One jumped over an irrigation ditch….the others went down into the ditch and back up rather than making the jump!

This field trip was the most detailed discussion of the festival about the behind the scenes work done on the refuge for the wildlife that makes this place home – for the whole year or just for part of the year.

Josey Ranch Lake – Blue Herons

I saw two types of blue herons at Josey Ranch Lake (along with green herons and a yellow crowned night heron…for a total of 4 different kinds of herons): little blue and great blue. Great Blue Herons are birds I see frequently in Maryland and in Texas. They are large beautiful birds…and I enjoy photographing them. There was one at Josey Ranch Lake – standing serene in the lake shallows.

The  Little Blue Heron is not a bird I see in Maryland, so I was thrilled to see one at Josey Ranch Lake. It was the first heron I saw when I arrived for my walk. It was fishing in the shallows near the senior center. The bird looked a little battered – had some feathered missing in its neck – but seemed healthy and finding edible tidbits in the water.

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens – Part 2

We saw quite a few animals among the plants at Kenilworth last Saturday. The dragonflies were not quite as numerous as they will be later when the lotuses are blooming. There wasn’t as much vegetation for them to set on either. The best shot I got of one was on the path.

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There was a scruffy looking Great Blue Heron on a path as well. It was preening and then spread its wings – stretching. I was surprised it did not fly away --- but maybe it did not notice we were around. There were not many people in the garden when we first got there.

A little further along a snapping turtle crossed the path to get to another pool. We let it continue along its way. It was bigger than a dinner plate!

As we were walking back toward the entrance after our trek on the boardwalk over the flood plain of the Anacostia River, we saw a muskrat in on of the water lily ponds. It looked like it was eating a tuber. Hopefully the animals do not take a big toll on the water lilies and lotuses of the garden.

Close to the visitor center there was a group of Canadian geese – adults and large goslings. We gave them plenty of room since the parents can be very aggressive if they have their young. We managed to not be attacked!

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Spring

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I visited Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week. The day was too cold and too windy….but was the only one that fit it the schedule. I remembered to take pictures of the metal work near the visitor center.

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In the garden near the front of the visitor center, I didn’t see any butterflies…but there were dried blooms from last season left on the trumpet vine growing on the arbor and a clump of bluebonnets (we’d seen larger patches as we drove to the refuge along the highway).

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We decided to use our car and a moving blind and protection from the wind….making our way slowly around the wildlife drive of the refuge. There were not many birds but enough to make some photography attempts. The most unusual was a Eared Grebe in breeding plumage. Someone in the visitor center had commented about seeing a pair but we only saw one.

There were some American avocets a little too far away for a good picture on a cloudy day. They can be identified with the picture I took….and there is a Great Egret in the foreground.

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There were also Snowy Egrets (black bill and legs, yellow feet).

Very far out in the water on snags were American White Pelicans and Double Crested Cormorants.

The Greater Yellowlegs was closer and intent on finding some lunch.

The Great Blue Herons were numerous and seemed to all have the blue topknot of mature birds.

We saw one turtle positioned for maximum sun (warmth) but there were probably more.

There were still some Northern Shovelers on the water; most of them have left for their breeding grounds in the north. A pair of Blue Winged Teals were hiding in the plants beside the road as we were leaving; they are close to their breeding grounds based on the allaboutbirds map…so might have just been making a last stop over.

I took a few shots of wild flowers as we drove out of refuge….just rolled down the window and used the zoom!

Not bad for a cold, cloudy day!

Posts from my visit in November 2017: part 1, part 2.

The Inn at Chachalaca Bend

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Our main activity for the last day of the Rio Grande Valley Birding festival was breakfast (sumptuous) as the The Inn at Chachalaca Bend followed my a walk around the grounds looking at birds. We started near the Inn’s deck on the bank of La Resaca de las Antonias. We saw a Belted Kingfisher on the electrical wires crossing the Resaca almost immediately!

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A Great Blue Heron and Great Egret had a little conference in the distance.

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There was a broken tree trunk (or old telephone pole) near the water….a perch for an Altamira Oriole.

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Directly across from the Inn an Anhinga dropped down into the water to capture a fish then walked back up a palm that was slanting over the water.

Nearby on a snag, a Golden Fronted Woodpecker searched for breakfast.

There was a ruckus and then a larger bird flew toward us over the water and sat on the electrical wire nearest us: a Ringed Kingfisher.

There was Great Kiskadee on the wire further away

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And a Black-crowned Night-Heron in the vegetation across from where were standing.

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The kiskadee flew away and we notice a kite (probably white tailed…but hard to tell for sure).

We left the Resaca to hike around some open field areas. We saw an American Kestrel looking at the meadow.

As we headed back almost to the edge of the path through a forested area, we looked up and saw masses of migrating American White Pelicans! There were several groups…maybe as many as 1,000 birds.

The path branched off to the edge of the Resaca again and we saw a Snowy Egret (note the yellow feet which is a distinctive feature for this bird even if the focus is not very good for the picture).

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As we got ready to leave, we gathered back at the Inn and saw a hummingbird at the feeder (probably Ruby-throated).

There were a few plants I took pictures of…but they were secondary to the birds!

South Padre Island and Bay Cruise – Part 3

The last part of the field trip was a cruise on the bay. The first ‘sight’ was a lighthouse with scaffolding around it as we neared the dock on our bus.

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Then we were off and looking for Peregrine Falcons under the bridge. We spotted several but there was only one that was positioned for pictures.

There were mud flats with Laughing Gulls,

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An Osprey surveying the scene, and

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A Great Blue Heron walking awkwardly in the mud.

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There was an island that provide roosting sites for Great Blue Herons (7 of them in the foreground) and Roseate Spoonbills (8-10 of them in the background).

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This is the best picture I got of the Roseate Spoonbills as we cam around their side of the island.

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Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, and laughing gulls were groups on the sandy beach.

What birds to you see in these two pictures? So you see the Green-winged teals (2 males and a female), Black-Necked Stilt (2), Great Egret, Laughing gulls.

As we headed back to the dock, there were Double-Crested cormorants on pilings we were passing

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And a Laughing Gull settled on the highest point of our boat.

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There were so many Brown Pelicans. It’s thrilling that their numbers have recovered from the brink of extinction caused by pesticide pollution!