Looking for Spotted Owls

LosAlamos-NM_LAH_7135“You can’t always get what you want…”
“I heard that there two Spotted Owls are being seen in New Mexico. I’m going to go look for them—do you want to come? How soon can you leave?” My friend Susan (left) had done a Big Year last year, but she was still missing this species and was keen on adding it to her North America life list.

I reread her text. What she was really asking me was, do I want to drop everything, pack an overnight bag, drive six hours, then hike down a steep trail in the hopes that we will be able to locate an owl that looks just like the tree it is sitting in?

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Like Dragonflies? Visit Bitter Lake NWR!

Widow Dragonfly_BitterLakeNWR-NM_LAH_9472-001I had never encountered so many dragonflies, both in sheer numbers and incredible variety. Birders speak of “hotspots”—places where birds tend to congregate. Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, just outside of Roswell in southeastern New Mexico, is clearly a dragonfly hotspot.

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Carlsbad: Beyond the Cave

Butterfly_RattlesnakeSprings-NM_LAH_8611-001Rattlesnake Springs is an oasis in the middle of the desert. Located 27 miles south of Carlsbad, New Mexico, it’s owned by the Nature Conservancy. You can take in the entire place in one glance—a small pond surrounded by mowed grasses and some weeds. Further back some small trees and thick brush take advantage of the water. (There’s also a caretaker’s private residence, and some off-limits desert.)

Situated as it is at the juncture of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, the species list for spring migration is awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, we were there well past that season. Well, you go when you can.

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To See a Cave Swallow

Carlsbad Caverns NP-NM_LAH_8407 (2)When you want to see a Cave Swallow, the logical thing to do is head for a cave. Since I wanted to see a Cave Swallow very much, we decided to visit the granddaddy of all caves, Carlsbad Caverns National Park. At this time of year there are supposed to be lots of Cave Swallows nesting just inside the cave entrance. Besides, I’d visited there as a child, but Pete had never been.

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Bosque Birding, Part 2

(Be sure to see Bosque Birding, Part 1.)

Snow Geese_BosquedelApacheNWR-NM_LAH_6273It was pitch black, and our motel room was uncomfortably cold, despite the noisy heater that had run all night. I groped my way out of bed, half asleep but excited about the coming day. We were in Socorro, New Mexico, just north of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. In less than an hour, I’d be taking pictures of some 30,000 Snow Geese flying into the dawn sky.

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Bosque Birding, Part 1

Question: I’m a birder and nature photographer living in Colorado, with a limited budget for travel. Where can I go for fun and photos at this time of year?

Answer: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge!

Geese and Cranes_BosquedelApacheNWR - NM_LAH_7495Just a day’s drive south of Colorado Springs, Bosque del Apache is the place to go for anyone interested in birds and/or photography. The week we visited, right after New Year’s, the refuge was home to 8,100 Sandhill Cranes, over 32,000 “light” geese, and a whopping 57,000 ducks! With such numbers, spectacular photos are pretty much guaranteed.

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A Garden Catalog for Colorado

high-country-gardens-catalogLast week I was complaining about catalogs full of tempting, desirable plants that simply will not grow here in Colorado. Today I want to introduce you to a catalog full of tempting, desirable plants that love it here.

Most experienced local gardeners already know about High Country Gardens, but if you don’t, you should. Based in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, this company specializes in perennials suited for the high, dry gardens of the western U.S. In fact, a lot of their stock won’t do well in “average garden conditions” (a phrase that means “conditions in gardens that are not in Colorado”).

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