Tag Archives: Albuquerque birds

Autumn Color in the Jemez Mountains-Part I

Golden Quaking Aspen

Golden Quaking Aspen

Along with the Sangre de Cristo range 35 miles distant across the Rio Grande valley, the Jemez Mountains form part of the southern Rocky Mountains, which stretch over 2,000 miles north into Canada. The Jemez Mountains contain no great natural landmarks, rather they are a large area of mostly undisturbed forested wilderness, with rocky peaks, meadows, mountain streams, lakes and waterfalls. More unusual features result from past volcanic activity: There are hot springs, sulphurous vents and a caldera, which is a ring of hills comprising the remains of several long-extinct volcanoes. All the mountains form part of the 1.6 million acre Santa Fe National Forest. This area was the the site of the destructive La Concha fire this past summer.

Bosque Bill and I decided to take a trip to the Jemez last weekend to see the fall colors. It was Bill’s birthday, and we thought that that a photo outing combined with a picnic would be a terrific way to celebrate.

Our first stop was at a camping area near the Pueblo of Jemez, which is an independent sovereign nation with an independent government and tribal court system. It is a federally recognized American Indian tribe with 3,400 tribal members, most of whom reside in a puebloan village that is known as Walatowa, a Towa word meaning “this is the place.”

The scenery at this first stop was lovely, although the fall colors were just beginning to show.

Jemez fall colors

The Jemez River and red cliffs.

We saw American Robins in the Rocky Mountain Junipers, feasting on berries.

American Robin in a Rocky Mountain Juniper

American Robin in a Rocky Mountain Juniper

Dark-eyed Juncos foraged on the ground.

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon variety).

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon variety).

Our next stop was Battleship Rock, a spectacular basalt rock cliff at the confluence of the Jemez River and the East Fork of the Jemez River. An interesting fact about this formation is that the basalt columnar joints are horizontal rather than the much more common vertical joints.

Battleship Rock

Prow of Battleship Rock, surrounded by fall colors.

Fly fisherman near Battleship Rock.

Fly fisherman near Battleship Rock.

Jemez River near Battleship Rock.

Jemez River near Battleship Rock.

Glorious Gambel Oak color near Battleship Rock.

Glorious Gambel Oak color near Battleship Rock.

Before we took the road to Fenton Lake, we stopped to admire this hillside covered in flaming Gambel Oak foliage.

Gambel Oak cover this hillside.

Gambel Oak cover this hillside.

We paused to admire this lovely Mountain Bluebird.

Jemez Fall Color

Mountain Bluebird

On our way to Fenton Lake we stopped at an overlook where we got our first real look at Quaking Aspen and their spectacular golden autumn color.

Golden Quaking Aspen in the Jemez Mountains.

Golden Quaking Aspen in the Jemez Mountains.

Lovely stand of Quaking Aspen at the overlook.

Lovely stand of Quaking Aspen at the overlook.

Another view from the overlook.

Another view from the overlook.

Gambel Oak at the overlook in the Jemez Mountains.

Gambel Oak at the overlook.


We stopped and ate a lovely picnic lunch at Fenton Lake. We were joined by two Steller’s Jays …

Steller's Jay, Fenton Lake, Jemez Mountains, New Mexico.

Steller's Jay

… and this cute little Least Chipmunk.

Least Chipmunk, Fenton Lake, Jemez Mountains, New Mexico.

Least Chipmunk

Everywhere we went we were surrounded by gorgeous fall color.

Quaking Aspen, Jemez Mountain, Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico.

Quaking Aspen grove.

In Part II of this post I will show you what we saw on our return trip.

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After the Fires

This would normally be a Wordless Wednesday post, but today I have something to say about what has happened in my beautiful state.

This weekend Bosque Bill and I went down the Calabacillas Arroyo access to the Rio Grande to see what was happening there in light of the monsoon rains that have occurred following the La Concha and Pacheco fires earlier this year.

It was a beautiful morning, and we enjoyed looking at the flowers …

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

Hyssop Lily

Hyssop Lily

Globe Mallow

Globe Mallow

Bee Plant

Bee Plant

Blue Flax

Blue Flax

… and the dragonflies and damselflies on the walk down to the river. I am not at all confident in my ability to identify dragonflies and damselflies. Please feel free to correct any mis-identifications.

Variegated Meadowhawk

Variegated Meadowhawk

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

Aztec Dancer (male)

Aztec Dancer (male)

Aztec Dancer (female)

Aztec Dancer (female)

Powdered Dancer

Powdered Dancer

We walked down to the Rio to enjoy the beautiful view of the river and the Sandias.

Rio Grande and clouds over the Sandias.

Rio Grande and clouds over the Sandias.

We watched Snowy Egrets flying overhead.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

And what does all of this have to do with the devastating New Mexico fires?

When we got to the edge of the river, we could see that the river was dark gray with ash from runoff from the burn areas. There was a great deal of black ash along the edge of the water.

Ash in the Rio Grande from runoff after the La Concha and Pacheco fires.

Ash in the Rio Grande from runoff after the La Concha and Pacheco fires.

There were chunks of burned Ponderosa Pine floating in the Rio.

Charred Ponderosa Pine bark.

Charred Ponderosa Pine bark.

John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal has written a blog post about how a fire affects an entire watershed. The damage from the fires and the subsequent flooding has devastated many beautiful areas in New Mexico including the Santa Clara Pueblo, Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera National Preserve and Dixon’s Apple Orchard. Many important birding and wildlife areas were burned. It will take many years for these areas to recover.

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A Sunday Bike Ride in the Bosque

It was a beautiful weekend in New Mexico. I went for a bike ride on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday I forgot to take my camera with me, but I remembered it on Sunday. These photos were taken with a little Canon point-and-shoot that fits in my biking jersey pocket.

After I had finished my serious riding I detoured into the Aldo Leopold Forest Area near the Rio Grande Nature Center. There were many Wilson’s Warblers in the trees near the river and I saw a Green-tailed Towhee in the underbrush, but my little camera was not up to the task of photographing small, active birds. Fortunately this Western Fence Lizard posed for me on an old fallen cottonwood.

Western Fence Lizard


Western Fence Lizard, Another Look


Afterwards I walked through the Rio Grande Nature Center where I saw turtles, Mallards and Canada Geese at the Nature Center blind.

Turtles and a Mallard, Rio Grande Nature Center


There were quite a few Black-chinned Hummingbirds at the Nature Center feeders. I was very happy to be able to get a few decent images with the point and shoot.

Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Rio Grande Nature Center


Female Black-chinned Hummingbird, Rio Grande Nature Center


As I rode back along Rio Grande Boulevard I saw literally thousands of little yellow Clouded Sulphur butterflies in an alfalfa field.

Clouded Sulphur Butterfly


The sight of all the little butterflies was so lovely that I took a slightly shaky point-and-shoot video of them.

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Filed under Albuquerque birds, Butterflies, Lizards, Turtles

Wandering Wednesday-A Bike Ride in the Rio Grande Bosque

On Sunday morning I set off for a bike ride in the Rio Grande Bosque. It was a lovely day, and I took some photos with my little point and shoot camera.





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