I recently realized it’s been ten years since I retired from my long-time job. Somewhat surprising to me was discovering that going out to photograph birds (and soon after, butterflies) would take up so much of my time. It was certainly not on the list of things I’d find myself working up in the days between making the decision to retire and the actual event. Although I’d had a website (sandianet.com) since 1997, it has grown considerably over the last decade as more and more photos of birds, butterflies, and anything else that’s caught my eye were added. That realization triggered a major task to modify the website structure and content and to delete a considerable number of images, many of which were redundant or for which others were just better photos. There remain an absurd number of images on the website particularly of birds and butterflies from more than 20 trips to other states during the past decade and 30 international trips going back almost two decades, but I’ve managed to clean up those sections of the website dealing with nature images from New Mexico. Of an original total of 11,786 photos, 7,200 were deleted resulting in the current total of 4,586. That’s still a crazy number, but represents a reduction of 61% of the original total. These had been stored on both a hard drive and a web server. A first step was to go through all of the photos in a category (birds, butterflies, critters, bugs, dragonflies, and flowers) deciding which to retained or delete. Next was deleting many of the files on the two systems and double-checking to ensure they matched. Finally, a new set of webpages were made to present the remaining images. So that’s what’s been taking up a fair amount of my time over the last two weeks and partly explains why there aren’t many photos for this post.
Just a couple of weeks following my last day of work, on March 5, 2011 I started this blog. It seemed a fun way to document and share what was turning into a major part of my post-retirement life, and it’s been interesting going back and looking over some of those more than 300 posts over the last ten years.
During the first week of February, I did get out to a couple of local spots that while mostly quiet for birds turned up some good sightings. One morning was at Pueblo Montano Open Space. Not many birds, but plenty of porcupines dozing in the trees. There was, however, a Pied-billed Grebe working its way down the irrigation ditch,
and, on the way back to my car a patient Red-tailed Hawk catching a little morning sun.
Another morning took me out to Willow Creek Open Space near Bernalillo, where I didn’t expect to run into many other people and there were reports mentioning a pair of Great Horned Owls being seen regularly. Although they seem to use a different nesting location within the Open Space every year, their nests have been spotted reliably in recent years and this year’s breeding season should start any day. So I walked the big loop and looked around carefully up at the northern end near the houses where they’d been reported. Not seeing anybody as I made my way around the corner to head back south, it was quite a treat to hear their territorial hooting that helped me spot them. Rarely do I hear them and usually it’s late at night. Not the greatest photo, but you can see both of them close together on the same branch.
At the end of the week, Rebecca and I met down at Bernardo Waterfowl Area. We ended up with a pretty good list of more than 20 species seen, including (as expected) quite large numbers of Sandhill Crane, but the absolute highlights of the day for me was finally getting some decent shots of Northern Harriers. Just as we arrived, Rebecca had seen a male near the side of the road and when we wandered back toward that area to take a look, it flushed out of a somewhat different spot and I managed a couple of quick shots.
Over lunch, we had fly-bys of a couple of females, one of which had something odd going on with its right wing.
Later, on the way back toward the exit, we’d have one sitting on a dirt mound as we drove up that first flew off and a short distance up the irrigation ditch before heading back to perch on some dry brush in the ditch.
Once she landed there, she seemed to pay no mind to my slowly getting closer. I kept taking pictures the closer I got. Not wanting to disturb her further, I got some great shots and then slowly backed away. Here’s a nice one of her with an eye on me.
This one is quite similar, but if you zoom in you’ll see her translucent nictating membrane, a sort of inner eyelid birds, reptiles, and even some mammals have.
Of course, it’s been pretty cold out the last couple of days and we’re catching a bit more snow this morning than we did with the first pass. Now that I’m done with that website cleanup, I’m looking forward to getting back out there again soon.