December 12, Back to Texas


Riley and I are back to Texas, and at the moment, are camped at Lake Brownwood, a beautiful lake in central Texas near the town of Brownwood. It's a very pleasant park except for a noisy (defective?) transformer at a power station near the campground. Seems like it bothers us every time we come here, but still we come back--nice place otherwise. Butterflies (or "Flutterbys," as brother Eric likes to call them) are buzzing our windows!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving in Tucson with Randy, Ginny and Rachel. We enjoyed the turkey and trimmings, both as main course and as leftover sandwiches--yummy


Rachel, Margie, Riley, Randy & Ginny
We went on the traditional after Thanksgiving hike to Sabino Canyon, where there had been record flooding earlier this year which had wiped out the favorite Phoneline trail. The park is not expecting to have it back in shape for two years, or more. We took the tram halfway into the canyon (as far as it runs now), and then hiked up to the top of the road. It was awesome to see all the damage that had been done. The former last tram stop was full of boulders and the restroom razed to ground level. We also did some hiking in Saguaro National Park (East) where we saw a Great Horned Owl. It declined to fly over and land on Riley's hand though. :-)


Margie, Riley Ginny & Randy in Sabino Canyon

Randy on top of boulders at last tram stop

Tucson sunset

Saguaro National Park

On leaving Tucson we headed for Albuquerque and a visit with Shannon. On the way, we went through Emory Pass at over 8200 feet, where it was snowing. Then, we stopped at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge for some birding. What a great place! Thousands of Snow Geese, Ross' Geese and ducks, and close to a thousand Sandhill Cranes--amazing sight. We spent two days there and saw many birds--loved it.


Emory Pass

Snow Geese on the ground & in the air

Sandhill Crane

Flying Cranes

Shannon visited us in the motor home on Friday night after we arrived, then spent Saturday showing us around the town. She took us to the Rio Grande Nature Center and State Park, showed us where she lives and works, and then took us to a Mexican restaurant at the bottom of the Sandia Tramway. What a great place--good view, good food and good company. There were lots of birds at the Nature Center, including some resident Wood Ducks--so striking, the males especially. Riley found out they were having a bird walk at 9 AM Sunday morning, so we got up and went. The guy who gave the walk was knowledgeable and it was worth getting up in the below freezing temperatures to go. Two of the guys on the walk turned out to be a reporter and a photographer for the Albuquerque Journal doing an article about the Center for the Go! section of the newspaper. Maybe we'll be famous! They took lots of pictures and talked to us as well as the docent. What fun!

That afternoon we went to visit Riley's cousin Mary Ellen Baxter. Her daughter Karlyne and her husband Steve came over and it was a good visit all around. This was the first time I had met Karlyne & Steve. Interestingly, they had been out to Bosque del Apache that morning to see the Cranes and Snow Geese, so we had a common interest. After they left, we went over to a rehab hospital to visit Wayne, who was recovering from a bout with pneumonia. Hopefully, he is back home now.


Riley & Mary Ellen
Monday morning we got up bright and early again and drove up to Sandia Crest to see the Rosy Finch. All three species come there for the winter, and it's a great place to see them. Rosy Finch like high snowy places that aren't always accessible. This is as far south as they come, the road to the crest is kept open all winter, and the visitor center has feeders for them just outside large windows where you can sit, drink hot chocolate and watch while staying warm. We saw the Black Rosy Finch and the Gray Crowned Rosy Finch--the Brown-capped had not yet arrived. Evidently, the best time to see all three is in January and February. We were very happy though to see the two we did. Sorry no pictures, but believe me, they are very pretty birds.

Our plan is to be in Austin this weekend and to reach Houston early next week.

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

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Bird Diary (* indicates new bird for us.)
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November 30 & December 1, 2006 Bosque del Apache NWR, NM
Pied-bill Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Snow Goose
Ross' Goose
Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Bufflehead: m & f
* Hooded Merganser: m & f
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Gambel's Quail
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Greater Yellowlegs
Wilson's Snipe
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
American Crow
Chihuahuan Raven
Common Raven
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Pipit
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Great-tailed Grackle
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December 2 & 3, 2006 Rio Grande Nature Center & S.P., NM
* Cackling Goose
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December 5, 2006 Sandia Crest, Albuquerque, New Mexico
* Black Rosy Finch
* Gray-Crowned Rosy Finch
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