New Mexico - Autumn 2010
NOTE:   Images were prepared using screen settings of 1024x768, and are best viewed with those settings.  As usual, the title of the photo can be seen by placing the cursor over the photo.

Aster sp. 15 Sept 2010
Plant life in these mountains adapts to the climate.  Spring and early summer are usually bone dry.  Then in July come the monsoon rains up from the Gulf of Mexico.  By late summer and autumn, the soil at last has moisture.  Then we have a fine wildflower show:  Mexican Hat, Indian Blanket, fleabanes, and later, great swathes of these asters along the roadsides.  Their deep blue color is complemented by countless yellow composites, including the lemon yellow flowers of chamisa, a ubiquitous small shrub.
   Red flowers like Ipomopsis and Penstemon also bloom in late summer, just in time to feed hummingbirds that are migrating south.



23 Sept 2010
Among the most faithful of my backyard birds is Steller's Jay.  In summer, 2 or 3 always came by for a bird seed breakfast.  With autumn here, they seem to be gathering into small flocks.  Now I get up to half a dozen.  Last November I had twice that many.  Nothing captures the mood of our cabin retreat more than their harsh shaak, shaack call, and the sight of one gliding through the pines down to the feeder.
    The oaks had a good year - there's now plenty of mast.  From the deck, I photographed this jay collecting a Gambel oak acorn.  Such fare will have to sustain them through the winter when I'm not here to put out bird seed.





Steller's Jay


Hairy Woodpecker

21 Sept 2010
Back home in Oklahoma, the little Downy Woodpecker is quite common, while its larger relative, Hairy Woodpecker, is seldom seen.  Here at the cabin it is the opposite.  I occasionally do see the Downy, along with both Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsucker.  But the Hairy is our constant companion.  If one isn't at a feeder, it's clinging to a suet cake that I suspended from the feeder to keep it from the rodents.  This woodpecker even comes to sugar water.  It is the one visitor that those pugnacious Rufous Hummingbirds cannot intimidate.


3 October 2010
Our other constant winged companion is White-breasted Nuthatch.  When I look out the bedroom window first thing in the morning, I usually see a jay or this nuthatch. 
   Once upon a time I despaired of ever getting a shot of this nimble, ever-so-fidgety bird.  But the trick seems to be to find a place where one can can spend
an hour or so every day at the task.  I've managed a number of acceptable pix.

White-breasted Nuthatch



5 October 2010
Autumn means golden aspen!  From our back deck, we can see a few stands on a distant ridge.  But to really enjoy the show, we must actually leave the cabin and wander the mountains.  This morning Charlotte and I had a buffet brunch at the High Country Restaurant in Chama.  Then we drove Highway 17 north toward Cumbres Pass, just across the border in Colorado.  This forest road below the pass was typical of the autumn scenery here.



12 October 2010
Our summer juncos here were all the Rocky Mountain race, 'Gray-headed Junco.'  With autumn come the migrant juncos, two other races that apparently breed north and west of here; then, move into New Mexico as winter approaches.  We now have in addition to the Gray-headed race, the 'Pink-sided Junco,' and 'Oregon Junco,' which posed for me on a rock near the feeders. 





'Oregon Junco'


f 14 October 2010
Against a background of Gambel Oak leaves in autumn splendor, I photographed this male Evening Grosbeak.  Small flocks of grosbeaks have attended the seed feeders since April.  Unfortunately, the birds of summer and early fall were molting or were juveniles.  All were so scruffy that a photo would hardly do justice.  Only now does this handsome bird have its winter plumage.