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Archive for the ‘Birding’ Category

The Cuban Tody

The Cuban Tody

The Cuban Tody

In contrast to the Bee Hummingbird, the Tody weighs 2 ounces. It is approx 4.3 inches long. This elusive little beauty hangs out high in trees … at least he did when we tried to get a photo of him. They are difficult to see but patient waiting will pay off handsomely when you spot this vibrantly colored bird.  He is endemic (native and restricted to a certain place) to Cuba and a few islands around Cuba.

 

 

 

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Bee HummingbirdBee Hummingbird

Bee Hummingbird

Having seen this minute bird for myself it is still hard to believe that it weighs from 0.056 to 0.071 ounces.

Less than an ounce and still it zooms thru the air sipping nectar from flowers with abandon. His name in Cuba is Zunzun or better yet Zunzuncito. He sports iridescent feathers called a gorget hanging from his throat.

Sr. Bernabe

Sr. Bernabe

I am at the house of Sr. Bernabe who hosts the international visitors who come to visit the Zunzun and to watch them sip from the flowering tree in his back garden.

Bee Hummingbird

Bee Hummingbird

He graciously fills a feeder and holds it up so the Bee Hummingbird comes to eat and is available for photos. A mesmerizing hour is gone in a flash and we must leave. What a treat!  Gracias!

 

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Playing Hide-n-Seek with a tiny sparrow may not sound like the highlight of the week … but it is for me!

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

This crisp “Tuxedo” bird, with his black and white markings, lives in arid desert scrub-land where it seems he might have trouble keeping his immaculate appearance, yet there he is, looking splendid. He is shy and elusive like his cousin, the Olive Sparrow. Their habit is to make quick forays from beneath sheltering plants, grab a seed, and scuttle back under cover. Over a period of 7-8 years I have managed to get a few blurry photos but never one that shows their true colors.

Rancho Lomitas Garden

Rancho Lomitas Garden

Today we are out at Rancho Lomitas in Texas, where we called ahead and arranged for a man to meet us at the locked gate and allow us to visit his RV trailer where he has fed birds for 18 years. Jim meets us and we sit outside in his garden and admire the huge cacti and many statues, baubles, and various hanging feeders. Then comes the big surprise … a Black-throated Sparrow ambles out, picks up a seed, and instead of running quickly back under the bushes, he fluffs his feathers, and utters a clear loud note. Two more stroll out and the three of them pose casually among the cacti. Terrific!

Then out comes the Olive Sparrow to join them and he also stays in full view displaying his olive green back for the world to see. As if this is not enough riches for one day, a whir of wings deposits a flock of Scaled Quail at our feet. None of them seem concerned that people are near them.

Finally, venturing out to get a drink of water from the drip feature is a Clay-colored Robin. I think he has been re-classified as a thrush in the last few years but in my mind he is a robin with his round, chubby profile. Another hard-to-see bird! Rancho Lomitas is an unusual place … we enjoy these Southwestern birds in peaceful silence broken only by the liquid notes of a Cactus Wren perched on top of a blue sphere. Bird Heaven indeed!

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Roadrunner with eye patch clearly visible

Roadrunner with eye patch clearly visible

What do I know about the Roadrunner that I did not know yesterday?  Quite a bit … as seen in these photos this bird has a bare patch of skin behind each eye. I knew that … and usually the bit I have seen is bright blue. In these pic’s you can actually see that the patch is shaded blue anterior to red posterior.  Never saw that before!!

Close up

Close up

We had the treat of varied weather with short spells of pelting rain: light, misty rain, blinding sunshine and foggy horizons as we drove to Falcon Lake in Texas. Once there we saw a dozen or more Roadrunners.  They had their feathers fluffed up because it had rained but were out in full force in the sunshine seeking breakfast. Getting out to get a good shot i noticed the X tracks in the wet sand … with four toes they have two facing forward and two facing backward. It is called zygodactyl … who knew?

Eyepatch is visible even from this view

Eyepatch is visible even from this view

They live in arid scrub land and mate for life which is why we saw them in pairs searching for grasshoppers in the wet grass.

Roadrunner hunting for lunch

Roadrunner hunting for lunch

What a treat they were as they sped away from us. It was a stormy day harking back to my childhood when every day we lived WITH the weather not running indoors to escape it. Blessed rain to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

This may be what the roadrunner will find to munch on! I was hunting an elusive butterfly when touching a leaf caused a strange insect to cautiously climb up a stalk of grass and stop … so I took his picture instead of the splendid butterfly I was chasing.  Then he suddenly hopped … UP! … and OVER! a full 4 feet away. What an incredible distance for such a little guy.  We chased him and every hop was 4 to 6 feet at a hop. WOW!  I looked him up and he is a Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper found in the deep South around ponds and wet areas. He turned out to be a she as males are brown and females are green.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Here my friend holds the blade of grass she was perched on. You can see she’s about as big as a toothpick and shaped just like one!

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Reading the Japanese poet Issa

A good world —
dew drops fall
by ones, by twos

Our Rose Throated Becard reflects the morning of January 20, 2017. He is fluffed up in the gray fog at Estero Llano and is obscured by drifting clouds of mist, yet his patch of rosy feathers shines out at us. We get a brief glimpse and then he is gone to find his breakfast. A poem written in the 1700-1800’s by Issa perfectly describes the park in Texas where we see him. The trees and bushes all have dew drops lined up along their stems and we hear their quiet drip as the mist begins to clear. Lovely morning.

Rose Breasted Becard

Rose Throated Becard

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We begin the New Year, 2016, with a trip to the overgrown, mysterious, Frontera Thicket. It is quiet as we wend our way down the path to sit at a bird feeding station. Soon several people rush by us and we shout, “What are you looking for? What have you seen?” One person turns, cup her hands around her mouth, and calls back “It’s the female Crimson-collared Grosbeak!”

We leap to our feet and follow them to a fence where a Brazilian Peppertree is loaded with red berries and two dozen pairs of binoculars are trained on the tree. “Oh, the Grosbeak must have flown away,” one person says with disgust. Everyone dribbles down the muddy path looking right and left. I stay, hoping the bird will return to the luscious berries.

And then she does! She teases me by perching in the backside of the tree so I struggle to focus through the tree branches, I get a lucky shot of her with her plain, greenish-yellow body and black head. Five years earlier I succeeded in recording a male Grosbeak with his splendid red (crimson) collar and now I have a matching pair of photos of this rare bird. Rare to the United States that is … it is more common in eastern Mexico.

A disconsolate group comes back up the path and are overjoyed to hear I saw the prize at her favored spot. They settle down for another try.

Home we go with happy hearts as the light rain stops and the sun breaks through the drifting clouds. A wonderful start to a New Year.

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Tubac Hummer by Mary P Williams

Tubac Hummer by Mary P Williams

When the first rays of light reveal a ghostly world I sneak quietly out the Tubac Country Inn door and step down to a desert landscape.  Next to me is a towering cactus plant with gobs of spider webs strung between its long, sharp thorns.  Formidable is the term that leaps to mind.

Standing still I gaze at a spiderweb with tiny insects trapped in the web. Suddenly, a whirring noise by my ear and a flash as a hummingbird hovers inches from my nose. He darts forward, seizes an insect from the web, and eats it. I am astonished and stay still as a stone. He then proceeds to pluck the insects the spider caught during the night from the web, one by one, and delicately snack on them. When that web is cleared he moves to the next, and then the next.

The spider is invisible and does not rush forth to defend his breakfast … perhaps wisely, as he might also look tasty to the hummer. At a minute movement from me the flashing jewel is gone and I am left in wonderment … I did not know that hummingbirds were insectivores … I thought they lived exclusively on honey and nectar from wildflowers.

This is a marvelous morning and it is dedicated to Mark D’Avignon who travels his Zen Path with grace.

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