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Archive for the ‘Birding’ Category

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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Picture of trout in a pan, surrounded by snow

Trout? or Catfish?

It is another snappy, cold morning and we are up at six am to go to a lake to fish. I am dubious since this is Southern Arizona and there does not appear to be any water in this parched land.

My optimistic husband, D.L., has brought his ratty, old folding chair, all his fishing gear and flies. He assembles his fishing gear and sits down alongside a guy who looks at him doubtfully, nods, and says “There is no trout here in this lake. It is all catfish and crappie, dontja’ know ?”  He then proceeds to hand D.L. some vile objects which he identifies as chicken livers. Yuck!

Enough of that … I am off on a walk around the lake, which I consider a pond, and come across a middle-aged woman with a little red wagon loaded with food, water, and fishing stuff. She is trying to pull the wagon and hold the hands of two 80+ men. It is not going too well as they are wobbling down the embankment perilously close to falling in.

My offer to help is quickly accepted and we all keep tottering along the path lapped by the cloudy water. I hold their hands and she pulls the creaky red wagon. One man smiles sweetly at me, waves  his other hand, and tries to say “the best fishing hole” which comes out “s’bst ishin ole” due to several missing teeth.

The cheery woman tells me “I bring them to the lake every day with their lunch”. She nods to the brown lunch bags in the wagon. “Then I pick them up at 1:00 when it is my own lunch hour.”  I hesitate, then ask her if one of them is her dad?  “No, no,” she says. “They are my neighbors down the street and I have been doing this for them for six years. They are much happier out here with the cottonwoods and the quail.” They both nod and treat me to huge toothless grins as they seat themselves carefully in the chairs she sets on the bank for them.

What a great person she is! I tell her she is great and she blushes and replies “Just what I would want someone to do for me.”  She unpacks a tiny table to put between them, arranges water and sandwiches, kisses each one on the cheek, waves to me and runs off to her car. The two guys really could not talk, due to the lack of teeth, so they blew me kisses and happily settled down to fish.

I walked a few steps past willows and reeds to spot a covey of quail. I look back and the two men are tearing tiny pieces off their sandwiches, tossing them on the ground and making quail-like noises. They duck their heads when they see me then wave again and laugh. No doubt waiting for me to be gone so they can feed their buddies pieces of sandwich.

Another half mile and a ash-throated flycatcher sits up on a post, posing and preening, giving me time to fumble up my binocs and inspect it at leisure. The air was crackling clean, the cottonwoods tall as pine trees and yellow, glorious yellow, as the sun began to warm the earth. I think of the group I just left, smile, and say softly to myself  “A splendid morning … well met, friends, well met.”

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and for the New Year .. .2013 … May I present the Secretary Bird …

Secretary Bird at the San Diego Zoo

Secretary Bird at the San Diego Zoo

or in the arabic the “saqr-et-tair” meaning “the hunter bird”. Funny how the jumbling of the arabic wound up ‘secretary’ …

Secretary Bird at the San Diego Zoo

Secretary Bird at the San Diego Zoo

This majestic bird is 3 feet tall and hunts on foot … eating small mammals and snakes. He is from Africa. His ancestor was Dagget’s Eagle. 6 feet tall and now extinct.  Known as a long-legged eagle he is actually a hawk.  So that is New Years Eve at the San Diego Zoo!!

Secretary Bird at the San Diego Zoo

Secretary Bird at the San Diego Zoo

May 2013 come in like a Lion and multiply to a pride of Lions for us all …

Cheers to us all and a happy glass lifted in celebration!  Mary and D.L.

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Warmth! Clear skies! And a longing to go to the top of Carson Pass and see if Forestdale Road is clear of snow so we can drive in to our house … and it is still too deep!

We are sitting by a snow bank next to Red Lake and eating lunch when a car lurches down the road, the door flies open, and a guy jumps out and places a round, black, object on the snow and starts flinging snow on top of it. We saunter down to see what is happening and a friendly, young man grins at us and says “Look!  Two rainbow trout, two cutthroat trout, and three brown trout!”

Red Lake Trout

Red Lake Trout

Wow!  He continues heaping snow and says, “The ranger at the lake gave them to me. He caught a guy who was way over his limit so he gave him a ticket and gave me his fish. Then, before handing them to me, he asked to see my license and I couldn’t find it in my wallet.  He said I have to mail him a copy in 7 days or he will give ME a ticket! I had to put them in this old hub cap and I’m trying to keep them cold so they won’t spoil. I told him I was only waiting for my wife to come and bring me a spare tire as I had a flat which was  the only reason I was hanging out at the lake … geez, what a day!  Now I have to keep them cold while I wait for my wife.”

He took a deep breath and sat next to his dog and the fish. We wished him luck and rolled on down the lovely road to Pardee Reservoir where we spotted a Tom turkey strutting his stuff and gobbling loudly.

Pardee Reservoir Tom Turkey

Pardee Reservoir Tom Turkey

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