Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Birding’ Category

The rumors spread throughout our community of birding enthusiasts: “There is a new sub-species of Warbler and he can be seen near South Padre Island if you have a boat to take you out to the remote area where he lives. He has a chestnut colored head and some call him the Mangrove Warbler.”

Scarlet and Pat Boating

Scarlet and Pat Boating

Pat’s friend, Scarlett, has a boat and is willing to take us to the willow bushes lining this arm of Laguna Madre Bay. Early morning is called for, and we drive to the boat dock and motor out in the crisp morning. Idling along we search and search … no luck … the tide changes … harder to get close to the banks of willow … and after a few hours we accept that the search is in vain.

Willows and Heron

Willows and Heron

Pat and Scarlett agree that not many people have seen him. Is he even still here?  Home we go slightly disappointed … it was a long shot … and the dolphins frolicking in the water entertained us. Back at the dock, we are offered fish by a young boy who makes his living fishing from the docks.

Boy on the Dock

Boy on the Dock

Here is a cheery little cookie who tells us, “As soon as school is out I run down here and catch fish. I have to have them at the market by 5:00 in order to sell them.” He is as cute as can be and we wish him good luck.

A couple weeks later Pat and Scarlett go out to the willow bank and take this photo

Mangrove Warbler

Mangrove Warbler

… he was there … just not when we were … C’est la vie!.

Read Full Post »

Michael Emenaker

Michael Emenaker

Here is the merry face of Michael Emenaker … one of the volunteer caretakers of the birding site in Salineno. This site is on the bank of the Rio Grande river with Mexico on the other side. It is an ideal place to see the “specialty” birds of this humid, tropical region.  Michael comes down from Colorado to fill bird feeders, monitor people, and insure the health and good will of humans and birds, alike.

Michael Filling Feeders

Michael Filling Feeders

Let us all be thankful that he has assumed the mantle of previous caretakers so that we can enjoy the Green Jay, all the Orioles, the Kiskadee and Roadrunner etc, etc. Every day he spreads peanut-butter/corn meal glop on the tree trunks and awaits the influx of many hungry birds.

One of the most spectacular birds is the Golden-fronted Woodpecker who is seen only in Texas. Another bird seen only in southernmost Texas is the Olive Sparrow with his dull greenish tint on his back. He is shy and hard to see as he prefers dense underbrush as his home. Sharing his neighborhood is the tiny Black-crested Titmouse who darts in, grabs a sunflower seed and dashes away giving almost no time to take a photo …many blurry shots of him I have taken before I managed to get this one of him. Hopping slowly next to the Olive Sparrow is the Black-throated Sparrow in his crisp white and black tuxedo. They all delight the people grouped around Michael who patiently names them for the beginning birders. Thanks Michael!

The Cactus Wren ! A desert bird who is comfortably at home building his nest right in a towering cactus. No one will bother his nest tucked into the protective spines of a cactus. He is a medley of stripes and dots. What a visually spectacular bird!

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

Finally, the Pyrrhuloxia … took me a while to get his name right … he is gray with a vermillion face, a pointed topknot, and red scattered down his chest. Sitting on a blue feeder tray he is delightful.

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Come on down to the Rio Grande Valley to see all these resident birds.

Read Full Post »

Butterflies in Panama

Here is a new wrinkle in the ongoing technology path of taking a picture. It is called “digi-scoping” or maybe “phonescoping”… it is using a digital camera phone with a telescope.  In Panama our guide to finding amazing butterflies was looking thru his spotting scope at a dime-sized tiny butterfly sitting on a tree trunk 25 feet away from us. “Here is a Dirce butterfly” he said. I looked thru my binoculars and there was a patterned beauty, Tino gestured and said “Give me your Iphone”.  I handed it over, he positioned it in front of the spotting scope, carefully moved it in minute increments to the perfect place, CLICK, and look at this wonderful photo.

Dirce Butterfly

Dirce Butterfly

The Dirce butterfly captured on my Ipnone. Marvellous!

Walking further down the deserted dirt road, Tino points to another tree 30 feet away and says “There is a Two Eye Eighty Eight butterfly on that trunk.”  I squint, look thru my binoculars and see an itty-bitty blob. He again takes my Iphone and works his magic … an image of a butterfly with two black spots shows on my Iphone. “Can I try? ” I ask. He gives me the Ipnone and I move the lens close … closer … too close … back a bit. No luck … no image emerges … AND … the little guy flies away. This is much harder than it looks when watching Tino. A delicate touch, and lots of practice is required!

Two Eye Eighty Eight

Two Eye Eighty Eight

Arriving at our lodge we are handed an empty plastic bottle and a man says “ Please fill this with your urine tonight to add to our ‘fermented brew’ which is sprayed on leaves along the trail. It attracts a lot of butterflies.” We are hot, tired, and fresh off our flight from the U.S., and it seems a strange request … but we comply and the next day, when we go out on the trail in the Panama jungle, we are rewarded with the Inca Metalmark butterfly sitting on the leaf sprayed with the brew. Phew! Who knew?

Inca Metalmark

Inca Metalmark

Here is the Canopy Tower

Canopy Tower

Canopy Tower

It used to be a radar tower built by the U.S. and abandoned years ago. Then it was converted into a hotel where birders and butterfliers stay as they look down on the tops of the tropical trees where many creatures spend their days. The deck four floors up provides a place to view toucans, monkeys, and butterflies. Many happy hours are spent seeing a whole different world.

Read Full Post »

Walking through the landscaped grounds of a resort we see a robin-sized bird hopping around the corner of a building. Snapping to ALERT we begin sneaking slowly toward the corner. Carrina and I put our heads around the edge and a Red-legged Thrush comes into focus.

Red Legged Thrush

Red-Legged Thrush

Our Cuban guide said he is hard to see as he is usually lurking in underbrush. Here he is in an open area with the sun shining on his red legs. They are neon red!  His matching red eye is clearly outlined. We high five and glance around … there are three chambermaids, loaded with sheets, standing still with their mouths open and their eyes wide in concern looking at us. We wave and gesture at our cameras and try to reassure them we are harmless. They relax, smile, and scurry on to their jobs. Our sneaking must have been convincing!

Read Full Post »

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.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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!

 

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »