Twofer Tuesday: nuthatch edition

Last week I spotted a White-breasted Nuthatch at the feeder and snapped two quick photos. All I got was a blurred image followed by an empty feeder tray. As I peered out the window, trying to locate the nuthatch again, it hopped up onto the window sill right in front of me. My subject was just inches away! Once again, it moved too quickly for me to photograph, disappearing as quickly as it’d appeared.

But then the nuthatch took pity on me and posed on the rail with a safflower seed in its beak.

September 8, 2022

And it even gave me a profile shot.

Such a thoughtful feathered friend.

Miraculous Magpie

This afternoon I’d just started a post about a White-breasted Nuthatch that visited our feeder when I heard a cacophony at the other end of the house. The magpies were back! (Here are some photos I’d taken earlier.)

     

Anyway, I hurried to the window overlooking the patio and saw two magpies in the bird bath and a line of magpies on top of the fence, all making a ruckus. I grinned and called for Zippy to come see the fun. And then I noticed something else.

A magpie on its back. Unmoving on the patio.

Rather than having fun, they were mourning their flock member. Zippy and I were in anguish, debating how long to leave the bird there so they could have their “funeral,” when after another minute or so of their raucous cries, the downed magpie began moving its beak. They’d called it back to life!

As some flew down next to it, the magpie got up. My movement at the window startled the rest into flying into the neighbor’s pine tree. The injured bird moved into the shade of a big pot where it sat panting for about thirty minutes. I watched with binoculars through the window and took photos. In fact, I took a ton of photos over the next couple hours but because they were taken at an angle through a not-clean window , they’re not very good.

Here’s one of the earlier photos after it’d moved from the shade of a big pot to pant here in the vinca and sedum.

The bird slowly began moving west on the patio. First underneath the loveseat where it was joined by another magpie that appeared to hunt for insects and offer them to the dazed bird which rebuffed it.  Then a long pause as the injured bird was out of sight behind the huge herb pot where I hoped it could drink from the bee bath. And then the magpie came back into view again.

It went through the wire (that’s supposed to keep Emma from destroying the flowers in the raised bed HAHAHA) and across to the timber in back.

And then it went out of sight again for a looong time. Zippy kept watch while I took a fast bathroom break and then I continued watching and waiting. I needed to know the bird was okay. Well, after a while I couldn’t take it anymore and very quietly stepped outside.

There I found a motionless magpie with its backend in my yard and the front end in the neighbor’s.

Distraught, I went back in the house. But I needed to know: what was going on? So out I went again.

This time, the head was up and the magpie was panting again. Probably because I’d stressed it out! I moved away and it went completely under the fence. A moment later, it hopped up and over a short wall.

That’s the last I saw of the magpie. I texted my neighbor to give her a heads-up and she put her dog inside then searched the yard. The only thing she found was a large, dead rat. (As she said: Ew.)

Here’s hoping those healthy, agile hops transitioned into healthy, flapping wings that carried the beautiful magpie back to the sky.

Twofer Tuesday: grasshopper edition

This robin held those two grasshoppers in its beak for about ten minutes. When I first spotted it on the wire, I refrained from running for my camera because I was sure it would fly off and I didn’t want to miss watching it. I was curious about how it would ingest two grasshoppers at once.

July 29, 2022

But after several minutes of the bird staying put while turning its head side-to-side, I went for the camera AND took the time to switch out the lenses. Still there! I took a bunch of shots, playing with the settings, and then went back to watching. Soon, a house finch landed on the wire a few feet away. It also appeared curious about the robin’s intent. Then, from off in the distance, another bird flew toward the wire. Before I could identify it, the finch and robin took off.

They knew what was up: a Cooper’s Hawk! The raptor landed in the tree, but all its potential meals had disappeared. We were both disappointed. I’ll never know if that robin was able to eat both grasshoppers.

Sunday Confessional: learning curve

Historically, technology and I have maintained an uneasy relationship that borders on adversarial. Which is why it was quite a shock when last December, I spontaneously decided to purchase a drawing tablet which would require learning new software.

Big surprise, I became discouraged fairly quickly. Because not only was it all new to me, I was trying to learn while dealing with vision issues. Rather than push on through, I set aside the whole endeavor until this past week.

Unfortunately, the learning curve hadn’t magically disappeared. I found many YouTube tutorials on various aspects of Krita (free, open source software) and began learning things. A few things. I called upon Zippy to watch the one on removing backgrounds from images and we worked together to figure it out. It was a boost to my self-esteem to find out he also struggled to understand just what in the hell was involved in the process. Still, at the end of yesterday’s session I was exhausted and demoralized: all those hours and I still didn’t really know how to do what I wanted.

Today, I had an epiphany. Rather than view Krita as a problem to be conquered, I switched my perspective. Krita and I were allies! Krita was there to help me bring my creative visions to life! I won’t lie . . . I still felt discouraged at times today, but I also relaxed into the process. And now I’m proud to present my very first creation:

The Halcyon image is from footiechic on Pixabay and I hope that stunning bird is happy in the little setting I created. I’m grateful for it’s presence.

Exploring the sunflower theme

When we returned from our walk around the neighborhood this morning, I spotted these two extra-tall sunflowers peering at us over the fence.

July 26, 2022

I took their photo with the intention of a Twofer Tuesday post. But after downloading the images from the camera, I discovered some sunflower pics Zippy had taken last week.

Sunflower plus an upright male Goldfinch:

Sunflower plus an upside down Goldfinch:

And a whole lot of sunflowers plus an almost-disappeared Goldfinch:
July 20, 2022

Did you spot him in that tangle of green and yellow? If not, check the  upper right corner.

A little magic for this Monday

The morning we had to leave the Routt National Forest, we went down to the pond where the light was soft and golden.  I got up from the boulder to wander with my camera and heard a chip chip chip coming from the willows. Tiptoeing, I moved closer and closer still, scanning. Who was making that sound?

After about ten minutes of quiet stalking, a sudden movement caught my eye. A bird alighted in a pine tree. I quickly aimed the camera into the shadows and took a series of photos, not sure what I was seeing or whether I was even capturing an image. And then the bird disappeared again.

When we returned to our campervan, I downloaded the photos. Not great images, but hopefully enough detail to identify the bird. With Stan Tekiekla’s BIRDS OF COLORADO FIELD GUIDE on my lap, I studied the best image. Some kind of warbler?

Wilson’s Warbler.  July 14, 2022

I glanced down to consult the field guide which had fallen open on my lap. Right there in front of me was the Wilson’s Warbler page and the photograph looked exactly like my photo! Exactly the same, except my warbler’s tail is up and Mr. Tekiela’s image is much sharper.

I’m smiling as I remember that moment of recognition because it truly felt like magic. And I don’t know about you, but these days I’ll take all the magic I can get. As the sticky note on my bathroom mirror says, MAGIC WELCOME HERE.

Heron painting

We went camping in the Routt National Forest for a couple days this past week and were gifted with a Great Blue Heron sighting. Another heron (that we never saw) was making a huge racket with its harsh call, sending this one into a nearby tree.

Unfortunately, we were far away and my heron photos didn’t turn out. But with the aid of a filter, the too-soft image has an atmospheric feel. It’s almost like a painting.

July 12, 2022

I tried drawing the heron in our Moby travel log, copying it from one of my photos, and was embarrassed by the attempt. Really embarrassed. That’s the bad news. The good news is I found a series of videos for beginners and am determined to up my sketching skill level. I began yesterday and Day 1’s lesson was “The Sphere” (complete with shadows and shading to make them 3-D) and today I drew  “Overlapping Spheres.” Five 3-D spheres in a row! Some of those spheres are a bit squashed-looking, but that’s okay. That oblong shape might come in handy if I ever attempt to draw a Great Blue sitting on an egg.

Twofer Tuesday: Mallards

Mallards are a common sight throughout North America and because of this, I sometimes forget just how stunning they are. Can you imagine going through life with a head like that?

May 9, 2022

Here’s a fun fact I just learned via the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

  • The standard duck’s quack is the sound of a female Mallard. Males don’t quack; they make a quieter, rasping sound.

Who knew that between the less-striking females and the males with the gaudy green heads, the females are the quackers? Wow. Guess that would seem like overkill for the males to be loud and reflect light off those shiny heads.

Twofer Tuesday: wading birds edition

Both of these birds were photographed in on the same May day in 2019. Florida isn’t my favorite state, but I sure do appreciate the wading birds. As I headed out that day, I saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron patrolling an irrigation ditch.

May 6, 2019

And a few minutes later at Kapok Park, I peered through the foliage to see this Limpkin:

If you look closely at the above photo, you’ll see the left foot is raised in preparation for some elaborate screeching sounds. The foot remained aloft throughout the Limpkin’s tongue-waggling communication.

And then back to silent contemplation in its leafy green hideaway.

Possibly dreaming of its next meal of apple snails.

I took numerous photos of the heron (in hopes of getting at least one good photo), but the pose never changed. Whereas the Limpkin moved about and became very vocal, the heron made like a statue. Hence, one Heron pic to three Limpkin on this Twofer Tuesday.

Twofer Tuesday: raincatcher edition

Birds frequently perch on the wire outside my kitchen window, but I’ve never seen this before:

June 6, 2022

It’d started to rain and these two Mourning Doves each lifted first one wing and then the other to catch the moisture, and then proceeded to groom themselves.  It was almost like watching synchronized swimmers (although I’m pretty sure the doves didn’t have to hold their breath) and I felt strangely honored to witness their routine.

I just did a quick online search for information about this phenomenon and came across a few posts on forums stating the equivalent of “I didn’t know doves did this” and “Very cool to witness.”

Have any of you seen doves bathing in the rain?

Today’s gift

This morning’s trail run offered up the usual delights that included wildflowers, singing birds, and chirping insects. But I was also gifted with something unusual.

A Bullock’s Oriole! The bright feathers caught my eye and I stopped twice on the trail to watch the brilliant flash of orange as it flew and landed on various yucca plants and rabbitbrush shrubs.

Flight
Alight
Flight
Alight
Flight
Alight
Flight
and then out of sight.

I let out a happy sigh and continued on my way with a smile.

Thankful, mostly

After staying safe and healthy for the past 2-plus years, Zippy has Covid and is quarantining in our home. I’ve done two rapid tests that came back negative and this morning felt good enough to do a 4-mile run. That’s very good news. The other very good news is Zippy no longer has a fever (his temperature was 101 on Tuesday when he tested positive). The bad news is I am very much aware that a “mild” case of Covid can cause long-term health issues and am trying hard not to think about the possibility of Long Covid.

Which is why I was exceedingly grateful to be able to run today. It was my first run since the BolderBoulder and I ran up our street to the trailhead, eager to be in my happy place again. About fifteen feet in, there was a broken robin’s eggshell in the middle of the trail. No sign of a nest or baby robins, but that bright blue shell was my first bird-related sighting. A few minutes later, four magpies few over head as another flapped-flapped-flapped to catch up. Farther along the trail, Spotted Towhees sang “sweet-sweet-teeaaaaa.” Later, a Western Meadowlark sang from its perch on a rabbitbrush. Absolute bliss.

But that wasn’t all: a bunny ran across the trail right in front of me! Insects chirped! Several other runners and hikers passed with dogs happy to be out on adventures! A good day to be alive.

There was some sadness, though. For the past couple months, I’ve checked a little round cactus at the turnaround spot, hoping to see signs of life. Hoping it was only temporarily dormant. Today I had to face reality and admit it will never bloom again. Fortunately, Zippy photographed it for me years ago so I have documentation of it in all its prickly and pink glory. Here it is again:

Thank you for the joy you brought me over the years, little cactus. You won’t be forgotten.

Sunday song

We took our first camping trip of the year at the Pawnee National Grasslands. That area is supposed to provide a magnificent night sky and we went in hopes of seeing the meteor shower. Turns out we didn’t put much effort into the sky because the high winds made it unpleasant. So unpleasant, in fact, that we came home a day early.

The good news is, there was a lull in the wind on Thursday evening and we walked the trails around the Crow Valley Campground. The lighting was divine as birds serenaded us. Here’s a Red-winged Blackbird in song:

And here’s an American Robin singing as it perches on the fence next to a couple of the MANY tumbleweeds in the area  (which I either leapt over or plowed through when running on the trails the next morning):

Here’s a Western Meadowlark singing its heart out:

This last one–Turkey Vulture– was silent, but it was a thrill when Zippy spotted it because on our maiden voyage last April, a whole bunch of Turkey Vultures roosted above our campervan.

Others may disagree, but I consider a Turkey Vulture sighting a good omen for the coming camping season.

Allow me to explain

As previously mentioned, I’m having vision issues and haven’t been taking photos because focusing is a real struggle. However, earlier this week I took my camera with me to Standley Lake where I walked with a friend. The day was windy. So windy we got sand in our mouths. So windy, I didn’t want to take time to mess with camera settings. So windy, the gusts buffeted my camera as I took shots. So windy, I didn’t really worry about photo quality. And it shows.

These are American Coots, riding the waves. Standley Lake doesn’t usually have whitecaps, but it did that day.

April 12, 2022

Here’s a coyote my friend spotted across the lake. We’d kept wondering why the coots chose to stay out in the rougher water rather than sheltering in some cove. Maybe they knew this predator was roaming the shore.

We heard a Western Meadowlark and turned to see this perching bird. A quick snap of the camera before I ducked my head against the wind again. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized it was an American Kestrel.

Lastly, here’s what I believe is a Bald Eagle. This photo is garbage, but I can still remember the thrill of standing there on the sand as it flew directly toward us before veering off over the trees.

All in all, a successful outing. A nice walk-and-talk with my friend, nearly 4.5 miles of walking, and some wildlife sightings. (Not to mention the free microdermabrasion treatment as sand blasted our faces).

Feathered friends

Today the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued what is basically its final warning to governments (“it’s now or never” regarding greenhouse gas emissions), and my heart is pounding as I type those words. We the people need to rise up and demand radical action. Unfortunately, here in the U.S. our so-called leadership is actually talking about ramping up fossil fuel production. It’s insanity.

And when reality gets to be too much, I turn to nature. Today, it’s birds. Here’s a Limpkin I had the honor of communing with at Kapok Park in Florida:

May 6, 2019

Here’s a petite Bushtit outside my Colorado window:

September 24, 2021

Here’s a Turkey Vulture doing its important clean-up work in Cave Creek Canyon in Arizona:

May 15, 2019

Finally, here’s a Common Grackle singing its song in Nebraska clover:

June 2, 2020

And now I’m going to use the energy I’ve borrowed from those wonderful birds and head out for a run on the trails where I’ll drink up more of this glorious world.

New week

We had a corvid-rich weekend. It began on Saturday with lots and lots of crows as we walked around a unfamiliar neighborhood (after Emma was too agitated at sight of other dogs in the park we’d gone to for a walk). Multiple flocks of crows flying overhead then perching in various trees. They brought many smiles.

Then yesterday morning, we were in our front yard when a flock of crows flew past. But that wasn’t all. Moments later, this raven perched in the tree across the street for several minutes, making its croaking sound.

Photo by Zippy. March 13, 2022

Today is the first day of a new week. My goal is to embody this raven’s energy, looking ahead to new opportunities and experiences. Courageous in the face of whatever life brings.

Hello, again

It’s cold and snowy outside, and toasty-warm in my home. For this, I am grateful. We’ve  replenished the various bird feeders and cleaned/refilled the bath for the many feathered visitors doing their best to keep warm and healthy during this latest snowstorm. This Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay visited the feeder last month and maybe has shown up again today. Hello, is that you?

February 2, 2022

And I’ve seen Dark-eyed Juncos out there today. Perhaps this one is also a return visitor?

February 2, 2022

Right now, I’m reading-reading-reading a critique partner’s manuscript in preparation for our group’s zoom session this evening. It’s a wonderful story and I’m happy to be part of the process and glad to be connecting with my friends again. And that’s not all. Tomorrow evening, I’ll be on a call with our local Sunrise Movement hub to reboot the group. Two social events in two days!

Okay, just wanted to pop in to say hello again and to say I’ve missed interacting with people here. When I’ve caught my breath after my whirlwind social life, I’ll try to catch up on what I’ve missed.  Stay warm! Stay healthy! Remember: March is when we really start gaining daylight! 🌞

Robin’s serenade

Every morning, I open the bedroom window for about fifteen minutes to allow fresh air inside. It feels good to replace the stale with cold and invigorating air that wakes me up both mentally and physically. This morning’s ritual brought an unexpected bonus: a robin’s serenade.

February 2, 2022

While I never did locate where the robin perched outside, it was delightful to stand at the open window and drink in those lyrical notes. It’s only early February, but for a brief time, spring was in the air.