Refuge

Western Scrub Jay. June 21, 2020

This isn’t a great photo, but I resonate with its vibe. Grumpy-looking scrub jay hunkered down in a hideaway sheltered by green foliage. I spent lots of my childhood seeking these same kinds of spaces, whether I was grumpy or not. Unlike this bird, I’d usually have a book and peanut butter sandwich which always made everything seem better. Unfortunately, this picture was taken a year ago so it’s too late to offer a book or snack . . .

Sunday Confessional: all birded out

I’ve about had all the bird drama I can stand for a while. There’s a scrub jay nest in our across-the-street neighbor’s pine tree and when Zippy and I returned from our run on Friday, we heard a cacophony in that yard. A fluffy white and gray cat (often seen roaming the neighborhood) was being dive-bombed by screeching scrub jays. Why? The cat had a fledgling in its mouth. I screamed and ran at the cat who dropped the baby bird and ran away. While Zippy stood guard over the stunned bird, I ran across the street to our house and looked up the closest bird rescue site. “Temporarily closed.”

I did a little more research and determined it would be okay to put on gloves to pick up the bird. So that’s what Zippy did and then placed the baby in a shoebox lined with an old t-shirt. We couldn’t spot the nest so he stuck the box up in the tree, wedged between branches, as the parents watched.

Adult Western/Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, probably one of the parental units.   June 13, 2021

A while later, the cat returned and this time I kept following it. It crossed the street, nervously checking over its shoulder, again and again, to see if the angry woman had given up. When another neighbor told me where the cat lived, I went to that house. No answer. Throughout the day, Zippy and I checked out our windows to see if the cat had returned. We didn’t see it again.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning, just as Wildebeest and I returned from walking Emma, there was another raucous uproar in the neighbor’s yard. This time, the fluffy white cat sat calmly (no bird in mouth) as the parent jays dive-bombed it. Again, I ran  at the cat and chased it away. After another no-answer when I rang the cat’s home doorbell, I went home and wrote a very civil note, explaining the situation and asking that the cat be kept inside.

We haven’t seen the cat at all today. I did, however, see the fledgling on the ground presumably after testing its wings again. It seemed fine. Fast forward six hours. As I sat reading, I heard yelling and yelping. I ran outside and heard the next-door neighbor say “baby bird.”

This time, the unfortunate little fledgling had the bad luck to end up in Rainbow‘s yard.

Rainbow frolicking on December 18, 2021

The good news is that when Rainbow’s human yelled for her to drop the bird, Rainbow listened.** Zippy again donned the gloves, caught the baby who was much more feisty this time, set it in another box I’d prepared, and wedged it in the tree as the parents watched.

I’ve never wanted to be able to fly (possibly related to my fear of heights), but I’m wishing very, very hard for that little scrub jay to soar overhead. The sooner the better.

** Especially good news in light of the fact our neighbor believes she inadvertently adopted a “serial killer” when she adopted Rainbow. Recent victims include a chicken and a prairie dog.

Then and now

I drove Zebu to the airport this afternoon and hugged him goodbye, a parting made easier with the knowledge he’s happy to return to his new home and life in Seattle. After driving the 40 minutes back here, I resumed drafting a new scene in my work-in-progress I’ve neglected for the past four days. The scene is bumpy, but I keep reminding myself it’s impossible to revise a blank page which means ugly writing is better than no writing. I’ve set a goal to finish this draft by June 30 and then will reward myself with a printed and bound copy of the draft.

“June 30th” is my new mantra and it’s pulling me through some rough patches as I write this book. Two years ago today I was camping and photographing birds, without any notion of this latest middle grade novel.

Dark-eyed Junco, State Forest State Park. June 12, 2019

Then again, maybe the story was already beginning to simmer and I just didn’t know it. Either way, I will honor my commitment and finish this draft by June 30. I owe it to myself and the characters.

Twofer Tuesday: grackle edition

Common Grackle, Jackson Lake State Park. May 27, 2021

I spent several enjoyable minutes watching another grackle stride through the vegetation, snapping at insects it’d kicked up. While it was a very efficient process, it unfortunately didn’t seem to make a dent in the insect population.

Give me pelicans and sunshine

It’s rainy and gray outside, but I’m not complaining. The alternative was a huge snowstorm which, fortunately, the forecasters seem to be walking back. While we do need moisture, rain would be much kinder to the new leaves on trees and shrubs. I don’t want any of them destroyed by a heavy winter snowstorm; the blooming crabapple trees are currently quite lovely.

American White Pelican, Barr Lake State Park. April 8, 2021

So right now I’m content with the rainy-gray as I think back on last month’s pelican-rich day that also happened to be sunny and warm.

A perfect maiden voyage

We returned yesterday evening from our trip to John Martin Reservoir State Park.  We had a glorious time and I highly recommend visiting this park. We spent zero time at the reservoir, but explored Lake Hasty which is below the dam and also hiked the Red Shin Trail. Yesterday morning I was up at 7:00 (quite early for me) and ran around the lake (and then again in reverse). The sun was shining as the geese honked and the ducks quacked and paddled. I grinned pretty much the whole three miles.

When we’d first arrived at tree-filled Lake Hasty Campground late afternoon on Wednesday, a couple Turkey Vultures casually flew overhead. Then my attention-deficit kicked in because there were SO MANY BIRD SOUNDS. I immediately got out my binoculars and Sibley, but as soon as I began to focus on one bird/sound I was distracted by another. After a while, I began feeling overwhelmed by my ignorance ** and Zippy suggested a walk around the lake. Good call. The light was incredible and I just drank it all in.

Lake Hasty

Tons of Cliff Swallows were swooping above the water and along the shoreline. I took loads of photos, many of which were photo-bombed by swallows.

Red-winged Blackbird & Mourning Dove plus fly-by Cliff Swallow

We eventually made our way back to the campsite as a few vultures floated overhead. Then I noticed something: vultures in the trees around our site. We watched in awe as one after another floated down and into the trees, their wings sounding like crinkling paper as they touched the branches.

I count eleven Turkey Vultures in this photo.

About twenty vultures roosted above us all night. We felt honored. The next evening, we returned from our lake excursion in time for me to set up the camera and tripod. We waited quietly. Two vultures settled into a tree next to us and then . . . nothing. About three minutes later, they took off. Guess they headed off to find out where the rest of the gang was roosting. Won’t lie, it was a disappointment. But expecting two nights of turkey vultures might be a bit greedy. Best to share the wealth.

** I spent the final morning focusing on birds — sights and sounds — without worrying about the camera, and made progress. I identified a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle variation) and felt immense satisfaction. I’m now going through my many poor quality photos of ducks on the water, seeing if there’s enough detail for identifications. I’ve found a Horned Grebe and a Blue-winged Teal. Woot!

Snowy deja vu

This photo was taken exactly a year ago and I’m sharing it now because the forecast says to expect snow for the next five days.

April 13, 2020

So even though the shrubs are starting to bud out and sprout tiny green leaves, we’re going to pretend spring isn’t happening. Ah, well. I’m never going to badmouth much-needed precipitation. As the saying goes: April [snow] showers bring May flowers.

Thankful Thursday: pal + pelican edition

I spent the afternoon with friend Laura at Barr Lake State Park which I’d never visited, despite living in Colorado for 24 years. It’s embarrassing, really. Tons o’ birds hang out there and I didn’t know about the park until Laura asked if I’d ever been there.

We remedied the situation today and it was a glorious three hours. I took gobs of photos, some of which I’ve already deleted. Many, though, make me smile.

American White Pelican

Throughout the afternoon, Laura wondered about the bump/horn on the pelicans’ bills. I finally took the time to pull out my little bird guide and then read this to Laura: Breeding adults also usually grown a flat fibrous plate in the middle of the upper mandible. The plate drops off after eggs have hatched.

Laura’s response: “But why? Why do they grow that?”

Well, I just did a little online research and still have no idea why breeding adults temporarily grow what appears to be enormous warts on their bills. However, that lack of knowledge in no way detracts from my gratitude for walking and talking with my friend on a beautiful, sunshine-y spring day in a bird wonderland.

Moment of clarity

Last night I was reading ECHO MOUNTAIN by Lauren Wolk, basking in her gorgeous prose, when I felt a pang about my work-in-progress that isn’t progressing very quickly. I set down the book and closed my eyes. And then it came to me. I reached for my project notebook and wrote:

This is what I think needs to happen if I am to finish this book.

I must let myself write WITHOUT checking facts & figures. Write this story as I feel it and know it and believe it. THEN I may check facts and figures, and revise accordingly.

Cooper’s Hawk out my window. January 22, 2021

I know, I know. Pretty basic insight. That doesn’t mean it’s not also liberating and kinda profound.

And now I’m off to write/revise without scurrying off in search of confirmation, validation, or procrastination.

Mysterious world

American Robin. February 12, 2021

Birds are the most popular group in the animal kingdom. We feed them and tame them and think we know them. And yet they inhabit a world which is really rather mysterious.  ~ David Attenborough

Nature for the win

There are so many thoughts and feelings jumbled inside me right now regarding the climate crisis, green new deal, capitalism, greed, cruelty, political failure, collective trauma, heartache and rage, but rather than unpack all that, I opted for self-care. I just spent the last thirty minutes looking through photos from camping trips and hikes, birding excursions, quick getaways in the nearby open space, etc. It was nice to gaze upon and remember those moments.

May 6, 2019

Because I need to get outside to shovel the much-needed snow we finally got last night, I had to quit my trip down memory lane and make a photographic decision. I opted to celebrate (again) the juvenile Limpkin that allowed me to take many photos of it when I visited Kapok Park.

One bird can’t change the trajectory of the world, but this limpkin can and did soothe my soul. Maybe it will do the same for you.

Creeping on a Creeper

As I hoop-danced this morning, I watched various nuthatches and a squirrel visit the peanut feeder hanging in the tree outside the window. And then I noticed another bird moving up and down the tree trunk. The elusive Brown Creeper!

I stepped out of the spin and grabbed my camera, hoping I’d finally get a decent photo of that beautiful bird that never stops moving.
     

   

Definitely not high-quality captures, but these photos are documentation of the morning I paused my happy hoop-dancing session to stalk a Brown Creeper.