Bringing the warmth and color

Right now the view out my window is dreary. Gray skies and patches of snow on the ground next to the tree limbs that broke off under the weight of the late snow. We’re nearing the end of May and Colorado has been atypically gloomy for the past several days. Enough, already. Thank the goddesses for the cheery plumage of this Northern Cardinal I photographed in Cave Creek Canyon.

Maybe I should go find my own festive red cap . . .

Final birding excursion

Zippy and I got up and out to the bridge on South Fork by six this morning. We hoped to see, among other birds, an Elegant Trogon. We joined several birders on the bridge also hoping for the “big prize.” Spoiler alert: Zippy and I never saw the Trogon (can’t vouch for the others since some went farther upstream and others down), but we heard its distinctive call which sounds like a barking seal or pig. We did have the pleasure of viewing some other birds:

American Robin (there’s a nest right there and yesterday we watched the parents battle it out with several Mexican Jays)
Northern Flicker
Blue-throated Hummingbird
Hepatic Tanager (male)
Dusky-capped Flycatcher (or Brown-crested Flycatcher?)
Plumbeous Vireo
Acorn Woodpecker (Zippy also saw Arizona Woodpecker)
White-breasted Nuthatch
Painted Redstart

At a couple minutes after eight we regretfully called it a morning since we had to pack up for our trip back to Colorado. As I drove slowly down the road I pulled over next to the stream in hopes of hearing the Trogon one last time. We didn’t hear its call, but we did see this beauty:

Farewell, Cave Creek Canyon.

Today the universe answered my call

This afternoon Zippy and I hiked the Greenhouse Trail in the Chiracahua Mountains. The guide trail notes said the mountain hike was also good for birding, so off we went to scratch our two itches. As we hiked along Greenhouse Creek we heard many bird songs and each time we’d raise our binoculars to scan for the source, hoping to identify one of the over 300 bird species in the region. As one after another (usually brown) bird flitted in and out of our sight before we could make a positive identification, I remembered the words of a birder friend from Anchorage. Anne once said to me, “You’re more of a ducker than a birder.”

And she was right. I do pretty well with the larger, more sedate feathered creatures. Ducks, shore birds, and wading birds are my comfort zone. They give me time to make identifications. Song birds in a forest are much harder for me to ID and today my frustration level went way the hell up.

I don’t know a whole lot of bird songs (shout-out to Mourning Doves and Spotted Towhees for their easily identifiable songs!) and I’m crap with our new guide book, Birds of Southeastern Arizona, because it’s grouped by type rather than by color. Hence my frustration and feelings of inadequacy.

As Zippy and I sat on a log next to the creek (because we’d lost the trail, which is a whole other story), he hoped aloud for birds to come up to us with signs. As in, “Hello, I’m a Brown Creeper” or “Hey, check me out. I’m a Brewer’s Sparrow.”

I replied, “We need primary color birds. Like a Vermilion Flycatcher. We for sure could ID the hell out of that bird.” (Because, in case you didn’t already guess, that bird is primarily bright red.)

Guess what happened a couple minutes after my primary colors plea? A bird flew overhead and into a tree right in front of us. Without any muss or fuss, Zippy and I identified a Western Tanager which looks like this:

Don’t worry, we’re not feeling too full of ourselves. While we did manage the identification, this isn’t exactly a great photo. Still, I wanted to celebrate the fact that once in a while the universe does listen and respond accordingly.

Exploring the Chiracahua Mountains

Zippy and I’ve been traveling since Sunday. We camped at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area In New Mexico that night and yesterday afternoon arrived at Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiracahua Mountains of Portal, Arizona:

I had to stop and take this photo when we reached the entrance to the canyon.

We got settled in and then did a short hike. We heard some birds but didn’t see any.
Lots of interesting flora, though:

This morning we got up early for a short hike and on the drive there,
saw a Wild Turkey. This was our hiking destination:

The photo doesn’t do justice to the Cathedral Vista. It’s a truly stunning view as you emerge from wooded trail out into the open. And on the way back to where we’re
staying we located this Whiskered Screech-Owl in a sycamore tree:

Photo by Zippy.

Our hosts had told us where to find the feathered friend. Apparently,
the owl hangs out there all the time, watching the comings and goings in
the canyon.

And now we’re off for more adventures!

My consolation prize

I’m at the Tampa Airport for my flight back to Denver. I arrived early, early Friday morning and later that day spotted a Roseate Spoonbill swirling its bill in the irrigation ditch running through the community where my mom lives. I was thrilled! I’d never seen one and ran back to my mom’s for my camera. The spoonbill was gone by the time I’d returned.

Later that day I saw one flying high overhead (the pink was the tip-off) and the following day was driving past when I saw a spoonbill in the ditch. Again, I didn’t have my camera but drove home, grabbed it, and sprinted back. Gone.

I went out early in the mornings and in the late afternoons during the time slots the locals suggested held the highest potential for a sighting. I brought my camera in the car.

No more spoonbills.

So now I’m headed home with nothing more than a couple mental snapshots of that unusual species. PLUS this photo of a Pileated Woodpecker I spotted at Kapok Park yesterday. The image isn’t anywhere near sharp, but I’m very happy for the sighting and this photographic memento.

I’ll be back for the Roseate Spoonbill.

Monday, Monday can’t trust that day

I started my day at one of my favorite places on the planet, Kapok Park. I wandered around with my camera and came upon this sign that reminded me of Zebu. I’d taken a photo of him next to that same sign when he and I visited the park a year ago.

So when I saw the sign today, I missed my son and decided to take a quick pic to send in a text. I stepped closer to the sign and focused on framing the shot. Suddenly I felt a burning, stinging sensation in my left ankle. I looked down and noticed ants crawling on me. Lots of angry, biting ants.

I’d somehow neglected to see their enormous anthill-home and stepped in it with my big shoe.

The good news is I had a lovely visit to Kapok Park where I managed to avoid molesting the alligators. The bad news is I caused considerable distress to an ant colony.

Happy Monday!

Definitely a duck

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.
~ Douglas Adams

Wood Duck paddling about in the irrigation ditch.

Wishful thinking

It’s snowing right now. Two days ago it was 70 degrees. Why must Colorado weather be so erratic? Where’s my sunshine? My warmth? Where has spring gone to hide?

While I await its return, here are some springtime clematis blooms from several  years ago.

Spring, please hurry on back!

Thank you!

Love,
Tracy

In support of Sunrise Movement & the planet

I’m headed off to Boulder for a Sunrise hub meeting to plan our next steps for achieving a Green New Deal. As mentioned before, I love these young people and their passion and am honored to have their backs as they fight for the planet and a sustainable future. They’ve already changed the conversation about climate change and brought it to the forefront.

Please consider lending your support. Go here to join the movement, find a Green New Deal town hall meeting near you, and/or to make a one-time or monthly donation to support their efforts. Thank you in advance!

The forest for the trees

I just spent the last several hours tying up some loose threads on the YA project I’ve (most recently ) been working on since last fall. Basically, I wrote pages of notes in order to have a map for the next time I pick it up. The thing is, I cannot put any more energy into this project right now. My critique group gave me feedback last Wednesday on the first 30 pages and it’s still a hot mess. My words, not theirs. Their feedback was spot-on and they offered some great suggestions, but my heart isn’t in it anymore. This is a project I drafted ten years ago and over the following decade revised multiple times. It’s definitely a better story than it was before, but it’s still not where it needs to be.

So. I’m setting it aside because the characters and plot have become a jumble in my mind. I can’t see the forest for the trees and I’m sick of trying.

Whew. I’m feeling a mixture of emotions right now, but there’s a whole lot of relief in letting go.

King Harvest (Has Surely Come)

While I’m finishing up my work-for-hire project (hooray!!!), Zippy is out on the patio harvesting our worm compost.  Each time I fed them over the past couple months I’d remark “I need to harvest this stuff. The bin’s getting full.” Well, I never got around to that harvest.

Today’s the day! Zippy wants/needs compost for the seeds he’s about to plant in his vegetable garden so he’s out there utilizing the pile method. Worms are light-sensitive so migrate down in the piles which makes it easier to separate them from the compost.

But it’s still a labor-intensive process and I’m grateful Zippy has tackled the project. However, I’m feeling a bit left out. Solution? As I work on my manuscript I take breaks to go down and say hello to my worm friends. Here’s a mess o’ worms that were hanging out inside an avocado peel:

And here’s an adult and a younger worm that patiently allowed me to hold them for a moment before I headed back to my writing project:

 

 

All hail King Harvest!