Monday mishmash

Ever since I ran on the trails Saturday, looking in vain for blooming thistles amongst all the brown and mostly-dead foliage, I keep thinking back to the thistles’ prickly displays in June. So, today I’m posting one from that beautiful day when the open space was ablaze with colors.

June 24, 2021

Yesterday evening, I met outdoors with Sunrise Movement friends whom I hadn’t seen since an action last summer outside (now Senator) Hickenlooper’s house. It was both lovely and bittersweet because another friend who was supposed to also be there had to remain in Minnesota to wait for her friend to get out of jail after being arrested (along with ~69 others) for protesting the Line 3 pipeline.  We had all sorts of emotions around that because the friend who was supposed to join us AND her arrested friend had been jailed in Denver with us in January 2020 (shout-out to M for continuing to be so fierce!)

Rather than go the conventional route and post people pics from our gathering, I’ll share not-great photos of the Great Horned Owl that serenaded us as we sat in the middle of an elementary school field. (I know how that sounds, but it was actually a pretty good setting, right up until the sprinklers came on and sprayed me and my stuff.)

Not sure whether the white patch in the photo above is a mouse dangling from the owl’s beak or just part of the groovy blurring effects.

And so I don’t leave on a carnivorous note, here’s one more random image for Monday Mishmash of the dandelion puffball Zippy brought inside for me today.

Wishing everyone a good week . . .

 

Thankful Thursday: focusing on fun

A friend who knows my love of birds passed along this 500-piece puzzle after she’d put it together. I started working on it late last night. First, I turned all the pieces right-side-up on the table and took a quick pic which I texted to her with “Let the puzzling begin!”

Her reply: “I hope you don’t get addicted like I did and have a hard time stopping.” 😬

I told her not to worry, that even if I did get addicted, it was fine by me.

Welp, I spent more time today working on this puzzle than attending to most other things on my To Do list. But it felt good for my brain and mental health, so I don’t begrudge the distraction. Plus, it’s birds!

A sparrow in four acts

Last month we camped at Cow Creek South Campground along the shores of Green Mountain Reservoir. Apparently, it’s wonderful habitat for White-crowned Sparrows but not so much other species (I don’t remember seeing anything else). We heard and saw these dapper sparrows an awful lot and I was positive their lovely songs/calls would be forever bonded in my memory. Alas, I couldn’t tell you now what they sound like. But I loved listening to them and had a wonderful time photographing them.

My first attempt didn’t yield a great photo:

July 9, 2021

 

My next attempt yielded better lighting, but this one seemed determined to hide its identity.

A moment later, I was rewarded with a lovely shot.

This may or may not be the same bird, but it clearly had had enough of the paparazzi and fled my camera range.

 

—————————————————
From All About Birds (text below + recordings from New Mexico):
SONGS
The song of the White-crowned Sparrow Is one of the most-studied sounds in all of animal behavior. Different subspecies across the country sing clearly different songs, but they’re all recognizable by the sweet, whistling introduction, a succession of jumbled whistles, and a buzz or trill near the end. Songs last 2-3 seconds. Females sing only rarely.

CALLS
White-crowned Sparrows have about 10 different calls. The most frequently heard include a sharp pink, lower-pitched than the White-throated Sparrow’s call. It’s usually made by males or as an alarm call near the nest. They also make a harsh, rasping call used by sparrows during altercations.
—————————————————–

Ah yes, now I remember: pink, pink.
I might not recognize the songs and calls next time, but I’m pretty confident I can identify this sparrow when I see it again. 🙂

 

Twofer Tuesday: National Nature Photography Day edition

Because of Amy Law’s beautiful post, I learned today is National Nature Photography Day. But it’s also Tuesday, which means I need to do it up twofer-style.

First up are a Western Kingbird and Black-capped Chickadee:

April 29, 2021

April 8, 2021

Next are two trees I can’t identify except that one appears dead and the other is maybe not-so-dead?

Jackson Lake SP. May 27, 2021

John Martin Reservoir SP. April 28, 2021

Lastly, I can’t forget my love for ponds:

Sawhill Ponds. May 6, 2021

Uncompahgre National Forest. July 29, 2019

Obviously, these aren’t the most professional photos. However, they’re a good sampling of my aesthetic.

Hip-hip-hooray for nature!

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.

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!

#Snowpocalypse Now

All week, those of us in Colorado were bombarded with forecasts for an epic snowstorm. The forecasts frequently changed (regarding intensity, snowfall, start time, etc.) and during one 45-minute period in which Zippy checked three times, he read three different forecasts. The whole situation began to feel a bit hyperbolic.** That’s no longer the case.

View out my front window about 4:45 p.m. on March 14, 2021

The birds are doing their best to weather the storm, including these two Northern Flickers clinging to the telephone pole and three American Robins hunkered down in a Russian Olive tree:

         

Photo quality is poor due to the swirling snow covering windows on all four sides of the house. (Full disclosure: my windows were already smudged by cats and dog).

Drought-stricken Colorado definitely needs moisture so I’m not complaining, especially since I’m warm and safe inside. I realize how very fortunate I am.

** My favorite tweet from the week (@PhosphoSolution):

 

 

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.

Sunday Confessional: played by a hawk

The other day, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a hawk on the power line. It turned out to be a Cooper’s Hawk and I remained still to admire it, knowing from experience how quickly predator birds will leave the wire. But after a couple minutes, I decided to take a chance and went for my camera.

January 22, 2021

January 22, 2021

I went to a closer window and took a bunch of photos that looked to be pretty good. The entire time, the hawk stayed right where it was on the wire, head turning as it scanned the ground  in all directions.

Satisfied with my still shots, I changed the camera settings in preparation for the hawk taking flight. I’d had enough of my many blurred, out-of-focus shots of birds in flight. This time, I’d be ready.

I stood at the window and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Eventually, I went back to the kitchen to make my smoothie, glancing out the window every now and again. The hawk remained. I took my smoothie and stood by the sliding glass door, the camera around my neck. Set to capture motion.

The hawk started turning to his/her right to look directly at me. I raised the camera to my eye and waited. Nothing. I decided to take a quick photo of it glaring at me and so changed the settings. Yep. That’s when the hawk decided to take flight.

I yelled and then laughed. Played by a hawk.

Go with grackle

Not sure why it is, but if I miss posting for a couple days it becomes increasingly difficult to get back in the habit. So here I am at ten o’clock on a Monday night, feeling the need to post something. Anything.

But what?

Common Grackle. Grand Island, NE. June 2, 2020.

Ah, yes. Now I remember. When in doubt, go with grackle!

Peering out

I feel a kinship with this robin peering out from the vegetation and wish I could hunker down in a like manner. I dread what comes next. Neoliberalism cannot defeat white supremacy because the two are deeply entwined. I believe this is what’s known as a recipe for disaster.

American Robin in Grand Island, NE. June 2, 2020.

I wouldn’t fault anyone in search of a four-leaf clover right right about now.

Speak peace

Common Grackle. Grand Island, NE. June 2, 2020

As an artist I come to sing,
but as a citizen, I will always speak for peace,
and no one can silence me in this.
~ Paul Robeson

In search of momentum

Yikes, I missed one day of writing and am now suffering an acute case of Lost Momentum. Per my NaNoWriMo goals (45,000 words in 45 days), I need to get a minimum of 1,700 words down today if I’m to remain on schedule.

*sob* That feels like SO. MANY. WORDS.

*deep breath* Here I go, getting started. This is me, starting. One-two-three, write! Come on, Tracy, you can do it!

Black-billed Magpie in neighbor’s yard. August 29, 2019.

*exhale* Even though completing my words feels less likely than the magpie pushing that wheelbarrow, I’m going to write those 1,700 words. Right now. Truly.

Trusting the process

Clearwater, FL. May 5, 2019.

There’s a very good chance you can’t tell the bird in this blurred photo is an Osprey. It is, trust me. Looking closely, I pieced together enough info to make the identification. White undersides. A white head with a dark band running through the eyes. Sharply hooked beak. The way it holds its wings in flight. This is an Osprey.

Why post this low-quality photo today?

Because it’s a fair representation of the new middle grade I’m drafting via my modified NaNoWriMo efforts. I’m 11,000 words into the story and while much feels blurred and unidentifiable, specific and undeniable elements are guiding my way. When the panic and doubts set in (as they are today), I want to remember that I know the basic elements of this story. I want to remember I will find my way through the blurry, messy collection of words.

I want to remember to trust in the process.