“Your head is a living forest full of songbirds.“ — e.e. cummings
Last week after leaving the Crow Valley Campground, we drove the 21-mile Birding Tour in the Pawnee National Grasslands. Alas, due to strong winds and dust, there weren’t a whole lot of birds out and about (aside from a huge number of Horned Larks which we’d never seen before plus some hawks on the ground that were too far away to identify).
However, we were gifted with antelope sightings. This small herd ran away from us as we sat idling on the road way far away from them. It seems antelope do not take any chances and will bolt at the first sign of danger.
And here they are after reaching a distance far enough away to feel safe. They stopped and wheeled around to watch us.
The scenery for that entire bumpy drive on the gravel roads was brown-brown-brown and we constantly scanned for movement. My (hopeful) eyes were often tricked into believing I saw running antelope, but it was almost always tumbling tumbleweeds blowing across the desolate landscape. Those tumbleweeds moved very quickly and I would’ve loved to see one blowing alongside the running antelope in order to compare speeds.
The antelope, though, brought me the most joy. No contest.
Avian still life
evidence of flight or fight
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.
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.
Only one of these robins is in focus, but I don’t think there’s mistaking the other’s mood which can only be described as angry-bathing.
There, all better.
It means even more to me than usual to have winged visitors to my yard. Because I’m currently stuck in a walking boot, I haven’t been venturing out
much at all. So, today I dedicate my gratitude to these four birds, in the order in which they appeared.
First up, is a House Finch that immediately flew to the bath right after I’d cleaned and filled it this morning:
Moments later, this Red-breasted Nuthatch came for a drink:
Then another male House Finch posed in the maple tree:
And this afternoon, while taking a break from revisions, I spotted a radiant Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay:
It’s only Day 4 of my walking-boot-sentence and the Herman Munster clomp-clomp-clomp is already wearing thin. All gratitude for birds!
This Red-winged Blackbird and Mourning Dove shared a tree as the sun went down on our first day of camping in Moby, the Great White campervan, in late April. We were walking around Lake Hasty (John Martin Reservoir State Park) at the end of a lovely day when I spotted them.
We receive many doves (Mourning and Eurasian-collared) here at our backyard feeder, but Red-winged Blackbird sightings are more rare. I have childhood memories of them singing their beautiful song as they perched on cattails along the train tracks.
I’m posting this picture to commemorate the end of our camping season. Yesterday we unloaded Moby in preparation for a trip to the shop to have a pop-top installed. Next year, we’ll be able to stand up inside. Can’t wait to get back out there to bask in the glories of the natural world.
Perched on its food source
a seed on head, one in bill
Sometimes you need to press pause to let everything sink in. ~ Sebastian Vettel
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.
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 . . .
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!
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:
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):
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.
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. 🙂
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:
Next are two trees I can’t identify except that one appears dead and the other is maybe not-so-dead?
Lastly, I can’t forget my love for ponds:
Obviously, these aren’t the most professional photos. However, they’re a good sampling of my aesthetic.
Hip-hip-hooray for nature!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The whole point is to live life and be – to use all the colors in the crayon box. ~ RuPaul
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.
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:
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):
Today’s the last day of the Great Backyard Bird Count and I wanted to share a photo of the largest bird we tallied: this beautiful Red-tailed Hawk.
The smallest species? Bushtits! We counted fourteen of them at one point. All fourteen of those wee Bushtits could easily ride on this hawk’s back. I’d pay big money for that photo!
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!
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.
junco not into sharing
feathered dine and dash
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.
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.
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.
Ah, yes. Now I remember. When in doubt, go with grackle!