Was I Surprised!

Just when I thought it was time to call it quits on my birdwatching … the sky was darkening where I had been so I left, the wind was blowing in another place so my photography would be less fun, and I was getting tired of driving. I thought I would make one last stop before heading home.

When I pulled into the Historic Canoa Ranch parking lot I saw people with their binoculars zeroed in on something. I also saw people carrying their zoom camera lens to the area. My luck told me just get out there, see what was going on and worry about the right camera lens later. If there was a bird it was sure to fly off by the time I get there! Or maybe not!?!

Juvenile northern jacana

With the best of intention for physical distancing and wearing a mask, I slowly approached a woman to ask what everyone was looking at along the shoreline of the lake because I saw nothing. With specifics from her, there it was … a juvenile northern jacana! My last birding stop resulted in another bird on my life list! WOW!

I did not have my big zoom lens so I creeped around to find a good location for a photo with a smaller zoom. One of the photos actually caught a look at this bird’s extremely long toes. It continued to casually hang out and no one bothered it which was wonderful to see!

I left the birdwatching to get home and read more about this bird. Apparently for this bird’s size it does have extremely long toes and in the field guide it says the bird may stay around for awhile. Cool; others may happen upon seeing it too!

Bird Loves Water!

My escape to the mountain forest provides me with relief from the hot dry desert temperatures. Thankfully within 25 miles I can be at a higher elevation with a 30 degree cooler air temperature!

I like walking along or in a creek bed in a wooded area with my tripod, camera and binoculars. It is fun despite any little black gnats wanting to bother me. I am looking for birds. I capture a few photos of birds in trees, but my best are when I find a puddle of water in a creek bed. Today is one of those days!

In the tree sits a female black-throated gray warbler. (I learn its identification later in the evening when I do my research.) Water is below the bird. Other birds flew in and out of this area, but what will this bird do? She seems to look my way to see what I am going to do. So we both wait.

Finally she flies down to the water and again seems to be watching me, or so I think! No one else is around and she can enjoy the water.

Now for some bird fun in the water! I love it, but should have also changed my shutter speed to something faster to catch those water droplets in mid-air and the feathers flying all over, but instead I enjoy the bath time activity! Bird watching took priority over my photography.

Finally a chance to jump back onto a branch and relax!

I hope she had as much fun as I did!

What Is The Red Thing In the Tree?

When birding, I watch for all activity, especially anything moving since it could be a new sighting for me. On this day, I was happy to see a red-faced warbler, black-headed grosbeaks and a mountain chickadee. While I might want to tell you more about the birds, I have a story to tell you. I asked myself, what is the red thing I see on the side of the tree? It’s moving and it is not a bird!

The fun thing about bird watching for me is being outdoors with the excuse to look for birds, but in reality I just want to see nature and whatever activity is happening. Through tree branches I watch the movement of what looks like a red apple. Could it be an apple? How is it moving up, down and around the tree? Finally a squirrel appears and I see the apple being moved up and down the tree while held in the squirrel’s mouth! Aha! Tree branches and power lines were blocking my vision, but now I see it all.

The next few minutes were interesting and funny as the squirrel did squirrel around to seek out, what? I could imagine the squirrel thinking about the best place to put this apple. Where will I put it so I can come back later and continue to eat this sweet thing? The squirrel decides on the crook of a tree and leaves it there.

I am thinking to myself I have to get these photos. I had no plans to be photographing birds this high in a tree, but I wanted a photo of this squirrel and the apple. I was also thinking, does this squirrel really think this is a safe place for the apple? I am distance away and that red apple just seems to pop out with such color to be easily seen here in the forest. It has to be an invitation for another!

No surprise, it was a few minutes later when a common raven discovered the apple. He flew in, checked it over and after a few minutes knocked it to the forest floor. The squirrel and raven had a bit of a tangle down on the ground, but the raven scared the squirrel away and enjoyed the apple.

What was funny about this whole wildlife encounter was the fact I had seen all of the action from the start and then worried about the Granny Smith green apple I was eating in the minutes after this activity. The raven was back up in the tree and sat there the entire time I ate my apple. I honestly kept it hid from the bird as I was sure it would have flown my way if he saw any piece of my apple! What a wonderful sighting today! I love nature!

Raven sat and watched as I ate my green apple.

Gopher Snake Sighting!

If I am going to be awake at 6:25am for a morning walk in this Arizona heat, then I want to see wildlife since I am past 5:25am sunrise photo opportunities! A hawk was seen at a telephone pole, but the gopher snake was of particular interest to me. They were a distance apart, but I did think … imagine the hawk swooping in to capture this snake! Darn, not today.

Gopher snake!

Anyway, this snake was on a mission crossing the road and slithering up the hillside of prickly pear cacti, ground squirrel holes and lizards running through the area.

I took a few photos, then returned a few minutes later to allow the snake to move along comfortably. The snake was still a distance from the lizard so I suspect it may remain in the area and have luck capturing another one.

I did not stay to watch them much longer as I had miles to walk before the temperature hit 85 degrees, knowing this was still cooler than the 106 degrees to occur later in the day. After a swig of water from my water bottle, I was on my way again. That was a good sighting; glad I was awake and here for it!

Proctor Trail, Madera Canyon, AZ

The ceremonial opening of the newly repaired Proctor Loop Trail in Madera Canyon was on December 3, 2019. Thanks to day permit fees and donations from Friends of Madera Canyon this 3 year project resulted in a trailhead with a short paved handicap accessible section. Just off the parking lot, there is an honor wall.

The short paved section has informative nature signs and you’ll see bird watchers, people walking their pet on a leash, hikers and all handling the gradual slope with ease. Most of the trail is in the shade which is nice for an August day, but do not expect to see the “secret waterfall”.

Further along the trail you discover the trail is not paved, but a foot path with good signage so you know where you are. You’ll also see bat houses for any of the 17 different species found in this area. An upper loop to other areas in the canyon is with some climbing and crossing bridge and walkway.

I was here to watch for birds and in the shade I had my challenges, plus with others on the trail the birds were not as accommodating as I had wished. But I did see bridled titmouse, turkey vultures, flycatchers and many silhouetted birds. I couldn’t figure out what caught the mule deer’s attention; it was totally oblivious of me! They certainly know that are safe in this environment!

One can drive the 3 miles up the start of the canyon which is all part of the Santa Rita Mountains, fourth highest of the Sky Islands in the Coronado National Forest. The range rises 6,000 feet and has plenty to offer hikers, birders, star gazers and campers. There are 3 picnic ares, 5 trailheads and a campground. Someday I am hoping to see the elegant trogon. I want to see if that bird is really as beautiful as pictures I have seen of it!

Chuck Ford Lakeside Park, Tucson, AZ

I stopped by to visit another city park in Tucson, AZ. Here in the desert one does not often see water, but this lake supports bass and catfish so anyone who fishes is happy. I was here to do some bird watching. Between all the trees and shoreline there were birds to be seen. Excessive noise is prohibited so it really is a quiet park.

Plenty of wildlife seen: Black crowned night heron, roadrunner, tricolored heron, cooper’s hawks – actually 3 of them, many mallards and hummingbirds and plenty of other birds, and turtles.

The following is not a good photo, but it is the first time I have ever seen a hawk pull its tail feathers up! There were three Cooper’s hawks in the tree. It was a very hot day, 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. They were hiding and I guess I got to close!?! They had wonderful shade and thus the photo is grainy.

Cooper’s hawk with tail feathers up!

The park has plenty of places for people to sit and relax, plus a playground, ball park, and activity court with various games.

Funniest looking bird was hanging out with the mallards. I really cannot explain its look.

Another park for me to check out during the various seasons!

Mourning Dove Gives Birth!

They’re back, much to the chagrin of my partner. This year mourning doves built their nest in the same location, same gutter as last year, but on our mesh-topping that was to discourage their laying a nest in that spot this year. Ha ha, we did not discourage their use of that spot at all! Nope; birds – 2, humans – 0.

Dove builds nest right here!

Mourning doves are interesting birds. I started watching their nest building activity a few weeks ago; not the prettiest bunch of twigs thrown together on that mesh, but maybe they had to improvise. Once built, eggs must have been laid as it seemed a bird was always on  the nest. Yet one night, after midnight as I was working at my computer, I heard a couple of doves at the nest. I now know there is always a bird on the nest during incubation time; male on daytime shift and female on night shift. 

I understand it’s possible for one to not even realize if eggs were laid or young were hatched. I can attest to that. I always wondered what stage all was at once there was always one adult on the nest. Are you laying on the  eggs or the hatchlings? Every day I walked about 6 – 10 feet from the nest to my backyard. No adult ever worried about me in the area. They knew it was a safe place to be, but could they give me a hint of what is happening?

Mourning doves are known to lay 2 eggs and incubate them for 14 – 15 days. Once the young hatch, adults brood them continually 4 – 5 days. I finally saw a squab, a baby dove! Actually there were 2 squabs!

I hoped to see some feeding activity. Doves produce pigeon milk, which is not really milk, from glands in the crop of the adult. The parent opens their mouth wide allowing the nestling to stick its head inside to feed on the nutritious food for a few days. Then the squabs will eat regurgitated seeds for about a month. I watched some of that activity from a bedroom window.

They have flown the nest! I saw the squabs hanging out on their own at the nest for a few days and an adult would fly in for a short time. Then it seemed they were gone! What a wonderful opportunity to watch all of this unfold these past few weeks! I love nature and was satisfied with the work these adults did in caring for their young!

Quickly Wake Up!

I wandered to the window this morning to check for any birds at my feeder. Expecting the usual ones, I knew my coffee would soon be enjoyed by me along with breakfast. It was a late night last night, early morning, due to my volunteering on a crisis hot line. I was half asleep as I checked on the birds and expected nothing unusual.

What! Wake up, what do I see? Where’s my camera and tripod? Am I really seeing a ground squirrel pulling at my prayer flags flying below the bird feeder? Ok, this is not a usual sight. I need to take a photo as I believe I am seeing this happen and I will want to share this activity with others.

Ground squirrel at prayer flags

The prayer flags have been left to blow in the wind and I have seen birds take a piece, no doubt for nests. But this I have never seen. Soon the ground squirrel was into a full-on pull of the line with definite use of its thigh muscles!

After much time tugging, the ground squirrel relaxed on the wall and paid attention to something happening on the other side of the wall. I have no idea what caught his attention, but I did realize I woke up quickly this morning due to his activity!

Moment to relax

Then back at the prayer flags after a few minutes of distraction. The ground squirrel pulled at a few more before finally taking off to other areas of the backyard.

I quickly went for my coffee maker to make coffee and have breakfast. Wow, what a way to wake up in the morning! Quite the jolt to my system and so different from caffeinated coffee! Yet nice to have it all happening!

Thrasher & Finch Morning!

I am new to bird feeding. Eventually I will learn what type of feeder design and type of seed will prompt a variety of birds to come and also return to my feeders. Now it is a bit of a guessing game, but I am happy with surprises also!

My morning began with a curve-billed thrasher sighting as one sat on our back wall. We know these birds are in the neighborhood as we often hear their loud whit-wheet! call.

Curve-billed thrasher

I love looking at their bright orange eyes and long, slightly curved bill; however, once the bird was at the feeder this morning I noticed how it used its long tail. Another moment I caught a glimpse of the seed within its beak.

The curve-billed thrasher seemed so excited about locating this feeder with delicious seed it started to call others. It called from the top of the feeder and from trees in the backyard, except it finally gave up after about 3 minutes. No thrasher seemed be listening.

Once the thrasher left the feeder and no longer calling for others, my usual house finches returned! The female was the first to fly in to eat and then relax.

Finally to complete my morning, the male house finch stopped by. These house finches are residents here at this location. I am convinced they are the same ones I see day in and day out! And that is okay by me!

Male house finch

Roadrunner in Tree!

The Greater Roadrunner, of the cuckoo family, is found in southwest USA and Mexico. I often see them running across a road or hunting for small lizards.  A roadrunner pair will form a lifelong bond. A few months ago, I had a chance opportunity to watch their courtship steps, tail flicks and mating. These roadrunners are not like the cartoon character, but instead can kill rattlesnakes and outrun humans.

Roadrunner

They can run 19 miles per hour and only when in danger or traveling downhill do they fly. On this day the roadrunner must have sensed danger as it was airborne for a few seconds and onto a tree limb when I noticed his silhouette. 

For a couple of minutes the bird remained in the tree. It is summer now so I know it was not raising a brood, nor did I see a nest. Their next breeding here in Arizona will be in August or after the monsoon rains so the bird must have felt in danger. Soon it was off the branch and running down the path.

Off to somewhere else!

I continued my walk through the park. About 25 minutes later I discover another bird, or maybe the same roadrunner, jumping into a tree! What a surprise! I quickly grabbed my camera, moved into the tree branches from different angles and tried to capture a photo or two with poor results.

A few minutes later, this roadrunner was leaving. I continued my morning walk around the park and saw no roadrunners!

Off it goes!