Eaten in A Bird-Minute & Five-Seconds!

A photographer can capture one very quick wildlife moment or remain for hours at a site and only have taken one photograph! Or a series of photos can result when watching wildlife for a minute and 5 seconds! Here is a white-breasted nuthatch I watched and photographed while it caught a bug of some sort to eat. Amazing beak work!

Looking, watching!
Fooled! It was right below me!
Squirmy little one!
My snack is not being dropped.
Got to angle this bug for a slide into my beak!
Got it; a snack and ready for more!

Birds eat quite a bit of food, contrary to people believing they do not. I know this white-breasted nuthatch will be off looking for more to eat.

Sparrows … Who Knew?

Sparrows are the most abundant bird flying around in the world … 1.6 billion of them! Recently I discovered there are 48 sparrow species in the United States, along with an interesting fact: juncos and towhees are sparrows! Most often I see white-crowned sparrows, but my walk at Saguaro National Park East, in Arizona, allowed me an opportunity to see rufous-winged and black-throated sparrows.

I heard a bird singing so I quietly moved into the area, then I saw a rufous-winged sparrow singing! This species of sparrows was discovered in 1872 in Tucson, common into the 1880’s and then disappeared. Since the 1930’s the species has gradually increased.

Rufous-winged sparrow singing – notice rufous on wing too.
Rufous-winged sparrow

My favorite sparrow is the handsome black-throated sparrow, also referred to as the “desert sparrow”. This bird population declines where there’s increasing development; it does not adapt well in suburbs. I love the look of this bird and hope it remains at our desert.

Black-throated sparrow
Black-throated sparrow

As the number of housing developments increase near Saguaro National Park, birds are in greater need of places to live. They may migrate further north at times or even south, but do have a need for this area too. Let’s be sure to continue to keep it available for them and also for us who enjoy hiking the trails.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in CA

This was my first visit to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, the largest saltwater marsh along the California coast. A perfect place to separate myself from hours of car travel and California’s heavily-trafficked highways where no one drives the speed limit! Highway 1 is right next to this area, but I was soon walking the trail and observing the birds at the reserve. (I hope when I return to this area the oil spill caused by a pipeline leak a few days ago has not damaged any of this area or local wildlife. Cleanup efforts have begun, but we also need to rethink having such old pipelines from the offshore oil platforms.)

I walked to an inner bay passing a fenced-off nesting area. Later in discussion with a local birder, I learn the nesting area once had some birds, a year or so ago, but had been scared off when a drone crashed into the area. It scared adult birds away from their nest, resulting in no young. The hope now is the adults will return, breed, and stay with their young. Having the fenced-off nesting area is good and hopefully no drone incidents will happen again in the area.

There is a 3 mile trail around the inner bay which I will walk next visit, but for this day I see 5 new birds for me! I hope to return when more birds are migrating through or when they are with their colorful breeding plumages.

Here are some photos:

Marbled godwit
Ruddy turnstone
Long-billed curlew

Fish Dinner for Great Egret

The great egret was observed at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, the largest saltwater marsh along the California coast. Yes, I saw other birds but I watched for many minutes as this great egret caught a fish, swiped it through the water a couple of times … was it moistening it for an easy swallow or drowning the fish so it would stop wiggling … I do not know.

A snowy egret happened to walk right past all this action as though to say, right, you caught that fish, now eat it! The great egret continued to reposition the fish and then finally swallow. Here it is all in photos:

Caught the fish!
Need to reposition the fish.
This position would be better for swallowing!
Time to swallow this fish!
Fish went down and time to look for another.

Absolutely fascinating watching this great egret move the fish into position for it to be swallowed. I wondered at times when the great egret was repositioning the fish whether it was going to drop right out, but it did not. Watching wildlife is fascinating when we can slow down and spend minutes and not simply walk by.

Hummingbird to Pelican; Small to Large!

Some days we operate in extremes. On this day I was spending most of my time photographing hummingbirds feeding at a beautiful yellow flower and then walked a short distance to see numerous brown pelicans! I was at La Jolla Cove in California and enjoyed the seal activity down on the rocks while spending time with the birds. Gosh that hummingbird is so small….. and then to see the pelicans flying past me … amazing!

Hummingbird photos:

Brown pelican photos:

All is beautiful … small and large! Have you been outdoors lately to observe nature? Don’t wait, go!

So You Found a Feather!

I do not doubt you are excited when finding a feather, but there are some things to be aware of before picking it up with hopes of truly possessing it. Feathers are protected under a 1918 federal law even if the feather was found in your yard. In 2004 the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was expanded to include all native bird species in the USA. So, the feather needs to stay where you found it, becoming the perfect time to take a photo of it.

It is unlawful to hunt, capture, kill or sell any part of a migratory bird without a permit. If a bird flies from one state to another or one country to another, it is a migratory bird. Some feathers symbolize deep spiritual meaning across many cultures. Native American Indians do obtain permits for certain feathers for their use through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

For those of us who are amateur naturalists, it can feel disheartening in not being able to keep the discovered feather. But with the photo we took and the website: www.fws.gov/lab/featheratlas/idtool.php we can identify the feather. Because of some unscrupulous people who shoot a bird for its feathers or raid a nest for its eggs, the federal law is so strict. If you find a non-native species (ex. house sparrow or European starling) or non-migratory bird (ex. quail or turkey) feather, you can pick it up and keep it.

Some people feel a spiritual connection when feathers show up in their lives. For me, here is how I look upon a feather:

I count my blessings, am grateful and thankful. While a bird lost a feather, it is my moment to recognize, appreciate and love what I have right now in my life.

I also feel free and inspired. The bird soared wherever the wind took it. The feather on the ground reinforces my travel goals and reminds me to stay positive and creative in my thoughts and actions.

With a photo of the feather, I research, at the website mentioned above, what bird flew over the area recently and wonder if I will see it in the upcoming hours or days. I hope so as I’ll always do my part to protect our birds!

Red tail hawk feather, I think.

Some May Call Me Crazy!

My goal wherever I travel is to see as much as I can since I never  know when I will return! Birdwatching is a challenge since I cannot always be where they are when they are migrating for an easier time to bird watch, but they are here each day! With patience I will see them even as I move through 3 states in this one day: South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska!

Today’s temperature rose from a morning 65 to midday 93 degrees; feeling like 103 degrees. Before leaving the area the next day, I had three places to visit. I camped in North Sioux City, South Dakota, a couple of miles from Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve. I spent a few hours at the homestead and loved it. I walked more than a mile on their trails and stood behind 2 wildlife blinds to ultimately observe 21 different species of birds and 4 deer, yet no sign of the red-headed woodpecker, darn! This 1500 acre property includes the family’s homestead and other buildings. Many of the trails you can also bicycle ride with hybrid tires being the best for the trail. Plenty of history here. Stephen Searls Adams in 1872 purchased Civil War soldiers’ homesteading rights through the Homestead Act. It was 120 years later, 1984, when his granddaughters donated the 1500 acres to the state of South Dakota. They wanted this place to be “a place for inner renewal”. 

I watched three great blue herons for a period of time. I thought the crouch of one was to be intimidating or to attract a female, yet it seemed there a was way to protect ones territory. Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve is a place worth visiting. Here are photos from this place:

Next I drove across the Missouri River to Iowa. I visited Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center. What beautiful indoor exhibits and also a “Bird of Prey” outdoor exhibit with a barred owl and red-tailed hawk, each in their own area, both unfortunately permanently injured. The three miles of hiking trails wind through forest and prairie areas and connect with Stone State Park trails. I loved seeing the tree fort and rock climbing area for children. There are also nature programs for children with trained naturalists. I walked the Whitetail Ridge Trail and did observe birds. Photos from here:

Next stop was Dairy Queen! I needed to sit in an air-conditioned area and have a “Blizzard”. No amount of water was keeping me cool, yet I knew I must keep hydrated and why not cool my innards!?

After starting in South Dakota, then to Iowa, I was now visiting Crystal Cove Park in Nebraska. Not much was happening at this park …. temperatures were over 100 degrees so that was understandable. I did talk with a couple of people who found it necessary to get their run in!?!?! I also talked about traveling to the 3 different states in such close proximity to each for gasoline, medical appointments, etc and they all agreed it does get tricky at times. My 3 visits were all less than 7 miles from each other and in three different states. Interesting!

I was exhausted, but had a good day and then a wonderful shower, but the black flies attacked my feet! I have so many bites and they itch unbelievably! After Bite is not helping! Never had this experience before and not enjoying it! Insects may rule the world in the future; horrible thought right now!

Looking forward to Bemidji!

My plan was to stay in Bemidji, Minnesota for 6 nights and look for loons. Day 34 of my trip started with a Weather Channel report stating beautiful weather in Bemidji, so I was on my way!

My drive from Madison, Wisconsin to Bemidji, Minnesota was 7.5 hours and then while taking some breaks for snack, stretch and lunch it was about 9 hours. Interesting change in the scenery with Minnesota being more open whereas Wisconsin seemed to be more forested. Both states have agricultural land with corn and soybean, dairy farms and beef lots. Minnesota had ponds, rivers and lakes every turn I took. How do truck drivers survive the long hours? My body feels like it needs to unfold after a couple of hours. I can understand the need for their truck plazas for food, gasoline, showers, and whatever else they offer to cater to truckers. Their job is not easy … staying awake, in shape, hydrated and fed, and having a place to pull off the road to sleep.

About 2.5 hours away from reaching my camping destination I was surprised to see a gray sky, especially after listening the the weather report. One moment there were a couple of raindrops, so I thought maybe it is a local rain. An hour away from my destination, I pulled off the 2 lane road that had no shoulder so I could take a pee stop.

Finally saw a safe place to pull off the road and I immediately realized it was smoke creating the gray in the sky. I arrived in Bemidji and had to cancel my 4 nights of camping. There was no way I could breathe the smoke for 24 hours and for a few days … so I moved my 2 hotel nights to my arrival and the next night. I was lucky to get the last room at the hotel! Apparently the smoke is from Canadian wildfires … our earth is really burning up! Forest management seems to be the topic for today, along with water management as even Minneapolis, Minnesota has put water restrictions in place.

Day 35: A full day in Bemidji! I spent hours at Diamond Point Park and saw 16 different species of birds. I also walked one mile along Lake Bemidji near the state park, but no loon seen even though I waited to look for them between 4 – 6pm. Photos of some birds are below. 

It was less smoky today, but still not good for tenters. Staying at the hotel allowed me to breathe air-conditioned air and be away from the smoke. I contemplated extending my time, but additional hotel costs are not in my budget, so another plan needs to be considered. I will definitely return to Bemidji some day. This was another area for some bicycling and I definitely need to find a loon! People in both Wisconsin and Minnesota have been friendly and helpful. I look forward to returning to both states.

Know Cranes?

I love seeing birds in the natural world; unfortunately, for whooping cranes and Siberian cranes they are close to extinction and people care about their future. I visited a facility at the International Crane Foundation where all 15 species of cranes around the world reside. Threats to cranes around the world are climate change, habitat loss, poaching and illegal trade. 

I remember my visit to Bhutan and learning the black-necked cranes are revered in Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Each November there is a celebration when the cranes arrive. It would be wonderful if more of us felt the same way when cranes arrive. I do know in southeast Arizona many of us do welcome sandhill cranes when they arrive.

There is no way I can identify every crane I saw today, so this blog will have photos I took while at the International Crane Foundation. The birds had plenty of area to walk around within their enclosure of grasses, wetland and a building to walk within. Fences kept visitors away from the birds, but the viewing platforms were well done so it was easy to see the birds. There are a few hiking trails around a small pond, into the woods, and onto the prairie. Plenty to do and a nice picnic area so bring a lunch. This place is worth a visit if you are in the area. Now for the cranes:

Retzer Nature Center … in Wisconsin

Thanks again to people bequeathing their land! In 1938 this land was once the 90 acre home of John and Florence Retzer who restored the land with over 26,000 trees, flowers and shrubs. In 1973 it was given to the Waukesha County “to conserve the scenery, natural life and wildlife, leaving the land unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations”. In 1974, plans to develop a nature center began and in the 1980’s the site expanded to 335 acres. I walked the trails under gray skies, but no rain, and really enjoyed the area. It is a place to return to and for anyone with children wanting an environmental education experience. I saw 16 different species of birds and photographed some despite it not being the best light for photography.

After hours of hiking at the center, I stopped at a laundromat to wash and dry cotton towels, eat a bratwurst at the Elegant Farmer, known for apple pie baked in a paper bag, before heading back to the campground. I needed to organize everything in my car since it was easiest to do when it is not raining. All things need to be in their place for ease in finding them. At times I think I packed to much, but then again it could have been colder and I would have needed the heavier clothing layers! Just as I had wondered if the silk liner for my sleeping bag was necessary, I discovered it was best to use it alone in the heat at night when sleeping. Glad I packed it!

In June 2020 I had hoped to bicycle ride and camp north of Madison Wisconsin. Unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic thwarted that travel plan! But I am now realizing this area around Milwaukee has wonderful places to visit too. I may be back some day!

Here are some photos: