Six Minutes With One Bird!

I heard there was a tricolored heron in the neighborhood. (In actuality it was a 20 minute drive from my home. Close enough.) Off I went to find the bird since this would be a new sighting for my life list of birds!

From one side of the lake I see a bird, and quite possibly the tricolored heron. I walk around the lake to get a closer look and hopefully a photograph too.

Tricolored heron

I walked closer and closer to the bird, wishing I had a different lens on my camera, but thought what fun to walk quietly and actually see how close I could get to it! Not bad! The bird took time to ruffle its feathers.

Then it was time for the bird to fly!

It flew across the lake. I decided to let it be. Instead I checked out the park.

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!

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!

Hawks on a Pole!

Most mornings I see hawks sheltering to one side of a telephone pole, no doubt out of the sun and hiding to watch for movement below. Rabbits have been scurrying!

Red-tailed hawk at rest.

One morning I noticed a hawk nestled in the pole’s shade while another hawk came flying in and was noisy. It was squawking up a storm and it would not stop! The hawk looked above at the squawking hawk and again when it was right next to it. I wondered if there was a territorial dispute happening between the two.

First above me, now next to me, and noisy!

The hawk originally on the pole took off while the other looked surprised to see such action being taken!

Took flight and left the other one with an interesting look on its face!

The hawk flew to another telephone pole only to get into a squabble with a raven as it flew in to perch on the pole this hawk selected. Before I knew it, the two were in the air with the raven pestering the hawk. In a minute or so, the hawk flew to another pole, now alone from raven and the squawking hawk. What this hawk had to do for a telephone pole and quiet!

Raven wins this pole.

All birds now seemed content on their own pole. Nature, I just love it!

Urban Wildlife Habitat

Sweetwater Wetlands is a water treatment facility originally constructed in 1996. The wetlands now use reclaimed water and has become a wildlife viewing area in Tucson, AZ. There is about 2.5 miles of pathway for visitors to walk and it does connect with the “Loop”, yet no bicycles are allowed on the property. You can lock you bike at the fence and take a walk on a pathway from there.

On any given day, I never know if water birds will on the settling ponds, other birds in various trees, insects on the marsh grasses or hawks overhead. There have been days I viewed javelina and bobcats! Many people visit this urban wildlife habitat.

Here are some photos from my recent visit:

The red-winged blackbirds were definitely the noisiest of all the bunch, the duck was nonchalantly walking down a path … no doubt due to few people out in the late morning hot hours … and the turtles, well they may be finishing their mating act. Other visitors to the wetland may be more interested and focused on capturing insects as I guessed this man was with the specific net he was using. I could not capture any moth or butterfly in a photo, but he may have been also interested in damselflies.

For early morning time in nature, this urban wildlife habitat is an easy place to get to and visit, relax and observe nature. As the heat of the day rises, most wildlife settle in away from the hot air. This adds to my challenge, but I also like being out with fewer people on the trail and to see what else may be nonchalantly walking down the trail! (Reminds me too of the coyote I saw lying on a person’s driveway while I rode past on my bicycle.)

Always keep your eyes open; one can never predict what you’ll see in nature. That’s what makes being outdoors so exciting! Where and when are you headed outdoors? Enjoy.

People of All Abilities, Welcome to this Park!

In Pima County, Arizona, a park for all … who knew?

The east end of Speedway Boulevard in Tucson, Arizona ends at Douglas Spring Trailhead, but I wondered what about the west end? So I drove to this end of Speedway Boulevard, took a right turn on N Camino De Oeste and discovered Feliz Paseos Park! Needless to say this was my first visit.

Universally accessible trail system here.

I was most impressed with the trail signage. The directions were easy to understand and information provided more details than I ever expected. When home, I learned this private-public park’s goal was to have a universally accessible trail system. That explained the trail signs noting the grade and cross slope of each trail whether it be gravel or paved. Recognizing the special needs and capabilities of people with disabilities is a huge accomplishment and hopefully a model for other communities.

Super signage!

I enjoyed my visit and had a couple of instances to capture a photo, yet the black-tailed jackrabbit ran off before I could get a photo. Thanks to signage along the trail I learned the names of more plants and animals too. Today’s photos: black throated sparrow, cactus wren, saguaro cactus and a coyote was seen as I was driving out from the park. (And a sign of that jackrabbit that got away from me!)

Someday I will return to this park. I love the fact this park is close enough for all to visit and with trails all can handle along with quite a variety of wildlife to be seen.

Just over the hill and also bordering the park, houses can be seen.

Hummingbirds and Camera Work!

It requires patience to photograph hummingbirds; much easier to simply observe them and place the image in your brain!

During these pandemic days though, I have had time to watch the hummingbirds at our backyard desert willow tree. Its colorful flowers often welcome hummingbirds to flit from flower to flower and so some hummingbirds do. I decided one day to photograph them in our backyard at the desert willow tree. Although the hummingbird’s speed was enough to drive this photographer crazy, I held on.

Once I was all set to photograph a bird it was all about patience. The hummingbird flew in and around and under and beyond and was hard to capture in focus. I waited again … The bird would flit from flower to flower and hide behind leaves when taking its breather. I cannot say the bird was accommodating me.

But, I managed to capture some photos, see below, and am happy to share them with you. I know what I need to do with my camera work to capture better photos, but that is for another day. Enjoy!

Hummingbird coming in for the flower’s nectar.
Hummingbird enjoying this desert willow’s flower.
Hummingbird landing at a desert willow's flower to get nectar.
Hummingbird about to land.

Capturing Action of a Hawk

It was exciting! There was a Harris hawk on top of the pole. I knew it would soon take flight. I did not really know what I would see, nor what I would capture in a photograph. I readied my camera. Where do I begin!?!

I refer to myself as a novice wildlife photographer. I get so excited about the action to eventually unfold that I sense great hesitancy within myself in how I should get my camera ready for the action. I don’t want to miss the action, but I also need to be sure the camera is set!

I begin with shutter speed. Bird flying, I select shutter priority. Dialed in, got it. I consider depth of field and set my aperture. Yes, the hawk is still on the pole. What ISO? Test shot of the hawk on the pole looks okay so I believe I am set.

The hawk has something in its talons!

Do I really have the best lens for a photo as this hawk flies off? Maybe not, but nothing can change in that department. I was only carrying my camera today because I never know what I will see and want to photograph. Often I have had regrets when I do not have my camera. (Best bird watching happens when you have no camera!)

The hawk flies and I immediately see the talons were holding a rabbit in place atop the pole. Wow! Thankfully I had continuous focus and burst on as I tried to get a decent photo or two. Not bad for this lens, but also not great … that’s the way it is sometimes. Any way I look at it though, it was an amazing sight for me to see! Photo or not, it is in my memory!

Wished for Wisconsin Travel

January 2020, I had a great idea! Could I organize a road trip to Madison, Wisconsin? Once settled at a state campground, here was my plan: photography and bird watch in the morning, photography and bicycle ride on bike paths and rural roads during the day, and enjoy dinner and craft beers in the evening.

February 2020. So I could camp at state parks, I got my Non-resident Annual Admission Sticker to WI State Parks and Forests and to bicycle ride on their trails I got the WI Annual State Trail Pass. I wanted both done to have 2 less things to do when in the state. Campground and hotel reservations were also made from Arizona to Madison and Stevens Point, Wisconsin. My plan was to be traveling for a month but I only booked half the accommodations. I researched Audubon Centers and other places of interest, along with bike paths that criss cross the state of Wisconsin. How could I not get excited about eating cheese in this state? It has the largest number of milk goats and 600 or more cheesemakers. I did not know it is a large cranberry producer and despite being known for its Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, I heard a craft brewery scene had been growing. I wanted to check all of this out!

I was ready for Wisconsin camping and bicycling!

March 2020, do I have to cancel my May into June visit to Wisconsin? Covid-19 has run rampant the past few months around the world, including the USA. What shelter-in-place world am I living in now?

April 2020. The numbers of USA Covid-19 cases and deaths related to the virus increase across our nation. I cancel all my accommodations. Thank goodness I only booked a couple of weeks, but I am sad. I love to travel and discover new places and things. Darn, darn, darn!

May 25, 2020, I thought I was going to be on the road this day, Memorial Day. I had booked my WI state park reservation back in the winter since I figured everyone else would be camping this weekend too. Instead I am home in Arizona with limited access to most places and our Covid-19 cases still on the rise. I will take time on this day to honor the men and women who died while serving in the US military. There usually are parades, but there is a 3pm, your local time, national moment of remembrance on this day too … a time to think and thank those who served, and I want to thank those individuals who still serve!

You and I are alive; let’s have a good Memorial Day wherever we are!

The message on this trail is a good one!