Warblers!

Do you know how many warblers there are!?! In this SW USA area and those also migrating through, I count more than 20 warblers. It is no wonder I am overwhelmed when trying to simply identify one! Thankfully a good photograph allows me the chance to narrow down which of the many warblers I am actually looking at in the moment.

I am looking at the bird thinking, is it rufous-capped, blue or yellow headed? Actually I am not thinking any of that because I do not even realize the warbler’s head comes with such variation. Instead I am focused on whether the bird is red or yellow faced with a split eye-ring or not and if its eyebrow is narrow white or tapering pale yellow. Only if I have my binoculars focused on the bird at the right angle may I even see any of that, while wishing I had my camera focused too to capture a photo.

A townsend’s warbler, according to the field guides, “actively gleans insects from the canopy” so for the photographer it means the bird will be bouncing around in the tree and it may be possible to get a clear photo. This warbler is one of the easier ones to identify because I relate its look to one wearing a black mask. The field guide states “dark ear patch outlined in yellow”. A hermit warbler is another warbler migrating through our area. Recent genetic studies show the hermit warblers are being absorbed by townsend’s warblers. When entering ones bird sighting into eBird the hybrid is an option, and here I had just learned the 2 birds so I am sure to not know if I am even seeing a hybrid!

I can identify a Wilson’s warbler, red-faced warbler and maybe a yellow-dumped warbler, but then I am more than stumped with any others. I remind myself not to give up. I will continue to look for warblers and take notice of each rump, undertail, flank, throat, eyebrow, eye-ring, and face with hope of identifying more of them. In the meantime, I am happy with the townsend’s warblers recently migrating through our local mountain forest for me to see, identify and photograph!

Townsend’s warbler

Watching Wildlife

The more time I spend with my photography the more I realize the time taken to watch wildlife pays off in also providing me time to think about my camera settings. At some point all may become second nature, but a recent outing did challenge me, photographically speaking.

My goal was to set my tripod in a waterway area where the elusive virginia rail may appear. I know from other bird reports, this shy bird is in the area and actually a resident, yet I have never seen it. While picking my hopeful spot I photographed the flame skimmer, a common dragonfly.

Flame skimmer

While still trying to locate the rail I moved along a trail listening to some birds scurrying around, and in, cattails and other reeds. I do not think I was bothering them, but no luck in seeing a rail, even after silently standing and waiting awhile. I understand the rail will hide in reeds if it feels disturbed.

I moved to a pond and watched a variety of birds preening their feathers. No doubt 4:00pm is time for personal care! I observed a pied-billed grebe for the longest amount of time because I usually see it as it dives for food and need to guess where it will re-emerge. This time it preened its feathers for at least 15 minutes. One thing I came to realize, it does eat some of the aquatic insects and food caught in its feathers while also preening. That makes sense since in its dive the feathers are capturing some of the water’s contents. I love the eyes of a pied-billed grebe so it was easy to stay watching this bird.

Others in the pond were American wigeons, green-winged teal, American coots, many mallards and blue-winged teal. All seemed content to preen.

With not the best quick changes of my camera settings, I did grab a photo of a ladder-backed woodpecker just above me, a black phoebe off to my left and a mallard flying overhead. I have so much to learn about bird photography, but thankfully I just love watching wildlife too.

Looking forward to another day outdoors and watching wildlife! I hope you too can enjoy the outdoors in a way that makes you happy.

September Migrant Flies By

After considerable time spent trying to identify this bird, I believe it is a Hammond’s Flycatcher. Is that eye ring oval enough; is the bill short and dark; does it have a small, bull-head … whatever that means … to confidently identify this bird correctly? I know for sure it is a flycatcher, one of 17, and not the boxy-headed vermilion flycatcher which I see all the time here in SW Arizona as it is a resident at my elevation!

Hammond’s flycatcher

While this flycatcher can be seen from Alaska, USA to Nicaragua on its potential migration route, it is known to be in winter at elevations between 3000 – 5500 feet in my area. Now that I have added this bird to my life list, I will keep my eyes open when on the mountain roads this winter and look forward to its return in the spring.

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!

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!

Lucy’s Warbler Nest Boxes

At Isabella Lee Natural Preserve, I saw five Lucy’s warbler triangle-shaped nestboxes at 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 feet above the ground on a tree. Tucson Audubon set these up to find out which nest box the birds prefer since they ordinarily nest in woodpecker holes or bark crevices of old mesquite trees. Those trees are often removed for their valuable wood so this project is to encourage the Lucy’s warblers to remain in the Tucson area, especially if they do not find the tree of their choice.

I saw no activity in any of the nestboxes today; however, there were numerous hummingbirds, a couple of vermillion flycatchers, a red-tailed hawk flying overhead and signs of horses being through the area. This was my first time at the preserve which encompasses the confluence of Agua Caliente Wash and Tanque Verde Creek. Expect to see snakes, javelina, coyote and wildlife since it is a wildlife area also for them.

A spot to see the seasonal changes … come back again.
Lucy’s warbler nestboxes
All the info you need on this poster.
Rules will be enforced.

Bliss

I relax when I am outdoors. I love nature and all it has to offer. I do notice more when I spend time with my camera and try to capture some amazing sights. I about fell off my bicycle when I saw this bird sitting on a rail near a bike path in Tucson. Slowly I crept nearer to it. I was amazed how close I got to it to snap a photo.

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