Learning something new everyday actually does happen for me! I am always amazed and wonder if this is true for others. Let me know, as I am curious! Do you learn something new each day?
Anyway, my latest newly learned thing happened because I decided to paint a bird, the Greater roadrunner, on a postcard. I wanted to mail this watercolor painting to my mom. It dawned on me the paint would smudge with the least bit of moisture on it. Or even worse, if any part of the mail delivery process was in inclement weather then there would be a mess. Oh that would be awful!
My quick fix was to adhere clear packing tape to the front of the card, specifically on the bird. Once done, I realized something else must be available for situations like this! Being new to the entire acrylic, watercolor, sketching world, I decided to research the topic. Of course, I learned a varnish sprayed on it would work! Add it to a future shopping list, but also read the fine print as some varnishes are better than others. Some will yellow in time; others provide a matte versus glossy finish; some are simply not good on certain paints, charcoal or pastels.
I learned plenty today and now need to buy varnish and more postcards before I paint my next whatever! Did you learn anything today? I am curious; what have you learned? Share if you wish! (In the meantime, I’m hoping my postcard makes it without a smudge!)
In the northern Arizona strip, the Navajo Bridge is everyone’s way across the Colorado River. On our way to southern Arizona, we stopped again at the bridge with hopes to view some condors. This time we saw 2 adults and 1 juvenile condor. Notice the pinkish-orange color of the head of the adult condors. Maybe not as clear here, the juvenile condor has a black head.
Condors are released at the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument area. They come from a breeding facility in California and spend a couple of days in a pen above on the Paria Plateau before being released. As more of the birds reach breeding age there will be more wild reproduction. We are fortunate to have the recovery program to help restore the population of condors. It started in 1996 with 6 condors transferred from the breeding facility and released at the Vermilion Cliffs, to 6 – 10 condors released now per year. Each condor is fitted with a number tag and transmitter to help monitor its behavior, movement, feeding and survival.
They are huge birds! Wingspans are 9.5 feet in length as they fly up to 200 miles a day. They are the largest flying land bird in North America and can fly up to 50 miles per hour! Their food source is carcasses of dead animal; therefore, they are helpful scavengers. Condors can live 60 years and breed into their 30s! Here again is a photo showing the size of a condor in comparison with other birds of prey. (If you follow my blog, yes I am repeating this photo.)
The condors were almost gone due to various reasons: the west being settled, lead poisonings and egg collecting. Thanks to the recovery program a healthy population of condors continues to rise. You can do your part to help: use non-lead ammunition if you hunt, never shoot or harm a condor, and do not litter so birds are never eating trash.
I hope you have an opportunity someday to see these amazing birds! I was looking over the side of the bridge as I saw the other condor walking along. See photo below.
Each year a pair of Eastern Phoebes return to their nest at my sister’s Pennsylvania home. This year we checked the nest after seeing a couple of Eastern Phoebe’s flying around last year’s nest. We climbed near the nest, iPhone in hand with outstretched arm, blindly poised above the nest and camera lens aimed at the interior of the nest. Our photo allowed us to discover 4 eggs in the nest!
An adult’s tail-wagging distinguishes this bird from others and their nests are often under eaves of manmade structures, such as the interior of the shed here. They prefer farmland and mate for life; yet some males may have 2 partners. Brown-headed cowbirds are known to replace the phoebe’s eggs with their own, thus the biggest threat to these birds. The eggs incubate for 15- 18 days. The Eastern phoebes are very protective of the area. Even after the eggs hatched, the adult birds kept a close eye on where I was. I set my tripod in one spot and remained still so I could photograph the adult feeding the young.
The 4 eggs hatched and I observed the adults feeding the chicks. Three of the 4 chicks seemed to monopolize their parent’s feeding. It was fascinating to observe the adult birds assess whether they felt safe feeding their chicks while I stood a distance away. I remained still and during a half hour time period I saw the 2 adults each feed the chicks.
Eastern phoebes don’t overlap with black phoebes, thus I was happy to see this bird during my east coast travel! I see darker-headed black phoebes where I live on the west coast of the USA. I know many people believe the bird symbolizes stillness in the chaos of life. Whether Celtic, Native American, Greek, Maori, or Far East, there is a common thread about the bird’s symbolism; the bird being a symbol of hope, patience, joy, love and compassion and to follow our heart’s desires.
My next week of travel was Presque Isle, Erie, PA along Lake Erie’s coastline to the northwest corner of Ohio. Warblers migrate through the northwest area of Ohio during a particular time of year; however, I could not coordinate my time to be there when it was to happen. So I thought it best to scout the area now for next year’s travel through this area. I will then know best places to bird, to camp, get food, and whatever else I stumble across during my scouting. What I also discovered east of Cleveland, Ohio is wine country near Madison!
My scouting report:
The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge protects what remains of the Great Black Swamp/marshes of Lake Erie. There is an auto drive loop, but was closed the day I was there. I will return next year.
Side Cut Metro Park in Maumee provided me with great birding on a 2.2 mile loop which paralleled the Maumee River on one half of the walk. Will definitely return here.
Wildwood Preserve Metropark has a beautiful mansion and gardens one can tour. There is plenty of hiking and bicycling activity, not great birding. My next visit here would be to cycle.
W.W. Knight Preserve has a nice short hike one can take by a pond and through a forest. I liked the quiet area. I will stop by here again.
Metzger Marsh has a quick one mile drive in and a trail off the parking lot. It’s an easy way to observe birds from your car.
Magee Marsh has an auto drive of a couple of miles, but most people seemed to enjoy walking the boardwalk. I understand this area can be quite busy when the warblers migrate through the area. I will visit again.
Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve has an interesting history of being constructed with old barge/container ships. Nice trail and even deer where in the area. I will visit again.
Headlands Nature Preserve was recommended to me. The preserve is located next door to Morton Salt Co. There was interesting information about sand dune formation, the piping plover protected nesting area, and the Buckeye Trail (more about that another time). I will definitely stop here again.
About the wineries:
Growing grapes just north of the Grand River in the Madison, Ohio area is where you can find about 25 wineries. The soil from the long ago glacial activity left the best soil for grape-growing and thus vineyards are here.
Debonné Winery had good food and wine. I had a meal and glass of wine. I especially liked the Double Wing Brewing Co. beer. Entertainment happens on weekends. This was a Harvest Host location for my night’s stay and I would return here.
Paper Moon Vineyards had good food and wine. I had a meal and a glass of wine. Their Harvest Blend definitely had Concord grapes in that wine! Entertainment happens here too. This was a Harvest Host location for my night’s stay and I would return here.
Silver Crest Winery had good wine and I could bring in my hummus and crackers. I did a wine tasting of 5 different wines and had a glass of wine with my food. This was a Harvest Host location for my night’s stay and I would return here.
My other nights I stayed at Kampgrounds of America. Staying at the wineries though was a nice change of pace and especially fun ending my day, relaxed with a meal and glass of wine! The birding will be fun next year if I can catch the warblers during their migration; the wineries will be there whenever I come through!
A surprise was my stop in Vermilion, Ohio. This little town has a Main Street Stormwater Improvement Project and care is being taken of their lighthouse. Here is how I ended one of may days … in beauty …
My eastward van travel from Arizona to New York will be unlike last year’s trip. No freezing Colorado or Nebraska nights for me! Although seeing the sandhill cranes come to roost at night and take off in the morning in Nebraska was spectacular! Part one during this travel: discover what birds I can along the coastal waters of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. I also decided to stay at Harvest Host locations … since I spent money for that annual membership … and really wanted to determine if it was a good option beyond KOA campgrounds.
Well the cold weather began my first night in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but with my winter sleeping bag I was fine! My favorite breakfast place is The Shed Restaurant in town. It was wonderful talking with the waitress I met on past visits. There is something to be said when we can connect with people time and time again across the USA as one travels. I again visited South Llano River Park in Junction, Texas while on my way to San Antonio. Besides viewing birds I saw my first live armadillo!
I loved the warm weather in San Antonio, Texas and a return visit to birdwatch at Mitchell Lake. While at this location a woman told me about Crescent Bend Nature Center just about a half hour away. Of course, I went there too. Next time I will make time to bicycle the gravel paths at this place.
A big surprise was meeting a family I had met at the San Antonio KOA last November. With a glass of wine and good conversation, we caught up with each other and how life has been treating us. It truly is a not small world, but simply amazing when your path crosses with another when hundreds of miles from each ones home! Rain always threatened, but I decided I brought my bicycle to ride so I hopped on it for a quick ride before rain and leaving San Antonio. One new bird: cave swallow, yet no good photo. They flew too fast for me to even take a photo.
South Llano River Park photos:
Mitchell Lake, San Antonio, Texas bird photo:
At Crescent Bend Nature Center, this northern cardinal spent many minutes looking at the window and the side mirror of the car belonging to a couple of woman who were relaxing at the park. We were amazed at the amount of time it spent there.
When I was a 7th grade science teacher, an activity for my students was to create a beak for a bird to dig, grab and eat the bird’s food. Dependent on the student’s research of what food the bird eats would determine the shape of the bird’s beak. Then their challenge was creating the beak and only allowed to use two of their fingers to move their created beak. Really interesting creations were made and some truly worked in picking up “food”.
Often I think of this science activity as I observe birds working to find food in the natural environment. Every so often I also see other birds try to “steal” another bird’s food. While walking along the north trail at Imperial Beach, CA, I did see one gull try to get another gull’s food. I suspect this happens often, yet here was my opportunity to observe the action.
Here is a western gull with food in its beak. It shook the food and a small bit fell off. The other gull picked up the piece and moved closer to the gull.
They see each other and the one gull tries to get closer. The gull displays its annoyance to get the one to move away. I watched this activity between the birds for a couple of minutes and the gull with the food was having none of this annoyance from the other gull! Do not mess with my food! Looks like it snipped at the gull’s tail feathers.
Bird photography has its challenges! I set myself in a place to capture a photo as a bird flies into the wind and hopefully towards me and within reach of my camera lens. While on Southern California’s Pacific Ocean, I saw a number of brown pelicans and thought this was a good bird to photograph.
All set up to capture the brown pelican flying towards me.
Then before I knew it, the bird must have seen some fish just below the water’s surface and dove into the water! It’s head was well underwater!
I was originally looking at the bird’s breeding plumage and large bill and pouch, but then was holding my breath as it plunged underwater! The bird feeds on small fish and I could only hope it would be successful.
Once back on the surface, it looked like the brown pelican was running across the water. Check out the photos and see what you think. I loved seeing and photographing this bird!
I observe a bird and experience simple joy. These past 2 years seeing birds, being present outdoors in natural environments, talking with others about birds, and sketching, painting or photographing birds has helped me maintain some sanity. But I must admit, I have gone down the rabbit-hole! I am deep into birding!
When I think about my first observation of birds, it really was in the 1970’s when I was intrigued with the common loon in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. I was camping on an island in Stillwater Reservoir and heard the loon’s eerie call as I laid in my sleeping bag at night. One would think something awful is happening when you first hear this bird, but then you know it is a loon. I also would hike 4 miles to lakes where I knew there were loons, with no binoculars or camera … simply outdoors looking for the bird. Friends would give me loon wood carvings, books, etc. As I have come to discover, the common loon was my “spark” bird. The bird that got me first interested in birds.
I had been a science teacher and naturalist, so all living things were always of interest to me. In 2017 while traveling in Peru along the Amazon River, seeing 100 birds in 5 days. I thought this is crazy, I do not even know the birds in my backyard! Yet, that did not kick my bird-watching into high gear. Then the pandemic. Now home-bound, I bought bird feeders, spent time watching and learning the birds there and bought a camera to photograph birds. Thanks to various apps, especially Merlin Bird ID, this budding bird-watcher was on my way!
Today I know there is a difference between a bird-watcher and a birder. I also must admit I am officially now a “birder”. A birder is one who over-shadows most things in their life to go out and observe birds. Yes my goal this year is a checklist each day of the birds I observe, and to send via eBird to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. Another goal is trying to photograph as many birds as I can. My eyes are always wandering to check the sky, nearby plants, or places bird may perch or fly by. I have a life list of 386 birds seen since the start I made during the pandemic. A “birder” I am and also enjoy being with people who are bird-watchers. It is fun to share observations with the casual observers outdoors seeing a bird.
When I was an assistant guide for a Roads Scholar trip at the Grand Canyon, I met an 80 year old woman who wanted to be sure to see a California condor on our hiking trip. She had her binoculars and named every bird we were seeing on our hike. She also would send bird lists to the companies she was traveling with next in Central America and Africa. Now I truly understand, she was a “birder” and yes she did see a condor. Interestingly I have not added a California condor to my list yet because I have only listed birds since I started this endeavor. Hopefully I’ll see that bird again and be able to list it.
In another blog, I mentioned it took me days to find a yellow-billed loon. Another bird I searched for was a brant. I went to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in California and looked out on the Pacific Ocean. Thankfully I had sketched this bird so in my mind I had an idea of what it looked like. I saw what I thought were 2 brants flew by. I could not capture them in a photograph, but despite being so far away from me I did get a photo of them in the water! Birder success!!!!
No matter being a birdwatcher or a birder, take time to see the bird, watch what it is doing, marvel at its skills and beautiful look, and enjoy the moment! Relax … don’t worry about knowing its name … simply take a good look and see the bird. Enjoy!
I saw a bird … oh, it is a hawk! During the month of March, hawks will be flying over Tubac Arizona area. Thankfully with good binoculars and expert fellow birders someone will correctly identify the bird in the air. Typically I like to capture a photograph of the bird and then more easily identify it. Birds high in the sky are difficult to identify.
Want to know more on how you can identify raptors, or get help viewing the birds in the sky during the month, or to hike the De Anza Trail and Santa Cruz River area with others, then check out the Tubac Nature Center website for details or click this link.
See you in Tubac … and if you are not in this neighborhood, there are other places to see hawks flying overhead … no doubt a Google search will send you in the right direction and with dates for hawk observations. Have fun!
PS Many thanks to a friend who bought me the t-shirt with the “Sorry I’m late I saw a bird” logo on it…very cool and appreciated!
My friend and I just finished a bird walk with a local group. We then decided to get out of the wind and sit in a car to eat lunch. As we talked and looked over a grassy field, we noticed some birds. At first glance we thought it was two birds mating, but after there was no movement for a few minutes we took a better look. What’s that? A Cooper’s hawk on top of a Greater roadrunner. Wow! The tussle we witnessed between two birds was no love affair as they were two in battle! The hawk won.
I got out of the car and brought my camera along hoping to get a photo before any bird flew off. Well the roadrunner was not going anywhere as it was dead and the hawk simply stayed on it … all in the middle of a local road. Those hawk’s talons in the dead bird made me feel sorry for the now dead roadrunner.
After a few minutes, and after a pick-up truck maneuvered around the birds in the road, the hawk decided to pull its prey to the grassy field. This was not an easy task for the hawk! But the hawk had success.
We watched the hawk continually look around … was it being sure no other predator would steal his prey? Or was it trying to figure out where to put his prey for consumption later in the day? Or how was it simply going to move it out of sight of every other living thing? Minutes went by…
Cooper’s hawks do eat medium-sized birds, like a robin, or small mammals, like chipmunks … but this hawk seemed to have gotten a big prize capturing a roadrunner. Now its challenge was what to do with it!
I moved closer to the hawk and there was no doubt he saw me. I was moving slowly, not waving my arms or anything around to cause it any real disturbance. It had to know I had no interest in his prey, right?
The hawk decides it is best to get back to the road. And so it pulls the roadrunner through the grass and an opening in the fence and onto the road. That must have taken plenty of energy to accomplish. I was amazed to see the hawk move that bird to the road.
Back out on the road, I figured the birds would not hang out here too long. A Greater roadrunner weighs at least 8-15 ounces and of course we are talking dead weight now! A Cooper’s hawk can weigh up to 1.2 pounds and usually will not be able to carry anything heavier than itself, so this was a huge kill for the hawk. I could only imagine the hawk continuing to drag the roadrunner along. But then again, I may be wrong …. and I was as I saw the hawk fly off down the road with the roadrunner.
I wish I knew how far the hawk actually carried and stashed his prey. That had to take plenty of energy to accomplish the carry. No doubt the hawk will rest and eat … and if birds can be happy, then this is one happy hawk!