The note I left my partner one morning, “I will be somewhere with my camera”. It was a beautiful morning. I had the whole day ahead of me with no plan or restrictions. With a full tank of gas in my van, snacks and water packed, binoculars, and camera … I was ready to go … somewhere!
The outdoors can feel endless when a full day may be filled with hikes through various landscapes … should I stop by a wetland, a grassland, a wooded mountainous area … or all of it? To live where outdoor options abound, I can be anywhere or everywhere! Where do I wish to visit? What do I hope to see? Yes I have my camera … which lens will I feel like using? Or maybe I carry a longer lens and use my tripod? Until I step foot on the ground, I am unsure if I will spend time with an insect, flower, bird or landscape scene … or all of it.
On this day I love the breezes and sunshine. It is an easy day for photography as I put the breeze and sunshine at my side or back. Will I focus on the insect on the flowers with my macro lens? Or use my zoom lens to photograph the flying bird? Or a wide angle lens to capture a beautiful landscape? Time will tell as my day unfolds in various places … since I am somewhere with my camera.
I live in land-locked Arizona, so getting to the Pacific Ocean a few times a year is great travel fun for me. I’ve written about various California places, but walking at low tide at the intertidal pools within Cabrillo National Monument is worth a visit. Time to visit the Point Loma Tide Pools in the San Diego area!
Be sure to know when the tides are during your visit. You do not want to be caught in high tide when the water is just over 7 feet in depth. If you are looking for sea anemones, crabs and other living things it is best to be here at low tide. At this location there are 2 high and 2 low tides most days. Google it or ask a ranger the tide schedule.
I love checking out the pools of water and seeing living things there or in the cliff’s edge. See the crabs in the photo below? And look at all the life clinging to the cliffside!
Once again we see the power of water as these smaller pools were made.
Many people visit these pools, so plan your arrival as early as you can. Cabrillo National Monument which is where this place is, opens at 9am each day. I have been here other times and found the parking lot closed due to it being full. Of course there is plenty of other spots to stop at this national monument so consider doing that too. Of course, I was happy to get a good photo of a snowy egret flying by!
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.
The birds in San Diego, California were having a wet time just as festival attendees, like myself! Rain, then more rain! Often I leave Arizona forgetting to pack a raincoat; this trip I had it but needed rain pants too. Rain was falling like some of the best home showers … and even sideways at times. Once hail was falling! Wow … such unusual weather for southern California!
Like our fine-feathered friends, I was in the wet weather at Camp Pendleton, Ramona Grasslands Preserve and near the festival’s meeting center at the local marina. My trip to Palomar Mountain was snowed out and my boat trip was cancelled due to high winds and rain.
It was my first time attending this bird festival and it was fun! Since I am often in the San Diego area, I did already have many birds on my life list; however, I did get a few new ones. The festival was well organized with interesting keynote speakers and other workshops, plus many vendors so we could try binoculars and scopes.
Prior to the start of the festival, I was at the Bird and Butterfly Garden and saw a red-breasted sapsucker. Unfortunately I had misidentified it while I was speaking with others there so I hope they had a good photograph to identify it correctly.
While being a participant on the festival field trips, I added these new birds: surfbird, Cackling goose, red-throated loon and Pacific loon. On my own, which involved a couple of days and numerous times watching the water near Mariner’s Cove, I did finally observe a yellow-billed loon! So often I saw a common loon, but I was looking for the yellow bill held slightly upward to know this was a yellow-billed loon. What was funny, the waves would allow me to see the bird one moment and then it was gone … or the loon decided to dive and I had to wait and watch for it to come back to the surface and sometimes not even near where it dove! Ah yes, the joys of bird watching!
I was disappointed the boat trip did not happen. For safety-sake it sure was the right decision to be made by the festival organizers. Plus, I will someday get to Palomar Mountain …. maybe next year’s festival! If you love shorebirds, check out next year’s bird festival and come join in on the fun!
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!
Bicycling is fun and so is birding. Combine the two activities and there is a challenge at least while I ride my Trek bicycle. I can cycle along and hear the cactus wren at the cholla cactus, the curve-billed thrasher by the cactus or under a creosote bush, or a common raven cawing overhead. But as soon as I coast, stop pedaling, on my bicycle there is a buzzing sound flushing birds from the area! Very frustrating if I want a closer look at the bird or even a photograph!
Well my reality is I am not going to stop birding while bicycling. Instead I have realized I should just keep pedaling, even if it is slowly, when I want to take a closer look. Or pass by the area where a bird is or stop before where I think I am hearing the bird!
We have a wonderful bike loop here in Tucson, Arizona so many bicyclists are out cycling and maybe not as observant of some things that I may notice. At times I stop to observe, listen, and take in a moment. I’ll continue to bicycle and bird …
By the way, the clicking sound is like that of a ratchet wrench, if you know what that is. On a bicycle, the sub-component of a bike’s rear wheel is the free hub that allows the wheel to keep spinning even when I have stopped pedaling. The drivetrain is instantly disengaged until there is a transfer of power from me to the wheel when I pedal. There is more to this in the world of “pawls” to understand the creation of the clicking sound; I will not get into here. I just want to get outdoors to cycle and bird! Hope you are having a great day!
Nature provides many lessons for us if we simply look at what is going on around us in the living world! I am a visual learner so I enjoy learning new things when I watch nature programs on television. Truth be told, I also watch some nature programs designed for children, yet I suspect I am not the only adult watching them! Recently while watching nature programs, I have been jotting down interesting facts and names of birds.
Hippos are the largest land animals. An African bullfrog can live 15 years. Warthogs can run 30 miles per hour. Ostriches have the largest eyes of birds. A Canada goose can eat 3 pounds of grass a day and their chicks can dive 40 feet on day one! Who knew!?!
After enjoying Nature, Wild Child, and Earth Odyssey …. all television programs I record and watch … I also research some of the birds mentioned during a program. From there I sketch the bird. Why, you may ask? I am not sure if I will be in Central or South America, Africa, or Europe in 2024 when I plan to return to international travel. So I sketch birds I would love to see when I travel internationally again.
We learn new things about nature when we are in nature and also as we read, but I love seeing these nature programs on television. The programs explore nature in areas of the world I may never get to or that I can look forward to visiting someday. In the meantime I am also learning more about some of the birds I have sketched lately.
In the Alps, I may some day see:
In Africa, there may be a yellow-wattled lapwing, top drawing, and/or a yellow-billed oxpecker, bottom drawing:
However you wish to learn about nature is good. Step outdoors and begin your observations, ask questions and always wonder what is under the rock or popping up at the water’s surface. It may be as small as an ant or HUGE! It’ll be alive and worthy of your attention! Enjoy!
Sandhill cranes are wonderful to see! My annual visit to Whitewater Draw State Wildlife Area included an overnight. I was in my van as the night temperature was not higher than15 degrees! During the day, 30 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit … brrr! You gotta love sandhill cranes and birds in general to put yourself out there!
My visit was most enjoyable when I arrived. I was fortunate to pull my van into one of the two overnight spots still available. The majority of the cranes were out for lunch! Many people were visiting the area. I was especially surprised when I bumped into a Flagstaff tennis buddy who was with a Tohono Chul day trip group! Small world for sure! Always wonderful to see friends.
I took some photos and waited for the birds to return, but also saw a variety of other birds … even the sora hiding in the bushes!
Sleeping in my van with no additional heat is a challenge. But as a backpacker I knew I would be okay. Well okay as long as I was in my warm, down sleeping bag! Getting out of it the next morning to see the sandhill cranes take off, did not happen. Instead, my warm body had immediately cold fingers that froze in place necessitating me to manage the symptoms of my Raynaud’s syndrome/disease. Another time I will write about surviving cold weather when camping with Raynaud’s. It is doable, just a challenge one learns to live with since there is no cure.
So I walked the area, observed birds and returned to my van to make hot tea and walk the area again enjoying that cup of tea! I watched a red-tailed hawk eat its prey, fly off to another location, and then sit for us all to easily view it. Many of us were enjoying the beautiful cold morning as some of the birds walked on ice!
Last year I was camping out in my van at Kearney, Nebraska’s Platte River area and freezing my butt off there to see the cranes. I need to discover where these birds hang out when it is a bit warmer. Actually, someone mentioned to me there are a couple of sandhill crane flocks that don’t migrate. Well I researched it and learned 3 of the 6 subspecies of sandhill cranes do not migrate. They are in Florida, Mississippi and Cuba. Good to know! Even so with the cold temperature, I was glad to visit here!
Some photos from Whitewater Draw. You’ll notice a couple of photos where I spent time watching the cranes drink water:
Of course there are other beautiful birds here too! Plus the spectacular yellow-headed blackbirds as they flew as flock and could change direction as a group so quickly! Here’s a past post when I saw their behavior for the first time. People were so captivated watching these birds; I loved it!
Many people visit Whitewater Draw as a day trip and try to time when the sandhill cranes are flying in or out. It’s a great way to spend a day! If you have not, add it to your list of places to visit, especially if you are a birder! Then enjoy!
The last 4 nights I have been traveling to see sandhill cranes. Freezing mornings, but this morning I am able to observe birds from the comfort of my home. All photos of the birds at our feeder were taken while I stood indoors in a warm setting. A really wonderful way to observe birds! I will write about my latest travel, the cranes, and other birds in upcoming posts.
This post is about the 8 different species of birds that came to our feeder within an hour! Wow! There are two feeders for the birds to eat from. Some birds were very patient while they waited for another who is taking up space and feeding at a feeder. The Gamble’s quail and mourning doves are waiting for seed to drop to the ground. When the male northern cardinal swoops in with its bright red color, it is simply beautiful. Then came the female! Of course, the yellow of lesser goldfinch is an eye-catcher too, especially when in the sunlight! The ladderback woodpecker is becoming a regular here, just like the Gila woodpeckers. I am always surprised when a white-crowned sparrow shows up! Of course, the house finch are often here. Many of the birds also like sitting in the nearby trees. We are happy to see the birds at our feeders.
Enjoy the photos of the morning visitors to our feeders:
Don’t forget to look out your window when home. There may be some birds sitting in the vegetation around your home or flying overhead. Take time to enjoy nature!