Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Notes From My Nest: Birds, Beasts, and a Grandson

1. Barn Owl-kab Barn owl in Tucson 9-17-13

It’s been over a month since my return from our trip to Yellowstone and Utah. While I am still busy processing photos and writing blog posts, I have also still been out birding. With migration practically over, I have seen the changes in the bird populations around town and in my yard. Autumn has brought a return of our winter raptors, while the summer birds have flown away. One windy, stormy day  as I sat on the balcony watching birds I added three new yard birds in one day with a Black Phoebe that was blown into my yard, as well as a Northern Rough-winged Swallow seen flying overhead. Then, to my utter surprise, I saw a couple of Vaux’s Swifts! A few days later a Ladder-backed Woodpecker came by increasing my Tucson Yard List to a total of 67 species of birds! I saw this Barn Owl at Sweetwater Wetlands one night when I met my friend, Chris Rohrer there in the late afternoon. As evening fell we found this bird hiding in a willow tree.

2. Coha-kab Cooper’s hawks are here year round, but it seems we see more of them in winter. After a calm period during the month of August the Cooper’s Hawks have returned in force to my back yard and have been hunting my feeders on such a regular basis that all the birds have become skittish and I rarely see them at all during the middle of the day. There have been times when the Coop’s has swooped down repeatedly, or taken up residence in either my front or my neighbor’s backyard mesquite tree. Sometimes I do not know it is there until I hear its “bark” as its calls from deep within the foliage. But the birds know it is there, and they vanish, and my yard falls silent.

3. NOHA-kabI continue to count birds at Michael Perry Park and was amazed to find a Northern Harrier there one day in late September.

4. TUVU-kab Chris and I found these Turkey Vultures one Saturday in September along Mile Wide Road just west of Tucson. It’s funny that the Turkey Vultures usually leave Tucson for the winter but can still be found up in Phoenix. We saw some at Gilbert Water Ranch when we went birding there this past weekend.

5. western kingbirds-kabWestern Kingbirds on Mile Wide Road 9-20-13

These are probably the last Western Kingbirds we will see until next spring.

6. cactus clouds-kab I love puffy cloud days and this one was a beauty back on September 20th. I took this shot in the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park. Little did I know back then that the government would shut down and I would not be able to go back into the park for over two weeks! In truth, I have not been back since it has reopened. So, I am equally glad that I visited the Rincon Mountain Unit with my friend, Celeste of Celestial Ramblings on September 24th. We had a breakfast picnic at the Javalina Picnic Area, one of my favorite places to bird.

7. cactus wren-kab As we sat sipping our tea a young Cactus Wren popped up to say hello!

8. antelope ground squirrel-kab A little Antelope Ground Squirrel came begging.

9. rock squirrel-kab Then a Rock Squirrel came by!

One of these moved into my back yard recently and excavated a huge den. I saw the beast a few times climbing my trees and scurrying over the rocks, but suddenly I have not seen it al all and I wonder what has happened to it.

10. coues deer-kab After our picnic Celeste and I drove the 8-mile loop road through Saguaro NP and we were pleased to find this pair of Coues White-tailed Deer peacefully meandering along the roadside. This species of White-tail is much smaller than its eastern counterpart but nonetheless serene looking with wide soft eyes.

Like everywhere else, our days are getting shorter and our temperature is fluctuating. Last week it seems we had a stretch of endlessly dull days with clear blue skies and warm temperatures and no wind. I start to feel dull and stupid myself after a few days of sameness like that. I like a little drama in my sky and in my weather. Yesterday a cool front blew in some clouds and though today the wind has died down, there are still a few lingering clouds and a few strong gusts of winds to remind me that change is in the air and the dullness is blowing away!

11. grandson running-kab My Grandson, Xavier running his first Cross Country Meet 9-30-13

I feel such need for a change, to do something different; to be creative. I have spent a lot of time recently playing with my photos and creating pictures for my Artsy Fartsy Fridays. This has helped dispel the dullness that I feel, and it just makes me smile. I have also had fun writing poetry and creating pages and poems for Halloween. I have a Halloween Post scheduled for this blog, and for over a week I have had poems and pictures on Kathie’s Poet Tree. It is all kid friendly, so bring your children and grandchildren by to see the pictures and read the poems. There is even a link to a You Tube recording of Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes, a recorded book from back in the 1960’s which I remember from my childhood and which my grandson, Xavier just loved when I played it for him. Yes, I have also been a busy grandma baking cookies and going to my grandson’s first Cross Country Meet. With a family that is obsessed with running we are all glad to see him take an interest in this. Perhaps next summer he will be ready for the annual Adams Family Road Race!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Birds, Beasts, and Alum Creek

1. Clark's Nutcracker-kab Clark’s Nutcracker 9-11-13 Bridge Bay Marina

September 11, 2013: Everywhere we went in Yellowstone I counted birds, but there were not a lot of birds to count. I would see a few here and a few there and I found different birds at each location leading to a final list (to be published in the next post) of 28 species overall within Yellowstone National Park. After leaving West Thumb earlier in the day I found a little cove on the lake that was full of ducks. The birds were so far away and the sun so bright that I could not tell what many of them were until I got home and off-loaded my photos.

2. cove full of ducks-kab In this bunch I found Lesser Scaup, goldeneyes, bufflehead, and Common Mergansers.

3. what ducks-kab But I also found ducks I could not identify. The duck in the front right is obviously different than the three behind it but what are they?

4. goldeneyes-kab I found these Common Goldeneyes at the Bridge Bay Marina, but there were many more ducks to far distant to tell, even with a photograph.

5. horned grebe-kab Distant picture of  Horned Grebe in non-breeding plumage identified by its long, upright neck, thin bill, and white cheek. The back is long and flat whereas the similar Eared Grebe would have a shorter and rounder back and a dark cheek. while it’s not the greatest picture there is still enough information there to help with identification.

6. hiding in the cove-kab I estimated there were at least 120 goldeneyes across the cove, but even this shot is too distant for me to positively I.D. any of them.

7. cormorant-kab But, it didn’t take me long to figure out that this was a Double-crested cormorant. I saw two of them here at the Bridge Bay marina along with some barn swallows and a couple of ravens. Ravens were the most common bird I saw.

8. bison-kabThough I wanted to see some elk and hear them bugling I only found bison instead.

One of my goals on this day was to try to find the Trumpeter Swans. I had been told by a park ranger the night before they could be found at a place called Alum Creek. I suppose we should have gone there first, but it was all the way across the park and I decided we should work our way around to that point as we visited several other locations along the way. As it was, by the time we got to Alum Creek on the east side of Yellowstone it was 2 p.m. and all I found were ducks and geese!

9. alum creek-kab Ducks in Alum Creek

From there is was a long drive around to Mammoth Hot Springs and back to Alum Creek again at sunset. On our way we stopped at a place called Swan Lake on the road south of Mammoth. While I didn’t find any swans there either, I did spot a pair of Bald Eagles in the trees across the lake.

10. eagles-kab Can you see the black and white spots in the trees in the middle?

Yep, those are eagles!

It was just after sunset when we arrived back at Alum Creek for one more check to see if any swans had flown in for the evening. While Gus waited in the car I got out and walked along the edge of the road. Just south of us was a bison road block.

11. bison roadblaock-kab Bison, bison everywhere!

12. alum creek-akb But all was peaceful and serene on Alum Creek without a swan in sight!

13. sunset light-kabI marveled at a ribbon of rosy light as it fell across the spine of the hills beyond.

Then I said my good-byes to Yellowstone and got back in the car with Gus to drive away. I do not know if I will ever make it back here again.

14. good-bye yellowstone-kab Evening light on Alum Creek 9-11-13

Trip to Yellowstone and Utah 2013 

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Magic of Mammoth Hot Springs

DSC_0273 Mammoth Hot Springs 9-11-13

It was almost evening by the time we made it to Mammoth Hot Springs at the Northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. The setting sun cast shadowed light across the terraces painting them in shades of pastel and white.

DSC_0275 I was mesmerized by the formations as the hot water poured steaming over the edges, flowing ever downwards and into the earth.

DSC_0277 Walking around Mammoth Hot Springs is like walking around a painter’s palette or a sculptor’s studio. Color and form is everywhere creating new panoramas or vignettes to capture your eye and hold your interest.




DSC_0286 Of course, some of the terraces look like wedding cake!




DSC_0297 There is so much to see at Mammoth Hot Springs and we only explored a very small corner of this place. Our time was so limited. It only made me want to come back again and stay longer.


DSC_0300 I finally found a Black-billed Magpie in the park at Mammoth Hot Springs!

Trip to Yellowstone and Utah 2013 

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