Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's Time to Begin

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
My mind wanders today.  The colors of this life don't seem to fade but only intensify as I get older. And yet I remember those who haven't made it to 40.  The soldiers who died so young, my friends who passed away from AIDS, cancer, and many other diseases.  And somehow, I've managed to live this "charmed" life. 
But I feel like maybe a little man makeup is needed these days.  Birds get to molt into prettier feathers.  Not so much for humankind:)
But life is to be embraced whenever possible.  Everyday is a new day. Perhaps the last one? I hope not, but it's another day to tackle.  Expect the unexpected....even in the most mundane of routines.
My birthday arrives before Halloween and Day of the Dead each year.  The latter being a very important day for me to remember those who have passed in my life.  Those who meant so much to me.  My mentors. And I love that my birthday coincides with these days.  My "birthday cake"?  Pumpkin pie.
I imagine myself like this man below.  Perhaps a birder.  Perhaps someone who will sit back and watch the world pass him by........
Sometimes an occasional burst of teenage energy will surface, but every year it seems to slow down some:) But the spark of curiosity is stronger than ever.
These pics were taken at the Tucson Meet Yourself event several weeks ago.  I am reminded why I chose Tucson as my place to live each day of my life. Turning 40 isn't as bad at all.  Turning 30, well that was a different story:) I know I know.....several of my older readers will respond, "That's nothing, wait until you turn 80!"  I sure hope I get there:)
And yet I am reminded that getting older is a celebration.  Something that I've earned.  Instead of putting the flame out, it only continues to burn stronger and brighter.
And inside I feel like the 40's have a greater reveal that makes me excited.  A light at the end of the tunnel on student loans and debt.  The beginning of random trips to the Caribbean with my other half in the middle of the year.  Whenever we choose.  Anywhere around this world.  Together.  The 40's are the beginning of a new life.
Granted, I still have to watch what I eat.  Monitor my cholesterol and blood pressure better.
 I planned young because I knew I'd be ready for a change. Because we all change over a lifetime.....many times.  The Aborigines know this.
Life is out there.  Well it's all around us at any given time.  I can choose to embrace it or rush through the moments quickly like most people do.  I don't want to rush anymore.  I want to see things better.  More clearly.
That inner child still lives within.  Now this is a bear I can trust!!!  Smokey and Woodsy would be an epic combo!!!  But I found Smokey and that's all that matters!
And while I can't be these Puerto Ricans jumping up and over others like I used to....I can still appreciate that energy on the outside.  They are called the Flying Tortillas.
And I'm really not sure I could do these things in my 20's;)
I love this shot below.  Why?  It reminds me of Peter Pan chasing his shadow.
I feel like my best years are ahead of me.
After all, when one hurdle is jumped, isn't there another one around the corner?  With a glass of fine red wine, I sit back and think about all the things that are just waiting to be discovered today and tomorrow.  Life is short and we have to live it. As you read this tonight(or today), I am up on top of Mt. Lemmon at the UA observatory.  Pat surprised me with some night stargazing because my heart belongs in the heavens.  And seeing the planet Saturn or Mars makes my mind soar.  What else is out there?  What more is there?  All I have to do is step out my door and watch because there is so much to see and experience. So tonight I take my first step into the decade known as "the 40's".  Please pass that pumpkin pie.
More tomorrow....

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cemetery Birding

Hi everyone, just a quick update.  I've been on the road these past several days which has made it difficult to be on blogger.  I'm hoping to get caught up today.  Life has gotten in the way for the moment but I'll be back reading this week again.  Now for today's feature.....
Did you know that if you look for birding hotspots, you'll find them at cemeteries?!!  In the spirit of Halloween, Day of the Dead and All Souls Day, I decided to head to one popular EBIRD cemetery hotspot.
Birders bird everywhere apparently.  I mean, it wasn't a bad experience but I got caught up in the headstones and watching the people around graves sitting on lawn chairs.  It was relaxing and wonderfully quiet.
And indeed full of birds as promised.  Right now the Privet trees are producing berries that hundreds of House Finches are enjoying around the grounds.  There was a Kestrel, an unknown hawk, MoDo's(Mourning Doves because they're sad), a Verdin, and several other birds that I couldn't make out.  In other words, the Usual Suspects(as the birder term goes) were all there.
And the sunlight was lovely.  Even better was that I was able to get out and do some birding before the sunset.
The problem though for me was concentrating because I was fascinated by the human need for statues, flowers, religious symbols, etc.  I don't believe in any of it(for me, it's all about the good kharma:) but I still find it interesting. The cemetery is a great place for reflection and it was very calming.
I went into deep thought super deep thought mode when I began reading headstones.  The recent ones were full of flowers, candles, and decorations while the old old ones(from the 1800's) sat barren of anything.  Essentially forgotten.
But this headstone tugged at my heart strings.  Recently, someone's mother just passed away and I thought about how beautiful it was that they put all this effort into seasonal decor.  I think their Mother would be proud.
And then there was another that made me tear up.  A special needs child had just passed away and a wonderful, simple poem had been written to remember the positive spirit of this child. And I thought of my blogger/friends with Special Needs children and the emotion that goes into raising a child which comes with extreme ups and downs. I worked nearly 15 years with this group before I began blogging.  So as for birding at a cemetery......well, I don't think I could do it well with all the distractions of the spirit and living around me.  There's another challenge for me coming that deals with garbage dumps.  But I'll wait to do that until I can stomache the smell.  Maybe it would be better having a friend like Kathie along.  I'm sure that would be quite the post.  So for now, I leave you with this "shadow of the spirits" shot.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Dark Side

Yellow Headed Blackbirds
Just how many black birds are out there??!!!!  Well on this day with Kathie, we'd discover every type of black bird and then some at Lakeside Park!!!!  There were some incredible surprises in the mix as well....rarities.  I love my birding buddy.  She's not only a cool person, but I now miss her when I'm birding alone.  Birding anytime is great but it's better when we work together as today would prove.
Great Tailed Grackles
And of course there were those that stood out from the "black feathers" only club.  But Kathie's careful eye discovered Cowbirds!!!  She was in awe and when it's something big, she says things like, "Oh my gosh Chris.  Oh my gosh! That's a...."  And we both get excited over the discovery.  
First, she documents and by the time she gets that camera ready, they've taken off on her. Birds are fast so I usually snap the shot and ID later.
Mallards landing
Now to be honest, blackbirds or sparrows scare me and can be difficult to ID. Or maybe it's just in my mind.  But they are birds and they are cool.  I just don't know why I feel that way because the blackbirds are incredibly interesting behavior wise.
American Coots
But inevitably, my eye is attracted to the raptor sitting in the tree.  I'm fascinated by them. Or how the above Coots gathered in a big group to have breakfast.
Red Tailed Hawk
But something captured both Kathie and my eyes.  Yellow.  WTH?!  There were two yellow headed blackbirds on the grass!  If you've ever tried taking shots of these birds, you know how difficult it is to get them on camera as they like to hang out in the reeds around water areas.  But here out in the open, there were TWO Yellow Headed Blackbirds.  And these birds do grab my attention and it was one of the many personal thrills for this day. The Vermilion Flycatchers and Herons being the other exciting finds...
But this sequence here of shennagins really got me excited and was thrilling to get on the camera.
Like hummingbirds, there was a pecking order and someone crossed the was the female Grackle.
What a ^%&#!  She had to get her bill into the fold but thankfully the two young ones stood their ground......until 2 Kestrels presented themselves up in the airwaves and then all hell broke loose.  Everyone and their mother goose got up and flew the coup!
Well except for this cute adorable little White Crowned Sparrow.  They're back!
White Crowned Sparrow
The shot below of the Cowbirds REALLY got Kathie jumping up and down.  Luckily I was able to capture the two together.  It's important to note that they are two completely different Cowbirds hanging out on the same branch.   The trees were full of Brewer's, Grackles, etc etc.  And these two were cleverly disguised in the mix. And while the Bronzed Cowbird wasn't a lifer for me, the Brown Headed Cowbird was.  It was an unusual find in Tucson.  I saw my first Cowbird in Madera Canyon.
Male Bronzed Cowbird and a Brown Headed Cowbird
Kathie told me that this would happen.  She said that many times there are different birds hiding in the mix.  But my eyes were pulled to the Vermilion Flycatchers, Egrets, Herons, Raptors, Hummingbirds, etc etc.
And lately the Warblers have grabbed my full attention.  Coming up, I'll present several from my Portal visit. It was a fun day, as always, with Kathie.  But most importantly, I learned the very important lesson of looking closer.  Not everything is as it appears.  And then I joined the Dark Side of the force:) And it's appropriate.  Kathie would be the Emperor and I would play her henchman Darth Vader.  That Yellow Rumped Warbler never had a chance:)  More tomorrow.....
Yellow Rumped Warbler

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Warp Speed!

Great Blue Heron with the Catalina mountains in the background
I know people raise their eyebrows when I say that there are Herons in the desert but as you will see, we have many of them.  And for the first time, I've figured out some photography tricks with these beautiful birds.
Two Black Crowned Night Herons flying near a California Palm.
In these shots, you will see two Black Crowned Night Herons and a Great Blue Heron in flight.  The secret??  Before humans contaminate these watering holes with their loud voices and trash, you'll find these elusive creatures at the banks or shores around the manmade lakes.  But you have to go very early before they fly off to remote areas.  I'm also learning where those are as well:)
In fact, these birds took off because several people disturbed the area.  But for the first time I was able to capture them up close and personal and it was very special.
 I didn't want to crop too close up to the bird because the mountain views are breathtaking and demonstrate how large they truly are!
It pays to get up early.  Yes at times it's terrible and I'd like to sleep in but to be honest I know I'm missing a whole lot of action out in the field. And so it's a competition to beat the sun coming up and you have to move warp speed or you'll miss out.  A little coffee, a friend like Kathie, and walk.  It's a great way to start your day:)  More tomorrow as Kathie and I explore the Dark Side of birding....

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Red Alert!

The male Vermilion Flycatcher
Back by popular demand.  You all loved the Vermilion Flycatcher so much that I thought I'd give you more action shots of this really cool flycatcher! And lately I've been seeing them everywhere!
The Female Vermilion Flycatcher eating a dragonfly
I absolutely love these birds because they are curious creatures and seem to follow me around wherever I go.
This pic above represents how they "hawk" for bugs.  It's easy.  You sit at the end of a branch and eye up the clouds of bugs.  Then get yourself something to eat.  But remember to return back to the branch and enjoy your meal:)
The smallest or largest of bugs are targets.  This poor dragonfly didn't have a chance.
Found around areas with water, which include many of our parks, Tucson is home to this beautiful little bird. So if you visit, keep your eyes open for these colorful numbers.  Best times to spot them are early morning.
More tomorrow.....