Friday, May 31, 2013

Coiba Island

                           Head over to Birding Is Fun! for my latest post on Coiba Island, Panama.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tipping The Scale

Scaled Quail
I search for something. I stare at the grasses.  I stare at the landscape.  I listen to the wind, to the water, to the trees........for it.  For that which I seek.
When I hear.  When I finally see.  I stand in awe.  For finally it has happened. The target bird.
There is really no other way to put it, but finding that target bird is such a reward.
Snowy Plover
We all begin finding birds.  It's fun and relatively easy.  As the lifelist narrows down, it becomes much more challenging taking us to habitat unknown and unfamiliar.
So when that lifebird is found later on in the bird quest, it's much more thrilling and exciting. 
Barn Swallow
                     Along the way, other creatures make themselves known.  And that is also exciting.
Horny Toad
I will now begin my official international birding.  While I've done it in the past for only those "cool" birds, this time around it's entirely and completely different.  My eyes are open.
Bank Swallows
I will be out of the country for a month and turning off the internet.    
Red-necked Phalarope
I have 3 posts scheduled for the month and look forward to sharing my Guatemalan finds with you all when I get back.  So if I'm not writing you back, you know why:)  It has been a crazy ride since school has finished and it will continue until July.  My goal is to add on 100+ lifebirds on this trip to Guatemala.  Some will be easy.  Some will be familiar.  And some will surely challenge my birding skills.  Stay tuned for more. 
I'm linking to Stewart M's Wildbird Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Elf Owl
Last week I scouted high and low to help a friend search for some of his lifebirds.  Sometimes I have feelings about when something epic will happen.  And during this past weekend, we tested the word "epic" out. Gordon Karre came down from Phoenix and together we made a powerful team as we found some of the most special birds around Southern Arizona. 
Yellow-eyed Junco
Gordon took both Kathie and myself on a birding trek around Sunflower and Mt. Ord several weeks ago.  It was an intense day.  He gave us wonderful observation time on Common Black Hawks, Zone-tail Hawks and a Canyon Wren.  Plus I was able to get two more warblers on my Arizona and lifelist!!!  The pressure was on.  Could I do the same for him when he came down to visit?
Gray Squirrel
The answer was yes.  But he also found me several lifebirds in the process!  Together we achieved a fantastic amount of work in one and half days.  We both thought alike and we both have the birding bug.  Over the week, I researched reports and went to sites alone and with Kathie.  I miss my birding buddy. And I'm going to miss her more as she abandons me for the East Coast!!! What nerve that lady has!!!!:) However, I'm heading to Central America over the same time period so it's all good. So I was thankful that we both could do some light birding over the week together before we left off to different places.
Gordon loves lizards and they are pretty amazing creatures.  But I never really think of taking pics of them unless they call my attention.  Our trek to Madera Canyon and Willcox Lake would give him 8 new lifebirds!  And for myself, 4!  One of them was the most epic.  If I'm on the hunt for a particular bird, I will memorize their songs and calls.   They don't even have to make a lot of noise for me to track them down. 
Ornate Tree Lizard
Sparrows are interesting.  Gordon would teach me the call of the Botteri's Sparrow.  Some Sparrows are rather dull and difficult to ID.....just like the flycatchers.  BUT, if you know the calls they make, the ID becomes SUPER easy!  And thankfully, the Botteri's call is a very easy one to ID. I won't forget the ball dropping sound around the fences and grasslands.
Botteri's Sparrow
In the shadows, I saw a strange bird.  I wasn't familiar with this particular bunting, but I knew it was different. And like I do with any new and exciting bird, I began to swear.  I don't even realize I'm doing it until afterwards.  People, including my other half, make fun of me for doing it.  Whatever.  We saw a Varied Bunting!!!  Epic!
Varied Bunting
Blue lit up along the bark of a tree.  Another new lizard I have never seen before!  But something even more magical happened.  We walked a trail at the uppermost parking lot in Madera Canyon.  And epic was about to happen.....
Clark's Spiny Lizard
The unmistakable barking sounds of the Elegant Trogon in a group of trees could be heard nearby!!!  Finally, after many attempts, both Gordon and myself could add this bird to our lifelists.  It was the most satisfying moment of the weekend. The bird flew into Gordon's line of sight and together we watched the bird alone without hundreds of spectators.  After 10 or 15 minutes of observation, the bird quickly disappeared and wasn't seen again on the rest of the trail.  I watched it disappear!!!  I don't know how they do that!!!  A weight was lifted off my shoulders.  We found the Trogon!  After several minutes, many people were on the trail asking about the Trogon and this time, we could say we saw it and watched as the hopeful birder's shoulders slumped.  I felt their pain as it had happened to me so many times before.  Never again. 
Elegant Trogon
My life is now complete:)  I can now relax knowing that the Elf Owl and Elegant Trogon have photo documentation.  It also marks my 2nd graduation in the birding world.  Last year it was hummingbirds.  This year with the Elegant Trogon find, I believe I have reached a new level in birding.  It's now time to study the minute differences between Sandpipers, Sparrows, etc.  There are so many yet to find.  I had a great time birding with Gordon and look forward to many more adventures with him. And as the title to this post suggests, I am finally able to sleep better at night. 
I'm linking to Stewart M's Wild Bird Wednesday.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Matter of Perspective

Hi all!  Just a quick hello to let you all know I'm around but it's quite busy right now. Of course, my work and posts are collecting and waiting for a write up but I don't know how quickly I'll be getting to them.  But in the meantime.....
None of the work today is my own.  These are from Mr. Micheal Ada.  He's a close friend of mine who wanted to try his hand at photography in Saguaro National Park.
He takes some brilliant shots and adds a different "flavor" to the shots I would normally post.  With his permission, he gave me the green light to post his work.
We work as a team often scouting various locations to film.  In the shot below, he captures a Turkey Vulture lifting off from several hieroglyphs.  Epic!!!
I'm loving his new lens because it captures all the detail on the bird's wings.
The Turkey Vulture begins to catch the thermals and rise.
Meanwhile, the Saguaros continue to bloom and the birds take advantage.  Below the female Gila Woodpecker enjoys this easy food source.
I taught Micheal how to pish birds out.  And he did!  I'm so proud of him for doing this!!!  While he's not a birder, he does have a steadier hand than I do with the camera.  Not that I'm jealous, but he captures this Black-tailed Gnatcatcher perfectly!
When I was reviewing the shots, I was stunned at how well these photos of this bird turned out!!!  Really excellent work on his part.
To be honest, it was nice to not have a camera and snap shots.  I occassionally enjoy going without the camera just to call things out and observe with the naked eye. 
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Things are going to get crazy right now.  I have a lot on my plate but I'll post at least once a week next month.  There'll be coverage on the Phoenix Comicon(non-bird:), Guatemala(national parks and birds/animals!), and several personal triumphs over these past weeks on the road searching for elusive critters.  But for today, I'd like to thank Micheal for his contributions at Las Aventuras!  If you're visiting Tucson, bring plenty of sunblock, a hat and of course, water!!!  More coming soon!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Run Lola Run!

Stilt Sandpiper
When nature calls, you run!!! A Stilt Sandpiper in Tucson????  No way!!!  "Hurry up Pat!  Drop everything and get in the car!!!" 
Neotropic Cormorant
I froze and pulled myself together.  Get camera.  Get keys.  Grab phone.  Lock door.  Laundry can wait!
We get to Lakeside Park in Tucson and scan the artificial shores for the birds.  Southwest corner.  Southwest corner.....where is that? We located the Southwest corner and moved.  It's not everyday one sees this bird AND in breeding plumage!!!
Brown-crested Flycatcher
And there we find the Stilt Sandpiper!!!  Just one!  We hold very still and zoom in with the camera lens.

A gorgeous bird and yet another lifebird for me.  I got the shots and moved away to count other birds.
As we continued on this windy day along Lakeside Park, we noticed two dogs running along the lake towards the Sandpiper, Killdeer and family of Mallards.  Two dog owners let their dogs off the leash and the birds flew off.  It happened in a matter of 20 minutes.  Had we hestitated; we would have dipped on this bird.  Within the blink of an eye, the birds flew off and the ladies disappeared with their dogs.  We were upset and by the time we got back to the spot, the birds were not found.  Later on in the day, one of the birds was found with a damaged wing.  It was taken in by a Wildlife Rescue crew.  Just a good reminder for dog owners to keep their pets on the leash. 
Western Wood Pewee
The day would continue as we had great views of some fantastic birds.  While the Western Wood Pewee(above) was not a lifebird, it was the first time I was able to get a great shot of this bird.
Flower on Tree Cholla
And along the way, we found lots of other colorful characters........
Lucy's Warbler on Saguaro Cactus
.....which made for the best day ever:) 
Western Tanager

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Swing of Spring

Swainson's Thrush
Birds are everywhere.  Lifebirds are just around the corner.  You don't have to travel far in Arizona to find them!  In fact, I'm pretty sure you never have to leave this state to find new birds:)
Female Summer Tanager
Spring has been a lot of fun.  One day a wave of several birds will come through and the next, they'll be gone.  But another group will be present.  Such was the case of the Swainson's Thrush.  I remember birders telling me about these birds.  I didn't know how I'd tell the Swainson's or Hermit apart. When I started to hear a different sounding thrush and noticed atypical movement, I was quick to pull out my recorder and listen to the call.  After plugging in the name, I was able to confirm on the spot that I had indeed heard and seen several of the Swainson's thrushes.
The night passed and the new day began.  I did my count around school and discovered several new species for my patch.  The Lark Sparrow!!!
Lark Sparrow
As the Saguaro blooms open, every bird becomes a fan and rises to the tops of this amazing cactus.  On 3 arms, there are 3 birds!  The White-winged Dove, Pyrrhuloxia and Curve-billed Thrasher enjoy the fruit from these plants. The birds will then spread the pollen around which will create fruit containing thousands of seeds.  The birds of course, along with other mammals, including humans, will eat the fruits. Birds will help spread the seed around the desert.  A Saguaro depends solely on this symbiotic relationship to survive in the Sonoran desert.
From left to right.  White-winged dove, Pyrrhuloxia, and Curve-billed Thrasher on Saguaro Cactus
So many wonderful birds can be spotted on top of these flowers.  Just point your binos on top and you'll find hummingbirds, bees, thrashers, warblers and.......well the list goes on and on.
Curve-billed Thrasher
Meanwhile back at the ranch.  The owlets at my school have finally begun to move out of their trees and nest. All 3 have fledged and are with Mom and Dad.  Many of the staff were worried that they were harmed, but thanks to plenty of observation this past year, I could ease their minds a bit:)  While they weren't in their nest anymore, they had moved over the weekend into trees away from the cafeteria area.  Very smart move on their part.  Teenagers are LOUD!  At dusk, one of the teachers was rewarded with the owl silhouettes on the roof.  5 owls living the American dream!
Great Horned Owlet
This is the youngest and last to hatch.  I worried that this one wouldn't make it but Mom stayed with the baby until the end and now this little owlet is on the move with the other two siblings.
Spring moves on and summer will be arriving quickly. The owls departure from their nest also begins to mark the end of spring migration.  However, one never knows.  Who will stop by tomorrow?  Stay tuned for more.