Friday, March 28, 2014

The Bridges of Lee County

A Muscovy Duck watches her chicks in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Cape Coral, FL.  Kathie and I both spoke about this bird and how she had found them there.  These birds count in Florida on the ABA.  I meet Olga who watches out for their safety....and maybe go out for a date.   
So I have this friend who decided to go to Cape Coral, FL with her mother.  Little did I know that we both were heading to the same place at different times!  Then Kathie begins to bird those areas without me!!!  I mean really, Ms. Brown!  So what's a friend to do while she's there?  Team up.....via the phone and internet!

Monk Parakeet-another bird we spoke about in great detail (although we went to different places to find this bird)
Somewhere along the way, I remember her telling me that she was going to Florida, but I had forgotten where it was that she was going to visit.  Until she gets there.  I'm excited about all the birds she's seeing.  She's excited about all the birds she's seeing.  And I'm thinking, "Where are you?"  Cape Coral.  No way.  Then she tells me that I never listen.  It's true.

Mottled Duck-I had NO idea that there was such a creature until she told me to keep an eye or two open for these VERY Mallard looking ducks
Then she starts telling me about the places she's visiting.  While we're on the phone, I'm researching all the spots that she's visiting.  She tells me some of the birds she'd like to find.....which also happen to be some of the birds I'D like to find.  And while we're only several millions of miles away, we're still working together as a team.  Almost every night, we chat on the phone for an hour or two about her day.  If you don't know Kathie, she does like to chat.  I hate talking on the phone, but with Kathie it doesn't phase me.  She's one of the most positive people I know.  Plus we both like to do a lot of reading and research together about....birds.   

"Keep your eyes open around the canals", said Ms. Brown.  After some near car crashes, I learned to both bird and drive at the same time in Florida.  Glad I did!  Found this Glossy Ibis hanging out.  
We've been apart now for over 2 months.  Each time I find a new life bird, I get a little emotional because she isn't here to share in the fun.  That's what we did together.  We'd enter data for ebird during the week from our patches and then on the weekend, we'd work for new birds. So when she was in Florida, we worked on the various patches each day.  I'd read her reports and her Facebook updates and then at night research areas where the birds were being seen.  We'd talk everything through thoroughly to maximize our time out in the field.  Florida, like Arizona, is a rich area full of bird life and one of the states one must visit when doing a big year. Not that I'm doing one.  My mission is to seek out new life and new civilization. 

"There are Osprey everywhere!"  She wasn't kidding. Here a Juvenile Laughing Gull wants to share the meal. 
But Ms. Brown had been so busy with her own life that she hasn't had a moment to breathe.  So when she found the rare Florida Scrub-Jay, she had that moment I have been experiencing since she abandoned me. Deep intense sadness. She couldn't go on with her life without me;) I'm joking of course, but I knew it would happen eventually. Her birding buddy, me, wasn't there to share in the exciting experience.  I was so happy and excited for her but I knew how she felt.  The same thing happened to me while I was looking at the Rosy Finches on Sandía Crest in New Mexico. I had to walk to the shirt rack in the far corner of the store away from everyone. That was something she had wanted to do, but couldn't because of her move back to Maine.  

"Bald Eagles fly over your head!"  They sure did.  WOW!
Both of our spouses joke about us being married.  We're not.  We're just awesome friends who love birding a little too much. Perhaps it's a bit obsessive. But growing up on a National Geographic made me want this life.  Speaking Spanish gave me the keys to explore.  And meeting Ms. Brown was like being back in college again.  We were friends who could spontaneously go out on a birding trek.....anywhere.  Arizona holds many secrets unknown to the public, but the birds exposed us to this incredible world. We're both very curious individuals who like to explore every nook and cranny. Florida was a new playground we both could discover together. And did.

I find it interesting that such a common bird like this Blue Jay is so difficult to get on camera.  So I used my secret weapon.....nuts!
So we never did get to bird together in Lee County, Florida. It was such a bizarre event. So while I was writing this post, I began to laugh at the title. There are several major bridges in Lee County and we crossed them nearly every day to get to all the hotspots! The quote below is from the first book that made me cry. Who knew books could do that to a person?!!!  Anyhow, you might recognize it. 

"There are so many Palm warblers here!"  It wasn't a lie. 

“It's clear to me now that I have been moving toward you and you toward me for a long time. Though neither of us was aware of the other before we met, there was a kind of mindless certainty bumming blithely along beneath our ignorance that ensured we would come together. Like two solitary birds flying the great prairies by celestial reckoning, all of these years and lifetimes we have been moving toward one another.” (Quote from the Bridges of Madison County)  This of course speaks of the love relationship that develops in that book, but it also works with friendship.   

"You'll have Gray Catbirds on almost all your counts."  No kidding!
As for the bridges of Lee County? Well they cost 2 dollars to cross and 6 bucks if you're heading over to Captiva Island.  But that is another story.....

For more on birds from around our world, check out Wild Bird Wednesday!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

With The Time That Is Given

Mexican Jay-a common Jay found around Southern Arizona
Where do I begin?  My treks around the US have been life changing.  Sometimes exhausting but always worth the effort. In my 40 some years of life, I never thought I would be living this incredible dream of exploration.   The birds take me to some of the most amazing places around this planet. 

With my dear friend Sydney at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

I have a rule when seeking out birds.  My goal in this life is to find as many of our planet's birds while I still can.  It sounds quite simple but I assure you, it can be complicated.  Before any trip, I research EVERYTHING!  Places, birds, name it. 

Orange-breasted Falcon

 Several birds that become my priority are the endemics and endangered species. One of the birds of Florida that is an endemic is the Florida Scrub-Jay.  I thought it to be numerous having heard several birders tell me it was a "trash" bird(a bird found EVERYWHERE).  Turns out the Florida Scrub-Jay is not only endemic but endangered!  Within our lifetimes, this bird could go extinct.  When I read reports like this, I am saddened.  It is very difficult for me to accept that we, as humans, are accelerating their extinction.  My friend Gordon said to me that this Jay should be my priority as its numbers continue to diminish.  When he told me this, I sat up the entire night reading.  It broke my heart.  How many birds will I see in my lifetime go extinct?  Today I have seen several birds, like the Orange-breasted Falcon and California Condor, that are critically endangered.  When one of these birds is observed in the wild, a tear forms in my eye.  

California Condor
  As I got more into birding, a wise old birder gave me some good advice that I cannot shake.  She puffed on her cigarette and in her no-nonsense-way told me to go after the birds that face extinction first.  It hit me hard.  Birding is a thrill for me.  While finding an endangered bird is exciting, it also is profoundly moving. After an outing with a find like that, I sit at a private table with a drink and just watch the world pass me by.  And I think about humanity as a whole. I wish I could change the world.  

Florida Scrub-Jay
So when I went to Florida, I knew that this bird was important for many reasons.  People continue to move to Florida.  The human population continues to increase.  Construction continues.  Roads are widened and created to get to those new subdivisions.  And more and more, the Florida Scrub-Jay is now locked into protected areas which is concerning because it limits the genetic diversity within their populations. Another major factor to the demise of this bird is caused by automobiles on the road. Because there are so many road mortalities, in populations of Florida Scrub-Jays near roads, the number of breeding adults that die each year is much greater than the number of offspring they produce each year. This creates what is known as a population "sink," where the population can't sustain itself without a constant influx of newcomers.

So on this day after weeks of study, I was granted one of the most wonderful gifts possible......a close encounter with the Florida Scrub-Jay.  And it was a very special moment that I won't forget anytime soon.  I hope that the state of Florida can reverse the declining population trend of these magnificent birds. 

I am linking to Wild Bird Wednesday. Here is my buddy Kathie's story about her own experience with the Florida Scrub-Jay.  Las Aventuras continues.....

Monday, March 10, 2014

Target Birding

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow directs the migration traffic
Greetings all!

Burrowing Owl
This year, my challenge has been to find as many US birds as I can within my budget.  While most of the US recovers from the snow, the birds in Arizona have been keeping many of us birders busy.  Migration has begun.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird

So the rule is.....even if I've seen the bird before, I have to go back and find them all over again.  This requires patience and time.  

Orange-crowned Warbler

It has been a fun trek around Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California so far.  And there is much more in store.  But for now, it's about retracing my steps and finding the Crested Caracara, Common Black Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, etc etc. 

Inca Dove
This is great because it allows me better observations of the birds that I don't always get to see while out in the field.  So while I'm researching maps, etc, I'm also helping others find those crucial life birds.  It's pretty exciting.  

Prairie Falcon
My current US total is at 264 birds.  That number is about to drastically change as I head to another warm and tropical locale.  I will be reporting live from the field on Facebook as we visit several amazing places in the next couple of weeks.  I will be working on several features for this blog. So stay tuned for more.  Las Aventuras is just warming up:)

Louisiana Waterthrush

Today's post includes pictures from my other half Pat as well as myself. Sometimes I'm not always in the photography mood.  So I appreciate the extra hand:)  Below, I've featured some of the plants flowering in our garden at El Presidio.

From the El Presidio Garden-Spring has arrived!

For more birds from around the world, check out Wild Bird Wednesday!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Spring Is In The Air

Broad-billed Hummingbird
When things start warming up, it's hard to ignore the changes around us. When the Broad-billed Hummingbird starts feeding from the stunning Parry's Penstemon, I stop with others and marvel at the incredible beauty that nature provides this time of year. 

Mountain Laurel pollinated by the Carpenter Bee

It's a reminder that everything renews. 

The Great Horned Owls nest and have their owlets every spring at my work site. Every year we look forward to their return as we watch them go from egg to large owl in just a matter of weeks!
Fairy Duster
 But it's not just the birds.  A Fairy Duster bursts forth like a firecracker in the night sky. A Tucson garden, thanks to African Daisies, brightens up our lives with a little sunshine.  
African Daisies
 All it takes is one rain event. 
Desert Globemallow
Insects, wildflowers, migrating birds alike.......

Anna's Hummingbird with Turk's Cap

......remind us that life is constant change.  With or without us.

Common Gallinule(Moorhen)
I never once take any of this for granted. 

A protective nesting Cooper's Hawk
 Each year as I grow older, I still marvel at it all like I once did as a kid. 

These epic landscapes are the paintings that will define our lifetime.  And I hope they remain that way for generations to come. 

Created with my cartoon app. Snapped a shot at Sabino creek with my phone and had a little fun.  It was the most perfect day.  
Until next time.....

Don't forget to check out Wild Bird Wednesday.