Monday, February 2, 2015

Miraculous Chaos

Trumpeter Swans
Sometimes life has a strange way of challenging us. These past two weeks had been extremely difficult for me. I always try to do excellent work with the best of intentions. This past week's lifebird and mega-rarity for Arizona reminded me to keep everything in perspective. The arrival of the Trumpeter Swans made me forget all the needless crazy human drama.  

So the birding world also had a little big drama. The arrival of the Trumpeter Swans shook the foundation of the Arizona birding world. Never in our lives did we expect these rare gems to show up. Maybe they heard about our infamous Gem Show here in the Old Pueblo!?!? There are VERY few records of these birds visiting the state. All day long, working birders were trapped inside their work spaces while reports from the retired, visiting, workers with flexible jobs and those "who-don't-have-jobs-but-can-still-bird" reported these mega-rarities.  I paced like a lion in a cage wishing I were ancient, wise and retired. WHY??!!!!!!!!  I called Micheal and told him to grab the camera and GO!  "But I have to work in a half hour!", he whined.  "GO! NOW!"  So he went and discovered a media frenzy at Sweetwater.  Several minutes later, he texted me back and said, "Got 'em!"  

Here are the "Big 3" in the US.  On the left, the invasive Mute Swan hails from Europe. In the Upper Right hand corner, the rarer Trumpeter Swans are  making a comeback from near extinction.  The Tundra Swan is the only common, yet rare, visitor to Arizona during our winter months.  The bill on this swan is slightly different than that of the Trumpeter Swan AND this bird also has a yellow spot on the lores.
The school bell rang and I shot out of my cage like any trapped wild spirit would do. I arrived at Sweetwater to a full parking lot and went straight to the spot.  There they were!  NO WAY!  We didn't know it at the time, but we would be the last group to view these 2 swans before they disappeared the next day! I glowed for several hours after that observation.  But alas, it would not resolve my ridiculous issue the following day. 

I began this adventure as a young Spanish instructor.  Inspiration has always come from my work out in the field and it has been infused into my lectures today. That same energy is still there but it has changed over the years in a more seasoned matter. The world is not the same place it was many years ago. 
After doubting my teaching style that has been successful over the years, I saw this little message from A Little Piece of Me.  

There is only one of you in all time, 
this expression is unique. 
And if you block it, 
it will never exist through any other medium 
and it will be lost.
 ― Martha Graham

I have lost family, friends and students over the years.  I am reminded that we must live for today and not tomorrow.
I have always been a "teach with a smile and laugh" kinda guy.  But this past week the joke was on me and it wasn't very funny. To make a long story short, I blame it all on Pablo Neruda.  I'll have to write an ode to him for all the headaches he has given me over the years!  For now, I'll stick to the birds. 

The ear tufts stick out.  But will she stick it out over the next several months with all the students around?
My day began with the special sighting of our Great Horned Owls!  This is significant because she finally chose the human made basket instead of her yearly "ledge-of-death".  In the past, the owlets would try to leave the nest from a super high ledge only to fall to their demise.  About 4 years ago, we tried something different for this insistent pair of owls.  Finally this year, she chose the basket!  During the 4 year time period, we've successfully helped them raise 10 owlets!

I'm just calling this one...."The Southwest Today"
While my personal storm passed, another arrived in the form of dark gray skies full of wet and heavy clouds. Rain.  We wanted to do some birding in fun places around the state, but unfortunately, every place we turned had the same forecast!  So I stayed close to home. It still was a lot of fun.....although it was a wet birding trek. 

The Lark Sparrow
Winter storms are common during the months of January and February, but this one brought us an unusual amount of rain.  It rained for a day and a half!  This is very rare for us as our rain events usually last less than an hour or two at the most. 

But as you can see, the washes filled up.  Birds were hungry and cold!  My feeders saw a LARGE influx of Lesser Goldfinches. 

A juvi Sharp-shinned Hawk
It was a drive and bird kinda weekend. However, towards mid-afternoon, a downpour happened at one of our locations and it was time to pack up and leave.  We had been far from our car so by the time we reached it, we were soaked!

A Mourning Dove endures the rain
One of our fun challenges this year has been working with our cell phone camera option.  If you haven't noticed, my posts have begun to feature several artsy shots each week utilizing the camera part on the cell phone.   

I've also crossed the photography line regarding detail in pics. I like my camera very much but I'm wanting more now. For the first time, I switched the setting on my camera this past week for stronger results.  So far so good.  However, these pics take up more space on the SD cards and I have to be conscious about how many pictures I'm taking.

For now, I'm still thinking about the Trumpeter Swans.  What life bird follows after their grand departure?  I don't know.  I really don't. 

Black-crowned Night Heron
So I'll continue observing and snapping photos of previously seen birds enjoying their habitats and behaviors. 

But like the Trumpeter Swans, I may at one point snap and fly drive....somewhere new.  There are still several locations I have to check out, but I know I'll be on the road again soon. 

A pair of Redheads
Winter is winding down and soon spring migration will be upon us. As for now, I'd like to keep the chaos to a minimum:)  My blood pressure can only rise so much:) More to come......

Common Merganser


  1. Loved reading your post today. What a wonderful and exciting surprise to have these Swans visit. I am glad you got to see them. Love the shots of the a Redhead ducks.

  2. Hello Chris, congrats on your Trumpeter Swans.. So glad you were able to see them.. I believe the Trumpeter Swans are being seen a few places in Maryland too.. But, I have seen them in Wyoming and do not feel the need to rush out and see them here..Am I bad..Great photos and I enjoyed your post, happy birding!

  3. Interesting.I just went on the French side of the internet to read more about the trumpeter and discovered that he usually has a 5 cm thick down!

  4. Hello Chris!:) Great shots of all the birds, and so pleased for you that you got to see the Trumpeter Swans.

  5. Hi Chris, I chuckle at your frustration of having to work when you'd much rather be outside looking for new birds!!!!! ha

    Love the Swans... I've only seen the Mute Swans --and hadn't realized that they were invasive...

    Love the Black-crowned Night Heron.. Great pic.

  6. It must be incredible to have such a rarity close to home! Life IS full of challenges in different ways, so thanks for the reminder to make the most of the day.

  7. I am impressed that you can teach 9 months of the year. I love working with the Junior Rangers but... Your time will come for retirement. In the meantime remind yourself that most working people don't get summer off. I had to laugh at you sending Michael off to see these rarely seen swans and so glad you got to see them also. And very cool the owls decided to use the basket. All that rain was rather unusual but just think of the spring flowers.

  8. okay, this all sounds rather cryptic today....I'll wait for the other shoe to drop ... perhaps tomorrow..... and, I hope to see an owlet some day too......

  9. an owlet on your blog I mean...I'll probably never get to see one in person ...

  10. For a birder, odd weather events are usually a gift :D After seeing a mega-rarity downunder last year (although it is common in the Northern Hemisphere), I SO get the excitement!! That's when I crossed the line from being partner to a birdo and became a twitcher!!!

  11. I look forward to your meeting with swans, because you had a wonderful, unexpected experience. Regards.

  12. Great photos Chris and congratulations on seeing the Trumpeter Swans - what a tick :) and am so glad they were still there for you when you finished work :)

    I love the quote from A Little Piece of Me - excellent advice and a timely reminder to us all. Teaching can be a huge challenge at times.

  13. some beautiful shots! love the redheads and the black-crowned. and of course, the southwest. :)

  14. How wonderful to see the trumpeters and you got there just in time too! Beautiful bird shots and great the owls chose a safer nesting site.

  15. Being the last to see the rarity before it flies away can be a mixed blessing, a triumph or downer depending upon what type of a birder you are. Wanting everyone to see it or being one up on the opposition!

    Being one of the retired generation I guess I'm able to be amongst the first at a twitch. But I can understand how you might wear out the workplace carpet while waiting for the bell.

  16. beautiful pictures. ALL your birds! awesome swans!
    it's nice to be addicted to something as wonderful as birds, wildlife, nature, photography. me...i can barely wait til i can retire from work so that i can spend ALL my time doing what i want, when i want! :)

  17. I like the thought of the school bell ringing and you shooting out the door before the kids can :) The swans were well worth the dash.

  18. How wonderful to get such rare visitors! They're gorgeous. Fabulous photos as usual.

  19. How exciting for you! So happy you were able to escape the insanity and see them in person. I love that owl basket! Very cool!


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