A Little Nightime Excitement and a Trip to the Picacho State Recreation Area
A slight smell of smoke woke me from a dead sleep the other night and I glanced out the bedroom window to the scene above. The wildfire was about 3/4 mile away at that time and the wind, fortunately was driving it towards the Imperial Dam, not towards the area I was camping. The fire smoldered for three days and the burn covered a distance of a couple miles all the way up to the road going through the Yuma proving grounds.
Just another desert sunrise from the campsite.
Picacho State Recreation Area
I was waiting for a day with blue skies and cumulous clouds to venture out the very washboarded 18 mile gravel road to the Colorado River and the Picacho State Recreation Area. I had those conditions when I left camp but the clouds were blown away by the time I reached the river.
The gravel road is dusty and washboarded, but there are no serious grades along the route and the road can pretty much be traveled by any type of rig. There is a nice primitive campground near the river, probably close to 50 level campsites with water and a dump station and when I was there only about five small camping units were present. Certainly a place to get away from it all, but I probably would not subject my motorhome to the washboarded road in.
There are a couple of nice picnic areas and boat launch ramps along the river.
To think that just a few weeks back, I was wondering if I would ever get the birds to discover me out here. Unfortunately, the Mourning Doves and the Red-winged Blackbirds have come in droves, making feeding a little expensive now that I have to put out seed two and three times a day to keep the Quail and others coming in. The Doves number forty or fifty at times and the Blackbirds often as many as twenty.
And I have to feed them all in order to keep the Quail coming back, now almost a continuous presence as opposed to their earlier early morning, late afternoon arrivals. The rock this guy is sitting on has holes a couple inches deep and acts as a great natural feeder.
They are a lot of fun to observe and without a doubt the most skittish of all the birds that come in. They are in constant motion and always choose to run rather than fly, even when the Merlin screams in. And as I have probably mentioned before, they are always peeping, gurgling, and cooing amongst themselves as they scurry around scratching at seeds, really interesting to listen to.
As you can probably guess, I am getting a little bored here and wish there was some way I could move on to new ground as I used to do, but I am unfortunately tied to this spot for at least another month of treatment.
Some wonderful sunrises this week as clouds rolled in for a few days. But I am getting bored. One (of many) of the worst parts of having this rotten disease (myeloma) is having to be anchored to a nearby medical facility for my chemo treatments. Before MM, I was able to move around freely and explore the desert in the winter, as in, leave here and check out the birds in Sierra Vista or Portal, then move on to Texas if I had the notion. No more.
The images above were taken on two different mornings as I nursed my morning coffee.
A New Bird Deterrent Besides the Bees
I was out and set up to shoot some bird images this morning and about fifty Mourning Doves had descended on my feeding grounds when they all suddenly bolted and scattered in all directions. The cause of the commotion was the Merlin pictured above after he made his unsuccessful run through the feeding area. For the next hour, every time a few birds would return he would blast though again scaring everyone off. I gave up after an hour of this and took the shot above before retreating to the motorhome.
I remember wondering, about a month ago, whether I would ever get any birds in here this year. Now I have about 50 Mourning Doves, 30 or so Gambel’s Quail, and …
… a dozen or so Red-winged Blackbirds showing up every morning. My experience with the hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds that mobbed the feeding station in Salineno, Texas, where I volunteered a few winters ago, made these guys my absolute least favorite avian visitor.
Have a fair number of House Finches coming in, but nowhere near the number that were here last year.
And finally, the Gambel’s Quail have graduated to using the platform feeders. Up until now they fed exclusively on the ground, but this one pair has figured out that the food is more plentiful up off the ground. I get a big kick out of watching these guys scurry around and bicker among themselves, and when they are this close it is fascinating to listen to all the constant conversations they have amongst themselves.
I am forced to take a break in the action today as the wind from the north hits 35-40 mph and I am all but blown off the desert knoll I am perched on.
I made the mistake of filling this feeder with seed for the finches right at sunrise this morning. An hour later the wind began to blow… and blow some more. The wind emptied it, and the other platform feeders in just a matter of minutes.
The calm before the storm this morning. I did get to take a few shots before the wind started howling ( pull in the motorhome slides howling and put everything outside inside howling ). The shot above shows my setup for all the bird images I am posting on the blog.
This Verdin was a newcomer here….
…as was this White-crowned Sparrow.
I did add a watering hole for the birds this week and it is quite popular with everyone but the Gambel’s Quail. Don’t know why, but they walk right past it several times every day and never stop to drink.
I started out with just a single Mourning Dove here a month ago, but that number has increased to as many as thirty in here early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
As much as I’d like to keep trying to get some nice hummingbird shots and perhaps lure in other types of hummers …
… the bees have pretty much brought my attempts to do so to a halt. Other than the first hour or so after sunrise they are constantly swarming the sugar water feeders and very effectively deterring the hummingbirds attempts to approach the feeders. Since they are also hovering around me I end up having to remove the feeders for my own protection.
Male House Finch Variant
This guy has obviously caught my attention. Apparently, this color variation is not terribly uncommon, especially in the Southwest. From the Cornell Lab:
“All male House Finches have the same potential for yellow, orange, or red coloration. Researchers who kept House Finches in captivity found that the red plumage was replaced by yellow plumage unless a carotenoid pigment was mixed in with their food during molt. In the wild, three carotenoid pigments found in natural foods give House Finches their color. Beta-carotene produces yellow to orange colors, isocryptoxanthin produces orange colors, and echinenone produces red colors. Yellow House Finches are frequently seen in the southwest and Hawaii where natural foods are low in some of these carotenoids. In the east birds often feed on the high-carotenoid fruits of ornamental plants.”
A ” normal” male House Finch.
Another newcomer here was this male Gila Woodpecker.
And he was joined by the Mrs. this morning…
…though they usually feed at separate feeders.
And of course, yet more Gambel’s Quail shots.
A bit disheveled looking as that north wind pretty much blows this guy right off the top of the knoll.
Taken last night around sunset when the quail come in to feast before roosting. Like the doves their numbers have increased from just a single pair early on to as many as twenty-four in here at one time now.
Lastly, a couple of sunrises from the past week, showing the varying colors from day to day. Most mornings, there are no clouds to produce the dramatic sunrises I like to see.