January 30, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Sunrise
Sunrise

Same Old, Same Old

Sunrise Over Imperial Dam
Sunrise Over Imperial Dam

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.

Sunrise Over Imperial Dam
Sunrise Over Imperial Dam

The images above were taken on two different mornings as I nursed my morning coffee.

A New Bird Deterrent Besides the Bees

Merlin
Merlin

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.

Mourning Doves
Mourning Doves

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 …

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbirds

… 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.

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbirds
House Finches
House Finches

Have a fair number of House Finches coming in, but nowhere near the number that were here last year.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

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.

January 22, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

House Finches
House Finches

Strong Desert Winds

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.

Wind Cancellation
Wind Cancellation

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.

Outdoor Studio
Outdoor Studio

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.

Verdin
Verdin

This Verdin was a newcomer here….

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

…as was this White-crowned Sparrow.

The Watering Hole
The Watering Hole

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.

Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove

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.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

As much as I’d like to keep trying to get some nice hummingbird shots and perhaps lure in other types of hummers …

Bees
Hummingbird Repellent

… 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.

House Finch Variant
House Finch Variant

Male House Finch Variant

House Finch Variant
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.”

House Finch Variant
House Finch Variant
House Finch Variant
House Finch Variant
House Finch
House Finch

A ” normal” male House Finch.

Gila Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker

Another newcomer here was this male Gila Woodpecker.

Gila Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker

And he was joined by the Mrs. this morning…

Gila Woodpecker Pair
Gila Woodpecker Pair

…though they usually feed at separate feeders.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

And of course, yet more Gambel’s Quail shots.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail
Gambel's Quail
Windblown Gambel’s Quail

A bit disheveled looking as that north wind pretty much blows this guy right off the top of the knoll.

Quail
Evening Gathering

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.

Sunrise
Sunrise

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.

Sunrise
Sunrise

January 11, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

 Back to the Birds Again

After getting settled in at Falcon Lake State Park, I took a short drive over to the Salineno Birding Area where I volunteered a couple winters ago to say hi to Lois and Merle and see what changes may have occurred over the the last couple of years.

Not much changed, still a premier spot to see lots of birds up close in comfort with a couple of knowledgeable hosts to help with identification. A few trees have drooped a bit more and that led to a relocation for the host’s fifth wheel and thus the seating area is now a bit farther away from the action, but the colorful orioles, kiskadees, and green jays are still there in abundance.

Falcon Lake State Park

I chose a campsite with water and electric only rather than one with full hookups since the full hookup section is more open and the sites are a little closer together than I like. My pull through site is surrounded by dense shrubs and trees providing nice privacy, but, more importantly, the same shrubs and trees provide cover and perches for my feathered friends.

I set out a hummingbird feeder, an oriole feeder, a couple of platform feeders, my old reliable fencepost for the lard/peanut butter/cornmeal concoction, then spread a little cracked corn and sunflower seed around the edges of my feeding area, sat back and waited to see who would arrive.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

It didn’t take long for two types of thrashers to come scooting out from the edge cover to grab some corn and scurry back to cover to eat.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

This thrashers seem quite reluctant to spent much time in the open, lurking just on the edge of the feeding area …

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

… then dashing out and grabbing a couple of kernels of corn before retreating to the shadows.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

 

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

This cute little guy is all but impossible to keep up with, constantly on the move with herky jerky action, hopping from bush to bush, bush to ground, up and down the feeders, just never standing still.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

 

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

The Olive Sparrow is one of the birds folks come here to add to their birding lists.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

He’s another bird of the edges like the thrashers, reluctant to leave the cover of the bushes on the edges of the feeding area.

 

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

There are a couple of pairs of Pyrhuloxia coming in regularly and this is the first time I have been able to get some nice close shots of these guys.

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

 

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

So far, these small Inca Doves are the only doves that have shown up here.

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

 

Orange Crowned Warbler
Orange Crowned Warbler

Lots of Orange -crowned Warblers coming in.

 

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite

I was pleasantly surprised when this lone male Northern Bobwhite came strolling in right next to my chair and began feeding on cracked corn, seemingly oblivious to my presence.

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite

A little unusual to see a lone Bobwhite, but I assume the rest of the flock must be somewhere near by and hope they will eventually all come in.

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

So far at least two pair of Northern Cardinals have made an appearance.

Female Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

 

Black Crested Titmouse
Black Crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmice come and grab their single seed and hop off to the bushes to break them open.

Black Crested Titmouse
Black Crested Titmouse

 

Green Jay
Green Jay

One of my all-time favorite birds, the colorful Green Jay, is here in abundance.

Green Jay
Green Jay

As you can see above, they are not shy about helping themselves to plenty of my offerings.

 

Female Great-tailed Grackle
Female Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackles arrive in large flocks, along with the ever present scourge of Red-winged Blackbirds. These pests I have to actively discourage to keep the food available for the birds I am looking to photograph. They do get to clean up the area ( along with the javelinas ) in late afternoon when I quit shooting for the day.

An Agility Test

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I put out an old two liter Coke bottle that I had crudely cut up to make a hanging feeder, more to show my presence than to actually have birds use it since the platform feeders are much, much easier to access.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

But here, a few birds have mastered the ability to land on this feeder and have unfettered access to some sunflower seeds without having to share with other birds.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Watching them land and then try to hang on as the feeder blows around in the stiff breeze is quite interesting.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

The weather here since my arrival has been absolutely perfect, sunny 70 degree days and clear starlit skies with night time temps in the lower 50’s. Not real sure how long I will stay here before heading up the coast to shoot Whooping Cranes and ducks, as well as check out the hurricane damage around Port Aransas and Lockport.

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December 17, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

House Finches
House Finches

LBB’s ( Little Brown Birds ) at the LTVA

Feeder Setup
Feeder Setup

It has been a long time since I have done a bird post, but the last two days I finally got out and did a little bird photography. When I first arrived here at Imperial Dam, I was greeted by a small flock of Gambel’s Quail right in front of my motorhome. So, I set up my platform feeder and spread some scratch feed on the ground where I could keep an eye on it from the front windshield, as seen in the image above.

Well, for a week I did not see a single bird take advantage of this free food. Then, slowly they began to show up, first just a couple house finches, then some sparrows, and finally the quail returned.

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow

All pretty much just LLB’s, but since there were a couple I did not immediately recognize, and since quail are some of my favorite birds to shoot, I finally made myself drag out the camp chair and the tripod and semi concealed myself against the side of the motorhome and shot these images, all taken with a 600mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter attached.

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

The Chipping Sparrow and the White-crowned Sparrow, I was familiar with, and have shot before.

Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove

Same with this Mourning Dove, a rare single dove, I never saw another one show up..

Albert's Towhee
Albert’s Towhee
Albert's Towhee
Albert’s Towhee

But the Albert’s Towhee …

Sagebrush Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrow

… and the Sagebrush Sparrow sent me to my Sibley Birds guide to identify.

Sagebrush Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrow

Both, though not rare, were firsts for me.

House Finches
House Finches

As is most often the case in the desert, most numerous of all that showed up were the House Finches.

House Finch
House Finch
House Finch
House Finch
House Finch
House Finch

Initially, I tended to overlook them, but upon closer examination, I became quite fascinated with the color variations in the males.

House Finch
House Finch

While most of them were not that brightly colored, there were several males that really stood out. There were two in the flock that sported quite a bit of yellow.

House Finches
House Finches
House Finches
House Finches
House Finches
House Finches

My perch on a small gravel hill here overlooking some wetlands provided a wonderful out of focus background for these images.

Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail

It took a while, but the Gambel’s Quail finally showed up in numbers, probably a couple of different flocks, one numbering  eight individuals and a second group probably between fifteen to twenty birds. Both groups were coming in several times a day, but were extremely skittish. At one point, I had to go in the motorhome and put up a barricade to keep Sam from jumping up on the dashboard ( her favorite lookout position ), since every time I heard her up there the quail would hightail it out of the feeding area.

Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail
Gamblel's Quail
Gamblel’s Quail

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