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

March 12, 2018 Aux Arc COE Campground, Ozark, Arkansas

Rainbow Over the Arkansas River
Rainbow Over the Arkansas River

Hail, Rainbows, and Picking Up a Passenger

Rainbow Over the Arkansas River
Rainbow Over the Arkansas River

The weather forecast for my 385 mile trip up from Texas yesterday was causing me a little bit of concern since it was calling for high winds and possible severe weather as a front was coming through. I prepped for an early start the night before and thus was on the road by 7:30 AM. I made the long drive in just under 8 hours without encountering any rain or wind, but just after unhooking the Prius and getting backed into my site, the skies opened up, thunder cracked and lightning flashed all around. After 10 minutes of heavy rain, there came a new sound on the roof …. HAIL! Soon the ground was white and I was having flashbacks to my first night in Bend, Oregon last spring when I lost all the plastic on the motorhome roof and the Prius was destroyed by golf ball sized hail. Fortunately this was just pea sized hail and it was over fairly quickly and no damage was done.

Not long after the hail stopped the double rainbow appeared and I was able to get a couple shots.

White Pelicans on the Arkansas River
White Pelicans on the Arkansas River

Couldn’t get any photos of it since the hail was so intense, but it was interesting to watch the white pelicans on the river ride out the hail storm. Floating along in the middle of the river, they grouped tightly together and all had their heads dipped under their wings to shield from the hail. Never had thought of how birds manage to cope with something like a nasty hailstorm.

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

In addition to a lot of water birds on the river, cormorants, pelicans, ducks, terns and gulls, as well as a pair of common loons that I have seen through the rain, the woods behind my campsite have revealed a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers as well as a Red-headed Woodpecker and a Red-shafted Northern Flicker, plus an Eastern Bluebird. Maybe I will find something to shoot here!

Maltese
Pearl

Pearl Joins the Crew

Say Hi to Pearl, a new passenger to keep Sam and myself company as we continue on this journey.

Maltese
Sam and Pearl
Maltese
Attack!

Sam was always glued to Jenny’s side for the 10 years they were together so I have actually been looking for a pup for the year and a half since Jenny left us. She seems to like the new addition, but it is readily apparent that she is in for a little more attention from said new addition than she may be prepared for.

Pearl is ten weeks old and is not the least bit shy about letting old Sam know that she is her new plaything. It has been over a decade since I have had a puppy around and I forgot how much work is involved keeping an eye on one and cleaning up after her, while attempting to puppy proof the motorhome.

Maltese
Pearl
Maltese
Pearl

All puppies are cute and this one is no exception. A live wire with a pretty bold disposition, just a great attitude, not the least bit concerned about the abrupt change in her life, leaving her littermates and coming to live in a completely new foreign environment. Doesn’t seem to have missed a beat.

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January 26, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher
Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher

Sorry, Just More Birds

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

I had intended to only stay here at Falcon Lake for a week or so, but the iffy weather farther north where I am heading and the phenomenal good fortune I have had in attracting colorful birds to my campsite setup, have kept me here for three weeks now.

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

Shooting small birds in action is always a bit of a challenge, but with patience and practice, I have been able to get some pretty nice shots here and so I am hesitant to leave since I can’t duplicate this setup elsewhere. Several of these birds do not venture much farther north than right here and I have yet to find anyplace like this as far as the number of colorful birds go.

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

The main attraction to me has to be the Northern Cardinals interacting with the Pyrrhuloxias. I find the females of these two species to be as attractive as the more brightly colored males.

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

As you can probably sense from these photos, sharing a feeding spot is not something these birds tend to do. About the only birds that will willingly share the post feeder are the Green Jays. For everyone else, there is always a bit of a tussle to see who commands the perch alone.

Pyrrhuloxias
Pyrrhuloxias
Green Jay and Great Kiskadee
Green Jay and Great Kiskadee

Now into my third week here, I have finally had a pair of Great Kiskadees find my setup. These are the largest of the flycatchers and are very interesting to observe as they prefer taking their food on the wing rather than sitting down to dine.

Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia
Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia
Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia
Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia

While in flight, they will jab their beak into the peanut butter/lard/cornmeal slathered on the inside of the post, either getting a chunk or knocking it out onto the ground, where they instantly drop down to pick it up before someone else may notice it. All this action is accompanied by a shrill shriek with every change of direction.

Red-wing Blackbirds and Pyrrhuloxia
Red-wing Blackbirds and Pyrrhuloxia

At times the action is quite hot and heavy with several birds making a run at the coveted perch on top of the post. Near collisions occur regularly, but I have yet to ever see any two birds actually collide.

Pyrrhuloxia, Ladderback Woodpecker, and Curve-billed Trasher
Pyrrhuloxia, Ladderback Woodpecker, and Curve-billed Trasher
Long-billed Trasher and Red-winged Blackbird
Long-billed Trasher and Red-winged Blackbird

I find it interesting to observe the hierarchy as to who defers to who. The thrashers appear to be top dogs, not hesitating to knock anybody off the perch, followed closely by the Mockingbird, then the Green Jays. The Kiskadees will make a run at the Jays on occassion but remain perched in the bushes when the Thrashers or Mockingbirds are seated on the post.

The Cardinals and Pryyhuloxias challenge each other regularly, seemingly based on just the individual bird’s dominance or submissiveness. All the really little guys like the Orange-crowned Warblers, Black-crested Titmice, and The Bewick’s Wrens defer to everybody and just dart in only when the post is not occupied.

And then there are the #%&*# Red-winged Blackbirds that will challenge anybody when they charge the post in numbers, driving off the birds I am trying to photograph.

Green Jay and Mockingbird

Green Jay and Mockingbird

Long-billed Trasher and Mockingbird
Long-billed Trasher and Mockingbird
Pyrrhuloxia and Red-winged Blackbird
Pyrrhuloxia and Red-winged Blackbird

My success rate for these images is at best maybe one nice capture ( that I would bother to post ) out of maybe every 70 – 80 shots that I take. There really is no way that one can use autofocus on these little guys since the action is so fast so I have found that I have to manually focus on a point where I hope the action occurs and turn auto focus off. Thus it really is pretty much hit or miss. How the scene is setup determines how successful I might be ( more on that next post ).

Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher
Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher

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May 14, 2016 Clayton Lake State Park, New Mexico

Abandoned Building
Abandoned Building

On to Clayton Lake State Park

Clayton Lake State Park Campsite
Clayton Lake State Park Campsite

After a ten day stay at Ute Lake State Park where I was able to get caught up on a lot on internet based work, thanks to the park’s great WiFi, I headed out Monday for Clayton Lake State park, just a couple hours northeast of Logan but a couple thousand feet higher in elevation.
I arrived at Clayton mid-afternoon and got settled in on my reserved Site E3, a level site just large enough to accomodate my rig and tow dolly. This is a site with water and 30 amp electric, no sewer, and, be aware, the park does not have a dump station. There is a nice sheltered picnic table on a concrete pad, along with a metal grill. Decent separation between sites, but there really is no privacy. A couple dings, to me anyhow, are the way too bright presence of a tall street light at the bottom of the hill that casts a strong beam up the hill and makes enjoying the clear starlit skies impossible. The other is the absolute lack of any Verizon signal. You can drive about six miles back towards Clayton and pick up a useable signal.

Clayton Lake State Park Primitive Campsite
Clayton Lake State Park Primitive Campsite

If I were to stay here again, I would take one of two or three primitive sites that are large enough to handle my rig and get away from the bright light in the electric section of the campground.

Clayton Lake State Park Primitive Campsite
Clayton Lake State Park Primitive Campsite

Exploring the Wide Open Spaces

New Mexico Grasslands
New Mexico Grasslands

I have been driving the back roads in the area looking for abandoned ranches and wildlife and have had a little success in that regard.

Abandoned Ranch House
Abandoned Ranch House

For the most part, this is a flat, wide open, mostly featureless grasslands landscape, yet on a blue sky day, especially one with puffy cumulous clouds, it still holds a lot of appeal to me.
Have to cover a lot of ground out here in this sparsely populated region to find these abandoned buildings.

Abandoned Building
Abandoned Building
Abandoned Ranch House
Abandoned Ranch House
Abandoned Ranch House
Abandoned Ranch House
Abandoned Ranch House
Abandoned Ranch House
Abandoned Ranch
Abandoned Ranch
Grasslands Pronghorn
Grasslands Pronghorn

I have been delighted to find small groups of pronghorns everywhere out here, even saw one doe with a new fawn, but didn’t have time to get a shot of them. Many of the does look quite close to delivering, so I hope I am able to see a few newborns before I leave, something I have not come across with pronghorns before.

New Mexico Grasslands Pronghorn
New Mexico Grasslands Pronghorn
Pronghorn on the Plains
Pronghorn on the Plains
Pronghorn
Pronghorn
Pronghorn
Pronghorn
Prairie Dog Community
Prairie Dog Community

Along the gravel back roads, I also am seeing a lot of prarie dog towns, but they always scurry down their burrows whenever I stop to get a shot. They seem pretty scared of any vehicle stopping which leads me to believe that perhaps they are used as target practice by the area ranchers?

Lots of Birds

Western Kingbird
Western Kingbird

And of course, I am finding new birds to shoot. It really is pretty amazing the number of birds inhabiting this featureless landscape. Literally hundreds of them all along the dusty back roads, perched on the barbed wire fences that line both sides of the many miles of back roads here.
Although new to me, most of these guys are very common birds on the open plains. The one thing I have not seen, not a single one, is any form of raptor, no hawks at all, wonder if I am just missing them, or if there is a reason for their absence.

Horned Lark
Horned Lark
Lark Bunting
Lark Bunting
Red-shafted Flicker
Red-shafted Flicker
Lark Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Cliff Swallows
Cliff Swallows
Western Kingbird
Western Kingbird
Red-shafted Flicker
Red-shafted Flicker

I am not going to be doing many posts over the next several weeks, as the lack of a Verizon signal in the areas I am staying, and will be traveling in, makes uploading posts a bit of a challenge. Really enjoying the moderate temperatures and the dry air, cool nights, and unlimited visibility in these higher elevations, just a perfect spring climate for my tastes. I am at an elevation of about 6000′ here and will continue climbing upwards for the next few months. And unfortunately, Verizon signals will be hard to find.

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