May 3, 2018 Hunter Cove, Alma, Nebraska

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Snowy Egrets at Cheyenne Bottoms

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

A couple posts ago I mentioned that I had found some Snowy Egrets gathered at an outflow the refuge, but the afternoon light was all wrong for getting any great shots of them, as illustrated in the above image. I vowed to return the next morning when the rising sun would be at my back and hoped that the birds would also return in the morning.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

And return they did. I hit the bonanza here!

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

I spent two hours here, shooting hundreds of shots, as the egrets fought for position, grabbed minnows, and sometimes larger fish that were stunned as they tumbled over the rocks.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

At times, I felt this scene was almost too perfect, the birds often positioned themselves in perfect composition, the light was bright enough to give me some depth of field and yet still shoot at a high enough shutter speed to freeze wing action, and at one point, even a great Egret joined the fray.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

And the action was continuous.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Love the “hair” of the bird in the lower right.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Aerial battles sprang up from time to time.

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

Finally the show had to come to an end …

Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets
Cheyenne Bottoms Snowy Egrets

… and that presented me with a couple more nice opportunities. A morning to remember!

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April 27, 2018 Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas

Cormorant with Bullhead
Down the Hatch

A Trip to Quivira NWR

With some very nice weather the last few days I have had to postpone my editing of images from my Prairie Chicken adventure in favor of getting out and exploring this part of Kansas. Quiver NWR is located forty plus miles to the south of where I am presently camped at Cheyenne Bottoms, so I took advantage of the nice weather and made two trips down there this week.

Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe

Quivira has a series of salt water ponds and marshes as well as extensive grasslands and is a major stopover point for migratory birds along the Central Flyway.

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Killdeer
Killdeer
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

The refuge burns off it’s grassland areas with controlled burns to keep invasive plants and brush down …

Ring-necked Pheasant Pair
Ring-necked Pheasant Pair

… as well as to promote vigorous new growth of native grasses.

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope

Wilson’s Phalaropes were a new bird for me …

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope
Wilson's Phalaropes
Wilson’s Phalaropes

… and I got a kick out of watching their feeding behavior.  They continually walk in rapid small circles stirring up small prey from the mud below with their feet. When you see a group of 20 or 30 birds doing this non-stop in close proximity with each other, it’s a rather interesting sight.

Wilson's Phalaropes Mating
Wilson’s Phalaropes Mating

Even when feeding as described above, they are never too occupied to take care of business during mating season.

American Avocet
American Avocet
American Avocets
American Avocets

Lots of American Avocets at Quivira.

White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelicans
White Pelicans

I estimated about 250 White Pelicans gathered here, quite a distance from the auto road through the refuge.

White Pelicans
White Pelicans

But it was my good fortune to have them all take flight and head right towards me …

White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelican
White Pelican

… eventually flying directly overhead.

Cheyenne Bottoms Campsite
Cheyenne Bottoms Campsite

Cheyenne Bottoms

I am staying at the free primitive camping area on the west side of Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve. There are five rough campsites along a gravel road that leads into the refuge. This is a rather rough camping area, level grass, actually dirt with some grassy areas, but there are picnic tables and a fire ring at each site. No water, electric, dump station, restrooms, or trash receptacles here.

I actually enjoyed my stay here since it was very quiet, there is no lighting of any sort, and only one or two other campers stayed her during my weeklong stay. Fortunately, it didn’t rain here during my stay since it looks like the place would get very muddy when it rains.

Maltese
I’ll Come when I’m Ready

Pearl is now four months old and seems to really enjoy this lifestyle. Still very independent and afraid of nothing … but the dark. When I take her out at night, she is all ears, staring warily at the tall grass and brush just across the road, and hurriedly does her business and races back to the motorhome door to be let back in. During daylight hours I have a job convincing her she needs to go back inside, since she delights in exploring and racing around, running loops around the motorhome.

Maltese
Kinda Windy here in Kansas

Still delights in tormenting poor old Sam, but Sam now does at least a couple of serious play sessions with her every day, careening around the limited confines of the motorhome, bouncing off walls and furniture, hopping up and down out of the dog bed and my recliner. They also now can be found sleeping in close physical proximity almost all the time.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Cheyenne Bottoms Birds

Since I am staying within the confines of the refuge, I do make a morning and an afternoon trip around the refuge roads every day.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Lots of Red-winged Blackbirds doing their thing hanging off the reeds and cattails along the roadsides, as well as a few Yellow-headed Blackbirds, of which I have not managed to get a good shot.

Cormorant with Bullhead
Cormorant with Bullhead

A bit of luck encountering this Cormorant just as it surfaced with a bullhead ( or some kind of small catfish ). The bird spent a good deal of time maneuvering the fish just so before gulping it down.

Cormorant with Bullhead
Down the Hatch

Luckily one of the series of shots I took happened to catch the fish being tossed up to ensure that it went down head first.

White Pelicans
White Pelicans

As at Quivira, lots of White Pelicans here also.

White Pelican
White Pelican

The weird, knobby growths on the bill have something to do with breeding season I believe.

American Avocet
American Avocet

All kinds of small wading birds here including Avocets, Plovers, Dowitchers, and more but it is difficult to get any decent shots because of their small size and the ability to get close enough here to get any good shots.

Also all kinds of ducks, lots of Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, and Ruddy Ducks, with a few Mallards, Pintails, and others found throughout the refuge, but I haven’t bothered concentrating on these since I already have an extensive library of duck shots from other refuges where the conditions for flight shots are much better than here.

Snowy Egrets
Snowy Egrets

Late one afternoon I came across a lot of Snowy Egret activity at the outflow of a culvert under one of the refuge roads. Water was being released from an area on one side of the road to a large pond on the other side of the road. The rapidly moving water, tumbling over some large pointed rocks was apparently stunning the small fish caught up in the rushing water, and the Snowies were taking advantage of this bonanza.

Unfortunately, the only vantage point from which to shoot this scene was looking directly into the sun, resulting in just impossible lighting conditions to catch the action. I snapped a few shots anyway and then just sat there watching the action as as many as a dozen of these Snowies bounced around the stream jockeying for position. I vowed to come back in the morning and hoped the water would still be flowing and the birds would still be there ( it was and they were and I did, and wait til you see those shots! ).

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January 7, 2015 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Vermillion flycatcher
Vermillion flycatcher

A Few Birds and a Lot of Lettuce

I took an afternoon drive out to explore the Mittry Lake boondocking area to see if I might want to move down there rather than do another 14 day, $40 stay here at the LTVA. On the way to the Mittry Lake Road I decided to go check out the Laguna Dam Road that leads into a really tiny golf course alongside the dam and the Hidden Shores Village RV Park.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Vermillion flycatcher
Vermillion flycatcher

I encountered this bright little Vermillion flycatcher hopping from post to post on the lookout for dinner on the edge of the golf course. Also was about to get a nice shot of a meadowlark hunting in the short grass of the golf course when he was scared off by an errant drive. I definitely will have to come back in here early some morning as there appear to be a few colorful birds hanging around this tiny oasis.

It is about a 5 or 6 mile drive down a wide, but washboarded, dusty dirt road to the area where boondocking is permitted along the road and along the shore of Mittry Lake. It looks like all the good sites are occupied that I could see, though there may be more setback from the road that I did not explore. Guess I will just stay where I am here in the LTVA while I have more solar work and general maintenance work done on the motorhome.

Happy Campers?
Happy Campers?

A couple of “happy campers”

Speaking of the Imperial Dam LTVA, I ran into these two happy campers ( I am assuming they are happy, after finding shade in the treeless desert on a rather warm day ) on my way down to check out the “ Liberry “ in the LTVA, an old Airstream trailer, loaded to the rafters with paperbacks, sorted by genre and author. On the honor system you are allowed to take out up to 6 books and return them when done, nothing to sign, no agreement to even bring them back, something you don’t encounter everyday.

Desolate and visually unappealing as this place may be, after 2 weeks here, it is starting to grow on me a little. It is quiet, the people are almost universally considerate, the dump station/ water filling/ trash facility, that I had occassion to use is well laid out and convenient, and the $40 for 14 days is not too bad a price either. My only complaint at this time is that I had to take in my hummingbird feeders after the bees discovered them finally and completely took them over, doing away with my hummingbird photography.

After driving through the Mittry Lake boondocking area, I decided to keep going down the road to see where it came out, rather than backtracking the 6 miles of dusty road I came in on. The road becomes the paved Laguna Dam Road not too far south of Mittry Lake and that becomes Avenue 7E that connects with Route 95 on the east side of Yuma.

Yuma agricultural fields
Yuma agricultural fields

This road took me through a small portion of the extensive agricultural fields in the area and I had the chance to take a few photos of the lettuce fields,

Baby lettuce
Baby lettuce

from new seedlings,

Why the mighty Colorado River no longer makes it to the ocean
Why the mighty Colorado River no longer makes it to the ocean

to established fields being heavily watered,

Lettuce harvest assembly line
Lettuce harvest assembly line

to a crew harvesting an older crop, and all the stages in between as the plantings are staggered to produce continuous harvests.

Lettuce harvest assembly line
Lettuce harvest assembly line

A colorful scene, might just become a watercolor some day!

Great egret patrolling the lettuce fields
Great egret patrolling the lettuce fields

Along this road, I also encountered pest control measures employed by these huge farms, both amongst the crops,

Snowy egrets
Snowy egrets

and along the irrigation canals that border these fields.

My blog posting problems finally resolved?

As of this post, I believe ( I am keeping my fingers crossed ) that my ability to do blog posts in a timely manner has finally, after a month of frustration, been resolved. For those of you who follow this blog, you may have to re- bookmark the page to this new address:    ramcquade.com

 

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February 14, 2014 Grand Isle, Louisiana

Osprey on post
Osprey

Finally, beautiful weather has returned, sunny and warm with a gentle breeze and blue skies! So up on the roof I go to replace the turret on my Winegard satellite dish. My hoped for ladder never materialized, so had to do a little improvising to get the unit up on the roof and get the old one down without breaking anything, including myself. Probably spent a couple of hours on the project and didn’t have any major problems except for one adjustment plate that had to be reused but did not match up perfectly with the corresponding part of the replacement turret.

Climb back down the ladder, go in and power the system up, the unit raises up, circles, and circles, and circles, then spits out a new error message “ AZ motor stalled”. Turn the power off and it starts to stow itself but now can’t and we are stuck with the new error message and a dish in the upright position that now won’t stow. Too late to call Winegard so this saga will continue tomorrow.

 

Osprey
Osprey
Osprey on post
Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drove up to Fourchon with a little success, finding an osprey with it’s specked trout lunch.

Flotilla of white pelicans
Flotilla of white pelicans
Shorebirds
Feast!

 

This flotilla of white pelicans was only 100 feet from the gathering of white ibis, snowy egrets, great egrets and roseate spoonbills that were really working this area hard. Obviously, there either were a mess of shrimp in this area or a large amount of baitfish. On this trip, with the road work preventing me from pulling over, I have missed an awful lot of opportunities to shoot mass gatherings of birds such as this.

Black crowned night heron
Black crowned night heron
Black crowned night heron
Black crowned night heron
Black crowned night heron
Black crowned night heron