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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November 18, 2015 Salineno, Texas

Kiskadee
Kiskadee

Settling in at Salineno

With all the grass pulling, brush clearing, and limb pruning done, I am now settling into the daily routine of filling feeding stations, greeting guests, and opening and closing the bird feeding station. Thankfully, the weather is beginning to turn more to my liking, fewer hot and humid days, a few more cool days and comfortably cool nights for sleeping.

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

Sam Supervising Merle
Sam Supervising Merle
Sam Supervising Merle
Sam Supervising Merle

The dogs are also settling in, Sam now feels she has a second home in Merle and Lois’s fifth wheel, that she visits several times a day to check on their cat. Sam also supervises Merle with the morning rounds of filling water features and feeding stations. She has also begun training sessions to become the official chachalaca escort dog, that is, escorting these destructive birds off the premises ( her training has a long way to go ). Jenny has been suffering a bit with the heat and her very advanced age is starting to really show, not much to her her day anymore but sleeping and eating, can’t even get a rise out of her anymore when a squirrel intrudes on the feeding station. Sad to see, but of course, inevitable.

Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler

I “work” on a two days on, two days off schedule with Merle and Lois. This leaves me with plenty of opportunities to get in a little bird photography.

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

When one has the opportunity to observe an area such as this over several days, you get to know where to look for certain birds and what time of day the light is best for each part of the feeding area. You also pick up on each species likes and dislikes and can gradually learn to anticipate what each bird is apt to do in any given situation. As I am picking up on this, the chances of getting better images increases and I am hoping that by the end of my five month stay here, I should be able to accumulate some nice images.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

The orioles are, of course, the stars of the show here, for obvious reasons. The Audubon is often a life bird for visitors here and the Altamira is one of the largest and most brilliantly colored of all the orioles. Both visit the feeders regularly every day. The Hooded Oriole is usually a regular here also, but the male has not yet appeared and the more subdued colored female makes a few daily appearences.

White-winged Doves
White-winged Doves

When the White-winged doves arrive, they tend to come in in droves. There is a three foot diameter metal disk that is used as a tray feeder in the back of the yard and I am told that as many as twenty-four doves have been counted occupying the disk at one time. I count fifteen in this image so I guess that means there is room for at least another nine.

Great-tailed Grackle on the March
Great-tailed Grackle on the March

Male Great-tailed grackles arrived on the scene this week, first just one or two, and then a dozen or more. By the end of the week, a few females arrived. These rather large birds are often very vocal.

Kiskadee
Kiskadee

Great Kiskadees are also increasing in number and they are very entertaining to watch. From their perches in the branches above the feeders, this largest of the flycatchers will spot a bit of food on the ground, and swoop down to pick it off … but without ever touching down.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

My fascination with the colorful male Golden-fronted Woodpecker continues.

Green Jay
Green Jay

The gorgeous Green Jay numbers continue to climb with more than a dozen in here feeding almost all day long. If these birds weren’t so beautiful and entertaining to watch, we probably would consider them pests, as we do with the hordes of House Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds that descend on the feeders and pick them clean in short order.

Punk Green Jay
Punk Green Jay

This Green Jay has clearly adopted a ” Punk ” look.

Green Jay Missing a Tail
Green Jay Missing a Tail
Green Jay Missing a Tail
Green Jay Missing a Tail

And this Green Jay must have had an encounter with a predator, and managed to escape .. but without a tail. Doesn’t seem to bother him though, as he flies in and out with the others and seems not to miss it.

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

And he is not the only bird here who has had a near death experience as this little Inca Dove  has apparently also had a close encounter with someone that had him on their menu. In addition to losing his tail feathers, he also has lost some of his right wing.

Chachalaca
Chachalaca
Fox Squirrel
Fox Squirrel

One of the challenges of keeping the feeders full here are the two characters pictured above, the Plain Chachalaca and the Fox Squirrel. Both love the peanut butter/lard/cornmeal concoction we put out and of course don’t turn down the chance to steal cracked corn or sunflower seeds either. Both also steal the orange halves we put out on the branches to attract the orioles. Quite a balancing act to attempt to keep these guys at bay without disturbing the birds we are trying to attract.

A list of species seen here so far ( and we are only eighteen days in! )

( In years past the total number of sightings varies between 70 and 80. )

  1. Green jay
  2. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  3. Northern cardinal
  4. Olive Sparrow
  5. Altamira Oriole
  6. Audubon Oriole
  7. Inca Dove
  8. White-tipped Dove
  9. White-winged Dove
  10. House Sparrow
  11. Great Kiskadee
  12. Common Yellow-throat
  13. Osprey *
  14. Turkey Vulture *
  15. Crested Caracara *
  16. Northern Mockingbird
  17. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  18. Long-billed Thrasher
  19. Plain Chachalaca
  20. Black-crested Titmouse
  21. Hooded Oriole
  22. Red-winged Blackbird
  23. Great-tailed Grackle
  24. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  25. White Pelican *
  26. Bewick’s Wren
  27. Orange-crowned Warbler
  28. Mourning Dove
  29. Lesser Goldfinch
  30. Ringed Kingfisher *
  31. Eastern Phoebe
  32. Verdin
  33. House Wren
  34. Blue-headed Vireo
  35. Pyrrhuloxia
  36. Gray Hawk *
  37. Couch’s Kingbird
  38. Black Phoebe
  39. Lincoln Sparrow
  40. Common Grackle
  41. Bronzed Cowbird
  42. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  43. White-crowned Sparrow
  44. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher *
  45. Snow Geese *
  46. White-fronted Geese *
  47. American Robin
  48. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  49. Eastern Screech Owl
  •  Denotes flyover

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March 24, 2015 Sierra Vista, Arizona

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

Drawn Back to the Birds at Ash Canyon B & B

Rising early, once again I headed south to the Ash Canyon B & B to see if any new birds had yet arrived. I arrived around 7:30 AM on yet another beautiful, warm, blue sky Arizona day.

Ash Canyon B & B Driveway
Ash Canyon B & B Driveway

Don’t let the driveway scare you, the B & B is located just a short distance off Route 92. You turn west on Turkey Track Road off 92 and follow it out until it ends about a quarter mile in at this simply incredible bird viewing venue.

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

Ash Canyon B & B
Ash Canyon B & B

You will see the sign as you come to the gated end of the gravel drive.

Ash Canyon B & B Gateway to the birds
Ash Canyon B & B Gateway to the birds

Parking spaces for birders are clearly delineated and a collection jar hangs on the back side of the wrought iron gate. Be sure to drop your $5 in the jar, although there is nothing to stop you from adding a donation of any size to your price of admission, I’m sure you will agree it is well worth the price.

Ash Canyon B & B Hummingbird Garden
Ash Canyon B & B Hummingbird Garden

Just inside the gate there is a hummingbird garden with flowers and feeders to attract the many different species of hummingbirds found here as well as butterflies. Unfortunately for me on this trip, since it turns out that I am a little early for the big show, Mary Jo hasn’t yet hung all the nectar feeders ( since the hummers aren’t here just yet and the nectar feeders have to be changed and cleaned very few days ).

Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda
Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda

Mary Jo keeps a library of books for identifying birds and more, as well as a small refrigerator with drinks, on the shaded veranda. This area gives viewers a chance to get  out of the sun and I am sure is quite welcome a little later on in the season.

Ash Canyon B & B Morning Birdwatchers
Ash Canyon B & B Morning Birdwatchers

When I usually arrive, early around 8 AM, I generally have had this area to myself, but by late morning, it tends to fill up a little. On this particular day, there happened to be a delightful group from England here admiring North American birds. I have always been a sucker for the British accents and got a kick out of chatting with these friendly bird watchers.

Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda Afternoon Shade
Ash Canyon B & B The Veranda Afternoon Shade

Some of these folks shifted over to the veranda in the afternoon. As you can see from these two images there are plenty of chairs around, all with a great view of the many feeders Mary Jo keeps filled with food. On all three occasions I have been here this spring, Mary Jo has been out with her guests, providing identifications of the many species of birds and animals drawn in here. She is incredibly knowledgeable, as well as friendly and accommodating to all. If you look closely at the first image, you will notice a woman who just happens to have a parrot perched on her shoulder, and that woman would, of course, be Mary Jo.

She tells me that the best time to be here is mid-April through mid-May, as the yard fills with the arrivals of birds that nest in the area as well as all kinds of migrants that stop here on their way farther north to take advantage of the bounty that Mary Jo provides. She stocks this feeding area year round and has been doing so for twenty years. In late August, after the monsoons, and through September is also a peak viewing period, when the surrounding area is lush with new green growth and many of the migrants are heading back south. Now I have missed both of these prime time periods and am still blown away with the number and variety of birds here, as well as with the comfortable and friendly atmosphere of the Ash Canyon B & B.  There is a wealth of information on her website, so please go and check it out.

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey

There was a new arrival here today, a male wild turkey ( Gould’s subspecies ). He wasn’t the least bit shy and wandered in only 20 or 30 feet from a crowd of admirers.

Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey

Quite neat to be able to see such a colorful beautiful/ugly bird at such a close range.

Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole

There seemed to be more Scott’s Orioles here today, although the Hooded and Audubon Orioles still haven’t made an appearance.

Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole
Immature Scott's Oriole
Immature Scott’s Oriole

A few immature Scott’s were mixed in with several mature males.

Immature Scott's Oriole
Immature Scott’s Oriole
Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

Though not very colorful, this tiny Bewick’s Wren was one of my personal favorites …

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

… lots of attitude for a small guy, and very active.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Red-shafted Northern Flicker
Red-shafted Northern Flicker

The outstanding Red-shafted Northern Flicker made another appearance.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acorn Woodpeckers were constantly flying in and out, along with Gila and Ladderback Woodpeckers.

Mexican Jay
Mexican Jay

The large Mexican Jays were once again present in large numbers.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

Gambel’s Quail were here along with other ground feeders such as several species of sparrows  ( Lincoln, Rufous Crowned, Chipping, and others ) ….

Dark eyed Junco
Dark eyed Junco

…Dark-eyed Juncos ..

Canyon Towhee
Canyon Towhee

… and Canyon Towhees.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher,

Orange-crowned Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warblers were present.

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

And lastly, although the crowd has yet to arrive, there were Broad-billed, as well as Magnificent, Black-chinned, and Rufous Hummingbirds here today. I truly wish I did not have to start heading north so soon, I would love to stay for the arrival of all the spring birds, but Oregon and Alaska await !

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

 

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird

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March 17, 2015 Sierra Vista, Arizona

Mexican Jay
Mexican Jay

Another Morning at the Ash Canyon B & B

Still sitting in Sierra Vista awaiting my permanent crown ( that would be dental, not royalty ) and hoping the spring birds arrive soon. Since the weather forecast called for a mostly cloudy day, i once again drove out to the Ash Canyon B & B to see what I could get for bird shots.

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

Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole
Scott's Oriole
Scott’s Oriole

Although i couldn’t get any great shots of them, it was nice to see a pair of Scott’s Orioles have finally arrived.

Magnificent Hummingbird
Magnificent Hummingbird

Ditto for the magnificent, Magnificent Hummingbird. This is the largest hummingbird you will find in this country and actually is a year round resident in this area. Mary Jo doesn’t have her full arsenal of hummingbird feeders out yet, since the crowd has yet to arrive, so I am unable to get close enough for any good shots. maybe next week ?

Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee

This morning I was able to get this spotted towhee to stay out in the open long enough to get a shot. He seems a little shy and spends most of his time here hiding in the brush pile.

Bushtit
Bushtit

This tiny guy is a Bushtit, hard to shoot because they are very small and very active.

Audubon Warbler
Audubon Warbler

There are many Audubon Warblers here, but this was the first decent pose I was able to catch, again very active birds, hardly ever sitting still for more than a second.

Orange-crowned warbler
Orange-crowned warbler

Yet another tiny individual, I believe it is an Orange-crowned Warbler, but I could have that ID incorrect.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

A female Acorn Woodpecker ….

Gila Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker

… and a male Gila Woodpecker. These woodpeckers are positioned on the same branch at the same feeder, but notice how the background has seemingly changed. As I mentioned earlier the forecast for today was for mostly cloudy skies, but every so often the sun would break through, thus the different lighting on the background. This type of day makes setting exposures a bit of a pain with the constantly changing light.

Curve-billed thrasher
Curve-billed thrasher

Some dramatic lighting for this Curve-billed Thrasher.

In the post for my trip out here last week, I mentioned that there were also some rodents drawn in here by the banquet Mary Jo provides for the birds, here’s what they look like.

Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat
Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat

This is the Yellow-nosed Cotton Rat, an animal Mary Jo speaks kindly of, not a household pest like the Norway rat, much cuter also.

Rock Squirrel
Rock Squirrel

And this is a Rock Squirrel, filling his pouches with seed,

Arizona Gray Squirrel
Arizona Gray Squirrel

whereas the Arizona Gray Squirrel has no pouches to stuff and thus must dine on the spot. This gray squirrel is quite a bit larger than the gray squirrels I am used to back in New Hampshire.

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