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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April 24, 2014 Carson City, Nevada

Rocks above Lake Tahoe
Rocks above Lake Tahoe

A Day Trip Around Lake Tahoe and a Concerned Mother

As soon as I got my motorhome troubles fixed, I was planning on heading over the Sierras and either heading up Route 5 or going all the way to San Francisco and then heading up the coast on Route 1. Now the weather forecast calls for heavy snowfall, 12-18”, for tomorrow and Saturday, up in the mountains where I had planned to cross. Looks like I am going to stay put in Carson City for a little longer than I intended.

I drove the RV in for service at 9 AM, unhooked the Prius and headed west for a day trip around Lake Tahoe.

Trees Lake Tahoe
Trees Lake Tahoe

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

Lake Tahoe Cove
Lake Tahoe Cove

I headed west on Route 50 out of Carson City, picked up Route 28 after going over the mountains and did a counterclockwise loop around the lake on 28, then 89 then back to Carson City on 50.

Lake Tahoe Trees
Lake Tahoe Trees                                                                                                                                                       
Lake Tahoe beach house
Lake Tahoe beach house
Lake Tahoe Island
Lake Tahoe Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About half the loop road is truly scenic with lake overviews and the other half is spent winding slowly through tourist towns. I don’t believe this would be a very pleasant trip during their very short, busy, summer season, I‘m sure the traffic must get very backed up.

I was most impressed with the continuous presence of large conifers, everywhere you looked, whether on the mountainsides in the undeveloped portions around the lake or in the middle of the many small towns or residential areas you drove through. Large, and I do mean large, tall trees were everywhere you went, even the expansive lakefront mansions were surrounded by towering groves of pine and fir, very impressive settings.

And Now the Concerned Mom

Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom

While walking the dogs upon returning home this afternoon, we disturbed, and I mean really disturbed, this Killdeer mom.

Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom

She quickly led the dogs away from her nest but they really weren’t that interested in her erratic behavior, I don’t think they really believed she had injured her wing as badly as she claimed.

I have witnessed this behavior before but never had a camera with me. We were on a bit of a path behind the RV Park where some pea stone had been spread a long time ago, but had mostly been overgrown with grass.

Killdeer nest
Killdeer nest

Knowing that her nest and eggs were very difficult to spot because of their excellent camouflage, I froze where I was when we disturbed her and carefully examined the area of pea stone around where I stood. After several minutes of scanning the area, I finally saw the eggs, only about 5 feet from where I was standing.

She continued doing her broken wing routine as long as I was near the nest, and when I didn’t immediately leave, she would approach within 10 feet of me and start all over again, dragging and dancing herself away from the nest, tempting me to follow.

Killdeer dad
Killdeer Dad

Her mate eventually made an appearance and did his injury routine from the top of a nearby rock, at a much greater distance from me, and without anywhere near as much enthusiasm or bravado.

Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom
Killdeer Mom

 

January 17, 2014 Galveston Island, Texas

Resting willets
Resting willets

Once again, beautiful, cool weather. Drove out 8 Mile Road to the bay fill end of the road where I found some willets, killdeer, and a single black bellied plover.

Killdeer
Killdeer
Killdeer
Killdeer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Black bellied plover
Black bellied plover

Continued down to the storm barrier at East Beach and just missed the male northern harrier as he was just ending his run of the area and disappeared along the ship channel as I approached. Killed some time patrolling the beach with no luck and then drove a couple of runs up and down the barrier hoping for the harrier’s return, but it just wasn’t to be today.

Returned home and worked on insurance quotes for my change of residence to the state of Florida. Auto insurance rates are quite a shock when you come from a state like New Hampshire. Florida’s rates for both the motorhome and the Prius are more than double what I have been paying in NH. I am forced to change my state of residency because of NH’s 10% tax on interest and dividends and their required annual vehicle inspections, plus I really don’t expect to spend any time there in the future.

The real kicker is the local fees ( read TAX ) you have to pay the town you live in every year when you register your vehicles. This “fee” is based on the value of your vehicle, and is in addition to the fees you pay the state based on the weight of the vehicle. What really seems unfair about this fee is that the town bases the value of your vehicle on the original sticker price, not what you actually paid for the vehicle. So, in the case of the motorhome, where the sticker price is really just a number pulled out of a hat by the motorhome manufacturer and has nothing to do with what you actually pay for the MH from the dealer, the town is overcharging you by 20% or more right out of the gate.

They then allow for annual depreciation in the value of your vehicle, so your tax goes down each year for the first six years you register your vehicle, but then, magically, for their taxing purposes, your vehicle stops depreciating after year six, and you pay the same annual tax every year thereafter, again, as in the beginning, regardless of the actual value of the vehicle.

So, even after more than doubling what I pay for insurance, the change of residency to Florida actually saves me some money each year, and I manage to avoid the need to return to my home state for annual vehicle inspections.

 

January 6, 2014 Goose Island, Texas

Long billed dowitchers
Long billed dowitchers

Cold Weather and Small Wading Birds

The weather has changed, and not for the better! It still is grey and dreary and now we can add downright raw. The arctic cold front blew in last night sending temps down to freezing overnight, winds strong enough to make me retract the north facing slideout on the motorhome so the canvas roof rollout wouldn’t get ripped off.

Least sandpiper
Least sandpiper
Killdeer in a N.Dakota cornfield
Killdeer

 

 

 

 

 

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

I still went out and got some small wading birds shots right here in the campground, I didn’t want to get too far from the warmth of home today !

Killdeer on the run
Killdeer on the run

Today was only the second time in my two weeks here that I have seen any Roseate spoonbills around.

Roseate spoonbills feeding
Roseate spoonbills feeding
Roseate spoonbills feeding
Roseate spoonbills feeding
Roseate spoonbills feeding
Roseate spoonbills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two sandpipers are TINY little things, moving constantly ( probably trying to stay warm ) in their search for food.

Least sandpiper
Least sandpiper
Western sandpiper
Western sandpiper

 

 

 

 

 

I always wondered what these dowitchers were probing for in the sand, now I know!

Long billed dowitchers
Long billed dowitchers
Long billed dowitchers
Long billed dowitchers
Killdeer
Killdeer

 

 

 

 

 

Western sandpiper
Western sandpiper
Least sandpiper
Least sandpiper
Killdeer
Killdeer

 

 

 

 

 

Killdeer
Killdeer