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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February 26, 2017 Ogilby Road BLM Area, California

Burrowing Owl Portrait
Burrowing Owl Portrait

Finally Some Opportunities to Shoot a Few Birds

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

I drove north from my campsite on Ogilby Road to check out the Cibola NWR, a refuge I have visited twice before. The fields were green but the birdlife pretty sparse at the refuge, perhaps because the migrants have already taken wing to begin their northward migration.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

However, the Burrowing Owls were here as they usually are, and I can never resist spending some time with these diminutive ( about the size of a pigeon )  little raptors.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

Back home at the campsite, the feeders I have put out are finally attracting some action, such as this male Anna’s Hummingbird,

Male Costa's Hummingbird
Male Costa’s Hummingbird

this male Costa’s Hummingbird,

Gathering Nest Material
Gathering Nest Material

this female ??? hummingbird, with spider’s silk wrapped on it’s beak,

Male Rufous Hummingbird
Male Rufous Hummingbird

and this male Rufous Hummingbird.

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird

The female hummingbirds coming to the feeders far outnumber the more colorful males, although this female Rufous is fairly colorful herself.

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

My tray feeders have attracted White-crowned Sparrows,

??? Sparrow
??? Sparrow
??? Sparrow
??? Sparrow

along with these unidentified sparrows,

??? Sparrow
??? Sparrow

plus a few House Finches and one solitary Verdin, drawn in by the oranges I put out in the tree. Unfortunately, the little Verdin has been completely uncooperative in allowing me to catch him in action.

With my dental work complete, I hope to now be able to spend some serious time attempting to get some decent Hummingbird shots.

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January 19, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

Time Flying By in the Desert

Yesterday I renewed for another two week stay here in the desert, been here a month now and am accomplishing pretty much nothing! Reading a few books, watching the ever increasing number of finches, sparrows, and doves at my feeder, and doing a little painting.

Though there have been a few grey, cloudy days and even a little rain, the weather here just can’t be beat! Every night, for a month now, the temperature drops to around 50 degrees, then warms back up to the high 60’s or low 70’s during the day, a wonderfully moderate range that just suits me to a  ” T “. If I had to design the perfect climate for year round living ( for me, at least ), this last month would be it. Now that we are into the new year, I am aware the temps will slowly start to rise and I will eventually be forced to move on, but for now, this is just paradise for me.

Male White Crowned Sparrow
Male White Crowned Sparrow

I’ve attached a couple of small dead branches to the side of my tray feeder so I can get some closeup shots of the birds that come in to feed. This is a male White Crowned Sparrow, one of probably a dozen or more that visit each day.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

A male House Finch. if they weren’t so numerous, they would probably be thought of as a particularly handsome and colorful bird. probably a half dozen of these guys showed up at the tray feeder when I first put it out, now there are probably more than forty at the feeder and on the ground beneath it at any one time.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

It took a week or so for the first doves to show up, a single pair of Eurasian Collared Doves and 4 or 5 Mourning doves. Like the Finches, the Mourning dove numbers have increased daily and now there are a couple dozen feeding on the ground beneath the tray feeder.

Mockingbird Drinking
Mockingbird Drinking

Since I am in the desert, perhaps the most popular item added to the feeder tray is this old tuna can of water. I usually have to fill this at least twice a day.

Harris's Antelope Squirrel
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel
Harris's Antelope Squirrel
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel

In addition to the birds attracted to a free meal, at least four of these Harris’s Antelope Squirrels have shown up to chow down on seeds scattered on the ground. They appear to peacefully coexist with the ground feeding birds and the birds show no sign of wariness, often feeding shoulder to shoulder with these small rodents.

And finally, last week, a small covey of California Quail discovered the seed beneath the feeder. So far they have been very uncooperative photography subjects so I will hopefully post some shots of these comical little birds next post.

Tray Feeder at Sunrise Viewed from Dinette Window
Tray Feeder at Sunrise Viewed from Dinette Window

This is the view from my dinette window where I can keep an eye on the tray feeder and it is through this window that all of the above photos were shot. As I mentioned in the last post, I have found a quiet, fairly isolated spot here at the Imperial Dam LTVA and that is definitely adding to my enjoyment of this really inexpensive spot to while away the winter. In addition to the exquisite weather, this particular spot is blessedly quiet and peaceful, no noisy neighbors, no vehicle traffic, no intrusive lights … hard to believe I could find a spot where I had nothing to complain about.

Adventures in Acrylics

Brown Pelican Acrylic
Brown Pelican Acrylic

I have finally found the inspiration to attempt to resume my painting efforts. Although I had a little success selling watercolors and oils at my art gallery back in New Hampshire, I had only sold one or two small acrylic paintings. I have to admit I just found the medium difficult to handle, thus I would always fall back to doing oils and WC’s.

But with no large, well ventilated art studio now that I am full timing, oils are kind of out of the question and I really want to try and figure out how to handle these very frustrating acrylics.

Truncas Barns and Burros Acrylic
Truncas Barns and Burros Acrylic

So I thought  I might post some ( rather sorry, kind of embarrassing ) progress shots of my venture into acrylics. My reasoning being this might force me to continue working on these paintings rather than give up in frustration as I normally would … and I am getting very frustrated at this point. But if I have a small audience waiting to see a finished painting, my sense of pride will force me to continue on until I achieve some kind of satisfactory result. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, I will get to show you a couple of decent, completed, acrylic paintings.

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December 30, 2016 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

My Campsite at Imperial Dam LTVA
My Campsite at Imperial Dam LTVA

First Two Weeks at the Imperial Dam LTVA

It’s been a while since the last post and that’s because there really is very little to post about. After my two week stay just south of Quartzite, I drove down Route 95 for about an hour and  cut across the Yuma Proving Grounds to the Imperial Dam Long Term Visitors Area ( LTVA ) and paid my $40 for a 14 day stay. You have two fee options here, $180 for a 5 month permit or $40 for a 14 day permit. The fee covers your use of a top notch water fill and waste dump area, as well as trash dumpsters located at several locations within the boundaries of the LTVA.

There are a lot of folks scattered all around this very large area, but you can usually find a spot with a reasonable amount of privacy if that is what you are looking for. There are no utilities provided here, but there are rest rooms ( only near the main checkin area ), that I have never checked out so I have no idea what they may be like, and there also is a ” Liberry ” here where you can trade out paperbacks, and there is an amazing selection of books in that small repurposed Airstream.

One of the Neighbors
One of the Neighbors

Very, very quiet in the spot I found and I am doing a lot of reading, working on producing my BluRay slide shows, and even doing a little painting. With Yuma, Arizona, only about 20 miles away, I am also taking advantage of this location to get some long put off projects done, such as replacing my rear slide out topper fabric and installing some window awnings.

Sunshine is plentiful and in the first two weeks here, I have only had to run my Honda 2000 generator twice, my solar system keeping up nicely with my daily electrical needs.

Sam on Hummingbird Watch Duty
Sam on Hummingbird Watch Duty

I have set up my hummingbird feeders so I can monitor them through the front windshield, and though I do have takers here, a pair of Costas and 3 or 4 Annas, there just isn’t enough constant activity to bother getting serious about any hummingbird photography. Sam has picked up a new bird watching hobby though.

Sam
Sam Enjoying Her New Pastime
Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

I found these ” test tube ”  hummingbird feeders online and thought they would work great for hummingbird photo setups, but wasn’t sure how the hummingbirds would receive them. Turns out, they prefer these to the much larger traditional feeders I have. I bought a large syringe at Quartzite that I use to fill them and with the limited number of hummers here, I only have to fill them once a day.

Desert Tray-full
Desert Tray-full

I also set up a tray feeder on the side of the RV near a large spreading ( unknown to me ) desert tree. Traffic to it has grown steadily in the week I have had it out there, a large flock of house finches, a couple different sparrows…

Eurasian-collared and Mourning Doves
Eurasian-collared and Mourning Doves

… mourning and collared doves, gila and ladder back woodpecker …

Sage Thrasher
Sage Thrasher

… plus a few others I haven’t identified ( I think this is a Sage Thrasher, a new bird for me ), but nothing terribly colorful or interesting enough to set up the photo gear, yet enough activity to enjoy watching. So, essentially, I am just goofing off, accomplishing nothing, and enjoying the peace and quiet of the desert while living very inexpensively, saving up to pay for this next year’s traveling ( maybe another Alaska trip ? ).

So, unless something exciting comes along, it probably will only be a couple of posts a month until I leave the desert in March. Hope everyone is having a Happy Holiday Season!

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