January 30, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Sunrise
Sunrise

Same Old, Same Old

Sunrise Over Imperial Dam
Sunrise Over Imperial Dam

Some wonderful sunrises this week as clouds rolled in for a few days. But I am getting bored. One (of many) of the worst parts of having this rotten disease (myeloma) is having to be anchored to a nearby medical facility for my chemo treatments. Before MM, I was able to move around freely and explore the desert in the winter, as in, leave here and check out the birds in Sierra Vista or Portal, then move on to Texas if I had the notion. No more.

Sunrise Over Imperial Dam
Sunrise Over Imperial Dam

The images above were taken on two different mornings as I nursed my morning coffee.

A New Bird Deterrent Besides the Bees

Merlin
Merlin

I was out and set up to shoot some bird images this morning and about fifty Mourning Doves had descended on my feeding grounds when they all suddenly bolted and scattered in all directions. The cause of the commotion was the Merlin pictured above after he made his unsuccessful run through the feeding area. For the next hour, every time a few birds would return he would blast though again scaring everyone off. I gave up after an hour of this and took the shot above before retreating to the motorhome.

Mourning Doves
Mourning Doves

I remember wondering, about a month ago, whether I would ever get any birds in here this year. Now I have about 50 Mourning Doves, 30 or so Gambel’s Quail, and …

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbirds

… a dozen or so Red-winged Blackbirds showing up every morning. My experience with the hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds that mobbed the feeding station in Salineno, Texas, where I volunteered a few winters ago, made these guys my absolute least favorite avian visitor.

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbirds
House Finches
House Finches

Have a fair number of House Finches coming in, but nowhere near the number that were here last year.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

And finally, the Gambel’s Quail have graduated to using the platform feeders. Up until now they fed exclusively on the ground, but this one pair has figured out that the food is more plentiful up off the ground. I get a big kick out of watching these guys scurry around and bicker among themselves, and when they are this close it is fascinating to listen to all the constant conversations they have amongst themselves.

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

January 7, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail

Another Week in the Desert

Not a lot to report on my desert living this week. Weather, of course, remains consistently nice, though there is change of some showers tomorrow. This week the Gambel’s Quail, in fairly large numbers, found my feeding site, sometimes as many as 18 showing up at any one time.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

Several Anna’s Hummingbirds are frequenting the sugar water feeders I put out. After they come in, I pull the old bait and switch on them, remove the feeders and put up the ocotillo flowers that I drizzle with sugar water. They do seem to prefer the artificial feeders though. Anyhow, yesterday the bees discovered the feeders and I am going to have to take down anything with sugar water on it since they just overwhelm the hummers , plus I get a little timid approaching about 100 bees to replenish the sugar water. Hopefully a few days without anything out will encourage the bees to look elsewhere and the hummers will come back in later.

House Finches
House Finches

A few House Finches are now using the feeders, but nowhere near the number I had here last year.

House Finch
House Finch

They seem to really like the oranges I put out hoping to lure in some other more colorful birds.

Albert's Towhee
Albert’s Towhee

This ground feeding Albert’s Towhee shows up every day.

Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail
Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail
Gamble's Quail
Gamble’s Quail

The quail are extremely wary and at this point don’t tolerate me being out there taking photos. Just the slightest movement on my part, or even just a gust of wind, sends them scurrying down the hill and into the brush.

Pair of Anna's Hummingbirds
Pair of Anna’s Hummingbirds

The Anna’s Hummingbirds come in and out all day long and it is kind of hard to figure just how many of them there are. The males don’t tolerate one another and fly off in combat when more than one appears at any given time. There are some young immature males that come in and they are a little hard to distinguish from the females unless the sun hits their throats just so, and a little color shows up.

Pair of Anna's Hummingbirds
Pair of Anna’s Hummingbirds

Male and female sometimes will share the feeders and the same goes for two females … sometimes.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Female Anna's Hummingbird
Female Anna’s Hummingbird

I don’t know why more of these little guys don’t take a break and feed like this female is doing, seems like it would save an awful lot of energy. Kind of a dicey perch because those thorns are quite sturdy and awfully sharp.

Female Anna's Hummingbirds
Female Anna’s Hummingbirds
Female Anna's Hummingbirds
Female Anna’s Hummingbirds
Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

December 31, 2018 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

Settling In at the LTVA

I am slowly adjusting to life in the desert once again after just barely making a safe escape from winter in Bend, Oregon. As would be expected, the weather has been delightful, sunny and 60’s by day and cool temps in the 40 ‘s for perfect sleeping weather at night. The constant northerly winds do make my bird photography challenging and when it gusts up to 30 mph I just give up and retreat inside.

Female Anna's Hummingbird
Female Anna’s Hummingbird

The Anna’s hummingbirds were here to greet me even before I got around to setting out the sugar water for them. A few Ocotillos are in bloom around the Yuma Proving Grounds and out in the desert surrounding were I am camped so I am able to grab a bloom now and then to get some nice shots of these guys feeding on their natural foods. I have to confess I have no idea what these little guys are feeding on right now as I can see nothing in bloom, other than the very few aforementioned Ocotillos.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Female Anna's Hummingbird
Female Anna’s Hummingbird

As I recall from last year, it took a while to entice other birds in to the feeders but eventually they did show up in fairly good numbers.

House Finches
House Finches

So far, only a lone pair of House Finches has shown up along with …

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

… a few Gambel’s Quail.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

And the few quail that have come in so far are extremely wary and scatter at the slightest sound or movement, and with the constant wind here, there always is something being blown around.

Coyote
Unwelcome Observer

One very unwelcome guest is this guy, seemingly keeping a close eye on any potential meals I may attract for him, avian or small canines, in other words, Pearl.  I am keeping a close eye on Pearl any time we are outside and have a short leash on her when I let her out at night so that she can’t wander more than a few feet from the door where I stand sentry.