May 1, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Bullock's Oriole
Bullock’s Oriole

My Last Day Here and Still Seeing New Birds

Usually when I arrive in a campground where I intend to stay more than a few days, I will set up a feeding station for the birds to see who may be in the area. I regret that I did not do that here until just my last few days here.

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

Bullock's Oriole
Bullock’s Oriole

This petite, and argueably the most beautiful of the orioles, the Bullock’s Oriole, appeared on the scene just a few moments after I quartered up an orange I thought was going bad, and stuck it in the tree that was only a couple feet from my dinette window. These two shots were taken from the inside of the motorhome, through two panes of glass with my 18-200mm lens, so forgive the lack of sharpness, but I couldn’t let this guy get away without some kind of shot..

Only a couple days before, I hung out a suet feeder and a small platform feeder with seeds and had several surprises appear out of nowhere, including a brilliant lazuli Bunting and three kinds of warblers. I really didn’t think there would be this kind of birdlife in a largely barren landscape, but the campground did have a lot of young trees planted among the campsites acting as a sort of oasis in the highland desert, and now I really wish I had gotten the bird attractants out sooner !

Old Orange Dumptruck
Another Watercolor Possibility

Located another possible watercolor candidate.

Jackrabbit Standoff
Jackrabbit Standoff

I decided to do one last run through the refuge this morning and came across these two Jackrabbits alternately fighting and then staring each other down.

Jackrabbit
Jackrabbit

I challenged myself to try and get a shot of a Jackrabbit going at high speed … and almost succeeded in doing so. Darn, they move quick. There is no shortage of these guys all throughout this area, along with their Cottontail cousins. Lots of fast food ( pun intended ) for the coyotes and larger raptors.

Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff

One more shot of a Gadwall takeoff.

Mystery Raptor
Help ! ID Please ?

A mystery ( to me ) raptor overhead, but I don’t dare hazard a guess as to who he is. After consulting my Sibleys, I still don’t have a clue. Help ?

Willets and a Curlew
Willets and a Curlew
Courting Willets
Courting Willets

I encountered a pair of Willets, apparently courting, with a Curlew observing.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

And lastly, I had my final chance for my hoped for great  ” Gray Ghost ” shot, when I came upon this male Northern Harrier doing his preening routine within a decent distance of me. He kept pivoting constantly as he did so, first facing me, then turning around, so I waited patiently for ten minutes or more, waiting for him to finish up and take flight. I figured, with no wind, I had a 50/50 chance he would take off facing me and not leave me with yet another bird butt shot.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

I lost ! And so my days at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge end. I didn’t get my hoped for images of this guy or the Short-eared Owl, but I’ll be back. Next time, for sure.

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February 5, 2014 Last Day in Iowa, Louisiana

Green winged teal pair
Green winged teal pair

Cameron NWR and Lacassine NWR

With a little sun peeking through, though still very chilly, I decided to do one last trip this morning to Cameron NWR and then on to Lacassine NWR.

Gadwall takeoff
Gadwall takeoff

Click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

 

Northern shoveler take off
Northern shoveler take off

 

Northern shoveler take off
Northern shoveler take off

I did have some nice early AM light at Cameron and got a couple of duck shots before it turned too harsh, but the stiff wind is keeping most of the birds up against the reed beds and out of my reach. Same situation at Lacassine and, if anything, the wind is getting stronger.

Satellite Woes Continue

Back home and up on the roof I go to replace the temporary coax fix from the turret to the LNB head with the new coax from Winegard. Did not solve the problem, so once again called Winegard for the next possible solution. They have decided now to send me a new turret that I am expected to install, we shall see how that goes.

 

February 1, 2014 Lacassine NWR, Louisiana

Gadwalls in flight
Gadwalls in flight

Satellite System Fixed !

Finally, the great Winegard crisis of 2014 is successfully resolved! Well. it was sort of important to me, now I get to watch the Superbowl!

Turns out the ominous error message I got yesterday “ El Home Motor Failure “ did not mean the motor had failed, but that the elevation motor failed to find it’s home location, thus couldn’t begin it’s search sequence. My 4th call to tech help at Winegard this AM proved to be the charm, as I got a knowledgeable, friendly guy who guided me through the recalibration of the interface box that resulted in a fully functioning satellite system once again.

Overall, mostly because of this last tech rep, plus the fact that English was the first language of all the reps I dealt with, plus the fact that Winegard did promptly return all 4 calls I had to make to them, I would have to say that the company did a pretty good job of resolving my system failure. Three of the four reps I dealt with were courteous and helpful and, I suppose, the shipping error was probably just one of those things that happen sometimes, even to the best of companies, and their willingness to overnight the correct item was the right thing to do.

Gadwalls in flight
Gadwalls in flight

Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge

With that behind me, and with intermittant sun poking through the cloud cover, I decided to take off and revisit Lacassine NWR this afternoon. The fairly heavy cloud cover interrupted by brief moments of bright sun made exposure setting kind of tricky this afternoon, but I managed to get a few decent shots out of many taken.

Click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Black=bellied Whistling duck
Black=bellied Whistling duck

 

Black=bellied Whistling duck
Black=bellied Whistling duck
Black=bellied Whistling duck
Black=bellied Whistling duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came across a lone Black-bellied Whistling duck, a stunning bird when caught in flight, but, unfortunately, this one was content to just feed along the canal and wasn’t about to take off though I waited a long time for him to do so.

Moorhen
Big Foot

There are lots of these colorful moorhens around but this was the first one I found out of the water showcasing his truly weird oversized feet.

Gadwall takeoff
Gadwall takeoff

I spend the largest portion of the afternoon trying to get some decent flight shots of the numerous Gadwalls that were spread out all over the refuge. Unlike other ducks, Gadwalls don’t seem to flock up and I was only finding isolated pairs, and they were very, very skittish. As a result, I got a lot of nice sharp shots of Gadwall butts flying away and precious few useable shots, but here are some of the better ones.

Gadwall takeoff
Gadwall takeoff
Gadwall takeoff
Gadwall takeoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gadwall takeoff
Gadwall takeoff
Gadwall takeoff
Gadwall takeoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gadwalls takeoff
Gadwalls takeoff
Mallard pair takeoff
Mallard pair takeoff

A Mallard pair taking flight. Coming from up north and having lived on a lake in New Hampshire, I take mallards for granted as they are as common as pigeons back there, so I am surprised at how few Mallards I encounter on all the refuges down here in the south.

Yellow rumped warbler
Yellow rumped warbler

It took me a while to ID just who this little guy was as I am not accustomed to seeing warblers out on the surface of the water. The next shot looks more like where I would normally see one of these guys.

Yellow rumped warbler
Yellow rumped warbler

 

PossumPossum

And lastly, when this guy poked his head out of the reeds and started up the bank, for an instant I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. I guess I am more accustomed to seeing these guys as roadkill, not with the ability to actually move.

 

 

 

 

 

January 30, 2014 Moving Day

Roseate spoonbills feeding
Roseate spoonbills

Moving day  Bolivar Peninsula, Texas to Iowa, Louisiana

 

Headed up Route 87 to High Island then inland on Route 124 to Winnie where I joined up with I-10 East. Got off I-10 east at Orange, Texas exit and filled up at the Pilot truck stop right on the exit. Plenty of room on an actual RV gas island!

Called the Wingard shop down the road to see if they could help me with my satellite dish problem and turns out they can’t because their tech’s car won’t start so he won’t be in today. The owner said he thought it probably was a problem with the DirecTv box, of course, shift the blame.

Stopping and letting the dogs out at the truck stop proved to be a wise move because when I checked the tires while out with the dogs, I noticed the curbside tire on the tow dolly was completely flat. 5 minutes before, while I was filling up, it appeared fine. So, I unloaded the Toyota scissor jack and found that it wouldn’t even begin lifting the car, absolutely useless. Fortunately, I had my old small hydraulic jack in the RV and, even though it had once again leaked fluid all over the storage box, it did lift the dolly up enough so I could work it with the scissor jack to finish the change

… with the help of a young Spanish speaking trucker who was parked nearby and insisted on helping, though he spoke no English. He dove right in, so accepted the help, it was appreciated, and I figured I would give him a twenty for the 10 minutes help, so no big deal, even though I could have finished up by myself. With the job completed, I took my wallet out and grabbed a bill, but he absolutely refused to take anything, simply shook my hand, smiled, and walked away.Once in a while, my tenuous faith in humanity gets shored up a bit by the kindness of strangers.

I arrived at Cypress Bend RV Park in Iowa, LA right at noon, and when I went to check in and they had 2 packages waiting for me, my replacement lens foot from Really Right Stuff for my new camera lens ( that is on backorder from Adorama ) and a replacement LNB unit from the Winegard Satellite people. They said they were shipping out a coax cable that goes from the dish base to the LNB unit, but must have changed their diagnosis of my problem. Hope this is the problem, have to give Winegard some credit though, they responded quickly.

With a little sun popping through around 1 PM, I decided to forego the satellite dish repair and head down to Cameron NWR to take advantage of a day with sunlight. On the way, I stopped at the Lake Charles Toyota dealership to see if they can get my speed sensor ordered and installed while I am in the area. I showed their service people the documentation from Galveston Toyota showing the need for a new speed sensor to resolve my cruise control and warning lights situation. The Galveston dealer had told me it would take at least a week to get the part in ( from California he said ) and so I had to forego getting it fixed in Galveston a couple of weeks ago. Turns out there are four different speed sensors and the documentation from Galveston did not specify which one needed replacement so I had to hang around while the two dealerships got that straightened out. Here’s where I again start to lose faith… the Lake Charles dealership made me an appointment for first thing Monday morning to do the work and said that the part would be in overnight and it would come from Houston, so obviously I was getting a song and dance number in Galveston, don’t know why, unless they have an aversion to doing warranty work for people they haven’t sold to.

Cameron NWR

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

I have visited this wildlife refuge twice in the past and have had mixed results, but it always is worth a look see.

Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis

One of my favorite challenges is capturing the iridescent feathers of the Glossy ( or it could be a White-faced ) Ibis, most often appearing as a drab bronze-brown feathered bird. But if you   capture the sunlight at just the right angle you have a good chance of some seeing some amazing colors on that drab brown body.

Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis

 

Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis

 

Gadwall pair
Gadwall pair
Gadwall drake
Gadwall drake

 

 

 

 

 

I managed to add a new duck species to my photo catalog! The Gadwall is a not quite so common, nor colorful, duck that can be found here at the refuge most times.

Pintail pair
Pintail pair

I could hear shotgun blasts in the distance so I assume that might be why these pintails and most of the other birds were very skittish about my approach.

Cinnamon teal
Cinnamon teal

Seemed odd to encounter a single Cinammon Teal drake, not even any other teal nearby.

Black necked stilt
Black necked stilt

A feeding black-necked stilt.

Great blue heron
Great blue heron
Great blue heron
Great blue heron

 

 

 

 

 

There is no shortage of Great Blue Herons at the refuge.

Redtail hawk in flight
Redtail hawk in flight

 

Redtail hawk in flight
Redtail hawk in flight

And there are usually more raptors around than just this single Red-tailed Hawk I encountered today.

Moorhen on the run
Moorhen on the run

Lastly, a Common Moorhen doing what all birds today seemed inclined to do, running away!