April 14, 2016 Alamogordo, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument and Campsite Birds

Wednesday, I drove the Prius back up to Cloudcroft to check on the descent Route 82 makes coming down from the mountaintop to Alamogordo. When coming this way in the motorhome Monday, I chose to go a few miles out of my way to avoid this long downgrade I had been told it would be wise to avoid. After driving it in the Prius, I guess I would have to say I made the right decision, it is a loooooooong downgrade that is best avoided in a rig like mine. The grade probably is no worse than others I have done, but it does go on forever and could well prove to be too much for my old motorhome.

Campsite Birds

Canyon Towhee
Canyon Towhee

I noticed a number of little birds hopping around in the underbrush around my campsite so I dug out the feeders and my post prop from Salineno and also spread a bit of seed on the ground to see if I could entice any of them into the open. The Canyon Towhee, a first for me, was one of the first to show.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

The curve-billed thrasher, just like his cousin, the long-billed thrasher back in Salineno, enjoyed the peanut butter/lard/cornmeal mix.

House Finch on Ocotillo
House Finch on Ocotillo

Wasn’t long before a small flock of house finches turned up.

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

Several white-crowned sparrows also came in to feed.

White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove

A couple white-winged doves have shown up, although I have yet to ever see the dove on her nest hop down to feed, though I’m sure she must?

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands national Monument

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

This was my first trip into White Sands N.M. though I have driven past on a few occasions. Certainly worth doing if you are ever in the area. There is a paved road into the dunes that turns to a sand ( gypsum ) loop road about 6 miles into the monument. The glistening white gypsum dunes are quite impressive on a blue sky day and I would love to be able to catch them at sunrise or sunset, but, unfortunately, the road is only open from 7 -7 daily, and at this time of year, that misses both sunrise and sunset.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

When you come here, be sure to park and walk out into the dunes. Easy to walk on and you will discover a lot of interesting details, such as animal tracks and interesting vegetation, once you venture a ways from the road.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Aguirre Springs Recreation Area

Leaving the Monument, I drove west on Route 70 about 30 miles to check out the Aguirre Springs Recreation Area that I had noticed on my New Mexico Benchmark Atlas. I was curious to see if the campsites there were accessible to a rig like mine and if so, what the campground looked like, to see if it might be a boon docking option sometime down the road.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers

On the road into Aguirre Springs I saw my first wildflowers of the spring.

Aguirre Springs Rec Area
Aguirre Springs Rec Area

This imposing peaks hover over the campground and can be seen from miles away as you approach the area on Route 70 West.

Aguirre Springs Campsite
Aguirre Springs Campsite

There is a sign stating that the narrow winding road to the campground is not recommended for trailers over 23 feet long. Now, the paved road is narrow and winding, but I really do not think it would be anything to worry about for a rig like mine.

There are a few, not many, campsites that could accomodate a large rig once you get up to the campground. The setting is gorgeous and when I was there midweek in mid-April, there was no one camping in any of the 60 plus sites there. No water, dump station, or electric at the campground, but it is a wonderful secluded setting, way off the beaten track and I definitely will consider staying here sometime down the road.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

This last shot was kind of a surprise to me. A left over shot from Salineno that was on a disc I hadn’t removed from my backup camera in a while.

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December 4, 2015 Salineno Birding Station, Texas

A Colorful Assortment of Birds
A Colorful Assortment of Birds

The Numbers Are Increasing at Salineno

As you can see from the image above the number of neat photo opportunities are increasing daily as the number of birds arriving here at Salineno continues to grow. This week we have been blessed with some wonderful winter weather, lots of sun and blue skies with daytime temps around seventy and nice cool nights around fifty, a welcome change from the warm, humid week before.

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

Tailless Green Jay
Tailless Green Jay

One of the nice things about staying put in one spot as I am doing this winter, is you get to recognize individual birds such as this green jay that has lost all of his tail feathers, most likely in a close encounter with a predator. A couple weeks ago when we first spotted him, he showed no evidence whatsoever of any tail feathers. A couple of weeks later and you can clearly see new growth!

Green Jay's Tail Growing Progress
Green Jay’s Tail Growing Progress

The image below shows a jay with normal tail feathers so this guy still has a little ways to go to get back to normal. Watching him fly in and out of the feeders, it seems the lack of tail feathers does not seem to hamper his ability to maneuver.

Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay Emerging from Bath
Green Jay Emerging from Bath

I get a kick out of watching the transformation of these sleek birds as they bathe and then emerge and shake themselves to dry.

Green Jay Emerging from Bath
Green Jay Emerging from Bath
Crowded Feeder
Crowded Feeder

We have a bunch of these very entertaining and colorful birds here. Since they are pretty much indistinguishable from one another, there is no way to get a count of their actual total numbers, but we quite often see as many as 25 to 30 in the yard at one time.

Colorful Crowd
Colorful Crowd

This week a second pair of Altamira Orioles showed up. With two pairs here now, there are some territory disputes, and these extremely brightly colored birds are something to see as they chase each other around the yard. One of them has shown an unusual taste for sunflower seeds, often joining the Green Jays at the tray feeder and downing several seeds before returning to the nectar feeders or the peanut butter/lard/cornmeal.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

His taste for the sunflower seeds brings him in very close to observers for some great closeup images.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

You’ll have to forgive the abundance of images of these gorgeous birds but with twice the number now in here, there are just too many opportunities to pass up.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole Takeoff
Altamira Oriole Takeoff
Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

Our pair of Audubon Orioles continues to come in pretty much daily.

Golden-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow

A New Rare Arrival

Golden-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow

This little guy hopped out from the edge cover for a few moments yesterday and has been tentatively identified as a Golden-crowned Sparrow, and he doesn’t really belong here, being normally only found along the west coast. So that makes him a long way from home.

Green Jay and Northern Cardinal
Green Jay and Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

We have three or four pairs of Northern Cardinals in the yard at any one time.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
White-winged Doves
White-winged Doves

The White-winged Doves continue to crowd the disc feeder. Notice the one oddly colored one on the left, almost a solid brown with a very dark head, really stands out when amongst his lighter colored mates.

White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

A long-billed Thrasher feeds on the ground up very close to the spectators and has even been observed walking right under people’s chairs.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

And of course I can’t let a post go by without a shot of one of my favorite birds here, the Golden-fronted Woodpecker. This is the male, the female lacks the red cap of the male.

One Kiskadee's Thoughts on the Red-winged Blackbird
One Kiskadee’s Thoughts on the Red-winged Blackbird

This shot sums up what this Kiskadee thinks of the unwanted intrusion of the Red-winged Blackbird interrupting his snack of peanut butter mix. The Blackbirds, along with the hordes of invasive House Sparrows, sometimes makes the feeding situation quite frustrating. At times it seems like these unwanted pests are consuming three quarters of the food dispensed here, and in the process possibly discouraging the native birds everyone wants to get to see at Salineno.

Kiskadee
Kiskadee
Kiskadee
Kiskadee

And lastly some Kiskadee shots. More of these colorful, noisy birds, the largest of the flycatchers, have arrived this week, with as many as a dozen in the yard at one time.

Kiskadee with Broken Bill
Kiskadee with Broken Bill
Kiskadee with Broken Bill
Kiskadee with Broken Bill

Amongst them is this guy, who seems to be getting along just fine with his broken beak. Unlike the Green Jay and his missing tail feathers, this guy is going to have to live with this condition, it won’t be growing back.

A list of species seen here so far.

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 House
  33. 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
  50. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  51. Northern Bobwhite
  52. Pine Siskin
  53. American Goldfinch
  54. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Denotes flyover

 

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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 8, 2015 Sierra Vista, Arizona

Gambel's quail
Gambel’s quail

Two Old Age Casualties in Sierra Vista

Today marks a week that I have been parked in the Thunderbird RV Park here in downtown Sierra Vista. After feeling like it was finally time, Wednesday I had a root canal done at 1st Dental here in Sierra Vista. Absolutely painless procedure … sure wish I could say the same for the next two days. Stayed in and dealt with the pain meds for two days, feeling like like my head was going to explode, before the pain finally subsided on Saturday and I could quit the pain meds.

Making all this even worse, Jenny, my 15 year old Maltese, apparently injured her right rear leg, probably from jumping down from the windshield deck where the pups spend their day when I leave them in the motorhome alone. She doesn’t act like she is in much pain, but now is hopping around on three legs and is unable to get to any of her favorite spots ( off the floor ). She is a very active senior citizen and I hate to see her now have to act her age.  I can’t feel anything broken or out of place, so will have to watch to see if she can recover from this on her own over time.

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

Feeder Portraits

House Finch
House Finch

I happen to have a tree right next to my dinette window, so when I arrived here, I put out a platform feeder and hummingbird feeder to see if I could attract some photo subjects to my campsite.

Feeders
Feeders
Portrait Studio
Portrait Studio

Although no hummingbirds have shown up ( yet ) …

Gila Woodpecker
Gila Woodpecker

… this Gila Woodpecker being the only taker so far, the seed tray has attracted several city dwellers over the week It has been out, so on Sunday, I figured I would try and get some closeup head shots of the various birds using the feeder. The tree is actually too close for me to use my 600mm lens so these shots were all taken with my 200-400mm lens, and all were taken through the window glass, yet are quite sharp considering.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove

There are actually four different types of doves coming in, Mourning, White-winged, Common Ground, and Eurasian-collared. Only the White-winged and Mourning doves flew up to the feeder, the other two types stayed on the ground below, out of range for the camera.

White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove

Though true gluttons, thus forcing me to replenish the feeders a couple times a day, these White-winged doves are quite handsome and kind of fun to watch when they have emptied the tray feeder and then attempt to squeeze themselves down onto the smaller house style feeder I added to the tree a couple days ago. Love the blue eye liner these guys show off so well.

House Finch
House Finch
House Finch
House Finch

House finches are the most numerous visitors and I find the variations in color kind of interesting. Some sport a lot of yellow feathers in addition to their red, and one individual is a gorgeous orange rather than red ( unfortunately I haven’t been able to get him to come out of the shadows for a good shot ).

House Finch
House Finch

This coming week, after a dental appointment for crown work,  I hope to be able to get started finding some early arrivals at the various birding spots south of Sierra Vista, stay tuned.

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