My awesome friend Beth visited for some intense birding this weekend, and we were not disappointed. One of her best finds was a red phase Eastern Screech Owl sitting on a tree in our own backyard! This seemed a good omen to our next quest, finding a Barred Owl at Radnor Lake.
And, voila! Again, the first spotting goes to Beth.
On our return home, we looked for the red Screech, to no avail. Then I spotted a little feathered head poking up from a cavity in the same tree. I didn’t realize it was a different owl until Beth pointed out it was grey! The little she-owl slowly wiggled back down into her nest, but I managed to get a picture.
Lo and behold, one more trip to the tree revealed these two fuzzy nestlings! It was dark, so the image is a little blurred, but I had no idea it wasn’t one of the adults until I downloaded. What a gift, to have this family so close. And yes, we are trying to not harass them too much :)
Springtime in Tennessee! I took these pictures after a run last week, and already the blooms are fading. Oh well, I guess that’s what photography is all about – keeping precious visions like this in our hearts.
The most beautiful were the Bluebells. I rounded the corner, running downhill, and was so stunned by the beauty that I slowed down, goggling at the sunlight filtering through the trees upon them. A woman walking towards me beamed: “There are more coming up!” But that patch, right there, was the most lovely.
This stone pillar was one of many placed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. You can also see their work in the bluebell covered wall above.
It was so hard to leave New Mexico; it is my favorite place of all I’ve lived. I am now having new adventures in Nashville, Tennessee. I had to move due to my career. I am a zoo veterinary technician, which is a very specialized field, and although I enjoyed my other jobs, I feel that working with exotic animals is my forte. I still intend to publish wildlife images, but interspersed will be cute animals with stories of their lives.
Some may not “like” zoos. I wish they didn’t have to exist. But until there are safe havens for these animals in the wild, we will continue to do our part to conserve and protect. Some last images from Sandia Park -
A dumpy “grey” Western Bluebird, but cute nonetheless, and
A lovely Bullock’s Oriole lady, understated compared to the flashy plumage of the male.
My last New Mexico rainbow.
Two of the more unusual “yard birds” to show up in New Mexico. A flock of Sandhill Cranes flies close out of the mountains, and a young Hairy Woodpecker patiently awaits attention from his parents.
If you enjoy feeding/watering/watching the birds, think about keeping a yard list! You can even put the seasonal visitors down; when they showed up, when they left, compare the list to other yards you have cared for. As for me, I mostly keep my lists in my pictures :)
Rosy Finches are among the toughest little birds in North America. They live and breed in high altitude, inhospitable places, and the three species are found in scattered mountain heights from Alaska to Colorado. So they are incredibly difficult to study. Small miracle, then, that during the winter months all three types can be found at the top of the Sandia Mountains in central New Mexico! The Gray-crowned, Brown-capped (pictured), and Black Rosy Finches are beautiful birds.
Volunteer researchers capture them in a spring-loaded trap baited with seed. They rapidly examine, measure, and band each bird, and release them before they overheat (which can happen rapidly when they are brought indoors). These tiny birds thrive in harsh, wintry conditions. It is amazing to watch the flock swirl and dance through the gale strength frozen winds that whip snow off the peaks. And to belie the claim that hummingbirds are the only species that can fly in reverse, I have seen these birds flap into a strong headwind, deliberately overshoot their perch, and then fold their wings and let the wind blow them backwards to where they wanted to land!
The Rosy Finch Project has been ongoing since 2003 (check out http://cnmas.newmexicoaudubon.org/?page_id=1099 for more information). Even if you are not a fan of being atop a 10.000 foot mountain in the dead of winter, it is worth the visit to see these little miracles and their air ballet with the elements. Other wonderful winter birds abound, too. And you can watch them from the comfort of a cafe that serves hot chocolate and green chili cheeseburgers!
The magic combination of food and water brings in the birds in a New Mexico backyard. This shallow water feature is fed by a slow drip from above.
There are always the usual suspects (titmice, juncos, chickadees, etc), but occasionally we were surprised by the unexpected. Robins and Bluebirds, being primarily insectivorous, aren’t tempted by seeds. But a fresh water source in the desert can work wonders. Also, much of the time Pinyon Jays shun human feeders, but a dearth of pinyon nuts one year made our backyard a welcome hangout.
The end of the year was rough, both personally and career-wise. Hence the break in my postings. To get this ball rolling again, I would like to share a wonderful surprise from our last Thanksgiving in New Mexico.
Just about every year I make a nice big traditional spread for Turkey Day. Whether invited guests show up or not, I love the nurturing feeling of cooking all day for those I love. On that particular year something special occurred, which made us all the more thankful.
A small presence made itself known on our front entryway, a creature I’ve never before seen, despite years of working with wild and exotic animals. A Least Weasel found it necessary to take refuge in the woodpile on our back porch. The wee little thing seemed to be searching the surrounding environs for a threat; one or two glances our way reassured it that there was no harm to come from our quarter. I don’t know what could have alarmed such an effective predator, but we felt blessed to have this most unexpected guest grace us with its presence on one of my favorite holidays. Sometimes one has to search long and hard for the more secretive denizens of the wild lands; sometimes, they magically appear!