Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

A Chilean flamingo. — Wikimedia photo

“You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.” – Isadora Duncan

They Called Him Pink Floyd

In 1987, a Chilean flamingo escaped from Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City, Utah, then he, or she, eluded all efforts to be recaptured. No one knows where the flamingo migrated to each spring, but the bird was usually spotted every winter for the next 15 plus years on the Great Salt Lake, where it dined on the inland lake’s brine shrimp.

Pink Floyd wasn’t the only thing I saw in Northern Utah. These great blue herons were wintering on Farmington Bay adjacent to the Great Salt Lake. — Photo by Pat Bean

The flamingo became a legend to birders, and someone called it Pink Floyd. The name stuck.

I got a rare, distant glimpse of him in about 2002. His pink coloring made him stick out among a flock of avocets and gulls, which were feeding in shallow waters a goodly way from shore. Pink Floyd was quite an oddity, and I felt privileged to have seen the flamingo, especially since I had become addicted to birding in 1999, and then spent a couple of years on the lookout for Pink Floyd.

Chilean flamingos have a life expectancy of up to 50 years, but Pink Floyd hasn’t been seen since 2005.It is suspected he didn’t survive that winter.

When I sat down to write my blog this morning, I had no idea what I was going to write about. That happens some days. Then suddenly, Pink Floyd pecked my little grey cells and said: Write about me.

Bean Pat: Masterpieces at the Musee d’Orsay http://tinyurl.com/ycgu9aoq Take an armchair tour of a Paris museum. I loved the Van Gogh.

Read Full Post »

George Archibald took this photo of me at the end of our tour to see whooping cranes on the Texas Gulf Coast. I’m smiling because I saw these awesome endangered cranes. — Photo by George Archibald

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life. John Burroughs

The Man Who Danced with One

A page from my journal with a cutout of George Archibald in his whooping crane outfit.

I just finished reading To See Every Bird on Earth by Dan Koeppel. In it he mentioned George Archibald, a conservationist and co-creator of the International Crane Foundation. A day later, I read another mention about George, this time from one of my own journals. I had met George during a birding festival in Port Aransas in 2009, at which time he talked about the endangered whooping cranes that winter on the Texas Gulf Coast near Port Aransas.

In the 1940s, there were fewer than 25 whooping cranes left in the wild, and only a couple of these giant birds in captivity. Today, because of the efforts of Archibald and others like him, over 300 whoopers are now flying free, migrating between Canada and the lower U.S each year.

Whooping crame on Matagorda Island. — Photo by Pat Bean

During a workshop talk, George put on his crane costume and demonstrated how he danced with an orphan whooping crane chick as a way to teach it to dance the way whooping cranes do to attract and bond with a mate. Whooping cranes have to be taught this, as well as their migration paths, by their parents. Mom and Dad make their first winter migration flight with them.

I took pictures of George in his crane suit, and put some of them in my journal. Then the next day, I took the whooping crane tour aboard the Wharf Cat out to Matagorda Island to see the real whooping cranes. George was aboard and we had a nice long chat about the whoopers, and the work he and others are doing to save the cranes. It was a fascinating couple of days, and I’m glad both the book I was reading and my journals let me relive it.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Interesting Literature http://tinyurl.com/y8casam5 Edward Allan Poe’s The Raven. I first read this when I was nine or 10 years old. Although it was another 15 years before I knew I wanted to be a writer, this poem certainly helped me fall in love with the sound of words, even though I didn’t know what they all meant at the time.

Read Full Post »

The ferry from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas on Mustang Island on the Texas Gulf Coast. — Wikimedia photo

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” — Jimmy Dean

And a Journey to Mustang Island

As one who loves road trips, and one who believes the journey is even more important than the destination, I was in high spirits as I drove Gypsy Lee, my 21-foot home on wheels, down Texas’ Highway 35 on a late February day. It was 2009, and my first sojourn after spending the nastier days of winter hanging out in my children’s driveways.

A great egret sat by a small pond near the entrance to Mustang Island State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

The sun was shining brightly but the day was quite windy. Through my windshield, I could see turkey vultures wobbling in flight and kestrels swaying on roadside wires. Have you ever noticed that these high-wire-loving falcons always seem to face the road and not away from it?

The gray feathers of a mockingbird, the only other bird that seemed to be defying the wind this day, were blown up like a skirt, exposing white feathers as if they were a petticoat. As this Texas state bird winged its way inch by inch into the howling wind. I felt like I was watching a slow-motion vignette.

I sympathized, as I had to keep my hands tightly placed on Gypsy Lee’s steering wheel to keep sudden gusts of winds from blowing her sideways. I gave myself a break from driving by stopping for a bit at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where I got a distant look at a couple of whooping cranes. I would see these endangered birds up much closer later in the week when, I took a tour boat out of Port Aransas.

A brown pelican and a laughing gull near Port Aransas. Photo by Pat Bean

Back on the road, the wind was still singing loudly, but soon, although many mind musings later, I found myself in Aransas Pass, where I would catch a ferry to take me across to Mustang Island. The ferry docked in Port Aransas, which sits on the northern end of this narrow stretch of water-enclosed land. My destination for the day was Mustang Island State Park on the southern end of the island.

Once hooked up, I enjoyed the remains of the windy Texas day, ending it with a sunset stroll on the beach beneath cackling laughing gulls, and beside white-capped waves rolling up beneath my sandaled feet.

Bean Pat: A slice of life http://tinyurl.com/y9rq4uxv This blog makes me feel gratitude for still being able to enjoy the little things in life.

Read Full Post »

A view of the morning sun creeping down the Catalina Mountains from my bedroom balcony. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I love to think that animals and humans and plants and fishes and trees and stars and the moon are all connected.” – Gloria Vanderbilt

And the Plant that Returned to Me

For three years, I looked for a place to settle when I left the life in my 21-foot RV. Nothing called my name, and so I continued living and traveling across this beautiful country for a total of nine years. And glad I am that I did.

The rubber tree plant on my bedroom balcony. It found its way back to me after a 10-year stay with my friend, Kim. — Photo by Pat Bean

But finally, I knew I wanted a hot bath every night, counter tops, access to a local library and a bit more space. What I ended up with was a 625-square-foot apartment in Tucson, Arizona that had my name etched on its front door. While I would now love a second bedroom for guests, the apartment seemed like a castle when I first moved my sparse belongings into it.

It met my requirements of a nice outside space to walk Pepper. It had a view of Mount Lemmon that was similar to the view I had in Ogden, Utah, of my beloved Mount Ogden. And best of all it had both a living room and a bedroom balcony that provided almost the same feeling of living in the outdoors that I so loved so much about my RV life.

My doors to these third-floor patios remain open the majority of the time, being closed only when the outside heat requires that I turn on my air conditioner. Nine months out of the year, I sleep with them open. My balconies are my favorite place to sit with morning coffee, and happy hours with friends in the early evening. From the front balcony, which overlooks the night lights of downtown Tucson, I watch hummingbirds flittering about my nectar feeder.

On the back balcony, which provides the view of the Catalina Mountains, sits a large rubber tree plant, one that I raised from its youth. I gave the plant to my friend Kim when I retired and went off gallivanting in my RV. Once I was rooted again, she asked if I wanted it back. I did. It provides a link to a life that I loved in Ogden, to the life I now love here in Tucson.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Life is good – even without a second bedroom, since my living room couch is pretty comfortable.

Bean Pat: White-faced ibis http://tinyurl.com/y8qus5ty One of my favorite bloggers. If you like birds, you’ll like this one.

Read Full Post »

“Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.” – Albert Einstein

A male Baltimore oriole. — Wikimedia photo

My 477th Bird

Back in 2006, when I was still a full-time RV-er traveling across America, I found myself camped beside Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees at Bernice State Park in Oklahoma. On my second day there, I was up by 6 a.m., and after a quick cup of cream-laced coffee and a short walk with my canine traveling companion Maggie, I took off alone to explore the park’s nature trail. It was summer-hot and humid, and Maggie had seemed quite agreeable to be left behind to sit in her favorite perch in front of the air conditioner.

View of Grand Lake that I had through the window of my RV at Bernice State Park in Oklahoma. — Photo by Pat Bean

Several bird feeders set out near the trailhead were bustling with Carolina chickadees and American goldfinches, and as I watched, a nearby downy, North America’s most common and smallest woodpecker, drummed its own attention-getting beat. It was going to be a good day, I decided.

As I continued on down the path, I took plenty of time to breathe in the simple beauty around me: a yellow patch of wall flowers, the artistic composition of a small dead tree reclaimed by vines, and an occasional peek of a glistening, sun-speckled lake through thick foliage

I’ve often wondered how people who don’t take nature breaks stay sane in today’s fast-paced world? I suspect that the angry psychopaths who do evil and harm are among the deprived.

My thoughts were interrupted when a doe and her freckled fawn came into sight around a curve in the path. I froze, as did the two deer. We all stared intently. When I finally took a step forward, mom stepped into the woods. Her baby gave me one last look of interest then quickly followed. It amazes me how fast wildlife can disappear from sight.

A male Bullock’s oriole — Wikimedia photo

My thoughts were still on the deer when a flash of orange drew my attention. With eyes glued to my binoculars, I followed the color through the tree branches, and realized I was most likely looking at a Baltimore oriole. While common in the East, these orioles don’t visit the West, where I had lived when I took up birdwatching.

Out West, the Baltimore’s look-alike cousin is the Bullock oriole. I had seen hundreds of Bullocks, but this was my first Baltimore. It was what we birders call a lifer. While I rejoiced, I lamented the too brief view I had before the bird disappeared amongst the trees. I had identified the bird more because of its color and location than because of specific field marks.

Later in the day, as I was sitting at my table writing, the omission was rectified. A Baltimore oriole flew right outside my RV window, and then lingered in the area. It was a breeding male with a black head atop a bright orange body that had thin white streaks on black wings. A Bullock wears only a black cap atop its head and its black wings have prominent white patches on them.

After the oriole flew away, I got out my world bird list and added the Baltimore oriole to it. It was bird 477. I had been hesitant to put it on the list earlier because of the poor sighting. Life is good, I thought, as I added the date and place of its sighting beside the bird’s name.

As I had suspected, it turned out to be a very good day.

Bean Pat: Houston Art Car Parade http://tinyurl.com/mqug4ef For people watchers, too. As a writer, these photos are good examples of interesting characters.

Read Full Post »

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

One Colorful Bird. No, Make That Two Birds

Elegant trogon. — Wikimedia photo

at Two

I hunted for the elegant trogon twice in Madera Canyon here in Southeastern Arizona – and did not find it. For my third try, a detour on one of my annual trips from Utah to Texas, I hired a bird guide out of Sierra Vista, and made a reservation at a Sierra Vista hotel to spend a couple of nights.

Three days before my trip was to begin, I bought Gypsy Lee, the small RV in which I would soon live in and travel in for nine years. I then switched my hotel reservation to an RV park reservation, which is how Sierra Vista became the first place I hooked up my RV. I still remember the trepidation I felt about that virgin event. I had to purchase a special sewer connection sold by the park. It was a connection that I never had to use again, and once I had the hang of it, I could hook up the water, electricity and sewer to my RV in just a couple of minutes.

I found my elegant trogon up Garden Canyon in Huachuca Mountains, just an hour and a half away from Tucson. . — Wikimedia photo

But back to that elegant trogon, which at the time was just as important to me as getting familiar with my new home on wheels.

The guide took me and two other birders onto Fort Huachuca in his VW Camper, and then on a hike up Garden Canyon. We hadn’t gone far when he pointed out an elegant trogon quietly sitting on a branch above a small stream. I could hardly breathe. This is one colorful bird.

I was the one, meanwhile, who saw the second trogon, and pointed it out. As our quartet of gazes shifted between the two birds, the first flew over to the second, and mated with her. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

I thought about this sighting, which took place on May 9, 2004, because I’m been thinking of a return trip to Garden Canyon, which I have never visited again. Nor have I seen another trogon.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Mammoth Cave http://tinyurl.com/kap7kxd For the armchair traveler – and my bucket list.

Read Full Post »

House sparrow. — Wikimedia photo

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” — John Burroughs

Chirp, Chirp, Chirp

My home in Ogden, Utah, had a huge Rose of Sharon bush growing in front of my bedroom window that brought me much delight and pleasure. It grew wild and free, and I let it have its way. I loved that bush, and so did the house sparrows, which also gave me many hours of pleasure.

A female house sparrow. — Wikimedia photo

Until I began seriously watching birds, I had never really noticed these seemingly plain brown birds. At least that’s how I thought of them until I looked more closely and saw that the male, especially in breeding season, was actually quite eye-catching.

On a Jan. 31, 2001, morning, not too long after I became an addicted bird watcher, I watched one such male, and wrote: “I have a gorgeous male house sparrow perched in my Rose of Sharon bush right outside my window. It’s sitting in the sunlight so I can clearly see it in all its splendid colors, rust brown, white and black, a perfect copy of the house sparrow illustration in my bird guide, complete with the white dot next to its eye.”

My Rose of Sharon bush always bloomed profusely in spring, and the blossoms stayed around for a long time. I miss that bush — and its resident sparrows. — Wikimedia photo

On another day, I wrote: “My house sparrow is chirping outside my window. The morning light is still dull so his colors aren’t showing well. But having once seen him in the light, I can pick the colors out. He’s really chirping this morning. Maybe he’s trying to attract a female.”

And so he did. And for the next couple of years, I watched as that first pair of house sparrows to take up residence in my Rose of Sharon raised babies. And I watched one morning as another female flew in, and was then chased away by the resident female while the male just looked on from his perch. And from that time forward, my morning wake-up call was always a chirp, chirp, chirp, which is about all these sparrows ever say.

House sparrows are one of about 25 sparrow species world-wide. They thrive near human populations, and love to forage just about everywhere on the planet where humans drop crumbs, from service stations to picnic grounds. I’ve seen them in Japan and Africa looking just like they did in my Rose of Sharon bush.

I’m sure if you look around you, wherever you live, you will find one, too.

            Bean Pat: Meditate Your Way http://tinyurl.com/n62noxy For all of us who find it impossible to sit still and control our minds. Bird watching works for me.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »