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Posts Tagged ‘bird watching’

“I said, ‘Ooh, Dad, I want the yellow ones.’ He said, ‘Where?’ I said, ‘Right there, Dad. I want the yellow ones.’ Everybody goes, ‘Those are green’. That’s how I knew I was colorblind.” — Michael Rosenbaum

An evening view from my apartment balcony that I took last fall. — Photo by Pat Bean

A Yellow Variant

It was a birdy morning today, one that had me almost constantly reaching for my binoculars as I drank my coffee

A yellow variant house finch.

while sitting on my third-floor balcony. There were the usual suspects of Anna’s, black-chinned and broad-tailed hummingbirds spatting at my nectar feeder, mourning and white-winged doves cooing in the background, a raven cawing from the roof opposite my balcony, and small verdins and goldfinches flitting about in the trees.

Our resident Cooper’s hawk flew to the top of a tall tree and stared down at be for a bit – and I stared right back at him. A bright red northern cardinal flew past before disappearing in the foliage of trees across the courtyard. Then two other visitors, a brown thrasher and a tropical kingbird, uncommon visitors to my balcony view, flew in for a brief visit.

House finch sitting on my balcony railing. — Photo by Pat Bean

Elated at these last two, I described their visit in my journal. But then another bird flew in. It was a house finch, a common species I’ve seen hundreds of times. But this one was different. Instead of being all decked out in red feathers on head and breast, this one had yellow feathers. While not exactly rare, although not common, this was the first one in almost 20 years of serious bird watching I had ever seen.

I was seriously thrilled. Life is good.

            Bean Pat: A laugh for writers https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/06/13/classic-jokes-for-writers/#like-12824   You might not get these if you’re not a writer. And if you’re a writer, you will probably like this blog.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her patbean@msn.com

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Birds: Ibises

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius

One is not like the other. Among this flock of white ibis at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas, is a lone snowy egret. — Photo by Pat Bean


One is Not Like the Other

I lived in Northern Utah – where you might see 463 different bird species – when I first started birding in 1999. The

Scarlet Ibis at zoo in Dallas, Texas. — Photo by Pat Bean

white-faced ibis was one of the first ones to make my Life List. Like so many other strange things I was learning about birds, I couldn’t understand why this ibis one was so named. The amount of white on this long-legged, curved-bill bird was so tiny that I usually couldn’t see it with the naked eye, and not always with binoculars.

But this maroonish-brown shore bird, with flashes of green in its feathers, is fun to watch. I often saw flocks around the shallow waters of Great Salt Lake. Its distinctive profile, and the fact that it looks like a flying stick when in the air, makes it an easy bird to identify.

I saw my first white ibis, even easier to identify, and the second of

White-faced ibis ner the shoreline of Great Salt Lake.

America’s four species of ibis to make my list, in 2001, and my third, a glossy ibis, in 2005, both on Texas’ Gulf Coast. I have only seen the fourth, the scarlet ibis, in zoos and aviaries. This brilliant colored ibis only rarely visits North America from its habitats in the Caribbean and South America.

Two other ibises are also on my life list: the hadada and the sacred. The hadada ibis was the first bird I saw after landing in the middle of the night in Nairobi, Kenya. It was up a tree in the courtyard of the Norfolk Hotel. A few days later, I saw the sacred ibis in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.

Of the now estimated 10,000 birds in the world, 28 of these are ibises. Sadly, including the five ibis, (the scarlet ibis doesn’t count because I haven’t yet seen a wild one), I only have 710 birds on my Life List.  I guess this old broad still has a lot of birding to do.

Bean Pat: Gulls of the World http://www.10000birds.com/gulls-of-the-world-a-photographic-guide-a-gull-book-review.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+10000Birds+%2810%2C000+Birds%29  Just in case you’ve ever wondered what gull you are looking at.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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“A serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.” — Ernest Hemingway

Great Horned Owl — Painting by Pat Bean

What Big Beautiful Eyes You Have

Back when I was a normal person and still a working journalist, I found myself eagerly accepting assignments that involved birds, which is how one day I found myself traveling in a van through the Bonneville Salt Flats on Highway 80 between Salt Lake City and Wendover, Nevada, with seven members of HawkWatch International, an organization that monitors raptors as an indicator of the ecosystem’s health.

My goal was to monitor and report on the HawkWatchers.

Eves of a great horned owl. — Wikimedia photo

The first notes I made were about all the birds these seven guys were seeing, mostly turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks. I had driven this route before and had never seen a bird while doing so. That was the day I learned the difference that separates a birdwatcher and a normal person.

Then, after we had entered Nevada and left the interstate and civilization behind, and were driving on an unpaved backroad, one of the guys yelled “Stop! There’s an owl in that cottonwood tree.”

The driver stopped, and all of the guys oohed over the owl, which they had quickly identified as a great-horned. Even after one of the men pointed out to me where the bird was sitting, it took me a couple of minutes to actually see it. But when I did, its giant yellow eyes popped open and it stared straight at me. “Wow” was all I could think as we piled back in the van.

I was well on my way to losing my status as a normal person and becoming one of those crazy birdwatchers

Bean Pat: FrogDiva Thoughts http://tinyurl.com/y7ttlp6q Just do right. A message for these times from my hero, Maya Angelou.

Travels with Maggie, is now available on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y9gjlc7r Or for an autographed copy, email me at patbean@msn.com

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  “Without mysteries, life would be dull indeed. What would be left to strive for if everything were known?”  — Charles de Lint

Can you identify this bird. Or will it remain a mystery.

Can you identify this bird? Or will it remain a mystery?

Which Is Why I Enjoy Bird Watching

“My detective story begins brightly, with a fat lady found dead in her bath with nothing on but her pince-nez. Now why did she wear a pince-nez in her bath? If you can guess, you will be in a position to lay hands upon the murderer, but he’s a very cool and cunning fellow…” – wrote Dorothy Sayers as she plotted her first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery in the early 1920s.

Cover of Are Women Human?, which contains two of Sayers' feminist essays. -- Wikimedia

Cover of Are Women Human?, which contains two of Sayers’ feminist essays. — Wikimedia

When the book, “Whose Body” came out in 1923, the naked victim was male, but the pince-nez clue was still there. Many Lord Peter Wimsey books followed. I think I’ve read them all.

Along with writing the Wimsey mysteries, which like Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple books, continue to be popular today, Sayers was a poet, playwright and advertising writer.

One of the latter efforts included a toucan jingle for Guinness Beer: “If he can say as you can. Guinness is good for you. How grand to be a Toucan. Just think what Toucan do?”

This same kind of humor continues in the Wimsey mysteries, which is consistent with the character’s name-play on the word whimsy.

DVDs of some of the Lord Wimsey films I checked out of the library get the credit for this blog idea.

DVDs of some of the Lord Wimsey films I checked out of the library get the credit for this blog idea.

The joy of reading Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries for me is that it is all about figuring out whodunit before the killer is revealed.

It’s sort of the same with bird watching. You have to read all the clues – profile, coloring, beak size, and a jillion other field marks – if you want to make an identification before the bird flies away.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: She’s a Maineaic  http://tinyurl.com/psgwdqx Einstein said what about anger?

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This great photo of a Merlin in pursuit of a blue jay was taken by John Harrison who put it up on Wikimedia. You can see his photos at:  http://flickr.com/photos/15512543@N04/

This great photo of a Merlin in pursuit of a blue jay was taken by John Harrison who put it up on Wikimedia.

 

“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Yet I Think It’s Magical

I had been seeing this dark bird shape flash overhead for several days, but hadn’t got a good enough look to identify it. Solving the mystery of what bird I’m observing is part of my bird-watching passion.

A close up look at a merlin. -- Wikimedia photo

A close up look at a merlin. — Wikimedia photo

It was mourning dove size, but it flew nothing like a dove. I thought it flew like a hawk but it was too small for the Cooper’s hawks that have been keeping the apartment complex company all year.

The brief glimpses I had of the bird were tantalizingly frustrating. It would fly overhead past me, and by the time I looked up after seeing its shadow, it had disappeared into the trees.

Merlins, before they grew up and became majestic birds of prey. -- Wikimedia photo

Merlins, before they grew up and became majestic birds of prey. — Wikimedia photo

Finally a few mornings ago, as I sat drinking my cream-laced coffee and watching dawn break, I identified it as a merlin. It whizzed past my third floor balcony at eye level, probably after one of the small song birds that had been flitting around waiting to catch the morning sun, too.

Merlins are not year-round residents of the Tucson area, but they do migrate through and winter here, according to my birding field guide. Since I haven’t seen the merlin in the past couple of days, and since it’s not yet winter, I suspect it was just passing through on its way farther south.

With all the small birds around the complex, it probably decided this was a good place to fuel up. Merlins, according to Cornell University’s ornithological web site, rely on speed and agility to hunt their prey. The merlins often hunt by flying fast and low, using trees and large shrubs to take prey by surprise. While they actually capture most birds in flight, they will also tail-chase a bird to catch it.

. While not a lifer, I’ve only been able to identify this member of the falcon family a few times. But bird experts say the merlin is becoming more numerous in urban areas, so perhaps there are more “magical” merlin sightings in my future.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Ian Butler Photographer http://tinyurl.com/ledqorr Great photo of a dunlin for all you birders out there.

 

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“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly, Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’ Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land. Man got to tell himself he understand.” – Kurt Vonnegut, “Cat’s Cradle

 

Western tanager -- Wikipedia photo

Western tanager — Wikipedia photo

 

I Think I saw a Pretty Bird

            I spent most of my life totally unaware of the birds that live around us. Then I caught the bird-watching virus.

Sage Grouse: The bird that addicted me to bird watching. -- Wikipedia photo

Sage Grouse: The bird that addicted me to bird watching. — Wikipedia photo

It happened in 1999 when I was doing a newspaper story on sage grouse at Deseret Ranch in Utah. It required me to wake at an ungodly hour — even for me an early riser — and then hike a mile or so across the landscape to a sit behind a blind so I could watch male grouse show off for the gals at a lek.

“It is sort of like when the guys drag Main Street on Saturday night,” birding guide Mark Stackhouse told me.

I found the strutting, puffed out males, an awesome sight – and laughed at how most of the girls ignored the boys. From that day forward I was hooked, and these days my binoculars are usually close by.

So it was this afternoon, as I sat at tree-top level on the balcony of my third-floor apartment talking on the phone to my daughter-in-law in Texas, when a bright colored bird flew in and sat on a branch not too far away.

“OHhhhhh. A pretty bird,” I screeched into my daughter-in-law’s ear, and grabbed for by binoculars..

It was a western tanager, the first I’ve seen here at my Catalina foothills apartment. I usually see them in a more forested setting, but there are a lot of trees here, and a fountain in one of the courtyards where the birds can drink.

It’s a beautiful bird, don’t you agree?

The Wondering Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: Cantankerous Puffs of Adorable http://tinyurl.com/l7sphvv Juvenile green herons

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 “I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

 My neighbor, knowing I’m a passionate birder, called me yesterday afternoon and simply said: “”Go out on your balcony and look to your left.”

 I did. And below is what I saw. Aren’t they cute?

doves 1

A pair of mourning doves. These birds get their name from the mourful wooing-cooing sound they make. They are this country’s most common dove.

It pays to let others know what you want in life, especially if it’s seeing birds. I would have missed this wonderful sight if not for my thoughtful neighbor.

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