Too Many People, Not Enough Birds

The Southwest is packed with travelers – perhaps it’s the lower fuel prices, the need for some fresh air after a putrid election season, or just the boomers spending their kids’ inheritances, but I’ve had a challenge getting camping spots and sometimes seem to spend more time planning than birding. But why whine, the weather is great as are the birds. This Bewick’s Wren thrilled us at Patagonia as it sang and was answered by a buddy.

We’ve been seeing Green-winged Teal since Texas and they never fail to impress us with their markings.

On the other hand, sparrows in general are our nemisis – we’ve gotten better on gulls and terns but these are the next challenge.

This Dark-eyed Junco is a lot different from its eastern cousins.

The Western Bluebirds were delightful to see on an early dog walk in Payson, Arizona.

Curved-bill Thrashers are amazing morning songsters with quite a repertoire rivalling the Northern Mockingbird.

This sunset at Patagonia Lake is typical of the evening and morning light show in the skies of the West.

The van windshield is replaced and we start moving west starting at Organ Pipe National Monument and then Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. California here we come.

Posted in Arizona Birding, Arizona Birds, SW trip 2017 | Leave a comment

Sweet Penelope Sue

Our Vizsla, aka Penny, just turned 13 last month and is having a wonderful trip.

When not sleeping on the floor between the driver and passenger, she is curled up as close to the gas furnace outlet as she can get.

She is known for pointing anything but wild birds. Here she is with an Arizona Tree Lizard a few years ago.

Saturday, she discovered that there was a bird at our friends’ house where we were visiting.

As part of the plan suggested by the vet to keep her healthy and less hyper, I am giving her pills for anxiety. We ran out and were awaiting a shipment.

So a few days ago, we decided to take a short drive to go into Patagonia for some shopping and mail pickup. We stopped at the Post Office, and the Sally did a little grocery shopping at two stores. Then she hit a gift store. I waited, catching up on email, and after a while, turned to see if Penny was staying cool – and found the van dogless.

The next two to three hours were spent searching. We suspected that she slipped out at one of our stops. Sally walked up and down the back streets talking to dozens of folks. I drove the van all over, visiting the posrmistress, the marshall’s, the public works guys, and dozens of others. People were wonderful but no red dog in sight. At Sally’s suggestion, I called the park but they had no loose dog.

We were just devastated, fearing the worst, when my cell phone rang and the park ranger told me that Penny was with our campsite neighbors. The imp had snuck out of the van as we prepared to leave and we drove off forgetting that her brown snout is always up under the dashboard. She had been watered, fed, walked and had had a much better afternoon than we did.

Perhaps there are enough anxiety pills to share.

Posted in SW trip 2017, Vizsla | 1 Comment

Whitewater Draw

One of the amazing sites, and sights, of birding Southern Arizona is Whitewater Draw, the winter home of thousands of Sandhill Cranes. I’ll just let these pictures tell you of our visit.

We were enthralled by the way the cranes just appear as specks high in the sky and spiral down in twos or threes, hundreds at a time. As a pilot, I marvelled at the way they spilled lift, descended in close formations, and picked out a precise landing spot among the thousands already resting. It was an unforgettable day.

Posted in Arizona Birding, Arizona Birds, MA Birding, Sandhill Cranes, SW trip 2017 | 1 Comment

Desert Birds

Two of our last camping stops have been at Texas state parks (Seminole Canyon and Davis Mountain) with a nice variety of desert birds. Here are some that we saw starting with a Cactus Wren.

A House Finch (not really a desert bird per se)

A Loggerhead Shrike

A Canyon Wren

A Lark Bunting, I believe. Another shot of similar bird in winter plumage follows.

A Woodhouse’s (formerly Western) Scrub-jay

We’ve had a chance to take several hikes at these parks but after several great Mexican meals, feel the need for more walking and fewer tacos/enchiladas. Adios Amigos.

Posted in SW trip 2017, Texas birding, Texas birds, Texas state parks | 1 Comment

Birding at the Cocina

We had breakfast at Irma’s, a small Mexican restaurant just outside [Pancho Villa State Park](http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us//panchovillastatepark.html) in Columbus, New Mexico.

The food was great and the decorations quite unique. The owner has a penchant for roosters. They are too neat not to share.

There was a rooster in the cooler. Irma said, “He’s being punished.” (She had no other place to display him)

This statute is made in Mexico out of car tire rubber.

We returned to Irma’s this morning for a get out of town breakfast. Next stop – Patagonia Lake State Park.

Posted in local attraction, SW trip 2017 | Leave a comment

All Cracked Up

We were heading west from Laredo on a rural highway with many trucks sharing the road. Sally was driving, doing about 75 which is the speed limit, and I was editing photos on my MacBook. The road was smooth and traffic moving nicely when, wham, there was an explosive noise in front of me and I was covered with tiny shards of glass. We had taken a hit, probably from a rock from a truck in the oncoming lane – but Sally thinks it was a small meteorite. In any case, she saw a dark image fly across just before the impact.

The result was dramatic, a bullseye hole in the windshield, up in the black radio antenna section, was visible with three cracks emanating from it. We pulled over, dusted off, and were back on our way.

The small hole and long crack are dramatic but seem stable. The crack has gone from five inches long to down the whole windshield.

I called my insurance company who took down the information and told me to contact them when I was ready to replace the windshield. (We are a long ways from shops where we can wait all day for work to be done.)

The bad news is that I have $500 deductible on my glass damage but keeping things in context, it could have been a lot worse. I’m glad I was wearing sunglasses to ward off the glass particles, many very minute, that plastered my face and shirt front. We have some down time in the weeks ahead where I can get a shop approved, get the windshield ordered, and leave the van for a half-day. Hey, it’s only money – and it wasn’t a bird strike.

Posted in accident, Airstream, equipment_issues, Interstate, repairs, SW trip 2017 | 1 Comment

Some Birds From Salenino

I first wrote about Salineno, Texas a few years ago and my recent visits to this wonderful site were just as satisfying. It is easy to see, as you sit in lawn chairs watching colorful birds flock to the feeders, why this little patch on the Rio Grande attracts birders from all over. Merle and Lois, the long-time volunteers, do a great job of hosting neophyte to expert visitors.

Here are some shots I took the other day.

The first three shots are an Altimira Oriole, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and an Audobon’s Oriole. (The Hooded Orioles have not shown up yet this winter. Here is an Orange-crowned Warbler.

The Green Jays were everywhere as were the Great Kiskadees, like this one.

The Rio Grande is higher than often but still rather narrow. That is Mexico in the background.

Next – some birds of the desert as we head toward New Mexico.

Posted in Mexico, Rio Grande Valley, SW trip 2017, Texas birding, Texas birds, Texas state parks | Leave a comment

Reds

We are at Falcon Lake State Park, just across the Rio Grande from Mexico, and on the first evening were greeted with this splendid sunset – and have had several more since.

The birds here are wonderful. The Northern Cardinals, like this one, have a vibrant vermillion color – seemingly much more "red" than our pretty ones in Vermont.

At the campsite, we are treated each day to the aerial antics of several pairs of Vermillion Flycatchers. Here is a long-range shot of one of the handsome dudes.

We are heading west but I’ll be showing you some of the other neat birds that have graced our lives the last few days. Stay tuned.

Posted in SW trip 2017, Texas birding, Texas birds, Texas state parks | Leave a comment

Farewell to Goose Island

After a nice eight day stay, we bid adios to Goose Island State Park where we had enjoyed camping amongst the bird-filled oaks and seeing nearly 100 different bird species. We sampled some of the cuisine, hit some birding hotspots, and got in some good walks and bike rides, in shirts, shorts and sandals.

Several days before we left, we went back to visit the Whooping Cranes. They were there feeding but suddenly they were heading off to roost. I spun the dial to what I thought was "action" and fired away. I still am not sure what setting I ended up at but it resulted in some interesting photos. Here are a few – a farewell to the cranes and this wonderful part of Texas.

Posted in SW trip 2017, Texas birding, Texas birds, Texas state parks, Whooping Cranes | Leave a comment

More Port A Birds

We had just stepped on to the boardwalk at the Port Aransas Birding Center when these two birds greeted us: a Snowy Egret and a Tri-colored Heron side by side.

Just ahead, a Green Heron posed and then did a little hunting while we watched.

This Common Gallinule was fun to observe.

The little walk, full of looks at good birds, ended with this American Bittern almost close enough to touch.

When I lowered the camera, he struck, got a small fish, and gobbled it as we watched only yards away. I think the head of the prey is visible in his beak.

We extended our visit an extra three days to enjoy the birds and the nice temperatures. Come on down, you-all!

Posted in Goose Island State Park, SW trip 2017, Texas birding, Texas birds | 1 Comment