Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yard Birds Spring is in the Air

New Yard Birds, Returning birds and Nesting birds:

We have at least three male and two female Black-headed Grosbeaks. They showed up about two weeks ago. We have had several for a couple of years now. They haven't stayed around all summer in the past so we will have to see how it goes this year. They are much more active in the yard this year. Whenever we look out at the feeders we can usually see at least one. I put up a new platform feeder in the ivy and I'm putting sunflower seeds on it and they seem to love that. It is very near the trees so they must seem safe there.

Male Black-headed Grosbeak

The Female like a lot of the female birds looks nothing like the male. She is striped without the bright colors that the males have. I think she looks very interesting with the bold markings.

We are getting more Black-chinned Hummingbirds lately. The large hummingbird migration seems to have moved on from the house. The numbers of hummers are about half of what it was last week. It seems that the Allen's are moving on. There are still several here and they might stay all year but at least half of them seem to have moved on. It is good timing as we will be gone for a couple of weeks and this way at least some of the feeders might stay full for part of the time we are gone.

There is at least one Golden-Crown Sparrow hanging around. I don't think we have had one in the yard before. Of course we might have and I just don't remember! If I don't write it down ..... I see him every morning eating seeds under the feeder by the bedroom. He hangs out with the White-crown Sparrows that are still here. Right now I'm sitting in the living room watching the birds in the back yard and I don't see one White-crowned! There are usually several around at this time of evening. Maybe they are finally starting to head north. There were several still around this morning. The Golden-crown should be moving on soon also. *Tuesday: in the five days it has taken me to finish this post both the White-crown and the Golden-crown sparrows have moved on. They have headed up to the north country.

Golden-crown Sparrow
It must be dinner time, the Cooper's Hawk just flew through the yard hunting for his dinner. He flew down to the feeder by the garage and picked out a dove and took off after it. When I lost sight of him he was still chasing the dove. We watched him almost catch a dove a couple of days ago also. He just didn't get a good enough hold on the dove and it got away. He looked hungry tonight and was going to keep chasing until he eats! He seems to be coming around at least once a day. I haven't seen the Sharp-shin Hawk for a week or so but he might still be here and I just haven't been looking outside when he flew by. I heard him hit the back window again a couple of weeks ago. He was fine but it must have hurt!!
We now have a couple of Redwing Blackbirds coming in to eat at the feeders. Paul and I walked over to the Equestrian Center the other day and there are lots of them over there. Maybe they are flying in from there to get something to eat. It isn't that far. The first morning I saw them there was a male and female but since I have only seen the males come in. Maybe the females are staying closer to their nests.

I love how they sound. It seems more like a computer noise then a natural noise to me.

Another bird that we have had before but we are getting more of this year is the American Goldfinch. We mainly have the Lesser Goldfinch but there are at least a dozen of the Americans this year. The males are very bright yellow with no green or black on their backs. They are bigger than the Lessers also.

We have a pair of nesting Northern Mockingbirds on our back fence. They have made their nest in the pyracantha bushes right next to the veggie garden. I might have a problem with that later but as I haven't done much in the garden yet it is okay for now. I'll just have to work around it. When I looked two days ago there were two eggs in the nest. It was fun watching them make the nest. I am looking forward to watching them feed the babies and then the babies learning to fly. They are constantly guarding the nest. When the crows or squirrels get too close they go after them and really get rough. The poor squirrels really get a beating with the mockers hitting them so hard I can hear the hit from across the yard! That is why I say I might have a problem working in the garden, they might try and do the same thing to me! When Paul and I were up in Big Sur one year there was a Mockingbird with a nest in a tree by where we parked. He came down and attacked me when we walked under the tree!

With as many birds as we have in the yard we very seldom have any of them nest here. Maybe it is because we have so many birds in the yard that they go somewhere less crowded to nest.

As I said before it has taken me several days to get this finished. I stopped the other day as blogger wouldn't let me upload pictures. I'm having the same problem now so I'm just going to post this and worry about the pictures some other time. I think I need to work on it during the day when the traffic might be lighter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tree Trimming and Cats - Bah Hum Bug!

Saturday morning when I walked out back there were bird feathers everywhere. While I know it might have been the Cooper's or the Sharpshinned Hawks that have been around a lot lately I think it might have been a cat's fault. This is a hard subject because when I had cats I let them roam everywhere and didn't think anything of it. Now that I am catless and on the "otherside" of the issue I wonder if this is the best thing to do. I just don't know. I do know that when I look out and there is a cat in the yard it bugs me. Early Sunday morning I opened my eyes and what do I see? A mallard duck had landed in the yard and the big fluffy black and white cat is about to pounce! I jumped out of bed and ran outdoors and scared the cat and the duck not to mention Paul who was still sound asleep!! Oh well.
The other thing that happened on Saturday is the neighbors trimmed their large Ash tree and cut down the crow's nest that the crows had just finished making. All week I had been watching the crows bringing back nesting material and with one cut of the chain saw it fell to the ground! :( One good thing is that I don't think they had had time to lay eggs and if they had they wouldn't have had time to hatch yet. The crows just circled around watching the tree trying to figure out what was happening. As of today it looks like they are building a new nest in the large pine tree in back of the Ash. Hopefully that won't be cut down also. They just trimmed up the Ash so in a couple of years it will be ready for new nests. That is good news as we have lost several large Ash trees lately. Two were cut down in back of us the other week. I know these trees are getting way too large for some of these lots and they do need to be cut or at least trimmed but it is so hard to watch happen!! I hate the sound of chainsaws!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rufous Hummingbird

I got a couple of pictures of the Rufous today. They aren't real good as I took them though the front bedroom window. Such a pretty bird. Click pictures to enlarge. I was reading on a web site (click title to get to web site) that some of the Rufous's backs are green like the Allen's. They would be very hard to tell apart then!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yard birds and bathing

Paul and I spent this past weekend working in the backyard. I had brought home a new fountain from the Mesa Costco and we got that up and running. Well, Paul got that up and running all I did was say where I thought it should go! He had to till up the whole area first as I want to get my native plants in there and wanted it tilled before he put the fountain in. I didn't want to have to work around it. His poor arms are still hurting from it. Thanks Paul!! This will take the place of the pond at least for a couple of years I think. It just seemed like more work than we wanted to do right now. At least we have another running water source in the backyard so that should draw more birds in. As of this morning I have not noticed any birds on it yet but I'm sure they will find it soon. The fountain is straight, I just noticed that my picture is slanted. I meant to crop it but forgot. Oh well, just know that Paul was very careful in getting it level!
We had a several year firsts this weekend also. We got our first American Robin and our first Hooded Orioles. The Robin was eating the ivy berries (more of those later) right over where the fountain was going in. I didn't get a picture of her though. I didn't have the camera out so.....
I haven't got a picture of the Orioles yet either. I just finished sitting in the middle bedroom waiting for one to come back down to the feeder outside the window but he wouldn't come while I was waiting. He had been their twice before I got the camera and I could see him sitting up at the top of Pat's tree in front but he didn't come back down. I will never be a good nature photographer. I have no patience to sit and wait!!! I have only seen the males so far as they come in a couple of weeks earlier than the females do. They stake out their territories first.

Another bird we had in GREAT number this weekend was the European Starling. We have a great crop of the Ivy berries this year and they love those. I know most people dislike these birds as they do go in large flocks and eat everyone out of house and home but it is hard to dislike something that looks so neat and can't sing any better than I do!! Okay, they do sing some better than me but they don't have a beautiful song like some of the song birds do.
They were in flocks of 30 - 40 and they would land in the ivy between Patty's and our house and just have a grand time with the berries. (The Mockingbirds like the berries also.) Then they would all take off together and fly around for awhile and then end up back in the ivy.


The best thing for the weekend was a new yard bird as well as a new life bird!! We now have Rufous Hummingbirds in the yard. This is the first year that I have ever seen them here. They look a lot like Allen's but their backs are all the rufous or orange/rust color. I am sooooo excited!! There are at least two in the yard as I saw two on one feeder this morning. When Jim was over this afternoon he saw one on the feeder by the kitchen window. I am going to have to update my yard list to see how many different birds I have had over the years.

It is crazy the number of hummers we have this early in the season. We have at least thirty in the yard now. We have lots of Anna's, lots of Allen's (the most we have ever had) the Rufous and this weekend I saw our first Black-chinned of the year.

It seemed like this weekend was bath day for everyone. Everytime I looked at the fountain in the front there was someone taking a bath!! This black-chinned really got into the fountain more than most of the birds do. Most of them use the top to bath but he really flew right into the bottom to get wet.

Then the Goldfinches got into it for awhile. JayJay was taking one in the small birdbath in the front in the morning. It is funny some birds like one bird bath and others like another. The jays like the one in the front and the crows like one of the ones in the back. Some like the small fountain by my bedroom door but most everyone likes the large fountain in front.
This little Allen's just sat on the edge of the fountain and waited for the water to shower over him. He wasn't getting a lot of water but he was making the most of what he did get.

I have never seen any bird get as much pleasure from a bath as this little hummer did. She was sitting there taking a bath for a least 3 - 4 minutes! Now that might not seem like much for a preteen or teenager but it is a long time for a bird! As you can see from the set of pictures she really sat right down into the fountain. She would splash around for awhile then she would lay her head right down on the fountain and rub it around. I have never seen anyone doing that before. It was great fun watching her!

Well, all in all a great weekend!!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Salton Sea Birding Trip 2/3-4/06

(Don't forget to click on the picture to enlarge them.)

On February 3& 4th Paul & I met Steve down at Salton Sea for a day and half of birding. The first day Steve had arranged a guide to show us around. We met Bob Miller at his house in Brawley at 6:15am. The one problem with birding is the early starts that you need to get!! Something about getting up before dawn to start a vacation day ... well, you know what I mean! http://www.southwestbirders.com/ What a help having a guide was!! Bob took us places that I would never had gone. Some of the "roads" he took us on I would have thought were just a path through a field that would be private property. Hopefully when we go back there again we can find all the places that we went.

Here are the three guys, Steve, Bob Miller & Paul checking all the birds.

We started out in Cattle Call Park. This was Paul's favorite place on the whole trip. It is where they have the rodeo every year. Paul & I got a life bird right off! A male Vermillion Flycatcher.

After that we took off though fields and over to the Sea where we saw lots and lots of gulls and other birds.
At lunch we went up to the town of Niland to pick up some sandwiches for lunch. Bob told us all about Slab City where lots of snowbirds come down and spend the winter. http://www.polarinertia.com/march03/slab01.htm It was Patton's training ground during World War II and when they left they took everything but the concrete slabs that the buildings were on. I guess it is getting run down and more people are living there year round so it isn't the draw for the Snowbirds that it once was. Another place he told us about but we didn't get back to was Salvation Mountain. http://www.bearclover.net/hwy101/salvation-mtn.html Check out the web site for information on that. Looks like something everyone should see once in their life!!
After lunch we headed back to the Sea and lots and lots more birds. By the time the day was over we were compleletly worn out but very, very pleased with the day!!

Here's Steve the Birder with his scope.

One of the areas we hit with Bob had hundreds of great-tail grackles sitting in the bushes. He put the number between 2,000 to 3,000 birds. He said it was the largest amount of grackles he had ever seen in one place before. He couldn't figure out why they would have been there then and not before. It was a pretty amazing sight.

A Peregrin Falcon sitting on a telephone wire looking for breakfast. This is the first one that Paul and I have seen in the wild. We saw a tame one in New Mexico that his trainer brought in. Steve took this picture out the car window.

The next morning we started at dawn again and the three of us headed out to Finney Lake to see what we could find on our own. I didn't know how we would do but we ended up doing very well thank you. There is something about a lake in the early morning with the light hitting the water and reeds just right to put a smile on my face.

As you can see from the picture there was a haze/smog over everything in the distance. LA was real bad that Thursday when we drove through and you could see it just sitting over in the distance all weekend. Not a pretty sight. :(
The birding was a pretty sight though. There were several things that I really liked. One is the Great Blue Herons on their nests. The pictures really don't show it very well but there were a lot of them sitting around on snags in trees in the middle of the lake sitting on these great big nests.

Then there were the Great Egrets sitting around in the tops of the trees. Some of the trees had several of them just sitting up at the top.

One of the common birds you see at the Salton Sea are Burrowing Owls. If I remember correctly Bob said to look for pototoes with legs sitting on the side of the road. There was one stretch of road that he showed us that had about 14 owls along a 1/4 mile of road. They are so cute!!! They move their heads round to the back and it is weird!!

Another Life Bird for Paul & I was thanks to a great spot from Steve. Great Horned Owl. We would never had seen it sitting in the middle of the trees. Steve was able to get this picture of it before it headed off. That was exciting!!

Another nice bird; the American White Pelican

Another Lifer: White-faced Ibis. Look at the bill on that bird!!

One of the birds that I wanted to see was a Yellow-headed Black bird. I had seen them before but I really like that bird so I asked Bob on Friday if there were any around. He told us about the cattle feed lot where there would be some so we headed over there just before we stopped on Saturday. I thought there might be a dozen or so and about double that of Red-winged Black Birds. Boy, was I wrong!! We got there and there must have been several thousand birds all together. Most of them were the Red-wings but there were a lot of the Yellow-headed. What a sight. Thousands of birds flying around the cattle, eating the cattle's food and the bugs that went along with the cattle. The noise from them singing and fighting was loud!!

I don't think the pictures really shows how many there were there. I had one of the Yellow-headed but Blogger doesn't seem to want to post it tonight. I will try and edit this some other time and see if it will go through.

That is some of the story of the Salton Sea Birding Trip of February 2006. I am hoping there will be another story to tell of the 2007 trip if not sooner. I wouldn't mind going down to see the Wood Storks in the summer but the sound of 115degrees and messes of flies might keep Paul away!!
This is the list of the birds we saw on both days.
Peid-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret*
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
White-faced Ibis*
Snow Goose
Ross' Goose
Green-winged Teal
Northern Pintail
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
American Wigeon
Ruddy Duck
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon*
Prairie Falcon
Ring-neck Pheasant
Gambel's Quail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Mountain Plover*
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greather Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spottoted Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwi
Ruddy Turnstone
Black Turnstone
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper*
Long-billed Dowitcher
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Yellow-footed Gull*
Caspian Tern
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Grownd-Dove*
Greater Roadrunner
Great Horned Owl*
Burrowing Owl
Black-cinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Gila Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Gray Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Vermillion Flycatcher*
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Common Raven
American Crow
Cactus Wren
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren*
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
American Pipit
Loggerhead Shrike
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Abert's Towhee
Sage Sparrow*
Savannah Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-wing Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Wester Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tail Grackle
House Finch
House Sparrow
At my count 104 with 11 life birds. Not bad for a day and half!! Steve, feel free to correct me on any of this!
Thanks Steve and Paul I had a great time!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Goldfield Mine & Lost Dutchman State Park

While in Mesa one day while everyone else was at work or school I took a couple hours off and drove up to the Supertition Mountains for some birding and picture taking. I ended up at Goldfield Ghost Town (http://www.goldfieldghosttown.com/) as they have several feeder stations for the birds so there are always birds around. Kind of like cheating but I wanted to take some pictures and I'm lazy!! After I spent a couple hours there I went up the road a half a mile to the Lost Dutchman State Park. (http://www.pr.state.az.us/Parks/parkhtml/dutchman). They have a little cactus garden in the front and they have a couple feeders set up there also. It was a good day weather wise and most of the time the sun was out. By the time I was leaving around 1pm it was getting very overcast and a bit cool so I was glad to be leaving!!
Birds I saw:


Curved billed Thrasher
White Crowned Sparrow
House Finch
House Sparrow
Inca Dove
Mourning Dove
Rock Dove
Cactus Wren
Great Tail Grackle
Abert's Towhee
Gamble's Quail
Turkey Vulture
Northern Cardinal

Lost Dutchman added:

Black Throated Sparrow*
Canyon Towhee

Curved-Billed Thrasher Easy to see how they got there names!!

Cactus Wrens are very vocal birds. This one was sitting here singing away.

Northern Cardinal Such a bright red. This is a male,the female is more orange and brown.

Cactus Wrens playing King of the Post

Black-Throated Sparrow
This is a new life bird for me!!!

A couple more Cactus Wrens

A House Finch sitting on the cactus

Gilbert Water Ranch

I found a new and great birding place very near Darcy's house!! I was checking the local Audubon web page and was led to this very wonderful place. There was a bird walk listed for Saturday so I dragged everyone up and we got over there at 8 am! It was cold in the mid 30's!! The Wearings only lasted for a short while with Kody etc but I spent the morning there. I'm sure they will be going back when it isn't so cold and they can walk at their own speed.
When we first got there they had some birds from a bird rehab. I didn't get to look at them very well as the bird walk was starting and I didn't want to miss out on it and they were gone when I got back. Darcy was saying the Golden Eagle had been hit by a car or a truck I don't remember which and broken both wings so it will never fly again. I didn't hear about any of the others. I only got pictures of the Redtail and Kestral.

The site is fairly new but is gaining a good rep with birders. It is next to the water treatment plant and they have 10 ponds that they use to drain the water back into the water table. This makes for lots of areas for lots of birds.

The list for the day and I'm sure I didn't put down everything:

American Coot
RedWing Blackbird
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Anna Hummingbird
Costa Hummingbird
Curved Billed Trasher
Snowy Egret
Great Egret
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Gila Woodpecker
Abert's Towhee
Northern Mockingbird
Pied-billed grebe
Northern Shoveler Duck
Northern Pintail Duck
Cinnamon Teal Duck
Green-winged Teal Duck
Ring-Necked Duck
Black Headed Phoebe
Northern Roughwing Swallow
Orange Crowned Sparrow
Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Grey Blue Gnatcatcher
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Black-Necked Stilt
Great-tailed Grackle
Mallard Duck
Peach Face Lovebird
Mourning Dove
White Crowned Sparrow
House Finch
House Sparrow
Burrowing Owl

That is all I have written down but I know there were a couple more....
They have made nesting areas for the Burrowing Owls out of sewer pipes and the population is growing. The one I saw just sat next to the path next to his nest. He didn't seem at all afraid of me or the people walking by.
The Peach Face Lovebirds have several flocks in the Mesa area. Most likely they are escaped birds that have just done real well and started breeding. Jessy and I were in North Mesa on Thursday and we saw a flock of at least 20 fly over the car. Sure suprised us!!
This was great fun and one of the best things is that it is only about 15 minutes away from the house!!

Northern Pintail Duck

Peach Face Lovebird


Great-Tail Grackle

Burrowing Owl

Birding at 80 MPH

Birding while driving isn't the easiest thing to do but once you start birding I think it is hard to put it aside even though you shouldn't be doing it!!

Birds I saw from the car on my trip home from Mesa:

Great-tail Grackles
Red-wing Blackbirds
Brewers Blackbirds
Mourning Doves
House Finch
House Sparrow
Roadrunner (running across the road in front of me!)
Red Tail Hawks (there was one section about of about 2 miles where I saw 4 Redtails sitting on fence posts)
Northern Harrier Hawk?
Turkey Vulture
Rock Dove (Pigeon)
Not bad for 80 mph!!

Friday, January 20, 2006

In the Mesa Backyard

I'm out in Mesa checking out the birds in Darcy's backyard. Every morning there comes a rat-tat-tat on the wall by the living room. At first I thought someone was knocking on the door but then I figured out it was a Gila Woodpecker knocking on the house. I looked and looked but couldn't figure out where he was pecking as I don't see any holes. I put out a suet cake for him and the other birds and he came and started to eat from it yesterday afternoon.

This picture shows his red head.

Another type of bird that comes to the yard a lot are Grackles. They come in flocks of a dozen or so. They make a lot of noise, kind of like crows not the same sound, just the amount of noise. The males are all black and the females that are in this picture brownish.

So far the birds I have seen in the yard are:
Great-Tail Grackle
Inca Dove
Mourning Dove
White Winged Dove
Rock Dove (Pigeon!)
Cactus Wren
House Finch
House Sparrow
Canyon Towhee
Gila Woodpecker
Anna Hummingbird
Darcy and family have seen Gambel's Quails but I haven't seen them yet.
That is all I can think of right now but there might be more.
They have a huge Pigeon "problem" in the Phoenix area. I don't know how you can have feeding stations in the yard with so many pigeons around. They would quickly take over the yard!! I will have to do some research on it. I did put out the suet as I don't think they will bother that. We will have to wait and see.