Monday, May 25, 2015

Dogma Catmantoo

In the window of the pet store Dogma-Catmantoo -- a poster from the Cat's Gallery of Art.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Magee Marsh

A crowd of birdwatchers looking for one little Connecticut Warbler, May 16, 2015
Magee Marsh is a beautiful preserve in Ohio, where large numbers of migratory birds stop briefly as they migrate from their wintering locations in the south to summer breeding grounds in Canada. They wait in the marsh until just the right moment to fly across Lake Erie.

Connecticut Warbler by
John James Audubon
This weekend was particularly crowded with birders who come especially to see the many species of warblers passing through, as well as those that stop here to nest.

We joined the huge crowd depicted above, all hoping to catch at least a fleeting glimpse of a shy Connecticut warbler that was in the woods. Since we didn't succeed in photographing the poor bird, I included the John James Audubon picture.

Sadly, the crowds of birders appear to be putting enormous pressure on the birds along the boardwalk that allows access to the marsh. We read that a prothonotary warbler and a woodcock that were nesting near the boardwalk have abandoned their nests because of all the people nearby.

Environmental pressure from groups often occurs slowly, so that no single individual realizes that his innocent actions have tiny but real consequences. I've seen the term "future eaters" applied to this situation, where environmental damage accumulated slowly but inevitably. Birdwatching seems to be about as non-destructive as any activity could be. Is it?

A prothonotary warbler (photo from last year at Magee Marsh).
A woodcock we saw from the boardwalk a few weeks ago.
Birders like these who were there on Saturday love Magee Marsh and who can blame them?
I have already posted this on my food blog.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Birdwatching trip in the Nichols Arboretum

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While Len and the rest of the members of the Audubon Society who were on the trip were watching the warblers, I mainly enjoyed the beautiful blue sky and the wildflowers lit by bright May sunshine.

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Monday, May 04, 2015

Warblers, Woodcocks, Snakes, and the Blue-Crested Hoopoe

Birdwatching at Magee Marsh. 
It wasn't exactly a coincidence that Carol arrived at Magee Marsh just when we did this morning, but we weren't expecting her.We were very glad to birdwatch with her until it started to rain. Magee Marsh is famous because the birds rest there on the way north for the summer. This morning the wind changed and blew in lots of them from further south in Ohio -- motivating us, Carol, and large crowds of other birdwatchers.

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Above: a palm warbler, one of many warblers we saw from the boardwalk.

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Woodcocks are marked to look just like the leafy background. I call this one Waldo Woodcock as in "Where's Waldo?" Obviously since you can hardly see them it's even harder to take their photos. For more bird photos, see Len's Flickr page here.

We also saw this snake. I hope he doesn't eat warblers.
More for birdwatchers: the Midsomer Murders TV show called Rare Bird includes a large number of birdwatchers, some of whom are the victims. They are squabbling over whether one of them has seen a very rare bird -- a blue crested hoopoe. We watched this rather funny episode last night: it's quite wrong about birds in several ways.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

St. Louis Art Museum

George Caleb Bingham Exhibit. Including his sketches of the many
figures he used in his River paintings, early-mid 19th century.
Len, Jay, Carol, Ruby.
Ruby, Carol, Mae, Len.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Hooded skunk, Patagonia, Arizona.
We took a walk near our B&B in Patagonia this morning, and saw this skunk, which I believe is a hooded skunk. Fortunately he seemed unaware of our presence, and we enjoyed watching him dig several holes in the ground before disappearing into the shrubbery at the side of his clearing.

After our walk, we drove to Madera Canyon, for our final days in Arizona. We are staying at the famous Santa Rita Lodge -- which is at least famous among birdwatcher folk. There are lots of birds and birdwatchers in the area.

Just at dark, an elf owl flew out of its hole in an old telephone pole while a large group with varying equipment were waiting eagerly, some flashing with large fresnel-lens-amplified camera lights, others just talking about how they were counting one more life bird. My photos were all solid black because it was almost dark by the time he decided to come out and forage for moths.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Swallows on a Wall

Swallows on the wall of the historic San Pedro House near Sierra Vista, Arizona
This morning we took a walk starting at the San Pedro House in the Riparian National Conservation Area near the San Pedro River. The gardens near the house were full of birds, especially doves, finches, and other small birds coming to several bird feeders. As we walked we saw vermillion flycatchers swooping between trees, we saw towhees and other little birds near the water, and we enjoyed the beautiful cottonwoods and other trees growing along the river banks.

The San Pedro River is small but beautiful -- especially beautiful because the surrounding land is so dry.
Pond near the Santa Cruz River.

Animal tracks near the river.
We are now in Patagonia, Arizona, at a very pleasant Bed & Breakfast, and have explored a bit of the bird life near here, including another famous hummingbird feeding station.

An Owl in a Tree

This is a whiskered screech owl which we saw this afternoon at the Nature Conservancy's Ramsey Canyon Preserve near Sierra Vista, Arizona. We walked up a beautiful trail along a rushing stream to find the owl, which other birdwatchers had told us about.

Here's a write-up about the owl:
"The Whiskered Screech Owl is the most mysterious of the three Screech Owl species. Found mostly south of the U.S. border, the Whiskered Screech Owl remains elusive.  
"Very few nests of this species have ever been found. These owls tend to live at high elevations (usually around 5,000 feet) and nest high up in trees. In fact, they spend much of their time hidden in the tree tops, roosting in dense foliage and feeding on flying insects. Their nocturnal hunting habits and high elevation home make them difficult for humans to locate, but just like the other species of Screech Owls, this owl can be identified by its unique voice." -- from Owl Research Institute.
Earlier this afternoon, we spent a long time at a nearby canyon, Miller Canyon, watching hummingbirds at the many feeders at the Beatty Ranch.

Hummingbird at Beatty Ranch.
For more about our afternoon looking at the canyons of the Sierra Vista area, see this post on my food blog.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Desert Museum, Tucson

Sleeping coati
From my food blog, for completeness:

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which we saw yesterday, is a combined natural history museum and zoo, entirely devoted to local species of birds, animals, reptiles, plants, and whatever else there is. We saw, among others: a coati, wild pigs called javelinas, a tortoise (depicted above), and a collection of local hummingbirds in a hummingbird house. The museum has recreated small outdoor areas representing the ecosystems of the desert, mountains, stream beds, and so on. The large outdoor museum/zoo attracts many wild visitors, as well as the captives.

The most exciting wild bird I saw today was this roadrunner...

The roadrunner was desperately trying to get INTO the cage where a captive female lived. He kept calling to her -- "meep meep!" and going right up to the glass wall that kept them apart. Tragic love!

We have also seen a couple of coyotes -- one was crossing the road as we drove away from the museum. Neither the real coyote nor the real roadrunner look all that much like their cartoon selves. We also saw a bunny (not Bugs).

To get back to the topic of food: here's a Gila Woodpecker sipping nectar from an agave blossom.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tucson: Sabino Canyon and Mount Lemmon

From a family visit in my distant past, I remembered Sabino Canyon as a restful place completely in contrast to
the extremely arid Tucson desert. Yesterday as we hiked and searched for birds there and at Mt. Lemmon,
I found that my memories were quite accurate and in some ways surprisingly detailed. 
A dessert bunny was on the path just after we started our walk.
Our guide, Laurens, knew all about not only birds but also lizards, mammals,
butterflies, and cactus. He was a fabulous bird finder!
His website is here.
Up on Mt. Lemmon, at a site known to our guide, we spent at least an hour looking for this red-faced warbler, which Len finally managed to photograph. These warblers had just arrived in the area one or two days ago. They were singing their territories and preparing to nest -- we heard them a lot more than we saw them.
A black-chinned hummingbird on her nest.
Nearby we talked to a group of people who
are banding the hummingbirds to trace their migration routes. 
Pyrrhuloxia, a beautiful bird we saw near the stream at Sabino Canyon.
For lots more bird photos that he took yesterday, see Len's Flickr set.

Friday, April 10, 2015

In the Desert

We saw two Gila Woodpeckers near our motel in Tucson.
Desert flowers on the same walk.

Mountains along Route 10 between Hatch and the NM-AZ border