Up Close and Personal with a Roadrunner

Roadrunner

Roadrunners are abundant in Albuquerque. They have adapted to an urban environment, using the block walls in my neighborhood as superhighways. They also like sidewalks, rarely using streets except to cross.

Roadrunners are not afraid of people, but they tend to keep a bit of a distance. Yesterday was somewhat unusual. In the morning I saw a roadrunner sitting on my patio table! It was eyeing a hummingbird feeder, apparently hoping to grab a tasty bite. However, it left before catching anything, at least while I was watching.

In the afternoon I was having some trees trimmed. A roadrunner seemed to think it could find something to eat in one of the trees. Even though people were around, this roadrunner was in no hurry to leave. I used the opportunity to take some pictures.

Note the beak, which can crush instantly almost any prey. Also note its feet. Certainly roadrunners are not the funny creatures that have been portrayed in cartoons: they are much more interesting.

Roadrunner
Roadrunner
Roadrunner
Roadrunner with Ruffled Feathers
Roadrunner
Roadrunner
Roadrunner
Roadrunner

Crow and Crepuscular Rays

crow and crepuscular rays

We have had a stretch of cloudless sunrises the past couple of weeks. When I went out to pick up the paper this morning, I was thrilled to see some clouds. This sunrise seemed to have the potential to produce crepuscular rays. A few minutes later they did emerge. These are certainly not the most spectacular rays I have seen. You might have to look hard to see them. But the sky was beautiful in this blue hour. So, I grabbed the camera to see what I could get.

I did not see the crow until I looked at the image on the computer. It was one of those surprises that can just appear. The icing on the cake… It was a beautiful New Mexico way to start the day.

This link has a short video of the American Crow in flight.

Northern Flicker

northern flicker
northern flicker
House Finch and Northern Flicker
northern flicker
Northern Flicker
northern flicker
Northern Flicker
northern flicker
Northern Flicker

The New Year brought snow to Albuquerque and much of New Mexico before moving on to Texas, Oklahoma, and beyond. One good thing about snow is that many birds are attracted to feeders. They often will hang around the feeders long enough for photographs. This Northern Flicker was a great model on the morning of January 2.

August Morning

August morning

August Morning: Sunrise and Hummingbirds

August morning: the smoke from the fires west of us was bad for two days, and it still remains. But, the skies are a little clearer and the temperatures cooler. Autumn is not quite palpable, but is just around the corner. The smoke adds color to the clouds. Most of the male hummingbirds have already left for winter homes. The females and juveniles will be here for a week or two, filling up in preparation for the long trip. This is a beautiful time in New Mexico.

August morning
Note just a hint of crepuscular rays. The smoke has cleared significantly from the prior two days, but is still producing especially colorful skies.

August morning
Female rufous hummingbird eyeing breakfast of cosmos

Curve-Billed Thrasher and Beautiful Song

curve-billed thrasher

Curve-Billed Thrasher and Beautiful Song

The curve-billed thrasher is not the most elegant or colorful or powerful bird that visits my yard. At times it looks rather clumsy compared to some of the other birds, almost clown-like. But its song is like no other.

curve-billed thrasher
Curve-billed thrasher on the chimney, surveying its world.

This audio also contains in the background the call of the white-winged dove (“who cooks for you? who cooks for you?”).

These are the sounds of life in the high southwest desert. I hope you enjoy this little snippet.

And, finally, yes, that really was the color of the sky this morning. 🙂

Creatures in Albuquerque

Bee in Cosmos

Creatures in Albuquerque

Creatures: the desert is full of interesting plants and animals, even in the middle of a city like Albuquerque. I don’t see as many different hawks up in my part of town as Tim Price does down on the Rio Grande bosque (see his blog, very wide ranging but full of wildlife), but the ones I do see are pretty reliable. Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks like the NE Heights of Albuquerque, because people put out feeders that attract little birds. The little birds are what the hawks mostly go for. However, I never let my cats out, and the neighbor of a friend found the remains of his Pomeranian on top of the roof, thanks to hawks. During nesting season, people are advised to take umbrellas to the city’s parks, to avoid being dive bombed by the hawks protecting their young.

One morning last week I was out to photograph the sunrise. So, of course, I had a landscape lens on the camera. During the sunrise, I saw something I have never seen before: an adult hawk brought its young, seeking breakfast. They were in a tree really outside the range of my lens, but I photographed them anyway. Not a great pic, but you can make out the adult and the young one against the sunrise.

creatures Adult Cooper's Hawk with Young
Adult Cooper’s Hawk with Young, against a Desert Sunrise

Several days later I was out to photograph the hummingbirds. I had just put on my bird lens and gotten comfortable to try to get a few pics of hummers. This hawk almost immediately, and very briefly, flew in and then left. Some of you may remember the images from a hawk visit on August 13, 2013. I photographed this hawk on August 13 of this year. I have never photographed a hawk from this angle, and I find it very elegant with its spread tail. I think it is a young one for a variety of reasons. I’d like to think it was the young one brought by a parent a few days before. 🙂

Creatures Hawk Seeking Breakfast
Hawk Seeking Breakfast, Landing in a Neighbor’s Tree. Great Camouflage!

It caught breakfast next door, and then zoomed back through my yard, finding its safe spot for enjoying its prey.

Several of my neighbors and I have worked hard to develop yards that are pollinator-friendly. We have very busy bees during the day on sunflowers, cosmos, roses, etc. This is the year that I have discovered that some bees like to snuggle in flowers at bedtime. This little guy kept wiggling his butt until he was well settled into the cosmos. He was still there at dawn, but flew out to start his work as soon as the sun had warmed the flower.

 creatures Bee in Cosmos
Bee in Cosmos

So much beauty here in the desert, full of creatures even in town… Today, I offer just a brief sample of hawk family at sunrise, hawk landing in a tree, and a little bee snuggling in at bedtime. The world is a wondrous place.

Roadrunner Visit

roadrunner

Roadrunner Sunday Morning Visit

A roadrunner visit is pretty common in this neighborhood. After all, it is the State Bird of New Mexico.I see them daily up and down the street, even if not always in my back yard. This morning I was out enjoying all the avian visitors, when I saw this one. It was hanging out in the shadows, waiting for a tiny tasty morsel such as a goldfinch to drop by.

roadrunner
Roadrunner Waiting for Breakfast

The camera click startled this one a bit (not a common reaction). It jumped down and ran away from me.

roadrunner
I Think She Still Sees Me

Roadrunners really do run, although they are capable of flying. Fastest running speed is often reported at 20 mph, but some have been clocked as fast as 26 mph.

This one decided to show us some running form.

roadrunner
I’m Going to Run!

roadrunner
I Think I’m Safe Now.

roadrunner
Dang! She Still Sees Me!

roadrunner
I’m Outta Here!

The ubiquitous walls (block, adobe, rock, etc.) are like superhighways to the roadrunners. This one came back as soon as I went in the house, strolled onto the patio, and grabbed a lizard hanging out under a rose bush.

If you are not squeamish, you might find these two YouTubes of encounters between roadrunners and rattlers interesting. Life in the desert…

Bosque del Apache 2014

Bosque del Apache

Bosque del Apache 2014

Bosque del Apache 2014, flashback to a time when things seemed pretty perfect. I was updating software today, and came across images not seen for some time. I enjoyed looking at them, and decided to share a couple here.

Bosque del Apache
Sandhill Cranes, Late Afternoon, January 17, 2014

The following morning at dawn was warm by January standards. The temperature was 19°F, no wind to speak of, and I was dressed in layers. I thought that was sufficient. My two companions that weekend went back to the car shortly after we arrived at this spot. I thought it was too beautiful to leave, and I am glad I have the images. Several hours later when I was warm enough to think sensibly again, I realized that I really had become hypothermic. The next time I plan to be out at dawn some winter day at the Bosque, I’ll have on about ten more layers!

Bosque del Apache
Dawn at Bosque del Apache, January 18, 2014

These images reminded me not only of that weekend, but also how fortunate I am to live in “The Land of Enchantment.”

Yellow Rumped Warbler

yellow rumped warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

This western warbler was previously known as “Audubon’s Yellow Rumped Warbler.” The eastern variety was known as the Myrtle warbler. Not too long ago they were lumped under one name. However, there are some distinct differences. The western variety has a yellow chin, seen clearly here.

yellow rumped warbler
Yellow Rumped Warbler, Previously Known as Audubon’s Yellow Rumped Warbler

I was not aware of this bird until Mary, owner at Wild Birds Unlimited here in Albuquerque, noted it in one of her monthlhy columns in the Albuquerque Journal. The day I read it, I looked out at my bark butter feeder, and there were two of them, happily eating!

This is the first photo I have of this warbler. They move pretty quickly, and usually don’t sit around waiting for a photographer. 🙂 As things happen, I was photographing some of our very common house finches. They are in their breeding plumage now, and can be quite handsome. This little warbler decided to photobomb. It showed off all the key identification markers for our western variety of warbler.

To learn more about this warbler, check out The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and/or Bird Note.

An Urban Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

An Urban Cooper’s Hawk

Urban Cooper’s hawk, here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was hanging out in a pine tree, waiting for dinner to appear. This is an adult, as opposed to the one in the header image. My neighbors and I have seen this hawk a lot in the past month. Such a hawk is easy to spot when it is flying, or when it lands near a bird feeder. The so-called urban forests of the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque provide easy cover into which they are well camouflaged, however.

I took this photo two minutes into the Super Bowl. When photographic opportunities appear… (Not much was happening in the first two minutes of Super Bowl 🙂 )

urban Cooper's Hawk
The Urban Cooper’s Hawk, Waiting for Dinner to Appear

Last year I briefly saw a fledgling in the yard. I would enjoy seeing more in the yard this year.