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: 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.
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.
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
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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 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.
The camera click startled this one a bit (not a common reaction). It jumped down and ran away from 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.
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 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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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 🙂 )
Last year I briefly saw a fledgling in the yard. I would enjoy seeing more in the yard this year.
Fledglings: Bad Hair Days
Fledglings are abundant here in late summer. They aren’t the cute babies just hatched, and they aren’t the beautiful birds they will become. They are awkward teens, developing some adult feathers but still with some baby fluff and coloration. I enjoy watching them grow. The scrub jays (now Woodhouse’s scrub-jays) are among my favorite, because they are here year around, and will eat peanuts on the patio table while I’m sitting there.
This fledgling Woodhouse’s scrub jay in the early morning light shows some of the beauty it will develop as it becomes adult.
These jays will come quite close for peanuts!
You know how beautiful adult robins can be. I’m not sure I had ever paid much attention to fledgling robins, but I had a great deal of empathy for this one!
A few days later I saw this one. I appeared much more majestic in the tree top, lit by the morning sun. I do not know if this were the same fledgling or not.
This fledgling house finch managed to look quite regal – to me – atop a sunflower seed head. He had already eaten a fair amount. He looked quite pleased with himself.
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay and California Scrub-Jay Are Now Two Distinct Species
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay is Little Jay’s new Species name, as of July 7, 2016.
The official word is from the American Ornithologists Union. The two new species were originally lumped together as “Western scrub jay,” but for some time there has been talk of splitting that group. Small parts of Nevada see some overlap of the two, but beyond that location, location, location is everything.
Here in New Mexico, a scrub jay is Woodhouse’s scrub-jay. This makes identification easy for me. For my friends in Nevada…sorry.
I don’t want to mislead readers into thinking I discovered the species split while casually perusing the latest bulletin from the American Ornithologists Union (although I am sure I have friends who do). A great resource is Greg Gough at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. I had talked with him a couple of years ago, and again just recently when I was working on Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display. He sent me an email this morning advising me of the species split.
Another Woodhouse’s scrub-jay fledgling from a previous year, now with a a new species name: