In addition to having a wonderful visit with old friends, I did see birdies while visiting Palm Desert last over the weekend.
Right outside our house there were 2 palm trees on an island in a large pond on the golf course. Every night cormorants and egrets would come and roost. They came late and left early. I counted at least two dozen at one point. This is a shot from one morning as the sun was rising.
An American Kestrel visited me while I was drinking coffee one morning; he’s backlit by the rising sun. This is the first picture I have ever gotten of one.
A blue heron made an appearance. There were a number of mallard ducks in the ponds at the golf course. I saw a belted kingfisher flying away from the pond every night. We had a couple of bewick’s wrens scolding us when were out on the patio. We had many hummingbirds buzzing around. A flock of Canada geese flew over us on the way to the airport. There was a flock of unidentified colorful birds that stopped in a Joshua tree while we were in the park, but I didn’t get a good look. I also saw a verdin, and a cactus wren; both firsts for me.
Today was another lovely day in Palm Desert. Irene and I took a long walk this morning and found two geocaches along the way. We all had massages this afternoon and then grabbed a bite to eat while watching the end of the Seahawks game at a restaurant nearby. We won!
Back at the house we did our best to finish off all the food and wine we had bought for the long weekend. We stayed in the hot tub again looking at the moon and stars til we were pruned.
We also face timed with Keeto, a first for both of us. Goodnight birdie!
With the Cooper’s hawk flying through regularly, my backyard bird activity has dropped significantly. But the resident Downy woodpeckers are not phased by it. I have at least one male/female pair. They frequent the feeder all day, every day. This is a photo of a female downy woodpecker (DOWO) on the finch feeder. They love to pick the sunflower chips out of the mix. Downy’s are notoriously difficult to ID versus the similar looking, but larger, Hairy woodpecker species. In this photo, though, you can see a couple of the markers that confirms it is a downy: the relatively short beak, and the black flecks on the outer white tailfeathers. Here’s a link to Audubon guidance on differentiating the two species.
I was sitting on the back patio today when four beautiful warblers decided to take a bath in the fountain, about 10 feet away from me! I was treated to a yellow warbler, two black-throated green warblers, and a mourning warbler. I had my binoculars so I enjoyed a nice long look. But of course, the camera was in the house. After they had moved on, I went back in for my camera. The earlier photo opp didn’t repeat, but I did get a shot or two of a beautiful yellow warbler that dropped down to the fountain for a drink. Fall migration is on!
Keeto often asks us, “Who’s here?” Well, this morning, when I opened up the blinds to look at the back yard, I was excited to see a flock of baltimore orioles in the bird bath/fountain that I put out in the spring. There were many more in the trees above, taking turns bathing. The orioles are currently migrating south for the winter. In the spring, on their way north, I only got a moment’s glance at a single male baltimore oriole. Today though, I got to enjoy them for about 15 minutes. And then, poof, they were gone. I hope they remember to stop here on their way back next spring.
Since coming home from our road trip, I have noticed a marked decrease in my backyard birdie population. I suspected a hawk was the reason. And today, sure enough, while sitting out back I saw one swoop through the backyard scattering the few birds that were at the feeders. Later in the day, the hawk flew in again and perched on an oak across from me for a few minutes. It is huge. I believe this is a juvenile Cooper’s hawk. Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks, both accipiters, are very hard to distinguish from one another. Based on field guidance I’ve read online (e.g., here, here, here and here), the overall size, head shape, tail shape, thick legs, and breast streaking lead me to lean towards a Cooper’s ID. Either way, it’s a beautiful bird, but I wish it would find another yard to terrorize. I miss my abundance of birdies.
I checked out a Purple Martin Party tonight – a spectator event coordinated by the Travis Audubon Society. Every Friday and Saturday night in July, from 8-9:30pm, people gather on the lawn outside the Texas Land & Cattle restaurant to watch tens of thousands of purple martins roost at sunset. These guys are done nesting and breeding and are on their way south to complete the annual migration cycle of life. They tell me that by the end of the month there may be hundreds of thousands of them.
How can one possibly photograph this event? Here is one shot I took, a small portion of the overall scene. Can you count them?
We spent a fun weekend on the lake. Sunday morning, I was greeted by 7 or 8 little barn swallows grooming themselves on the lifelines and jib sheets of the boat next to us. I stole this shot of one in the morning sun. It’s hard to get a good photo of these little ones because they usually dart around and never light on anything close by.
The hummingbird feeders are getting quite a lot of traffic these days. Between the bees, the hummers and the finches, they’ll empty one of these in a day. I had just refilled this feeder and by the time I got back into the house, these two had already stopped for a drink.
Hummingbird Nectar 1 part sugar : 4 parts H2O Bring to a boil for several minutes. Let cool completely. You can refrigerate any extra for a week or so. Probably shouldn’t leave in the feeder for more than a day or two.