Close encounter.

Apologies for all the bird pictures of late.   But I’ve had a lot of birding moments since the new year began, so they dominate my thoughts.

This one was sweet.  I visited Pedernales Falls State Park today, which has a wonderful pair of bird blinds.  While I was inside one of the bird blinds, a little ruby-crowned kinglet hit the roof and fell inside the bird blind.  He was stunned, and stuck in a narrow opening in the wall.   I picked him up and set him on the floor.  He eventually got his wits about him again and flew off.

It is rare that I can even lay eyes on these guys long enough to identify them.  So I enjoyed getting an up close look at this little one.  I had my telephoto lens on my Olympus, so I had to take this macro shot with my iphone.  So tiny!

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My modest year.

Birder’s track the number of bird species seen in their lifetime (a life list), and also keep track of those seen in a given year.  Sometimes, a birder sees an incredibly large number of species in a year, which is lauded as a “big year.”  This past year, 2017, was my first year of really paying attention to birds.  I have sought them out, listened to them, tried to lay eyes on them, and have learned much.  And…I am happy to tally 167 species that I have seen in 2017.  Not a big year, really, but a fantastic one in my book.  I can recall where I saw each of these birds this year; some, but not all, captured on film.  I look forward to more birding in 2018.

Here is a pic of a some of my common backyard birds on the fountain today.  Temperatures have been in the 20s for a couple of days.  Since the pump keeps the water moving, it is the only unfrozen source of water in the yard.  I see two female house finches, three male lesser goldfinches, and a female northern cardinal.

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And, there they go.  You have to be quick to capture the birdies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

CBC 2018.

Yesterday, I participated in the 118th annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for an area around the Pedernales River out in the Texas Hill Country.   This was my second time doing it.   The first time, last year, was my first real birding experience and I enjoyed it immensely.   In the year since, I must admit that I have officially caught the birding bug and have many hiked many miles and logged hundreds of hours seeking out and identifying birds.

So, yesterday,  I was a much better birder.  And because of that, I enjoyed it more, and saw some new (for me) birds – aka “lifers.”   Thankfully, while the collective consensus weather forecast was for downpours all day long, it only rained a bit in the morning, and we were left with just fog and humidity for the rest of the day.  We hiked through woods, canyons, river and creek-side trails from about 8AM to 4PM.   Our group logged 40-50 species, most of which I was able to spot in my binoculars.

Yes, the birding was nice, but it is just good for my soul to get out and experience places like this…

A damp and foggy overlook above the Pedernales River:

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A sparrow-laden native prairie on an uplands section:

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There is still time to join in on a CBC in your area – going on through January 5th.  Check out the Audubon website to look for sign ups in your area.

Recycled.

A neighbor gave Monte a pile of natural (i.e., untreated) cedar boards leftover from a deck that he just had installed. We planed them, ripped and cut them down to size; turning them into one hundred or so cedar planks for grilling. 🙂

And, I held out several boards to make a bluebird house.

I found the plan online here. I’ll have to wait until spring to see if an eastern bluebird pair find it and make it home. It’s more likely that the house sparrows will claim it. Stay tuned.

Backyard visitor.

Nearly every day I see a Cooper’s Hawk in the backyard.  I think there is a juvenile and an adult that visit.  I watched this adult in the birdbath on Thanksgiving Day Eve.  It may be a female, as they are larger than a male, and this bird is pretty big.  Not a great quality photo because it was taken through a window, but what a beautiful bird.

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Falling leaves…

We were treated to beautiful autumn color on our trip to Louisville.   One of my favorite songs to get stuck in my head is Nat King Cole singing Autumn Leaves.

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Photo manipulated with Brushstroke iphone app.

Roadtrip!

Since we are (mostly) unencumbered by commitments, we took a road trip over the weekend to Louisville, to attend our niece’s wedding.  We extended it a day or two to squeeze in a couple of additional visits in Indiana and Kentucky before heading back home.   It was a beautiful and heartfelt wedding.  The fall foliage was beautiful.  We were able to play tourist a little bit.  And we are now back home safe and sound.

Mary Anne and Chris did it up right.  We enjoyed the ceremony, the reception and, most importantly, the time spent with family visiting and telling stories and laughing.  Not everyone could be there, and Gene & Jo were sorely missed.

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We visited some wonderful places in Louisville.

The Louisville Stoneware factory got my potter juices flowing:

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The FlameRun glass-works gallery and working studio:

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The Louisville Slugger factory & museum:

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The Big Four pedestrian (former railroad) bridge over the Ohio River:

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And then we popped over to Indiana to visit Charlie & Kathy, and enjoyed the night life and autumn beauty of Madison.

Will Carter and Trisha Gene Brady performed at Red Bicycle Hall.

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This is the amazing view of the Ohio River valley from their living room!

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Then we stopped in the hills outside Bowling Green for a day with Lanny, and I scoped out all the birds I could find.  The bird on the left is a lifer for me – a white-breasted nuthatch; a carolina chickadee on the right.   I do love the birdies!

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Another trip in the books.  It’s also nice to be home  🙂

 

 

Dark.

I took this picture over the weekend while hiking in the nearby greenbelt.  The original is a pretty, bright green and yellow tinged shot looking up through the leaves that are backlit by the sun.

I decided to post in black and white for Halloween, and after just hearing about yet another senseless, mass killing of people, this one in NYC.   Be careful out there.

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New day.

I caught a glimpse of the crescent moon this morning as the sun was coming up behind it.  Only a week ago I was watching the moon rise, just past full, over the desert.  It made me think about how Time passes and Life happens.  The James Taylor song Secret o’Life popped into my head.  Give it a listen here.  Enjoy the day.

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Desert bird report.

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.

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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.

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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.