Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunset Drive

When I used to drive a safari vehicle, it was roofless, windowless and doorless. Needless to say it gave my clients wonderful, all round views of all the creatures and scenery. It is, of course a tough act to follow.
My best birding buddy Kathie's husband Gus has a very special baby. It is his pride and joy, so I felt very honoured when he agreed to take Kathie and I for a sunset drive in Saguaro NP East in a rather splendid 'safari vehicle.'

 This snarling, gleaming, black beast was woefully under used pootling along at a couple of miles an hour whilst Kathie and I ooooh'd and aaaah'd over the dozens of nighthawks swooping overhead and listened to the Purple Martins warbling song as dusk fell. But my goodness we were riding in style!

As the sun began to set it started to throw a beautiful golden glow over the land.

It just got more and more dramatic each minute.

Even after the gleaming orb slid below the horizon.

No matter which direction we looked in, the sky was a glorious palette of spectacular colours.

And, as if the sun and the skies weren't putting on a dramatic enough show. A wonderful cloud creature reared up from behind the mountains.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

So Close And Yet..................

When I started my other blog I made one simple rule, if it doesn't occur on our land it doesn't go on the blog. There have been several times when I have been tempted to cheat but I have managed (so far) to stick to my rule :)
Often in the evening after we have watched the sun set we walk down our driveway and stroll round the neighbourhood. As it starts to get dark it is always intriguing to see what appears. There seems to be a fairly regular Bobcat but I have never yet managed to get a photo of it. Other creatures are equally elusive.

Some creatures announce their presence from on high, like this Cactus Wren.

 Whilst others I have to look very hard for and follow their calls to their parents.

Others are quiet and extremely well camouflaged, toning perfectly with the desert colours.

One thing I am always on the look-out for is snakes. They love to slither onto the warm asphalt which provides great photo opportunities.  This juvenile Western Diamondback was barely a foot and a half long with a little button rather than a rattle on the tip of its tail.

 But what a handsome little chap!

I also have to sometimes act as traffic controller. Standing with the snake waving my flashlight to ensure the snake doesn't get run over. I was happy to ensure that this Long-nosed Snake got safely across the road.

All very close to home but not quite close enough for my one simple rule.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

After the Storm

We recently took a trip to New Jersey to visit my husbands family. He grew up on the west side of the Atlantic and I grew up on the other side of it so we both have a great fondness for the sea.

 First priority upon arrival, a walk on the beach. To a Brit the concept of restricted access to a beach is a totally bizarre thing but luckily for me we were there before Memorial Day so the restrictions were not yet in place. We had had a big storm the night before so on the first morning there was still a strong wind and a good sea running, although I have to say this would classify as a calm day on the other side of the pond! I love walking along the sand seeing what has been washed up by the tide - that's another weird thing, the tide drop here is a matter of inches, where I grew up it is 20+ feet! so walking the tide line here is essentially walking along the sea edge.

There were a few gulls that viewed me with vague interest, just incase I had anything to eat but soon realised I was a lost cause and took to the wing.

This little Bonaparte's Gull found his own breakfast, fresh from the sea.

After blowing away the cobwebs we said goodbye to the sea and headed off for various family gatherings.
Next day was a whole different picture, clear blue skies and bright sunshine with that brilliant light level so unique to being beside the sea.

There were some odd creatures hopping about on the rocks too!

Scars from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy were still evident in places.

But it was obvious that a huge amount of work had been done and it was still ongoing. Where we were staying the entire boardwalk had been destroyed but reconstruction was well on it's way. The rush being on to get it finished before Memorial Day in order to keep control of people entering the beach!!

Whilst walking along the seafront we encountered this gaggle of geese out for a stroll, Brants I think. They were enjoying the day just as much as everyone else it seemed and were quite unperturbed by all the people around them.

Last stop was the boardwalk at Point Pleasant so that my husband could revisit his mis-spent youth. This area had been devastated by the hurricane but the reconstruction was pretty much complete and everyone was out enjoying the day.

Next time we visit the ocean, next month, we will be on the other side of it and there will be no boardwalks and free access to all the beaches!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Morning of Mixed Fortunes

We decided that we weren't up for rushing round chasing birds, we just wanted a quiet, peaceful morning in the park. Kathie knew just the spot - Javalina Picnic Area in Saguaro NP East. I managed to tear my husband away from his computer to go for a hike too so, although I'm not into 'stones at birds', we were definitely 'killing two' in this case :) I waved off my intrepid hiker on his trek and then we settled ourselves in the shade with our tea, bins, cameras, bird books and breakfast.

The birds were actually remarkably quiet early on so we sat chatting and watching the antics of a very sweet Antelope Squirrel who was definitely used to getting snacks from people at these tables.

Soon our peace was shattered by my phone, it was my husband calling to see if we could see him up on the ridge. What is it about guys? They need to be seen conquering things? Bless them! Anyway we trained our binoculars along the ridge and finally spotted a tiny figuring toiling away up high. Having satisfied him that we could see him, we turned back to our birds.

First on parade were the comical Gambell's Quail, chattering and fussing away as they pottered down the trail. Unusually they flew up into a small tree and began pecking. We couldn't quite tell if they were eating the leaf buds or little bugs on the leaves but whatever it was they were certainly enjoying it.

They were followed by a very handsome male Cardinal who posed obligingly for us before flying off.

Our little Antelope Squirrel soon came back and we eventually folded and gave her a cashew nut, which seemed to meet with her approval. Look at that beautiful lichen on the rock that she chose as her dining table.

A little black butterfly came in to land and I managed to get a photo of it which is a surprise in itself, usually I get a blurry blob! When I looked closer at the picture I noticed that it wasn't just a black butterfly, it had a yellow head! I found out later by pouring over my books that it is a Golden-headed Scallopwing.

The birds were not being very active but it was a lovely morning to just be outside and enjoy our surroundings.

After another half an hour or so we decided to walk a nearby loop, it was only a mile long and Kathie knew there was a spot where Great-horned Owls were known to nest. How cool would that be if we could spot them?

We set out down the trail and were soon spotting birds like this Black-throated Sparrow

And a beautiful pair of Kestrels perched up high atop of Saguaros on either side of the trail

Many of the plants were blooming too which just added to the beautiful morning

Unfortunately at this point things went a little awry when Kathie trod on a stone which moved under her foot and sent her crashing to the ground. I turned round just as she cried out and landed at my feet. I have to say, if this had been me I would have been bawling my eyes out at this point but Kathie was more concerned about her camera - seriously! I suggested we went back to the car but Kathie wasn't about to give up on the day. We sat quietly for a while whilst I tried to patch up her leg and hand that were very badly gashed up. The little band aids really weren't man enough for the job but I did my best. She was soon up and on the go again, ever watchful for more birds. I suspect that adrenaline was keeping her going as this fall would later lay her low for several days. 

We finished the loop, adding several more species to our list, including the nesting Great-horned Owls and then Kathie dropped me back at the picnic area before heading home to clean up her wounds. By now it had started to warm up a little and my little furry friend was stretched out in the shade keeping cool.

As soon as Kathie left, a species that we had been expecting to see put in an appearance. A pair of Canyon Towhee scratching around in the dirt. But they didn't stay long and I barely got one photo off.

Soon a Thrasher appeared to check up on me. I felt as though I should stand to attention and salute or something under that ferocious glare!

Someone else also wanted to see what I was doing and she was prepared to get really 'up close and personal' to check me out.

I don't think I have ever had such a close encounter with a female Cardinal. She seemed just as intrigued by me as I was by her. It was a very magical moment.

Determined not to be outdone, the Antelope Ground Squirrel continued her impossibly cute antics. I was beginning to feel as if I was in the midst of a Disney movie!

But all good things must come to an end and soon enough 'the rambling man' appeared hot and thirsty and very happy after a good hike. It was time to bid all the animals goodbye and head back home.

We had a lovely morning, apart from Kathie's nasty fall and for those of you who don't follow her blogs (and you really should) she is being very sensible, taking things slowly and making a good recovery. You can't keep a good birder down for long!!