Hummingbird Springs

Druid gets into it.
Druid gets into it. Elvis says, “no thanks.”

Yesterday I went out with Peg Abbott of Naturalist Journeys on an all day birding adventures. Four of us birded from down in the South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon at about 4,800′ up to the heights of Rustler Park at about 8,500′.  The Chiricahua Mountains are rich with a wide array of bird life and the species change as elevation changes. We traveled by car but took several mile to two mile walks looking for a few harder to find species. By the end of the day I was worn out but it was worth it. We saw a lot of great things.

First up were two different owls. In one spot we saw the Northern Pygmy Owl and in another nearby location we saw the Whiskered Screech Owl. The Whiskered Screech Owl is a Mexican bird and only has a small range in the U.S. so this was a rare find. You can see its picture below. I took that with an iPhone through a spotting scope. That is one very well camouflaged bird. After a short drive we did some more road birding and found a bunch of things. Most interesting to me was a pair of nesting Painted Redstarts. These birds nest underground and we spied them working on their nest.

Up high on the crest of the Chiricahuas we looked for an Olive Warbler. It took  a couple of stops and some walking and waiting but we were rewarded with an up close eye to eye visit by this spectacular and tiny bird. The Olive Warbler feeds and nests in a yellowy orange mistletoe found up high. The face of the bird is the same color as the mistletoe. I have no picture. You can see it HERE.

We also traipsed and meandered looking for the Red-Faced Warbler but we had no luck. Instead we found a ton of Yellow Eyed Juncos and American Robins. On our way home, foot weary and hungry, we ran into a small group of turkeys. The Tom was in full spring display mode and waltzed around gobbling like R2D2 chasing after his hoped for lady friends. My birding companions said the best part of the day was watching me go bonkers for the turkeys. I had my hand out the sun roof on my iPhone while it played a gobble to keep the male roused and randy. I squealed with delight as he fanned his tail feathers and strutted about with his glossy blue head and red chin. I do love them so. HERE is what they look like. One of my companions got some great shots. I hope to post them here soon. I left my camera in the car all day so I could practice my binocular and identification skills. Getting your bins up to your eyes in time to see a fast moving warbler takes practice. I have particularly poor aim and have to reorient myself over and over again. By the time I find the spot the bird has moved on. But practice makes perfect and I did see some improvement. The secret is to never take your eyes off he spot as you raise the binoculars. It’s harder than it sounds.

Later that evening I collapsed. Today I headed out for a short hike with the Portal Rodeo Hiking Club. Two days of intense activity in a row has me half asleep now. Our six person, four dog group hiked to Humming Bird Springs on the east flank of false Portal Peak. It was an easy 2 hour walk there and back. The ocotillo are in full bloom thanks to a wettish winter and some rain a few days ago. Despite my weariness it is great to be back out hiking with friends and seeing all the natural diversity Portal has to offer. On the way home I saw this large yellowy velvet ant. Remember the velvet ants is really a mite. The largest mite in the world. This one was running and would not agree to pose.

Pat and Marcia pick out the spot for the group photo.
Pat and Marsha pick out the spot for the group photo.
Ocotillo in bloom.
Ocotillo in bloom.
The biggest velvet ant I've seen. Not really an ant.
The biggest velvet ant I’ve seen. Not really an ant.
Whiskered Screech owl on its nest.
Whiskered Screech owl on its nest.
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Feliz Pascuas

Las flores salgan de los cardones. The cardon cactii are in bloom.
Las flores salgan de los cardones. The cardon cactii are in bloom.

Happy Easter, everyone. The Easter bunny does not cross the border to deliver eggs and candy in Mexico. Easter here retains its strong ties to the traditions of Spain and the Roman Catholic Church. So there are bloody pageant plays in the streets and church services and family gatherings. But in Mexico it is also a time of massive family outings to the beach. Hordes of humanity flee their everyday life and pitch tents on beaches all over the country. Not much work gets done during Semana Santa.

In the Easter spirit I have posted a picture of the bird of peace. The common ground dove. This dove species makes daily excursions in our yard. The dogs ignore it entirely as it wanders around grazing on ants and seeds. The doves also ignore the dogs and amble quite closely to both Olive and Elvis. Meanwhile I cannot be in the yard at the same time as these birds. The doves do not tolerate humans. These pictures were taken from the gNash using a telephoto lens. So there’s peace on earth between doves and dogs but not between humans and doves. Smart doves.

The cactus flower shot was captured from ground level looking up at a 20′ high cardon. This was also with telephoto. That’s why there is a very shallow depth of field. These flowers attract bats and bugs and birds but the activity is hard to see because it’s far overhead. There is not actual flower in the picture here. There are buds about to open and flowers turning into the fruit. I’ve got my eyes peeled and my telephoto on and I hope to capture some blooms soon.

Ground doves.
Ground doves.
Ground Dove
Ground Dove
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More Birds

A pair of Scott's Orioles.
A pair of Scott’s Orioles.

A pitch of Orioles have arrived and two of them are using our fence to get around. Orioles are monogamous and this male female pair enjoyed their morning feed together. The Scott’s Oriole is a fantastic singer. They must have heard about the rumpus room song sessions.

Speaking of singing, our weekend event is being promoted on the radio and the Gypsy Carpenters have leaped off the silver screen and onto the magic airwaves. At least our name has. The substance behind the name, our music and images, remain unheard and unseen. We’re sneaking up on secret cult phenomenon. These things are delicate and can’t be rushed.

Like my new hat?
Like my new hat?
Female above, male below.
Female above, male below.
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Gilded Flickers are in Town

The upper bird seemed to be doing a mating display or merely grooming. I could not determine. The lower bird was uninterested.
The upper bird seemed to be doing a mating display or merely grooming. I could not determine. The lower bird was uninterested.

Our aloe are attracting more birds everyday. Yesterday the gilded flickers stopped by for a sample. I found the flickers entertaining because they use the fence to walk from plant to plant rather than fly. I saw my first flicker in Montana. It happened to be injured and stuck on the ground. We carried it off to the bird therapist and never heard from it again. Some birds are like that. That was not a gilded flicker but a northern flicker. They differ in the under wing color and habitat.

Here in Baja these birds carve nest cavities in the ginormous cardon cactus. The cactus could seep out water and meet its demise from these holes but instead they secret sap and the sap hardens and makes a little room for the birds. How sweet is that? Maybe our possibly preening bird below is cleaning wet sap off its feathers?

Check out that face,
Check out that face,
Look at my pretty wing. That's how you can tell I'm gilded and not a northern. That and the habitat.
Look at my pretty wing. That’s how you can tell I’m gilded and not a northern. That and the habitat.
Alas, poor Yorick. Our gilded flicker wonders what happened to this pelican,
Alas, poor Yorick. Our gilded flicker wonders what happened to this pelican,
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Birdies

Male hooded oriole taking in the view from our fence.
Male hooded oriole taking in the view from our fence.

The aloe is in full bloom all around and the orioles are here having a grand time hooking up and eating to their fill. I have an oriole specific feeder full of sugar water but so far only ants, bees, hummingbirds and butterflies have used it. The orioles prefer their native food source.  In this part of Baja both Bullock’s Oriole and the Hooded Oriole can be found. Orioles are part of the blackbird family and like most blackbirds they have a rich song. A friend recently saw a yellow headed blackbird kill another yellow headed blackbird in a mating dispute. We’ve seen some fights around here but nothing close to lethal. Perhaps the yellow heads are the hot heads of the blackbird family.

Spanish class is calling. Gotta go.

 

Female on aloe.
Female on aloe.
Female sticks her nose into the aloe. It looks like they were designed for each other.
Female sticks her nose into the aloe. It looks like they were designed for each other.
The male protecting his yard.
The male protecting his yard.
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