Saturday, April 30, 2016

Back Yard Birding: A Hooded Oriole Family

Yesterday while sitting in my office working, Christine came over to say there was a large yellow bird in the oasis. (Large I took to mean larger than the many Lesser Goldfinches we have).

So I grabbed my camera and went into the oasis for a look. He had been in one of our mesquite trees but now nowhere to be found. Yet, a few minutes later one of our guests spotted him over by our fan palms. 

I could see right away that it was an immature oriole; maybe Bullocks, maybe Hooded. As I checked Sibley's I found the following statement for the Hooded Oriole: "uncommon in open wooded or brushy habitats, often near fan palms..."

I have photos of about a dozen different Hooded Orioles -- and none on or even near fan palms. Now, here was this oriole in our backyard hanging out on and near fan palms. I figured I had my answer.

An hour or so later I spotted both the adult male and female -- though didn't have my camera with me. 

Here are some of the photos of the young male Hooded Oriole: 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Birds with Fish: Osprey

Since I recently finished a series on Birds with Bugs, I thought a series on Birds with Fish was in order. This topic, however, has become a little more challenging since moving to the Arizona desert in 2002. 

Nonetheless, we start today with the Osprey. 

Osprey distribution is worldwide except for Antarctica. In the western hemisphere they winter in South America and Summer in the Northwest United States and most of Canada. They breed during the summer months throughout their summer range. Obviously, they can be found between these two zones during migration. 

Their diet is almost entirely fish. In fact, it is the only bird of prey that feeds exclusively on fish.

Therefore, ospreys are found near water, either fresh or salt, where large numbers of fish are present. They are commonly found around major coastal estuaries and salt marshes, but also regular around large lakes, reservoirs, rivers. Hence a smaller population in Arizona. Migrating Ospreys are sometimes seen far from water, even over the desert.

They fly slowly over water, pausing to hover when fish are spotted below; if  a fish is close enough to surface, the Osprey plunges feet-first, grasping prey in its talons.

They carry their catch parallel to their own body and head first to keep it aerodynamic (as seen in the first photo).

Their outer toe is reversible so it can grasp with three toes forward and one toe backward or with two toes forward and two toes backward (giving them a more stable grip in flight).

Ospreys typically lay 2 to 4 eggs. Their eggs don't all hatch at once however. It is usually five days between the first and last hatchling. Females stay with the chicks most of the time. The male is responsible for finding food and bringing it to the nest. Ospreys often use the same nest for years. Nests are usually near water where food is present.

Osprey with Trout above Ernst Lake, British Columbia

Osprey Eating Fish at Agua Caliente, Arizona

Osprey with Trout at Lake Chopaka, Washington

Osprey with Fish at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Incinerator Ridge, Mount Lemmon

Since Mount Lemmon is right out our back door, it is where I go when I don't have a lot of time. So yesterday, I made a quick trip up to Incinerator Ridge wondering what I might find this early in the season.  It was a bit windy and cold (49 degrees). No real flocks of birds yet, but with a little patience a few nice birds did present themselves:

American Robin

Hermit Thrush

Red Faced Warbler


Spotted Towhee

Stellar Jay

Western Bluebird

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Birding Madera Canyon

Wednesday and Friday of this past week I got a chance to bird Madera Canyon. Wasn't the best time of day 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Both days I started at the Whitehouse Picnic area and hiked up the trail to the Amphitheatre (about a mile each way).

Nothing unusual, but some nice photos:

Bridled Titmouse

Dusky Capped Flycatchder

Hepatic Tanager

Plumbeous Vireo
Acorn Woodpecker
Arizona Woodpecker
Black Throated Gray Warbler
Mexican Jay
Western Wood Pewee
White Tailed Deer

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Brown Creeper and Painted Redstart

After finding and photographing the Olive Warbler at the Alder Picnic Area on Mount Lemmon, I decided to check out Incinerator Ridge -- a favorite birding spot just down a bit from the Alder Picnic Area.

While I didn't find anything unusual I did get two photos that I really liked. The first is a Brown Creeper. It is the composition here that sets it apart; the moss on the tree and the wreath-like arch encircling the bird.

Brown Creeper
Although plentiful on Incinerator Ridge, this particular Painted Redstart stopped foraging for a few moments to ensure that I got a nice, crisp, detailed photo:
Painted Redstart

Friday, April 22, 2016

Olive Warbler - Mount Lemmon

The Olive Warbler is rare to the United States. It's range is limited to southeast Arizona in the US and central Mexico. It prefers the tops of ponderosa pine, though it will sometimes visit other pines and firs -- above 7,000 feet. Given its limited range and habitat, not as much is known of this little warbler. It primarily eats insects gleaned from the pine trees by creeping over the branches, twigs, and needle clusters. It  sometimes can be found in flocks with other warblers, titmice, and nuthatches, though higher up in the trees. It nests high in the pines usually 15 - 20 feet out from the trunk.

After successfully finding the male Olive Warbler last week, I decided to go back up Mount Lemmon and see if I could get a better photo. The spot was the Alder Picnic area at 8,000 feet atop Mount Lemmon. As soon as I arrived I heard this little warbler. It took about 20 minutes to find him, but he was quite agreeable. Here are some of the photos I took: 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bug Eating Birds: Western Tanager

NOTE: Today a new Country has visited this blog:    Kyrgyzstan.  

That is the 127th country that has entered The Azure Gate Blogspot over the past 7 years. We welcome them and hope they enjoy what they see/read. I remain amazed that, that despite their differences, people all over the world are interested in Nature. 

Western Tanager

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Birding Mount Lemmon, Arizona

I got a chance to bird Mount Lemmon with some dear guests and friends on Tuesday (April 11, 2016). Our target birds were the Olive Warbler and the Buff Breasted Flycatcher. Despite the snow still covering the ground, and the 38 degree temperature when we arrived at Inspiration Point, it was quite "birdy." Flocks of Western Bluebirds, Pygmy Nuthatches, Yellow Rumped Warblers; Red Shafted Northern Flickers chasing each other. Oh, and yes on both the Olive Warbler and the Buff Breasted Flycatcher. Here are some photos from the day:

Buff Breasted Flycatcher

Downy Woodpecker

Olive Warbler

Pygmy Nuthatch

Female Red Shafted Northern Flicker

Spotted Towhee

Western Bluebird Male

Monday, April 11, 2016

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

Not So Rare Visitor: Young Bobcat

A young -- probably born last April, Bobcat has been coming around for guests to see. I was sitting in my office at about 6:30 am when I noticed him walk by. I grabbed my camera took a couple of photos of him in the parking area and then up on his favorite wall: