Monday, August 19, 2019

Colorado - Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR

     I've been a bit meh on the blogging. It had been hot, going outside happened but I felt uninspired. PLUS, A raccoon broke into our home (attic) wreaking havoc for a full month (at one point it was even INSIDE our closet), a misogynistic raccoon trapper, working with insurance, learning about raccoons, getting a better trapper, AND between work, trying to get our world together for a vacation that had been in the works for some time. To put it lightly, I was in a state.
     But we did get to go on vacation and it was glorious. We both needed it, even though we very much were volunteering for the bulk of it, we were going to have some time to ourselves, time with family, and it was my birthday and I would get in some Western birds and other wildlife.
     As soon as we got off the plane, it was nearing lunch, so we grabbed a mediocre roadside bite and took off the the Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR which is a stones throw from Denver Airport. It has a lovely visitor center and an 11 mile wildlife drive. I learned I missed burrowing owl season (they are likely still there but earlier, when the grasses are shorter is the easier time to see them and their babies) so I am very glad I saw one in Queens, NY this past spring.
     It was a great start to our trip and a great place to see bison as they manage a herd on the refuge land.

I WAS SO HAPPY TO SEE SO MANY PELICANS!
I only saw around 20 or so, but sometimes folks report 100 or more at a time at some locations nearby!

These are American White Pelicans. They are common out in this part of the country. When one ends up in NY, the crowds go wild. I have yet to spy one in NY.

Up high, they soar with grace. But the landing and that landing gear while not entirely clumsy looks clunky and funny when captured in stills.

That one of the left.... hoping for a good clean landing, not on it.

Still hoping...

Nailed it.

Western meadowlarks (pictured) and Western kingbirds were common sights as most of the habitat is prairie grassland.

Also, extremely plentiful were prairie dogs!!!!
They CRACK. ME. UP!

LOOK AT THIS LOAF!
It's practically sitting on a couch, if P-dogs could have couches.

Ridiculous.

But, important.
The burrows of prairie dogs can provide habitat and refuge for other species, and abandoned tunnels are where you find burrowing owls. So if you love burrowing owls, you love p-dogs.
Also, connected to prairie dogs are black-footed ferrets. Once nearly wiped out to extinction, caotive breeding programs have brought ferrets back. You can see ferrets at the refuge as they have a ferret exhibit but ferrets were introduced back into the refuge in 2015!

We saw a few Swainson's hawks who have a very distinct call. So I heard a call from a parent perched in a tree. And then in the tree next to it we spied this next, with three nearly grown chicks, right next to the drive!

What a motley crew...

A Say's Phoebe was doing well at the visitor's center! Yum!

And that was only one late morning of day one....

Saturday, June 29, 2019

What Willet Do?

     The heat picked up out of nowhere and the bird level is stagnant. Birds are (generally) where they need to be to do what they need to do,  nest and rear their young. So I decided to go the the salt marsh at Plumb Beach and see what is happening down there. I got new walking sandals and needed a good excuse to wade in water. I also still needed a little blue heron, so off I went!
This boat-tailed grackle is not singing. It is hot and trying to cool off. Birds cant sweat, so like dogs, they pant and open mouth breathe.
But boat-tailed grackles do make some pretty trippy sounds!

I like these birds a lot, the males are glossy and purple in the sun, female are a lovely warm rust to cinnamon brown. And they have beautiful long tails. 
Then, I noticed things gathering and looking at me...


Another, from the grasses...
Willets.
What will they do?
Are they planning something?!
I usually don't think much of willets aside from being loud and flighty.

As that thaught crossed my mind, in flew a bird to me. It landed a conservative distance away and just, if a willet could "chip," it made loud chips at me.

Look at those perfect shore bird feet! Partially webbed for perfectly plodding through a muddy habitat.

Willet ended up walking really close to me... I noticed its partner in crime also noisy, but walking away. A distraction? I put it all together and thought I am probably in a space where they do not want me and are likely nesting. So I walked away. Only to have a willet dive bomb me, that was a first!
Who knew a willet would do that! I didn't, with their usually very timid nature, but there was one flying at me, looking me dead in the eyes with much anger in its own.
I left them be.

And then I found the bird I really wanted to see, a little blue heron!
I enjoyed a nice look before a red-winged blackbird dive bombed it and chased it away.

And here is a bearded robber fly. I only see them near the salt marshes. The look terrifying, but are only terrifying if you are another insect that they want to eat.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Summer Solstice

     Friday was the summer solstice. A solid week of rain up until and through Friday morning. I was able to finally get my bike fixed after having been in another crash (long story short, a car hit me, didn't look, I'm okay, bike was beat) and celebrated my bike freedom by riding down to Plumb Beach. Today, I headed out with friends to Nickerson beach, our goal was nesting birds of that area. Oh boy, did we get them!
Greeted at Plumb by one of the best butterflies, the buckeye.

Dashing and flashy!

DRINK YOUR TEA!!!!!!
This Eastern towhee really wants you to hear him, and for you to really drink your tea.

A very out of focus diamondback terrapin.
What was more important was the interaction I had over this turtle. I saw a man petting it, and then corralling it with his foot. So I wen't over said hi, and informed him that the turtle is alright and he could let it be.
He thought it was someones pet.
I told him that this diamondback terrapin is a native turtle and this female was probably investigating a place to possibly nest. We found out we are oddly connected through work and then he was really happy to know I worked at the aquarium.
He thanked me for sharing about the turtle.
Then later, he yelled from across the marsh if he could ask me another question, I looked around and noted I was not alone and said sure - because you know, safety.
With childlike curiosity he asked me about the mammals that live in Gerritsen beach and Marine Park and about what fish live in the water here. He had such a curiosity, nice guy, I hope that turtle could be his gateway animal to exploring the wildlife in our area a bit more closely.

Fiddler crab finding shelter in an ex-chelicerate. 

Blue skies are a relief to see. Straight through gray since Monday.

The boat tailed grackles look great in sunlight. Everything looks great in sunlight.

Who knew....

Beach mockingbirds have a taste for crab!

Yum!
Would you like some clarified butter to dip in?

A least tern hunting with the belt parkway and lamp posts behind it.

Low tide is a buffet for a yellow-crowned night heron! So much crab to go around!

By the looks of that beak, someone is eating good!
And Now.
Nickerson Beach.
Brace yourself for cute babies and far too many photos.
You're welcome.
A teenage piping plover may have brought tears to some of the eyes in our group. And we haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet.

A mild piping plover brawl.
Any brawl by a piping plover seems pretty mild. They are mostly flight than fight.

End with a little piping, but another bird is coming in hot from the left.

None of it was of concern to teenage plover.

While we did not see the stilt sandpiper at the large puddle, the young plover was nice as well as the bathing terns and skimmers.

Now onto some god stuff, the common tern chicks!

Usually the terns are nesting up to the lines drawn by park/conservation staff. But this year, black skimmers were up front. Many fo them resting. I love that they rest just by lying flat-out. This one even made a nice little bowl to lay in.

Like a Sears sibling photo shoot... These little chicks are so ridiculous.

Some are quite brazen.

And some yearn for those days spent in the egg.



We enjoyed 2 gull-billed terns. The common terns did NOT enjoy the gull billed terns as they seemed to cause havoc among the colony members.

Common terns are often soaring in overhead, with a fresh haul from the ocean. This one brought back a pipefish, a close relative of the seahorse.

I CAN DO IT ON MY OWN!

LET. ME. HAVE. IT!

Is big.

MooOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!

PUT NOMS HERE!!!!!

Bye fish.

Osprey with Atlantic Menhaden (bunker). Very fresh fish here.

A special appearance was made by a white-rumped sandpiper.

An even more special appearance was made by this least tern chick.

A very modest meal for a very small bird. Unlike those common terns, least terns know how to select age-appropriate foods.

Also, that least tern revealed us a second chick at the nest!

This piping plover was protecting something very precious. Somethings, that is.
This common tern had a broken wing and can't get around much any other way besides walking. It walked into the wrong place...

A very small piping plover. One of four.

They are so special and so small. They may have induced sobbing among the group.
I mean, how can you not?!

Eating very small snacks.

It's a big world out there. I hope you can blend in and grow up into another sweet piping plover/

We took a quick stop before heading home at the Oceanside Marine Study Area.
This is a baby tree swallow looking for food. Or smiling. Or just wanted to do some human watching, it is a rising hobby among birds world-wide. They are mostly interested in the behavior of humans pointing cylindrical objects in their general direction.

A common tern that sits on the bridge and hunts from it.
Lazy or living its best life?

Only intensified my sunburn looking for this buddy, a salt marsh sparrow!
Good job to Ryan for finding it!

A barn swallow who wanted us to hear its sorrows over being booted off its favorite perch, possibly by one of its kids.

"Empty nest syndrome is hard, and when your kids start talking back, it can break year heart.... but stealing your perch, that's just traumatic." - B. Swallow

They grow up, too fast.
Happy Summer, folks and happy birding!