Western Slope Birding in Late Spring

Back to checking out the local birds of the western slope of Colorado.  What I have found since being here is that you never know what … or where … you ‘re going to find our feathered friends.

Case in point, while visiting a local park, we saw a flock of birds arriving at the lake.  I looked and immediately declared (to myself) that these were glossy ibis.  After a quick check for CO birds, I noticed that they don’t get glossy ibis like we did in Florida.  Rather, these were white-faced ibis.  Very similar except for the white colored face … both species though are very beautiful with their iridescent feathers, especially in the light.850_1634Common terns also call my new area home and often seen flying overhead.500_3614One species that we never see in FL (I guess one should never say “never”) are the western grebes.  These birds tend to summer with us and are quite beautiful, especially with that red eye that they possess.850_1653850_1662850_1664850_1667American wigeon taking off across the lake.500_3626Of course, raptors pass through in numbers too.  Take the American kestrel for example … always flying by seemingly in such a hurry.850_1669-EditAlong the water’s edge one can find an assortment of shorebirds, such as this wonderful spotted sandpiper.500_9907Up in the trees, yellow warbler congregate as they flutter in an out of the branches.500_9484Western kingbirds are quite the noisy bunch and difficult to miss when they are present.  500_9872500_9866This male black-headed grosbeak is a routine visitor as well.500_9764While a western kingbird is a type of flycatcher, we also have ash-throated flycatchers.  I just love their head feather crest.500_9689Of course, closer to home, I can always count on the house finch, as well as a variety of other sparrows and finches.  We had so many outdoor cats in our neighborhood in FL, so we never did the bird feeders, but we have here … and also the bird bath fountain, which is a personal favorite of mine to observe.  🙂500_9954Next up:  3 letters … beings with “f” and they get me quite excited when I see them.

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

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My Walden Adventure

So, I had always heard about Walden, CO … a small town in Jackson County.  It’s other claim to fame is the self-proclaimed title of the “Moose Capital of Colorado”, boosting hundreds of them.  I certainly hoped that we would see some moose, but our purpose on this trip was not the moose, but rather an Endangered Species, but more on that in the next blog post.

So off we went, my good friend Amy and I, on our adventure.  It was my first trip there, so I had no idea what to expect.  It was about a 4+ hr drive, but with us, it tends to take longer.  You guessed it … lots to see along the way, therefore lots of photo stops.  LOL

It wasn’t long before we started seeing lots of deer … often crossing the road in front of us, but sometimes just hanging out on the snow covered landscape along the way.

850_1214It wasn’t just the deer either … we came across several groups of wild turkeys.  It was such a cool sight to see this tom turkey chasing one of his ladies.  LOL850_1295-EditThe herds of elk were much more elusive and stayed relatively higher except for a herd that was crossing a field down low.850_1375One of my favorite sightings is a northern harrier (as some of you know) so when I saw these two fly by, soaring over the field, I was thrilled.  Funny, but to me they almost seem to be holding hands … or should I say … wings.  ❤500_9443Other birds witnessed along the way were the ever abundant horned larks …500_9506… and a personal favorite of mine, the American dipper.  500_9410Once we arrived into Walden, we drove around the area to see what we could see.  Canada geese were plentiful everywhere, and it was quite a thrill to see several northern pintails.500_9517In addition to that there were also northern shovelers… so very pretty.500_9782Pied-billed grebes were also plentiful … and they were sporting their breeding plumage.500_9927Then the white pelicans flew in and sort of stole the show.  In Florida, we got our share of white pelicans, as well as brown pelicans, but we never got the white pelicans in their breeding plumage.  See the horn on their bill?  That is present when they are ready to breed and then afterwards they lose them.500_9732The pelicans worked with much effort and speed to feed in the waters.500_9887Probably one of the more interesting observations with these pelicans was the interaction between 3 of them.  One was clearly in the lead and when it would change course, the two immediately following changed course.  The two following would also get quite aggressive with each … challenging and snapping beaks.500_0182Finally, one of the two grabbed the first one by the neck and thrashed it left to right and then eventually straight down into the water, while the other simply watched.  Not sure what that was about … but I have my hunch.  :-O500_0274Later the two were swimming together notably alone.  I just love how for “white birds” they are quite colorful and full of detail.500_0229-Edit-EditDriving down a dirt road, we came across this lovely hawk.  It was calling out repeatedly in what could only be compared to as a red-tailed hawk call.  However, this wasn’t a red-tailed hawk, but rather a Swainson’s hawk.  It was then that I realized how similar their calls sounded.  It was quite persistent too … calling over and over.500_2845During our travels we came across a pair of American kestrels, which I believe might have been beginning to prepare their nest.  The pair were flying around and announcing their territory.  Isn’t the male just gorgeous?500_3470Now one of the star raptors always is the golden eagle and there was no shortage of them.  Quite beautiful in flight as they make their way past us over the landscape.500_3442Being that Tom and I have been doing a lot of raptor observation lately, I knew right away from its field marks, that this was indeed another golden sighting.500_2696Of course, there were a variety of birds spotted throughout the sagebrush landscape.500_3411Some were even showing off for the camera.  🙂500_3387We then headed back to the lake and found several otters playing … of course, they were a bit camera shy and headed out for a more distant view.500_3090We also found muskrats and beavers in an adjoining waterway.  The surface of the water was like glass and as such the beaver’s head had a perfect reflection whether it was coming or going.500_3273500_3292-EditWell you can’t come to Walden and not look for moose, right?  OK, so we did eventually do that, but at first I had to get some beautiful mountain bluebird poses and images.  Is there any prettier bird out there?500_3012So we did finally get our moose sightings … about 5 if I remember correctly.  Early spring  moose are not that exciting, as the bulls have already lost their antlers and re-growth hasn’t started.  Also, they tend to be more secretive and deep into the brush foraging for food.500_2964The sunset was also fabulous and I think, the perfect way to end this blog post.  There was so much seen and photographed.  Too much to include everything in this post, so forgive me for not sharing it all.  Yes, Walden is a magical place.850_1601

Next Up:  The main attraction in Walden … i.e. Why we went.  🙂

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

 

 

A Little Birding By The Lake

One of our local Colorado State Parks is a favorite destination for us to get outdoors, with limited time, and get in some wildlife viewing and photography.  Most times, in the spring, that means birding.

In Florida, we have a year round abundance of osprey.  I was worried that I would miss these beautiful birds, but I haven’t found that to be the case … except of course for the quantities.  In fact, the osprey both spend the summers here in western Colorado and also nest and raise their young here.  Furthermore, the osprey can be found in 49 of the  50 US states!  I really had no idea.500_8139Another bird that is found in almost all states, but here they’re primarily spending their winters, is the merlin.  Interestingly, we found this one in the spring, but with the mild winter that we had perhaps there wasn’t much of a signal that it was time to move on. :-O This one was so beautiful and quite cooperative for the lens.500_9270One of our year-long residents is the American kestrel.  Being one of the smallest raptors (other than several species of owls), the kestrel can often be seen on power lines and poles throughout our neighborhood.  They hunt in the rural fields and nest here as well.500_8282Around the shores of the lake, you can always count on the killdeer.  Easy to spot because of their running around, seemingly at a frantic pace, and also their calling out … also franctic.  LOL.  So beautiful with the red ring in the eye and their lovely markings.500_8451A whole host of other shorebirds share the shoreline with them.500_8640One of my favorite sightings locally this late spring was that of a few eared grebes.  500_8091Fully dressed in their breeding plumage, these two followed each other around the lake, often times mixing it up with the coots and a few western grebes.  The eared grebe is the most abundant grebe in the world.  Another amazing fact about the eared grebes is that they spend 9-10 months of the year essentially flightless … the longest of any bird that has the ability to fly!500_8044That amazing red eye is undeniable … your eye and that of the camera lens gravitates right to it.  Splash in those organge feathers contrasting with it and … oh wow!  With eared grebes, the sexes appear similar.  In the winter, they are much more drab looking.  Lucky for all of us, they emerge into this amazing plumage.500_7890Right behind them in their beauty are the American avocets.  Their grace in flight is unmatched … well, except by perhaps the black-necked stilts.  500_8412These long-legged shorebirds possess that thin, long. slightly upturned beak with black and white feathers patterned on their back and sides, as illustrated above.  The images ahred here are those which are adults in breeding plumage.500_9064They feed in the waters on insects, crustaceans, and invertebrates.  I just love it when they feed or drink in the water, especially when the droplets of water coming from their beaks is captured through the lens.500_9112-Edit-EditWhen we photographed them wading in the shallow waters, some were sleeping, some simply resting otherwise, and then one was just showing off for the lens.  LOL.  I loved the symmetry of this image. ❤500_8342-EditOf course, where there are birds and smaller wildlife … there might also be foxes.  Lucky for us, we spotted this beautiful red fox exploring its surroundings … probably looking for a quick meal.500_9324Yep it’s such a wonderful place to get out and explore and the best part is … you NEVER know what you’re going to find!

Next up:  Let’s go a bit NE of our home … and see what we find.  🙂

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com              www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

February Birds

During the winter in Western Colorado, there are many bird species to photograph.  One of my favorites are the sandhill cranes.  Contrary to the sandhills of Florida, these cranes are primarily transient to the area … and not normally breeding in the immediate area.  We tend to see them by the hundreds, even thousands, in the town of Delta.500_0995There’s something quite special with the sandhill cranes … so long-legged, long necked, and big body, they tend to get a lot of attention when they’re spotted.  That’s even before their calling out as the fly by in pairs, small groups, or in formation overhead.  Though I’m not great at recognizing bird calls or songs, they’re so distinctive that even I know that one immediately.500_1008500_1030500_1043Though Townsend’s solitaire are year-round residents of western Colorado, they sure do look pretty in the winter’s sky and snow.500_1157Plus they are quite inquisitve and give you lots of fun looks.  🙂500_1193Mountain bluebirds are ever-present as well.  Love it when they, like this beautiful male, perch themselves atop trees and give us an unobstructed views.500_0763Closer to home, there are so many American kestrels.  Usually perched on posts or wires, they survey the area around them for the identification of prey.  500_0033Once prey is spotted, they launch into a dive in the general area … or fly out and hover over the land, waiting for the precise moment to score a quite bite.  500_0035500_0040Of course, one of my favorite raptors which I have been thrilled to see almost daily in our rural area are the golden eagles.  I remember my first golden eagle spotting in Denali NP (AK) … I was happy to see them from a distance like this.  Their underwings are quite easily identified during those months when the golden and the bald eagles, including the immature bald eagles, share the same landscape.500_0183-EditNow here in CO, the usual golden eagle sighting, though never a boring or mundane sighting, are more from a distance like this … well, of course, this is cropped somewhat, but you get the picture.  LOL500_0450I know that I’ve shared some of my domestic sheep images, but I truly can’t get enough of these animals.  Guess this one thinks it’s a head above the rest.  😉500_0568Even closer to home, in fact in our back yard, we often find Cooper’s hawks cruising by the “buffet line”, otherwise known as the bird feeders.  They’re pretty keen to its visits by the Cooper’s, but it sure tries to score.500_0668It will perch on our perimeter fence until the right moment, then launch for the buzz by.500_0669Love that I can view this happening in my own back yard … and then across the street to the farmlands when it blends in quickly.500_0670-Edit-EditOn a rare snowy day, our feeders are visited daily by a variety of local birds, ever vigilent for the next fly by.  850_0438I hope that you enjoy my local birds as much as I do.  🙂

Next Up:  A day in the park

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com              www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Winter Raptor Visitors

During the winter, western Colorado is home to many raptors.  Some are residents … some just passing through.  All are fascinating to watch as they go about their business.  The Grand Valley Audubon Society hosts what they refer to as “Tomacanbac” field trips.  It’s sort of a play on words … for the field trip actually originates in Grand Junction and goes to Mack, CO and back.  😉

One of the most prominent raptors soaring through the skies in the winter are the bald eagles.  On an given day, you can look up and find them at various different ages.  One day Tom and I actually visited a local park and found 14 bald eagles!  No overlaps either … we could physically see all 14 at the same time!  Love it.DSC_2488When we’re not seeing bald eagles, it’s the golden eagle which steal the show.  While the balds hang out mostly near the water areas, the golden can be seen perched on top of poles, bluffs, mesas, and of course, soaring in the skies.  DSC_3164In south Florida, our main staple raptor was the red-shouldered hawk.  Not here … in CO it’s pretty much the red-tailed hawk.  They seem to be everywhere.

What a thrill it was to witness an altercation between the golden eagle and a red-tailed hawk, who incidentally was the aggressor.  As the golden was soaring by, out of nowhere came the red-tailed hawk, all ready to get up in the golden’s face.DSC_3157As the red-tail got closer, the golden simply turned to get a glance at it.DSC_3158It changed it’s direction slightly, as if to brush the red-tail off a bit, but it was relentless in its pursuit and kept attacking the golden.  DSC_3159DSC_3160Eventually, the red-tail hawk and the golden eagle parted ways without too much contact, but it’s always so impressive when the smaller raptor attacks the larger, more powerful one.DSC_3016On the other end of the size spectrum is the American kestrel.  It’s also quite common out here, often seen in the farm lands on just about every block.  DSC_3196Other hawks such as the ferruginous hawk are a thrill to see.DSC_3261A personal favorite of mine are the northern harriers … especially the males, know as the “gray ghost” for obvious reason, which are easily distinguished from the darker reddish brown females.  They say you see females to male in ratios of about 4 to 1, but not on these days … they were seen more like 1 to 3 … males rule!DSC_3205One of the coolest, and most cooperative, sightings during the two trips I attended was this one … it remained a big question as to its identity.  Some thought sharp-shinned, while others thought Cooper’s hawk.  After our leader sent these in to the experts, it was determined to be a 1st year Cooper’s hawk.  What a gorgeous and very tolerant bird.500_3405This hawk practically seemed to be working it for the camera … as it it were dropping clues along the way.  LOL500_3370-Edit-EditAnother great sighting was this one … the prairie falcon.  To me, it looks a bit like a larger version of the kestrel, with a single eye stripe.  Since this day, Tom and I have seen them in various locales … always a thrill to observe and photograph.500_3510A bit off subject, we often find these slying about in the overhead skies.  Apparently, these guys land at GJ airport, where they re-fuel, and then make their way to Colorado Springs.DSC_3166So, basically you  never know what you’re going to find in the overhead skies.  Often, it doesn’t even matter if it “should” be there or not.  Can anyone remember when Jacksonville, FL had a visit paid by a SNOWY OWL?  True story.  🙂

Next up:  Other local fun

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com              www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

A Salt Lake City “Layover” Vacation ;-)

What’s one to do when you travel through Salt Lake City, Utah on your way back home?  Well, spend an additional day or two and get out and see the sights while you’re there.  I mean, it’s sort of like 2 vacations!  😉

The first day we spent was a rainy, cold, and cloudy day at Antelope Island, just outside of SLC.  These bison didn’t seem to mind though, and in fact, I think that they rather enjoyed it.  One of them was jumping and kicking as it ran across the landscape.

IMG_6172That night the rain turned into snow and we woke up to a winter wonderland, which I totally appreciated after feeling like I got cheated out of my winter.  🙂IMG_6202The next morning, we came across this frisky skunk running through the frozen field.  Believe it or not, it was my very FIRST LIVE skunk I’ve ever seen in the wild.  So though the images are far from the greatest, I was quite excited.  Let’s just say, the bar for a better shot was set low.  LOLDSC_2120DSC_2132Lots of raptors were out scouting the area for some dining pleasure.  Several of them were the American Kestrel … such a beautiful bird.DSC_2156DSC_1989With the weather clearing in the distance, the views of the snow kissed landscape were incredibly beautiful.IMG_6213IMG_6216By now, most of you who regularly read the blog know that I have a slight infatuation with Northern Harriers.  Maybe it’s because they have that “owl disc” face and I absolutely adore owls.DSC_2305A great blue heron graced us as well as it glided by us … so lovely against the mountain backdrop.DSC_2263Probably my favorite for the day though was this absolutely stunning rough-legged hawk.  We encountered it numerous times, which was just fine with me.  DSC_2343It’s so amazing to me that a raptor of this size could so delicately land and perch on such a small branch.DSC_2358It surveyed the landscape for perhaps some small critters making their way through the snow.  I love how their leg feathers cover all the way down to their feet.DSC_2377Alas, the time was right for the chase to begin as it launched into the air and towards its hunt and prey.  Just look at those awesome wings and markings.DSC_2404So graceful in flight and quite quiet as well in the silence of the winter … off it went.DSC_2408However, there were lots more of the northern harriers passing through and while they generally are not the most cooperative subjects for photography … some may even find them frustrating and annoying for the way they appear to dodge the lens… but this lady gave me a pretty good pass by.DSC_2307Absolutely stunning to me as it flew by us … with the backdrop of the snowy mountains and the frozen grasses beneath it … it was the perfect send off for us.DSC_2425Of course, one of the best sightings was that of the elusive Jen Hall, who was gracious enough to come down to SLC and spend the day with us.  IMG_6226

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com       http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

My Local Everglades National Park

There’s been a lot of talk about #mypark … indicating what national park is your favorite.  Sometimes people choose the park that they find most beautiful … or perhaps the one that they can relate to the most … or even the one geographically closest to them.  It’s a very individual perception and designation.  For me, I would have to say that Katmai NP is “my park”, though I certainly don’t live anywhere near it, though I do absolutely adore the wildlife and landscape of Katmai.  For me, another NP, which is actually closest to me, is Everglades NP.  It’s a place of diverse beauty and landscape … and depending on the season and other environmental factors, its presentation is very different.  Like all of the national parks though, its a fragile habitat and environment, and we need to protect them and the wildlife living in them.  In the case of the Everglades, it’s also critical to our water supply in Florida.  Enough said ….

Usually in the summer, our visits to the Everglades are fairly sparse.  It’s hot, humid, and buggy during the summer.  Sometimes those conditions extend into the other seasons as well.  We did make a few visits in the beginning of winter and found it pleasant … well except for those mosquitoes.

One can find white pelicans there, as this duo shown feeding on the surface of the water near Flamingo.  Brown pelicans can also be found year-round, but these white pelicans are more winter residents.dsc_2003 American avocets are a favorite of mine, especially when they’re in their winter plumage, as this adult female is.  Love their grace as they swim or walk around the shallow water foraging for food.dsc_2760 You can almost always count on the American kettle to make an appearance when visiting, though sometimes they’re more cooperative than others.dsc_3535 Such graceful beauty in flight as they patrol the area for a meal.dsc_2580 Another common resident year-round is the red-shouldered hawk.  They’re quite smart predators too, as we watched this one tagging alongside the riding lawnmower man, taking advantage of the grasses being stirred up, making insects much more accessible.dsc_3324 A variety of hawks, as well as turkey and black vultures, are a sure thing, especially when warm and windy, as they seek out thermals to circle in flight.  dsc_2841 In the Flamingo area of Everglades NP, there are always many osprey found and in the winter, they are generally pairing up through courtship behaviors and nest building.  The adults are always easily identifiable due to their yellow eyes, versus the orange eyes of juveniles.  The female adult also generally adorns a “necklace” across their upper chest.dsc_4173 It’s a blast to watch and photograph them as they fly around … leaving and returning to the nest … as they bring in food and nesting material, as well as defend their nest.  We watched one day as a vulture tried to land in the nest.  Well, that didn’t go over too well, as the occupant of the nest and its mate (from a destination in the distance unknown) went into aggressive modes to defend their nest.dsc_2091 It’s fun to watch as the female gets excited when she sees the male coming in with some dinner.  (Note: the dark mottled “necklace” feathers indicates this one is a female).dsc_2213 What this female didn’t count on was her mate being very defensive with the fresh fish he brought in.  It reminded me of a dog being teased with a toy, as he jumped around and around, keeping an easy pick of the fish away from its mate.  Eventually, it flew off with the fish, which he devoured a bit, then returned with it … finally surrendering it to its mate.dsc_2306 I don’t think that she liked that initial “hoarding” of the food and she screamed at him when he left with it.  LOL
dsc_2120 After she got her share of the meal, I guess that he was forgiven, since they worked on the next generation of osprey.  😉dsc_2481On this particular day, we encountered a bit of a rain shower.  I just loved the way that this male osprey perched itself near the nest, dropped its wing and bowed its head, in an attempt to speed off drying its wings.
dsc_3206 An appropriate end of the day … and the blog … is the appearance of a rainbow, as seen right over the nest of the osprey couple.  I think rainbows are a lucky sign of what’s to come.  Wishing them the best in their nesting endeavors.  🙂_dsc1881Next Up:  More from Everglades NP

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Florida Birding

Florida is known for many things … the sandy beaches, beautiful weather, tropical winds, palm trees … perhaps crowds and traffic too … but also for its birds.  During the winter, there are many birds which migrate through Florida, though there are many year-round residents as well.  Such is the case of the bald eagles.dsc_9526It’s a favorite sighting for me to see the bald eagles (coincidentally the only eagles we have) soaring overhead, building their nests, courting, mating, and raising their young.  Such a symbol instilled into all Americans … representing freedom, power, and respect.dsc_9556dsc_9777Then there’s the substantially smaller American kestrel, which in my opinion, has the personal goal of flying away as soon as you see them or even just slow down the car.  🙂dsc_9754The calling out of the limpkin is loud and pretty much unmistakable.  They are beautiful birds which, like the snail kite, feed on snails, but also on frogs and insects as well.  They are year-round residents of Florida as well.dsc_9789dsc_9992The belted kingfisher is a fabulous, fast, and flighty little bird … who I generally can only capture in the hovering mode.  🙂  Generally speaking, in most of Florida, it migrates here in the winter, so it’s a treat when it’s vacationing.dsc_9820But for me, the story is usually revolving around the eagles.  Here a pair of bald eagles perch near each other and begin calling out together … also an unmistakable sound.dsc_0078dsc_0220As much as I believe that she was asking for it and I was channeling some Barry White music their way, they did not mate while I was cheering them on.  I guess maybe they didn’t want an audience.  🙂dsc_0948It’s not just the mature eagles that pass by, but rather juvenile ones as well.  They have totally a different appearance than the mature ones, most notably the lack of the telltale white head and tail feathers, which they generally don’t possess until 4-5 years old.  There’s something special about them though that intrigues me.  I love their mottled look.dsc_0536dsc_0550One bird that is generally found across the US is the great blue heron.  These birds are large, extremely patient hunters, and very beautiful in flight, courtship, and nest building.  They are year-round residents as well.dsc_0731As the sun goes down, the eagles perched on a sign with the sunset colors in the background, makes a nice photo op.We also have our share of owls.  Here is the great horned owl, which is one of the largest and powerful owls here, but we also have barred, burrowing, and barn as well.  I’m quite an owl fanatic so all owls get photographed.  Have I told you before how obsessed I am with talons?dsc_1155

As the sun begins to set in the distance, it becomes the perfect setting for a silhouette shot of the bald eagle._dsc7988Speaking of colors, this particular night was an explosion of colors … which kept changing as the sun went down.  img_2261As hard as it was to say goodnight on this fabulous shooting location, of course, it was a must eventually.  So yes, Florida is an incredible location, especially in the winter to find birds galore.  Winter is also, my favorite time in Florida.img_2255Next Up:  More Colorado touring

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com