To describe my lifelong fascination with flight and with creatures that fly I like to echo the words of John James Audubon who in 1839 wrote of himself as "...one who never can cease to admire and to study with zeal and the most heartfelt reverence, the wonderful productions of an Almighty Creator."
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Roadrunner in No-man's land
I didn't see this Roadrunner (My last sighting of one was about 10 years ago in New Mexico) but my son was recently taking a look at the fence between California and Mexico when this one scooted across the open space, oblivious of the divide between the two nations. It brings to mind, once again, the sadness (or you might say "silliness") of the divisions we humans create that keep us from being friendly, or even getting to know our neighbors. A wise man once said, "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise." Maybe a paraphrase could go something like, "Go to the Roadrunner, you fearful and defensive ones; consider his ways..."
This morning near the Willamette River, here in Yamhill Co., the butterflies were putting on a show. I had never before noticed Western Tiger Swallowtails "nectaring" on Common Teasel blossoms, but today there were several. When a native species gets some benefit from an introduced plant, it somehow makes the introduction seem not so bad. The Teasel, I understand, was used in the textile industry for "teasing" wool during the manufacturing process. and was brought here from Europe.
Elegant Tern With a few hours of free time this morning before I had to catch my flight from Orange Co., CA, back to Oregon, I took my son's advice and spent them at Bolsa Chica Bay a few miles north of Huntington Beach. Wow! That was good advice! Thousands of birds were there, most of them Terns. According to the local expert I talked with, there are five species of Terns regularly found there, not including the related Black Skimmer. The Forster's Terns and Elegant Terns were the most numerous, and I also saw quite a few Least Terns. This is definitely a place to which I hope to return when I have more time.
Elegant Tern with food item. Is it a fish or an eel?
Black Skimmer slicing the water in search of food
Black Skimmer from behind
There were also shorebirds at Bolsa Chica, including Short-billed Dowitchers (above), Willets, Marbled Godwits, Whimbrel, a Long-billed Curlew, a few Black-bellied Plover, and distant "peeps" that were either Western or Least Sandpipers. Of course, there were also Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, such as the one below with a small fish. I've never seen or heard of Snowy Egrets with the brownish "smudge" showing in the shoulder area, so I think it might have been oil or dirt of some kind. This bird certainly had the "golden slippers" and the black bill of a Snowy.
Yesterday I found myself on board the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, attending an evening social event following a day of conference workshops. Being attracted more by the sights over the rail than on board, I enjoyed watching the gulls and egrets and herons passing by. Who knew that Brown Pelicans have such a good sense of balance?
The male Anna's Hummingbird that "owns" my backyard flashes some color even on an overcast day. When I played a recording of an Anna's male song and call notes, he didn't appear to notice. However, when I played a recording of a male Rufous Hummingbird, he quickly came in close, and hovered about 6 ft. in front of me, then perched nearby looking me over. I think if I had really been a Rufous male at that moment, I would have been in trouble.
This handsome moth (also in my backyard today) is less striking, but beautiful in its own subtle way. I wish I knew his name.
The male Anna's Hummingbird that has chosen my yard as his own personal turf is having a harder and harder time defending it against other hummers, both Anna's and Rufous. Sometimes he even chooses to perch on the vertical wire just above the feeder, apparently hoping to prevent the others from even getting close to it. Unfortunately for him, he inevitably has to make a dash to defend the other feeder across the yard, and then the chase is on once again.
Today, on the way back from Central Oregon, I stopped in the Ponderosa Pine belt along the eastern slope of the Cascades. Hearing the voices of hungry young woodpeckers in this cavity, I decided to wait and find out who might show up with their lunch. I turned out to be a female White-headed Woodpecker delivering what appeared to be a fat white larval form of some kind of beetle or moth.
This also must be prime time for butterflies, and this Painted Lady stopped to feed on Day Lilies in Bend.
I've found a few Mourning Dove nests in natural situations, such as on horizontal branches of trees and one on top of a flat stump. But this one, on a beam under an overhanging roof at Elmer's House of Pancakes in Salem, Oregon, is the first I've found on a man-made structure. This adult was apparently quite accustomed to people passing just below the nest, and watching from the breakfast table just 10 feet away.