Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Adventures in Southern California

Palm Canyon Campground

 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Monday afternoon we said good-by to Arizona, crossed the Colorado River into California and began a bit of a post-volunteer adventure before heading back to Oregon.  A big factor is the weather, so we are in effect killing some more time in the sunny South-West before attempting the mountain passes.  Our first night's stop was at Lake Tamarisk Desert Resort, a pleasant repeat from last year. It was thirty-five dollars for full hook up.  Strange to hook up to electricity, our first time since December. (Solar is great) On Tuesday we ventured on to the greater Palm Springs area checking out some birding spots before meeting friends Kerry and Debbie Kliever for a night, parking at the Augustine Casino. Birding spots in the Palm Springs area proved to be pretty much a flop.  Most eBird Hot Spots do not allow dogs or are at private clubs and golf courses. A brief look at the eBird Hot Spot map made the area look like a gold mine, but after checking closer, we were ready to move on.  The Augustine Casino however was a winner for both parking and meals. This morning we traveled on to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the town of Borrego Springs. We stopped at the Christmas Circle and made up a bird list as we strolled accross the green lawn.  Next was a list at the Botanical Gardens, followed by lunch in the Serenity before moving on to the Palm Canyon Campground where we are camped next to our friends Dan and Elaine Scott in a dry camping site for twenty-three dollars.  We made another bird list for the campground and then took a nice walk to the Visitor's Center and another list.  No dogs are allowed on the hiking trails, but the nice 3/4 mile paved path between the campground and the Visitor's Center is OK dogs and bicycles and made for a good walk. Buster watched for lizards while we watched for birds. Below are some of the birds I managed to photograph in town and in the park.

Northern Mockingbird


Western Bluebird

Monday, February 26, 2018

Last Day at Cattail Cove State Park

This is our Serenity waiting patiently next to the Cactus Garden this morning, waiting for me to finish  my morning guided bird walk. Today was our last day at Cattail Cove State Park for this season of volunteering.  It has been a very rewarding experience.  In our two months here I have logged 225 volunteer hours, led 40 guided bird walks, plus a half-dozen other un-official hikes and bird walks. Sixty-six different species of birds have been identified in this period, making Cattail Cove State Park the number one eBird Hot Spot of the 76 Hot Spots in Mohave County year-to-date. But even more rewarding have been all the wonderful people we have interacted with.  I've found it very enjoyable to have new people show up each day eager to learn more about the birds to be seen here in the park.  An additional pleasure has been the 15 or so friends and past bird walk participants that have come to attend these bird walks, some to even camp here.  We left today looking forward to returning next year.  Because the weather is not that great back in Oregon yet, we have decided to take a little more circuitous route back catching some warm weather in the vicinity of the Salton Sea. After leaving the park this morning we stopped in Parker for lunch, groceries and fuel, and drove on to Lake Tamarisk Desert Resort where we have a site for the night.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Arroyo De Camino Cactus Garden

Ladder-backed Woodpecker
For our days off this week from our volunteering duty at Cattail Cove State Park, we drove to Lake Havasu City, to meet up with friends, eat out, and grocery shopping. As you might guess, we also did what we like to do the most---go for a bird walk. We are camping in the overflow lot at Lake Havasu State Park, so it was an easy choice to spend some time yesterday afternoon in the Arroyo De Camino Cactus Garden.  We were pleased to be able to say hi to Ray, the ever faithful volunteer and gardian of the garden.  A year around resident of Lake Havasu City, he continues to maintain and improve the paths, benches, and vegetation of the cactus garden.  We enjoyed our time watching a busy Ladder-backed Woodpecker male in his search of larva or something.  Also at least two pair of Verdin were busy gathering twigs to for nest construction.  Both Anna and Costa male hummingbirds were seen. A couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers, some Gambel's Quail, a Say's Phoebe, a Great-tailed Grackle, two Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and two Turkey Vultures, finished off our bird list.  It was a very pleasant time spent in the cactus garden in the sunshine, tucked in out the wind blowing accross Lake Havasu.  Tomorrow brings the start of our final week of leading bird walks at Cattail Cove State Park, and then our migration north begins.   


Friday, February 16, 2018

Common Merganser Looking for Fish

I've learned so much this winter while leading bird walks at Cattail Cove State Park, some things just from daily observations, some things from research, and some things from participants on the bird walk.  This piece of new knowledge came from a participant a few weeks ago.  We were watching a couple of Common Merganser females swimming along the surface of the water with their head partially under water like this photo I took today.  I hadn't given it much thought, but the participant asked if the duck was possibly looking for fish.  The light went on, of course!  As you may notice her head is just under the surface to the point of allowing the eye to see under water.

This photo is taken of the same bird, a mere 10 seconds later after an unsuccessful dive.  I now have a new understanding and appreciation for the times I see this behavior.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Great Basin Whiptail Lizard

This Great Basin Whiptail is the latest addition to the Cascade Ramblings Critters section, a proof positive that I look at other things than just birds all the time.  Buster has taken a shine to lizards, after all there are not that many squirrels here in the desert where we are for him to chase, but he has picked-up on the idea that lizards hang around the creosote bushes, so our walks mean he checks out each creosote bush for lizards. Today he found two of these medium sized lizards out enjoying the sun.  Larger than the Side-blotched Lizards he has found out on the trail, these were along the sidewalk, and lucky for the lizards, or most probably Buster, they were on the other side of a chain link fence.

Monday, February 12, 2018

New Nest Construction

A participant in yesterday's Bird Walk at Cattail Cove State Park showed me an strange nest she had noticed in the north end of the Cactus Garden.  I wasn't sure but thought it was possibly a Verdin nest.  I returned for a second look in the afternoon and discovered a pair of Verdin busy with nest construction.  Taking into account  that they have no hands, only their bill to weave an estimated 2,000 twigs into place, it's a remarkable feat of workmanship.  They build a sphere shaped structure, hollow in the inside, with an entrance on a low corner.  We watched them zoom in and out of this entrance hole as they worked inside and out bringing twigs to strategically put in place to make a strong nest. They will finish by lining the inside with feathers for a soft surface to lay her eggs.  I have been hoping to find an active nest for the past month, but had only been able to find four older sites, so this was a pretty exciting find.  We will be visiting this new nest site with my Bird Walk group daily to monitor the busy activity.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Sneaking Up Behind Us

I am frequently asked if we see any Roadrunners here at Cattail Cove State Park, today we did.  This afternoon while I was in the motor home working on my observation bird list for eBird, Jeanette called to me from outside, "Jim, a Roadrunner!"  I grabbed my camera, slipped into my crocks, and stumbled out the door.  Lucky for me my camera was able to find this Greater Roadrunner climbing up the rocky slope behind the motor home, presumably looking for lizards.  Jeanette and I were both surprised at how quickly he was able to climb up such a steep slope.  Everyday we are amazed here at Cattail Cove at the abundance of wildlife, particular birds, on the water, in the campground, and right here behind our motor home. Click on the photo for an enlarged view.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Progress in the Digital Age

Common Goldeneye (immature male)

The digital age is such a exciting and rewarding time to be involved in birding. Great strides have been made in cameras, enabling even a beginner to take good close-up photos of birds.  The Internet now provides amazing tools to accumulate huge masses of  information on bird populations and migration. A world wide data base called eBird is probably the best example of the use of the Internet to collect and share information.  In the past year they have made it extremely easy to post and share photographs.  My volunteer time here at Cattail Cove State Park has piqued my awareness of the gigantic progress that has been made to birding.  Today, Arizona State Parks installed a link for eBird's Illustrated Checklist at Cattail Cove State Park on the park's web page. You can now look at all the species that have been reported,  bar graphs of the observations, and most importantly photos.  For example by looking at this Illustrated Checklist, and checking on Common Goldeneyes, you can note the latest observation, the bar graph for the times it has been seen, and in this case, photos of adult males, females, and immature males, in order to learn the differences. Click here for the Illustrated Checklist for Cattail Cove State Park.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Update on the Great Horned Owl

On Monday Feb 5th, I decided to take the people on my Bird Walk up to see the owl.  I had people from California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado.  The California people were Mike and Jan Wacker from Chico who had attended my bird walks at Buckskin Mountain years ago, and have continued to stay in contact with us. I wasn't 100% sure the owl would be there, but it was, and everyone was delighted.  I am now some what certain we have a nesting female.  It even appears she has managed to move a rock to the front of the cave.  You can notice the difference by looking at the former post. Perhaps her lower profile suggests she is sitting on eggs. I will continue to update as soon as we are back at Cattail Cove, right now we are taking couple of days off in Parker to bird with John West at Ahakhav Tribal Preserve, see the bird list here,  and shop for groceries.  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Great Horned Owl Quest

Since arriving at our hosting site in the over-flow lot at Cattail Cove State Park a month ago we have been on a quest to see the Great Horned Owl.  We hear an owl, or owls every night at some time between dusk to dawn.  Their hoot-hoot-hoot echos between the canyon walls surrounding our parking lot.  A few days ago a camper here spotted an owl at dusk and six of us got a fleeting glance of several short flights, and I got a very poor quality photo.  Yesterday morning just after 7:00 a hoot- hoot sent us scrambling out of our RV in the early morning darkness and we spotted a profile on the canyon rim from where it was calling, and I got another poor photo, shown below. Then last evening just after 5:00 a faint call prompted Jeanette to make another determined effort to locate the owl.  This time she hit the jack pot and found the owl in a small cave in the above photo.  We at first jumped to the conclusion that this was the nesting female, but when we returned some twenty minutes later to locate a second calling the cave was empty.  Our conclusion is that this was just a day time resting spot for either a male or female.  There is a known nesting site, used in past years on the north canyon wall, but so far we have not seen any activity there. It's getting late in the season so we're not sure what the nesting situation is.  This photographed sighting is a significant event in our quest, but still leaves our search open as we continue to hope for an active nest. As I am finishing this blog at 6:00am I hear a male calling on the cliff to the north and a female answering to the south.  Our quest continues.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Spring on the Colorado River

This singing Black-tailed Gnatcatcher male says it all, spring has sprung on the lower Colorado River. Bird song fills the campground here at Cattail Cove State Park. Birds of all species are pairing up. Males are busy either proclaiming their territory or attempting to attract a female. Today I saw a pair of House Finches inspecting a bird house. Trees and shrubs are greening up. Fremont Cottonwood trees seem to have leafed out over night.  Day time temps are consistently in the low eighties. The daylight is starting to last a little longer in the evening. Spring starts earlier in the South-West, and birds need to get serious about nesting to get it done before the oppressive heat of summer. Migrating birds have a different strategy, they head north to cooler climates to breed and raise their young. I was reminded of that this morning when a huge flock of Canada Geese flew over, headed north.  We are starting our last month of volunteering at Cattail Cove for this season, the time seems to be speeding by, and we too will soon be heading north to enjoy a spring in Oregon.