Randall Davey Audubon Center, Santa Fe

My husband and I were a little disappointed about only seeing a couple of birds at the Randall Davey Audubon Center in Santa Fe but we went during the hottest part of the day in early May so we weren’t too surprised.

There were numerous finches at the feeder, a gorgeous hawk moth at some flowers, a squirrel keeping busy digging in the dirt, and an unknown bird foraging in the bushes and parking lot.

What makes this place special are of course the volunteers and the beautiful terrain including the hillside trails, and the gorgeous adobe buildings.  And the awesome bee hotel deserves a mention.  I’d like to go back someday when it’s a little cooler, perhaps in the winter when there are more birds around.


Salida, Colorado: Sands Lake SWA

The second part to the amazing May 2017 birding experience I had in Salida, Colorado was Sands Lake State Wildlife Area.  It consists of Sands Lake and a stretch of the Arkansas River – my husband and I spent about an hour walking the lovely trails and walkway along the river.

The lake has had a lot of effort put into it to be bird friendly.  Two islands naturally create a safe atmosphere for waterbirds like pelicans, geese and ducks.  And at least two nesting platforms have been put up, as well as a handful of (floating?) platforms scattered around the lake.

The most exciting sighting of the day was an American Dipper, a first for me.  And I even managed to get a decent shot of it.

We also saw a yellow-rumped warbler, several yellow warblers, cedar waxwings, and tree swallows in areas along the river and lake.  A memorable sighting was the pair of ospreys, one on a nest and the other perched on a light pole nearby.  Below are the rest of the photos.  Hope you get to visit Salida some day!

Salida, Colorado: Frantz Lake & the Arkansas River

Last summer my husband and I were able to take a 3 month trip from Texas to Alaska.  We spent most of our time in New Mexico and Colorado, in May, and both of those states provided some amazing birding.

Salida, Colorado was a birding bonanza:  Frantz Lake along the Arkansas River and the nearby Sands Lake (in the next post).

Frantz Lake is located on county road 154 near the Mt. Shavano Fish Hatchery.  Google Maps has it listed as “Franz” – a different spelling; I took my spelling from the sign at the lake.

County road 154 is a birding spot in itself.  Mountain bluebirds and tree swallows nest in the birdhouses that have been erected along the road.  Canada geese and mule deer abound.  *Click on the first image below and scroll to the right to view a larger image and see captions.*

Frantz Lake itself is a nice little turquoise-tinted reservoir next to the Arkansas River.  Here I found 2 grebes, a western and a pied-billed, common mergansers, and white-faced ibises (a first!).  Along with Canada geese, blackbirds and mallards.

A little ways away, by the Arkansas River, a red-tailed hawk flew overhead and white-crowned sparrows were foraging and flitting around on the dirt trail.

(Some of these images are sized 1920×1080 so can be used for that size monitor, I kept the copyright small.  I like desktop wallpaper with a lot of blank space so it doesn’t feel cluttered and a couple of these photos work well for that.)

It snowed while we were in Salida in the middle of May – it’s at 7000 feet – but that was the day we were leaving and the sun came out just a bit later, so no harm done.  🙂  Thanks for looking!


Raven’s nest in moose antlers

A few years ago I went with my husband up the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay.  We stopped a few different places including a storage yard and former state camp called Happy Valley where I found one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever happened upon… a raven’s nest in a mounted rack of moose antlers with two babies in it!

Wild Turkeys in Hawaii

Wild urkey on the Big Island of Hawaii

There are tons of wild turkeys on the Big Island of Hawaii!  They roam the golf courses and lava rock fields searching for insects, lizards, seeds, berries and anything else that’s edible and relatively small.   It’s a lovely thing to see.

The Wild Turkey evolved in America and was domesticated by Native Americans.  In the early 1500s turkeys domesticated by the Aztecs were taken to Europe and interestingly enough, their descendants were brought back to America by the pilgrims who soon found out their indigenous neighbors were raising them too.

They soon spread to China and in 1788 they were introduced from there to the Hawaiian islands. Over the years, more have been released, whether purposely or not, by ranches and farms and perhaps by people who wanted to hunt them.  Currently you can hunt them on the island along with pheasant, doves, francolin, quail, as well as introduced mammals such as goats, sheep and boar.

Turkeys especially prosper on the Big Island because of it’s dry grassy sloping landscapes, and as you can see, they seem right at home.

An Entwined Zebra Dove

Stage at Ala Moana Mall - Honolulu, HawaiiThe Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu Hawaii is not exactly a birder’s paradise.  If you’ve ever been there Zebra Dove on stage at Ala Moana Mallyou’ve probably seen the stage near the Waikiki side entrance.  On the day of my visit it was draped in red curtains that created a deeply textured vision of color on the floorboards.  Hence the photographs.

Oftentimes birds are there, probably because people feed them.  Mall birds.  Not exactly picturesque herons or majestic bluebirds.  More like zebra doves and rock doves (pigeons).  (Are pigeons, like, flying mall rats?)

But every one of those mall birds are just as worthy and deserving of life as any heron or bluebird.  So it broke my heart when I discovered that this little zebra dove had its legs entangled with some of kind of thread or very thin fibers.  The poor thing managed to walk but its appearance was disheveled, skinny, sickly.  The entanglement was taking its toll.Entwined Zebra Dove  You can see its entwined legs clearly in the silhouette photo on the left (click to enlarge).

I look back at that moment with regret.  I regret that I did not help that bird.  I Zebra Dove on Ala Moana Mall stagecould have found some big gloves and grabbed the bird and cut that twisted piece of twine that was holding it hostage.  That would have at least given it a chance.

As you can see it came right over to me, along with several pigeons, probably looking for a generous person tossing scraps.  It was close enough to me so that I could have done it!

But no, there were no gloves and I am not that gutsy.  Not that spontaneous.  And maybe it’s not a good idea to touch a bird that might be diseased or to take these matters into my own hands.

All I know is, we need to do more for the birds that are affected by our carelessness.

This is what a healthy zebra dove looks like, found right down the street near the Ala Wai Boat Harbor.

Zebra Dove in Waikiki

Raven yanks another raven’s tail

The average adult raven is about 2.5 pounds and it’s hard to tell adults from juveniles.  The below video shows a power struggle between ravens at a food source.  At the very beginning you can see a raven on the far left grab another raven’s tail feathers with his beak and pull him or her away from the food.  Another seems to join in.  (By the way, if the video is blurry find the settings in the bottom right hand corner of the player and change it to a higher resolution.  Youtube automatically chooses a low setting so it will download faster.)

After reading Ravens in Winter, a book by Bernd Heinrich, I’m inclined to believe that the commotion going on in the video has to do with a power struggle (to gain access to the food) between the juvenile birds and the adults.  According to Heinrich, adults are usually silent at carcasses (dead animals in the wild), and juveniles are very noisy.  The juveniles “yell” at kills and make a commotion, possibly to attract more juveniles to the kill, in order to compete with the adults and gain access to the food.

Heinrich “proves” through observation and careful note-taking that ravens actively recruit other ravens to food piles.  He speculates, after studying raven behavior for many years, that this recruitment is not necessarily altruistic, or done in order to get the favor back some day.  Instead, it is probably related more to “gaining or maintaining access to the food than to sharing the wealth.”

Juveniles actively recruit, in order to overwhelm by sheer numbers, the adults at the carcass, so that the adults will give up defending the carcass, which they do when they are just too outnumbered.

So if we can extend this power struggle at carcasses in the field to city food (trash) then it’s possible the squawking raven in the video, the one being pulled from the food by his or her tail feathers, is likely a juvenile, being bossed around by the adults, who are not as vocal.

I strongly encourage any bird lover to read Ravens in Winter.  This bird that I see nearly every day of my life is actually quite mysterious and Heinrich helps us understand their possible and likely motivations.

Thanks for reading!  Happy New Year!