Sunday, January 6, 2019

Coyote Pair (non-bird story)

Coyotes are cautious.

I'm not sure this pair saw me, but they certainly heard my shutter click. This is our backyard. More precisely, three doors down. The neighbors put out water beyond the steel fence and the coyotes come to drink daily. The neighborhood domestic dogs alert me to their comings and goings and I'm happy for that.

Coyotes move silently and secretly, so a dog barking is my only announcement of a coyote arrival.

They are territorial and marking territory is customary, if only a few yards beyond the fence.

It's a telltale message of who's-who and what's-what and where the line is drawn.

Eventually she sees me and shifts away. I'm only a slight diversion on her way through. Knowing where the clicking sound is coming from assures her there is no danger.

She continues along the game trail leading north and back into the security of the Big Wash.

One doesn't often see coyotes in the daytime, mainly because they see you first. It's that way for most species. If they flush, flee or fly, it was because YOU were discovered first.

With humans being the top predator on earth, coyotes have far more to fear from us than we do from them.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Cooper's Hawk

A loud 'thud' alerts me to the surprise attack of a Cooper's Hawk. The low-flying Cooper's Hawk is targeting Mourning Doves feeding late one afternoon.

Panicked, one Mourning Dove flies into the sky's reflection on our patio window. Striking it, the dove is stunned, but unhurt and gets away. 

The hawk ends the chase and comes to rest on the patio railing.

Catching his balance on the slick railing is challenging though.

He searches for a firm grip along the railing... none found.

It's all slippery!

When he's just about to lose it and tumble over the side, he catches his balance again.

OK, now it's working! But this hunt is over. He might as well move on.

Surprise is the Cooper's Hawk only chance of catching a meal and he certainly WAS a surprise to the doves, just not surprising enough.

Sill, he's surprisingly elegant in his many profiles.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Last night's frost put a curl in the bougainvillea leaves, but the Broad-billed Hummingbirds survived just fine.

The warm morning sun jolts the Broad-billed Hummingbirds into the day's activities.

Winter is a time for little more than staying alive. Resting and waiting for spring is the most one can expect of a hummingbird in winter.

Nectar means survival.

Guarding their food source is the primary goal. This Broad-billed Hummingbird seems well equipped to protect what he claims as his.

Birds are often named for a noteworthy feature of their being. In the Broad-billed's case I would assume it's his broad red and black bill. Other species of hummingbirds have more slender bills.

Spotting an intruder in his territory, he's off to defend.

This juvenile male has been hanging around the feeders and sipping nectar, whenever he could get away with it.

The gleaming Broad-billed male tolerated some nectar sipping by the juvenile, so this one may be related to him.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

It could be that or maybe he's just tired of constantly springing into action at every trespass.

Really, there is plenty for everyone.

Still, if they all shared and got along peacefully, they wouldn't be hummingbirds... would they?


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds

Thursday, December 27, 2018


The natural hummingbird food sources are running low at this time of the year. If your flowers haven't experienced a frost so far, more than likely, frost is on the way soon.

This Broad-billed Hummingbird inspects every flower and moves on quickly, so I believe he's getting very little nectar for his efforts.

He gleams in the rare afternoon overcast of Oro Valley, Arizona.

If you already have hummingbirds or would like to attract them, now is a good time to supplement their dwindling food supply. 

If you start a hummingbird feeding program, please continue it until spring when their natural food returns.

The recipe is simple. 4 cups of water to 1 cup plain white sugar... heat, stir, cool and fill the feeder of your choice.

Place the feeder near a window for your enjoyment. They'll usually return every 10 minutes for a drink. If you have more than one hummingbird, they appear in rotation.

Just be aware hummingbirds are notorious squabblers. They get very defensive of their food sources.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

This Costa's Hummingbird is one of three species of hummingbirds we get here. Different locations get different species. Arizona boasts of 15 different hummingbird species throughout the State.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds

Monday, December 10, 2018

American Kestrel

I like to believe this American Kestrel was proudly showing me his latest catch, but I may be wrong about that.
Rather, he seemed unimpressed and untroubled by my presence just below the roadside power line.

That's a good thing.

The zebra-tailed lizard in his mouth was past showing any emotion.

American Kestrels are commonly seen hunting from utility wires. Predictably though, they'll fly away as your car approaches. This is a female and she's ready to departure any second now.

She did. She circled around only to come back to the same spot when I passed.

You'll occasionally see these small falcons flapping against the wind over an open field. They're flying in place to watch for movement in the grass below.

American Kestrels eat grasshoppers, small mammals, and now I can say for certainty... lizards.

This zebra-tailed lizard must have been tasty throughout, all the way down to its zebra striped tail, as that's all that's left now.

One medium lizard is a generous meal for this dove-sized falcon.   

Being the smallest member of the falcon family, it serves the little falcon well to remain alert to danger. Several species of hawks, barn owls and crows prey on the American Kestrel.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds

Friday, November 30, 2018

Northern Cardinal southwest (diseased)

A Northern Cardinal (southwest) lands on a chair in our back yard. He looks to be carrying a stick in his bill. It doesn't look right though.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

There is a large growth on his lower bill and another on his right eye. He is active and agile... not seeming to be affected by whatever that is.

A quick Google search and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology describe it as Avian Pox:

Two forms of avian pox exist. In the more common form, wart-like growths appear on the featherless areas of the body, such as around the eye, the base of the bill, and on the legs and feet. In the second form, plaques develop on the mucous membrane of the mouth, throat, trachea, and lungs resulting in impaired breathing and difficulty feeding.

I have no experience or knowledge of avian diseases and I can't claim this is even avian pox, but it is likely to be that condition.

To avoid spreading this disease, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology suggests cleaning you feeders regularly as noted here:

If a sick bird comes to your feeder, minimize the risk of infecting other birds by cleaning your feeder area thoroughly. If you see several sick birds, take down all your feeders for at least a week to give the birds a chance to disperse. Remember that prevention is the key to avoiding the spread of disease. Regularly clean your feeders even when there are no signs of disease.


Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Red-tailed Hawk (Close Encounter)

A sharply-focused and single-minded Red-tailed Hawk plunges to the ground. Something moved in the grass below and he's on it.

I imagine, if viewed from above, a mouse moving on the ground would be fairly easy to see, but catching it will take some expertise.

He's not flying now, he's dropping like a rock.
Spinning 180 degrees squares him to the target.

He halts to a brief hover, then drops into the hip-high grass.

I'm calling this bird a 'he',' but I really don't know the gender. He's a small juvenile Red-tailed Hawk... evident in his feather pattern and markings. And typically, the male red-tails are smaller than the female.

This brief 2-second event ended with his prey getting away.

He too, wasted little time getting away. But 'away' wasn't far. He flew, fast and low, past me to land atop a railroading relic of the Ozaukee Interurban Trail in Mequon.

Surprisingly, this was a very approachable bird.

As I walked slowly and quietly to the next pole, he paid me little to no attention. He barely looked in my direction. His focus was on mice.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

The Ozaukee Interurban is a multi-use trail for hikers, bikers and other non-motorized people like dog walkers. This may account for his lack of skittishness and acceptance of me.

Here he's diving on a mouse he managed to capture 30 feet in front of me.

One little mouse was just a snack for this growing youngster.  But it was his mouse, so he carefully scanned the sky checking for any others who would steal it.

He gulped it down in a blink.

To get an eye level Close-Encounters-of-the-Red-tailed-Kind is a rare treat. He even gave me this
10-foot, fly-by parting shot as an acknowledgment... I wasn't disturbing him.

I was delighted to be so trusted.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds