Eastern Sierra Birds – part 2

July 11, 2015 at 4:01 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) ()

Black-throated sparrow

Black-throated sparrow

Toward the end of our birding trip we learned that our leader Bob Barnes had been instrumental in saving a lot of land in the Kern River area as designated wilderness.  Here we are below standing next to the boundary sign; Bob is to the immediate left of the sign.

Despite opinions to the contrary, we birders are a pretty sane bunch.  Missing:  me and Lynne.

Despite opinions to the contrary, we birders are a pretty sane bunch. Missing: me and Lynne.

Our wanderings took us to habitats in the high mountains, old-growth forests, chaparral, and the Mojave desert.  The birds of prey tended to be in campgrounds or suburbia, oddly enough.

Long-eared owl blinking

Long-eared owl blinking

This long-eared owl was part of a community of owls long known to be nesting at a cemetery in Ridgecrest.  It is panting because it was pretty hot.  I think its nictitating membranes look a bit odd in that they move at an angle across the eyes, rather than up and down or strictly sideways..

Juvenile Cooper's hawk

Juvenile Cooper’s hawk

John Schmitt took us to a Cooper’s hawk nest in a campground, with half-grown babes still in or near the nest.  A parent watches nearby as we “ooh” and “aah.”

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

We saw a beautiful and brilliant yellow Scott’s oriole at quite a distance, but I did get close enough to these two orioles for a recognizable photo.

Bullock's oriole male

Bullock’s oriole male

We learned that the hooded oriole is named not for having a hood (which it does NOT), but for the way its basket nest is built, sheltered over the top with a leaf such as this guy’s in a palm tree.

Hooded oriole male

Hooded oriole male

A pair of California quail were nearby. Below is the male.

California quail

California quail

I think I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves now.

Western scrub jay

Western scrub jay

Lark sparrow

Lark sparrow

Thick-billed fox sparrow

Thick-billed fox sparrow

Thick-billed fox sparrow

Thick-billed fox sparrow

Loggerhead shrike

Loggerhead shrike

Lesser goldfinch

Lesser goldfinch

Peckings of a red-breasted sapsucker

Peckings of a red-breasted sapsucker

Crissal thrasher at Louise's sanctuary.

LeConte’s thrasher at Louise’s sanctuary.

Our last stop was to a private sanctuary of sorts at the home of a woman named Louise.  She has converted her entire living room over to growing mealworms for the LeConte’s thrashers.  I grew some for my bluebirds in Maine, but that was just one tiny box.  She is even keeping notes on them to develop good beetle genetics, so as to make more and better larvae (the mealworms.)  She also gave us cuttings from her lifesaver cactus, which makes flowers that look they have a lifesaver in the middle.

LeConte's thrasher singing

LeConte’s thrasher singing

Townsend's solitaire

Townsend’s solitaire

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Audubon's yellow-rumped warbler after a bath

Audubon’s yellow-rumped warbler after a bath

Anna's hummingbird female

Anna’s hummingbird female

Green-tailed towhee

Green-tailed towhee

Green-tailed towhee

Green-tailed towhee

Rock wren singing its little heart out

Rock wren singing its little heart out

Old barns, Audubon Kern River Preserve at sunset

Old barns, Audubon Kern River Preserve at sunset

Outbuilding, Audubon Kern River Preserve

Outbuilding, Audubon Kern River Preserve

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Images taken with Canon SX-50

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Birding Trip in California’s Eastern Sierras

July 11, 2015 at 9:16 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, )

Birders in the cathedral of evergreens in the Eastern Sierras

Birders in the cathedral of evergreens in the Eastern Sierras

I generally like birding and hiking alone, since I am distracted by every flower, bug, lizard, and bird. That irritates anyone who has an agenda of actually hiking at a reasonable pace.  But occasionally I like to “bird” with others who are good at spotting and identifying them, and it’s great to be with like-minded folk.  So I signed up for a 4-day trip to California’s Eastern Sierras through Sea and Sage Audubon, led by Bob Barnes and John Schmitt.

Long-eared owl showing off its long ears

Long-eared owl showing off its long “ears”

I saw many “life” birds, including a family of long-eared owls at a Ridgecrest cemetery, and just enjoyed doing my part to find and ID birds – some of which were lifers for others, too.

Long-eared owls with

Long-eared owls with “ears” flattened

Matter of fact, one woman was actually overcome with emotion when she saw her first pileated woodpecker in the conifer forest.  It’s a great moment to see someone “get” a bird they’ve always wanted to see.

Burrowing owls, Ridgecrest

Burrowing owls, Ridgecrest

People who “bird” a familiar area will know where certain species nest or forage, so it is like getting an insider’s peek into their birding territory.  The burrowing owls were inside a fenced-off area with construction debris – apparently a great rodent habitat.

At Kern River Audubon Preserve

At Kern River Audubon Preserve

Of course, birders know to begin their day early – sometimes at dawn – when the songsters are most active.

I think this was identified as a lesser goldfinch nest that had fallen on the ground

I think this was identified as a lesser goldfinch nest that had fallen on the ground

We began at the Kern River Audubon Preserve, a large tract of cottonwood and conifer-studded riparian land that was a magnet for many species.  Feeders helped attract lesser goldfinches, bullock’s orioles, and several hummingbird species.  A male Bell’s vireo – the only one found in Kern County – sang his distinctive rattly song in vain, as there was apparently no female to take him up on his offer to start a family.

Bell's Vireo

Bell’s Vireo

We put a couple hundred miles on our vehicles traveling to prime birding spots.

Western tanager male, with bugs for his babies

Western tanager male, with bugs for his babies

The variety of habitats gave us 132 species for the trip.

Mojave green rattlesnake

Mojave green rattlesnake

And one rattlesnake.  Thank goodness the birder spotted it before she stepped on it.  She kept her wits and calmly announced, “Anyone want to see a rattlesnake?”  We all ran – toward it!  Of course we did.  This one is the most venomous of all the rattlers as it has both a neurotoxin and a hemotoxin.  Coral snakes have a neurotoxin; rattlers generally have a hemotoxin.  You see below how well camouflaged it was.

IMG_4586-copy-2We all had a great time and enjoyed each other’s company.  Steve is a world traveler, seeking out birds in remote areas, and created some amazing photos.  Check out his Flickr site – you’ll see many of the same poses!  (I am insanely jealous of his quizzical long-eared owl, however.  And the vermillion flycatcher I did NOT get because I forgot to bring the extra battery.)  I learned to hang out near him because he could find and zero in on the best angles with amazing speed!  (Gotta get me that Canon Mark whatever.)  Read also has a Flickr gallery of birds, flowers, and us!

Rufous hummingbird female or juve

Rufous hummingbird female or juve

I kept my Nikon D600 in the car as many of these birds were too far away to really make all those megapixels worthwhile.  The 400mm lens has trouble focusing on tiny objects, so I used the Canon SX-50 which has a 1200mm reach.  Even so, most of these are cropped.

Red-wing blackbird and turkey vultures in a field of chicory.

Red-wing blackbird and turkey vultures in a field of chicory.

Red-wing blackbird in rushes

Red-wing blackbird in rushes

Our guide John Schmitt is a world-renowned bird artist, with illustrations in National Geographic’s 6th edition – and likely previous ones, too.  I wish I had thought to bring my 1999 3rd edition for him to autograph.

John Schmidt shows us his original watercolors created for National Geographic's field guide

John Schmitt shows us his original watercolors created for National Geographic’s field guide

Well, I’ll let the photographs tell the rest of the story (in two parts since there are so many)

Robin's nest decorated with lichen

Robin’s nest decorated with lichen

With John Schmidt at Lake Isabella

With John Schmitt at Lake Isabella

Nashville Warbler with rusty top

Nashville Warbler with rusty top

Nashville warbler with rusty top fluffed up

Nashville warbler with rusty top fluffed up

Chipping sparrow at watering hole

Chipping sparrow at watering hole

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Juvenile Bell's sparrow

Juvenile Bell’s sparrow

Lincoln's sparrow

Lincoln’s sparrow

Cassin's kingbird

Cassin’s kingbird

Western kingbird

Western kingbird

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Images taken with Canon SX-50

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Red Rock Canyon – Vegas

May 30, 2015 at 5:39 pm (fine art photography, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Nevada, Photography) ()

First Creek Trail, Red Rock Canyon

First Creek Trail, Red Rock Canyon

When my son and his wife visited me recently, they wanted to do some climbing at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.  While they climbed, I hiked.  Then we did the First Creek hike together.  I wish I knew the name of the flower in the foreground, but I can’t find it in my field guide or online.

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The campground was quite nice, and even had water.  It is an absolutely lovely area and wasn’t as overrun as I expected with it being so close to Vegas.

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Of course, early morning and late afternoon provided the “golden hour” necessary for rich landscapes.

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I even got up early enough one morning to catch the sun sneaking over the eastern mountains.

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This shows the classic banding of rock types in the area, with the red rock obviously being the park’s namesake.

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Deserts always create some interesting skies, don’t they?

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This is a climbing route off the First Creek trail (see the guy in blue?)  Ryan and Amy climbed it the previous day.

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You don’t need to hike to see the gorgeous rockscapes on the Scenic Drie.

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Pictographs at Willow Creek picnic area

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Cyclists love this section – they zoom (I mean ZOOOOOMMM!) downhill, the impetus carrying them a good ways around this curve as they go uphill.

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Rock Spring trail

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One afternoon there were layers of lenticular caps, indicating the upper atmosphere was even windier than what we were putting up with on the ground.  Just before sunset a marvelous and scary cloud built up with threatening rapidity, but then dissipated after the sun set.

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Stay tuned for flowers, birds and critters of Red Rock Canyon

 

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Images taken with Canon SX-50

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

 

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Singing Birds of Joshua Tree – Video

May 24, 2015 at 11:26 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Video)

 

 

 

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Images taken with Canon SX-50

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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Barker Dam Trail – Joshua Tree NP

May 24, 2015 at 8:05 am (California, Mojave Desert, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, )

Barker Dam Trail

Barker Dam Trail

A very nice short hike in the Hidden Valley area of Joshua Tree National Park is the Barker Dam trail.  There are a few climbing and bouldering routes past the dam, and except for a little scooting around rocks, it is an easy trail. Read the rest of this entry »

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Birds of Joshua Tree

May 19, 2015 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, Mojave Desert, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Southwest Birds, Wildlife)

Canyon wren fledgling looking grouchy

Canyon wren fledgling looking grouchy

The young canyon wrens made a non-stop racket at the 49 Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park.  The loud peeps helped their parents keep track of them when they were ready to fill those noisy mouths with caterpillars.

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The fledglings could fly well enough to pester a parent hunting for their meals.  Soon, though, these babies will learn to find their own food, and the palm grove will return to peace and quiet. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wonderland of Rocks – Dusk to Dawn

May 17, 2015 at 8:49 pm (California, fine art photography, Mojave Desert, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , , )

Hidden Valley at dawn, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Hidden Valley at dawn, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Ryan and Amy wanted to go rock climbing in one of the world’s premiere spots – Joshua Tree National Park.  Who knew?  These rock pillows and piles didn’t look very impressive to me, as far as conquering goes.  But apparently they are very challenging, and very scratchy.

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However, they are very beautiful, especially at dusk and dawn.  Some of these images are taken right in the campground, or very near it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bighorn Sheep, Valley of Fire

May 17, 2015 at 4:04 pm (Mojave Desert, Nature, Nature photography, Nevada, Photography, Wildlife) (, )

Desert bighorn sheep, young rams, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Desert bighorn sheep, young rams, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

I just returned from a 10-day outing in the desert, most of it with my son and his wife.  The bighorn sheep were the grand finale of the visit to the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada,

Young rams

Young rams

At first it was a couple of ewes peering over the mountaintop, then later, the whole herd came down to munch on mesquite and other succulent plants in plain view of hikers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rainbow Basin Natural Area

April 26, 2015 at 9:09 am (Bird photography, California, Mojave Desert, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers, Wildlife)

Rainbow Basin Natural Area, Barstow, California

Rainbow Basin Natural Area, Barstow, California

The photos may not show it as well as the eye sees it, but there really are green rocks in them thar hills.  Rainbow Basin Natural Area is a gem of a place in the Mojave Desert, just north of Barstow, California.

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The last hour of the day is a marvelous time to visit.  In late winter/early spring you can see desert tortoises, wildflowers, and a Joshua tree or two in bloom. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Few Good Birds of Mojave National Preserve

April 20, 2015 at 12:01 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, National Parks, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Southwest Birds, Wildlife) ()

Zone-tailed hawk

Zone-tailed hawk

Going birding with an expert familiar with which bird will be found where is usually an excellent way to “meet” new species, and the zone-tailed hawk was the highlight for me on a trip last week to Mojave National Preserve, California. Read the rest of this entry »

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