Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Trip 2015 Birding Part 3

Here is the third and final blog reminiscing about birding during our 2015 Summer Trip and sharing a few additional photos. You can read the first two blogs on this topic here regarding birding on the Oregon Coast and letting BirdsEye determine where to stop while on the road.

In 2010 Christine and I stopped at Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge on a road-trip west and ever since I've had a strong preference to visit National Wildlife Refuges whenever possible. With that in mind, when we left Oregon the only plan was to stop in Rocky Mountain National Park for a few days. Having a flexible timeline regarding which days and how long we planned to stay afforded me the opportunity to chart any route. While looking at a map, yes we carried paper copies, the large green region of Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge seemingly begging me to stop as if I was a moth looking at light.

We slept in a bit and got a late start from Walden after driving late the previous night. Our first stop was the city reservoir in search of Clark's Grebe. This species is quite similar in size and appearance to Western Grebes. The Clark's Grebe is found further west than my normal travels, but with a bit of luck we found a Clark's Grebe that appeared to have two youngsters with a Western Grebe. It was the first LIFER #419 for me and the first of the day.

Grebe Family (Colorado USA)
The Clark's Grebe is on the left while the Western Grebe is on the right. Notice the white around the eye and an orange bill. 

Our next stop was Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge. We got great looks at Greater Sage-Grouse, once again in the middle of the road. It was much more satisfying seeing the bird up close having only added it to my life list the day before at dusk from a distance. In addition we were finally able to see Brewer's Sparrows rather than rely on their call for identification.

Greater Sage-Grouse  Brewer's Sparrow
Greater Sage Grouse female on the left and Brewer's Sparrow on the right.

American Wigeon
Baby waterfowl are much cuter than other bird babies in my opinion.
While not rare, the American Wigeon with ducklings along the drive were wonderful to see. Similar to the Clark's Grebe this waterfowl species is a summer resident further west and north than my normal travels.

Overall we did not see many birds or much diversity, but perhaps that was due to the late morning hour. However as we turned a corner we caught a fleeting glimpse of two birds. They were Sage Thrashers and the the second LIFER of the day!

Sage Thrasher
The Sage Thrasher is smaller than many other Thrashers and fortunately we saw a couple more later in the drive for photos.

With miles to drive and a goal of finding an open camping spot in Rocky Mountain yet that day I concluded the dedicated birding portion of the trip. My family had graced me the previous two days with birding and I was fortunate to see a few new birds. Perhaps it was luck, maybe even fate, or yet the outcome of divine intervention but, regardless of the reason, as we stopped to take a photo of the Rocky Mountain National Park sign a Broad-Tailed Hummingbird flew in and checked it out as well. We had the wrong lens and camera out, but alas it remains the single bird of that species that I've ever seen.

Finally, since this blog post is about birding here are a few other photos of species we saw while in Colorado that were not previously shared.

A fledgling Mountain Bluebird with Male from RMNP and Willet from Walden Reservoir.

  Clark's Nutcracker
Fledgling Townsend's Solitaire and Clark's Nutcracker from RMNP.

  Violet-green Swallow
Dusky Flycatcher and Violet-green Swallow in RMNP. I did not get a photo of my lifer Cordilleran Flycatcher.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Collared Lizards

On June 29th the family packed up and traveled west to Mt. Mitchell Heritage Prairie, an Audubon of Kansas Wildlife Sanctuary and Property, in search of Eastern Collared Lizards. Friends had shared their photos from recent visits and I was truly excited to have the girls to observe them as well.  Here is a short video detailing their visit, with the video taken on July 1st.

As you heard in the video, we were able to see Eastern Collared Lizards and everyone got in on the photo taking. Click on any of the photos to enlarge and see greater details.

Collared Lizard Fans and Paparazzi!
We came home with over 1900 digital files, most of them being of the Eastern Collared Lizards.

 Eastern Collared Lizard #02 de

Eastern Collared Lizard #13 de Eastern Collared Lizard #11 de
The lizards are quite tolerant of humans, giving photo opportunities to everyone. These are Danielle's photos!!

With three DSLR cameras being utilized there was a premium on the lighter 70-300mm ED lens.  It is quite a bit lighter than the 300mm F4 AF lens which quickly tired the girls with its weight.  Luckily the girls shared fairly well.

Eastern Collared Lizard #01 mm Eastern Collared Lizard #07 mm

Eastern Collared Lizard #12 mm Eastern Collared Lizard #04 mm
These are Michaela's photos!!

We walked around the prairie picking up the chigger bites and saw a few other animals as well.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 
The Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher is large and flashy and captivated everyone's attention. Danielle's photo is on the right.

Common Checkered-Skipper Promachus vertebratus
A few insects such as this Common Checkered Skipper (Left) and Giant Robber Fly (right)

In addition we saw a few other butterflies such as Variegated Fritillaries and Little Yellow as well as an unidentified caterpillar but decent photos escaped our lenses.

We even took a few photos of ourselves.

Danielle wanted to take a video of the lizards as well so we pulled out the tripod and they helped created the video below.  Click on the settings in the lower right to change to HD for more detail.

Below are a more edited photos that Christine or I took.

Eastern Collared Lizard #06
The lizards are calm enough to take the above photo with a 50mm lens (approximately the size of eyesight)!

Eastern Collared Lizard #05

Eastern Collared Lizard #09

Eastern Collared Lizard #17
We took a few composite photos, which reveal more details if viewed at original size or as a massive sized print.

Eastern Collared Lizard #15 Eastern Collared Lizard #14
For a short while two of them were next to each other.