Saturday, December 26, 2020

Mountain Bluebird (Female)

In October we saw some beautiful male mountain bluebirds near Black Mesa in the Oklahoma panhandle (a first). On Christmas day, in Live Oak Canyon near our home, we saw a number of female mountain bluebirds (also firsts). 
Note the white eye ring, the rusty wash on the belly and white edging on the flight feathers. 
They have a thin white eye ring; have a tinge of pale blue in the wings and tail; can have a pale rusty wash on the breast, like the ones we saw, or a gray wash; and white edging on the flight feathers help to distinguish it from a western bluebird.  
Note the pale blue on tail. 
Juveniles can have sparse spotting on the back and belly. 
Note the blue on the wings and spotting on the chest. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

New York - 2020

On Thursday, February 13, 2020, we took a Jetblue redeye flight from Ontario to JFK in New York City, leaving at  10:40 p.m. and arriving Friday morning at 6:55 a.m. We took an Uber to our hotel in Long Island City, part of Queens, the Hilton Garden Inn Long Island City New York and checked-in early. Our son, Andrew, who lives in New York, met us and we took the metro to Flushing, also in Queens. There we had mostly dumplings for lunch at Dumpling Galaxy. We noticed many people wearing masks, foreshadowing the Covid-19 pandemic that would hit the U.S. a month later. We took the metro back to Long Island City where we visited the Sculpture Center, where Andrew had a piece on exhibit. Then we walked to MoMA PS1 and viewed many of the art exhibits there, then took the metro to Times Square and the Shubert Theatre where we had 8:00 p.m. tickets for the Aaron Sorkin play "To Kill a Mockingbird" with Ed Harris as Atticus Finch.  

Saturday, February 15, we slept in after the late evening, then took an Uber to Katz's Delicatessen where we shared a massive Rueben with pastrami on rye. Then we took the metro to Times Square where we had tickets at the Richard Rodgers Theatre for the 2:00 p.m. matinee of Hamilton, an amazing show. Afterwards we took an Uber to the South Slope of Brooklyn and met Andrew for dinner at Java Indonesian Restaurant. 

Sunday, February 16, we rented a car from Avis in Uptown (64th Street) then drove to Andrew's apartment in Harlem and picked him up. We drove out on to Long Island, first to Jones Beach Island where we stopped and walked along the sand on a fairly cold morning. Then we drove to Lake House in Bay Shore and had lunch. I particularly enjoyed Blue Point oysters on the half-shell and raw little neck clams, the first raw clams I've ever eaten. Then we drove to the far eastern end of Long Island and the Montauk Lighthouse. It was not open, but we walked around the point. From there we drove to Sag Harbor, stopped briefly at the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton and then got banana splits at Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton. Then we visited the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill before returning to Manhattan where we had Polish food at Christina's. Andrew left us to take the metro back to his apartment and we dropped off the car at Avis and did a combo metro and Uber to get back to Long Island City.  
     New York: Long Island  (Judy) 

Monday, February 17, Andrew was not with us, so we took the metro out to Flushing again. We stopped first at White Bear, where we've been previously, and had their delicious wontons. Then we wandered over to First Lamb Shabu and had an amazing Chinese hot pot lunch. Our waiter did not speak much English and we'd not eaten hot pot before, so we didn't know what we were doing and did it all wrong. It was amazing anyway. I would love to go back and do it right, but it appears to be a casualty of Covid. Then Judy led us to Flushing Ice Cream Factory where we had some weird flavored ice creams which were really good. We took the metro back to our hotel, got an Uber to JFK and flew home on Jetblue, leaving at 5:50 p.m. and arriving in Ontario at 9:20 p.m. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020


We visited Corn Springs yesterday and spent some time west of the oasis in the vicinity of the teddy bear and pencil cholla.  I did a post on the phainopepla earlier this month and mentioned their proclivity for mistletoe berries. Knowing that Corn Springs was an area where I've seen many phainopepla in the past, I started looking for mistletoe and as soon as I did I saw a phainopepla. 
This is the photo I took from my car. 

I stopped the car to take a photo and as soon as I did, Judy, Andrew and Michaela got out to start walking. I joined them in their walk, but was distracted by more phainopeplas. I saw several of them on trees with mistletoe and several actually immersed in the mistletoe, eating it.
A phainopepla in mistletoe eating the small red berries. 

So now I've discovered the secret to finding and photographing phainopeplas: mistletoe. Find it and they will be there and they will stay there while you take photos. 
We heard this phainopepla a number of times from within mistletoe in a tree before we saw it. Several of us even started to mimic it's sound and it responded several times. 
A map from All About Birds. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Western Red-Shafted Flicker

In November 2019 I saw a western red-shafted flicker (one of ten subspecies of the northern flicker) on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. Just last month, in November 2020, I saw a western red-shafted flicker near our home in Live Oak Canyon. Yesterday I got my best photo of a western red-shafted flicker so far, in Live Oak Canyon down in the wash. It was a male with a red moustache 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

White-Crowned Sparrow

The most common bird in Live Oak Canyon right now is the white-crowned sparrow. I've really grown to love them. I've blogged on them once previously and I'm following up with more photos. Immature birds have brown stripes instead of black and white stripes. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Vesper Sparrow

I did a previous post on the vesper sparrow with several poor photos of one bird. I was excited because it was a new species to me. I have subsequently photographed two more and I am excited to have a little bit more knowledge about it and better photos. 
What really makes it stand out, at least from similar birds I've seen, is a white ring around the eye. The next photo also illustrates another identifying characteristic, a chestnut shoulder-patch. 

These two birds were both seen in the wash in Live Oak Canyon. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Say's Phoebe

One of the activities that has promoted my sanity and activity during Covid has been walking and bird watching, combined with involvement with iNaturalist. In the past I would always have been excited about seeing a peregrine falcon, but a small and inconsequential bird, like a white-crowned sparrow, was meh. However, now I'm excited about seeing any bird and determining the differences between different species, such as sparrows, is fun, and a thrill when I find a new species. 
I'd previously identified and photographed two Say's phoebes, but a few weeks later, on November 28, got better photos of another Say's phoebe. An Audubon map indicates they are common year-round residents in our area, but I've only seen three in many months of walking. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Cassin's Kingbird

Since first spotting a Cassin's kingbird in early November in Live Oak Canyon, I've seen two more: One in Morongo Valley on November 21, in Big Morongo Canyon; and one in the wash in Live Oak Canyon on December 5. They are uncommon in Southern California: Some reside year-round (the light violet in the Audubon map below); and some spend the summers (the fleshy color in the map below) and migrate to Mexico for the winter. 
From Audubon. 

A different range map from All About Birds. 

In Big Morongo Canyon. 

In Live Oak Canyon

Sunday, December 13, 2020

American Peregrine Falcon

I was on a walk with Judy this morning in Live Oak Canyon and saw my second peregrine falcon in our canyon, not too far from our home. The first was in late August or early September, early in the morning so my photos were not as good. 

It was standing in a dead oak tree eating. Peregrines eat mostly birds: mostly pigeons in cities; ducks and other shorebirds along the coast (why it is sometimes called the duck hawk); and prey as large as gulls or as small as song birds. It appears that they usually catch them in flight. They may also eat some small mammals and rarely carrion. I see lots of birds standing in the tree where it was eating, so I am assuming it probably caught a bird in the tree or flying near it. I'm guessing it was eating a mourning dove, a European starling, an acorn woodpecker, a northern flicker, a western bluebird or a California towhee, birds I have been seeing recently in that vicinity. There was also a raven in the tree, perhaps waiting to clean up any scraps. 

As I attempted to get closer it flew a short distance away. I got a few more photos of it in the next tree, before it flew back to the original tree. I went back toward the original tree from a different angle and it flew before I could get any more photos. 

A map on the Audubon website shows it as a rare winter visitor to our area, but it appears that it is uncommon everywhere in the U.S. 
The light blue for Southern California shows it as an uncommon winter visitor. 
A map from Wikipedia shows the worldwide distribution of subspecies and our local subspecies which is the American peregrine falcon or duck hawk. Note that in the continental U.S. it is only found along the west coast, in the Rocky Mountains and in an area east of the Cascades. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Colorado - 1992

On Friday, October 29, 1992,  I drove to Ouray, Colorado with my brother-in-law, Dave Kenison, with the intent of climbing Mount Sneffels, a 14,000+ foot peak. 
From Ouray we drove a dirt road into the Yankee Boy Basin and slept in the back of his Blazer. 
Saturday, October 30, with snow on the ground and fog in the basin, we started to climb Potosi Peak, a nearby 13,786 foot mountain, thinking it was Mount Sneffels. We got part way up and had to turn around as conditions were too dangerous. As things started to clear up we realized we'd climbed the wrong mountain. We headed back to Utah that afternoon. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Colorado - 2008

On Friday, August 22, 2008, I took a United flight to Denver from LAX, leaving at 11:00 a.m. (I missed a 7:30 a.m. flight that was routed through Salt Lake City and got this as a direct flight). I rented a car and drove to Estes Park, a 1.5 hour drive, where I'd rented a large room at the Comfort Inn for myself, my son, Sam, and my brother-in-law, Dave Kenison. 
Sam drove to Colorado from Utah with Dave. My nephew, Rick DeLong, his girlfriend, Kim, and a Ukrainian friend, Todd, were also there, but sleeping at the Longs Peak Campground. Rick and Kim had been hiking for weeks on the Continental Divide Trail where they'd done 450 miles through Colorado. We all went to the Grubstake restaurant in Estes Park and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of bbq buffalo ribs, beer battered onion rings, a salad and fresh squeezed lemonade. 

Saturday, August 23, I woke up at 2:50 a.m. to be at the Keyhole Trailhead by 4:00 a.m. 
Estes Park to the Keyhole Route Trailhead.
The hike to the 14,255 foot summit of Longs Peak is 14 miles roundtrip and 5,100 feet of elevation gain. It was one of the most challenging and exhilarating hiking/climbing experiences of my life, with some very scary stretches with lots of exposure. Dave and Sam had to drive back to Utah that evening. I stayed another night at the Comfort Inn and went back to Grubstake and had the bbq buffalo ribs again. 
     Longs Peak  (Bob)

Sunday, August 24, I flew United out of Denver to LAX.