And a Roadrunner, too

Alice seemed almost as excited about our seeing new birds as we were seeing them ourselves.  On one of the first days we were there, she yelled “Roadrunner” and told us a Roadrunner had run through the backyard and was in the street in front of the house.  I quickly grabbed my camera and captured a few shots

as it walked down the street before flying away. The lighting was terrible and all I could manage was a butt-shot, but I was still thrilled to see one.  

It would have been a “Lifer” if I hadn’t already seen several of them when I was stationed at Fort Irwin in the Mojave desert several lifetimes ago.  I still consider it a “Lifer,” though, because I definitely wasn’t into bird watching when I was in my twenties and in the Army.

I was disappointed with the quality of the shots, though, and kept looking for it to return.  It did on one of our last days there, and it posed long enough for me to capture over 50 shots of it.  

I almost missed seeing it at first because it blended in with the background remarkably well.

 I was afraid that I would scare it, but it was remarkably indifferent to me.  It was easy to get some great closeups.

In fact, the hardest part of getting a picture was keeping it in the frame, particularly that long tail, 

except when it paused to stare back at me. 

The best shots came when it jumped up on the wall.  This would have been my favorite pose

if I had managed to fit the tail into the shot. At moments like this, I remember how valuable a zoom lens can be.  

In the end, I think this is my favorite shot, though, because I prefer the way it is framed.

Unfortunately, my photos can’t recreate the pure elation I felt the short time I spent in the presence of this magnificent bird. 

Aren’t They All Special?

Although I’ll have to admit that I was obsessed with getting good shots of the Gambel’s Quail and the Curve-billed Thrashers, I certainly didn’t ignore all of the other birds that appeared in Alice’s backyard,  including this Mockingbird,

which took me a while to recognize because I’m only used to seeing them in Santa Rosa.  

It didn’t take me long to recognize the Mourning Doves that frequented the yard because they look like the ones that hang out around our Tacoma home.

Eurasian Collared Doves are rarer in Washington, but I have seen them several times in Washington.

I’ve never seen a Long-Tailed Grackle in the PNW, but I have seen them several times in Colorado and California. I see them so rarely, though, that I loved seeing them several times in Goodyear, AZ.

I think this Cactus Wren

may be a Lifer, but he frustrated me repeatedly because he came so close that I barely managed to get two or three shots even though he was a frequent visitor. Right after we left Alice sent a picture of one that actually came into the house looking for food.

There were several birds I saw that I couldn’t capture a shot of like the Verdin I saw several times but couldn’t get a picture of because it flitted so much that I could never get the camera to focus quickly enough. I also spent considerable time trying to get a shot of the hummingbirds drinking out of the fountain, but they were either so close or so fast that I couldn’t pull that off either. 

Curve-billed Thrasher

I was surprised at how well the birds in Bill and Alice’s yard seemed to get along.  Three or four were often pecking simultaneously at different sections of the birdseed block. Occasionally a quail would get annoyed and charge a nearby quail, but, for the most part, they acted like there was enough food for everybody. — which there obviously was. None of the birds even seemed disturbed by the raucous calls of the Gila Woodpecker that startled me every time it landed on the palm.

But, as we all know, there’s always that neighbor who just can’t get along with others and wants everything for himself.  In this case, that neighbor was the Curve-billed Thrasher who would let out a raucous call from the top of the wall,

chasing away the other birds before landing on the top of the seed block, 

fending off the other birds 

until it found the perfect seed

and walked away with his prize.  

Gila Woodpeckers

I was at Bill and Alice’s long enough to observe the habits of several birds and be ready when they showed up.  The Gila Woodpecker was one of the most predictable.   It would always land near the top of one of the Palm trees, peck a few times, look around,

and dive down

to the Hummingbird feeder, or at least what was intended to be

a Hummingbird feeder, 

though I think the Gila Woodpeckers had taken possession since I never saw a Hummingbird land on it.

I’ll admit that I always thought it was the same Gila Woodpecker that was visiting the feeder, but when I started working with the photos I realized that it was at least two different birds that followed the same pattern since one of these birds is a male (the one with the red topknot) and the other one is a female.