A Return Visit to Lake Ralphine/Spring Lake

On our second visit to Lake Ralphine/Spring Lake, I took a longer lens, hoping to get better shots of the Acorn Woodpeckers we had seen on our first visit.  I should have known that would jinx us because the flock of woodpeckers we had seen defending their larder days earlier were reduced to two woodpeckers standing guard.

Two Acorn Woodpeckers

All was not lost, though, as we saw a lot more birds on the second visit than we did on the first.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen a juvenile Pied-Billed Grebe, but the fading black and white pattern on the neck indicates that’s what this was.

Juvenile Pied Grebe

I thought this bird was some kind of flycatcher, but I was a little surprised when Merlin identified it as a Black Phoebe since all the Black Phoebes I’ve ever seen have been much blacker, not brown.

Black Phoebe

I know this is a juvenile swallow, but Merlin wasn’t a lot of help identifying what kind of juvenile swallow it is — suggesting it is either a Tree Swallow, a Violet-Green Swallow, or a Northern Rough-winged Swallow.

Juvenile Swallow

We didn’t see the pair of Swans that nested at Lake Ralphine in previous years, but we did see a single Mute Swan on Spring Lake.

Mute Swan

The highlight of the day, though, was this close-up of a Black-crowned Night Heron from the back. I was amazed I could get this close without spooking it.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

I prefer the shot from this angle, but I am sure the heron would have flown away if the green foliage hadn’t been between us.  

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Back to Santa Rosa

We followed up our trip to Colorado with a week-long stay in Santa Rosa to finally meet up with Paul Dien. We got there a few days early so I spent some time birding while I was there.  

Surprisingly, some of the best birding was in the backyard where several Mockingbirds visited. 


After a while I began to suspect there must have been a nest nearby.  I never found it, but I did get this shot of a juvenile complaining to the parent that they weren’t bringing food fast enough.

Juvenile Mockingbird with Adult Mockingbird

I’m not sure what the parent’s reply was, but I suspect it told the kid he was getting big enough to start looking for his own food. 

Of course, no trip to Santa Rosa would be complete without a visit to Lake Ralphine and Spring Lake, and no visit would be complete without seeing the Acorn Woodpeckers.  Luckily, we were greeted by a tree full of them as soon as we got out of the car.

Acorn Woodpecker on Ground

The last time we were at the park workers were cutting down old trees that the woodpeckers were using to store their nuts, but apparently they’ve found a new home in this giant oak.  There were woodpeckers from the base of the tree to the very top.

Two Acorn Woodpeckers on tree

The day’s highlight was seeing the woodpeckers drive off a crow that dared to land on their tree.  It happened too fast for me to capture most of what was going on, but I liked this shot of one of the woodpeckers dive-bombing the crow as it retreated.

Acorn Woodpecker Dive-Bombing Crow

Unfortunately, the rest of the walk wasn’t nearly as exciting since we saw very few birds, perhaps because we walked later in the day than usual and the park was more crowded than usual. 

Still, I felt lucky to get a shot of this shy Oak Titmouse since I only see them in Santa Rosa, and even there only rarely. 

A Campout at Granby Lake

As the grandkids get older, it’s harder and harder to get together with them all at one time.  We did get to see Tyson, Jen, Logan, Zoe, and Sydney Saturday evening and Sunday, but Logan and Zoe both had summer jobs and Tyson couldn’t take time off since the family was going to Costa Rica right after our visit. 

Since Jen had a reservation at Granby Lake before we told her we were coming, we decided to join her and Sydney for a three-day camping trip.  After a quick visit to local stores to get some cold weather gear, we headed out on Monday. I thought I’d visited most of Colorado on my many trips over the last 18+ years, but I had never visited this area before.

We got a campsite right on the lake.

Granby Lake from the campsite

The picnic table at our site was the perfect place to visit and to

sit and watch the Pelicans


and Osprey that visited several times while we were there.

Osprey overhead

My favorite birds, though, were the White-Crowned Sparrows 

White-Crowned Sparrow

serenading throughout the campground. 

The biggest thrill of our visit, though, came on a visit to a nearby area on our second day there. We spotted a moose feeding in the shadiest spot we saw all day.  

Young Moose eating in the shade

We waited around hoping it would move out of the shade, and I would have gotten a great shot if this lady hadn’t walked closer to get a good snapshot with her phone.  

Tourist and moose

Apparently she was a lot braver — or more foolish — than I was.  I was using a 1000mm lens and this was as close as I wanted to get to a moose, even if it was a young one without antlers.  I just hoped I wasn’t going to witness one of those scenes where tourists are attacked by animals because they’re too close and the animal feels threatened.

An even bigger thrill was awaiting us further down the trail.  Other visitors pointed out this moose and calf a few yards off the trail in very dense brush.  I got glimpeses of them but neither I nor my fancy camera could ever quite get them in focus.

Blurry shot of moose and calf

It was a thrilling moment, photograph or no photograph.

Back to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

We just returned from our long-awaited trip to visit the Websters in Broomfield, CO, and Paul in Santa Rosa.  After a very long day of travel on our way to Colorado, we stayed overnight in Ogden, Utah, and squeezed in a visit to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge early the next morning before heading out to Broomfield.   We’ve never visited Bear River this time of year, so we didn’t know what to expect.  We were pleased to see the same old gang of Pelicans at the beginning of the drive-through tour, just where they have been on all our previous trips.           

Small Flock of White Pelicans

After getting this close-up,

Pelican Closeup

 we probably didn’t need to bother to take another shot of Pelicans because we couldn’t get a better shot, but we took a lot more as it turned out.  It took me quite a while to narrow down to just five shots.  

Since we rarely see White Pelicans west of the Cascades, it was delightful to see them throughout the Bear River refuge. Small flocks would occasionally fly overhead,

White Pelicans in flight

but, more often than not, we would just see small groups floating quietly on the ponds.

Pelicans Floating on the pond

Technically, this last shot isn’t very good because it’s so blurry that even Photoshop and Topaz can’t render it sharply, but I liked it because it revealed just how big a pelican’s mouth is.  

What a Big Mouth

Though we don’t go to Bear River specifically to see White Pelicans (I, at least, go to see the American Avocets), seeing the pelicans enhances the experience.