Author Archives: naturallyjax

September 3, 2020

This morning, about an hour after dawn, we spotted a bobcat from our back deck.  It was in the prairie dog field (soon to become a subdivision), looking for a meal.

Bobcat

After work we took a walk in the greenbelt with the dog.  It was sunny, hot, still, quiet.  In our last few minutes in the greenbelt before returning home, we spotted the resident pair of Red-tailed Hawks.  Her right leg is banded; he has a darker head and is darker all over.

Red-tailed Hawks

September 1, 2020

Today at the pond at the corner of Estes and Yale I was surprised to see a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk sitting in one of the trees that the Belted Kingfishers favor.  Much lower down in the tree sat a Black-crowned Night Heron, in shadow and still.  A lone Mallard dabbled in the water.  Barn Swallows patrolled overhead, sometimes skimming the surface of the pond.  Then nearly a hundred European Starlings alighted in a tree north of the hawk.  The hawk turned its head to watch them settle in.

The sun was rising higher in the sky, so I didn’t linger at the pond.  I walked across the prairie dog field hoping to spot the Clay-colored Sparrows.  I found about ten of them, plus a Vesper Sparrow (with its white eye ring, it stood out among the Clay-colored Sparrows), in a short leafy tree that sat by itself.  I had absolutely no cover, so I couldn’t get close.  Here’s one of the Clay-colored sitting at the top of the tree, keeping an eye on me:

Clay-colored Sparrow

On my walk back home, I saw a Gray Catbird, a Red-tailed Hawk, several Black-billed Magpies, nine more Mallards, a Mourning Dove, a Broad-tailed Hummingbird, a Western Wood-Pewee, and a Wilson’s Warbler.

Gray Catbird

After work, my better half and I took a walk with the dog out to the small pond.  There were Black-billed Magpies everywhere, a couple of Mallards in the pond, two Red-tailed Hawks in the tree at the southwest corner of the pond, and a Black-crowned Night Heron in its usual place in the shadows.  Then my better half picked out a spot of white.

Eastern Kingbird

The frogs are still everywhere in the pond:

American Bullfrog

 

August 31, 2020

With patience, a small flock of Clay-colored Sparrows can still be seen in the prairie dog field at the corner of Estes and Yale.  With a bit more patience, a (single) shot can be had of a Clay-colored Sparrow with the foothills in the distance:

Clay-colored Sparrow

At the small pond on that corner I saw six Mallards, one Black-crowned Night Heron, and one (silent) male Belted Kingfisher.

On the way back home:

Bees on wildflowers

An American Goldfinch on a neighbor’s sunflowers:

American Goldfinch

 

 

August 30, 2020

On my way to the small pond near Estes and Yale I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk.  It also spotted me and let forth its signature shriek:

Red-tailed Hawk

Word must have gotten around that the small pond was full of frogs because this morning when I arrived there were two Belted Kingfishers and two Black-crowned Night Herons.  Three Mallards were on the pond, as well.  Although I never saw one of the ducks go after a frog, the frogs all dived on their approach.  Here’s one of the herons in the shadows:

Black-crowned Night Heron

For the second day in a row, I watched one of the Belted Kingfishers cough up a pellet.  Here’s one of the kingfishers:

Belted Kingfisher

The two were even noisier than yesterday, chattering and trilling at each other, chasing each other from tree to tree.  Then one went at the other, and there was a tiff for just a few seconds.  Here’s the start:

Belted Kingfisher Brouhaha

Afterwards, they both flew off to the east and did not reappear.  Of course, I did not know that there weren’t going to reappear, so while I was waiting I took note of other winged creatures.

WIdow Skimmer (female)

Widow Skimmer (male)

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Above I saw Turkey Vultures and two Swainson’s Hawks flying together–an adult and a juvenile.

August 29, 2020

First thing this morning a coyote showed up in the field behind our house.  This picture is shot from our back deck:

Coyote

This field is being developed for housing.  Over the past week I’ve seen a lot of wildlife in this field:  this coyote, white-tailed deer, prairie dogs, rabbits, fox squirrels, Say’s Phoebes, an adult Red-tailed Hawk perched on a utility pole at the field’s edge.   The other day, a neighbor saw a bobcat crouched over a prairie dog hole.  But over the past week I’ve also seen heavy equipment in the field:  a front loader/backhoe and a Ditch Witch, presumably for laying pipes.

On our walk with the dog in the Bear Creek Greenbelt we saw a Western Kingbird and this Say’s Phoebe:

Say’s Phoebe

I wandered out alone to a small pond in the greenbelt at the southwest corner of Estes and Yale.  On the way, I saw several American Goldfinches at the edge of Bear Creek, including one taking a bath.  I walked across a prairie dog field (you can see part of it and some prairie dogs in the picture below).  Barn Swallows were patrolling the field for on-the-wing meals.

Bear Creek Greenbelt

Yesterday afternoon it rained, clearing out some of the smoke that has been lingering from the wildfires.  Today at dawn the temperature was in the mid 50s.

At this pond, I saw a female adult Belted Kingfisher, briefly, before she flew off.  The pond contained lots of frogs, who gave an “eeep” and dived into the water when I approached.  Here’s a frog holding steady:

Frog (probably American Bullfrog)

Before too long, two adult male Belted Kingfishers showed up with a great deal of rattling calls and alighted in a tree.  I was in cover under a tree at the other side of the pond, so I waited for one of them to nab a frog.

For over an hour I waited.  The two chattered nearly non-stop to each other, but neither took a single dive into the pond.  They moved from a tree to a snag over the water and back to the tree.  Here they are in the snag:

Belted Kingfishers refusing to dive into a pond to nab a frog

Here’s one perched in the tree, not long after it coughed up a pellet:

Belted Kingfisher

While I waited, a few hummingbirds and a Vesper Sparrow showed up.  Here’s the Vesper:

Vesper Sparrow

A small flock (five or six individuals) of Clay-colored Sparrows also showed up.  Here’s one:

Clay-colored Sparrow

I also watched a pair of Mallards in the pond:

Mallards

Eventually, I gave up on the Belted Kingfishers and walked back toward our house.  I spotted the small flock of Clay-colored Sparrows again.  Here’s one:

Clay-colored Sparrow

Here’s a cabbage white in wildflowers:

Cabbage White

Back at the house, I saw four Broad-tailed Hummingbirds still buzzing around in our back yard, as they have been doing in the past week, including an adult male.

Late in the afternoon I retraced my steps.  Hundreds of Barn Swallows were now patrolling the prairie dog field, and they were joined by several Say’s Phoebes, who were hunting from whatever perches they could find.

Say’s Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe taking off from perch

On my walk back home, I spotted a pair of Wilson’s Warblers foraging in a reedy marsh.  The thicket and the fading light made photographing them useless except for diagnostic purposes:  the male had a solid black cap and the female, all yellow, had a light patch above her eye.

 

 

August 23, 2020

The day dawned with temps in the upper 50s, perfect for a walk, even if it was extremely hazy.  The sky was a gray canvas, the sun an orange ball, and the foothills to the west mere ghosts of themselves.  At the pedestrian bridge in the Bear Creek Greenbelt,  we watched a beaver pack mud onto the dam.  Then it climbed up out of the creek and stood obligingly for a picture:

Beaver

A little west of the dam, a Hooded Merganser, who had been swimming with several Mallards, dried off on a log:

Hooded Merganser

In the pond north of Bear Creek we watched a young Mallard dive repeatedly.  It would stay submerged for a couple of seconds and surface a few feet from where it dove.  All other Mallards we see dabble rather than dive.

We took the dog for an extended walk down Bear Creek all the way to Wadsworth.  On the north side of the pond east of the one by the Stone House we watched several Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, including an adult male, jostle for the best feedings spots.  Over and over we watched them climb into the sky and dive into U-shaped patterns.

In the prairie dog field on the south side of Bear Creek we saw an male American Kestrel perched high on a tree filled with European Starlings and doves.  Closer to the creek we spotted a Yellow Warbler foraging with a group of House Finches.  At the large beaver dam we saw a few Mallards and a muskrat, but for the most part it is very quiet these days.

Back at home we saw several Broad-tailed Hummingbirds still buzzing around.  The suet feeder by the nectar feeder is attracting European Starlings, Black-billed Magpies, and Blue Jays, so I’ll remove it once the suet is gone and leave only the upside-down suet feeder protected by a circular cage.  Downy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, and White-breasted Nuthatches have no issue getting inside the cage.  Even the Northern Flickers will perch on the cage, stick their heads through the cage, and get to the suet with their long tongues.

White-breasted Nuthatch

 

August 22, 2020

Today there was a heavy haze all day but the air didn’t smell too smoky.  Several Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, including at least one adult male, are still buzzing around the back yard.  Often we see one–probably a young male–climb into the sky and then dive into a U-shaped pattern.  The suet feeder on the deck is attracting a lot of attention:  Northern Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, and even House Finches.  A European Starling, which has been absent for weeks, made a brief appearance, too.  At one point I saw five Northern Flickers, including two adult males, in the back yard.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

The other day on an early morning jog the only creatures I saw were mammals:  rabbits, a raccoon, a muskrat, and a bat.  The bat was flying in erratic circles over the beaver pool.  When it moved lower, I could see one of the insects it was chasing. 

August 19, 2020

Yesterday was a smoky day; today less so.  There are at least three Broad-tailed Hummingbirds still buzzing around our back yard, including an adult male.  Near the nectar feeder I’ve put up a suet feeder which is visited by Northern Flickers, Black-capped Chickadees, and–today, for the first time–a White-Breasted Nuthatch.  The Downy Woodpeckers will find it soon enough.  I call it “one-stop shopping,” since the bird bath is just below both the feeders.

White-breasted Nuthatch

A Say’s Phoebe visited our yard and back deck today.  I watched it zoom after a moth, and I could hear it make contact with the moth but not be able to nab it.  Here it is on our back deck, where it spent several minutes:

Say’s Phoebe

I watched a rabbit dig out a small hollow in the dirt and then lie down for a rest:

Rabbit

August 17, 2020

This morning on our pre-dawn walk with the dog in the Bear Creek Greenbelt we saw a beaver near the dam, and we saw three beavers, plus a muskrat, at the pond north of Bear Creek.  We also saw a young Mallard that was splashily diving–probably for crawfish.  It really had to work its feet to get under the water and it bobbed back up pretty quick.   As we walked up the field home, we watched a coyote run from the horse farm across the field and toward the den.

The smell of smoke was light today, but hot, sunny days continue with temperatures in the 90s.  Here’s a Say’s Phoebe on our back fence again, holding its wings from its body:

Say’s Phoebe

Three molting American Robins showed up in the back yard.  Here’s one:

American Robin in molt

A developer is turning the field behind our back yard into one-acre home lots.  For now, we can still see prairie dogs, squirrels, and rabbits in the field, and occasionally deer and coyote.  This afternoon I saw two young mule deer bucks feeding on leaves at the boundary between between the field and the Bear Creek Greenbelt.

We still have Broad-tailed Hummingbirds buzzing through our back yard.  They join the usual House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers.

In the late afternoon, my better half and I sat on the deck with the dog and the cat.  It was warm:

Fox Squirrel

Rabbit

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

August 16, 2020

This morning again the sun was bright red and the air grew heavier with smoke throughout the day.  Ash now coats the outside world.  Before shutting ourselves in for the day, we got in a walk in the Bear Creek Greenbelt, where we saw a pair of mule deer:

Mule deer buck

Mule deer doe

Both of them stotted (or pronked) their way toward the field running along the north side of the greenbelt.  We also saw a Belted Kingfisher, one of the juvenile Cooper’s Hawks, several Mallards, and this Hooded Merganser juvenile (who we watched gobble down two crawfish):

Hooded Merganser

In the afternoon, the winds shifted and we ventured out onto our back deck.  Broad-tailed Hummingbirds were hitting the nectar feeder and having aerial fights.  Here’s one at rest:

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

 

A Say’s Phoebe used our back fence as a perch to look for insects:

Say’s Phoebe

Several Black-capped Chickadees took turns grabbing a black sunflower seed from the feeder and flying off with it to the pine tree to break it open.

Black-capped Chickadee

And we solved the mystery of what happened to the last brood of House Wrens:  they moved to our neighbor’s yard.  The fledglings were chasing after an adult, loudly begging and fluttering their wings.

At dusk five hummingbirds–most likely all Broad-tailed–were buzzing above our back yard, zooming from tree to tree, chasing each other off the nectar feeder, and performing dives over the field behind our house.