Friday, August 1, 2008

Close encounter of the "bear" kind

The weather was very hot today so I headed for a little higher elevation in the San Isabel National Forest that stretches from just south of where I live in Canon City, CO to the New Mexico border. Though the temps were in the lower 90's (instead of around 100 as forecast for Canon City), birding was quite slow likely due as much because of the very dry conditions as the high temps. There were few insects for birds to eat and few flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies due to the lack of rain. Since it was less hot and I enjoy the forest, I stayed for several hours checking out a few birds, a few butterflies and moths, and a few wildflowers with my two dogs. My smaller dogs, Chase, let out some alarm barking several times but I couldn't find anything that should have caused it. I did use my binoculars to check for critters and considered the possibility that a bear could be around especially since there is a lot of scrub (Gambel's) oak in the area. However I had checked the plants and found that the acorns were very small and would not ripen for a few weeks plus there was no other obvious plants with fruit there, so I decided that the bears would not be interested--not an accurate conclusion. Since Chase can be a easily spooked, I thought was what caused his barking.Close to dusk I was pursuing two birds that were flitting from tree to tree when I heard a noise like something scraping a tree--something large. My pulse rate immediately shot up as I realized it could be a bear and I was about 150 feet from my car--and one of my dogs was outside by the car. As I walked sideways (so I could look in the direction I thought the sound was coming from) quickly (and telling myself not to go too quickly as I knew the prohibition about not simulating a prey--easier said than done when you want think a bear may be near). To make matters worse, the scraping noise not only continued but got louder (now I realize it was because I came closer to the bears as I walked to the car). I first pointed to my dog to stay then put my arms in the air to make myself appear larger (another thing that experts recommend). When I got to my car I got my dogs secured inside and stood by my door, then (and only then) did I put my binoculars up to look for what had made the noise--and I spotted this mother black bear with her two cubs now about 400-500 feet away and took these pics. She clearly did not want anything to do with me anymore than I did with her so was moving away. I think that she may have sent her cubs up a tree, and she may have been up there also, but got them down when I came too close.

In retrospect I suspect she and her cubs, which I believe are over a year old, had been in the area most of the time I was there and was the reason that Chase gave his alarm barking. I also suspect that due to the dry conditions even immature acorns are worth eating. I have seen black bears on several occasions over the past 10 years when I have been out birding but I have never seen one with cubs or been so close without something between me and the bears. Though I enjoy seeing bears, this was too close for comfort and even scarier since it was a mother bear with cubs. As bears are now engaged in eating marathons to fatten up for winter, I will take precautions when I'm out birding or hiking. SeEtta
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Condors saved and others survive California wildfires on their own

Photo by Joe Burnett-Wildlife Society
When California was at the height of it's summer burn, biologists from the Ventura Wildlife Society made heroic trips in to rescue endangered California Condors using ATV's and flying out on helicopters. Though they thought at the time that the other condors at the sanctuary in the area they could not rescue had perished. Read the story of the successful rescue effort.

Last week news was released that the condors had survived, taking flight to move to areas with clean air and finding food sources on their own. Read the wonderful survival story here. SeEtta

Even younger Barn Swallow nestling

I just found this pic I took of the Barn Swallow nestlings earlier than those I took and posted a yesterday. Though the nestling in this pic is only 4 days younger than the one posted on , it appears clearly younger--demonstration of what a difference a few days makes with the development of nestlings.

The tall feathers on the right side of the nest do not belong to the nestlings. The mother swallow lines the nest with feathers she finds. SeEtta

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pronghorn seeking food


Much of Colorado has been very dry this year with parts of southeast Colorado in a moderate to severe drought status. That makes it difficult for wildlife to find food. These pronghorn were feeding in the green vegetation that was growing nest to this county road in Pueblo West. Though usually very shy of humans, they tolerated my presence (I stayed in my car about 150 feet away and turned off the motor) likely due to the lack of green vegetation away from roads. This small herd had only the two young seen in the bottom pic. SeEtta
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Barn Swallow nestlings


Barn Swallows often nest near doorways and on porches but the ones that nest on my friend's property (none nest in my yard) nest under a footbridge (same one where the Black Phoebes nest but located where they can fly through). So photos are more of a challenge, requiring laying on one's belly and bending at the waist to overhang the bridge in order to see and photograph the nest. I took these pics this morning. Though only one nestling is visible, I was able to see at least 3 birds in the nest. These nestlings are near to fledging. SeEtta
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Monday, July 28, 2008

More on Canada's Boreal Forest

Watch this Utube video of Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty as he explains his bold plan to protect much of the Boreal Forest in his province.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Black-chinned Hummingbirds

These Black-chinned Hummingbirds were also coming to the feeders at my friend Connie's yard. The male in the top pic shows how their gorget appears totally black even though there is wide purple band that shows nicely with the right lighting.
The middle pic shows distinctly the "bill grooves that help separate immatures from adults" (Birds of North America online) and the "feathers of head, nape, and back edged extensively with buff". The bottom pic shows a black spot on this immature's throat which would indicate it is a young male. All of these are best seen by double-clicking on each pic to enlarge it. SeEtta

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Broad-tailed Hummingbird

This is a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird showing it's characteristic bright red gorget. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are quite common in the foothills in Colorado. This is another of the hummingbirds coming to my friend Connie's feeders in the Royal Gorge area, which is primarily pinyon-juniper habitat. Male Broad-tailed Hummingbird's dive displaying produces a loud buzzing noise from their wings making them easy to identify by sound.

Contrasting with the male's bright red gorget, the female has a spotted throat as shown in the lower pic. Though the pics lose some resolution, double-clicking to enlarge them provides very close-up views. I think the females more subtle feather coloration is interesting. Also it looks almost like made stitches around her eye. SeEtta
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