Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Lake Moraine in Banff National Park — Wikimedia photo

          Lake Louise is one of the more popular sites in Canada’s Banff National Park. I visited it in 2001 and was quite impressed, more so perhaps because it was here that I saw my first Clark’s Nutcracker. It was during my early days of birdwatching and I remember being quite excited to add this bird to my life list.

          But while Lake Louise merely impressed me, my next stop in the park was one of those soul-touching moments that made me vow to return. It was the smaller, nearby Lake Moraine, around the edge of which sat a few cabins that looked out over the water. I could see myself sitting for a week or more in one of them watching as the light changed the mood of the view hour by hour.

          My vow to return, however, wasn’t a realistic one, given the distance, the time and the cost involved, not to mention how many other places to visit are still on my bucket list.

          And Lake Louise wasn’t the first place I’ve vowed to revisit. There was the Top of the World Highway, which started with a ferry trip across the Yukon River in Dawson City, Canada, and traveled on a mostly unpaved road to Tok, Alaska; Then there was Acadia National Park in Maine, where I stood on top of Cadillac Mountain and was the first person in the United States to feel the sun on my face that early morning; And the Galapagos Islands, which I sailed around and where a blue-footed booby danced with me; And Farragut State Park in Idaho, where I was a camp volunteer one summer; And Flume Gorge State Park in New Hampshire, where I enjoyed a solo hike that I still treasure – just to name a few of those vows.

          Thankfully, I’ve been wise enough to realize that some things only happen once in your life, so I’ve tried hard not to miss anything, and to store up the good memories. Those at least are vows that can be kept.  Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on

Read Full Post »

 

Gila Woodpecker at my hummingbird feeder

          With few exceptions, you can only find saguaro cactus in Arizona, and the same can be said for the Gila (pronounced heela) Woodpecker’s appearance above the Mexican border. Saguaros and Gilas go together like apple pie and vanilla ice cream. If you see one, you’ll find the other nearby

The plant and fauna duo share a mutually beneficial relationship. The saguaro provides shelter and food for the woodpecker, and the woodpecker rids the plant of harmful insects. I’ve seen the two together often around my Sonoran Desert Tucson apartment complex, including from my third-floor balcony, where the birds sometimes hang upside down on my hummingbird feeder to get at its nectar content. It’s a rather comical sight.

Since I live next to some undeveloped patches of land that have been left to Mother Nature’s whims – and her whims include saguaro cactus — I’ve also been privileged to see a pair of these brown and zebra-striped woodpeckers raise three chicks in a hole pecked out in a tall, three-armed saguaro that most likely was well over half a century old. Saguaros grow slowly and don’t grow arms until they are in the neighborhood of 50 years old.

          I probably wouldn’t have discovered the nest if it hadn’t been for the young ones clamoring to be fed. I saw them about a half dozen times after that, and then one -day the nest was quiet and deserted.

          I wonder if one of those young Gilas will one day visit my  humming bird feeder?

Cat No. 12: Pirate Cat

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

An Aplomado Falcon: A good place to see one is Laguna Atascosa National Wilklife Refuge in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley

  While perusing the latest issue of Bird Watchers Digest as I drank my cream-laced coffee this morning, I saw that Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

          Located at the southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, the 96,000 refuge is home to Aplomado Falcons. While predominantly a South America bird, until around 1950 the species could also be found in Texas and a couple of other southern border states. But Texas’s population of the birds had dropped to only two pairs by the time they were listed as “endangered” in 1986.

Human efforts to increase the numbers, which have included introducing Aplomados from Mexico, have had varying degrees of success but the birds are still listed as endangered and a Texas sighting of one is considered “rare.”

Of course, that makes it a challenge for avid birders like myself.

I’m happy to note that I met the challenge on Nov. 13, 2005, at Laguna Atascosa NWR. I was with a group of birders attending a birding festival in Harlingen. It was a life bird for several of us that day. And I was the first one to spot the bird’s nearby mate.

       It was this awesome sighting that I thought about when I read that the refuge was celebrating its 75th anniversary.

          Visiting wildlife refuges was one of my goals during the years between 2004 and 2012 when I lived and traveled all across this country in a small RV. And Laguna Atascosa was near the top of my list to visit because The American Bird Conservancy calls it as one of the 500 Most Important Birding Areas in the United States.

          Also on that list is the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which is just an hour’s drive away from my Tucson home.

Bean Pat: This country’s 568 National Wildlife Refuges. Which one is closest to you?

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free to Kindle Unlimited members) and is always searching for life’s silver lining

Read Full Post »

Rivoli’s Hummingbird, formerly called Magnificent, formerly called Rivoli

One of the great things about living in Southeastern Arizona is that you see birds that come across the Mexican border here and rarely anywhere else.

One of these is the Magnificent Hummingbird, or so it was called the two times when I saw it in Ramsey Canyon, where 14 other species of hummingbirds can be found. The canyon, a birders’ paradise, is located about 80 miles southeast of Tucson.

In 2017, the bird’s name was changed to Rivoli’s Hummingbird, a name by which it went until 1983 — when ornithologists named it Magnificent from Rivoli.

The name was changed back because ornithologists split the Magnificent into two species, the Rivoli and the Talamanca. DNA research is causing a lot of that to happen these days.  

Both of these hummingbirds live in mountainous pine-oak forests and shady canyons, like Ramsey. But supposedly the Talamanca doesn’t come farther north than Panama.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

Guadalupe Peak in Guadlupe Mountain National Park in Texas. — Wikimedia Photo

One of the things I’ve concluded after eight decades of iving is that beauty can be found anywhere. It’s easy to believe this when you’re spending a day hiking in the magnificent Guadalupe Mountain National Park, which is what I was doing on a warm April day about 11 years ago.

Blooming cacti and ocotillo plants dotted the Chihuahuan Desert landscape, whose mountain scenery is a rare sight in mostly flat-land Texas. Overseeing this nature haven were the picturesque peaks of El Capitan (Yes, it has the same name as better know peak in Yosemite) and Guadalupe, the latter peak, at 8,752 feet, being the highest point in the Lone Star state.

It was 360 degrees of awesome, brought to life by collared lizards darting among the yellow and magenta colored prickly pear blossoms.

That sentiment about beauty, however, was challenged a few days later when in contrast, I found myself camped for the night in an El Paso RV park, my small Class C motorhome squeezed between two huge Class A vehicles with wide slide outs in a cement parking lot. In addition, the park was surrounded by a low rock fence beyond which passing traffic kept up a yowling roar.

It was the kind of place I avoided as carefully as I did the alligators in the Okefenokee Swamp when I visited. But time and distance left me no choice. It was the only place near enough I could reach before dark, and I never drove my RV at night. 

I tried to follow Garth Brooks’ advice about basing happiness on what you have and not what you don’t have, but I was still grumbling to myself about the drab view as I sat at my table and stared out the window of my motorhome.

I wanted a meandering creek whose gurgles would lull me to sleep, and a large tree to sit beneath while reflecting on my day, and perhaps a small camp fire whose flames I could get lost in. During my nine years on the road, I spent many a night in just such a setting.

 Thinking of those nights, I admonished myself to be thankful for my life, and started to get up and get a book to read. That’s when the beauty happened.

A Gambel quail, followed by nine chicks, strolled into view. The She was headed across the cement to the far side of the campground, and she was followed by 11 chicks. And trailing behind them was another adult quail, a bit gaudier than the first so I assumed he was the male parent.

The birds brought a smile to my face, and my optimistic view that beauty could be found everywhere was renewed.

Why, I asked myself, had I ever doubted that beauty could be found everywhere, even if you don’t go looking for it.

Bean Pat: Guadalupe Mountain National Park: Here, you’ll find one of the finest examples of an ancient, marine fossil reef on Earth.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

One-of-a-Kind Hook Up

Elegant Trogon — Wikimedia Photo

Pages from my Journal

          “To wake alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest things in the world.” – Freya Stark (I felt like that many times during my RV-ing years.)

          I had planned a road trip from Ogden, Utah, to Texas that included a side trip to Sierra Vista, Arizona, where I had engaged a birding guide to help me find an Elegant Trogon, a bird which I had failed to see on my own on three earlier trips.

The carefully-timed, two-week holiday had been planned so I could attend school graduation ceremonies for some of my grandkids as well as hunt for birds.

Three days before the trip, after three years of serious looking, I suddenly found and bought the RV of my dreams, one I would live and travel in full time after my rapidly approaching retirement. The 21-foot, Class C, RV had a Winnebago home perched on a Volkswagen chassis with a spunky 6-cylinder engine.

The purchase necessitated rapid changes to my traveling plans that includedcanceling motel reservations and researching and making reservations at RV parks along the way.  

I didn’t take possession of the RV until the evening before my trip, Friends came over to help me christen it with a few drinks. I named her Gypsy Lee, the first name for the wanderer in my soul, and the second for my grandfather’s last name and my middle name. My mother had told me I inherited her father’s traveling itch.

What with packing and stocking the RV the next day, I got a late travel start, and made it only to Lake Powell before I needed to camp for the night.

I was going to spend it at Wahweap Marina Campground, but when I said I wasn’t going to hook up because I needed an early start (and because I was somewhat intimidated about my first hookup), the kindly campground attendant suggested I go six miles back up the road and camp on the beach at Lone Rock Beach as it would be cheaper.

The overnight fee at Lone Rock was just $6, but I paid only $3 because of my senior citizen’s pass. “Don’t get stuck in the sand,” the gate attendant said, after I paid him.

I didn’t – but I almost did, which taught me my first lesson about driving an RV: Make sure everything is secured before operating vehicle. When I had gunned Gypsy Lee to get her past a sandy stretch that had been created during the night, my cupboards flew open and a bunch of items fell out.

Once I got everything back in order, I drove on to Sierra Vista, and checked into an RV campground, where I had to make my first motorhome hookup to electricity, water and sewer. The first two took only a minute, the last left me perplexed. My sewer hose connection didn’t fit the park’s sewer connection.

I went to the office, pleading ignorance, admitting it was my first hook up, and asking for help. They had just the thing: A gadget that filled the gap between the two differing connections. If I remember right it cost about $10.

With that in hand, I made my first hook up – and was quite proud of myself. I woke early the next morning and was picked up by the birding guide for our day’s outing. It went better than planned, I not only got the elegant trogon for my life list, I added another dozen as well.  

As for that gadget, I had bought, I never had to use it again. For nine years, every one of the campgrounds I stayed at had hookups compatible with my RV.  

Read Full Post »

It’s World Kindness day

Just aa it took many tiles to create this mural, so it will take many acts of kindness to create a better world. — Photo of St. Louis Zoo aviary mural by Pat Bean

“Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.” – Ron Hall.

I noted in my journal this morning that it was Friday the 13th, but I didn’t know until I opened my email that November 13 is also World Kindness Day.

          What a great idea, was my first thought. When did this happen was my second? I’ve been aware in recent years that something is being celebrated every day of the year, but this was a new one for me.

          With a little research, I learned that the day had been designated 22 years ago by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of nations’ kindness NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and is now celebrated in numerous countries, including the United States.

          My third thought was that every day should be World Kindness Day.

          Bean Pat: Check out this CNN post on ways to be kind. https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/13/health/world-kindness-day-acts-wellness/index.html

          Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

Too Many to Count

If you saw a Bald Eagle when it was only two years old, you would see a ratty-looing bird with no white head. It takes these birds of prey four years to gain their magnificence. If all goes as expected, it takes many more years for humans to become their best selves, I believe. — Sketch by Pat Bean

What am I now that I was then is a line from Delmore Schwartz’s poem, “Calmly We Now Walk Through This April’s Day.”  The words sent my brain working overtime to answer the question.

I am not the same person I was over half a life ago, so much so I tell friends today they wouldn’t have liked me back then, when I was insecure, took things too personally, tried too hard to please everyone, cried too much, was searching for love while ignoring the love I had all around me, and thought of myself as two Pat Beans, one dull and following all the rules while the second one was learning to color outside the lines.

When I did the latter, I would say to myself, often aloud, Pat Bean doesn’t do that. It took a 16-day rafting trip, when I was in my 50s, on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon where nothing that was important in the outside world mattered, for the two Pat Beans to merge.

The one Pat Bean that stepped off the raft at the end of the adventure was both a stronger and a weaker person. She, at least I like to think, was a more likeable person because she was comfortable with her faults, didn’t have to prove she was perfect, and finally bold enough to accept and use her strengths.

But even that Pat Bean is not the same today, or even the day after. It seems each action, each book read, each new thought, each new experience, whether good or bad, changes me. I think that’s how life is supposed to be.

What do you think?

Bean Pat: You can read or listen to Delmore Schwartz’s poem here. https://www.poetryoutloud.org/poem/calmly-we-walk-through-this-aprils-day/

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

One of the best ways to jog my memory is to reread my journals,, which sometimes include sketches, like the one above about the day I watched a ruby-crowned kinglet.

          “Memory is the way we keep telling ourselves our stories – and telling others a somewhat different version of our stories.” – Alice Munro

          While reading Mustard’s Last Stand, by Kathy McIntosh, I came across a fictional character who popped a rubber band around his wrist because he had a negative thought.

          The action took me back over 40 years, back to when I dated a guy who frequently popped a rubber band that he wore around his wrist. Why? I had asked. He had been evasive.

         His name was Jon, and he was a very nice guy, a reporter at the Fort Worth Star Telegram where I worked for a couple of years. But we dated only a couple of times, and never became more than just good friends. He went back to an old girlfriend whom he was still carrying a torch for, and I moved 1,500 miles away.

          If I hadn’t come across that rubber band passage, I might never have thought of Jon again. The passage also answered my unanswered question about why someone would purposely give themselves a jolt of pain, as I imagine a rubber band does when snapped against skin.

          I wondered if Jon had snapped the rubber band every time he thought about his old girlfriend? And then I wondered if people still wear rubber bands around their wrists to break a habit?

I wonder a lot.

          Meanwhile, at 81, when I have forgotten more than I can remember, I’m glad when my little gray cells are jogged. It’s almost always fun.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

White-Eared Hummingbird. — Wikimedia photo

The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind.” – Carly Simon

White-Eared Hummingbird

I loafed through the past three days, which seemed an appropriate thing to do for a holiday weekend stuck at home. I binged on old Survivor seasons, walked my dog, had a night out playing Frustration and drinking Jack and coke with an adult granddaughter who also lives in my apartment complex, read a lot — and let my apartment get a bit dusty.

I live in the desert and you need to dust almost every day just to keep up with the blowing sand, which is thick enough that occasionally the night sky has a pink haze to it because of sand particles in the air. I was quite amazed the first time I saw this phenomenon.

White=Eared Hummingbird. — Audubon Field Guide

And I was just as amazed at the unexpected sight I saw this morning when I was sitting on my balcony with my morning coffee and writing out my to-do list, a bit lengthier today because of my lazy weekend.

Sitting on the table next to me was my ever-faithful pair of Leica bird-watching binoculars. Several familiar hummingbirds were flitting about the trees and my nectar feeder, mostly Anna’s, easy to identify because of the bright magenta feathers on their necks and head.

And then one flew in that was a bit different, a Broad-Billed, I assumed from its coloring and bill, and the fact they it is one of the more common hummers  I see at my nectar feeder, But it looked a bit odd, so I picked up my binoculars for a closer look as it sat peering at me from a nearby tree branch.

It had a wide white strip of feathers that stretched from above its eye almost to its neck, and not a hummingbird I was familiar with. But a quick flip through my favorite field guide let me know I was looking at a White-Eared Hummingbird. Wowzer!

This was a lifer, a bird that I was seeing for the first time. The 712th bird for my personal bird list. It was a big thing because it was the first new bird I had seen all year.

The White-Eared is a Central American hummer that barely crosses the Mexico border into Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. And I got quite a good look at it, and even heard its distinctive tink-tink-tink voice as it fed at my nectar feeder.

What a great way to start the day.

Bean Pat: To Roger Tory Peterson, who published the first modern birding field guide that made it possible for non-ornithologists like me to identify the birds they see. I love the Peterson field guides, but my favorite for birding is

Travels with Maggie tracks my earlier birding days, when my bird list was only in the 400s. Check it out on Amazon. You might be able to read it free.

National Geographic’s Birds of North America, in which I keep a record of my first bird species sightings. I currently use the sixth edition.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »