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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Western Kingbird: Along with reading books on writing, I also love to read books on birding. Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway is one of my favorites.

“Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.” – Agatha Christie

Morning Chat

          I’m a big fan of books about writing and the writing life, beginning with E.B. White’s 100-year-old classic The Elements of Style.

Among my favorites are Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life; On Writing by Stephen King; Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg: and The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.

These writers have offered me some very good advice, but also lots of other advice that doesn’t work for me. I thought about this as I finished reading Dani Shapiro’s book, Still Writing. It was full of good writing tips, but as one who has been writing for the past 55 years, I know only about half of her advice would work for me.

For one thing, she’s a lock yourself in the room and stay there and write kind of person. I’m more like Barbara Kingsolver, who calls herself a writer who does other things. Staying active and busy, but with some time for thinking and writing, works best for me.

Even so, the best writing advice of all times is simply: Butt in chair. Well, unless you write standing up.

What’s your favorite book on writing? Inquiring minds want to know.

Bean Pat: A blog about a western kingbird http://www.10000birds.com/a-western-kingbird-at-jones-beach. If you’re a birder, check out Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway. I once birded with Kenn (at the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival) and the first bird of the day was a western kingbird.

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.

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Cooper’s Hawk. Once I became addicted to birdwatching, I couldn’t not see birds. And occasionally I got lucky and got a good photograph. — Photo by Pat Bean 

“Does the road wind uphill all the way?  Yes. To the very end. Will the journey take the whole day?  From morn to night, my friend.” — Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Dredging up the Past

I’ve begun work on my memoir, which friends have been urging me to do for years. Like most people’s lives, mine has good parts and bad parts. My book, Travels with Maggie, is 100 percent upbeat, focusing only on the life’s sunshine. I’m happy with it.

If you’re looking for a good book with lots of trivia about America’s cities and landmarks, check out Travels with Maggie on Amazon. It’s G-rated and an excellent book to read together with your kids. Maggie was my canine companion on the six-month birding trip. — Book cover by Sherry Watcher.

For the past year or so, I’ve been working on a second book about my adventures as a late-blooming, bird-watching old broad, tentatively titled Bird Droppings. It also looks at the world through Pollyanna’s eyes. I’m thinking I might start trying to market the chapters I’ve written as single essays.

Meanwhile, as I think about my memoir, tentatively titled Between Wars, a book that will focus on my 37 years as a journalist while also being the mother of five children, and surviving a nasty divorce, I know I will have to put the rose-colored glasses in the trash bin.

I’m not sure I can do it. But I’ve started going back through all my journals and finding I at least enjoy doing the research.

For example, as a former river rat who took two, 16-day, white-water rafting trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I almost couldn’t stop laughing after reading this entry:  The difference between a fairy tale and a river trip: The fairy tale begins “Once upon a time,” while the river trip tales begins: “No shit! There I was…”

            This past day’s entry also contained some quotes that are still worth repeating.

Me, at the Standard-Examiner in 1992, when I was the paper’s environmental reporter. It was my favorite newspaper job, and I held it for 10 years before I became city editor to get more money.. — Photo by Charles Trentelman.

“To the dull mind all nature is leaden. To the illuminated mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson. I think I was reading one of Emerson’s journals at this time.

I was also probably reading one of Natalie Goldberg’s writing books, too. For I wrote down this quote of hers. “If you do not fear the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.”

I also wrote down some thoughts of my own, in quote form. “At one time in life, I sought logic in everything. Now I know better,” and “If our thoughts were not continually shifting, we’d be a broken record to ourselves.” – Pat Bean

Bean Pat: What a Waste https://brevity.wordpress.com/2019/08/29/what-a-waste/ Leonard Bernstein and scammed writers.

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

 

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Mornings with Scamp

“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.” — J.B. Priestley 

Morning coming over the desert behind my apartment complex in the Cataline Foothills in Tucson. — Photo by Pat Bean

Sunshine and Doves

I’m a morning person, most often up before the sun peeks above the horizon. At the first upward flick of an eyelid, I’m ready and eager to bounce out of bed. It’s as if I can’t wait to discover what surprises the day will bring. It probably helps that I an optimist who usually thinks all glasses are half full and not half empty.

Scamp, with his head cocked in curiosity. — Photo by Shanna Lee

“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a frsh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.” — J.B. Priestley

This early morning exuberance has not helped me win friends over the years, especially among coworkers who only came to life just before quitting time. It might have helped if I hadn’t always been so verbosely cheerful, but the bratty kid in me was usually in charge.

My early morning enthusiasm these days, however, is greeted with equal enthusiasm from my new canine companion Scamp, who in my introductory blog https://patbean.net/2019/05/13/loss-and-joy-and-a-true-friend/  about him, I then called Harley.

He was called Smidge at the shelter when I adopted him, then Harley by me because I simply liked the name and couldn’t think of a better one – until a few days ago.  He was acting like a scamp, and I realized that he actually looked a bit like the dog Scamp in Disney’s movie “Lady and the Tramp.” This is particularly true of his silver-gray coloring and the cute way he cocks his head when looking at you.

Scamp reminds me of Scamp in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.

The name fit like a paw in wet cement — perfectly.

When I first got Smidge/Harley/Scamp on May 11, I had to walk him almost hourly as he hadn’t been house-trained, although he was eight months old.  The walk schedule is now up to about every three hours, and he is sleeping all through the night. I am very happy, wildly happy, to say Scamp was a quick learner and we haven’t had an accident in over a week. Now if I could just teach him the meaning of the word NO!

But when he and I wake up, we are both ready to get outdoors and watch the sun come up. Well, I like to watch the sunrise, Scamp likes to chase the mourning doves that are still snoozing on the ground. The important thing is mornings make both of us happy.

Life is good.

Bean Pat:  Badlands National Park https://anotefromabroad.com/2019/06/10/south-dakota-badlands-national-park/  One of my favorite places.

Blog pick of the day.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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             “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” – Wassily Kandinsky

Painted bunting — Wikimedia photo

The Bunting Came with a Bonus

Back in my early birding days, I spent some time at Texas’ Cedar Hill State Park near Dallas in search of a painted

Female painted bunting. — Wikimedia photo

bunting. It took three days of breaking spider webs on trails in the early mornings, and one day of slogging through the mud after a night of rain, but I eventually found one of these clownish-colored birds.

When in the open, you can’t miss the adult male.  He has a bright blue head, a scarlet breast, a green back, and a red rump. The female and first-year males are more subdued, dressed in shades of green, with the breast leaning toward yellow on the color wheel. These birds, however, feel more comfortable when ensconced in thick foliage, thus my difficulty in finding one.

The colorful bird I finally found on my fourth day of looking was an easily identifiable adult male perched in a tree near a small pond.  The painted bunting became bird species No. 383 on my life list (which now numbers 710). The painted bunting is nicknamed nonpareil (without equal) in French and mariposa pintado (painted butterfly) in Spanish because of its spectacular appearance.

Appropriately, a group of painted buntings is called a mural or a palette.

Green heron — Wikimedia photo

Sad to say, the bird’s beauty made it a popular caged bird until its capture and captivity became illegal in the United States. It is still, however, a hot item with the international pet trade, and the birds are particularly popular as pets in Asia and Europe, which may be one of the reasons its numbers are dwindling.

Meanwhile, as I was enjoying my front-row view of the Cedar Hill painted bunting years ago, it was suddenly displaced on the limb by another bird. I would have been upset, except this bird was a green heron – bird species No. 384.

Some days, life is really good.

Bean Pat: Traveling with dogs. https://jamieandthedogs.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/yep-just-me-and-four-dogs-heading-east/  This reminds me of my years on the road in my small RV, only I just had one dog.

*Available on Amazon, Travels with Maggie features a list of birds saw each leg of the journey.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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            “The daily hummingbird assaults existence with improbability.” Ursula K. Le Guin

Male Anna’s hummingbird. — Wikimedia photo

A Constant Delight at my Nectar Feeder

            If you want to see hummingbirds in North America, then Southeastern Arizona is the best place to be. While there are over 300 species of hummingbirds that can be found in South America, only about 17 come north across the Mexican border. Of that number, at least 13 of these species can be found around Tucson, where I currently live.

Female Anna’s hummingbird — Wikimedia photo

In my home state of Texas, the only hummingbird I would likely see is the ruby-throated.  Here in Tucson, I get six species regularly visiting my third-floor balcony nectar feeder every year: broad-billed, black-chinned, Costa’s, Anna’s, broad-tailed and rufous. Although it didn’t come to my feeder, I even spotted a Lucifer hummingbird in the tree next to my balcony two years ago. That was a life bird for me, and a one-time event so far in my life.

Of the hummingbirds that visit my apartment, I may only see one or two rufous during an entire year. The other five, however, are more common, especially Anna’s. This feisty little bird doesn’t migrate so I get to see it almost daily throughout the year.

The females are dainty things, with glittering green and white feathers with perhaps a few sparkling magenta gems around their necks. The

I saw my first Costa;s hummingbird from my third-floor Tucson balcony. — Wikimedia photo

males are agile dive bombers who guard my nectar feeder against other hummers, and they have brilliant crimson-red crowns and necks that shimmer in the sunlight. I never tire of watching them.

Perhaps because Anna’s favorite food is nectar from feeders put out by humans, they have had no problem surviving loss of habitat, as so many other birds have. In the early 20th century, Anna’s could only be found on the Baja California Peninsula but they have slowly been spreading northward and inward.

The hummers were named after Anna Massena, Duchess of Rivoli. Why? This wondering-wanderer immediately asks. I didn’t find the answer. Do you know?

Bean Pat: https://naturehasnoboss.com/2019/06/04/as-the-snow-melts/  It’s time to visit Yellowstone.

*Available on Amazon, Travels with Maggie features a list of birds saw each leg of the journey.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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Keeping Bird Lists 

Black-bellied whistling ducks at Brazos Bend State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

I first started keeping a list of all the bird species I saw in 1999. Sadly, that was after I had visited Hawaii and a few other hot birding places or my list might be much longer today. My world list of bird species currently totals 710.

It’s not a particularly awesome number, but it’s still growing. The list pleases me, as I suspect the list President Theodore Roosevelt put together of the birds he saw during his White House occupancy pleased him.

Spotting the pink of a lone roseate spoonbill, as Lewis and I did among a flock of white ibis, was pure delight. — Photo by Pat Bean

I only recently learned of Teddy’s list, which was printed in 1910 by Audubon’s magazine, Bird-Lore.  Of course, I had to check it out, and so can you at:  https://www.birdnote.org/blog/2014/04/president-theodore-roosevelts-bird-checklist-white-house

The White House list contains 93 birds, of which I have seen all but five. I’m still looking for a saw-whet owl, a whippoorwill, an orchard oriole, a Cape May warbler and a Kentucky warbler.

When I first started birding, I kept individual lists of the birds I saw on each field outing, later adding any new ones to my life list. Most of those lists have disappeared, making me as sad as Darwin was about not separating the bird specimens that he collected on the first two Galapagos Islands he visited. He had simply assumed the species would not differ from island to island – but they did.

Wiser now, with 20 years of birding behind me, I add field trip bird lists directly into my journals.* Such a practice let me compare my last two Texas Gulf Coast bird outings with my son, Lewis, who shares my birding addiction.

A flock of white ibis at Brazos Bend State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

The first field trip was on a very hot July 11th day in 2018, with high humidity and mosquitos, when we birded the Bay City Bird Sanctuary in a golf cart, followed by a quick drive through San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.  We saw only 19 bird species, the best sighting being that of a Cooper’s hawk circling above the wooded path we were driving on.

The most recent outing took place on May 2 this month, when we briefly explored the Elm Lake Trail at Brazos Bend State Park, drove through Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (where Lewis and I had our first bird outing and he began his life list with a summer tanager), then watched birds as we ate lunch at Pirates Cove on Surfside Beach. This time our list numbered 47 for the morning, the final bird being a reddish egret at Christmas Bay off the coastal Blue Water Highway between Freeport and Galveston.

While this was a better birding day, it was still nowhere near the record 100 birds Lewis and I once saw in a single day birding the same area. The recordings of these more recent bird days in my journals are alike, however, in one aspect. Both contained entries that noted the best part of the day was simply getting to spend time with my son.

Bean Pat: Cadillac Ranch and Palo Duro Canyon https://anotefromabroad.com/2019/05/22/texas-cadillac-ranch-and-palo-duro-canyon/#like-108774 Two of this native Texan’s favorite places. One for laughs and the other for peace, nature and bird-watching.

*Available on Amazon, Travels with Maggie features a list of birds saw each leg of the journey.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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“I chose the road less traveled. And now I’m lost.” — Darynda Jones

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Carlsbad, New Mexico

Road Trip June 21 — July 6, 2002

If you’re in Carlsbad, New Mexico, the No. 1 place to visit is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. But since I had already done this, I decided to forgo the cave tour and instead visit the city’s Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. It was a good choice as I added three new bird species to my life list — and got an educational experience about the landscape, plants, and animals of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Barn owl. — Wikimedia photo

It was late afternoon when I arrived, giving me only a couple of hours to walk the 1.3 loop trail around the park’s variety of desert habitats that included sandhills, marsh areas and arroyos. But it was a good time to see daytime birds getting ready to nest for the night, or nighttime birds coming awake for their night of activity.

The first stop was an aviary near the visitor center that featured native birds of prey including golden and bald eagles. While these were fun to see, it was the birds that flew free around the avian-friendly park that interested me more. One of these, a barn owl flew right in front of me as I rounded a curve in the trail, which I seemed to have all to myself. A little farther on, a couple of scaled quail scurried off when they saw me coming, but not before I had a satisfying look at them.

Because back then I was still new to birding, both of these species were lifers for my growing bird list. So were the common nighthawks skimming the water at Waterfowl Pond near the prairie dog homes. I easily identified the nighthawks, well after a quick look at my bird field guide, by the broad white stripes visible near their wing tips as they flew.

Bank swallow

Also circling around the ponds were quite a few cliff and bank swallows. I had seen quite a few of these birds during trips to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Northern Utah. On one outing there had been a huge flock of five species of swallows circling around and under a small bridge. I had spent hours learning how to tell them apart. The bank and swift swallows, I had decided were the easiest to identify.

The bank swallow has a gray, necklace-like stripe on its white breast, which I came to think of as a banker’s bow tie. The mature cliff swallow, meanwhile, has a prominent white spot on its bluish-black head that flashes when its flying toward you. 

Other birds I saw as I followed the winding trail through the desert landscape included a Harris hawk, burrowing owls, black-chinned hummingbirds and an Eastern kingbird. It was a delightful late afternoon that ended far too quickly.

According to my journal notes, I paid a $4 entrance fee to be admitted to the park. I certainly got my money’s worth, and I noted that the admission fee today is only $1 more. A bargain I would say.

Available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Seaman https://sarah-angleton.com/2019/04/11/a-classy-post-about-a-loyal-dog-with-an-unfortunate-name. A dog story and a travel story in one, and it made me smile.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She is also currently looking for a new canine companion. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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