Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

What We See

Besides always looking — and seeing — birds, they have become my favorite subject to paint. — Great horned in a tree by Pat Bean

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” — Mark Twain

And What We Don’t

I was out driving around Tucson the other day with my friend Jean when she spotted a garage-sale sign.  She usually sees three or four every time we go out together while I see zero. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that she likes garage sales and I don’t.

Also my favorite subject to photograph. — Great Blue Heron at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas photo by Pat Bean

My thoughts about this oddity touched my memory of a day back before I became an addicted bird watcher. I was riding in a van with seven members of HawkWatch, an organization whose goal is to protect raptors. They were going to check on hawks flying over the Goshute Mountains, and I was tagging along as a reporter doing a story on HawkWatch.

We were driving on Interstate 80 through the Bountiful Salt Flats between Salt Lake City and the Nevada border, and every few minutes one of my fellow passengers called out sighting of a bird, most often a red-tailed hawk or a turkey vulture.

This seemed strange, as I had driven this same, desolate route many times and had never spotted a bird. It then got stranger. After we left the highway for an unpaved backroad, one of the guys in the van yelled: “Stop! There’s an owl in that cottonwood tree.”

The driver stopped, and all of the guys oohed over the owl, which they had quickly identified as a great-horned. Even after one of the men pointed out to me where the bird was sitting, it took me a couple of minutes to actually see it. But when I did, its giant yellow eyes popped open and it stared straight at me. “Wow” was all I could think as we piled back in the van. I was changed forever. After that, I started seeing birds everywhere. Now I can’t not see them.

Thinking about this, as Jean suggested we might want to check out the garage sale, I realized how blind we can be to the world around us, simply because we’re not interested.

Perhaps, along with walking in another person’s shoes once in a while, we should also try looking at the world through another person’s eyes. There is no telling what we will see.

Bean Pat: Winter visitors https://cindyknoke.com/2018/12/04/the-canadians-are-coming/ From Canada.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more.

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Painting from a photo I took on the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades. — Watercolor by Pat Bean

“We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful. — Taylor Swift

Or Disagree with

I came across this quote by Rita Mae Brown — “A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all” – while drinking my cream-laced coffee this morning. My instant reaction was to disagree with Rita Mae.

Deadlines, which I had almost daily as a newspaper journalist for 37 years, are my best, and most favorite, writing inspiration. They mean I have a writing job. I also think I do my best work when scrambling to meet a deadline.

I collect quotes. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t write one down in my journals. I want to remember the best of them because their words inspire me, make me laugh, or speak one of my own truths to me in better words than I’ve yet thought out.

But as this old broad gets wiser, I’ve come to question whether some of the more popular quotes are actually true, especially ones that indicate animals have no feelings or reasoning. How do we know the lark is happy, or the owl wise?

The years have taught me that I can’t believe – or agree with – everything I read. It’s a skill that I treasure in the age of the Internet, where anyone can say anything and everything they want, which is not a bad thing unless what they say is malicious.

Meanwhile, the beauty of Rita Mae’s quote is that a deadline isn’t everybody’s favorite thing, and it truly is a negative inspiration for them. In this, as in most things in life, how one looks at deadlines is neither right nor wrong, simply different.

Taylor Swift says it perfectly.

Bean Pat: Baltimore orioles

https://belindagroverphotography.com/2018/11/28/baltimore-oriole-two-photographs-2/?wref=pil  To brighten your winter day. I write about seeing my first Baltimore oriole in Travels with Maggie.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon and would make the perfect Christmas gift for anyone who likes to travel. Bean is currently writing a second book, which she is calling Bird Droppings, and which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Looking across the valley from the undeveloped ridge near my apartment complex where I often take my morning walks, — Photo by Pat Bean

“… an ordinary desert supports a much greater variety of plants than does either a forest or a prairie.” — Ellsworth Hunting

Just a Happy Accident

A gila woodpecker on a saguaro cactus, one of many I see on my walks in the desert. — Photo by Pat Bean

Six years ago, after spending nine years traveling this country full-time in a small RV with my canine companion Maggie, I made a small third-floor apartment in Tucson my home. It was an unplanned move, but the time had come when I wanted a nightly hot bath instead of a skimpy shower; and I wanted the pleasure of a local library. This southeastern Arizona apartment complex had a nice bathtub, was dog friendly with shady places to walk my pet, a library was close by and, just as important, it was affordable.

It also helped that my youngest daughter lived in town, the area was a great place to watch birds, and my new apartment stood in the shadow of the Catalina Mountains, which are comparable in their 10,000-foot elevation to Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, whose shadows I lived in for 25 years before I retired, sold my home and bought my RV — I’m not sure I could ever again live away from mountains. That I found

A Tucson sunset. — Photo by Pat Bean

myself living in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was just a happy accident.

The surprise has been how much I have learned to love the desert, particularly this morning during my early walk with my current canine companion Pepper – after I read about all the snow storms taking place elsewhere in the country.

Life is good – and this old broad is happy and grateful for her many blessings.

Bean Pat: Good signs https://simpletravelourway.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/consider-this/?wref=pil This goes along with my goal of encouraging people to be kind to one another.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is available on Amazon.  She is now working on a book tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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When I’m watching birds, like this common yellowthroat, I forget all about one-gallus creatures. — Watercolor by Pat Bean


“If something is true, no amount of wishful thinking will change it.” Richard Dawkins

Wishful Thinking

I recently came across the word one-gallus while rereading Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac. I had no idea what it meant, so I looked up the meaning. When I found it, I laughed out loud.  Leopold had called people who didn’t respect wildlife “low-class, ignorant and backward.”

I used to read with a dictionary beside me, but these days it’s my Kindle because it gives me quick access to the internet. I love this modern highway of information, although like almost every change in life, it comes with a dark side – those one-gallus creatures who use it maliciously.

Does the good in life always have to be countered with a dark side? This is a question I ask myself often. I would like the answer to be no, but the longer I live on this planet the more saddened I become that my wished-for answer is never going to come to pass.

And this brings me to one of my favorite quotes: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Or in my case, asking the same thing over and over and expecting a different answer.

I did get a different answer, however, when I went online to double-check the name of the author of the quote. It’s usually attributed to Albert Einstein, but now someone is saying it might have been Benjamin Franklin, or Mark Twain, or none of the above.

If made me think that perhaps nothing is set in concrete, and that perhaps there is still a chance, slight though it will be, that we can eliminate the word one-gallus from the dictionary.

But I suspect this is simply wishful thinking.

            Bean Pat: Bluebirds to cheer your day https://pinolaphoto.com/2018/11/16/a-bluebird-day-at-the-celery-bog/  A photo blog that makes me happy

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, she is calling Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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What Life Has Taught Me

Completing a painting, whether it’s good or not, makes me feel happy. — Crow by Pat Bean

“If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem.” — Richard Bach

20 Things that Make Me Happy

I’m not one to give advice. The choices I’ve made in my own life have not always been perfect, and often disastrous. But I was recently thinking about things that have made my life better, which I did feel good about sharing. I came up with the following.

Having a dog and walking her daily:

Not taking anything personal unless it makes me feel better.

Realizing people are more concerned about how they look than how I look.

Writing and bird watching.

Watching birds, like this snowy egret, makes me happy, too. — Photo by Pat Bean.

Believing in myself.

Accepting that I’m not perfect – and even prefer it that way.

Learning something new every day.

Getting enough sleep, but not occasionally missing out on a special opportunity to keep going until I drop.


Hugging someone

Laughing often and loud, especially at myself

Beating a pillow with a tennis racket when I’m frustrated, or simple screaming the anger out.

Eating chocolate

Taking a hike in the mountains, or forest, or beside a stream, or on an ocean beach.

Completing a project.

Saying no when I don’t want to do something.

Not breaking promises to myself.

Giving myself credit for reaching goals, like finally publishing my travel book or simply finishing a painting.

Doing something I’ve never done before.

Watching sunrises and sunsets.

So, what’s on your list?

Bean Pat: Live to Write https://nhwn.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/write-now/#like-18435 Good advice for us writers.

Now available on Amazon

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com


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             “The Early bird gets the worm. The early worm … gets eaten.” – Norman Ralph Augustine

It was peaceful and quiet at the Matagorda County Bird Nature Center, where rare time spent with a son was even more important than the lovely scenery and the birds. — Photo by Pat Bean


A Day for the Birds

The greatest number of bird species ever reported in one U.S. county in a single day is 250.  The day was December 19, 2005, and the place was Matagorda County, Texas, according to Wikipedia.

This yellow-crowned night heron patiently posed for his portrait. — Photo by Pat Bean,

Knowing this bit of trivia, it was an easy decision when my son asked me where I wanted to go birding, which is how he and I bond when we have a rare day to be together. I chose the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center located in Bay City for more reasons than that, however. It wasn’t December. It was going to be a hot 100-degree plus July day, and I knew this bird sanctuary had a golf cart that birders could use to get around its 37 acres. And while summer birding in Texas isn’t exactly great, I suspected the center would still have some birds in residence.

Lewis picked me up early, and we birded until 10:30 when the heat got to me and I had to yell uncle.  We then did a drive through nearby San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, which is in both San Bernard and Brazoria counties.

Lewis posed for a photo to be texted to his wife, Karen, who wasn’t with us this day. She was in Niagara Falls, where Lewis plans to join her soon. — Photo by Pat Bean.

The day’s final bird total was well below the 100 birds Lewis and I got on an April birding day on the Texas Gulf Coast a few years back, which began on the beach in Quintana, and included a visit to the San Bernard refuges. But we still had a few extraordinary sightings,

There were a couple of green herons, always one my favorite birds; a close overhead flyover of a Cooper’s hawk; a brilliant summer tanager, which was one of the birds Lewis and I saw on our first bird outing together at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge in 2002 when Lewis caught my birding addiction; and a great photo-op of a yellow-crowned night heron.

We ended our adventure by having lunch at Dido’s, where a couple of hummingbirds entertained us as they vied for nectar feeders that sat in front of the large windows that overlooked the San Bernard River.

It was a great day. But as much as I loved the birding, the best part of the it was simply getting to spend time with my son Lewis.

Bean Pat: Writing Soul Mates https://smpauthors.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/waiting-to-be-prospected/  Some good ideas for those times when we struggle with writer’s block.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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In a region of Texas some call the last great habitat, thorn forest intermingles with freshwater wetlands, coastal prairies, mudflats and beaches. Dense patches of thorny brush rise among unique wind-blown clay dunes called lomas.”  — US Fish and Wildlife Service

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge — US Fish and Wildlife photo

Birds Galore

            It was a warm November day in 2005 when I visited South Texas’ Laguna Atascosta National Wildlife Refuge, whose name loosely translates to boggy lake. My own description of the refuge, recorded in my journal, coincides somewhat with the official version. I wrote: “Laguna Atascosta is one big briar patch – a haven of thorns. It seemed as if every plant was armed.  Scattered purple and orange wildflowers sat among sage, yucca, and palm trees with shaggy trunks.”

A pair of aplomado falcons. — US Fish and Wildlife photo

Along with my descriptions of the landscape was a list of the birds I was seeing: osprey, white-fronted goose, great egret, great blue heron, white-tailed kite, long-billed curlew, loggerhead shrike, kestrel, sandhill crane, white-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, white pelican, Harris hawk, red-shouldered hawk – just to name a few. Half of the birds found in North America rest, feed, migrate through or nest on this landscape, the leader of our small birding group told us as we watched lesser and greater yellowlegs feeding in some shallow water.

It was easy to tell which was which of the two, not an easy task when looking at only one of the species, I thought, as I added dunlin, marbled godwit, black-bellied plover, northern harrier, gull-billed tern, black-necked stilt and willet to my bird list, which kept getting longer – and kept looking for the No. 1 bird on my priority list.

But as the day wore on, I became more and more doubtful I would see an aplomado falcon, a globally abundant species but rare in North America. Once widespread throughout the American Southwest, only two remaining pairs of aplomado falcons were known to exist in the states in the 1940s and ‘50s, most likely because of over harvesting of eggs, according to US Fish and Wildlife.

Aplomado falcon. — Wikimedia photo

Today, the aplomado falcon has made a comeback in South Texas due to an aggressive recovery program involving captive breeding and re-introduction efforts. As of 2004, more than 900 falcons had been released in the Rio Grande Valley, with 25 nesting pairs documented in 2006.

Finally, thankfully, I got to see one of those pairs. Our group finally identified one sitting regally on a yucca. The aplomado falcon was a good distance away, but my long-lens telescope brought it up close for a detailed view. As I watched the falcon, which was a new life bird for me, I noted a second one sitting a bit lower on the plant. What a delightful day for us birders.

But it wasn’t over. Before we headed back to our Harlingen Hotel, which was the base for those attending the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, I added lesser scaup, crested caracara, belted kingfisher and a dozen or so more birds to my day’s list.

Laguna Atascosa may mostly be a briar patch, but I feel like Br’er Rabbit, who despite his words, would have been quite happy to be tossed back into that thorny thicket.

Bean Pat: Bay of Fundy https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/the-bay-of-fundy/#like-38633 One of my favorite blogs because I usually learn something new, especially how to identify wildflowers.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her patbean@msn.com

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