The Flicker

Northern Flickers are such common and familiar birds, I usually give them no more than a glance, even when they’re doing un-woodpecker-like things like hopping on the ground looking for ants. Pity. They’re really quite engaging birds — and handsome. And who doesn’t enjoy the Flicker’s loud ‘kew!’ on a grey autumn day, that bright, familiar, almost homey call.

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Northern Flicker (Red-Shafted)

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I’m searching through my photos for a good picture of Yucatan Parrots but there seems to be a parrot rule that, in a pair, one bird has to either be slightly out of focus or have its back turned to the camera. Parrots are like that. When I was a teenager many years ago, I looked after tropical birds in a zoo, now long gone. The zoo had a modern outlook, with a big walk-through aviary, so that was good. Needless to say, the parrots were always up to something, then like now. So – no superb pictures of these Yucatans, I’m afraid.

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Yucatan Parrots playing Hard to Get

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Groove-billed Anis

I was happy to get good pictures of a Groove-billed Ani, and then was quite surprised to find, when I checked my pictures, that there were three birds there. Funny how selective our vision can be sometimes. They look like they should belong to the blackbird family but they’re actually a brand of cuckoo. Seemingly plain, their shoulder, neck and chest feathers sport iridescent emerald flecks.

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Early Morning – Mayan Ruins with Agouti

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Getting out at sunrise is essential in the tropics. Places that seem to have no wildlife at midday can be noisy with birds. Other animals are moving and feeding too. Families of Javelina, small pig-like animals, are around. The agouti, a large rodent, is common, and not overly shy. And Keel-billed Toucans are active, using those enormous bills dexterously – they can easily pick up a grape!

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Keel-billed Toucans

Autumn Ducks: Hooded Merganser

Is there a prettier duck than the ‘Hoodie’? A group has just arrived in our little bay, the males posturing and flashing their crests as they compete for females. Buffleheads are here too, right on time – the 3rd week in October for us. And our Widgeon have returned, tumbling in on the winds of the last October storm. Coming home for the winter, I guess, and soon to be grazing on the local park lawns. No sign (yet) of the crimson-headed Eurasian Widgeon that spent last winter here. A squadron of young Surf Scoters has joined the Buffleheads, a bit of a surprise in such shallow water.

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Hooded Merganser Drake

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Surf Scoter Teens

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Competition

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Today’s Champion

 

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Amid the ruins of Muyil, a Mayan city in the Quintana Roo, an Violaceous Trogon. Seeing a marvellous bird like this in a place like Muyil helps one forget about the heat, the bugs, and the early morning. The guide’s cheese loaf at mid-morning was nothing to write home about either.

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Violaceous Trogon

The excavated part of a much larger city. Muyil, a trading center, was inhabited for over a thousand years and abandoned more than five hundred years ago.

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Muyil, Quintana Roo

 

 

Rare Birds – The Emperor Goose

I got the rare bird report when I was in Salem, Oregon in September. A number of people had reported an Emperor Goose near Coos Bay, also in Oregon, and I don’t have one on my list. Coos Bay is bit of a drive from Salem but what the heck — I’m at location around noon. It’s a nice sunny day and there are thousands of Canada Geese around but that’s it. After an hour or so, I abandon the quest. I decide to make one more try at the top of a bluff. Unfortunately, I can only see about six feet of beach from my vantage point which, it turns out, is all I need. The Goose in question obliging walks into the frame. Sometimes you just get lucky! This one is lovely blue-gray bird with pinky legs and a white topknot, a young bird a long way from the Aleutians, where it probably ought to be at this time of the year.

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Emperor Goose

 

Between Pacific Storms: October Memories

Our perennial Low in the Gulf of Alaska is setting up nicely, so the autumn storms are starting. And the remnants of a ‘weather event’ in the western Pacific are heading our way too. Makes me think the archaic word ‘tempest’ ought to be revived. Even so, birding between fronts is not a bad idea. You never know what will arrive on the heels of a great storm. The big blow is due in a day or so but I won’t go far today. Out past the pumpkin patch, I think, and Swan Lake.

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Picked Over

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Canada Geese Incoming

Rain softens everything and I mean more than the mud-making mixing of earth and water, although there’s plenty of that too. For all its pleasures, summer has a bright, loud harshness to it that needs to be relieved by early mornings and late evenings. Fall pleases me more.

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Mallards Flaps Down

Migrating waterfowl are passing through. Lots of them. A mixed flock of Mallard, Pintail and Widgeon drops into a now harvested grain field, sounding off as they land. Skeins of vocalizing Canada Geese and the smaller Cackling Geese decorate the skies in every direction.

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Wilson’s Snipe

I see nothing unusual in the fields so I check out some newly replenished ponds. The rain quietens my footsteps and makes it easier for me to arrive at a finger of slough undetected. I’m in luck. A Wilson’s Snipe is out and very visible. Somehow these secretive birds must know that hawks generally avoid flying in the rain. I stand dead still, watching, until the bird wanders off into the long grass.

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Rain Bird – Wilson’s Snipe

There are other birds to see too. A young, slightly bedraggled Cedar Waxwing looks like he’s going to a punk event somewhere. The black mask only adds to the illusion. He gives me the ‘once over’ as I go by but stays put. The punk attitude, I guess — I don’t care what you think as long as you notice me. Not to be outdone, a Steller’s Jay hops into view. I think the blue is Cerulean (more or less). Must be Crest Day at the Lake.

 

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Waxwing Punk

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Another Crest – Steller’s Jay

And speaking of illusions, I catch a glimpse of a Barred Owl, too deep in a thicket to get a good photo, but looking very ghostly on this pre-Halloween ramble. He or she is wide awake in the half light of the interval between storms. No flying tonight perhaps. Not in the teeth of (at least) gale-force winds. Not in a tempest!

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 Ghost Owl