I look out at a flock of birds feeding in the yard. How many are there? My first impression is twenty, no thirty. I begin counting, then something spooks them and they fly up into the tree. I would never know except that I had snapped a photo. Actually there are more than sixty juncos in this picture. Having taken a photo I could enlarge the scene and systematically make a count. If the flock is large and the birds are moving about, snap the shutter.
By the way, notice how these juncos do not crowd each other. They tend to keep at least a peck apart.
This morning I looked out of the kitchen window and was surprized to see this infrequent visitor. This is a Varied Thrush Ixoreus naevius. I see this species about once every four or five years in my yard. Never do I see them this far south except at winter time. Probably a few of them may nest around Cascade reservoir. One summer, many years ago, I happened to visit the panhandle of north Idaho. This was in the thrush’s nesting period and there was an abundance of these birds flying about uttering their territorial and mating calls in a relatively small area.
Arthur Cleveland Bent in his “Life Histories of North American Thrushes, Kinglets, and their Allies” recounts an incident in October 1906 when there were hundreds of Varied Thrush flying high overhead migrating south for the winter. Many present day birders would pay a premium to witness such a sight.
On this fine Christmas day I looked out of the kitchen window and saw a host of Dark-eyed Juncos dining on my Holiday offering. This was just after a snow storm and the birds were hungry. Other birds to arrive this day were Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch and a lone Northern Flicker.
Imagine my surprise when I stepped out onto the lawn this afternoon and encountered this little creature. After all, this is the 8th of December and most critters of this type have been in their winter quarters for some time. This species is known as Isabella Tiger Moth Pyrrharctia isabella commonly called Wooly Bear. They hibernate over winter. Special chemicals in their system protect them should they freeze. According to folklore the narrow orange band around the middle indicates a severe winter ahead. A broad band would have indicated a mild winter. Broad band, narrow band, mild weather, severe winter, I think this little guy should have been in his bed weeks ago.
I came upon this fellow about ten years ago in Owyhee county. I stopped and at a distance started shooting with my camera from my car. I advanced and periodically stopped for more pictures until I was about 20 feet away. I got out of the car, leaned over the hood and got some good close pictures. The badger seemed to sense my presence but continued to excavate his burrow. This was a very satisfying ten minutes of my trip.
The North American Bluebird Society has an annual meeting every year at various cities in North America. This year, 2014, Boise, ID was chosen for the second time as host city. The first time was in 1994. The meeting was sponsored by Wild Lens Inc. assisted by the Golden Eagle Audubon Society. Matt Podolski, the gentleman at the extreme left, is President of Wild Lens. Sherry Linn, the lady standing fifth from the right, is President of NABS. Others in the photo are bluebirders from many of the states throughout the U.S.
Two of our field trips were to Prairie and the Owyhees. We observed both Mountain and Western bluebirds which were life birds for many of the folks from east coast states. As an added bonus some held the nestlings during banding operations.
The out-of -state people were amazed at the spectacular scenery, canyons and rock formations at Prairie and high desert juniper and mahogany trees in the Owyhee mountains. The above picture was taken at over 6000′ above sea level. The two rounded peaks in the background are Quicksilver Mountain on Cinnabar Ridge. We are about ten miles south of Silver City. If we were to swing our view about 90 degrees to the right we would see the Snake River Plain some 3000′ below stretching from Weiser to Mtn. Home.
This is my favorite nestbox site for photography. I call this nestbox, “A home with a view.”
Northen Flicker (Red-shafted Race)
This guy flew in while I was eating breakfast this morning. He landed in the old weed-covered flower garden above the rock wall just outside the kitchen window. He was looking for breakfast too.
When you find this in the yard you know an elk has paid a visit.
This little locust tree is saying, “Autumn has arrived.”
The site of the old cabin
This scene takes me back 80 years to my early childhood. Left of lower center one can see the skeletons of two dead Lombardi poplar trees. Originaly there were four of these trees set around a spring-fed well. About 30 or 40 feet behind and to the right of these trees stood a small three-room board cabin. A few hundred yards up Cattle Creek to the right were pieces of iron and a chopped up boiler, reminants of an old whiskey still. In later years I refered to the cabin as a “moon-shiner’s cabin.” Norton, an older brother of mine, was living in this cabin when I arrived in May 1934.
My mother died in January ’34 while our home was in Boise, Idaho. My step-father left Boise and placed me in the care of my oldest brother, Stanley, presumably so I could finish out the school year at Park School. My grades in school were always average or above. Soon my grades began to fall and I was behind my classmates in learning. One day a representative from the Welfare Department paid us a visit at home inquiring about my well being. Shortly thereafter I was whisked away from all this to live with Norton in the cabin mentioned above. I never finished the 6th grade. I was just 12 years old.
Summer rolled around and Norton found work during the haying season about three miles away. He would come home from work every night and leave early the next morning. My chore was to milk the old Jersey cow and take care of the calf. What was a poor kid to do that had been brought up in the city with playmates and people around? Here on Cattle Creek the closest neighbor was a mile away and they were elderly with a grown daughter. Our cabin was located a mile off the Pleasant Valley road about 12 miles south of Jordan Valley, Oregon. Teddy, our dog, was my sole companion during most of my waking hours during those hot summer days in 1934. Teddy and I roamed about in this desolate sagebrush landscape with nothing particular in mind. I was lonely.
Mother Nature came to my rescue and introduced me to flowers, birds and other wildlife. I got acquainted with a nest of Brewer’s blackbirds and the Bullock’s Oriole which I called a canary. I recall a group of Sage Grouse, Red-tailed Hawks, ground squirrels and snakes. My first encounter with a rattle-snake was when one entered an open door and rattled a warning when I started through the room. All of these things and many more experiences flashed across my mind when I revisited this scene 80 years later. While I feel sorry for this orphaned waif thrust into early hardships I am grateful for lessons learned as a result.