Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Birds of Our Neighborhood

The title of this post is directly stolen from the title of a CD by The Innocence Mission, a band from Pennsylvania of whom we are exceedingly fond. There's also an old Innocence Mission song called "The Wonder of Birds", but "Birds of Our Neighborhood" (available for digital download from Sony, by the way) seemed more fitting since all of the following photographs were taken within close proximity of our rig.

This first bird, which we think is some form of pheasant, is fairly ubiquitous around here. We're not sure what purpose the tuft on his or her head serves, but Mary is certain that it has to do with mating. Whatever the answer is, it sure is picturesque.

Mary says: I had quite a surprise while standing beside this cactus which was just 2 feet from our rig. There  I was, fondling the smooth yellow cactus blooms, taking in the unique beauty of such a plant, when at eye level I see a lovely dove looking right back at me from her scrubby little minimalist nest among the thorns. She has a pretty blue ring around each eye and 2 babies under her wing! We were careful not to disturb them during our stay and used our camera's zoom lens rather than risk scaring them even  more with the imposition of a camera pointed too close to their cute little faces. It was an even more special treat to witness a changing of the guard at dusk when another dove flew in to relieve the one who'd been on duty all day. After the new dove settled into the nest, I watched as s/he literally took one bird at a time under her wing then proceeded to feed each hungry baby via regurgitation. I videotaped the feeding for a future post but will need a better internet connection to upload it, so please stay tuned!

This next bird is a common sight here in the deserts of the Southwest: a Roadrunner. While not purple and noisy like the Roadrunner of cartoon fame, we do know that the Roadrunner is indeed quite fast on its feet (up to 17 miles per hour!) and fond of killing and eating rattlesnakes, lizards and some insects. It is also the state bird of New Mexico. Catching one on film like this was a major feat for us, and Keith finally succeeded after he was outrun by the roadrunner. Beep, beep!

Mary continues: Now that we've left the flat desert terrain and headed for the hills, we are camping at the base of a mountain range that is decorated with bright yellow and fragrant flowers. 

The largest mountain is so tall  that we cannot see the sun until well after it rises on the horizon. Of course the birds aren't fooled by the early morning mountain shade and let us know the night is over by their raucous morning chorus. Upon a branch of a juniper bush, a little bird harps out a mighty strong and sweet song and I am reminded of the song, "The Littlest Birds" by The Be Good Tanyas

 The dawning of this new day stirs an excitement within for another cloudless blue sky day in New Mexico, as we relish its gentle unfolding and the passing of time, at peace and often in bliss.

Scattered among the cacti are opening yellow flowers we shall call "Desert Buttercups" that treat us with their subtly sweet smell one can only detect when a cool breeze brushes our smiling faces.

Birds, jackrabbits, snakes, lizards---they're all here, and the flora and fauna of the southwest is simply spectacular. Keith is thrilled to have not seen a single snake, and perhaps will be able to avoid such an encounter for the foreseeable future. (And for those of you with serpentine phobias like him, rest assured that no photographs of such legless creatures will mar the pages of this snake-free blog!) Mary disagrees, however, and would love to photograph a snake and post it proudly here, but will yield to the snake phobic among us. Instead, here is s photo of some Cottontop Pheasants that came up for some snacks:

We are truly enjoying the wonders of nature in the Southwest, and being able to share it with you, dear Readers, is simply a pleasure!

We are not off the radar screen, not at all---we're right here, sitting in the desert botanical garden, the sun warming our backs, love filling our hearts, and the wonders of nature putting our minds at rest. Spring reminds us of how the cycle of life continues. Now we can simply sit and watch, at peace with the changes around and within us, wishing the same for you and for all on our small blue planet and all her creatures large and small...


  1. your first bird is a quail, common throughout the southwest. i don't know if they're relatives of the pheasant or not.

    beautiful pictures!

  2. From one snake-phobic to another, I thank you!
    Love SIS

  3. oh, i think the other is called the cottontop quail then. thanks, kat! i got quails and pheasants mixed up! i guess you see more peasants than pheasants!

    and no problemo, sis, will leave out the snakes! so happy to see you on the blog!



  4. A dear friend of ours sent us this email in response to this particular post about birds:

    Dear Mary and Keith, The first bird in Wednesday's entry is a Gambel's Quail. If you go to California you will see an almost identical bird with only a barely detectible difference. # 2, 3, & 4 are White-winged Doves. The fifth and sixth you already know. Hard to identify on the seventh. It could be a Cassin's Sparrow. The littlest birds do sing the prettiest songs. The eigth birds are Scaled Quail. The ninth is probably a house Sparrow. The last is probably a White-crowned Sparrow. Think bird watching is the third most popular hobby. There are about 8000 different bird species in the World and there are people who strive to see and identify them all. A great relaxing hobby.

  5. Mary, we are fortunate enough that in addition to quail (which i have not actually seen on our land, though i saw them all the time growing up in rural Arizona) we actually do have ringneck pheasants on our land! they nest in the tall bunchgrass and are easily startled. they are much larger than quail, and strikingly coloured.