Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Hello Arizona!

"Sometimes I feel like somebody's watching me!"
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman, 2020. 

I am in Arizona! Surprise! I didn't like the freezing temperatures in Wyoming; had limited access to wildlife. Between the wind and snow it was difficult to reach places where I could view the blessed little creatures! There are plenty here in Arizona, though. Not the big creatures I saw in Wyoming, like antelope and buffalo, but little creatures, like wasps, bees, beetles, scorpions...

Palo Verde beetle, Derobrachus geminatus. Photo from Wikimedia Common, Public Domain. 

So here I am, once again in triple-digit heat and a high-desert region where I am surrounded by creepy crawlies, like the 3 1/2 inch long Palo Verdes beetle, Derobrachus geminatus, that was hiding beneath my pool deck. My dog, Emma, found the creature and pestered it so much that it snapped at her back leg..oh yes they do bite, and hard! I did a catch and release with the beast and set it free in the alley behind my house. 

Bee on Sunflower. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

And I have a swimming pool, complete with all the critters, such as bees, wasps, dragonflies, mosquitos, ants, and every other little creature you can imagine. They do need water. My pool often fills up with bees, and it's heartbreaking. We need bees! In Arizona, however, 90% of the honey bees are now Africanized, and they have nasty tempers. As I swim around the pool I try to fish out all of the drowning bees and they often buzz me and occasionally reward me with a sting. Not particularly grateful. The wasps ignore me. I swim around them, and they swim around me. Wasps land on the water with all four legs spread then dip their heads down for a drink. Apparently the chlorine doesn't bother them. Bees, on the other hand, often end up with wet wings, splashing and floundering around until they drown. In the mornings, I use the net to retrieve dozens of drowned bees from my pool. It's sad, but I haven't found a solution yet. 

Darla's ducks. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

And I have ducks. Many, many ducks. This isn't the first time I've raised ducks. I had ducks when my children were young and although I am a vegetarian I do eat eggs. I love duck eggs. They are large and packed with protein. 

Cheesy, a Pekin duck. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was actually excited about having ducks and eggs, so I followed my neighbor's advice and stopped at the local farm supply store. I was told I should adopt at least twice as many as I needed in case some died because they were weak, or they were attacked by cats or dogs. Hmm. Doesn't sound fair to the ducks! I wanted four, so I adopted seven, and all seven are now happy and healthy and living in the duck run I built for them on the side of my house, or sleeping beside my swimming pool. 

Flippy duck tails. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman, 2020. 

There's only one problem with my plan--six of the seven now have flippy feathers on their tails. According to my neighbor, that means I have at least six male ducks, possibly seven. I still don't have any eggs and stopped hoping for them, but I have many duck friends! 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Possible Black-crowned Night Heron and Cormorants at Cheyenne's Holliday Park

The Mystery Bird at Cheyenne, Wyoming's Holliday Park. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was photographing Cormorants at Cheyenne, Wyoming's Holliday Park when a woman walking behind me called out, "Hey, look what's beside you!" I turned to my right and just a few feet away I spotted this bird. I have never seen one before.

The woman stopped walking and told me she thought it resembled a penguin, and I agreed. We both stood and watched the bird in awe for a few minutes as it slowly turned its head to look at us. I suspected it was preparing to leave. I carefully took a picture, trying not to disturb it. I wanted it to stay as long as possible I wanted to "see" it more than photograph it so I could try and identify it later, but I am still trying to identify this bird!

Although blurry, it is my hope that this photo of the bird in flight might help in its identification. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I believe it may be a Black-crowned Night Heron, but then again, this would be highly unlikely as according to Wyoming's wildlife resources and other bird pages the Black-crowned Night Heron is rarely seen in Wyoming. And yet, it does look very much like the photos online. These birds are found in many parts of the world, but some of the sources I found said they are rarely seen in Wyoming, while others said they are seen everywhere! 

A bit fuzzy due to distance, but this is a damselfly. The difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly is damselflies close their wings and dragonflies keep them spread open. They also have very different head shapes. Damselflies often resemble robots in my opinion. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

After it flew past me it circled the lake at Holliday Park then returned to perch on some rocks on the opposite side of the lake from me. It didn't seem to be in a big hurry to leave, so I suspect it may live there, or it may have been hunting. These birds sit very still at the edge of the water to search for prey and I did notice an unusual number of dragonflies and damselflies. I tried to photograph them, but couldn't get close enough because of the large rocks on the bank. 

Mute Swans at Veteran's Park in Greeley, Colorado. (Yes, they're real!) Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I've photographed birds that seemed "out of place" before and sometimes, when you ask for help online, you will receive strange replies. I photographed a pair of swans in Greeley, Colorado once and two women who live in Colorado wrote to accuse me of faking the photographs because "Swans are never seen in Greeley!" And yet, they were there in 2018, enjoyed for a brief time by nearby residents before they moved on. 

Perhaps this was a rare sighting of a Black-crowned Night Heron. Or maybe I have misidentified the bird and it is a more common and still spectacular local resident. Regardless, if you have any suggestions or identification information on the featured bird in the top photo, please leave a comment! I would love to hear from you! 

Cormorants at Cheyenne's Holliday Park. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I wasn't at the park with camera in hand to photograph the mystery bird. In fact, I was taking photos for nearly half an hour before I was told it was there. I was actually driving past the park when I noticed a large group of Cormorants sitting on a floating device in the center of the lake. They were too far away for "perfect" photos with the camera I had with me, but close enough for identification. I recognized them immediately because I've only seen them once before, again in Greeley, Colorado, at the same park where I photographed the swans. 

Cormorant taking off at Holliday Park in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I first learned about Cormorants when I photographed them from the movie Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. In the film, the doctor is constantly trying to find the opportunity to capture a rare, flightless Cormorant on the Gallapagos Islands. The birds I photographed in Cheyenne were skilled flyers! 

Cormorant at Holliday Park in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Believe it or not, there are 40 species of birds known as Cormorants. They have a wing span of three feet and range in size from 18 inches to 40 inches. They use their tails to prop themselves up, have hooked bills, and I've seen them perching on the very top branches of trees, so those webbed feet must be rather powerful! 

Cormorant in flight in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Cormorants are both freshwater and seawater birds and are found all the way up into Alaska and Quebec in North America. They are not monogamous. The male builds a nest then puts on quite a show to attract females. They do migrate and are considered endangered in the State of Wisconsin due to the use of DDT. 

I have no idea why I haven't seen them more often. They're hard to miss. They are a bit goofy-looking! Those who fish for their livelihood would notice their presence because they are considered a good luck charm. 

Sad as this sounds, many states allow people to shoot Cormorants if they are feeding on private lakes and ponds. You probably know what I have to say about that by now--if you don't want the wildlife, don't build the pond! Set out food and water and they will come. Shooting God's beautiful creatures for trying to stay alive is just wrong. If we limit our world to only allow the "pretty creatures" we will destroy that same world. 

A family of ducks at the park. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

There was also a family of ducks at the park, which oddly included babies of two different age groups. Perhaps this is common in Wyoming where the weather changes rapidly, spring is skipped completely, and summer is just a few months (we had our last snow in June). 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

This one doesn't appear to be as young as its siblings, nor does it appear to be an adult. And the young ones seemed small considering the time of year. But I can never resist taking pictures of ducks! Interesting note: At Holliday Park they have signs all over (and all over the City of Cheyenne, Wyoming website) warning people not to feed the ducks or geese. Wise advice. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

New Places, New Blessed Little Animal Faces!

I think I see more doves than any other bird in Wyoming, but I really haven't had a chance to get out of the house and look--it's been snowing since I moved in around the end of February! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

I don't know how to say this anymore--it was a shocking, painful year. I lost family members, most of my animal pack (I still have all four bunnies) and was forced to sell my house and move after having to replace the roof three times due to freak hailstorms in Colorado. 

So, this blog has traveled from my house in Texas, to New Mexico, back to my home state of Colorado, and now I am in Cheyenne, Wyoming! 

Yep, I'm in Cheyenne! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

There is plenty to see here, too. My yard is filled with squirrels--always popular on this blog--and doves, finches, there's a few hawks who have territories nearby (I keep my chihuahua, Emma, inside!) Canadian Geese, of course, and I'm just getting started here!

I photographed these two birds in my neighborhood. They gather in large flocks, but are a bit shy. I thought they were starlings, but now I'm not sure. If you know, please leave a comment! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

One of the first things I noticed about Wyoming is the amount of Pronghorn Antelope. My neighbors are fond of saying, "There's more antelope in Wyoming than people!" That could be true. Wyoming is among the largest states in the country (I checked five different websites and they all gave different answers. Sigh. I know it's big country here, though!) However, it also has the fourth lowest population...and plenty of antelope. 

Pronghorn Antelope near the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The first trip I made with my truck full of boxes I was stopped on the road near my home by two baby antelope meandering in front of my truck. The vehicles behind me couldn't see the little critters, it was rush hour traffic, and people were getting angry. I didn't know what to do, so I called the local police. The dispatcher told me not to do anything, just sit in my truck and wait because, if I wave my arms or try to coax them out of the road they will run into traffic. It's apparently the law--you call the police and they take care of the animals roaming down the middle of the street. Fine with me! 

This may be a pregnant female, but I'm not an expert. I photographed this Pronghorn Antelope near the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne around February. Apparently, the Air Force base is a popular hangout for Pronghorn Antelope. Photograph by Darla Sue Dollman.

The moving process--buying, selling, packing, etc.--took over a year, which is another reason this blog has been a bit quiet, in addition to the grieving process. I chose Wyoming because it's so close to my home state of Colorado--Cheyenne is, I think, five minutes from the Colorado border. 

I've noticed this buffalo silhouette outside Cheyenne for years and thought it was a symbol of our Great American West. It's actually hiding cell phone towers, lol! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Not surprisingly, the weather here is nearly the same as what I encountered at my former home in Greeley, Colorado--wild and crazy! The first week I was here my furnace broke down. Thankfully, I was forced to stay with a friend in Colorado because there was one blizzard after another. I had already moved my house plants and lost all but a few of them. My four foot rosemary is now a bonsai. I finally had a new furnace installed and what happens? A Bombocyclone! That's right--a snow cyclone on land. That was an experience! 

The Bombocyclone was insane! I'll write more on this on my Wild West Weather blog. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Just when we thought it was finally over, another storm hit. Ten inches of sloppy, heavy snow. It was so heavy that when I woke up at four in the morning to check on my trees I noticed one was bent over completely and touching the ground. I was certain it would snap in half before I could hit the snow off with a broom, and the snow kept coming. Like everyone else, I already had plants in the ground and covered them with clay pots when I heard about this last snow storm--five days ago--and surprisingly, all of the plants lived! 

Last week's snowstorm. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

So the snow started to slow down, the birds appeared, the trees were blooming, and I discovered I have a hummingbird living in a tree in my yard! I was prepared. I had a feeder. I filled it up and ran out to the covered porch, hung it on a hook, and she is a happy bird! 

Like squirrels, I seem to attract these little birds. This was our "house Hummingbird" when we lived at Carter Lake in Colorado. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The hummingbird feeder is still beneath the covered porch because now we are in hail/tornado season. 

I was shopping with my granddaughter in Greeley, Colorado, when we walked outside and realized the clouds were rotating madly! We made it to safety and I prepared to drive back to Cheyenne. I checked the weather, and it was fine in Cheyenne. It was NOT fine at the border between Wyoming and Colorado! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

We've had tornadoes, funnel clouds, watches, warnings, and massive amounts of hail for the past week. I hope that the next time I check in I'll be able to share more photos of little critters because right now, everyone is taking cover! I was writing these past few lines and the house shook with thunder! It's back!!!

Another snowstorm? No, this is HAIL!! This is actually my back porch, and there's so much hail that when I walked to the garage to check on the rabbits I left footprints on the porch! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Cormorants in Greeley, Colorado

Cormorant at Greeley's Veteran's Park in Sherwood. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

My two oldest grandchildren and I had a wonderful surprise while visitng the park recently. None of us had ever seen a Cormorant before other than in pictures, and there was five or six of them in the lake! There are approximately 40 species of cormorants, and we were blessed to have a small flock at Bittersweet, our local park in Greeley, Colorado. 

When I first saw them drifting across the lake I thought they were the strangest gathering of ducks I'd ever seen. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website describes them as "gangly" and "prehistoric looking," and I'd say that's an accurate description. 

I was watching them from a distance, so I still thought they were ducks. It wasn't until one flew into a nearby tree that I realized they were not ducks at all. The flight into the tree was odd, as well. The bird chose a tall three with then branches that bent beneath its weight and swung back and forth in the breeze. If I was a bird that size I would have chosen a much larger, sturdier branch, but this bird was perfectly content to sit at the very top of this thin-branched tree, perhaps because it provided the bird with a better view of the neighborhood. 

Cormorant. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Judging from the photos, I believe these birds were Double-Crested Cormorants. They have a wingspan of approximately 3 1/2 feet--not quite the width of a hawk or eagle, which may explain why I thought they were ducks in spite of their size. 

They looked dark. Actually, I thought they were large, black birds. When one flew into a tree and I was able to see it up close I realized it was actually wearing some fine, fancy feathers! It had orange on its face, too, and shimmering blue eyes. 

Cormorants in Greeley, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

It's possible they were looking for a nesting spot. It is that time of year! Cormorants also have an interesting home life. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Double-crested Cormorants often build their nests where they can reach direct sunlight. When the chicks break out of their eggs, the parents provide them with shade and a cool drink of wather that they pour from their own mouths into the mouths of their chicks. Then, when the chicks are big enough to leave home, they hang out in groups, like little cormorant chick cliques, but they always return home for dinner, though. 

Cormorant taking off across the water. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.


Summertime, and the Living is Easy

Love Lies Bleeding, I was also told it is called Bleeding Heart. It's one of the first flowers to start blooming beside my backyard pond and hangs over the stream, flowers dripping into the water.  

In Colorado the last snow comes anytime between April and even the first of June, so it's difficult to say when spring starts and summer begins. I usually go by the temperature. It's been in the high 90s this past week, so I think we can safely say we skipped spring and went straight into summer! 

I've missed my wisteria from Texas so very much and talk about the flowers so often that when I took my 12 year old granddaughter, Layla, flower shopping this spring she recognized them on sight. I now have three large, healthy vines on my sun porch waiting to be planted. I may try to grow one on the sun porch, see if I can create a jungle atmosphere. 

And June is here. My birthday month, and the birthday month that I share with one of my grandsons who calls me his "Birthday Buddy" It's a great honor to be remembered by a young child who first shared his "big day" with you when he was a year old. I still remember that warm afternoon by the pool in Texas, watching him splash in the water, later returning to the river near our home. It was like a dream, like a song. Summertime, and the living is easy. Hush, little baby don't you cry. 

And as the weather gets hot the babies come out of their nests. Our local momma squirrel was once again blessed by God with twin males. They chase each other around the large tree in my front yard for hours. It's great fun to watch. 

The peanut eaters. There's always some controversy over squirrels. I wish people could understand that all of God's creatures have a role to play, but listening to the complains, one sometimes wonders if humans believe the earth was created only for them. Sometimes, it's best not to listen. 

Pansies. Photos by Darla Sue Dollman. 

My grandchildren call these "Happy Face Flowers." I have one granddaughter in my collection of grandchildren and these are her favorites. It's already getting too hot for them, though. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

And the warm, summer colors are already making their appearance, preparing for the bright Fourth of July red white and blue arrangements. I've thought of planting a Fourth of July garden before, but I like the natural arrangements best. 

Whie Iris. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Scarlet Iris. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Blue Iris. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Purple Iris. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

White Iris in the Rain. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The surprise blessing in our neighborhood this year and such a wonderful gift from God was the wide variety and abundance of iris blooms. It's been spectacular, and they're still going. My neighbors and I have been exchanging gifts of flowers for months now--flowers are best when shared. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman\
Two of my favorite colors. 'Feel free to share with us if you know the name of this flower. I have a wide variety of colors growing alongside my backyard pond.

Blue Iris in bloom. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Another view of the many blue iris in our neighborhood. This beauty made its appearance next to my mailbox--as I said, flowers are best when shared! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Black-Billed Magpies, Dark-Eyed Juncos, and Woodpeckers in Colorado

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

It was a lovely Easter weekend. I spent hours watching the children search for eggs on the large property of a family member, but I also had the opportunity to watch the spring birds hovering around her porch, seeking snacks and singing songs. 

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I'll never forget the first time I saw a magpie. It was at Carter Lake in Colorado. There was a family of them, and the father was feeding one of the children, practically sticking his entire head inside the youngster's mouth. I was fascinated. When my granddaughter, Layla, saw the Black-Billed Magpie fly overhead on Easter she was ecstatic. I knew I would have to wait, patiently, for the bird to return so I could take a photograph for Layla, and the bird not only returned, but posed for the photograph! 

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

This handsome fella has a beautiful tail, but it's so long it's difficult to see. It reminded me of the Scissor-Tail Flycatchers I used to try so hard to photograph in Texas (they are a bit shy). Flycatcher's have tails so long that the have to land on thin branches or wires. The older the bird, the longer the tail. They are called the Birds of Paradise of Texas. I would say the same of our Magpies! 

Dark-Eyed Junco in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

There were many beautiful birds hopping around the porch on Easter and they were surprisingly comfortable with the large flock of children running around! There was about a dozen Dark-Eyed Juncos fluttering around the porch. They were slate-colored and quite lovely. 

Dark-Eyed Junco in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

In Oregon there are Dark-Eyed Juncos with black heads and brown bodies, but in Colorado we have the slate-colored Dark-Eyed Juncos. Both are in the sparrow family. They have white outer tail feathers that are very attractive when they're in flight. 

Dark-Eyed Junco cracking a seed in its beak. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Juncos like forest areas, and we were in a forested area on Easter. The Dark-Eyed Junco also builds its nest on or near the ground, which explains why the photos show them on piles of pine needles. They are also friendly with many other bird species. The Juncos were hopping about with the woodpecker moving freely through their flock--I saw none of the aggression that is so prevelant in some bird species like Cardinals and Hummingbirds. 

This lovely creature was photographed in Drake, Colorado on Easter. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I live in Greeley, Colorado, in a highly-populated area near busy streets and noisy shopping centers, so I am always surprised by the large number of beautiful creatures that I see every day. There is at least two woodpeckers living in the trees near my home, and I can hear them every time I step outside, tap, tap, tapping on the trees. To me, a country girl trapped in a city home, the sound is not at all irritating. It is like music to my soul.

Woodpecker in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I had the opportunity to photograph a woodpecker up-close over the Easter weekend while visiting family in Drake, Colorado. There was two of them hopping around trees near the porch where I was sitting. One appeared to be looking for food, while the other was busy drillling a hole in a tree.  

Woodpecker in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The exact identity of this beauty still alludes me. I thought I was photographing a red-headed woodpecker, but the red, as you can see, is only in a band across the back of its head, which could mean it is a White-Headed Woodpecker. These birds also hang out in the forest, but nest in holes in dead trees. The tapping of a woodpecker does not have one meaning. It sometimes means the bird is creating a home in a hollow tree, but it is also the way the male and female communicate with each other during mating season, and their communication style when incubating their eggs, a task they take on equally. 

The view from Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

There was a snowstorm just a few days earlier, so it was a cool morning and everyone was bundled up in coats and hats for the Easter Egg hunts, but the birds didn't seem to mind the cold. They are ready for spring!