Thursday, January 23, 2014

Canadian Geese, Northern Flicker, Ferruginous Hawk, Hot Air Balloons

 Canadian Goose at sunset. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I've had some health issues lately and my blogs have suffered, but my obsession with nature is thriving, as usual! It's amazing what you can see lying on lawn chairs in your own back yard. For one thing, I've noticed we have a huge flock of Canadian Geese in our neighborhood this year, the largest I've ever seen. Each night at sunset they fly back and forth over and sometimes around our house, sometimes so long I can feel the rush of air from their wings.

  Canadian Goose at sunset. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This can be somewhat intimidating. I have always loved Canadian Geese, but they are large animals, wild animals, and can be aggressive and dangerous animals. For instance, for some reason they do not like bicycles and often attack bicyclists. I have a friend who has a pin in his collar bone from a serious injury incurred from an attack by three Canadian Geese. He is a competitive bicyclist and riding a bike trail when he saw the geese. They were not close, and he was caught completely off guard when they flew at him and knocked him from his bicycle.

  Canadian Goose at sunset in Rio Rancho, NM. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Nevertheless, I do love watching them and photographing them, especially at sunset when the famous New Mexico colorful sunsets change the color of their feathers and make them shimmer like gold. I love the way I can hear them coming long before I see them. They are beautiful birds.

  Canadian Goose at sunset. I am always amazed by how close they can fly together without crashing into each other! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.
I'd noticed a spotted bird a few times while walking my dogs and thought it was a type of hawk. I discovered it was a hawk, and a spotted bird! I finally downloaded my photographs and discovered I was photographing two different types of birds.The first one I believe is a Ferruginous Hawk, But realized it was not, and it was a bird I'd never seen before. I posted the photo on Facebook and one of my friends immediately identified the bird as a Northern Flicker. My first!

Northern Flicker in Rio Rancho, NM. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.
 When I first looked at the photo I thought it was a woodpecker. In fact, it did appear to be picking bugs out of the wood in the tree. However, although I was unfamiliar with woodpeckers prior to moving to Texas, I did see quite a few in Texas and something told me this was not a woodpecker!

Northern Flicker in Rio Rancho, NM. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Well, guess what? They ARE a type of woodpecker! So, this is the third time I have lived in this area of New Mexico in my lifetime, and I've been in this house two years. Why is this the first time I've seen a Northern Flicker? Where we live there is a county ordinance against lawns. The Northern Flicker is generally seen on the ground because its favorite foods are ants and beetles.

Mrs. Thrasher waiting for her late night snack after the finches and sparrows have gone to bed. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Northern Flickers dig them out with their curved beaks, which resemble the beak on Mr. and Mrs. Thrasher, my friends who live in the shrub that grows over the brick wall on the side of my house. Unlike my Thrasher friends, the Northern Flicker is one of few woodpeckers who always migrates--another reason I may not have noticed this bird before in our area.

Northern Flicker. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I may be having trouble identifying the other spotted bird, but I believe it is a juvenile Ferruginous Hawk. I am basing my identification on the beak and the tail, but if you suspect I have misidentified the bird, please let me know!
 I believe this is a juvenile Ferruginous Hawk. It has spent quite a bit of time in my backyard lately and does not seem bothered at all by my four dogs! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The reasons I believe it is a juvenile are rather funny. First, because I cannot definitively identify the bird! Juvenile birds are often hard to identify as their feathers change. The second reason is that I often see adult Ferruginous Hawks flying over the mesa in the nearby desert where the dogs and I used to go running before the local residents started using it as a trash dump. (Yes, it is heartbreaking, but sadly true and I wish there was something I could do to stop it.)

Ferruginous Hawk. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Ferruginous Hawks are one of the most common hawks seen in this area. I can always tell they are nearby when I see two birds flying in large circles in the sky. Once, when I was walking the dogs in the desert we saw two of them eating a rabbit near a cholla. They flew up and around then right back to their food--they were clearly not interested in sharing their dinner! 

Ferruginous Hawk. This one flew up into a nearby tree when we were walking through the desert, then back down to finish its dinner. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

 Hot air balloon in Rio Rancho, NM. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The weather must be very good for ballooning lately because they've been flying over our house almost daily. A few days ago they took off from all four directions, which meant that eventually all the balloons flew over our house, which was in the center location. 

Hot air balloon in Rio Rancho, NM. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

They sometimes drop down if they see children chasing them on their bicycles, and sometimes I think they like to check out my dogs, too! It's been an exciting, colorful week in New Mexico!

Hot air balloon in Rio Rancho, NM. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

 Hot air balloon in Rio Rancho, NM. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.


Grim histories said...

Such beautiful photos, Darla. It must be difficult to take pics like that of birds as they're still for just a moment, then off in a flash. I guess it's a matter of good eyesight, a zoom lens and quick reactions?

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Actually, Janet, it's not that difficult if the geese are flying overhead because they love to talk to each other while they are flying--this may be a way of giving each other directions, I'm not sure--and I can hear them long before I see them, gauge which direction they are coming from and prepare my camera. I love photographing geese at sunset. Like America Robins, they catch the colors of the sunset and reflect them on their feathers.

Pat Hatt said...

Great shots indeed. Sure can capture them in the moment. Like the dog quotes in the post below too.

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Thank you, Pat, but in all fairness they were flying low, directly above my head! Lol! I walk my dogs every day at sunset without fail--the lighting is best for photographing the little creatures and the local balloonists fly early in the morning or at sunset. It truly is magnificent to see all that color at the end of the day.