Archive for March, 2015

Greater Roadrunners

March 29th, 2015 by Mike Hug

Greater Roadrunners – Arizona’s rascal with feathers

Greater Roadrunner picture

The Greater Roadrunner sometime follows me to see what I scare up for dinner while I am walking through the brush.

Greater Roadrunners is a bird that lives in the southwest and was revered by the native peoples for its speed, bravery and endurance. The Hopi and Pueblo Peoples thought that the Roadrunner was a protection from evil spirits and would provide good medicine. They would look at the tracks of a Roadrunner and see an X shaped print. They believed that the tracks would confuse evil spirits because they wouldn’t know which way the Roadrunner was going. Some Indian tribes in Mexico consider Roadrunners sacred. The Apache also have a legend of how the Roadrunner was made the leader of the birds.

Greater Roadrunner Picture

As the Greater Roadrunner came out from behind the bush the birds all took flight into the top branches of the tree.

The Greater Roadrunner is a member of the cuckoo family and inhabits the northern Mexico and most of the Southwestern US. The Roadrunner ranges into Texas and up into Kansas. There is a lesser Roadrunner that lives in on the western Mexico mainland coast and down into Central America. It’s similar looking but smaller in size and their range overlaps slightly in northern Mexico with the Greater Roadrunner. Here is Southeastern Arizona, Roadrunners can be found in the many areas of Cochise County but especially near the San Pedro River. While driving on the roads you may see one dart across the road in front of the car. Very seldom will you see a Roadrunner leave the ground in flight. They will take flight in times of danger but prefers running on the ground.

Growing up we always watched the Roadrunner Coyote cartoons. It was always fun to see the coyote being bested by the Roadrunner. From those cartoons there was never any doubt in my mind that the Roadrunner ate seeds and could outrun a coyote. Alas the cartoon was a false image of true life. Coyotes are twice as fast as a Roadrunner and can easily catch them in an even race. As for the Roadrunners, their bill of fare of seeds are only about 10% of their diet.

After the birds flew into the tree the Greater Roadrunner jumped up on the wall to see if it was possible to get to the birds.

After the birds flew into the tree the Greater Roadrunner jumped up on the wall to see if it was possible to get to the birds.

Roadrunners mainly eat insects, smaller birds, reptiles including snakes and lizards and smaller rodents. In the desert environment the live food provides the bulk of the water that the Roadrunner requires. The Greater Roadrunner is quick enough to snatch hummingbirds and dragonflies out of the air if they come too close. We have watched Roadrunners running through the breezeway with snakes and lizards in the beak. The Roadrunner is a clever bird. For example while hunting for prey such as rattlesnakes, they will team up with another Roadrunner. One will distract the snake the other will move up from behind to ambush and grab the snake at the back of the head. It will then beat the snake on a rock to kill it.

The other day we watched a Roadrunner hop over the patio fence and move slowly using the cover of the planters and furniture. It moved into bushes until it was close to the seed feeders. The birds were on the ground and all foraging for seeds that had fallen from the feeders. It wasn’t too long when the birds all took flight leaving the Roadrunner alone on the ground. The Roadrunner jumped up on the patio wall and surveyed the tree where the birds had flown to the top branches. Soon the birds flew off to other areas and the Roadrunner hopped down and started looking again for food. It was really interesting to watch the drama play out. I have also had the Greater Roadrunner follow me as I went to the well house. He stayed back a little waiting for me to scare up a lizard or bird. If I did he would dart out and grab it then go off to feed.

Roadrunner roosting picture

The Roadrunner roosting at Down By The River a Cochise County Birding Hotspot.

We have had the Greater Roadrunner roost for the night on the breezeway fireplace and on a beam near the ceiling of the breezeway. It took us a while to figure out what the bird did to get 8 feet up onto those roosts. That is when we found out that the Roadrunner could fly if need be. He flew up to the mantle from the furniture then to the beam from the mantle. By early in the morning he would launch himself off the beam and glide down to the floor. Then the bird would head out to find breakfast and to start a new day. This is a fascinating bird to watch. So if you want a good chance to see the Greater Roadrunner here in Southeastern Arizona, spend some time at Down By The River B and B here in St. David, AZ.

Migratory Bird Photography

March 22nd, 2015 by Mike Hug

Migratory Bird Photography Lots of Opportunity on the San Pedro River

Migratory bird photography picture

Wilson’s Snipe flew off as we were walking along the edge of the lake at White Water Draw.

Migratory bird photography is one of those simple pleasures that can be a thrill when you find out that you have the unexpected picture of a bird in flight. Or it can be one of those frustrating shots where the bird in out of focus because your automatic focus was on a branch and not the bird. Sometimes you get the shot just as the bird takes flight and if you are lucky an action shot has been caught or if not then you have the background and maybe the tail of the bird as a reminder of what you saw.

Migratory bird photography picture

Patience and a little luck will sometimes give you a great shot.

The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is renowned for the migratory bird photography that can be had with a little patience and some good luck. During the year up to 400 species of birds can be found in the area and I have been lucky enough to have been able to record around 100 in the ten years that I have been here at Down By The River B and B. Naturally I am not out every day taking photos or I would probably have more. Some birds are easier to photograph than others. The ones at the feeders are posing as you sit on the patio while others only appear when you don’t have your camera or dart in and out.

I have found that it is wise always to have your camera with you as you walk around the San Pedro River. There are times you need to just sit and wait in an area that you hear bird calls. After a while they come out. But there are

Cochise County Bird Photography example

Lady Luck allowed me to spot this Gray Hawk and take a photograph of him before he took flight.

things that will mess up your day. Two such problems are simple things that you do to yourself. They are not having your battery fully charged or not having a spare. The other is not checking to make sure your card too full with shots that you have taken and not saved to your computer. I have made both mistakes when I was in a hurry and regretted it later. The bird flew away while I did the Homer Simpson “DOH!”

I have had some success with migratory bird photography because I did have my camera and a long range lens. In 10 years I have seen many Gray Hawks but only once was I able to get a photograph of one. I almost left my camera at home that morning but was persuaded to go back and get it before we left. The bird was on a pole 2 minutes into our drive and allowed me to shoot 4 shots before it decided to leave. Just a little preparation will help you more times than good luck.

migratory bird photography picture

By following the hawk with the camera as if flew,  I was able to catch its body. The wings were moving and the background is a blur to give the effect of movement.

There has been other times when I came into view of birds and they started flying off in all directions. I have had my camera at the ready and followed a bird in the viewfinder. I never know what I have and hoped that the shot would take. When I get it on the computer then I know if my shot was successful. With practice, if you follow the bird with the camera and take the shot, you get the bird perfectly frozen in flight while the background is blurry. This gives you the effect of motion. This is much better than not moving the camera and you see a clear background and a blurry bird. Try it out sometime and see what you get. You may surprise yourself with one of those shots that make you go Wahoo!

So prepare, be patient, be ready and improvise to see what works. Good luck. Oh and one last thing don’t watch the bird in your view finder for so long that you forget to take the picture while you have it. Been there and did that too many times to remember.

Southeastern Arizona Getaway

March 15th, 2015 by Mike Hug

Southeastern Arizona Getaway A Perfect Refuge from The Snow

southeastern Arizona getaway pictue

An Southeastern Arizona getaway isn’t complete unless you experience on of the fabulous Arizona sunsets.

Think of a Southeastern Arizona getaway, if nothing more than to find a refuge from the cold winter that the Midwest and the East Coast has been experiencing. This year has been harsh for the northern climes but here in Southeastern Arizona the weather has been above normal. We haven’t had much freezing weather at all. The last real cold was at the end of January. The trees along the San Pedro River began to bud back in February. It is now March and the trees are full of leaves and shouting that Spring is here.

After shoveling snow for the last 3 months, we have had many of our guests throw up their hands and get on the computer to find our Southeastern Arizona getaway. They want the warm weather to help thaw out their bodies after such a bad winter. Many are coming to Cochise County because the birding here is exceptional. The migration is starting early and there are many birds coming into the area that might not be here for another 3 to 6 weeks during normal years. There is a lot of activity around the river and we have spotted birds already building nests. We are still awaiting Hummingbirds but they should be here soon.

Southeast Arizona Stargazing picture of Jupiter

This is the first attempt at photographing Jupiter. The picture shows the moon to the right side close to the planet.

Another advantage to the warm weather we are experiencing here in Southeastern Arizona is that the night temperatures are also warmer. This is a great advantage because you can stay outside and look at he dark night sky without a lot of warm clothing. You may also experience one of those fabulous Arizona sunsets that you hear about. Stargazing is one of the activities many people from back east aren’t able to do at this time of year. Here in Southeastern Arizona stargazing is unparalleled. Cochise County is known for the dark skies. The Milky Way is aglow overhead and there are many things to see at this time of year. If you want to see planets Jupiter is overhead and with the telescope here at Down By The River B and B you can locate as many as 4 of the moons that orbit Jupiter. Venus and Mars are also up in the early evening.

So if you wish to enjoy bright sunny days and warm nights to stargaze, then a Southeastern Arizona getaway is the thing you will want to plan. The place you will want to be is located here in Cochise County for birding, stargazing, hiking visiting the historical sites of Tombstone, Fort Bowie and Bisbee. Take a look a Cochise County and see what there is to do in this corner of Arizona.

San Pedro River Bird Migration

March 8th, 2015 by Mike Hug

San Pedro River Bird Migration could be early this year?

The weather has been warm and the San Pedro River bird migration may be earlier this year than it has been in years past. Normally the birding opportunities for migrant birds won’t start until mid to late March or early April. This is because we usually are still experiencing freezing morning temps in Cochise County. This year has been an anomaly however. The freezing morning temperatures ended in late January and the trees along the river started to leaf out in February. In the 11 years I have been here at Down By The River B and B during Spring migration, the trees along the river have never leafed out in mid February. So does this mean we might be seeing the migratory birds earlier?

san pedro river bird migration

The Yellow-Headed Blackbirds have been seen flocking here in St. David.

The warmer temperatures in 2012 signaled an early migratory pattern of birds and this year there is a similar warming of temperatures that may indicate that the birds will start moving earlier than normal. Cornell Lab of Ornithology seems to think that it might be the case with their forecast. We have seen the Yellow Headed Black birds here already and other bird activity seems to be picking up. So bird migration in Southeastern Arizona could be starting much earlier than normal.

With the trees leafing out and the insect levels higher, this will be a draw for the birds. The food and water sources will lure the birds north into our area. The temperatures have been in the 70s most of February and it appears that this will continue into March unabated. The San Hill Cranes are still here and haven’t started moving on yet but they still have a good feed in the fields around Willcox. They will start to move out earlier this year as the month heats up. They are normally leaving by the end of March.

We are still waiting to see our first hummingbirds. We start seeing them in later March and if they show up earlier it may be an indicator that the migration will also be early. Time will tell and we can only wait and see. Mother Nature will dictate what is to happen and we can only observe to find out if our guess is right.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Tags