Who are we? We are our stories.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Anis, Gnomes of the Bird World

Santa Ana NWR Hawk Watch. Since 1990 every day for a month in Spring a volunteer sits in the hot sun and wind and counts and I.D.s every migrating raptor that flies over the levee. Some days it is a dozen, some days thousands. This gives us a baseline of raptor numbers. We have known official hawk counter, Dave Seals for a few years. The last few days we have occasionally walked down the levee to keep him company for a while and possibly take a few photos of whatever was flying by. The actual raptors are waaay too far up.

A week ago it was Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Lark Sparrows. Today it was a Groove-billed Ani fighting the wind to keep clamped to a fence . 

They are chimpanzee angels.When old wizened chimps die they come back as Anis. It is the only logical exclamation for their appearance ... and I am sticking with that story it until proven otherwise.

An aside here - David Seals is simply an amazing man. He is 84, only occasionally wears reading glasses, yet can spot and I.D. a migrating hawk that is a tiny black spot high in the clouds. And he has banded over 250,000 songbirds over 60 years.

Hunkering down on the leeward side of life.                          - Gunnar 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

One Of Those Days

The weather was gorgeous. We went down to South Padre Island hoping to be awash in migrating Warblers, though in our hearts we knew better, still waiting for a good flight hitting a stationary cold front.

We worked the Sheepshead Lots and the Birding Center. The weather was gorgeous. Along the way we contacted our friends Nancy and Mike. It was one of those days - not many birds, but the weather was gorgeous. We opened Padre Brewing at 11:30. We drank beer, ate seafood, talked, more beer ... for two hours. We then went to the Convention Center where there were a few Warblers, a Yellow-throated Vireo... and I went out on the boardwalk and took a typical Least Bittern photo. 

The weather was gorgeous so we adjourned to Nancy and Mike's porch on a waterway to talk and drink another IPA. Actually Mike and I did; Lorna and Nancy made a shopping stop at a consignment clothing store before joining us.


B & W


Did I mention the weather was gorgeous?                                       -Gunnar

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers

We went walking on the levee at Santa Ana looking for Anis. It was very windy and they were not coming up out of the grass. No matter there were Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. Lorna got some amazing flying shots with them wheeling with their tails unfurled. I didn't, but here are some of my shots.

Time to shower-up and go celebrate something at the Blue Onion.
- Gunnar

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Two Lifer Day

We had a light breakfast, picked up Sue Keefer and headed into the morning sun toward South Padre Island. Our first stop on the island was the Sheepshead lots. There was a handful of folks already there when we arrived. We shortly got photos of the two life birds we were after, the Prothonotary Warbler and the Hooded Warbler. They both winter in Central America and are stopping over on the way to their nesting grounds. Not terribly rare birds, but the Hooded doesn't make it as far as Minnesota and the Prothonotary rarely. The Prothonotary was also a life bird for Lorna and the Hooded was the first she has photographed. 

We also saw Northern Parulas, B&W Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Nashville Warbler and a Red-eyed Vireo. 

We were jumping up and down, high-fiving strangers when a van from Estero State Park arrived carrying ten people we actually know. We quickly regained our decorum, tucked our shirts back in and pretended it was just another ho-hum day.

We then headed to the South Padre Birding Center and walked the boardwalk. We pretty much saw the usual suspects. The Tricolored Heron in breeding color was particularly stunning with his electric blue bill.

Lunch called so we answered it at Padre Brewing along with Mike and Connie from Traverse Cit
y. Good seafood, good beer ... and Markus gave me a free pen to sign the slip. Then back to the boardwalk for another quick walk and then over to the "mud flats".

And another quick stop at Sheepshead as we were leaving the island where I shot the Prothonotary again. Love that bird.

Tired. A long day. But good.  - Gunnar

Friday, March 15, 2019

Calliope Hummingbird

After a quick stop to pick up Subway sandwiches for a later picnic lunch, Lorna and I headed to Bentsen State Park with friends Brian and Jutta Plath. We sat, we waited, we walked - we walked five miles according to Jutta's cellphone app. (My phone only has birding apps .... which I cannot actually see.) The walking was extra; the important part was the sitting, talking, waiting for the Calliope Hummingbird to appear. Eventually we saw the bird just as two women walked up. They checked it off their "list", turned and walked back to their car. Life ain't fair. But then they missed two hours of Brian and me exchanging stories and lies. The Hummer was a male, just coming into breeding plumage. It was life bird for all of us.

The Calliope is the smallest bird in North America, 3" long, weighing 'as much as a ping-pong ball', and it really should not be in southeast deep Texas. Sometime birds have their own maps and evolution has her own purposes.

Here is a photo of a Black Phoebe that I shot as we walked out of the park. It is a Mexican and West Coast bird, another bird that is probably pushing its range into the Rio Grande Valley. Not a "lifer" for us, but still a very good bird. Like an Eastern Phoebe in a tuxedo.

Lifers may be good, but life is great. - Gunnar

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hot and Windy

It was hot (92F as I write this), overcast and extremely windy this morning. Most of the birds, and people with sense, were hunkered down in sheltered shade, leaving only birders wandering around stumbling from shade to shade. It was weather that simply saps your energy. In spite of this we  saw a few birds and got a handful of photos to remember the day.

I was particularly satisfied with the Black-chinned Hummingbird. It was quite a distance away at the top of a tree, silhouetted against a bright overcast sky. I took an educated guess at settings, released a deep breath and hit the button. Frankly very lucky.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Curve-billed Thrasher
Abbot's Bagworm Moth.
Snowy Egret
- Gunnar

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

On Being Danish

Lorna and I are both of Danish heritage. We grew up across the street from each other in a small Minnesota village. Small? When I was growing up the sign into town read:

 CLARKS GROVE, pop 104 

97% of the village was divided more or less equally between Danes and Norwegians. The other 3% was a single Dutch family. The Danes especially were not inclined to show any degree of affection. Emotion of any kind was considered a weakness. I really have no idea how they were able to reproduce. I am certain, whatever was done was done in the dark. Likely fully clothed.

I was an adult before I saw an adult hug someone. My aunt returned from Minneapolis for the holidays and when she left she gave her mother a goodbye hug. The family was aghast, and for some time it was held close as a deep family secret. 

- Gunnar