Saturday, October 31, 2009


Burrowing Owl

(by Kathiesbirds 10-26-09
Acrylic on Bristolboard)

Burrowing owls live in underground burrows. While they can be seen during the day, they do most of their hunting at night. They have long legs and big eyes and make a barking sound. You will often find them standing in front of their burrows on one leg with their eyes half closed. Their spotted feathers are perfect camouflage for the mounds of soil they live in. Burrowing owls will often take over abandoned prairie dog dens and can sometimes be found in the middle of prairie dog towns.

I have to say that this is my favorite of all the paintings I did for this series. I love the way the owl came out and the birghtness and simplicity of the design. It has been a long time since I have painted and I had fun doing it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Pumpkin A Day

Lesser Long-nosed Bat

by Kathiesbirds 10-26-09

Lesser long-nosed bats are an endangered species. As one of the few nectar eating bats they migrate from Mexico every year following the saguaro blooms north and the agave blooms south on their long migration. They breed here in Arizona and return to Mexico for the winter. Lesser Long-nosed bats will often visit your hummingbird feeders in the fall when they are migrating south. It is quite a spectacle to see.

for more spooky and amazing skys

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Pumpkin A Day

Gambel’s Quail

(by Kathiesbirds 10-26-09)

Gambel’s quail are chicken-like birds that live in the desert southwest. They travel in flocks called coveys. You can often see them walking along the top of a fence or scratching beneath your bird feeders for fallen seed. In the spring when the chicks hatch the family of quail will often travel together with the tiny chicks following the parents in a straight line. While they all have the feathered top-knots, only the male’s curves into a question mark shape and only the male has the cinnamon cap and black face mask.

Hummingbird Morning

Costa's and Anna's Hummingbirds 10-29-09

It was 38 degrees here in Sycamore Canyon when I awoke this morning. As soon as the sun rose the birds started to appear. The temperature dropped sharply yesterday driving the birds into my feeders. There was a feeding frenzy last night just before the last few rays faded from the sky. When the morning sun touched the earth once again the hummingbirds were back to refuel. Hummingbirds usually don't like to share the feeder, but when it is this cold and there are so many, they seem to give up and focus their energy on feeding instead of fighting. Most of these are Costa's hummingbirds, but the one hovering to the right with a central throat patch is actually a female Anna's Hummingbird. How great is it to live someplace where you get hummingbirds in autumn and winter?

Immature male Anna's Hummingbird 10-29-09

Don't mess with me!

This immature male Anna's isn't about ready to share his stash with anyone! He sits here on the hand of my ballerina sculpture and chases all the other hummingbirds away! Sometimes when he is busy chasing off one small intruder another slips in and gets a drink!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Pumpkin A Day

Phainopepla by Kathiesbirds
(acrylic on Bristolboard)

Phainopeplas are insect and berry eating birds found in the Sonoran Desert. The males are black and the females are gray. Both have red eyes. They fly out from a perch to snag insects from the air, or they eat mistletoe berries from the parasitic plants that hang off of other trees. When the phainopeplas go to the bathroom, they excrete mistletoe seeds in their sticky waste onto the branches where they perch. In this way the mistletoe then takes hold and starts to grow on a new tree sending its roots into the new host and sharing the same sap and nutrients. Phainopeplas make a call that sounds like a soft “whoop, whoop.” They are in a family called the silky flycatchers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My World is a World of Art

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Broad-billed hummingbirds are found in the streamside foothills, woods, and canyons of the desert southwest. With their beautiful blue and green bodies and broad red bill, they are one of the prettiest hummingbirds to be seen when you visit Arizona.

Gila monster

Gila monsters are lizards that live in the desert southwest. They are one of the only poisonous lizards in the world. However, it is not easy to get poisoned by one of these lizards since its venom sacks are in the back of its mouth and the lizard actually has to bite down and grind with its teeth to deliver the poison. Most Gila monsters will run away from you if they see you so, if you leave them alone there is relatively no danger from this beautiful creature.

Last week when I decided to paint some Halloween cards for my grandchildren and a few other kids in my life I had no idea it would take me so long! I probably spent 4 to 5 days getting all of these done and yesterday I finally got them out in the mail! I can only hope they get to their destinations in time. In the meantime, I decided to share these paintings with all of you, so, the next 5 days there will be A PUMPKIN A DAY here at the Sycamore Canyon Blog. Each painting has a creature that can be found here in Arizona and I've included a little information blurb about each one. All are done in acrylic on Bristolboard. I hope you enjoy this Halloween fun!

To see more of our amazing world, click on the button above. And many thanks to our hosts, Klaus, Sandy, Louise, Wren, Fishing Guy and Sylvia!

Monday, October 19, 2009

My World: Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve

In the southern Mountains of Arizona lies a small town called Patagonia. Known as a birding and art Mecca, I met TR Ryan there on Friday morning after his two night stay at my house.

The blue adobe walls of the Duquesne House greet me, the front porch strung with red pepper chandeliers,

I step through the front door of this room into a Mexican heritage museum. I walk out the back door into a court yard from the past with lovely shady places to sit and contemplate…

While TR wanders the garden, sipping the fragrances of the flowers, listening to the hum of hummingbirds, and the breeze dancing in the trees

We soon pack up and drive the two short miles to The Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. We are greeted by Cassin’s Kingbirds, canyon towhees, and a lark sparrow, seeking food on the gravel trail.

The trail meanders along Sonoita Creek, one of the few perennial streams in Arizona. As such, it is a precious resource and the Nature Conservancy has purchased it to preserve this fragile habitat. It was the first project undertaken by the Nature Conservancy in Arizona.

I am surprise by how flat it is, with mountains rising in the distance. But here the golden fields reflect autumn sunlight and shadow, while cicadas buzz in the trees. T.R. tells me this look like Oklahoma in the summer.

We walk quietly down the soft dirt trail and enter the woods once again.

Where we find western wood pewees and other flycatchers flitting among the creek side trees.

This is a quiet place, ripe with sunlight, perfect for bugs and birds. I see a woodpecker fly into the thickest trees and disappear before I can identify which species it is. We find a female vermillion flycatcher and an ash-throated flycatcher in the willows and cottonwoods down by the creek.

And then to my surprise on a dead snag overhanging the riffled water, a cedar waxwing perches silently alongside a Says Phoebe! Though I am quite familiar with cedar waxwings, I have never seen one in Arizona. It seem to me a bird out of place, a mixture of north and south, east and west, with the Says’ Phoebe sitting next to it.

When we return to the visitor’s center and ask about the bird, we find out it is indeed a rare sighting to see a cedar waxwing here. As such, we are each awarded a free poster. While TR chooses the view of the mountains, I pick the gray hawk instead. Though we did not see one today, we did end up with a list of 26 species of birds, many of them life birds for TR, and for me an Arizona life bird with the cedar waxwing sighting.

If you would like to visit the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve you get there by taking highway 83 south off of I-10 through Davidson Canyon, an Arizona Scenic highway. In Sonoita turn right on Highway 82 and follow it into Patagonia. Turn right on 4th Avenue to a T intersection. Then turn left and follow the signs to the preserve, about 1 ½ miles down the road.

Info from the Nature Conservancy web site:

Planning Your Visit The elevation at the preserve is 4,000 feet. The best months for birding are March through September. Late April and May, and late August and September, offer the greatest diversity of species, including migrants and spring/summer residents. Winter is the season for sparrows and occasional southern vagrants such as the rufous-backed robin.
Visitors may learn about the preserve, its wild residents, viewing interpretive exhibits at the Visitor Center.

HoursApril-September: Wednesday-Sunday, 6:30 a.m.-4 p.m. October-March: Wednesday-Sunday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed: Mondays & Tuesdays all year & on Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Days.

Fees$5 per person. Conservancy members $3. Patagonia residents and ages 16 & under free. Fees are valid for seven days from date of purchase. Annual passes are available.

And that's...MY WORLD Tuesday

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blog Award From Arija

Recently Arija from Garden Delights bestowed this awesome award on me. I do not feel that I deserve it but I thank her for her grace and her gift of friendship. Blogging has opened so many new doors to friendship for me. Arija is one of them. She did not say I had to post this or pass it on, or link to her blog. There are no rules, and I like that. So, I will follow her example and bestow this award on a few. If they want to pass it on, they can. I just want to let them know I admire them and appreciate them. So, here dear friends, is the Deborah Award. You are strong and true.

Beth-Beth's Stories
Bobbie-Almost There
Lynne-Hasty Brook
Mary-Mary's View
Nina-Nature Remains
Wren-Wrenaissance Reflections

Do with it what you will, because like friendship, there are no strings attatched!

And once again, thank you dear Arija! If you have not visited her lovely blog, Garden Delights, you should. It has lovely photography, prose, and poetry.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Skywatch Friday: October Sky in Madera Canyon

October sky on the Proctor Trail in Madera Canyon 10-7-09

As T. R. Ryan and I walked along the Proctor Trail looking for birds last Tuesday we happened to look overhead and see this marvelous sight. I love the contrast in colors, the orange fruit glowing against that bright blue sky. Almost makes me wish I were a bird! Yum!

See more amazing skies at

Thanks Troy from Ramblings Around Texas for identifying
this tree as Western Soapberry.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sycamore Canyon Birds

I know there's seed in there somewhere! 10-14-09

As autumn descends on Sycamore Canyon the bird population continues to change. While nighthawks, white-winged doves and martins have left, the sparrows, warblers and raptors are returning. Though a few turkey vultures still linger, I know that one day soon will be THE LAST DAY I see them until next spring. The Gambel's quail chicks from this summer have almost all matured and show up at my feeder now as adults, except for a few from a late hatching, which still do not have their adult plumage or top knot!

Waiting for the seeds to fall. 10-14-09

I love their happy chatter as they come to clean up seed from beneath the lone sunflower seed feeder. I have severely limited my bird feeding lately due to the presence of rock pigeons. So far it seems to be working, and though I often see these winged pigs on my neighbor’s rooftop, they seldom land in my yard any more.

Gila Woodpecker clown 10-11-09
For awhile I was not seeing many woodpeckers, but they have come back in force again and the Gila woodpeckers crack me up with their laughter –like whinny and their clownish antics. I love to see them hang from the hummingbird feeder sipping nectar through their beaks like a straw. The flickers do not do this however; only the Gila woodpeckers.

On Sunday a juvenile cooper’s hawk hunted my bird feeder causing a dove to crash into the window. I heard the crash and when I came to investigate saw the marvelous raptor sitting on the fence. Later in the day I decided to water the garden and give it a good soaking with the hose. In the process I sprayed the orange tree with its oval basin-like leaves. As I turned away from shutting off the hose I looked up to see a hummingbird splashing with delight in one of the orange tree leaves! The huge leaves made a perfect tiny bird bath for this perfect tiny bird!

Black-throated gray warbler in my backyard 10-13-09

I had the surprise of the week last night when I was sitting out back talking on the phone to my youngest brother. As I he and I were in deep conversation a black-throated gray warbler flew into the yard and landed in the mesquite tree right in front of me! I could not help but gasp, and Chris, understanding my love for the birds, said he could wait if I needed to get a photograph. I did not think the bird would linger, but I casually got up and went inside to retrieve my bins and camera. Sure enough it was still out there and when I sat back down it came close enough for me to capture one quick photo before it flew away! With the Bewick’s wren I saw in the wash with TR last Tuesday and the warbling vireo I saw on September 25, this brings the Sycamore Canyon Bird List to a total of 83 species of birds! It blows my mind to think I live in a place where one can see 83 species of birds all within walking distance of my front door!

Black-throated gray warbler in Gardner Canyon 8-17-08

I took this photo of a black-throated gray warbler last year in Gardner Canyon which is just on the other side of the Santa Rita Mountains from where I live. I included it so you can get a better look at the beautiful coloring of this black and white warbler with its yellow lores. My camera has been acting up and will not focus when I want it to. I am trying to figure this out. Even though it has a fully charged battery, it will take one picture, then refuse to take anymore. It flashes F-- as if the battery is dead or missing. I have to shut it off and turn it back on again and then it will work for a few shots before it rebels on me. Any idea anyone? I have tried removing the lens and reattaching it as well as removing the battery and reinserting it. I have reformatted the card also. It goes through spells like this, then it stops. I don't know why but I hate it when it does. I could have gotten a much better photo of the warbler in my yard if it hadn't balked on me!

Monday, October 12, 2009

My World: Birding With TR Ryan

Lark Bunting in Sycamore Canyon 10-8-09 by Kathiesbirds

T. R. Ryan's visit with me begins in Sycamore Canyon. It is Tuesday afternoon and I am writing last week's MY World post and waiting for him. Finally he arrives and before long we are out the door. We have just enough time to visit Saguaro National Park's Rincon Unit before darkness falls. On our way out of the Canyon, I decide to drive him up the foothills to see the view from here.

Yellow Warbler in Sycamore Canyon 10-6-09

Our birding expedition begins as soon as TR arrives when he sees his first Anna's and Costa's hummingbirds in my back yard. Then, as I pull the car over to show him the view of the canyon we find this little yellow warbler and its mate hopping about among the cholla cactus and mesquite trees that dot the hillsides around us.

American Kestrel in Saguaro National Park's Rincon Mountain Unit

It is a quick 20 minute drive from my house to the eastern section of Saguaro National Park. Saguaro is divided into the Tucson Mountain Unit on the west and the Rincon Mountain Unit on the east with the city of Tucson sprawling inbetween the two. Though the Rincon Mountain Unit is the largest, it is the least visited of the two. However, it is the closest to me, and I am eager to show it to TR. The park is fairly quiet as we drive in and park at the visitor's center. As soon as we exit the car, TR gets another life bird when a Black-throated sparrow jumps up on a nearby bush. We see cactus wrens and hear Curve-billed thrashers before we leave the parking lot, but soon after that the desert falls silent in the late autumn day. We drive the 5 mile loop raod without seeing many birds, but before we leave I drive TR down to the Javalina Picnic Area which has historically been a rich birding area for me. Sure enough we find an American Kestrel, along with a cardinal, another black-throated sparrow, and others. The sun is low in the sky now, casting a golden glow on what remains of the day. Our bird list is not large, but almost all of them are life birds for TR.

TR walking the Proctor Trail in Madera Canyon 10-7-09

Tomorrow we are up early and soon we are driving south. We arrive in Madera Canyon by 9 a.m. and hike on down the trail. The morning sun is warming, but a brisk wind blows. Still, we manage to find quite a few birds on this short paved loop. I am quite surprised to find the creek dry as we head on down the trail.

We find this ball of resin clinging to the side of a mesquite tree. I have never seen anything like this.

Resin ball 10-7-09

It looks like some confection made crackling hard and translucent by nature's own candy maker.

Bridled titmouse 10-7-09

We hear a faint twittering and a call that reminds us of chickadees, but higher pitched and different somehow. Soon we spot the bridled titmice working their way among the twigs and branches gleaning food. Bridled Titmice are one of TR's target birds and here they are, right before our eyes. T. R. is mesmerized.

Green-tailed Towhee 10-7-09 Proctor Trail

I saw a green-tailed towhee on our way into the trail, but TR was a bit ahead of me and didn't get such a good look. However, on the way back out this little bird hopped right up into some dead brush and let us get a really good view. Yet another life bird for TR.

From here we head farther up into the Canyon to another favorite birding spot: Madera Picnic Area. As soon as we park the car TR gets to see yet another target bird, the Acorn woodpecker. While he jumps out for a better look, I gather my gear and the food and we head down to find a picnic table for a rest and a snack. However, just as soon as I lay my books, bags, and cooler on the table I see something in the shadows of a nearby bush. It is barely 10 feet away from me and my jaw drops open and I start to shake. Can I be seeing what I think I am seeing?

Juvenile Band-tailed Pigeon 10-7-09

T.R. is wondering what I am so excited about but I can barely answer him. I have been in pursuit of this species for almost a year, and now here it is, right before my eyes. I see the pigeon's body, but this is no Rock Pigeon or Mourning Dove. "How do you know," asks T.R.? "See the yellow feet and the yellow beak," I say, but something is not right. Where is the banded tail and the white crescent and green iridescence that should be on the back of the neck. Yet it has a yellow beak and yellow feet. Rock pigeons have pink feet and a gray beak. Mourning doves have the same with a pointed tail and speckled wings. As my mind races, all I can think is that this must be a juvenile.

Juvenile Band-tailed pigeon 10-7-09 Madera picnic area.

TR and I both snap several photos. The bird doesn't seem to mind a bit. It settles beneath the bush for a nap, and stays there the rest of the time we are here. After I finally sit down, I pull out my bird guides to check. Sure enough, it is a juvenile band-tailed pigeon. Unlike the street pigeons, this one favors oak woods and pines and is a summer resident here in Southeast Arizona. Though I know it has been seen here in Madera Canyon, this is my first time ever seeing one here, or anywhere! I brought TR here because this was at the top of his list of places to visit. We came here seeking lifers for him, but this soft young bird is my reward. Life Bird 363 for me!

We hike up along the creek and emerge near the Santa Rita Lodge. There we find wild turkeys and Mexican jays eating greedily from the feeders. I search the nearby trees for Arizona woodpeckers, but no luck. Arizona woodpeckers are our only brown woodpecker here in the USA, and many people come to SE Arizona to see them. No luck today, but reason enough for TR to come back and visit me again!

We finally drive all the way to the top of Madera Canyon and start to hike up the Carrie Nation trail, but we are tired and hungry. After a few minutes of hiking we are seeing no birds at all. Not a one! So we head back to the car and drive out of the canyon. We take I-19 south to Rio Rico, where I show TR hawk hill and the Swainson's hawk field. The bales of hay and the Swainson's hawks are all gone, but we do find a female vermilion flycatcher, a western kingbird and a kettle of Chihuahuan ravens swirling overhead! We leave Rio Rico shortly after 4 and meet up with Gus in Tucson at a local Mexican Restaurant called Macayo's. It is the perfect way to end the day, since I have neither the time nor the energy to cook and clean up!

Queen Butterfly in Sycamore Canyon Wash 10-8-09

(Thanks Doug!)

Thursday morning dawns bright and clear. The wind has died down so all is calm as T.R. and I head out into the wash. This will be our last hike before he has to leave. We saved Sycamore Canyon for last since we do not have to drive to get there. It is right out my front door. I do not know what we will see, since we have not seen large numbers of species at all in the places we have birded so far, but Sycamore Canyon does not disappoint and soon we are seeing birds everywhere! So many, in fact, that it is hard to keep track of them all. I get on one bird and TR finds another. "What is this," he ask. "Wait a minute, I am not sure what this one is!" I reply. And we spin, and snap and look and list and hike and look some more. We are finding phainopeplas, Gambels' Quail, Gila Woodpeckers, Gilded flickers, Black-tailed gnatcatchers, black-throated sparrows, Costa's hummingbirds, curve-billed thrashers, cactus wrens, turkey vultures and more. Birds are all around us. Birds are everywhere. T.R. wants to see a pyrrhuloxia, and finally we find one when we near the bridge over the wash. We also find a ladder-backed woodpecker, and a lark bunting eating grass seed heads by the side of the road. The lark bunting is in the same area where I had the Unexpected Encounter with the peregrine falcon and I point it all out to him. We are in no hurry and we go at our own pace. T.R. is enjoying the beauty around him. I think the magic of this place has wrapped around his heart.

Verdin in hackberry bush in Sycamore Canyon Wash 10-8-09

We have been up on the canyon's rim but now decide to hike home up the floor of the wash. Here TR gets his best view of a verdin yet. while we are hiking we discuss where he is going to next and it is then that we hatch a plan for me to meet him in Patagonia tomorrow and go birding at the Patagonia -Sonoita creek preserve together. So, after entering all our bird counts into eBird, TR packs his vehicle and I hug him good-bye. I wave as he drives down the road and a smile spreads across my face. I'm ready for more birding adventures, but I am glad for an afternoon of rest!

And that's MY WORLD Tuesday (and Wednesday and Thursday...)

also, visit Kathie's Poet Tree to read my new poem: Brown Creeper

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Skywatch Friday: Waiting Dawn

Sunrise in Sycamore Canyon 10-6-o9

It is Tuesday morning and I am up early, anxious with anticipation. TR Ryan of From the Faraway, Nearby will arrive sometime today! I step outside to enjoy a few minutes of solitude before the day's activities begin. My early rising is well rewarded as I watch the tattered clouds turn to golden fleece in the east...

...while to the north the lights of Tucson still glow in the dim light of dawn...

...and off in the west the full moon sets as a mysterious pearl shrouded in filmy flimsy clouds.

For more amazing sky views visit


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My World: Maricopa

Burrowing owl in Maricopa, AZ 9-29-09

Maricopa is a small town in the west desert of Arizona. Despite its name, it is not in Maricopa county, but rather, it is in Pinal county. Though it has been in existence for quite a long time, it has only recently started growing with the housing boom of the early 2000's. since then it has grown to a town of over 32,000. However, like everywhere else in Arizona, that housing boom has now subsided and the building has stopped. Yet, as this town has grown, so have the town parks and man-made lakes, giving rise to new birding habitat as well as the loss of other habitats.

Desert Wind Middle School

I found myself here last week to do a bird presentation for a friend of mine who teaches 7th grade science in the Desert Wind Middle School.

I set up the class with some of my paintings, a few issues of Bird Watcher's Digest and a PowerPoint presentation with photos from my blog and my bird watching adventures. Each class was different but in all classes there were students who were interested and engaged. I did 3 presentations a day for two days.

Mrs. Parker, the science teacher.

Inbetween classes I went out birdwatching. I found these Neotropic Cormorants in a park at Rancho Mirage

And this one roosting in a tree at Pacana Park!

This Great Egret was there as well.

While this yellow-rumped warbler clung to Bird of paradise flowers in Rancho Mirage.

One of Mrs. Parker's Students told us where to find some burrowing owls. It ends up that these owls were relocated form habit lost to development. There were six man-made clusters of burrows with owls in each cluster. I took Ashley Parker out bird watching with me and we counted 18 different owls in this location!

I like the owls so much that I couldn't resist showing you more photos. So, Here is a Gallery of burrowing owls for you viewing pleasure.

Burrowing owl

burrowing owl

Burrowing owl in front of burrow

Burrowing owls standing in shade of utility pole

Burrowing owls

Burrowing owl impersonating a rock
and that's....