Saturday, April 27, 2019

American Avocet - An Elegant Glow

American Avocet

The name Avocet comes from the Italian avosetta, which means ‘graceful bird'. If your looking for the American version of this graceful bird, you’ll find him foraging in the shallow marshes scattered throughout the wide open west.

It’s easy to confirm his identity because of his distinctive features and striking colors. His sleek, white body is set upon a pair of long, blue legs and he has solid black wings broken by a broad, white bar.

The Avocet has an outrageously long, recurved, black bill but his exquisite coloring is what really sets him apart. During breeding season his head, neck and breast is shaded in soft peach while in the winter those same areas are filled gray.

He’s a common shore bird whose breeding grounds are often located along the lower fringes of the Rocky Mountains. He wades across the wetlands scything - sweeping his bill side to side through the water’s surface while feeding on tiny crustaceans and aquatic insects.

He and his mate prefer to live on an island where they scrape the ground, creating a saucer-shaped nest lined with grass, feathers and pebbles. Upon hatching, the chicks feed themselves as they’re never fed by their parents.

The little ones are precocial, moving around independently soon after they’re born. By just one day old, the nimble chicks have the ability to walk, swim and dive in order to escape threatening predators.

The parents are notoriously aggressive towards anything and anyone who approaches their nest or young. They make shrill alarm calls, create distraction displays and dive bomb unlucky intruders.

Come fall, the bird will migrate to a more hospitable environment usually along the California coastline. Before his inevitable departure, though, there’s still lots of time to bask in the elegant glow of the American Avocet.

A graceful bird

A common shore bird

A long, curved bill

Distinctive features

The head, neck and breast are peach

Foraging in a shallow marsh

Exquisite coloring

Found in the wide open west

Protective parents

Scything through the water

Wades across the wetlands

An elegant glow

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Panorama of Winter Weather - Rough Seas

Winter Weather

Winter weather has continued to pummel the foothills leaving behind a panorama of white meadows and black forests. The big peaks have all but vanished from the landscape as a layer of thick fog has erased them from view.

The animals are tired of contending with the everlasting cold and wet weather. We are all waiting patiently for Mother Nature’s palette of Spring colors to be painted across the gray environment.

Wide stretches of vast wilderness has become a desolate winter tract into which neither man nor beast wishes to go. Positioned on the Western Front, the region is mired in a rut of mud, muck and monochrome.

There is something hauntingly beautiful about the way the storms come crashing into the mountains. As the new season unfolds, the snow keeps falling in dense squalls that make the trees look like ghosts of the Great White North.

It’s not an ideal situation but battling the harsh elements is the type of adversity that makes us strong. We’ll bide our time while navigating rough seas because in just a few more weeks, we’ll enjoy a summer of smooth sailing.

A panorama of white meadows

And black forests

A gray environment

Something hauntingly beautiful

Everlasting cold and wet

Ghosts of the Great White North

A desolate winter tract

Looking forward to a summer of smooth sailing

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Ushering in Spring - An Arctic Landscape

Ushering in Spring

A classic seasonal storm swept across the foothills, lengthening an unending stretch of cold and wet. Dawn broke gray and murky as a thick vapor of fog permeated the pine forest, evoking an eerie atmosphere.

The illusion of great depth was exaggerated as trees in the distance were placid silhouettes while the nearer rocks revealed a rough texture. An abandoned homestead was barely visible as it melded into the haunted hillside.

When the turbulent episode finally hit, the snow came pouring down in sheets of freezing rain transforming the local wetlands into a white valley. Evergreen Lake with its black water, icy shoreline and invisible horizon looked like an Arctic landscape.

The only inhabitants to be found on that frigid evening were a few geese whose silent wake shattered the serene reflections. Although a shock to the system, the winter-like weather is not unusual for this time of year.

By the morning after, powder blue skies began to reappear and that same old cabin came into crystal clear view. The deep forest was a dazzling display of dappled light and silvery shadows.

The trail’s edges were blurred by drifts of melted slush. The wet snow was smothered over everything creating an encrusted shell that can only be cracked by another attempt to usher in Spring.

Rocks revealed a rough texture

Dawn broke gray and murky

An abandoned homestead

A silent wake shattered reflections

An Arctic landscape

Snow came pouring down like rain

A white valley

Blue skies began to reappear

The old cabin came into clear view

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Last Light on Bergen Peak - First Birds

Last Light on Bergen Peak

Bergen Peak’s high summit has been streaked with eternal snow all year long and the mountain’s east face is displayed like a silver facade. Ribbons of gray clouds fill the sullen sky, creating a forbidding flyway.

During the transition between seasons, a mighty wind is funneled down through the foothills’ many drainages. It’s as if the powerful breeze banishes the current, lingering season and brings forth the stubborn, new one.

After such a cold and stormy winter, the still frozen lakes and ponds have delayed the arrival of our feathered migrants. Despite harsh conditions, the first birds I’ve seen were a flock of famished American robins.

The long flight apparently infused the red-breasted marauders with a voracious appetite. The birds were observed on the rocky slopes plucking blue berries from the fringes of a fresh juniper bush.

The robins’ signature calls betrayed their frantic activity that added some color and interest to an otherwise dull and lifeless landscape. I can tell it won’t be long now before the rest of the clan arrives and raises a raucous over nest construction and territory defense.

A feathered migrant

Transition between seasons

Wind is funneled through a drainage

A cold and stormy winter

A silver facade

A forbidding flyway

Streaked with white snow

Robins were first to arrive

A voracious appetite

On the fringes of a juniper bush

They added color to the landscape