Monday, October 28, 2013

We have been working on the refuge:)

The week started out with an amazing full moon. 

Our lead- Kathleen is amazing. She has been involved in the world of ecology (birds, insects, plants) for years- teaching & testing & analyzing & reporting to influence the conservation and management of the environment for years.

Kathleen has us focusing on 3 main areas:

1. Waterfowl surveys for the Delta
2. Transect surveys for a variety of different habitats along the Bill Williams River
3. Taking photos of the common birds seen around the refuge for Kathleen to use for classes and visual aids

Bob was born for this:)

Here is a photo of the Delta area where we are performing Waterfowl surveys. 

We use our binoculars and spotting scopes to count the waterfowl seen in this delta region all the way to a line of buoys-making up an area covering 360 acres in one hour. 

Here are a few out of the thousands of birds counted (mostly American Coots this time of year) The waterfowl both are migrating through and some stop for the winter. (many of these photos are taken through my spotting scope using an attachment to use my iphone)

This is an Eared Grebe in winter plumage (not quite as colorful as their breeding plumage and a can be tricky to discern between the Horned Grebe at distances)

I love these little Pied-billed Grebes

Clark's Grebe

This is either a Red or Red-necked Phalarope that is passing through (another bird in winter plumage)

Great or Lesser Scaup (male)- We think this is a Greater due to the rounder head shape

Greater Scaup female

Male Redhead

Canvasback males

Canvasback female

The transect surveys vary depending on the goal of the surveys. Kathleen has designed these transects to consist of 20 points 20 meters apart covering various types of habitats. The purpose of these transects to to track population densities of birds, plants and other mammals. We are just focusing on birds. Each transect is surveyed for 3 consecutive days at the same time 4 times a year to get a snap shot of what his happening in the various habitats. We start out at point one (one observation point in the transect includes 10 meters in each direction- which is not very far) and collect information about the temperature, humidity, wind and time- then we observe any bird activity within and around the transect for 3-4 minutes and note our observations. Once we complete the transect Bob then inputs the information into Ebirds online reporting system and shares the results with Kathleen and myself.

It is an amazing opportunity to be out in the desert seeing & learning about the activities around us. One morning we had 8 migrating Flickers come through, a Gila Woodpecker, Loggerhead Shrike and a Sharp-shinned Hawk come by as we were getting ready to hike to the transect!! That was all before 7:00 am. We typically like to be ready to start between 7 & 7:30 to capture the birds waking activity.

Upland desert wash

This flag marks a transect point where we stop and make our observation

Sometimes we have no activity at the point- since 10 meters is a pretty small area and the birds are shy of our presence for the most part. Below is a cricket that does not mind- we are probably providing him a safe place to hide from predators.

This Cholla cactus is home to a nesting Cactus Wren- we have been seeing it with nesting materials. This is great news since they appear to be experiencing declining numbers.

We hiked in along the Bill Williams River bed since there is no water in it currently- amazing bird life (and mosquitos) this is a cool rock formation along the river bed.

Mountain Lion scat


Butterflies everywhere

Photos from around the refuge headquarter:

Anna's Hummingbird male

Verdin-performing a balancing act

House wren singing its song

Ash-throated Flycatcher 

Song Sparrow

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher posing for me

Tomorrow we take the trailer in and begin our stay in the local motel- stay tuned & cross your fingers all goes smoothly!

Another amazing week :)

Turtle & Hawk

PS-We both took the government defensive driving test and passed! Four grueling hours on the computer!

After feeling like this for 4 hours....

We both got our certificates:)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The government has reopened!

We are back in business!

Despite the shut down we have had quite a fabulous week exploring, learning about the area and making lots of new discoveries.

Here in our own backyard at Refuge Headquarters we had some special visitors: Blue-footed Boobies have been frequenting the waters around Headquarters for the last week or so--they have not been seen here for over 35 years we understand!

This guy looks like he is molting. 

Some other highlights of the week around the refuge 

Sun coming up:)

Diversity of life off of Planet Ranch Road

Getting to know the duck species - combination of Greater and Lesser Scaups

Loggerhead Shrike- they say they are uncommon around here but we have been seeing quite a few

Early am on the peninsula 

3 amigos

Costa's Hummingbird hiding back there

Anna's Hummingbird - guarding the feeder

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher in the morning light

A group of Avocets looking for a shallow feeding area. The river height is changing all of the time due to dam releases thus the wildlife is ever adapting to the changing environment 

Snowy Egret- get a load of those feet

Red-necked Phalarope migrating through 

And Bob's new doo:

Our friends the Great-tailed Grackles keep an eye on us:

A little Verdin collecting materials to add to the nest:

Another view towards the delta of the Bill Williams and the Colorado 

Western Grebe

Clark's Grebe

Look at the Suaro Cactus amongst the Palo Verde Trees and rock formations

Great Blue Heron in the early light

Avoiding any federal properties, we found the Ahakhav Tribal Preserve which is located south of Parker.  This is part of the Colorado River Indian Tribes (C.R.I.T.) property. C.R.I.T. is made up of 4 regional tribes. It is located along a backwater section of the Colorado River. The preserve is working at bringing back the natural habitat and is actively planting and periodically flooding different areas and the birds love it.  

We found a Greater Roadrunner right next to the parking area hunting

This Vermillion Flycatcher greeted us as we got out if the truck

As well as this little Gnatcatcher

And this beautiful Phainopepla 

We found this Black-throated Gray Warbler in the near by park

Hanging out with this Wilson's Warbler female

Look at this amazing Ferruginous Hawk flying above our heads hunting the nearby Ag fields

This is one of a handful of Red-naped Sapsuckers

This was the first time we have seen a Crissal Thrasher

This American Kestrel was seen hunting the area frequently when we were there

We saw this Pacific-slope Flycatcher hanging around the park

This was a surprise- we had a juvenile male American Redstart hanging around with us- they love to flash their colorful tails

There were lots of Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warblers in the area

This was a treat to see the southwest Willow Flycatcher- we understand there numbers are decreasing due to loss of habitat

A Merlin was hunting the area- which makes sense with all of the Yellow- rumps we were seeing

This Cassin's Vireo was a delight to see

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are more common in the area- this was the best look I have ever had

A real rare bird sighting- a Greater Pewee visiting from Mexico. It was calling nearby which put us on notice that something new was here!

A Gambel's Quail

I love this Black Phoebe

Abert's Towhee scratching around in the leaf litter 

This Northern Mockingbird had us thinking it was something else due to it very long tail- check out that yellow eye

A Hermit Thrush in repose

Another view of a Crissal Thrasher through the brush

Perfect view of a Verdin

A Sharp-shinned Hawk hunting the woods 

The ever present Great Horned Owl

An amazing view of a Red-naped Sapsucker

The Phainopepla love the mistletoe berries

We had a visit from a great friend, John Sterling of Sterlingbirds. John was our guide for our Panama trip a few years ago- it was amazing!! We met John and some local birding experts from the area and had a fabulous day!

A few photos from our day with John:

This is the famous or infamous Parker Dam

There were a few Neo-tropical Cormorants hanging out on the lines near the outflow of the dam. Apparently the fishing is great ther in the early morning

Another Loggerhead Shrike

This is a fuzzy photo of a Peregrine Falcon with a Western Meadowlark in its claws- the Meadowlark got free and flew away!!

Gorgeous Bald Eagle

And this little butterfly

We would like to mention the good work going on at Cornell University, specifically regarding their bird focused reporting platform for the use of the general public- eBird. You can participate by entering bird sighting data as a citizen-scientist or access the many useful tools available to learn more about bird migration & populations around the world. If you are interested log onto


Ever grateful,

Turtle and Hawk

The full moon over the lake:)