Friday, July 4, 2014

Colorado: Home at Last

Deer standing by the road near Carter Lake in Berthoud, Colorado. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I am home. I've now been in Colorado a little over two weeks, spending most of my time unpacking and exploring my new home with my two oldest grandchildren. The house is dome-shaped and reminds me of the house in the movie Tangled--I would love to paint pictures of suns, moons, stars, trees and animals on the triangle-shapes walls. For the moment, though, my energy is all spent on organization and exploring.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was thrilled to discover the neighborhood hawk that lives near my daughter's home is still on his same perch a few blocks from her street. Unfortunately someone is building a subdivision behind my granddaughter's school and I suspect that is where his habitat is, but they are at the base of a mountain so perhaps he has already moved his home to a safer place. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.


I have a barn, and I will need it to complete my dream of raising goats and chickens because there is a mountain lion that has built its den on one of the two mountainsides that line this valley. The valley is packed with deer, rabbits, prairie dogs, and just about every type of bird and bug you can imagine. The deer at the top of the page was crossing the dirt road when I came home with my grandchildren one evening.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.


I am intrigued by these orange birds, who seem to be intrigued by me. They flock to the trees when I am planting seeds and bulbs in the backyard and chatter like children, but I can rarely see them as they generally like to hide among the leaves.

Butterfly Moth. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The Butterfly Moth is a regular visitor. It likes to sit on the screen door in the cool morning hours, disappears when the sun shines down on the top of the house, then returns at some point in the evening. I'm not sure why it likes our screen so much, but I'm fairly certain it is the same Butterfly Moth returning night after night.

Carter Lake in Berthoud, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The grandchildren and I walked down to Carter Lake this afternoon for a picnic. We played in the water, which is very deep and cold from spring run-off so we didn't do much more than stand on the rocks on the water's edge. I can't wait to get my canoe up here, or a sailboat. The lake is perfect for sailing.

One of my garden visitors. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was planting sunflowers this afternoon when I heard the sound of pounding feet. I know most of my neighbors already and quite a few of them walk early in the morning, but this sounded like running so I assumed it was animals.



I slowly turned around and the running stopped. I found myself facing two young deer with fuzz still on their antlers. I was told there are no squirrels because the mountain lion eats them, but I have plenty of corn that I will now set out for the deer. Unfortunately, they had wandered into a neighbor's pasture by the time I grabbed my camera, but I did manage to get a few photos of the pair. I also took a great picture of the neighborhood Turkey Vulture flying past my house!

The neighborhood Turkey Vulture. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It's been cool and breezy since I came here, except inside where it is hot in the daytime and cool at night, typical of Colorado. At last, I am home.



Sunday, June 8, 2014

Colorado, Here I Come!

Horsetooth Mountain, one of the most famous landmarks in Northern Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Just a short note to let you know I am moving, which explains the long delay in posts--selling, buying, and moving to another state is a time-consuming process, but by the end of the week I will be living in a small town in Northern Colorado

I will be living closer to my family and friends and where I also attended and taught at the local universities. I lived in Colorado most of my life. I love Colorado and I am fascinated by its wildlife, landscape, weather and history. If you notice a change in my posts, a few more focusing on Pronghorn Antelope; hawks; American Bald Eagles, and the wild and crazy weather of Colorado, now you know why! You've seen them before when I visit my family. You will see more. 
I'm going home. 

If you study a particular topic regarding the little creatures of Colorado that you'd like to suggest, or if you would like to guest blog or trade guest blogs, please contact me at dsdollman@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Roadrunner Revisited: Local Couple Fetching Dinner

Roadrunner in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Shortly after I posted on roadrunners my husband and I were driving down our street and spotted a roadrunner couple hunting for food. This time of year they most likely have a small brood waiting in their nest for some food. (Actually, by the time I post this they are probably teaching their three to six babies how to hunt.


Roadrunner behind tall grass in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

As I discussed before, I refer to the roadrunner as a "humane" hunter because it captures its prey so quickly the creature doesn't even know what happened, then it smacks the head of its prey on the ground, killing it instantly or at least knocking it unconscious before eating it.

In this picture you see the Roadrunner leaping from a wall to catch a bug. This is how its wings and tail appear from behind. They can fly, but generally only fly short distances to escape a predator or catch prey. They can leap six feet in the air to capture hummingbirds. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Roadrunners eat just about anything, including scorpions, which we greatly appreciated when we lived in Texas as we had a horrible infestation of Tree Bark Scorpions in our house. I often found two or more each day scampering across the floor and our last night in the house before moving to New Mexico, one climbed into my pajamas and stung me four times. Although I knew they were hunting our precious lizards and hummingbirds, as well, Roadrunners were always a welcome sight around our home. Here in New Mexico I generally see them eating lizards and small birds, like finches and sparrows. 

Roadrunner siting on brick wall with lizard in its mouth. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

On this day, both the male and female Roadrunner were lucky--they both caught a lizard within minutes of each other. In New Mexico they seem more comfortable with people so they did not run off when they saw me taking their picture. In fact, this one seemed to be posing with his catch. 

In this photo you can see the Roadrunners beautiful green tail. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

After years of drought we did have severe flooding in the Rio Grande Valley this past year, which I think is why we have so many baby lizards, swallowtails, baby house finches, swallows and sparrows, and bees. Oddly, we've also been swarmed with tan camo-colored grasshoppers. I generally associate grasshoppers with drought. The grasshopper timing is perfect for the birds, though, as they have plenty to eat! 

I like this photo (so I saved it for last) because it shows the magnificent colors of the Roadrunner. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.



Saturday, May 3, 2014

Roadrunner: Beep Beep!

Our neighborhood Roadrunner. He's a funny little critter, bold and ambitious. He often jumps the wall, runs right behind me, snags a bird and leaps back over the wall before the dogs and I even have a chance to think of moving. I suspect he is a teenager, hides out in the arroyos in the morning playing chicken with his friends. "I'll bet I can run past all four dogs in that yard over the wall and snag a sparrow!" Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This post is dedicated to my grandson, Timothy Jack. He's a bit young to have a favorite animal, so I chose one that I thought would make him laugh, since T.J. is always smiling!

I fell in love with Roadrunners the first time I saw one standing in front of our house looking for lizards. It moved its head slowly, carefully, as if it was trying to be invisible through lack of movement, but everyone in the front of the house knew he was there--it was completely silent. Not even a flit of a hummingbird--Road Runners can leap six feet in the air and catch a hummingbird in mid-flight. 

Roadrunner in Albuquerque. New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Suddenly it darted straight forward, literally with lightning speed, and snagged an anole lizard off the front of our house. Just as quickly, the bird slammed the lizard's head onto the cement, killing it instantly. 

Roadrunner in New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I call Roadfunners "humane Hunters." It must be terrifying to find yourself in the beak of a predator knowing you're about to be eaten, but Roadrunners are not into torture. They quickly release their prey from that misery with a swift smack on the head. 

This bird likes to meet my husband for lunch. He knows when my husband has his break and shows up in the parking lot begging for scraps. Roadrunners are opportunistic eaters and apparently enjoyed peanut butter and jelly. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Roadrunners are in the Cuckoo family. There are two kinds, the Greater Roadrunner and Lesser Roadrunner. The Greater Road Runner lives in the American Southwest. The Lesser Roadrunner can be found in Mexico and Central America. The Roadrunner (Geococcyx) is also known as a Chaparral Bird and a Chaparral Cock. 

Roadrunner in Kingsland, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Roadrunners can "can outrace a human [they've been clocked at 20 mph], kill a rattlesnake, and thrive in the harsh landscapes of the Desert Southwest." I've seen them do all of these things, although I've also noticed that the Roadrunners that came out of the forest near our home in Texas were much more shy than the Roadrunners living near our home in New Mexico. 

Road runner in Kingsland, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

One day, a few years back, I was having a garage sale and it was packed! Most of the shoppers were in my driveway. I was talking to a neighbor when we suddenly noticed everyone was stepping back and to the side and laughing. That's when I saw the Roadrunner strolling between the shoppers, looking for food. He must have thought it was a party! 

Roadrunner stopping by the garage sale in Rio Rancho New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Our neighborhood Roadrunner also enjoys sitting in my shrub. He resembles a child hiding his head under a pillow with his bottom sticking up in the air shouting "You can't see me!" 

;
Roadrunner hiding in the shrub beside our house. He is surprisingly successful at snagging small birds and I have no idea why as he is clearly seen! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Yes, he is very obvious when he sits in our shrub! Lol! 

Roadrunner hiding in our shrub. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I think the best experience we had with roadrunners was one spring in Texas when our house roadrunner showed up in the forest section in front of our house with his mate and a juvenile. They were teaching the baby to hunt, and they were diligent, firm, cautious--they will fly, but prefer to sprint to avoid predators, and do this well. 

Roadrunner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

 They moved slowly so the baby could keep up and this gave me the perfect opportunity to study them. I watched them from the window, admiring their fancy head dress, long legs and strong feet, and their beak that resembles that of the curve-billed thrashers that live in our yard here in New Mexico. I could see a patch behind each eye with shades of blue and red. Most of the time their tails were closed, but once the smaller bird opened its tail that had white tips.

Roadrunner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This spoiled little creature lives next to a chiropractor's office and the employees in the building bring snacks every day for his brood. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Roadrunners live year round in the same place where they breed and raise their young, so when I speak possessively of these birds, there is a reason. It really is "the neighborhood bird" or "my backyard bird." They have an elaborate courtship display of dipping and bowing, then mate for life. They build their nests on a platform of sticks on a low tree or cactus. They have two to six eggs in a clutch and take turns keeping them warm. Their young leave the nest at two to three weeks old for hunting lessons. Watching that hunting lesson was one of the greatest animal experiences I had in Texas. The parents were so loving and careful. They are beautiful creatures. 

Road Runner in Kingsland, Texas saying "Adios!" Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. I think what surprises me the most, now that I've finished this post, is I still have dozens of photos to choose from, which is amazing considering they run at 20 mph! Lol! 

In the A to Z Bloggers Challenge R is for Roadrunner!








Friday, May 2, 2014

Gambel's Quail: Funny Little Desert Birds

Gambel's Quail in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The first time we saw a Gambel's Quail we were in the desert outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. We saw two adults and I have no idea how many babies because they have this great defensive habit of scattering in all directions, running so quickly then turning and changing directions so fast that you can barely follow them with a camera! They are lovely birds and great fun to watch! 

Gambel's Quail sitting in a tree in the arroyo behind my house. I love his black, velvety face. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

The Gambel's Quail is a true Southwestern bird (and I am speaking figuratively, not scientifically). It is found in the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona. Visitors to New Mexico and Arizona may confuse them with the similar California Quail, but they are not the same species and their territories do not overlap. 

Female Gambel's Qual in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I've often seen Gambel's Quail referred to as "chubby little birds," but they are fast, smart, and cautious. I see them perched on debris from dead trees that people discard in the desert, fence posts, anything that provides them with a slight height advantage so they can watch for predators and send their young scrambling for safety. It's a shame that humans are among the predators or I might have better pictures of them! However, I am certain this pair will soon be scrambling through our neighborhood with a covey of quail as they are clearly paired and will have babies. 

The romantic couple scrambled when they saw me, darting in opposite directions, backtracking, trying to confuse me, then reunited when they realized I was not chasing them and they were safe. 

Gambel's Quail have short necks, small bills, square tails and are easily identified by the bobs on top of their heads. They camouflage well in the desert with their gray, cream, brown and reddish-brown coloring. They are also low to the ground so it's difficult to see them as they scramble among the sage. When they do fly, it is a fast, powerful, but short dart to give them a boost away from a predator. 

They may be a desert bird, but this couple has decided they like my house. This fella is making a quick run across our driveway. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

A group of quail is called a covey. The coveys of Gambel's Quail generally consist of a dozen or more birds. They eat grass and cactus fruit. They hang out in their coveys in the winter the same way antelope do, then pair off in spring. They have 10-12 eggs that incubate for 20 or so days then suddenly have a covey of their own scrambling this way and that! How I wish you could see them, they are such a delight! They look like very busy people running about on city streets trying to get their business done. 

Female Gambel's Quail. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Unfortunately, some areas allow hunting seasons for this bird, lasting from October to February, which seems rather silly--they provide food for desert predators such as wolves and coyotes and cannot possibly provide much meat. If we continue to kill the food of the predators, they will continue to attack our pets and livestock--it's common sense. 


Source:

In the A to Z Bloggers Challenge Q is for Quail.





Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yellow-Eyed Penguins: Endangered in New Zealand

Yellow-Eyed Penguin in New Zealand. Photo by Michaël CATANZARITI.

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin of the New Zealand coastal forests is the rarest of all penguins and an endangered species.



PENGUINS! Who doesn't love penguins?!? They are cute and charming and look like little people marching across the ice. They are stars of numerous childrens' films, dancing and prancing their way into our hearts. They are celebrities in our family. My stepdaughter traveled to Chile for a high school trip and fell in love with penguins, so every year I give her a penguin as a gift.

Sadly, many penguins are also endangered, including the startlingly beautiful Yellow-Eyed Penguin of New Zealand. Yellow-Eyed Penguins (Megadyptes antipodes) have a captivating appearance with a yellow crown of feathers framing their heads, yellow eyes, and reddish-purple bills. They are forest-nesting birds, building their nests against trees and fallen logs, which makes them easy prey to other animals. Sadly, deforestation, habitat encroachment and the introduction of predators has threatened their existence to such an extent that these magnificent creatures are now considered an endangered species according to the IUCN list.

Physical Attributes of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin

Okay, we already know  they are adorable. They're penguins! However, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin has other distinguishing characteristics. The adult yellow-eyed penguin has a distinctive, bright yellow stripe marking its eyes and running to the back of its head and a cap of golden feathers that makes it appear as if the penguin is wearing a golden crown. The royal penguins!

Yellow-Eyed Penguin. Photo by Christian Mehlführer, User:Chmehl.

They all have a slate gray back and white chest and stomach. The penguin's feet are peach-colored. Males have larger feet and a slightly larger head. Its bill is a combination of red and purple. Young Yellow-Eyed Penguins have gray eyes instead of yellow and don't have the yellow line and golden feathers that mark their crown. Baby Yellow-Eyed Penguins, or chicks, are covered with thick, brown feathers. They have a surprisingly long life span of twenty-two years!

Lifestyle of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin can be found on the south islands of the eastern coastline of New Zealand, the Banks Peninsula, Stewart Island and Campbell Island. They spend their days swimming in the warm coastal waters searching for their favorite snacks of red cod, arrow squid, aruhu and opal fish. They are highly-skilled swimmers, holding their breath as long as four minutes and diving to 400 feet. They sometimes travel 20 miles from home in search of their favorite foods.

Eggs and Chicks

Like other penguins, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin forms loose colonies, but they nest in solitude. They build their nests out of twigs and grass at the base of trees, logs, and sand banks. Their breeding season begins in August. In September, females begin to lay their eggs, two at a time, covering them loosely with grass to protect them from heat and storms. The eggs incubate 45 days and hatch in November. At this point, one parent will hunt for food while the other stays with the chicks. The chicks are "fledged," or fed and cared for by their parents until March when they learn to hunt for food on their own.

Why are They Endangered?

It is estimated that there are less than 2000 remaining pairs of Yellow-Eyed Penguins. In addition to falling prey to sharks and seals, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin is also threatened by dogs, cats, ferrets, rats, and coastal deforestation.

In 1987, the Dunedin Conservationists formed the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust to try and save the endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguins. Their goal is to control those predators that were introduced to the area, such as cats and dogs, and restore and preserve the coastal forests where the penguins live and breed. They have also purchased land to establish Yellow-Eyed Penguin reserves.

Sources:

  • "The Yellow-Eyed Penguin." Wildlife of Antarctica. Antarctic Connection. Retrieved April 21, 2010.
  • Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust Home Retrieved April 21, 2010.

In the A to Z Bloggers Challenge P is for Yellow-Eyed Penguins!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Odies: Dragonflies and the Dragonfly Fan Club

Dragonflies are in the Order of the Odonata, and fans of the dragonfly are called Odies! I am an Odie, a fan of the dragonfly. I search for them for hours so I can take a photograph. This amazing creature followed me around my garden in Texas for nearly an hour before landing for a photograph! 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman, and this post is dedicate to Oliver Bunnell. (P.S., it can take hours of patient waiting to catch a dragonfly on a twig as they are fast and busy critters, so please don't swipe my photographs without asking permission unless you are one of my grandchildren.) 

Dragonfly in Loveland, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

My daughter spotted this beauty. We were at the Sculpture Park in Loveland, Colorado. My grandchildren were riding their bicycles around the park and I was searching for dragonflies to photograph. I said, "I don't think I'm going to find any today," and my daughter replied, "you are looking right at one. It's on the stick right in front of you!" Sure enough, there was a nearly invisibly dragonfly perched so close I could have touched it! I love the faces on dragonflies. They always appear to be smiling! 

Dragonfly near Springer, New Mexico. I love this sparkling beauty! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Dragonflies are insects in the order Odonata, suborder Epiprocta, infraorder Anisoptera. Follow that? It doesn't matter. Let's just say they are the coolest bugs on the planet! They have four wings that stay spread flat even when they land--if they fold across the back then you are not looking at a dragonfly, you're looking at a damselfly, which has a head that somewhat resembles a robot (square-shaped) and is also very cool. 

Dragonfly in Kingsland, Texas. One of my favorite photos. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Dragonflies have six legs, but they cannot walk very well at all. That's why it's hard to catch them holding still long enough for a photograph. You will usually find them on a blade of tall grass or a twig sticking out of the ground--a thin twig. It is easier for them to grasp and hang onto a blade of grass or thin branch. They can fly amazing well, though. In fact, dragonflies are one of the fastest flying insects in the world! 

I found this beauty at my father's house. I was telling him about my fascination with photographing dragonflies and he said, "Oh, do you mean like this critter over here?" and he nodded at the post beside us where this lovely dragonfly was glittering gold in the sunlight. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Two years ago there was a horrible forest fire near the homes of many of my family members in Colorado and their land was destroyed, but thankfully no one lost their homes. They were evacuated into nearby Loveland, though. 

I believe it's possible this is a damselfly because of the upraised wings, but it's hard to tell from behind. If you have an opinion, please let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear from you! 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I was visiting at the time and my grandchildren and their aunt and uncles decided to visit a nearby park. While we were there we suddenly noticed dozens and dozens of dragonflies moving over our heads. They were coming in waves that didn't seem they would ever stop. They didn't stop to rest and I believe they were headed for nearby Lake Loveland. I think they were coming from Horsetooth Reservoir and may have been chased out by the smoke and seeking safer ground. It was fascinating to see so many dragonflies. I've never seen anything like it before or since. 

Another one of my favorites. This one was in Loveland, Colorado, and also had a golden line on its body that glistened in the sunlight. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Dragonflies are what's known as beneficial insects because they eat mosquitoes, flies, ants, and other bugs that are considered a nuisance. However, they have also been known to eat bees, which are important to the cycle of life in swamp land and rarely, if they are terribly hungry, they have been seen eating butterflies. 

Another shimmering beauty in Loveland, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Dragonflies are usually found near lakes, ponds, and wetlands. I search for them when I see tall grasses near water. Their larvae are known as nymphs and stay in the water until the crack their shells. They generally battle for life with frogs and toads, fish, spiders, and even larger dragonflies. 

A better view of the black dragonfly. It sure was a beauty! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

In the A to Z Challenge, O is for the Order of the Odonata, or Odies, fans of the Dragonfly!