Red-Tailed Hawk in Flight

I found these pictures that I had taken once we had just moved into our new home in October last year. I am enjoying them this week looking forward to such warmer days while we still have a dusting of the white stuff this morning.

We were tired from unpacking and so much had to be done back then. But in this one perfect and quiet moment of evening stillness, a beautiful red-tailed hawk began to circle the valley off our back deck. It seemed to stretch its wings to their fullest as if it were enjoying the moment and the warmth of the sun all by itself.

It was such a perfect scene. I followed the hawk with my camera, clicking frame after frame as it moved. I love revisiting these photos for the feeling they give me of standing on our deck and being an unobtrusive observer to what seemed like the happiest moment for this beautiful bird in the golden hour of a beautiful day.

Anyone who has ever stopped to watch a hawk in flight will know that it’s one of the natural world’s most elegant phenomena.

John Burnside

New Bird Sightings: Mountain Bluebirds

Fresh-caught grub lunch.

You will have to pardon my lack of resolution and sharpness in these photos. They are taken from quite far away from inside my kitchen windows to trying to focus on the farthest boundary of our property. But I was too excited to not post and share them as the first sightings of any backyard birds since we have arrived here in October 2023!

I’m thrilled to get to see mountain bluebirds taking up residence hopefully, and finding food and bugs here. They are a most welcome sight of color and spirit to the drab winter grasses and plains of late. ‘

The prior homeowner left old bird boxes up around many of the fence posts, but I had no idea if they would be used or not.

Here’s hoping we see bluebird families taking up residence in the coming weeks. Next trip to town will include a few bags of mealworms to put out to hopefully help us appear as an enticing location!

The Trouble with Magpies

Magpies scavenging outside my laundry room window.

The title of this post sounds like a good name for a book, if one does not already exist. But in this case, it is meant quite literally. We have a magpie problem.

Ever since we moved here, I have wanted to set up my bird feeders and begin putting seed and feed out for whatever was willing to stop by. The magpies, however, have other ideas.

Scavengers by nature (they are part of the corvid family), and smart as the dickens, they voraciously will eat us out of house and home if we let them. They fly inside of our trash dumpster and peck our trash bags apart looking for snacks. Their presence pushes away any small sparrows or juncos that occasionally stop by as well.

I truly want to leave my feeders up but it’s nearly impossible with the magpies about. Has anyone else had this difficulty with magpies or other similar birds, and if so, how did you deal with it?

A Majestic Avian Encounter

A few times since we have been living on our little ranch atop this knoll/plateau (I have no idea what the appropriate geologic term would be for where we are), I have thought I glimpsed a pair of golden eagles. There have been 2 huge birds of prey that briefly soared by our back deck and it has been an uncertainty for quite a while as to what I saw.

Today found my husband and I sitting in our family room with very gray and overcast skies when he startled me by saying “Look!” and indicating out the large windows overlooking our valley. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I realized just what glided by our porch railing. There was no mistaking this winged visitor.

For the very first time in my life I was in the presence of a real bald eagle.

By the time I had jumped to my feet, grabbed my camera from the side table and taken a few steps to the window it was already hundreds of feet higher than our deck.

Unfortunately, no detailed or close-up shots this time. It was only luck and a 200mm lens that got these “barely there” pictures. These are edited, cropped within an inch of their life and zoomed in as far as I could reasonably go.

But what a treat to see this majestic bird in person for the first time. Strong and solitary, it glided up the air currents of our hills and valley as if it had been flying here since the beginning of time.

After I snapped as many pictures as I felt worth trying for, I stood barefoot on our porch stairs with temperatures in the thirties taking in the moment. Who knows, it could be years again until I see another one.

Maybe never.

What an encounter. I hope it returns someday and I can record this beautiful creature with the kind of visual representation the emblem of our country should have.

First-time Steller’s Jay Sighting

There are not many types of birds frequenting our little ranch house so far, but I was treated to a first-time sighting of a Steller’s Jay outside of my office window recently. My initial reaction was it was a Blue jay in shadows, but once I realized it was sitting in full sun I did a double-take to re-check what I was seeing.

So far, it has only been by the house this one time that I know of. Hopefully we will see it again. It was a beautiful painting of blue in motion to see it flit from branch to branch and then hop onto a caged feeder we had nearby. Just as soon as I realized it was there, it had flown off but I at was able to snap a quick photo or two before it departed. What a treat!

Morning Hunt

This morning brought a silent hunter who took a rest in a backyard cottonwood tree. (My best guess on this one with limited viewing of it’s tail is a red-tailed hawk). With feeding small birds and critters come the hunters that learn they can sometimes find a snack at our feeders.

More often than not, the cover our trees provide give the song birds and squirrels the better odds.