Bird of the hour
July 7, 2021

The return to birding continued with a focus on exploring new locations and meeting their local avian residents. Once again, an early start presented an opportunity to see the sunrise and beat the expected rising afternoon temperatures. In addition to the photographic goals, this was also an ideal time to field test the dependability of replacement hiking gear and their compatibility with the existing setup.

I arrived after sunrise, as the light streamed through the chaparral grove and the base of remanent burnt logs. The calm wind bristled past the wheat-like stalks carrying a symphony of joyful birds calls across the trail. The glow of light was soft and steady, and everything around me illuminated in colorful melody; wildflowers dabbed pastel texture to the golden brown ground cover, contrasting against the backlit greenery of the pines in the distance.

Western bluebirds were in abundance, appearing here and there and everywhere. Some would pop up from foraging on the ground while others hopped between trees in the canopy above. The many fledglings squawked at the prospect of food, and waited on the branches impatiently. The morning light was tricky at high relative angles, especially with backlit scenes, high contrast trees and low contrast subjects.

The highlight of the day was surely an Allen's hummingbird. While I was photographing the wildflowers, an inquisitive fellow came up close to inspect my work and the camera. Its rufous body hovered from twig to twig on active lookout before diving back into the bed of red flowers in front of me. It took some time to adjust to its flight patterns and move backward to achieve focus at the lens' minimum focusing distance, but it turned out to yield quite satisfactory results.

The morning had considerable air traffic, with birds floating their articulated chatters from every direction. Swallows and flycatchers swooped in with dexterous maneuvers chasing their next meal, and phoebes waited patiently on the sidelines for something more convenient.

Soon, most birds took refuge from the striking afternoon sun, sitting in the coolness of the dark shadows. At this point, the task shifted to hiking and exploring the woodland and prairie landscape, stopping for the occasional documentary image of the local happenings. A small creek bordered with thick reeds and tall trees offered me a break as well. Aquatic birds and their younglings paddled back and forth along the waterway, periodically dipping beneath the surface and emerging with fresh vegetables.

I also encountered a few unknowns along the way: a female/juvenile finch-like bird stalking in a shrub, and a gray-blue aquatic goose-like bird with a steel blue bill. I'll take some more time to identify these, but I didn't want to wait any longer to post the rest of the images.

Here's the bird list thus far:

Acorn woodpeckerLesser goldfinch
Allen's hummingbirdOak titmouse
Ash-throated flycatcherSay's phoebe
Black phoebeTree swallow
Common ravenWestern bluebird
Lark sparrowWhite-breasted nuthatch

I hope you all take some time to relax and enjoy the summer. Happy birding!