Category Archives: Birds

Still sad

For the past 17 days, every morning when I get up I check on my mommy mourning dove on her nest. Sadly, yesterday morning this is what I saw:

Mourning dove nest

I have been a birder for 60 years, so I know that there is a Great Horned Owl out here in the East San Diego County boondocks. It lives in the bushes and trees about a 100 yards north of me. Been there for 2 years and 10 months.

When I was outside to pull weeds yesterday morning, I heard Mr. G. H. Owl calling to me from about 50 yards to the south. Who? Who? Who? I think I know WHO got my mourning dove babies.

I am completely powerless against police brutality, racism, the Twitler Crime Family, et al., but I really thought I could help mommy mourning dove safely raise her young.

Still sad.

Mourning doves

And then there were three

Picture of the Moment

Sixteen days ago, I got up with the sun (5:30 a.m.) and pulled a ton of weeds along the fence between my property and the open space preserve. I left a huge pile of weeds, figuring I would haul them to the trash later. I took a shower and a nap.

When I went out to the gardens to get my daily snapshots of flowers, I leaned in close near a hanging basket and something hit me in the head and flew away. I didn’t see what it was, but I did see this in the hanging basket:

mourning dove eggs

That was not there six hours earlier. Mommy, presumably with help from daddy, found my pile of weeds, built a nest a few feet away, and deposited two eggs in only four or five hours. Fortunately, after me disturbing mommy (presumably), she came back to take care of those eggs:

momma mourning dove on nest

Research indicates that it takes about 14 days for mourning dove eggs to hatch and another 15 days for the little ones to leave the nest and go exploring the world.

I got a picture of a little bird on Day 13.

Mourning dove

And on Day 14, today!, I got a picture of two little birds!

Mourning doves

And then there were three. I’m so happy! Now our goal is to help mommy protect these two little ones for the next couple of weeks so they can fly away, fly away.

Hoping I can’t go into one of my gardens for about a month

Picture of the Moment

I got up at 5:30 this morning to go pull weeds and clear dead brush along the fence. Nothing unusual about that.

I just went out to take pictures of the cactus flowers that are blooming. I leaned in close with my 90mm macro lens and suddenly something hit me in the head and went flying away.

The last time I was hit in the head by something flying was 1968 under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin. That time was a flying bat (if you’ve never seen the bats take to the skies at dusk at the Congress Avenue bridge, go!).

This time, it was a momma mourning dove. Interestingly, she and her nest were not there at 6:00 this morning. In a mere six hours she (and daddy?) built a nest out of brush laying in a pile nearby, and she laid two eggs in it.

mourning dove eggs

I’m so happy because the last time I had baby birds was annually from 1968-1973 in my wise old grandmother’s yard. I had built a bird house using a Boy Scout handbook and attached it high in our ash tree. A family of screech owls moved in. They are known to use the same nesting site annually, and they did.

Research indicates that it takes 14 days for mourning dove eggs to hatch and another 15 days for the little ones to take off on their own.

Fortunately, I have most of the weeds pulled in this area, and the rest can wait for a month. The presence of momma and, hopefully, two little ones means that any future pictures from my retaining wall gardens will have to be taken through the window in my home office using my 600mm lens. Can’t wait to see how those turn out.

It takes me 4 minutes to walk from the sunny retaining wall gardens back to the home office. By the time I got back inside and looked out the window, momma bird was back on the nest.

momma mourning dove on nest

Out & About—California Living Museum in Bakersfield, California

Out & About

When I was in Bakersfield, California, on February 11-12, 2020, high on my list of places to visit was the California Living Museum, or CALM for short. It specializes in California native fauna and flora.

California Living Museum logo

California Living Museum logo

Although the California Living Museum is only 14 acres with 250 animals representing 80 species, I can highly recommend it.

Keep in mind that I have been a member of zoos, arboretums, aquariums, and animal sanctuaries since I was 13 when my wise old grandmother got me a membership to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. After that it was the San Antonio Zoo and the Houston Zoo. Also keep in mind that I have been a member of the San Diego Zoo since May 1993.

When I was searching for things to do in Bakersfield and found the California Living Museum, I immediately compared it to the San Diego Zoo at 99 acres, 3,700 animals, and 650 species, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park at 1,800 acres, 3,500+ animals, and 400+ species.

I had convinced myself that I would be disappointed, but I just cannot bear to miss a zoo, arboretum, or sanctuary, so off I went, thinking that since it specialized in California native flora and fauna, maybe I would see something that I had never seen before. At $10, the price was right, too!

I spent four hours at CALM, which breaks down to $2.50 per hour. That’s entertainment that doesn’t break the bank!

Following are some of my best pictures of CALM.

Seeing a saguaro (Carnegia gigantea) in the parking lot gave me great hope
and it only got better.California Living Museum

California Living Museum

California Living Museum

Barrel cactus
Barrel cactus

Northern Mojave Rattlesnake
Northern Mojave Rattlesnake

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake

Sidewinder
Sidewinder

Sonoran Gopher Snake
Sonoran Gopher Snake

Chuckwalla
Chuckwalla

Desert Iguana
Desert Iguana

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise

Desert Bighorn SheepDesert Bighorn Sheep

CoyoteCoyote

Mountain Lion
Mountain lion

Mountain lion

Nelson’s Antelope Squirrel
Nelson's Antelope Squirrel

Roadrunner
Roadrunner

Turkey
Turkey

Western Scrub Jay
Western Scrub Jay

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

California Living Museum

Did you notice that I got a picture of both a coyote and a roadrunner?

Coyote and roadrunner

Out & About—Strutting peacock video

Out & About

My speaking engagement on 2/13/20 with the San Gabriel Valley Cactus & Succulent Society occurred at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. They have a flock of peafowl there which seems to be growing. I counted 27 at one point but I could not get them all in one picture. Here’s my mostest:

Peafowl at the Los Angeles County Arboretum

If you’ve never seen a strutting peacock, including behind-the-scene action, here’s one for you from my time at the Los Angeles County Arboretum last week:

The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden—A Review

The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
A Review

Hippos at the Los Angeles ZooI became a fan of zoos after my first visit to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, in summer 1966. If I had never seen a giraffe, or an elephant, or a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus…. I never would have taken such an interest in their plight in the world.

Chimpanzees at the Los Angeles ZooA couple of years later, a real live monkey showed up in our yard. My wise old grandmother told me to give it a banana. I though that was only in cartoons. The darn thing ate it. And as with just about any animal, if you feed it, it’s yours.

That monkey stayed in the trees in our back yard for several months. I named it Cheetah.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenThen, one day, people showed up to take Cheetah. They were people from the San Antonio Zoo. A monkey was considered an exotic pet, and exotic pets were not allowed in Kingsville, Texas. We had to let them capture Cheetah and take him away.

When San Antonio hosted Hemisfair in 1968, I convinced my wise old grandmother to take me to San Antonio. Sure I wanted to go to Hemisfair, but more importantly to this little boy, I wanted to go to the San Antonio Zoo to see Cheetah.

Serval at the Los Angeles ZooI don’t know whether or not Cheetah recognized me, but to this day I believe he did. All one has to do is watch YouTube videos about animals recognizing those who rescued them, fed them, and cared for them, even after being separated from them for weeks, months, and, in one case, 11 years. Yeah, our animals that we care for know who we are.

Los Angeles ZooYesterday, Jim and I went to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden. I had never been to the Los Angeles Zoo, but since I have been going to the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park on a regular basis for 26½ years, I already knew that the Los Angeles Zoo didn’t have anything that I had not already seen. Thus, my main interest was in the Botanical Garden aspect of the zoo with the possible intent of including a section in my forthcoming book, SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation.

Ostrich at the Los Angeles ZooThe Los Angeles Zoo opened in 1966, so it’s about fifty years younger than the San Diego Zoo. However, at 133 acres, it is 33 acres larger. However, there are only about 1,400 animals residing at the Los Angeles Zoo. After walking the whole zoo yesterday, I would guess that about 70 acres is simply unused land. Jim and I always are tired after a trip to the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t experience that after walking the Los Angeles Zoo.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenI was disappointed in the zoo but I might be unreasonably comparing it to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The L.A. Zoo was quite busy yesterday. However, it needs a serious cleaning, including a parking lot renovation. The asphalt probably is the original asphalt from when the zoo opened in 1966. The whole place was overgrown with weeds. Deciduous trees had dropped all their leaves; unfortunately, all over the exhibits, making a mess of them, making a mess of any horticultural exhibits beneath the trees, making a mess of the various play areas for children.

Notwithstanding all the problems, there were several things that made the visit worthwhile:

      1. I now have been to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden.
      2. The birds show was excellent because it featured birds that you won’t be seeing in your back yard: two African vultures (huge birds!) and a California Condor (another huge bird!)
      3. Although many of the botanical gardens were weedy and covered with leaves, I did get enough good pictures for my book.
      4. The giraffe feeding line was very long, and having fed the giraffes at the San Diego Zoo, I can tell you that feeding giraffes is quite an experience. This final picture shows a little girl feeding a giraffe. I believe this little girl will grow up with an appreciation of wildlife—my appreciation of wildlife started by feeding a monkey. Perhaps this little girl will get a college degree in wildlife conservation, maybe even work in a zoo providing this type of experience to the next generation.

Feeding a giraffe at the Los Angeles Zoo

All pictures in this post were taken by me
at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
on December 29, 2019.

A little late for Halloween

Picture of the Moment

I am having a great time creating calendars for sale. I have six at my Etsy shop so far: Succulents, Spirals, Roses, Orchids, Cats and Dogs. My seventh calendar will feature birds. All priced at $20 with free USPS first class shipping in the United States. Not yet shipping internationally.

One thing that I am trying to do with my calendars is match colors to the months. For example, I use white flowers, white cats, and white dogs for December. For October, I’m using orange for Halloween. For my birds calendar, this little one obviously is going to be my October bird. Props if you know its name. No, it’s not Freddy or Chucky.

Muscovy duck

Out & About—Dana Point, California

Out & About       Halls of History

On Friday I drove 77 miles to Dana Point, California, to take a 3-hour ride on the tall ship Spirit of Dana Point. The occasion was the opening of the 35th Annual Tall Ships & Ocean Festival hosted by Ocean Institute.

Since these events are quite popular in Southern California, I left at 4:00 a.m. to get there earlier than everyone else so that I could get good parking. I parked and walked around the harbor watching the sun rise.

9/6/2019 sunrise in Dana Point harbor, California

In the 1830s and 1840s, the natural harbor was a popular port for ships bringing supplies to the Mission San Juan Capistrano located nearby.  The earliest known visit to the harbor was in 1818. Argentine sailor Hippolyte de Bouchard anchored in the harbor while conducting a raid on the mission.

Dana Point was incorporated as a city on January 1, 1989, and had a population of 33,351 in the 2010 census. The city was named after the headland of Dana Point, which was named after Richard Henry Dana Jr., author of Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840, who had docked his ship, Pilgrim, in the harbor in 1835.

Dana Point headland

Two Years Before the Mast is an account of the Pilgrim’s 1834-35 voyage between Boston and California. In it, Dana described the area as the only romantic spot on the coast.

Pilgrim was a sailing brig 86½ feet long and weighing 180 tons. It had been built in Boston in 1825 and went down in a fire at sea in 1856. There is a full-size replica at the Ocean Institute in the harbor at Dana Point.

Full size replica of Pilgrim, Ocean Institute, Dana Point, California

Pilgrim used to sail but it is in need of major repairs. Right now the money isn’t available to make those repairs, so it appears to be permanently docked at this time.

The harbor is quite beautiful and a joy to walk around watching people, boats, wildlife, sunrises, and sunsets.

Dana Point, California, harbor

Dana Point Harbor, California

Dana Point Harbor, California

Dana Point Harbor, California

Pelican at Dana Point, California

Person at Dana Point, California

Sunset at Dana Point, California

Coming up next: More about the Ocean Institute.

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

Out & About—Hawk Watch in Ramona, California

Out & About The World

I went to Hawk Watch on 1/5/2019 in Ramona CA, courtesy of the Wildlife Research Institute.

In my 63 years 9 months and 26 days on Earth, it ranks as one of the Top 10 most interesting things I have ever done. Got to see gyrfalcon, pygmy falcon, peregrine falcon, American kestrel, ferruginous hawk, and red-tailed hawk.

I got bopped on the head by the wings of a diving peregrine falcon. Afterwards, we had a field trip where I got to see my first bald eagle nest in the wild and a juvenile bald eagle in the wild.

I took 458 pictures, so it will take me a little while to catalog all of them. Here are two pictures of the gyrfalcon, the largest of the falcons and, as far as I’m concerned, the most beautiful. It’s from the Arctic.

Gyrfalcon at Hawk Watch in Ramona CA on 1/5/19

Gyrfalcon at Hawk Watch in Ramona CA on 1/5/19

Hawk Watch occurs every weekend in January and February, and next Saturday, 1/12/2019, all those birds will be back, accompanied by some owls, including a Great Horned Owl. I guess you know where I will be next Saturday.

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