Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cranky Baby and "Non-Bird Animals"

Lady K has not been 100% the past couple of days and it seems the one thing that makes her a happy baby is to ride in the car.  Therefore, Texter and I made two trips to Benton Lake on Wednesday in order to make Lady K happy.  I can't understand how riding on a bumpy, gravel road sends her into a sound sleep, but it does. 

Texter is a little tired of just seeing birds at the wildlife refuge, even though we did see some I haven't seen before.  Texter was also my 'cinematographer' and took a couple of videos of the birds for me.

This is my new beauty I 'discovered' on the morning trip.  And yes, the name is just what it is, a yellow-headed black bird.

The description in my field guide talks about their loud, distinctive call.  A tree with several of the birds in there was almost deafening.  Their yellow head is so vivid and there were hundreds of them around the lake area. 

That evening, when we went back with cranky Lady K, we walked out on the marsh board walk.  Lined up down the walkway were dozens of these little beauties.

But as I mentioned earlier, Texter was getting a little tired of only seeing birds, even birds we had never seen before.  As we were stopped and watching the yellow-headed blackbirds, she spied the "non-bird animal' - that was what she called out when she saw it under the tree the birds were sitting in.

So we stalked this 'non-bird animal' down the bank of the lake and then it sauntered across the road in front of us.  We knew it wasn't a beaver or a muskrat (no rat tail), but wasn't sure what it was.

Meet a yellow-bellied marmot or 'rock chuck' as he is called.  It seems while we were thrilled and excited about seeing him, they are considered a pest and like to hang out at the local golf courses (which, because the courses are beside water, it makes them a favorite location to find them).

Another non-bird animal we saw was ground squirrels.  Often called gophers, they were hanging out at the ranger station which is where we first saw them.  Once I saw the mound and knew what to look for, it was easy to see they were everywhere in the refuge (and around town).

They are so cute and the mound where we first saw them had about seven or eight, popping their little heads up and running back into the ground.  Texter was now happy - something was viewed other than birds. 

During the morning ride, as we were leaving the refuge, we saw a pheasant.  This was exciting as pheasant feathers were always a subject of discussion at Ren Faires, as in the number of feathers you could wear in your hat without offending the queen.  When we went back in the evening, we saw enough pheasant to garb the entire court and have a feast for the queen. 

They are so colorful and just strutting those feathers around.  I could feel Savvy in my mind, wanting to chase them down and pull out tail feathers.  

Several of these colorful males had nice, quiet, almost invisible hens with them.  Question.  Is it wrong to look at them and have the thought about what they would taste like roasted?  Just wondering.

Hundreds of birds were there, one, the American Coot (black with white bill), Texter was intrigued about.  There were several bird houses set up near the road around the drive for Tree Swallows.

When we went for our evening trip, we could see in the distance, two or three herds of deer.  Each herd for 4-5 deer, but they were really far from the road and we couldn't see them very well.  I was disappointed there weren't any pronghorns out.  But on the way into town we did pass this "small" herd right by the road.

Luckily, they were happy with where they were and didn't decide to cross the road without warning.

Between the two trips, I took about 400 pictures (before culling out the blurry ones where I tried to capture the birds flying).  However, this little beauty is my favorite and the most exciting 'find'.  It wasn't until we got home and I downloaded the pictures I realized something which made the encounter even more special.....

He was sitting right beside the road on our evening trip, almost at the start of the drive around the lake.  When we had stopped in the morning and were talking to the ranger, she said we might be lucky enough to see owls in the evening.  She wasn't kidding.  But this was the thrilling find with the owl....

As he/she flew away, note the left foot.  Yep, we interrupted dinner.

So Wednesday was spent driving around Benton Lake and observing the wildlife.  House is still a mess, laundry still needs to be done, but everyone, including Lady K, had a good time, so it wasn't a waste of time.

(I will post later some pictures which are more 'arty' from our trips.)

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