The snood

Ah the snood. That fleshy protuberance that hangs down over a wild turkeys beak. On males Turkeys the snood can grows up to 5 inches in length. When a male is trying to impress a female the snood turns bright red and elongates even further. The males with the longest, brightest snoods tend to attract the most mates.

Here two males are in full display mode however it is curious that one of the males snoods is blue the other red.

While mature female turkeys develop a short snood three evolutionary function remains a mystery.

Early Riser

We usually don’t see Chippie up this early in the spring. However with the snow rapidly receding and the temperatures somewhat above average Chippie, two in fact, have decided it was time to get busy and awake from a winter in their dens.

Last we we noticed two Chipmunks darting and foraging non-stop even though the grass is still very brown and many parts of the landscape are still covered in a blanket of snow. This guy found a few morsels under the bird feeder where a selective Red-Breasted Nuthatch had discarded a few seeds onto the ground.

American Dipper

An American Dipper getting the big view before taking the plunge into the icy winter water below. American Dippers forage along the rocky river bottoms of rapidly moving streams of western North America. Diving in and out and running along the bottoms of the river at times to feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates. In addition to their fascinating foraging behavior American Dippers have quite a song and really can belt out a wonderful tune making a hike along a rushing stream a full on audio-visual delight.

Reference:

Kingery, H. E. and M. F. Willson (2020). American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.amedip.01

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron

The Bare-throated Tiger Heron is a medium sized heron common to Central America. They are somewhat bulky and shaped a bit like a night-heron or Bittern with distinct baring and rufous on their breast.

This individual was displaying a behavior that indeed reminded us of the American Bittern.

The Bare-throated Tiger Heron forages along costal zones, brackish water and in inland marshes and swamps feeding mainly eating fish, frogs and crustaceans but has been known to consume small rodents.

Like many other Herons the bare-throated Tiger Heron hunts by remaining motionless and quickly striking when prey appears.

Reference:

Martínez-Vilalta, A., A. Motis, and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.btther1.01

Greased lightning

Greased lightning is the nickname we gave to these little rodents as they shot across the desert landscape foiling many of our attempts at photographing them. The White-tailed Antelope Ground Squirrel is a common to abundant desert dweller across the southwestern United States.

Right at home in this desert landscape the White-tailed Antelope is a diurnal mammal that feeds on a fairly omnivorous diet including seed, plants, arthropods and other insects as well as carrion.

They nest in underground burrows dug into the soft desert soil and use the burrow both as protection from predators and too keep cool during periods of extreme heat and cold.

Take a look at those little critters scurrying around the desert and you may just notice some greased lightning aka the White-tailed Antelope Ground Squirrel.

Greased Lightning in action.

Here, there and everywhere

Still dressed in their summer coat this Ermine was doing what Ermines do. Looking and running and looking and running over here, over there just about everywhere in search of their next meal. Because an Ermine has such a long slender body and high metabolism they rapidly loose body heat needing a fairly constant caloric input. This means an Ermine needs to eat about 75% of their body weight in food every day. Thus they spend most of their waking hours in search of the next meal.

Anything over there?

When the hunting is good Ermines store food in their dens for the lean times.

Maybe over there?

Just about now this guy should have changed into their winter coat of pure white except for that black-tip on the tail. Seeing them bounding through the snow on a snowy winter day is a sight we look forward to.

Everybody loves Rabbit Brush

Just a few weeks ago the Rabbit Brush was in full bloom and hosting quite a party where everyone was invited. Rabbit Brush is a native plant found over much of the western United States that blooms in late fall providing one final burst of color before winter arrives. According to the USDA, Rabbit Brush:Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus, provides both nesting habitat and forage for a wide variety of birds, insects and small mammals. One of the more frequent visitors to the party were White Crowned Sparrows.

In this case an immature White-Crowned Sparrow seemed to be foraging for insects.

Another visitor we noticed on more than one occasion was the Monarch Butterly stopping by for a sip of nectar as they migrate south for the winter.

Last but not least the Ruby-crowned Kinglets found the party too good to ignore and we frequently saw them foraging through the bushes in each of a meal.

A beautiful plant and a welcome splash of color as snow is forecast for the weekend.

And speaking of weekends, have a great one.

Inching along

Inching along from top of the plant down enjoying a meal along the way.

Caterpillars seemed so common in my youth but even while out and about most every day their numbers seem small. Perhaps it’s our location but maybe not. We were excited to find two species inching along on a late fall day. Both similar yet very distinct.

So mysterious and wonderful these creatures seem in a life of transformations.

Inching along until their next incarnation.