We just got back from our trip to St. Louis were Linda ran the kids at the Poodle Club of America Agility Nationals. A big congratulations to Linda and Raven who qualified 2 out of the 3 runs they competed in. Not only did they qualify, they took a first and a second. His third run was just about there, but Raven decided to “improvise” a little. Ruger had two runs and he lived up to our low expectations ha. He just turned two years old and a bit ..hmmm.. let’s go with Linda’s word – scatterbrained. Absolute speed demon in the ring but, just gets distracted easily and seems to enjoy bringing comic relief to the audience. That’s to be expected and once Linda gets that worked out, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with. It was also a bit nostalgic for Ruger as he was reunited with his brother (was actually running against him). We had a great chuckle as his brother (Orion) is EXACTLY the same – full of speed but prefers his own path through the obstacles. Can’t wait to see these two compete next year! Oh, and even Raven had a reunion as he got to see his mother, now 14.
With the accolades out of the way, I should get to the featured feathered friend of the day.
You might have seen this one coming if you caught some of the hints in the last post. Carrying the theme from the last post, I am pleased to bring you another Bluebird for today’s topic.
Hit the jump to learn more about our gorgeous blue tinted specimen.
Last post I brought you the Western Bluebird we found at Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Las Vegas, NV. The Western is a bit more colorful as the blues are slightly richer and have a splash of rusty orange on their bellies up through the shoulders. This Mountain variety is more sky blue that lightens as it traverses from the top down through the belly – at least for the males. The females/immatures only have a dash of the sky blue coloring highlights in their wings and slightly more on their tails. The rest of the coloring falls in the gray to a real light rusty wash.
Truthfully, I was not aware of the rusty tone the females and immatures can sport. Learned that on Cornell minutes before publishing the Western Bluebird. I had to postpone it and go with the Juniper Titmouse (link here). That new element resulted in some doubt about the females I had featured in the Western post – was it a female Western or was it a female Mountain Bluebird. Didn’t help the two species were hanging out together at Desert NWR.
By the way, I need to take a quick break and pat myself on the back. This officially makes the 4th post in a row (for me), that originate from this year – in fact, barely a month old!! My longtime readers will recognize what an accomplishment that is for me – I suspect that streak will end soon as I haven’t had time to process any of the other finds from that trip thanks to all our travels, but hey, live in moment as they say.
Enough gloating..let’s talk about this Bluebird. For starters, some of you may not be aware that these sky blue creatures are members of the Thrush family. For the record, with the exception of the Varied (which I do not have checked off yet) that collection of birds is pretty dull looking. The three Bluebirds really stand out and guessing they flaunt that at all the family gatherings. They also hunt on the wing which is also not common outside the Blues.
The point I find ironic about this particular species is their region is actually more complete in the western half of the US than the one they call the Western. There are large gaps in the Western’s range which … you probably already guessed .. include the higher elevation areas giving credence to the Mountain moniker.
Similar to our easily accessible variety here in the Midwest, they have embraced man’s encroachment and welcome our artificial nest boxes over natural tree cavities and Woodpecker remnants. Cornell states that the females choose their mates solely based on the quality of their nest – would like to see how they determined that. Most of the time you will find them in wide open areas making Desert NWR a perfect setting to find one. This one was hanging out on the farthest part of the Bighorn Loop which has plenty of open spaces to hunt.
I promised you some additional background on Desert NWR. First off, I find it a bit confusing on the naming front. Not the Desert part, I get that ha. Oftentimes you will hear Corn Creek or Corn Creek Field Station when people are discussing the Refuge – or even when you are trying to use eBird as there is a pin for the Field Station which is located at/near the entrance to the refuge. Mystery solved. A home to Native Americans for over 5,000 years, Corn Creek Springs was acquired by the US Government in 1939 to serve as Desert’s field station and eventually their visitor center. Desert was established there years earlier and encompasses 1.5 million (yes, with an ‘m’) acres of the Mojave Desert. According to Desert USA (link here). This includes 6 mountain ranges.
The prime directive of this refuge is to protect the desert Bighorn Sheep. If you want to see those, recommend you bring a 4×4 vehicle as the passage to the farther areas is a bit rough and they provide plenty of warnings. You can also hike up to those areas, but from what we can see that is probably not for the inexperienced. We stayed around the Corn Creek area which had a variety of ecosystems – lush vegetation, trees, springs, a pond and plenty of sand/scrub as you move further away from the visitor center. The very helpful volunteer recommended we avoid the Birdsong loop as there were some difficult passages there at the time. We really enjoyed the other loops which had very nice paths full of various wildlife – unfortunately, no Bighorns. They even have a Refugium where you can experience the very rare and endangered Pahrump Poolfish. You may recall them from the Spring Mountain Ranch post (link here). This time they were housed in a small building so no delicacies for the local Ducks!
I highly recommend taking a hike at Desert NWR if you can. That is tops on my list the next time we head out to Vegas as there is plenty more to explore. We will definitely bring our Jeep to go find some Bighorns!
Take care everyone, hope you enjoyed seeing one of our recent finds. So far Brad hasn’t found a Ptarmigan – hope he doesn’t have return flights booked yet haha.