The Back Yard Birds

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Whoa, it’s been a while since I posted anything. I’m getting lazy, I guess. I’m in Phoenix at the home of Grace’s son and his family. It is hotter than the hubs of Hades here today. Last week the temperature in the Phoenix area topped out at 118°F (48°C). If you’ve never experienced heat such as that, please let me inform you that if you do, you will wish you had not.

The only time I have ever been fricaseed by temperature as hot a that was on a motorcycle ride from Crouch, Idaho (who thought of that name?) to Eagle, near Boise. I was riding behind a friend on her big Honda Shadow. The expression “Billy blue blazes” kept running through my mind. My friend was still wearing her leathers. I was in a tank top and I was dying. It was not unlike riding into the mouth of a blast furnace. I remember looking up in the gullies on the nearby sides of the beautiful mountains and seeing snow. It occurred to me that it might be pleasant to crash into it. I distinctly remember seeing 114°F on a thermometer sign in front of a bank. She claims she saw one reading 118. I don’t dispute that. I was delirious, anyway.

It feels peculiar to be in a place which makes Madang seem frigid by comparison. It’s simply impossible to stay outside for long. We went today to look at new cars, a pleasure I have not enjoyed for decades. What caught my eye was a Nissan Juke, a cute little crossover between a hatchback and a SUV. It’s small and it gets very good mileage. It comes in a all-wheel-drive version which gives it good rough road capacity. It would be very cool to have one in Madang. Dream on, MadDog. I could stand to be out in that car lot for only about ten minutes before I began to think that I might possibly succumb to the heat. Keep in mind that I really wanted to fiddle with that car for a while. It was simply too hot.

I see that I have yet to get to the subject of today’s nonsense. Fortunately, at least in Sedona, nearly a mile high in the desert, it cools off dramatically at night. In fact, it sometimes gets downright cold. It would not be unusual for the daytime and nighttime temperatures to differ by more than 60°F (16°C).

Hmmm . . . I’m still digressing.

A few days ago, in the cool of the morning, I decided to drag out my ancient Olympus SP-590UZ ultra-zoom camera for a little bird watching in Grace’s back yard. There are many species of dove here in Arizona. Some of them are very pretty. This is a White Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica):

This shot was taken at about twenty feet (6 meters) on full zoom. The Olympus has a “bird watcher’s” setting in the Scenes mode which sets the camera up perfectly for snapping our feathered friends. The only down side is the slight softness of focus at the extreme zoom. I hope that later generations of super-zoom cameras have fixed this. Really though, it’s too much to expect super sharp focus from long zoom lenses on camera which cost less than $500. These are equivalents of 35mm lenses of 400mm or more. Those lenses can cost thousands of dollars. You get what you pay for.

For fun to watch, you can’t beat the homely little House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus):

They are very fussy and spend most of their time chasing each other away from the food. Grace is very generous with her flighty little neighbors. She feeds them every day. I am amazed by how much food the birds in her back yard consume each day. I would estimate at least a couple of pounds of wild bird seed. Fortunately, large twenty pound bags of this feed can be bought at Ace Hardware for as little as five dollars.

Here is a close-up of two of the little House Finches:

They are not very flashy. They look a bit like a common sparrow, but the big, sturdy finch beak, made for cracking seeds, is a give-away.

I had a bit of trouble identifying this Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides):

I finally found it on the Cornel Laborotory of Ornithology site. This is a very good place to go if you want to identify North American birds.

I have heard several people say that the Mountain Bluebird is a feisty critter. I think this image demonstrates that pugnacious nature:

I have no idea how I insulted this bird. I did not speak a word or make any rude gestures.

Sometimes bird photography does not go as planned:

I was too slow.

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8 Responses to “The Back Yard Birds”

  1. kristy Says:

    Were you in Phoenix for the dust storm? Haboob?
    I don’t think the heat is going to get better…doesn’t it usually get hotter in July and August? Enjoy!

  2. DogsDontPurr Says:

    I used to work as a personal assistant for a wealthy couple. One of the tasks I was assigned was to make sure all the bird feeders were full and that all the fountains had enough water. (Yes, a pretty cush job!) I, too, was amazed at how much seed those little birds eat. Where do they put it all?! I spent many hours lugging those bags of seed around. You’d think the birds would be HUUGE! But, no, they were tiny. Amazing!

  3. MadDog Says:

    Kristy, I was in Sedona the day of the dust storm. I did see some shots of it on the TV. I was suitably impressed. The next day the sky was very hazy in Sedona.

  4. MadDog Says:

    Hmmm . . . DogsDon’tPurr. How do people get such jobs. I don’t see any advertised. As rich as Sedona is surely there are positions like that available. I want one! There are about a gozillion big ants in Grace’s back yard. I suspect that they carry a lot of the food underground.

  5. DogsDontPurr Says:

    MadDog~ I actually got the job through a friend who had a house cleaning business. She had a few clients who wanted more than just a house keeper, and I fell in perfectly for those jobs.

    If you want to try getting a job like that, check out Look in “jobs” but also look at “gigs” and “domestic.” You’ll probably find people looking for a personal assistant. Also, you can advertise yourself there too. Most people want someone who will run errands, grocery shop, pick up dry cleaning, etc. It’s also good if you can offer light book keeping, computer help, light house keeping, etc. Think of what skills you have to offer, and consider what kind of chores you’re willing to do….and advertise those. Also, consider how much money you would need to be willing to do those chores. I get between $9-$20/hour depending on the job. Sometimes I get paid a flat rate for a particular job, regardless of hours…and that can work out to a lot more money.

    Good luck! You should try it out. I think you’re definitely in the right city for it. Also, it sounds like you might have a lot of skills to offer. Computer knowledge (even minimimal),”handy man” abilities, and photography skills/knowledge, really add to your value and the rate you can charge.

  6. MadDog Says:

    DogsDontPurr, thanks for the tips. I did check Craig’s List. There were quite a few gigs in the Flagstaff area, but none in Sedona at this time. I’ll keep looking. Maybe I’ll put myself up for hire.

  7. pvaldes Says:

    48°C… urg.
    A very unusual hot summer here too, I think I could fit my whole hand into the cracks in the soil around the trees. And this was not very habitual here, at least not until the last five years

    Fortunately two big storms last week save the month, and refresh a lot the air.

    … a really pretty desert dove for sure, with it’s breeding “make up”

  8. MadDog Says:

    Pvaldes, I know it’s not scientific to gauge climate changes on the scale of a human life time, but it is very tempting to do so. I have seen drastic changes in the weather patterns in Madang over a period of thirty years. It seems to me that something is happening.