What the Wind Blew In

Did I mention that it’s been windy on the high plains this spring?  Spring usually is, but this year has been especially so.  I’ve lost count of the days that wind speeds have topped 30 mph sustained and today is going to top that again, with gusts up to 70 mph according to the weathermen.  It blows from the southwest one day and the the northeast the next and it is always full of dust.  We’ve had almost no moisture since late last summer and often there is so much dirt in the air that you can barely see the road in front of you when driving.  If you’ve not seen the Ken Burns documentary about the Dust Bowl, you should.  It’s not that bad yet, but a few more years of drought and it certainly could be.  We’re expecting temperatures in the mid 90s by the weekend.

This was taken with my cell phone as we traveled east on April 27, 2014 just north of Amarillo.  See how dry everything looks.  Trees have put out leaves but hardly anything else has greened up yet.  That’s a pretty big dirt devil and the sky is brown because of blowing dirt.

I will say that all the lousy weather makes the calm days something to appreciate, even if they are still dry.  I managed to get out a couple of times last week, once to Palo Duro Canyon south of Amarillo and once to Meredith, my local stomping ground.  Song birds are beginning to arrive, some here for the summer and others passing through, headed further north, and I managed to get a few nice photos of them

This is a Golden-fronted Woodpecker at the blind in Palo Duro.  They are year round residents at the canyon.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker (1024x690)

Also at the blind was this Spotted Towhee,

Spotted towhee (7) (1024x684)

a female Northern Cardinal,

Northern Cardinal (76) (1024x684)

and a winter resident holdover, a White-crowned Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow (67) (1024x684)

While walking a trail that follows the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River I saw a Cedar Waxwing,Cedar Waxwing (2) (1024x687)

an Ash-throated Flycatcher,

Ash-throated Flycatcher (58) (1024x671)

and a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (6) (1024x625)

We’re also still seeing migrating waterfowl and shore birds.  A straggling Snow Goose (might be a juvenile) was tagging along behind the Common Merganser that’s been hanging around the large pond (Stillin’ Basin) at Lake Meredith.Common Merganser and Snow goose (1024x652)

I also spotted a Spotted Sandpiper there.Spotted Sandpiper (29) (1024x678)

There’s also been a small group of Ruddy Ducks.  This is a male that, for whatever reason (too young?), is not in breeding plumage.Ruddy duck (50) (1024x749)

An Eared GrebeEared Grebe (5) (1024x780)

Eared Grebe (2) (1024x674)

A Chipping Sparrow in a mesquite bushChipping Sparrow (6) (1024x680)

A Lincoln’s Sparrow (I think)Lincoln's Sparrow (1024x741)

I’m also not completely sure of this Wren,  I see a lot of Rock Wrens and Bewick’s Wrens in Spring Canyon, and an occasional Marsh Wren.  House Wrens migrate through here, as well.  This one was very jittery and this is the only photo I could get.  He was making a very agitated sounding short, insect like buzz.  Odds are it’s a Rock Wren.

Rock Wren (127) (1024x673)

The biggest surprise of the week came at the Great Horned Owl’s nest I’ve been visiting since Valentines Day.  I started seeing the owlets on April Fool’s Day and thought that there was two of them.  Yesterday I took a picture of the Adult and 3 owlets.  I don’t know where the 3rd one has been hiding, I guess the nest is deeper than I thought.

Great Horned Owl (4) (1024x665)

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