spring chaos

May 19, 2019  •  3 Comments

Capricious winds and bouts of winter weather and snow signal springtime in the Rocky Mountains.  In spite of the conditions, the whole of nature is emerging from relative stasis. On the piñon-juniper high mesa, more birds than at any time during the year regale us with their presence.  Year-round residents are joined by migratory birds who arrive to spend the warmer months, while birds that winter here take their time departing.  All are dining on a magical mix of nectar from wildflowers, and assorted insects and berries, supplemented by store-bought seed and sugar water for the hummingbirds.  This creates a certain wonderful chaos that is a photographer's dream, even if patience is required.

During the past week, I spent time with my Nikon D800 and 70-200 mm lens, shooting the black headed grosbeaks (Pheucticus melanocephalus) and the western tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana).  Both species seems to have had a very good chick production year in 2018.  There are least six male grosbeaks and two females here, and a minimum of four tanagers.  I photographed the male grosbeak below as he waited in a New Mexico privet.

grosbeak on treegrosbeak on tree


As you can see from this shot, grosbeaks, in addition to the orange and black body, accented by white wing bars, have a stunning splash of yellow on their lower breasts.

grosbeak at feedergrosbeak at feeder

One of the interesting things about watching them is how they deal with a bird feeder that is technically meant for smaller birds.  Despite the fact that the feeder is designed to keep such feeder hogs as jays as well as grosbeaks from getting the seed, when it comes to food, they find a way.  The grosbeak below had to run his wings each time for balance as he moved his head toward the seed hole.

grosbeak getting seedgrosbeak getting seed

The female of the species was, as frequently seems to be the case, much more docile and able to develop her own system for getting seeds.

female grosbeakfemale grosbeak


Although a bit smaller, the bright yellow and red western tanager is hard to miss, and also develops its own way of dealing with feeders.

western tanagerwestern tanager

western tanager elevationwestern tanager elevation

And then there is bath time...

western tanager bathing 2western tanager bathing 2

I hope you are able to get out with your cameras this week to explore the wonders of nature.  Thanks to Christina, Pauli, Connie, Wayne, Susie, Conchita, TTT, Steve, and Lisa for your comments this week!

until next Monday,


a passion for the [email protected]



Love those backyard birds. I love the tanager photos and am jealous since we have not seen any this year. Thanks for taking these wonderful pictures.
Steve Immel(non-registered)
You are on a roll, Daryl. These are all perfectly exposed and tack sharp. I'm amazed at how close you're able to get with a 70-200 which isn't a super long lens. We've watched the same aerial dance with the birds jumping from the eaves and hanging upside down to get to the seeds. A "wonderful chaos" for sure. Any snow? It's 38 here so it's not out of the question.
Sara Woodburn(non-registered)
These shots all made me wonder and smile. Thanks for making each week brighter and for the window into your world on the mesa.
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