Thursday, September 14, 2017

Calm before the storm

The approach of Irma, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in history, struck fear as she moved directly towards our south Florida home. During the previous week the weather had been normal for late summer.

The view of our local wetlands before sunrise while the storm was still far away:

North shore HDR 20170901

Fair skies in mid-morning:

Lake fair sky SEP 4 2017

At first we planned to shutter our home and ride out the storm, windowless in the dark, as we are 8 feet above sea level and 18 miles inland. Our anxiety increased as we saw neighbors preparing to drive north or book flights out of state. 

Earlier, the storm had been projected to hit on Friday, but we saw long lines at gas stations and grocery store shelves going bare. On Tuesday Mary Lou and I visited nearby Chapel Trail Nature Preserve and as we walked along the fenced boardwalk we spent more time discussing our options than looking for birds. The morning was clear and calm:

Chapel Trail 01-20170905

We suddenly decided to evacuate to someplace high and dry, so on Wednesday morning we flew to New Mexico. The only connecting flight available took us through Kansas City, and we arrived on Wednesday afternoon and occupied visitors' quarters at mile-high Kirtland Air Force Base. 

The sun rose over the Manzanita Mountains east of Albuquerque:

Albuquerque sunrise 01-20170909

The next morning we observed the famous "Bird Log" at the Capulin Spring picnic area in Cibola National Forest in the Sandia Mountains. For me this was a homecoming of sorts, as in the early 1990s I had worked with a crew of US Forest Service volunteers to rehabilitate and restore water to an old hollow log which had served as a wildlife drinker.

The pipe from the spring had frozen and cracked and the stone wall which enclosed it had to be reassembled and cemented. The log had a large hole which we covered with a rubber sheet. (Les Hawkins was the volunteer who energized the rehabilitation of the log. Here is a  2002 article about him. Les celebrated his 100th birthday in 2014 but I have since lost contact with him.)

Until we moved from New Mexico to Florida in 2004, Mary Lou and I led weekly US Forest Service bird walks in the Sandia Mountains, often visiting this site. It became popular with birders from many countries. 

This is the original log as it appeared in 2008:


The old log finally fell apart and last year a new generation of volunteers used chain saws to carve out a new log to replace the original. They did a great job and restored the flow of water. 

Since this is the only constant water source in a large expanse of mountainous forest, one should expect to see just about every species of bird and mammal which inhabits this area. 

The new Bird Log (click on photo and scroll right and left to see many more enlarged views of the log and its visitors):

Capulin Bird Log 20170912Bird Log 02-20170911

I left my DSLR behind and traveled with my new light weight mirrorless camera (Olympus E-M10 Mark II). The photos are mostly of poor quality, but they document the very engaging hours of just sitting and clicking as the show went on before our eyes. Among the avian visitors, nearly none of which I could expect to find in Florida were...

Western Tanager...

Western Tanager 02-20190911 by a Townsend's Warbler:

Townsend's Warbler and tanager 20170911

A (not much) better view of the Townsend's Warbler:

Townsend's Warbler 20170909

Mountain Chickadee:

Mountain Chickadee 01-20170911

Hermit Thrush:

Hermit Thrush 03-20170911

Green-tailed Towhee:

Green-tailed Towhee 03-20170911

Cassin's Finch (male):

Cassin's Finch male 4-20170911

Cassin's Finch (female):

Cassin's Finch female 20170911

Plumbeous Vireo:

Plumbeous Vireo 01-20170909

Western race of Orange-crowned Warbler, more colorful than the drab Tiaga subspecies which visits south Florida in winter:

Orange-crowned Warbler 03-20170911

Enjoying a bath in "The Bird Log:"

Orange-crowned Warbler 02-20170911

Audubon subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler. It has a yellow throat in contrast to the white throat of the eastern Myrtle subspecies which migrates into Florida:

Yellow-rumped Audubon's Warbler 01-20170911

Wilson's Warbler:

Wilson's Warbler 01-20170909Wilson's Warbler 02-20170909

Spotted Towhee:

Spotted Towhee 02-20170911

A Chipmunk:

Chipmunk on bird log 2-20170909

A Mule Deer doe crashed the party but fled when she sensed my presence:

Deer at log 20170911

The hurricane arrived on Saturday, a bit late, and had major impact on the west (Gulf) coast of Florida rather than delivering the predicted direct hit on our neighborhood. It was so large that major damaging effects were felt over the entire Florida peninsula as it moved northward. 

We flew back on Tuesday to a home which had gone without electricity for 48 hours, but power was restored during our flight.  The house suffered no structural damage, although tree limbs and palm lfronds cluttered our yard. Thanks, not only to Irma's decision to veer off to the west coast, but also to so many of you who expressed concern and good wishes. As it turned out, the storm forced us into an unexpected and very pleasant vacation!

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,


Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display



  1. Hello, Mr. Kenneth.
    I am very sorry about what happened in Florida, but I am very glad to know that your losses have been few and that you and your family are well.
    A hug and a lot of courage to rebuild what was destroyed by the hurricane and restore all natural beauty to Florida.
    As always your photos are great and very beautiful.


  2. Glad that you made the misfortune into a vacation. The story about the log is interesting and inspiring. I enjoyed the photos.

  3. Sorry to hear about what you and millions others faced while being on the path of so much devastation. Thankfully, the path veered and it was much less than expected! Still so many were affected. Absolutely loved the photos of the birds...thanks for sharing them with us.

  4. Indeed calm before the storm,stunning shots.

  5. Unexpected vacation brought you these lovely photographs and the realization that you have many friends on-line who care about your family. Glad you were safe while Irma hit Florida. Sorry for all the storm damage at your place and around you. Sending thoughts and prayers your way....

  6. Well it was good to hear you survived Irma with minimal damage. - So very scary.
    Enjoyed your post. Lots of great birds, pretty views & good fences.

  7. Glad to hear your home was undamaged and a great trip to look back on.

  8. Nice job making the best out of a tough situation, and glad you are safe!! I think it was a good decision to evacuate.

  9. You sure picked a great place to ride out Irma! Very happy to hear you are well, Ken, and that you didn't have any structural damage.
    Great series of photos of "mountain" birds!

  10. I'm glad to read that things went well for you. I love your reflections!

  11. That first image is absolutely glorious


  12. Hello, I think you made a great decision go away for the vacation. I hope all is well at your place in Florida. The sky images are gorgeous. I love all the birds and would love to see these myself. Great photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

  13. Well, it's good to get away from it all, and your life is MUCH MORE important than a home.

    Loved your bird photos [they're not that bad!!] and the fact that you had a vacation of sorts and gave us a bit of your life in the past and what you did.

    Thanks so much for adding your link to this post with us at I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend. Always a joy to view your shares!!

  14. I'm glad you decided to evacuate, especially since it was such a lovely place. (Thank you for sharing the joys -- that log is an amazing place.) Anyway, much better than spending anxious days in a windowless house -- We hurricane-watched from way across the country (where we spend summers and fall anyway) and even though Irma hit Fort Myers and area, our tiny 'cottage' and the whole resort came out of it with no serious damage. We shall see what happens next.

  15. Glad you could turn lemons into lemonade. I think you made a good decision to evacuate. Your first pic is really beautiful with the sky colors. Hope the birds in your area are returning safely.

  16. Glad to hear that your house - and your family - came through the storm with little damage. Enjoy sweeping the yard! (Although I assume that there will be lots of other things for everyone to do to get Florida back on its feet again)

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  17. Beautiful collection of little bird photos and the landscapes are gorgeous - especially the first one. I can't go past the squirrel though! Cuteness overload!

  18. So glad to hear your home is undamaged. You must have been so worried about the wildlife that you left behind, too. Wonderful sightings while in New Mexico. I had a little flock of yellow-rumped warblers visit me in early spring - here in WA state. It was the first time I've ever seen them. Pretty, busy little birds. Beautiful sky shots.

  19. I'm glad you came through the storm without serious damage and think you did the smart thing to play it safe and evacuate. And you DID get some lovely photos to share at

  20. Beautiful images and so many wonderful bird sightings on your unplanned vacation. Your experience must have been so frightening especially not knowing what to expect. I'm glad you chose to stay safe and that the hurricane did not damage your home.
    Have a wonderful day.

  21. Now that's the way to do it! :-) You put a new light on the term "evacuation!" Let's just fly to New Mexico! I love it. Loved your amazing photos. And the info about the Bird Log was so cool...really wonderful conservation efforts. I loved it.


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