As is so often the case with unusual birds, after getting pictures the first time and being excited to have them, I found myself thinking it would be nice to try to get better ones. Perhaps with better light, closer, or in a better position (ideally all three!). I did not know if the bird would stick around, and Tuesday was so dim, plus my schedule so full, that I did not even make it over to the airport to try looking for it (though I did hear of at least one person seeing it). Wednesday morning was slightly brighter, and I had more time, so Connor, Rowan, and I spent about 45 minutes at long-term parking without seeing any sign of the bird (nor did someone who had been there for about the same length of time and was leaving as we arrived). Weather was still pretty gray, so I wasn’t inspired to try again later.
Today was the last day of scheduled classes at UAS, so I was up relatively early and over to UAS. The weather was unexpectedly just partly cloudy with the sun shining through. After class I decided to spend some more time over by the airport. I waited for a little while without seeing the bluebird, and was driving along the old airport road to head home when I saw a bird perched on the fence. I didn’t have my binoculars and so took a couple of photos to see if I could tell what it was. From the photos, I was thinking it might be a robin, as it looked like it had a red breast. However, the angle of sun was such that I wasn’t positive, so I decided to check it out more closely. My extra effort was rewarded with additional views of the Mountain Bluebird. This time it seemed a little less flighty than it had been when I first saw it Monday. It behaved in what (if I understand correctly) is typical bluebird behavior, moving from high perch to perch (generally the fence), flying down to the ground or up in the air to grab at some food. I also saw it stop in a mountain ash tree and grab a berry a couple of different times.
After watching it for some time, where it mostly flew between the two fences that intersect down by the lagoon, it flew off across the runway. I was happy to have better viewing conditions to observe and photograph the bird, but the orientation of the airport fences are such that it was difficult to get photos of the bird with the sun at my back. So, after lunch, given the continuing nice weather (the forecast had been for rain, and it looked like a pile of clouds could move over soon), I decided to see if the shifting sun might offer better opportunities.
I was grateful that the bird was fairly cooperative this afternoon, even perching a couple of times where I could get a shot of it with the sun at my back. It once again followed a similar pattern, though this time I noticed it spent some time flying between the tops of 6-8 foot alders on the inside of the fence. Once again I watched it fly off across the runway. I ended up spending additional time experimenting with some new tools for trying to do focus stacking (the lichen photos are the results). I’m not sure how long I had been working on this when the bluebird returned. Along with it was a pipit, which I thought I had heard earlier, but had not seen. Although the pipit perched on the fence with the bluebird a couple of times, I lost track of it and couldn’t get photos. American Pipits are considered Very Rare in winter, though it’s possible they’re annual, but just not usually observed because of preferred habitat.