Sunday, May 29, 2011

Northern Pygmy Owl: Miller Canyon Continued

Photographing mammals is quite a bit easier than photographing birds. The hardest part of photographing mammals is finding them. Most mammals, with some exceptions, are on the ground, not high up in a tree. And, while it is true that mammals like Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep can be high up in a mountain which makes them difficult to get close to, birds are often that way. About five years ago I took my grandson Noah to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. He was two at the time. As we were walking around we came across a Northern Pygmy Owl sitting on a tree branch at eye level. We walked up within five feet of him. Noah, in his little two year old voice said "whooo, whooo." He knew his animals. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, I was caring Noah. 

About three years ago, a guest called me from Sabino Canyon to tell me that there was a Northern Pygmy Owl about 10 feet off the ground and in plain view. I grabbed my camera and drove over to Sabino Canyon (about a 10 minute drive). I walked into where the owl was and "tried" to take a photo. Boy, did I feel like an idiot. The camera wouldn't focus and then shut down. So, there I was about 10 feet from this Northern Pygmy Owl -- with camera in hand -- and unable to take a photo. As it turns out the power supply and circuit board had failed and the camera needed to be sent back to Canon for repair. 

Finally, Friday on my hike up Miller Canyon I came across another Northern Pygmy Owl. But, again, unable to get a really good photo, but for a different reason.

In the first photo -- which was taken with a 400mm super telephoto lens -- the owl is barely recognizable as even a bird!

Northern Pygmy Owl

The next photo was at the same angle as the previous one, but zoomed in further with Photoshop.
Northern Pygmy Owl
The final photo was as I got closer -- underneath the owl -- and again zoomed in further in Photoshop:
Northern Pygmy Owl
In looking through the lens, I really couldn't see the owl's face. Just too far away, a bad angle, and not very good lighting. It wasn't until I got back and zoomed in closer with Photoshop that I could see that the owl was asleep and looking to the right. Had I known that at the time I probably would have stayed there as long as it took to get a photo of him awake and looking at me.

But, I remain determined.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Checking in at Miller Canyon

Since Hummingbird Season has officially begun, I thought I would check out Miller Canyon (the US' best hummingbird spot) to see if any of the rarer hummers had arrived yet. The short answer is: SOME. I did find that the Blue Throated Hummingbirds had arrived as well as the White Eared Hummingbird. While I didn't get a good photo this time of the White Eared I got a few other photos I'll show you today. 

Female Blue Throated Hummingbird

Male Blue Throated Hummingbird

Male Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Male Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Male Magnificent Hummingbird (note his tongue)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

today's old photo: May 25th

Bobcat on the Prowl
Here is another Bobcat photo I came across the other day. I was going to post it yesterday, but for some reason I was having a problem signing into my blog using Safari. Anyway, the Bobcat was searching for a rabbit. Moments later he was off in a flash after one. I didn't see him catch it though, so don't know whether he was successful.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Herd

Yesterday just before sunset, our friend Robert bicycled over to join us for a movie night -- "Chinatown". Not ten minutes into the movie, about 20 Javelinas come prancing up to the office. They weren't interested in the movie, but in the water bowls outside (that are there primarily for the birds). Trying to photograph 20 Javelinas milling around, some behind cactus, some with their backs to you is a challenge, much like trying to get a photo of a four year old grandson who is busy playing. But, here are a few photos I got:

Here are 7 of the Javelina Herd
This guy seemed interested in me .... for a moment.

Here is a mother protecting her youngster.

This one should be enlarged to appreciate.

Sometimes they seem so sweet to each other.

Two little guys -- maybe brothers -- maybe best friends -- maybe both.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cactus Blooming Today

This hasn't been a great cactus blooming season primarily because of the lack of rain this year and the record freezes we experienced in February, a normally mild month. However, the various barrel cactus made it through the freeze very well -- and, we have been watering them by hand. The result is some beautiful blossoms. Here are a couple of photos I took today:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Today's Photo: May 21th

Black Bear eating new buds in Alberta

This is one of my favorites, although people often ask for another of this series where the Black Bear is higher in the tree. I like this as well because it shows more of Mount Robson in the background. This was probably late May or June, 1996 or 97. I didn't have the best records back then, and date was not on the negative. I was driving up to Miette Springs just outside of Jasper, Alberta. My older daughter Erin was with me when we came across this Black Bear in a tree. He was eating all of the fresh new buds that were growing. He would eat everything within reach and then climb another couple of feet up the tree. The tree would sway when he climbed, but when he got where he wanted he just shifted his weight until the tree steadied -- then began eating again. We watched for an hour and a half until it started getting dark and the bear came down the tree. He looked at me -- for one more photo, then off he went into the woods. Wonderful experience that Erin and I got to share together (alone).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Today's Photo: May 20th

So there I was, May 2001, in Western Montana driving through the National Bison Range National Wildlife Refuge. I am driving up over the mountain on a dirt road -- looking for bear or bighorn sheep -- when out from a riparian area and wanting to cross the road was a lone Bison. He and I got to the same spot at the same time. I rolled down my window and took this shot:


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Today's Old Photo

Today's photo goes back to March of 1997. As you can see there is still some snow on the ground. These were Bighorn Sheep of the Cleman Mountain herd at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area in the Washington Cascades.  During the winter, feed is put out for them at 9:00 AM. You can watch as they come over the mountain and down to the feeding station. It takes them a good 30-45 to come all the down. They typically arrive 15 minutes or so before the food arrives. So, they can a little "frisky" waiting. Oh how I wish I had a better camera back then. I was only 50 yards from these Bighorns. The "horn clashing" between these two rams was deafening. It sounded like two large blocks of wood hitting each other at the speed of sound. Once they finished eating (maybe an hour or so) the headed back up the mountain and out of sight. It is a wonderful spectacle if you ever get a chance to see it. The closest town is Yakima -- maybe 15 miles away.

Two Bighorn Sheep Rams doing their "manly" thing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sorting through old photos

I have been sorting through old photos of late, getting ride of poor quality or too similar photos. I came across some I hadn't seen for a while. Thought I might start sharing those when nothing new is happening. So, here is today's photo from Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge which is along the Mexican/Arizona border between Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Yuma:

Wild Burros

Wild Burros roam parts of the Southwest not too far from the Colorado River (Nevada, California, Arizona). Cabeza Prieta is a bit of a stretch from the Colorado (about 70-100 miles), but that is essentially it. Maybe 3500 total in the US. They are beautiful animals, far more than I had ever imagined. Although Columbus brought a few, and George Washington a few more they lacked the size and strength necessary to be effective pack animals. Those that remain today in the Southwest were brought to the US (from Africa) in the early to mid 1800's by prospectors and miners as pack animals because they were larger and stronger, and could withstand high temperatures with little water. As prospectors and miners died or moved on the burros were left behind. It's a wonderful story of the "Old West." 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Continuing with Patagonia - II

Whenever I go to Patagonia, either Patagonia Lake, of TNC's Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, I like to stop at the Roadside Rest Stop and at Patton's. On this last trip I stopped at Patton's where I got my first decent photograph of a male Blue Grosbeak. And, of course, there were a couple of Violet Crowned Hummingbirds that would come to the feeders every 15 or 20 minutes. (Patton's is the best place -- probably in the US -- to find the Violet Crowned, so it is a real treat.

Blue Grosbeak Male
Bronzed Cowbird

Violet Crowned Hummingbird (probably female)

Black Chinned Hummingbird Female

Monday, May 16, 2011

Continuing with Patagonia

The Roadside Rest Stop on Highway 83 just south of Patagonia (on the way to Nogales) is an outstanding birding spot. Here are a few more photos taken there this last trip:

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Warbling Vireo

Black Phoebe

Cedar Waxwing

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Owl and the Red Tail

Yesterday was a rather interesting day. It started off by our neighbor calling and saying she could see a baby Red Tailed Hawk in its nest high in one of her eucalyptus trees. This alone would be interesting. But, she also happens to have Great Horned Owls that live in those eucalyptus trees -- and nest there each year. A week ago she called to say one of the baby Owls fell out of its nest and broken its neck. The Great Horned Owl nest is about 20 feet off the ground, the Red Tail Hawk nest is about 80 feet off the ground -- in the very same tree. Anyway, I thought I would walk over a see if I could get a photo of the baby Red Tail. The wind last week had blown away much of the hawk's nest so the baby was partially visible. I took a couple of photos and left. About four hours later our neighbor called again. The baby Red Tailed Hawk had fallen out of its nest. So, again I walked over with my camera. The baby was on the grown and clearly visible so I took several photos. Sitting about 15 feet off the ground just above the baby hawk was the female Great Horned Owl. The male Great Horned Owl was a little further away but on the lookout for the female Red Tailed Hawk who was sitting on a telephone pole 100 feet constantly crying out. Periodically the mother hawk would fly into the eucalyptus trees momentarily to survey the situation. I stood close by why our neighbor called the Tucson Wildlife Center (a wildlife rescue organization). I felt that if we left the area the Great Horned Owl would kill the baby hawk. It was positively "Shakespearean." The rescue people finally came and took the little hawk with them. They felt it was unwise to leave it under the circumstances. They also wanted to hydrate the little guy, and do X-ray's on it's leg and shoulder (which appeared injured). We felt sorry for the mother hawk, but the chances of the baby surviving was slim if left in the wild. Here are some of those photos:

Baby Red Tailed Hawk in nest high in eucalyptus tree.

Baby Red Tailed Hawk after falling from the nest.

Here is the baby obviously disturbed by what has happened.

Here the baby has either gotten too tired to stand any more, or is a little more comfortable with us being around.

Here is the female Great Horned Owl watching very carefully what is going on.

Her is the mother Red Tailed Hawk watching from 100 feet away.

And, here is the mother nervously flying overhead not being able to help.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Patagonia Creek Preserve

The Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve run by The Nature Conservancy is another great birding spot with maybe two miles of trails. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I didn't go in, but I traveled along the back road paralleling the Preserve. In doing so I came across a Gray Hawk that had just caught something which it was eating. It took some photos through the front windshield -- which, of course, never turn out quite as well. When I tried to "quietly" open the door he flew across to the other side of the road a little further back. But this enabled me to get some clear photos through the drivers side window. Gray Hawks are rare in the US. Some have been reported in the extreme southern tip of Texas and in the extreme southwestern corner of New Mexico. In Arizona, we are a little luckier. They inhabit most of the southern Sky Island mountain ranges -- although not common and only occasionally seen. Here then, our the photos:

Here is the Gray Hawk as seen through the front windshield.

Now having flown to the other side of the road.

Here you get a good look at the pattern on his underside.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Patagonia Revisited

Yesterday, it was off to Patagonia. Birding in Patagonia has 5! stops. 1) the town of Patagonia, which has a park-like strip 75 yards wide and three blocks long which has lots of birds (and butterflies in season); 2) Patton's, which was the home of the Patton's until they passed away this last year. It is now maintained by the local birding community until final disposition is made. Hopefully, The Nature Conservancy can step in since the Patton's property butts up against TNC Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve and is the only reliable place to see the Violet Crowned Hummingbird; 3) is Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve; 4) the Roadside Rest Stop on Highway 83 -- this is a must (!! stop); and 5) Patagonia Lake.

I'll start today with the Roadside Rest Stop on Highway 83. Here you park at the Rest Stop and walk across Highway 83 and down the slope amongst the trees. There is a wire fence (private property) on the roadside of Patagonia Creek. You can walk along the fence line for several hundred yards. The trick as all birders know is to stand still -- not walk. Let the birds come to you. And they will. Cedar Waxwings, Cassin's Kingbirds, Wilson's Warblers among others. While I was waiting I even had time to photograph a few Mexican Bird of Paradise (beautifully flowering plant). Also, four Javelinas happened to trot down to the creek from the other side. I did walk up the creek about 150 yards to an opening where I could get a better photo if they happened to keep walking along the creek. And, they did as you'll see. Here are a few of the photos from the Roadside Stop:

(Just a reminder you can click on any of the photos and see it enlarged. Some of the photos -- like the Wilson's Warbler are really very nice but hard to see without enlarging).

Cedar Waxwing

Cassin's Kingbird


Mexican Bird of Paradise

Wilson's Warbler

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Didn't Go Back to Ash Canyon AGAIN?

Ash Canyon is just four miles from Miller Canyon so I had to stop and see what was going on there. Some Western Tanagers were putting on quite a show, so I thought I would share a couple of those photos with you today. Plus another Black Headed Grossbeak:

Male Western Tanager (breeding) 

Male Western Tanager (breeding) 

Black Headed Grossbeak Male

Monday, May 9, 2011

Still Miller Canyon

Part of my reason for hiking up Miller Canyon was to find the Spotted Owls that I have seen before in the canyon. No luck this time, though. Another reason was that if I got up high enough I might find a Black Bear. And, although I did get high enough, no luck with that either. I have estimated my North American "bear" encounters at between 350 and 400, with nearly 100 decent photos of different Black Bears, and 20 different Grizzly Bears. (you can search my blog for some of those photos). But, it has been a year and a half since I have seen a bear in the wild. I miss that. Arizona does not have a high population of bears, but there are some in all of our southern mountain ranges.  They are just hard to find. I have had more luck in northern Arizona (the mother and two cubs I photographed a year and a half ago). Arizona does have a high population of lizards -- and jackrabbits. Those I did see on this latest excursion. So that is what I have today. First, a Collard Lizard, and then a Black Tail Jackrabbit:

Collard Lizard

Black Tail Jackrabbit

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Up the Miller Canyon Trail

After visiting the Hummingbird station at Beatty's Orchard in Miller Canyon I headed up the trail. The first bird I spotted was a Western Tanager, although my photo wasn't quite as good as the ones I'll show you tomorrow (from Ash Canyon). Then came a Red Faced Warbler flittering around in the fir trees but couldn't even get a photo at all. As I continued there were lots of warblers, but again too far away for a good photo. As I got much further up the canyon the slope of the trail was steeper than the canyon to a point where I became eye-level with the "fir - tops". By this time I was stopping for a breather every 100 yards or so. As I was catching my breath I got decent "first photos" of both the Townsend's Warbler and Hermit Warbler. These are both very attractive birds:

Here is the Townsend's Warbler
Here is another Townsend's looking straight at me.

And now the Hermit Warbler