Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Javelina Visit

Often we get a whole herd of Javelinas (collard peccaries), sometimes as many as 20 (once I counted 24). Most of those are females and juveniles. Javelinas are omnivores and will eat small animals, roots, grass, seeds, fruit, and cactus although their most cherished food comes from our garbage cans; oh, and any plant we buy from a nursery. Javelinas have scent glands below each eye and another on their back. The scent glands are used to mark herd territories. They also rub up against each other to mark members of a herd. So, while each Javelina has it's own scent, each herd also has its own scent. The scent is strong enough that humans can easily pick it up -- probably why Javelinas are also referred to as "skunk pigs."

Every once in a while a male struts through by himself. Males weigh as much as 88 pounds. What is interesting is that when nervous, their hairs stand up and shiver.  Yesterday afternoon, while sitting at my desk a male came through. I grabbed my camera and got a couple of photos before he "got away," although I never really got close enough for a good photo. You'll notice the hairs standing up on his neck:


Monday, November 28, 2011

Harris Hawk

We have had five Harris Hawks around for the past two weeks. Two of them were in our aleppo pine tree the other day and let me get up on the roof and fairly close for some photos -- as you will see below.

The Harris Hawk is a medium-large raptor whose range is from the southwestern United States south to Chile and central Argentina. Birds are sometimes reported at large in Western Europe, especially England but it is a popular species in falconry and these sightings almost certainly all refer to birds that have escaped from captivity. The Harris Hawk is unique because it hunts cooperatively in family groups while most other raptors hunt in solitary. 

Individual Harris Hawks range in length from 18 to 30 in and generally have a wingspan of about 3.6 ft.  The females are larger by about 35%.  They have dark brown plumage with orange shoulders, wing linings, and thighs. The white on the base of the tail is a dead give-away in flight. They have long, yellow legs. The vocalizations of the Harris's Hawk are very harsh sounds. Christine and I have been "scolded" by them on more than one occasion. 

The diet of the Harris's Hawk consists of small creatures including birds, lizards, and large insects, although mammals are they favorite prey. They nest in small trees, shrubby growth, or cacti. The nests are often compact, made of sticks, plant roots, and stems, and are often lined with leaves,  bark and plant roots. They are built mainly by the female. There are usually two to four white to blueish white eggs sometimes with a speckling of pale brown or gray. The nestlings start out light buff, but in five to six days turn a rich brown.

Since about 1980, Harris's Hawks have been increasingly used in falconry and are now the most popular hawks in the West (outside of Asia) for that purpose, as they are the easiest to train and the most social. In one of our favorite movies, the Clive Owen "King Arthur," one of his knights, Tristan carries a Harris Hawk with him (even though Harris Hawks were not present in Europe at the time of King Arthur). We have a wonderful dear friend that stays with us every year that tells us of a similar story in Clint Eastwood's "Pale Rider" where the opening scene is of a Turkey Vulture making a sound of a Hawk. Turkey Vultures don't make any sound at all. When she confronted Clint about this, his reply was "Darling, nobody will know the difference."

Very often, there will be three hawks attending one nest: two males and one female.  The female does most of the incubation. The eggs hatch in 31 to 36 days. The young begin to explore outside the nest at 38 days, and fledge, or start to fly, at 45 to 50 days. The female sometimes breeds two or three times in a year. Young may stay with their parents for up to three years, helping to raise later broods. 
Here are the latest photos:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Butterflies - Part VII

Okay, just one more Butterfly post of my trip to the Tucson Botanical Garden a couple of days ago:


Red Lacewing

Rusty Tipped Page

Mating Transandean Cattleheart

Friday, November 25, 2011

Butterflies - Part VI

I must have talked myself into another trip to the Tucson Botanical Garden -- because, off I went to see this year's Butterfly Magic. Here are some of my NEW Butterfly photos:

Banded Bamboo

Blue Morpho

Brown Clipper

Next is the Indian Dead Leaf which looks like a deaf leaf in the following photo:

Add caption

But notice how the Indian Dead Leaf looks when he spreads his wings out:

Indian Dead Leaf

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Butterflies - Part V

Still more butterflies from the Tucson Botanical Garden:

Tiger Longwing

Scarlet Mormon

Small Postman

Zebra Longwing

You would think this one wouldn't be hard to identify. But, I can't find it anywhere. Appears to be a Swallowtail of some kind.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Butterflies - Part IV

The Butterflies keep coming:

Red Helen Swallowtail

Orange Lacewing

New Lacewing

Postman Heliconian

Red Banded Pereute

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Butterflies - Part III

Still more Butterflies from the Tucson Botanical Garden:

Golden Birdwing

Leopard Lacewing

Leopard Lacewing

Julia Longwing

Indonesian Batwing

Monday, November 21, 2011

Butterflies - Part II

More Butterflies from the Tucson Botanical Garden:

Cairns Birdwing (male on left, female on right)

Cairns Birdwing mating


Citrus Butterfly

Giant Owl Butterfly

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Although our "Butterfly Season" is essentially over, it has just begun at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. TBC has a Butterfly Magic Festival each year from October 10th to April 30th. Each month a new group of Butterflies from some part of the world: Africa, Asia, the Tropics, the Americas, Australia, etc. are brought to the Gardens.

Plants native and important to those Butterflies also are brought in. All of the butterflies in the Gardens’ exhibit are hatched from eggs and live as caterpillars in butterfly farms in tropical parts of the world. When the caterpillars change into the pupae or resting stage, they are carefully counted, labeled and packed. In the pupae stage of the butterfly life cycle, no food is required so they can survive the two or three day trip to Tucson. Once they arrive at the Gardens they are housed in a climate controlled environment which allows them to emerge naturally from their pupae. (This emerging room is visible through a glass window). They are then transferred to the Greenhouse where they are released to fly free in a beautiful tropical environment. 

It is here where you can walk amongst them. Great care is taken as you enter and as you leave to ensure that none of these "non-native" butterflies escapes into our Southern Arizona world.

This is a photographer's paradise -- especially, if you are just learning or beginning to shoot wildlife photos. These Butterflies certainly aren't hard to find, there are hundreds of them. They will land on your head, shoulders, or a pant leg.  Their colors are often brilliant; they sit still for photos; and they are often on or near beautiful flowers. What more can you ask for?

Here are a few that I have taken over the past few years:

Asian Swallowtail

Blue Clipper

Blue Morpho

Atlas Moth

Arcas Cattleheart Mating

Banded Orange

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sharp Shinned Hawk

I am still trying to get back to normal here, but a quick post. It was three days ago this Sharp Shinned Hawk swooped down into our "oasis" and caught a Mourning Dove and flew up into a nearby mesquite tree.  He let me get close enough for the following photo:

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Friday, November 18, 2011

Where have I been?

The answer is NOT as much fun as it could have been. My computer went down Saturday, November 12th and needed to go back to The Apple Store for repair. Just got back from picking it up. I'll try to get back to my posts tomorrow.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sweetwater Wetlands - just a couple more photos

Made a quick stop at Sweetwater Wetlands, another place that seldom disappoints. Although not rare or unusual, I did get what I thought were a couple nice photos. One of a Pied Billed Grebe, and the second a Northern Shoveler. (click on the image to enlarge)

Pied Billed Grebe

Northern Shoveler

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daily Visitor

I took a walk around our property today, camera in hand looking for something to photograph. I could not find even a dove or quail.I wondered what was going on? So I came back to my office and sat outside in my "rocking chair," and watched the lack of birds even on the feeders. After a couple of minutes a Sharp Shinned Hawk flew into the Mesquite Tree by the office about 20 feet from me. There I was holding my camera. Wow! I really didn't have to move an inch to get this photo:

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge - IV

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge has three components. The largest is right along the Mexican/US border where the Visitor's Center is. This is the grassland I mentioned in Friday, Saturday, and Monday's posts. It's Pronghorn and Deer country with a wide variety of raptors usually present.

But there are two other sections of BANWR that shouldn't go unnoticed. One is along Arivaca Creek just West of the town of Arivaca. Just east of the town of Arivaca is Arivaca Cienega (also part of BANWR).

These two areas are the better birding spots. Here are a few photos of Arivaca Cienega:

Horned Lark

Vermillion Flycatcher
Dusky Capped Flycatcher

Thick Billed Kingbird

Western Kingbird

Monday, November 7, 2011

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge - III

On one visit to BANWR, I was greeted by a pair of young Great Horned Owls. The grasslands are home to a lot of small mammals. The result is that it is also home to a lot of raptors. Here are photos of some of the raptors taken over the years:

Great Horned Owlet

Red Tailed Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Turkey Vulture