Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nests - Part VIII

I miss Ospreys. Since their main diet is fish, not too many in Southern Arizona.  Whenever I went fly fishing (in the northwestern US and Canada) they were a constant companion. Often they would encircle a lake I was fishing -- just to show off their catch. But, that's another Blog. Here are their nests. As you can see from the first photo their nests can be quite large. The female is on the nest with the male on "lookout" at a branches end. In the second photo you can see two young chicks in addition to their mom.

Osprey Nest over Lake Nicola, British Columbia

Osprey Nest near a lumber mill in Columbia Valley, British Columbia

Monday, January 30, 2012

Back to Nesting

Unlike Morning Doves, many other bird nests are difficult to find. I suspect that's nature's way of trying to protect birds when they or their chicks are most vulnerable. Canada Geese range through most of North America -- although rarely in Southern Arizona. They breed in Canada and the Northern US.  The Common Loon, also called the Great Northern Loon, spends its summers in inland Canada and Alaska, and winters on both coasts of North America. They can occasionally be seen during migration in the inland US on their way to the coast. Sandhill Cranes winter here in Southern Arizona. Right now there are probably 40,000 in the Whitewater Draw area. However they breed in the north, mostly Canada but also in the Rockies. They typically breed in open marshes or wetlands -- which is where I found the one below.

Canada Goose in Columbia Valley, Central British Columbia, Canada

Common Loon at Island Lake, British Columbia

Sandhill Crane at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Saturday, January 28, 2012

More from the Tucson Botanical Garden

Last post on this trip to the Tucson Botanical Garden and their wonderful live Butterfly exhibit (which runs  October through March).

Emperor Swallowtail from tropical Africa

Indian Dead Leaf from tropical India to Japan

Malachite from the tropical Americas

Priamus Birdwing from tropical Australia and South Pacific

Spotlight Catone - Male, from the tropical Americas

Friday, January 27, 2012

Blue Morpho

As you enter the greenhouse where the butterflies are (at the Tucson Botanical Garden) the first thing you notice -- other than the 93 degree heat and 95 degree humidity -- are dozens of large blue butterflies flying around. The Blue Morpho is a resident of the Central and South American Tropics. Their wingbeat is decidedly slow so they almost look animated. They never seem to land anywhere -- although there are many that have. You just don't see them land. When they are at rest their wings are closed and you would never know that the dorsal side of the wings are blue. If you are patient, occasionally you can find one with its wings open as in the first photo. But as with the second photo you can see how intricate its ventral (under) wings are with several "eyespots". (If you click on the photo you can see it enlarged).

Blue Morpho

Blue Morpho

Thursday, January 26, 2012


The family of Longwings produces some strikingly beautiful butterflies. As you can see, these butterflies have relatively short bodies with long wings -- hence the name "longwing".  Their slow, lazy, fluttering flight is designed to show off their bright colors, signaling to predators that they are bad-tasting and should be avoided. 

These butterflies have several interesting behaviors.  For example, they eat pollen in addition to nectar, and 

they sleep in groups at night, perching on thin, hanging twigs.

Here are several from my trip to the Botanical Garden on Tuesday:

Cydno Longwing

Doris Longwing

Golden Longwing

Sapho Longwing

Zebra Longwing

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Break from Nesting: Butterflies

I'll come back to Nests in a couple of days. In the meantime, another trip to The Tucson Botanical Garden produced some wonderful butterfly photos. I'll start today actually with two moths:

The African Moon Moth is, well, from Africa -- east coast of South Africa. It is a beautiful looking moth with a very long stringy tail; spots that look like eyes; and, well, it looks more like a "kite" than an animal:

African Moon Moth

The Atlas Moth found in Southeast Asia, is considered the largest moth in the world with a wingspan of 10 inches and wing surface of 62 square inches. In India, they are cultivated for their silk.

Atlas Moth

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nests - Part VI

Something about those Sycamore Trees that make such good nests. Here a Sulphur Bellied Flycatcher in it's nest.

Sulphur Bellied Flycatcher

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nests - Part V

Like the Elegant Trogon, Owls often nest in hollowed out tree trunks. The first photo shows a Western Screech Owl nest in a Sycamore tree just like the Elegant Trogon. The second photo is of two baby Great Horned Owls in a Eucalyptus Tree just across the street from us.

Western Screech Owl in Sycamore Tree

Great Horned Owlets

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nests - Part IV

Some nests aren't obvious and can only be found by seeing a bird go into the nest.  The Elegant Trogon is a migratory bird that arrives in the Madrean Sky Islands of Southern Arizona in March and April. Males begin looking for a female on arrival and usually nest by the end of Spring. They stay here until September or so, then head back to South for the winter. 

I remember hiking along Cave Creek in the Chiricahua Mountains looking for Elegant Trogons. They are most easily found by following their "call." Their call is a very distinctive "bark", like a seal. Four to six very loud bursts. One April I followed the barking until I saw a flash of red disappear in the hole of a Sycamore Tree. I parked myself about 25 feet away and waited. I was rewarded with both male and female poking their heads out of the nest:

Male Elegant Trogon in nest of Sycamore Tree, Chiricahua Mountains

Female Elegant Trogon in same nest, Chiricahua Mountains

Male Elegant Trogon in Gardener Canyon (Huachuca Mountains)

Male Elegant Trogon near Patagonia Lake

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nests - Part III

Hummingbird nests. There are 15 species of hummingbirds that live or visit Southern Arizona. Some are rare, but many nest here. Each hummingbird species is different in their nesting. Some nest high in tree tops, while others may nest only 8 - 10 feet off the ground. The type of tree they nest in also varies. Anna's Hummingbird is a year round resident of The Azure Gate. It will nest anywhere from October to April. The nests are an architectural and engineering work of art. They are woven into a tree branch so tightly that they will not move even in the strongest of winds. They are about two and a half inches deep and two inches wide. The walls are very thick providing important insulation (given that winter temperatures might reach 30 degrees or so at night).  The Anna's will lay two to three eggs which are "stacked" on top of each other to some extent such that they fill the nest cavity. The female then acts like a "lid"  on top of the nest. Here is one nesting in a Palo Verde Tree:

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird with chicks

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nests - Part II

There are people who love photography and take photos of anything that strikes them as worth a photo. Most "photographers" have a specialty: Portrait, Landscape, Architecture, Industrial, Wildlife, etc. But each category can have it's own specialties. The Portrait Photographer can specialize in Weddings for example. For the Wildlife Photographer it might be flowers, plants, butterflies, birds, or animals. Even within those categories there can be further "specialization." Nests, for example. What I realized in starting this Blog Topic is that I never really thought of "Nests" as a category.  So, while I have many "nest photos" to show, there are many that I have deleted over the years because they didn't rise to my ever-changing standard of "quality." Case in point, I was looking for my Great Blue Heron and Great Egret "Rookery" photos. Nope, couldn't find them. They nest in the tops of very tall trees near wetlands -- or some water source that provides food. Some rookeries are shared by both the Herons and Egrets.  The Egrets nest first (February or March)  followed by the Herons three or four weeks after the Egrets leave their nests. It really is quite a sight since the average rookery contains 150 or more nests. I have found and photographed rookeries in Washington, British Columbia, Oregon, and Arizona, but I can't find a single photo. So, I am going to make it a point to increase my "nest portfolio". In the meantime, there are some woodpecker nests to share:

Acorn Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Most bird nests, like almost all animal dens, are difficult to find --- which is nature's way of saying "Do Not Disturb." There are a few exceptions. Doves nest anywhere: kitchen windows, eaves of roofs, outdoor furniture, literally anywhere. (Must be nature's way of saying "There are too many doves in the world please take one.") But, here some more "natural" dove nests:

Mourning Dove in Saguaro

Mourning Dove in Pine Tree

White Winged Dove (with chick) in Palo Verde Tree

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bumping Heads - Part II

Saturday's post was about males jousting. Today we have a different kind of "bumping heads". Here it is done out of affection:

Bear Cubs

Wild Burros



Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bumping Heads

Occasionally, like the "civilized" world I suppose, wild animals fight. They fight to establish dominance, territory, or the love of a female. As in these photos, though, it is usually done with little harm to the other. The photo of Bighorn Rams fighting was one of my first photos with an early model APS camera (1995 I believe). The format eventually died, as well it should have given the quality of my photo. The wild horses fighting was quite a thrill. I had driven 100 miles on a Canadian dirt road looking for them. Six hours into the trip I found them. 

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Rams: Cascades, Washington

American Bison: Western Montana

Elk: North Central Colorado

Wild Horses: Central Alberta, Canada

Pronghorn: Northwestern Colorado

Friday, January 13, 2012

Patience is a Virtue, Luck? That's Even Better.

I have been asked many times about the patience required to be a wildlife photographer. It's true. I spent five hours in 2010 standing and waiting for a Moose family that was 300 yards away, hoping to get close enough for a photo. I didn't know whether they would get even 10 feet closer let alone 275 yards I wanted. (They did, and I got some wonderful photos). On the other hand I have made many trips to places with high concentration of Mountain Lions specifically to get a photo. Other than a few photos of paw prints, no luck. I've made 6 trips to the White Mountains in Arizona looking for any of the 40 or so Mexican Gray Wolves that live there. No luck yet. I've spent a total of 10 days in the Florida Mountains of Southwestern New Mexico looking for Persion Ibexes. Other than seeing one through a spotting scope, no photos, no luck. 

I just came back from my third trip to San Rafael Valley in Arizona looking for Short Eared Owls and Rough Legged Hawks that have been reported there over the last few weeks. Altogether, about 10 hours looking. No luck. My trip yesterday -- a 300 mile, 10 hour journey produced all of three photos - only one of which I am willing to show anyone. It is a Savannah Sparrow. (Click on the photo to enlarge.) I love the color of the background and the detail of the plumage. It's not at all a "rare bird" but it is a nice photo:

Savannah Sparrow: Rafael Valley, Arizona

Thursday, January 12, 2012

sleeping Through it All: Part II

Here are some of the other photos of mammals laying down:

Elk: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Javelina: Our Bed and Breakfast

Moose: Near Maligne Lake, Alberta, Canada

Mountain Goats: Mount Evans, Colorado

Mule Deer: Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona

Pronghorn: Eagle Creek, Arizona

White Tail Deer: Mt. Elden, Arizona