Friday, August 31, 2012

Cooper's Hawk Visit

So here I am, sitting at my desk in my office when two minutes ago a Cooper's Hawk swoops down into the birdbath outside the front door. As always, my camera is sitting on my credenza just behind me. I turn around, get the camera, and without getting up from my chair, take a photo:

Cooper's Hawk

So, I plugged my camera into my computer, downloaded the photo to my iPhoto software, exported it to my desktop, booted up my blogspot, wrote a couple of sentences, imported the photo, and here it is. Now, I ask you, how lazy can I be? I never got up from my chair. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Patience, Persistence, and Luck

I must say that I feel fortunate to have found and photographed 15 different species of Hummingbirds in Arizona. It takes patience, persistence, and most of all luck. The Allen's, Berylline, Calliope, and Plain Capped Starthroat are difficult to find because they don't seem to return to the same place every year. The Violet Crowned is a rare hummer but usually found (with patience) at Patton's in Patagonia. The Lucifer is another rare hummer needing persistence as well as patience, but seems to return, even if infrequently, to Ash Canyon. The White Eared seems to return to Miller Canyon every year. And, the Blue Throat is a frequent visitor to Portal in the Chiricahua Mountains as well as in Miller Canyon. But with the Plain Capped Starthroat you have to watch the Bird Alert lists. Then you drop what you are doing and head out to that location with the "hope" of finding it. Chances? Even with persistence and patience, luck is required. And, it's not just luck finding one. In order to get a good photo you need to be relatively close, have good lighting, and not have any obstructions in your way. Result? Often that's just too many conditions.  I made four trips to Montosa Canyon this summer where the Starthroat was reported. Saw him once it a tree covered up by leaves and branches and at a distance of 75 feet. Not a great photo. Saw one a couple of times in Ash Canyon. But he would zip into the furthest feeder (which was "nestled" in the trees), stay not more than five seconds, and fly way off into the woods. I'll show you a very poor photo so you get the idea:

Plain Capped Starthroat
 Now, I am sure that other people (maybe one in ten) who have gone to Montosa Canyon or Ash Canyon had a little more "luck" and got a good photo. I am sure of this, because occasionally it has happened to me. Here is a photo of a Plain Capped Starthroat I took three years ago at one of the feeders at Patton's in Patagonia:

Plain Capped Starthroat

Now, as if I wasn't already placing too many demands on my photograph, what I really want is a more "natural" photograph, not one on a feeder. Well, this is it -- at least for now:

Plain Capped Starthroat
Never underestimate the value of Luck  --  although luck favors the prepared mind.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hummingbird Season in Full Throttle

What started off as a very slow hummingbird season  -- probably due to last year's fires and flooding, has turned out quite nice. Once again there are large numbers of hummers in Miller Canyon and Ash Canyon. Ramsey doesn't have quite the same numbers, but yesterday I saw 7 species within about 30 minutes including the Violet Crowned. In the last two weeks (in Ash Canyon, Miller Canyon, and Ramsey Canyon) I have found eleven different hummingbird species:

Black Chinned
Blue Throat
Broad Billed
Broad Tailed
Plain Capped Starthroat
White Eared
Violet Crowned

I may have seen a female Costa's don't know for sure. Calliope has been reported at Ash Canyon but I have not seen it. Lots of Broad Tailed Hummingbirds at Ash Canyon, but for some reason I didn't end up with any photos. Plain Capped Starthroat photos weren't up to standard. He showed up at the farthest feeder for 2-5 seconds every hour or so. Just couldn't get the photo I wanted.

Still no reports this year of Berylline. I'll head down to Madera Canyon sometime this week and check it out. Berylline was an "infrequent" visitor there last year. 

Here are a few of my photos from the last two weeks in the Huachuca Mountains:

Anna's Hummingbird

Black Chinned Female

Blue Throated Hummingbird

Broad Billed Hummingbird Female

Lucifer Hummingbird Male

Magnificent Hummingbird Male

Rufous Hummingbird Female

Violet Crowned Hummingbird

White Eared Hummingbird Male

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pairs of Two: Twelve

First boys, then girls.

 It wasn't as if there was lots of action. I stood by while these two very large Bull Moose sat in the tall grass at the edge of the woodland forest. After an hour and a half, one stood up and then the other. They headed into the thicket of oak brush where I took a few more photos. 

Bull Moose in Northern Colorado
 The Caribou females were on Medicine Lake in Alberta. Temperature was about minus ten degrees. They allowed me to walk down onto the lake and close enough for a nice photo:
Caribou Females on Medicine Lake, Alberta

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pairs of Two: Eleven

A couple more "fighting pairs":

First, two young Bighorn Sheep Rams. They seemed more like playing than trying to establish dominance. 

Bighorn Sheep (Clemon Mountain, Washington)
 The two Bull Elk here stopped jousting when they saw me. But within a couple of seconds they were jousting again.
Elk (just outside Jasper National Park, Alberta)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pairs of Two: Ten

Of course pairs of young are always cute:

Black Bear Cubs in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Javelina Piglets here at The Azure Gate 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pairs of Two: Nine

More fighting pairs:

Rufous Hummingbird chasing a Black Chinned Hummingbird (Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona)

Sea Gulls fighting (Puget Sound, Washington)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pairs of Two: Eight

More fighting pairs:

American Bison jousting in Yellowstone National Park

Lucifer Hummingbirds fighting in Ash Canyon, Arizona

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pairs of Two: Seven

And, sometimes it's a pair fighting:

Bald Eagles about to lock talons and go into a free fall (Northern California)

Feral Horses fighting (60 miles north of Hinton, Alberta, Canada)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pairs of Two: Six

A few more mom's with baby:

Canada Goose with Chick (Lake Washington, Washington)

Killdeer with Chick (Lake Cochise, Arizona)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pairs of Two: Five

More mom's with baby:

Feral Burro with Colt (Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona)

Spotted Owl with her Owlet (Miller Canyon, Arizona)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pairs of Two: Four

Sometimes pairs are mom and baby like yesterday's Bighorn Sheep. Today, it's Bobcats and Coues White Tailed Deer:

Female Bobcat with Kitten (on our roof)

Female Coues White Tail Deer with Fawn (Chiricahua Mountains)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pairs of Two: Three

Today, pairs of Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep. 

But first, I should say that there are wildlife "farms" or "ranches" where wild animals roam within fences. Photographers are invited (for a fee) to come and photograph the "wildlife." In some cases the animals are "trained" to pose for a photo. One such ranch in Montana has trained wolves to go up to the top of a mound and howl at sunsets for a photo. Cost, $300-$400. That is not me, nor any of my photos.  All of my animal photos are from the wild – no zoos, no wildlife “farms” or ranches – no remote motion-sensor cameras, no tracking dogs, no electronic tracking devices, no “traps,” just simply photographed as predator and/or prey as found naturally  in the wild.   Photos are untouched and appear as seen through the lens.

I say this because my first photo of the Mountain Goats seems posed. The story behind the photo is that I was driving up Mount Evans in Colorado, and at about 13,000 feet saw 40 or so Mountain Goats in a meadow on the tundra. I pulled off to the side of the road and slowly walked down the hillside to the meadow. I got to within 30 yards from the Mountain Goats and just sat down. I took photos and watched them for about an hour and 15 minutes. During that time these two "kids" walked over to the ledge (a drop of several thousand feet) and stopped on a rock. Snap, this was the photo:

Mountain Goat kiddies at 13,000 feet

Bighorn Sheep Ewe feeding her lamb

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pairs of Two - Two

Second up, two pairs of butterflies:

Male (left) and Female (right) Cairns Birdwing

Male and Female Transandean Cattleheart doing what males and females do when they get together

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pairs of Two

This has been a very interesting "birding" season. For instance, the southernmost mountains (Santa Rita's, Huachuca's, and Chiricahua's) have had a surprisingly low number of hummingbirds this year. Madera Canyon, Patagonia, Ramsey Canyon, Miller Canyon, Ash Canyon, and Portal feeders have had far fewer hummingbirds. Miller Canyon, although it was the most devastated of all the mountain areas by last year's fire and flooding  -- and is still flooding this year as a result -- still has the highest population of hummingbirds. In addition to the usual suspects, Rufous, Blue Throat, and White Eared have frequented the Miller Canyon feeders. 

On the other hand, the ground birds of the Sonoran Desert -- where we live  -- have had an usual abundance of newborn chicks. I would guess the population of Gambel's Quail right now on our property is at least 250 or more. And, at least 150 Mourning and White Winged Doves. There is a light in our carport that is a favorite nesting place for the doves. They start nesting there in March and are still nesting there today. As one Dove finishes, another takes over. What's fun is that the chicks, for the first few days out of their nest, sit on my tool cabinet or the wall next to the carport. To get from the office to the main house takes you right past them. You could literally pick them up in your hand they are that close.

Yesterday, two were sitting side by side on top of the tool cabinet just asking for a photo. So, I took a photo but didn't look at it until today. Unfortunately, I had the wrong setting for the photo which put one in focus and one out of focus. Normally, as I photograph birds, I use a single point center focus because birds are small and usually in trees and that's the only way to get the bird in focus. In this case, I was too close and the closer you are to a subject the shorter the depth of focus will be. (Obviously, I should have corrected this with a different setting). However, it gave me an idea for a blog series. PAIRS! So, starting today, Pairs of Pairs -- or, otherwise known as Two Pair:

The Pair of  Mourning Dove Chicks sitting on my tool cabinet.

A Pair of Wild Turkeys in Madera Canyon

Monday, August 13, 2012

Those cute little devils!

Oh those little devils. Technically, they are a Round Tail Ground Squirrel. Okay? A Squirrel. Not a Rat! However, they are less affectionately known -- actually with some degree of madness known -- as Pack Rats. They are quite similar to Prairie Dogs (which really aren't dogs either). They dig underground tunnels beneath cactus. Then they fill the entrances with bulbs of Cholla Cactus and anything else dangerous looking they can find. If left alone they can create quite an unsightly mess. And, over time the roots of the cactus die as does the cactus creating a further unsightly mess. But, I'll be darned if these little guys aren't the cutest things. Here's a photo I took a couple days ago of one drinking from the bird bath:

Round Tail Ground Squirrel

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Buried Treasures -- A Coyote????

Coyotes are pretty resilient animals. Nearly wiped out in the early 1900's they have bounced back to the point where 90,000 are killed every year for one reason (road kill) or another (some people think they've become a problem) without a reduction in their overall population.

I have photographed Coyotes at 9,000 feet and at sea level; in minus 10 degrees F and at 110 degrees F; and from deserts to glaciers. They seem to be able to exist just about anywhere.  The photo today, is my "oldest" coyote photo. I think I took this in 1990 while going from one lake to another in Central British Columbia. From the Coyote's action and the expression on his face I may have been the first human he had ever seen. 

Very Sweet and Beautiful Coyote in British Columbia

Friday, August 10, 2012

Buried Treasures -- Washington State

The amazing thing about the mountains of the Cascade Range, in particular Mount Baker and Mount Rainier is how huge and overwhelming they look. In the Colorado Rockies for example you see a 14,000 peak from 5,000 feet. In Seattle, you see Mount Rainier, 14,410 from sea level. Now of course, it needs to be a clear day in Seattle to see Mount Rainier. The joke is that, "If you can't see Mount Rainier, wear your raincoat. If you can see Mount Rainier, take your raincoat."

The first two photos are of Mount Baker (10,781 feet) which is in the North Cascades.

Church at the foot of Mount Baker

Mount Baker from Padilla Bay

To help put this next photo in perspective, from where I was standing to take this photo, I am over 100 miles (as the crow flies) away from Mount Rainier. To drive to Mount Rainier from this point is 170 miles and about a four hour drive. And yes, I am at sea level to take the photo.

Mount Rainier from 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

More Hoh plus some Rainier

Yesterday I posted about the Hoh Rain Forest. And as I looked at the result, I felt that I was unable to  capture the magnificence of the whole Hoh experience. So, maybe one more photo which might help put the yesterday's photo into perspective: (remember you can click on a photo to enlarge)

That's Christine sitting at the base of one of the trees.

Also, Christine mentioned that in my post I talked about the 1032 inch snowfall on Mount Rainer in 1998/99, but didn't show any photos. So, with Christine's help I found a couple prints in some old photo albums that were stashed away in a bookcase up in her studio:

Again Christine, but this time on the road up to Mount Rainier
 The road to Mount Rainier ends in an area called Paradise. At 5,400 feet it is still quite a distance to the 14,410 peak, but there is a Visitor's Center. The National Park Service tries to keep the road to Paradise open during the winter  -- even though Paradise gets up to 1000 inches of snow each year. In the photo below you'll see our truck (yes, we do have a winch on the front) sitting outside the Visitor's Center. The large silver drainpipe in front of the truck is the passageway into the Visitor's Center.
Paradise Visitor's Center, Mount Rainier

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hoh Rain Forest

One of our first "trips" when we moved to Seattle in 1984 was to visit the Olympic National Park. When we told people we were moving to Seattle their immediately reaction was, "why in the world would you want to do that? It rains 360 days a year there!" That was a bit of an exaggeration because summers in Seattle are as good and beautiful as anyplace in the world. But as for the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, 360 days of rain is not far off. The Hoh gets an average of 140 to 170 inches of rain per year. That's a lot of water. Of course, Mount Rainer, in 1998/99 got 1032.5 inches of snow. That's over 86 feet of snow that fell that winter. It was a record for Mount Rainer. May have been a record for the lower 48 as well.

But, back to the Hoh for now. The result of 12 to 14 feet of rain is a lush, green canopy of both coniferous and deciduous plants/tress. Mosses and ferns blanket both the ground and lower portions of the trees. The Hoh is one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the United States. 

When we first arrived at the Hoh in 1984, there was a small dirt parking lot and we had the place all to ourselves. I think maybe there might have been one or two other couples hiking the Hoh. We visited again about 15 years later and found a huge paved parking lot with ten buses and 50 cars. We didn't stay long that time.

Here is one of the few photos I have left of the Hoh Rain Forest:

The Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington

A true landscape photographer or macro photographer would be in heaven in the Hoh. Looks like something out of Harry Potter.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Buried Treasures -- Well Sort Of

About 12 years ago Christine and I were driving to Tucson from Seattle in search of a Bed and Breakfast for sale. (Christine calls it our 2001 Space Odyssey). On one occasion we passed through Bakersfield, California early one morning. The "smog" was so heavy you could look directly into the sun, as it this photo:

Bakersfield, California just after sunrise
I'm not entirely sure why I stopped the car and wanted a photo of the sun through this "erector set" type structure. For some reason it just caught my eye. So, I was happy for the photo, but also happy to get out of the smog. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Crossing Paths

Sometimes you happen to be in the right place at the right time. Such is the case with two photos of animals which normally don't get along and aren't seen together.

First up, Bighorn Sheep and Elk. Now this isn't a great photo. But, I honestly don't know how I could have captured these two herds which were on the side of Clemon Mountain (25 miles northeast of Yakima, Washington along the Naches River).  They were at least 400 yards away from me. But if I was any closer I would not have be able to get both herds in the photo

Bighorn Sheep and Elk Herds

In the following photo a fully grown male Grizzly Bear,weighing probably 1000 pounds or more was feasting on a buffalo. The Gray Wolf was patiently sitting about 75 yards away. As soon as the Grizzly Bear stopped eating and started walking away, the Wolf got up and started walking toward the buffalo. It provided me the opportunity for the perfect photo, Bear and Wolf together.

Gray Wolf and Grizzly Bear

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Time for Lunch

The Northwest is noted for its rain (and for good reason). This is true in Western Oregon, Western Washington, and British Columbia. In fact, you can pretty much count on rain until July 4th. Since the best fishing is late Spring and early Summer, encountering rain is fairly common. Also common are rivers and lakes which become much larger than at other times of the year.

The little town of Merritt, British Columbia is about a four hour drive from Seattle. On one trip to Ersnt Lake (which takes about six hours) I decided to stop for a break and eat lunch at the Stump Lake picnic area.   When I arrived I found that the lake was about six feet higher than normal, which put the picnic table out in the lake. But, no matter, I had waders, so ..... why not? So, here I am eating lunch.  Oh, to be young again. 

Lunch on --- rather "in" Stump Lake, British Columbia