Monday, December 31, 2012

The End of the Blues: Last Blue Throat

Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains of Southern Arizona remains the best place to see hummingbirds -- both in terms of species and quantity. It is not unusual to find 10 species in July, August, and September. In 2010, I found and photographed 13 species there. And in terms of quantity, hundreds are not an exaggeration. A survey was done a few years back with an estimate of nearly 6,000 hummingbirds visiting the Beatty's Orchard feeders in a single season.  Today's "5" Star photo is a Blue Throated Hummingbird who was making the rounds of the flowering plants near the feeders.

Blue Throated Hummingbird

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Blue Throated Hummingbird - II

This was a fun experience. I was scouring the South Fork, Cave Creek in the Chiricahua Mountains looking for Bear, Elegant Trogon, and Coues Deer having a great time finding all three. But also a nice surprise was this Blue Throated Hummingbird. I looked ahead and saw these beautiful blooming Arizona Thistles, thinking sooner or later I might find a nice butterfly or hummingbird to photograph. So I waited. Not too long a Two-Tailed Swallowtail came by and fed on the very thistle I was next to. Moments later, a Blue Throated Hummingbird came and chased the butterfly away and started feeding as well. I was able to get lots of photos of both. Here''s the one I like best:

Blue Throated Hummingbird

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Blue Hummer

The Blue Throated Hummingbird has the largest wingspan of any hummingbird in North America. It's wing beat is also the slowest of any hummer. If you want to see it, you'll need to come to Southern Arizona. (Or the sonoran desert of Mexico). It is a summer visitor in the Huachuca Mountains, frequently seen in Miller Canyon with occasional spottings in Ash Canyon, Ramsey Canyon. It is less often found in Madera Canyon of the Santa Rita Mountains. It is a year round resident in South Fork, Cave Creek in the Chiricahua Mountains. Its numbers, wherever found are small though and patience is  often necessary to find one. The throat obviously is blue, but the tail is also a deep blue. Here is one of my three "5" Star photos:

BlueThroated Hummingbird

Friday, December 28, 2012

Still Singing the Blues: Blue Morpho

As mentioned yesterday, while the ventral side of the Blue Morpho is brown with large eyespots, the dorsal side is quite blue --- and here's the proof. They are a challenge to photograph though. The Blue Morpho flitters about constantly and when they do land the wings are open only for a split second. Then the wings close (as in yesterday's photo) and rarely open again. So you have one shot.

Blue Morpho

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Continuing the Blues: Blue Morpho

Live butterfly exhibits, like the one at the Tucson Botanical Garden provide wonderful opportunities for the photographer. Its exhibit runs from October to April with butterflies from different parts of the world every month. Not only the beautiful colors of the butterfly, but the flowering plants as well. Today's "5" Star photo comes from the TBG and is of the Blue Morpho. No blue on the ventral side, but as you will see with tomorrow's photo the dorsal side is a rich blue color. The ventral side has amazing patterns of eyespots. The Blue Morpho lives in the tropical America's. It's entire life cycle from egg to death is about 115 days.

Blue Morpho

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Another Blue Day: Blue Grosbeak

When a bird sits on a wire there is an opportunity to get a good clear photo. No trees, branches, leaves in the way. No shooting into the sun. No flittering about. And, the possibility of muting the background to make the bird stand out even more. Such is the case with today's "5" Star photo of a Blue Grosbeak. Click on the photo to enlarge and see some of the fine detail.

Blue Grosbeak

Monday, December 24, 2012

Out of the Black and into the Blue, Clipper That Is

Continuing alphabetically my "5" Star photos, we leave the Black Vulture and head now to a much more delicate -- Blue Clipper. This beautiful butterfly comes from forested areas in South and Southeast Asia. Butterflies often make wonderful photographs because of their wide variety of colors and, because they are often found on colorful flowering plants. 

Blue Clipper

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Continuing ""5" Star Photos: The Black Vulture

No matter how the word "vulture" is used, whether referring to the bird, or in some literary sense, it does not conjure up a "beautiful" feeling. That is a shame, because vultures are actually quite beautiful. Here, for example, is a Black Vulture sitting on a saguaro cactus that has just bloomed. And, while he is looking below for something to eat, he looks kind of regal. Vultures actually play a very important role in nature. As carrion eaters they "dispose" of dead animals that would otherwise be breeding grounds for disease.

The Black Vulture's range is more restricted than it's cousin the Turkey Vulture. The Black Vulture can be found from the Southwestern US to Chile. But like the Turkey Vulture, they migrate south from Arizona for the winter. I took this photo along highway 86 between Sells and Why (Arizona). I like the detail in the photo, especially in the face.

Black Vulture

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Black Tail Jackrabbit - II

As I mentioned yesterday, Black Tail Jackrabbits visit us late in the Spring to eat mesquite pods that have fallen to the ground from our mesquite trees. They do the same in Saguaro National Park. However, once those mesquite pods have been eaten the jackrabbits will stand on their hind legs, reach up, and eat those pods still on the lower branches of the mesquites. Early one morning as Christine and I were hiking in SNP we can across four Black Tail Jackrabbits doing just that. Here's one of those photos that I rated "5" Star:

Black Tail Jackrabbit

Friday, December 21, 2012

Black Tail Jackrabbit

Christine and I hike in Saguaro National Park often. Early morning or late afternoon provide the best opportunity to see and photograph wildlife, especially. the Black Tail Jackrabbit. It does not hibernate so can be found year round. It grows to a length of about 24 inches and a weight of about 6 pounds so if it is around it is easily seen.  His range is very small -- up to one square mile. We often see him here at The Azure Gate in the late spring when the mesquite tree pods fall to the ground. Like many other animals they often run away when they see humans. However, sometimes -- with patience and with slow and quiet movement they are approachable and a nice photo can be taken. Such is the case with today' "5" Star photo:

Black Tail Jackrabbit

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Black Swallowtail

Today's "5" Star photo was taken in 1995 in Jackson Bottom Wetlands in Western Oregon. What I like about it is the colors; the softness of the pastels in the background offset by the yellow flowers and black of the butterfly. 

Black Swallowtail
Also, a welcome to new countries now visiting my blog site: Austria, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iceland, Peru, Portugal, and Thailand. That brings the number to 70 countries around the world visiting my site. Thank you all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Black Racer

Today's "5" Star photo is a Black Racer usually found in the southeastern part of the US but extends into southern Arizona as well. This is a marginal "5" Star photo. I think I bumped it up to five because it is such a beautiful snake and very, very fast. We've seen him "fleeing" down our driveway being chased by a dozen or more Gambels Quail. Here he is just resting under one of our agaves.

Black racers are only active during the daytime and are most active in warm weather. At night and during cold weather they take refuge in burrows. Racers hunt by sight and are often observed actively foraging during the day. They are not active at night. They eat a wide variety of prey including insects, lizards, snakes, birds, rodents, and amphibians. In turn, they are preyed upon by a variety of predatory birds, mammals and snakes such as kingsnakes and larger racers. When captured, prey are not constricted and are consumed alive. 

Black Racer

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Black Necked Stilt - II

I have one other "5" Star Black Necked Stilt photo to show. I like this one for a couple of reasons. First, the stark differences in color: black, white, and pink. Second, it was one of my first photo trips specifically looking for birds (early 1990's) and I was pleasantly surprised by my being able to get so close (without the benefit of a good telephoto lens).  It was taken at Frenchman's Hill in Central Washington.

Black Necked Stilt

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Black Necked Stilt

We come now to the Black Necked Stilt which I think is a beautiful bird. They always appear as if they are going to a "black-tie" dinner dressed in a tuxedo. The BNS is found throughout the Americas near both fresh and salt water habitats. Although a lowland bird in North American it can be found in much higher elevations in South America. Birds found in the colder climates migrate to warmer areas for the winter. What I like about this photo, and why I gave it a "5" Star rating is its simplicity: a lone bird standing in still blue water with its mirror image.

Black Necked Stilt

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Black Headed Grosbeak

Continuing alphabetically with my "5" Star photos is a male Black Headed Grosbeak. So, why a "5"? Two reasons. First, nice detail -- you can clearly see the eye. Second, he was playing "hide n seek" with me, so it was a fun experience.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Black Crowned Night Heron - IV

The last of my "5" Star Black Crowned Night Herons is another juvenile. This one taken at Lakeside Park in Tucson. As I mentioned most BCNH spend their day in the trees. As I was scouring the trees at Lakeside Park I found two juveniles and their mom all sitting in this mesquite tree. While I did get photos of all of them -- including a group photo -- this one turned out the best:

Black Crowned NIght Heron

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Black Crowned Night Heron - III

Here's another "5" Star Black Crowned Night Heron. It was taken at Christopher Columbus Park on the West Side of Tucson early one morning. He was just about to grab something from the water's edge. I couldn't tell what it was, probably an insect of some kind. 

Black Crowned Night Heron

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Black Crowned Night Heron - II

Black Crowned Night Herons can sometimes be found near ponds in municipal parks. During the better part of a day they'll be in trees and a little harder to find. But early morning they may still be stalking prey at the water's edge. Today's "5" Star photo was taken at Agua Caliente Park, Tucson, Arizona. It's a nice little park about four miles from us, always with an assortment of ducks, great blue herons, and occasional Black Crowned Night Herons and great egrets. Oh, and a resident pair of great horned owls. The BCNH in this photo let me get very close and, in fact, lay down on my stomach about 10 feet away, using elbows us tripods to get this photo:

Black Crowned Night Heron

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Black Crowned Night Heron

The Black Crowned NIght Heron is more of a nocturnal bird, although can be found during morning hours still foraging for food (mainly fish, invertebrates, frogs, insects). It is found throughout the world. Birds in the colder regions migrate, spending their summers in the more tropical areas. Like other Herons they nest in colonies. 

I have four Black Crowned Night Heron "5" Star photos. Two are in the "juvenile" plumage, two in "adult" plumage. This first one is the "juvenile" stage. I like the almost psychedelic background created by the green colored lake behind him. Also the pupil in his eye stands out clearly.

Black Crowned Night Heron

Monday, December 10, 2012

Black Chinned Hummingbird

Next UP: Black Chinned Hummingbird. 

The Black Chin resides in 9 Western States. In Arizona it prefers the Southern mountain areas, although we get him from time to time here at The Azure Gate where the  elevation is about 2200 feet. 

But why a "5" Star photo? A couple of reasons: 1) nice background of pastels which allow the hummer to stand out nicely; 2) fine detail of the bird itself; and 3) you can see the black chin as well as the magenta gorget making it easy to identify. The photo was taken in Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains of Southern Arizona.

Black Chinned Hummingbird

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Black Billed Magpie

Next on the alphabetical journey through my "5" Star photos is the Black Billed Magpie. This is really a borderline "5".  Maybe if I lived in an area where Magpies were common it would not make a "5." But what I like is the soft background with various shades of pastels. The Magpie is posing nicely on a rock, unbothered by my being close. The photo was taken in Northern Colorado near one of the entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Black Billed Magpie

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Last of the Black Bears

The last of my "5" Star Black Bear photos once again comes from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. I had been photographing this female Black Bear with her cubs as they foraged along one of the back roads. After a few minutes the mother crossed the road with two of her cubs right behind. A third, however, lagged far behind oblivious to the fact that he was in the middle of the road. Once the little guy reached the other side the mother "scolded" him severely, which the cub took as if it happened frequently.

Black Bear with Cubs

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cinnamon Black Bear -- II

Continuing my story from yesterday. There are two ways to find a Bear at Yellowstone. 1) Get up early and go looking for a Bear, or 2) Get up later and go looking for a lot of cars parked along side the road. I always plan my day to be where I think an animal might be at dawn. By 10:00 am, though, at Yellowstone it's the crowd I look for. (Not always, if you get off the beaten path, you can be alone even in Yellowstone). But, back to my story. After a couple of hours of watching this Cinnamon Black Bear going from tree to tree eating pine nuts, I realized that there were 100 or so people now following the bear, (along with two or three rangers). So I went back to my Jeep, which was now at least a quarter mile back, and drove ahead of the crowd and the Bear. I parked along side of the road about five or six trees ahead of the Bear and waited. About 15 minutes later, the Bear past those five or six trees and arrived at the tree where I was parked. With my Jeep between me and the Bear I took this photo. He's about 10 feet away. He gave me a quick glance and then up the tree for more pine nuts. (If you click on the photo to enlarge, you can see the pupil in his eye).

Cinnamon Black Bear

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cinnamon Black Bear

First, a thank you to new Countries visiting our Blog this past week: Albania, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Kenya, Latvia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, and Vietnam. 

To continue my "5" Star photos, still a few more Black Bears. This time a Cinnamon Black Bear photo taken during the late summer in Yellowstone National Park. As Bears emerge from hibernation they head to areas where there is something to eat. This usually means new vegetation. It also means lower elevation and areas that get the most sun. By fall, all that has changed. They'll stay in lower elevations to forage on berries, but eventually move to higher elevations where their food source is pine nuts. This adult Cinnamon Black Bear was moving from tree to tree eating all the nuts he could find. His paws were covered with "sap" from the trees. You can get an idea of the elevation from the canyon below.

Cinnamon Black Bear

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Black Bear Cub

Continuing with "5" Star Black Bear photos and my encounter with a mother and two cubs in Jasper National Park, Canada, is this close-up of one of the cubs:

Black Bear Cub

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Black Bear Cubs: The Story Continues

The "tale" of the Black Bear and her two cubs continues in Jasper National Park, Canada. 

While mom was busy eating, the two cubs played. Here one is doing a balancing act on a down tree while the second "peeks" around the trunk of an upright tree. Lot of fun to watch:

Black Bear Cubs

Monday, December 3, 2012

Black Bear Cub

Continuing with photos from my wonderful experience with a Black Bear and her two cubs in Jasper National Park, Canada, Today, a photo of this little cub waving at me. It took a good 30 minutes to get close enough to this cub without him or his mom feeling threatened. The result is one of my favorite photos:

Black Bear Cub

Note: All of my wildlife 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. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Black Bear with Cubs

While I think Black Bears are magnificent animals, their cubs are adorable. Several years ago while in Jasper National Park I came across a Black Bear with her two cubs. She let me spend about 45 minutes with them. It was one of my fondest and most cherished wildlife experiences. I have four photos from that series that I call "5" Star. I could have spent more time with them, but I ran out of film and had to go back to town to get more. (One of the many advantages digital has over film).  Here's the first of those "5" Star photos:

Black Bear with cubs

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Black Bear V

Continuing now with my "5" Star Black Bears is one of my favorites. It was late May and the trees were starting to bud with new leaves. I took our older daughter (Erin) with me for a five or six day photo trip to Wells Grey in British Columbia and Jasper National Park in Alberta. While in Jasper National Park we came across this Black Bear already in the tree. He would pull a branch with his right arm to his mouth and strip it of all the leaves. Then he would do the same with his left arm. When he could no longer reach a new branch he would climb the tree another couple of feet. When he would climb the tree the trunk would sway back and forth. However, when he got to where he wanted to be he "settled in" and the trunk didn't move an inch.  After about two hours of watching and photographing, it started getting dark so he climbed down the tree, took another look at us, and then off he went into the forest.  That's Mount Robson in the background.  This photo (both as a greeting card and as a framed photo) is my biggest seller. It also appears on the cover of the book, "A Bear Tale" by Christi Killien.

Black Bear