Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Next up: Raven. Ravens are fascinating birds. We see them daily here in Southern Arizona, yet this photo was taken on the Columbia Glacier in British Columbia. We see them here on the desert floor but also on Mount Lemmon at 9,000 feet.

Ravens are very intelligent. In places where wolves live Ravens often follow wolf packs knowing that a meal is not too far away. In Southern Arizona they follow hawks in the winter or turkey vultures in the summer for the same reason.

They also seem to know exactly where all the picnic areas are in the Northern Hemisphere and usually like to be included in the gathering.

Ravens have one of the longer lifespans of birds at 21 years.

In today's photo the Raven is sitting on a patch of snow.


Monday, December 30, 2013

The Queen Butterfly

We have made it to the "Q's" in my series on "5" Star Photos. 

Today, the Queen Butterfly which is found in the tropics and temperate regions of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. It likes meadows, fields, marshes, forests, and deserts. This photo was taken in our backyard:

Queen Butterfly

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pyrrhuloxia: The Gray Cardinal

Yesterday, it was the female pyrrhuloxia, today the male. This photo was taken in one of our Palo Verde trees:


Friday, December 27, 2013

The Early Bird Catches the Pyrrhuloxia

Back to my series on "5" Star Photos. Today's photo was taken early one morning here at The Azure Gate. It is a female Pyrrhuloxia, also called the Gray Cardinal, that found a worm in one of our mesquite trees.

I love the "expression" on her face  -- it's "This is my breakfast ... you go get your own."


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen!
"On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!

Santa's Reindeer

Monday, December 23, 2013

Where are Santa's Reindeer?

It's the day before Santa's Big Travel Day. So, he has to round up his drivers. But where are they? Well, here are Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer:


Friday, December 20, 2013

The Last of the Pronghorn

One last "5" Star Pronghorn Photo again from the National Bison Range in Western Montana. This time the snow stopped falling just long enough to capture a small herd of males. It's always a special treat to be able to get this close to Pronghorn.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pronghorn in Western Montana

One of My Favorites. The drive up to Yellowstone National Park from Southern Arizona takes you through some incredible scenery and wildlife areas. US Highway 191 runs from Douglas, Arizona on the Mexican border to the Canadian Border. Some of the highlights include: Chiricahua National Monument, Cochise Stronghold, Coronado Scenic Trail Byway, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Grand Teton National Park,  Yellowstone National Park, and a dozen National Wildlife Refuges and Wildlife Conservation Areas. 

US 191 takes you through Western Wyoming and 100 miles of Pronghorn country. On one trip I came across a beautiful male Pronghorn very early in the morning. Pronghorn have huge eyes and can detect movement from 4 miles away. They escape predators by outrunning them. (Only the Cheetah is faster --- and not many of them live in the Western USA). 

However, this particular Pronghorn was kind enough to let me get close. I expected to see Pronghorn but certainly not this close. With the muted wildflowers in the background it created one of my favorite photos. Worth "5" Stars.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pronghorn: Is it a Photo or is it a Painting?

National Bison Range. Teddy Roosevelt set aside some of the first Wildlife Areas by Executive Order starting in 1903.  In 1908 he got Congress to agree to a National Wildlife Refuge System. The National Bison Range in Western Montana was established with the first Congressional appropriations. 

In addition to herds of Bison, the Range supports populations of Elk, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Pronghorn, and Bighorn Sheep as well as Coyotes, Mountain Lions, Bears, and Bobcats. The Refuge has recorded 211 bird species.

This is one of my favorite Refuges. I have been there at different times of the year: winter, summer, spring, and fall. And, much like Yellowstone, it never disappoints. 

On one winter trip I found a small band of Pronghorn. The snow and snowfall created a unique photo setting. 

This "5" Star Pronghorn Photo doesn't even look like a photo. It looks more like a painting. The snow was falling heavy enough to create what many have said to be reminiscent of  "Japanese Art." 

You can almost see the brush strokes of the grasses as if painted on a silk canvas. This photo of the four female Pronghorn hangs in my office with a bamboo color mat and brown and gold frame. Just lovely.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Pronghorn Walking Through Thistles

Continuing with my series of "5" Star Photos in general and Pronghorn in particular we come to an early favorite. I was exploring the National Bison Range National Wildlife Refuge for the first time; summer of 1997. I came across this small band of Pronghorn, mostly females and youngsters walking through the thistles. It's one of those photos that I thought would be good  -- but turned out even better.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pronghorn from Las Cienega - II

Here's another "5" Star Pronghorn Photo from Las Cienega in Southern Arizona. I like the fine detail and the wonderful grasses.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pronghorn from Las Cienega

Las Cienega Wilderness, Southern Arizona. Empire Ranch sits among the 25,000 acres of what is now Las Cienega Wilderness. Empire Ranch began in 1860 as a 160 acre ranch. Many Western Films were made on the ranch including: Red River, Oklahoma, 3:10 to Yuma, Hombre, and Winchester '73. John Wayne, Paul Newman, Jimmy Stewart, Steve McQueen, William Holden, James Garner, Shirley Jones, Maureen O'Hara, and Janet Leigh were among the many stars who were filmed there. 

The area today is a haven for wildlife: a wide variety of Birds, Pronghorn, Black Tailed Prairie Dogs, Javelinas, Jackrabbits, Bobcats, Coyotes, etc. I've spent many an hour birding or looking for Pronghorn. This year I came across a small herd of about 20 Pronghorn. Pronghorn are generally very difficult to get close to. They have enormous eyes which can detect movement from 4 miles away. Yet, this group allowed me some wonderful photos before running off. 


Friday, December 13, 2013

Eagle Creek Pronghorn - III

Here's the third "5" Star Pronghorn Photo from Eagle Creek, Arizona:

Pronghorn Fawn

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pronghorn Story

On one of my trips to eastern Arizona I took a diversion to Eagle Creek. The diversion was a 22 mile (one way) road to an area supposedly full of wildlife.

When I reached the site, there wasn't a drop of water in the creek ... not even a sparrow to photograph. Feeling as if the extra four hours was going to be a waste, I started back down the same old dusty road but this time I noticed a vast field (maybe 500 acres) of grass which could be good Pronghorn terrain. 

Low and behold, I looked out the window and about 200 yards away I saw something other than grass. I stopped, looked through my binoculars and saw a male Pronghorn lying down with just head and antlers showing. I started walking toward the Pronghorn taking photos every 30 steps or so, thinking, "Well, this probably is  the last photo" -- but no, the Pronghorn didn't move. When I was 30 yards away I saw a Fawn lying down behind the Buck.

Now I was really excited, and started taking photos of the little guy too. Dad and Baby were only about 10 yards away now. Dad suddenly got up and started walking away (more photos), but the Fawn just lay there. Dad, who was now about 50 yards away, made a sound; a low deep sound. The Fawn stood up but instead of walking toward Dad, walked toward me -- to within 15 feet. 

Had this Fawn ever seen a human being?  (Typical curious kid I guess). When Dad made another call, the Fawn turned, looked at Dad, and started running away as did Dad. I said "thank you very much" to each of them and walked the 200 yards back to the Jeep.

I got in my Jeep, turned on the engine, put the transmission in drive, looked out the window and noticed that the young  Pronghorn had followed me all the way back, and was now only 10 yards from the car. I put the transmission back into park, turned the engine off, got out of the Jeep again, and took many more photos. 

Soon the Buck came back as well, although a bit further away. He made another sound, crossed the road after which the Fawn followed. Soon they were far away again.

 I re-lived the amazing 90 minute experience while driving the five hour trip home. I was  so lost in the memory, the trip went by in a blink.

Was I the first human the fawn saw?

Here's the male running:


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pronghorn in Arizona

For the next few days, it will be "5" Star Pronghorn Photos. This one taken in the Eagle Creek wilderness in eastern Arizona. Nice buck walking among the grasses:


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Prickly Poppy

Most of the year this 'weed" looks dead or dying or otherwise nondescript. However, when it blooms it can produce a "5" Star Photo:

Prickly Poppy

Monday, December 9, 2013

Prickly Pear Cactus Flower: The Best for Last

The last -- and my favorite -- of the "5" Star Prickly Pear photos. I especially like this photo because of the rich dark burgundy and black background that offsets the yellow flower. The burgundy inside the flower matches the background for added beauty. I took this photo at Saguaro National Park.

Prickly Pear Cactus Flower

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers

Back to my alphabetical series on my "5" Star Photos. I left off with Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers. How about this bouquet?

Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sweetwater Wetlands

Continuing my little trip around some of Tucson's birding spots I checked out Sweetwater Wetlands. Again nothing unusual, however I came back with some nice photos anyway:

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Gilded Flicker

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fort Lowell Park

Next up and my rounds about Tucson was Fort Lowell Park. Again nothing rare, but as often is the case there is a photo to be found. This time a Black Phoebe. It reminds me of another photo I took at Fort Lowell Park of a Vermillion Flycatcher sitting atop a "NO SWIMMING" sign.  They make for fun photos:

Black Phoebe

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lakeside Park, Tucson

I had a chance to check out some of Tucson's parks yesterday. And, although nothing out of the ordinary, sometimes the ordinary becomes extraordinary. These first two photos from Lakeside Park and good examples:

Vermillion Flycatcher

Hutton's Vireo

Tomorrow: Sweetwater Wetlands.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Prickly Pear Cactus Blooming

Prickly Pear Cactus is everywhere in Southern Arizona. It grows like a weed. If a pad breaks off, it will grow roots and become a new plant.  But it is also susceptible to drought. And, it is also the home of ground squirrels and other burrowing animals. While the cactus serves to protect the animal the burrowing leaves the roots exposed which eventually kills the cactus. Between the current drought and the burrowing there is quite a lot of dead cactus everywhere as well. 

Yet, starting in late March and into May, the Sonoran Desert becomes alive with Prickly Pear Cactus flowers. On any given cactus there will be 20-40 cactus "pads." On each cactus pad there will be 2 to 8 flowers. 

Here is the first of several "5" Star Prickly Pear Cactus photos. I especially like the composition of this one with the cactus off center allowing for the contrast with the grasses and wildflowers.

Prickly Pear Cactus Blooming

Monday, December 2, 2013

Praying Mantis

Not exactly a Bobcat, but this Praying Mantis was just outside my office and set up perfectly for a photo. He even looks like he's "praying" for me to take one:

Praying Mantis

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Postman Heliconian

As I have mentioned before, butterflies can make for exceptional photos. Often very colorful themselves, butterflies are usually found around flowers. Here's a Postman Heliconian  as evidence:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Uncommon Common Porcupine

On to the Porcupine. Actually, it is called the "Common Porcupine," which to me is a misnomer. Common to me suggests "easily found and seen." Hardly! In all my travels and time in the wilderness both fly fishing and photographing, I have come across maybe five porcupines in total. 

I am happy that at least one of those times I got a decent photo. This Porcupine was sitting in a tree near Dry Falls Lake in Washington where I was fly fishing. The green background let the animal stand out clearly creating a "5" Star Photo. (Although, the photo quality has deteriorated significantly since 1988):


Friday, November 29, 2013

Plain Capped Starthroat

Next up on my alphabetical series of "5" Star Photos we come to the Plain Capped Starthroat. This large hummingbird is a rare visitor to the United States. You usually have to watch the Arizona bird reports and head out to a specific location if and when it has been sighted. The Starthroat has been reported in Montosa Canyon, Ash Canyon, Miller Canyon, and Patagonia over the past five years. In 2012 there were no US sightings.

At five inches it dwarfs the more common hummers. (Only the Blue Throated and Magnificent are larger: five and a quarter inches). The Starthroat has the longest bill of any hummer and a very distinctive large white stripe down its back. White "lightning bolts" on its head and a purple "lightning" bolt on its throat also make it easy to identify.

Plain Capped Starthroat

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pipevine Swallowtail

A frequent find in the Southwest is the Pipevine Swallowtail, a very colorful butterfly that contrasts nicely with Arizona's thistles:

Pipevine Swallowtail

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pied Billed Grebe

Sometimes a "5" Star Photo isn't dramatic, isn't necessarily rare, isn't dangerous, isn't ...... But, what it is is "sweet." Here's a perfect example, a Pied Billed Grebe with nice background and reflection:

Pied Billed Grebe

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Fastest Creature on Earth: Peregrine Falcon

The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal or bird on earth, reaching speeds of up to 242 miles per hour. He eats mostly medium sized birds -- ducks are a favorite prey. The Peregrine is found all over the world, although not abundant in any region. Its breeding range is also wide as it breeds anywhere from the Arctic Tundra to the Tropics. Females are much larger than males.

To watch a Peregrine fly after a duck is an exhilarating experience -- one impossible to photograph since they are so fast.

I like this particular photo because of its detail and clarity:

Peregrine Falcon

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Osprey with Rainbow Trout

Back in the early 90's I was fly fishing Lake Chopaka in North Central Washington (near the Canadian Border). I wasn't having much luck but it sure was beautiful. At one point, about 20 feet away I saw an Osprey sitting on a rock at the water's edge. He had 20 inch Rainbow Trout clutched in his talons. He allowed me to stop fishing, get out my camera, and taking several photos. After taking the photos I moved on and left him there to eat. The photo below I thought worthy of a "5" Star rating:

Osprey with 20 inch Rainbow Trout

Friday, November 22, 2013

Osprey with Chicks

Before, during, and after fishing in the Northwest US and Canada, I would frequently see Osprey. They are highly specialized birds of prey found on every continent except Antarctica. However, it does need water that contains fish. So while I often saw them when living and traveling throughout the Northwest, here in Arizona its another story. An Osprey sighting in Southern Arizona gets mentioned in birding news.

The Osprey's diet is almost exclusively fish. It has very large eyes and can see through water to detect its prey. It has the ability to close its nostrils to prevent water from getting in during a dive.

Here is a "5" Star Osprey Photo taken in British Columbia back in the late 1990's.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Orange Sulphur

Sometimes a "5" Star Photo is based on simplicity and warm colors. Such is the case today with this Orange Sulphur. The coloration is peaceful and soothing:

Orange Sulphur

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Northern Shoveler II

Here's another Northern Shoveler photo I like. Partly it's the dark secretive background with the female whose plumage is mostly shades of gray;  partly it's the reflection; and partly it's the detail.

Northern Shoveler

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reflecting on the Northern Shoveler

Continuing with my series on "5" Star Photos we come to the Northern Shoveler. The Shoveler is found pretty much throughout the Northern Hemisphere, wintering in the southern parts of its range. It is a dabbling duck with a highly specialized bill allowing it to scoop up invertebrates from the bottom of shallow ponds and lakes. Often all you see is its tail sticking out of the water. Fortunately, there are about 4 million of them throughout the world so find one not eating is not so much of a problem.

I like this particular photo because of the color and the reflection of the bird in the water.

Northern Shoveler

Monday, November 18, 2013

Another Wells Grey Mushroom

Here's another "5" Star Mushroom Photo taken at Wells Grey, British Columbia. What I like about this photo is that it looks like something from the movie Avatar  -- or Alice in Wonderland. Mushrooms usually grow in moist areas where they don't get direct sunlight. Probably why I don't find Mushrooms in Southern Arizona very often. The result is that usually Mushrooms are in dark places without much color around them. But in this photo there's green grass and the sun is "spot lighting" the Mushroom. And yes, I laid down in from of the mushroom using my elbows as a tripod to take this photo.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Photographing Wild Mushrooms

As a Wildlife Photographer, even when you put yourself in the place with the most potential, you sometimes don't find what you came to see. You needn't go home empty though. If you look you'll often find a good photograph. I remember this Mushroom photo that I took in Wells Grey, British Columbia after a day of not finding a Bear, Wolf, or Moose. I laid down in front of the Mushroom using my elbows as a tripod thinking this might make a nice photo. Nice? It made a beautiful photo, worthy of "5" Stars:


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mule Deer Bucks

There are about 20 million Deer in the United States. And yet, only 5 percent of the time do you see an adult male with a full rack of antlers.

So today's photo was a nice change of pace. The photo was taken in Western Montana:

Mule Deer Bucks

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mule Deer at Mahleur NWR - II

Continuing with my alphabetical series of my "5" Star Photos, it's another Mule Deer -- and another Mule Deer photo taken at Mahleur National Wildlife Refuge. Though this time it is in early winter. He was eating the tips off of the leafless plants.

Mule Deer Buck

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mule Deer at Mahleur

Sometimes a more common animal gives you an uncommon photo. Here I was in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Central Oregon when I came across this Mule Deer with a bird sitting on its back:

Mule Deer

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mule Deer Buck in Snow

On the same trip -- and not too far -- from yesterday's Fence Jumping Mule Deer in south central Oregon, I photographed this Mule Deer Buck. It's a wonderful "Christmas Card" photo. And, "5" Stars.

Mule Deer Buck

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fence Jumping Mule Deer

One winter on my way to Hart Mountain (to see wintering Pronghorn) I came across a herd of Mule Deer grazing along the right side of the road.

Further to the right was a very large open field. On the left side of the road there was a fence. On the other side of the fence was safety:  brush, trees, and mountain.

Although the Deer could have run in either direction, I was sure they would cross the road, jump the fence, and run to cover. I rolled down my window, grabbed my camera, and started driving slowly toward the Deer. As they started to move I turned the Jeep to the right to get a better view. As I thought, the Deer crossed the road and hopped over the fence -- and I was camera ready.

Wildlife "action photos" are a little more challenging than sports photos -- not that sports photos are easy either. With wildlife -- as with sports -- the action often comes without warning and is quickly over. However, with wildlife, you often don't get a chance to position yourself for the best angle and frequently the action is away from you. I have countless photos of animal's "backsides." There only value being a reminder of what I saw. 

Mule Deer

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mule Deer Buck in Wildflowers

"Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you're only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find some of them."
Daryl Zero, The Zero Effect

On one trip to Yellowstone National Park specifically to look for Wolves -- and not having any luck -- I came across some Mule Deer eating among the wildflowers. It was a lovely experience which netted a "5" Star Photo.

As a Wildlife Photographer, sometimes looking for "anything at all" works, because surely you will find something.

Mule Deer in Wildflowers

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mule Deer Fawn in Wildflowers

There are about 20 million Deer in the United States. So, seeing one isn't quite the same as seeing a Marten or Mink. And, traveling in Yellowstone National Park where there are Wolves, Grizzlies, Black Bear, Moose, etc. stopping to photograph Deer is not usually a high priority. Yet, I couldn't resist stopping to photograph this Mule Deer Fawn among the Wildflowers. Sometimes "common" animals will give you an "uncommon" photo. 

Mule Deer Fawn

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mountain River Sunset

Continuing with my series on "5" Star Photos we come to a landscape. I am not a landscape photographer. My "thing" is wildlife. Yet, once in a while I see a landscape that begs me for a photograph. Such was the case as I traveled over the Continental Divide in British Columbia and saw what you see below. Sunsets disappear quickly so I only had a few moments to stop, get out my camera and tripod, set it all up, and take a photo. Luckily it turned out nice. (won an award for this).

River of Fire

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Columbia Icefields Mountain Goat

About 70 miles south of Jasper you come to the Columbia Icefields. The Icefields is a flat "straightaway"  that varies between 100 to 300 yards wide and runs for several miles. It gets an average of 275 inches of snowfall per year. There are eight major glaciers feeding the Icefields. There are eleven mountains all of about 12,000 feet lining both sides of the Icefields. 

The Icefield sits atop a "triple" Continental Divide. The Athabasca River, the North Saskatchewan River, and the tributaries of the Columbia River all originate in the Columbia Icefield. So, the Columbia River  eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean dividing Washington State from Oregon. The Athabasca River ultimately arrives in the Arctic Ocean and the Saskatchewan ultimately in the Hudson Bay and thus North Atlantic Ocean. This is the Canadian Rockies at its finest. 

The road that parallels the icefield at times is right next to the icefield and at times a 1000 feet above.

This is a favorite place of mine. I have seen Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, Caribou, Moose, and Coyotes among others along the Icefields.

Here is a close-up of a Mountain Goat nearly 1,000 feet above: