Thursday, January 31, 2013

Red Tailed Hawk Interrupts the Agenda

My series on "5" Star Photos will have to wait another day. Yesterday, I was able to get away in search of the reported Short Eared Owls and Rough Legged Hawks in San Rafael Valley (Arizona). So, off I went. Now, I didn't expect to see the owls because I couldn't get there until 11:00 am and had to leave by 2:00 pm. (The Owls are only active early morning and late afternoon). But, I had hopes for the Rough Legged Hawk. However, it wasn't to be. Yet, I love the area, and saw several male and female Harrier Hawks sailing low in search of food. And, there was a beautiful Red Tailed Hawk who posed nicely.

I'll probably go out again in search of the Short Eared and the Rough Legged, in the meantime I will be happy with these photos:

Red Tailed Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Calliope Hummingbird

The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in North America at 3 inches in length. It is thought to be the smallest migratory bird in the world with a range of British Columbia and Albert to Guatemala and Belize. They migrate through Arizona in the Spring and Summer to winter further south. The overall population is very small compared to other North American Hummingbirds. And since the Calliope does not travel in groups it is not seen as often as others with such a wide range. The male is quite striking with its "streaky" purple gorget. This photo was taken in Ash Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona.

Calliope Hummingbird - Male

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cairns Birdwing Mating

Yesterday I showed you a pair of Cairns Birdwings. Here they are again, but this time they are mating, female on top, male on bottom.

Cairns Birdwing

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cairns Birdwing

Today's "5" Star Photo is the Cairns Birdwing. It is the largest of the butterflies endemic to Australia. In the photo below the male is on the left and the female is on the right. I like the photo for its detail, its soft background, and because it contains both the male and female:

Cairns Birdwing

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Saucy Little Cactus Wren

Cactus Wrens have a personality all of their own. They are curious and mischievous. They always seem to like sitting on the arm of a wicker rocker outside the office. However, once I came over to my office and found one inside, walking around on the window sill.  I guess I left the door open a bit too long. They typically build their nest in Chain Fruit (or Jumping) Cholla. You can easily watch them for an hour as they build their nest. They eat insects, ants, beetles, grasshoppers etc. And, will occasionally eat fruit or nectar. 

Cactus Wren

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cactus Flowers - II

From the bud in yesterday's post to the flower today. This cactus is (was) about 8 feet tall. It had about 20 flowers. Unfortunately, a hard freeze two years ago killed all but one stalk. Several new stalks have begun at the base so I suspect it will once again look like this:

Cactus Flowers

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Budding Cactus Flower

We are into the "C's" in my list of "5" Star Photos and we come to some cactus blossoms. The first one, is still just a "bud." However, it is six inches long also. I like the fine detail and the wonderful soft muted background of light green below, light blue above, and then the pinkish hue in the middle.

Cactus Flower

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cabeza Prieta Sunset

Described by Edward Abbey as "the best desert wilderness left in the USA, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is 1049 square miles where human life would have a great deal of trouble existing. There are but two "roads". To call them roads is a bit misleading. They are more like wagon trails with long stretches of rock that test the stability of the internal human anatomy. The southernmost road is called "El Camino del Diablo" or "the Devil's Highway." Needless to say, a four wheel drive vehicle, elbow and knee pads are required. In order to get a permit to go on the refuge you must watch a 25 minute "hazard warning" video and sign a two-page "hold harmless agreement." In this video you are told to carry TWO! spare tires, shovels, and two gallons of water per person. Oh, did I say a four wheel drive vehicle is a must. Even with permit in hand, you still must call as you enter the refuge and call again once you leave. 

It was established as a NWR in 1939 to protect Desert Bighorn Sheep and the endangered Sonoran Pronghorn. With very little rain, there is almost no standing water anywhere except pockets in the mountains where water -- and the Bighorns collect. (Desert Bighorn Sheep can go three weeks without water -- which is probably necessary for their survival at Cabeza Prieta).  There are seven mountain ranges within the refuge. Most require long hikes just to arrive at base of the mountain. There is one exception, Charlie Bell Pass. This is a 17 mile wreck of a road that the ranger suggested was my best chance to see sheep. I might also see some of the endangered Sonoran Pronghorn on my way. It was the perfect time of day -- late afternoon. Three hours later, no pronghorn, no sheep. But, I did see a small herd of beautiful Feral Burros, mountain lion tracks, and an amazing sunset. Here is the sunset:

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bullocks Oriole

Next up on my alphabetical showing of "5" Star Photos is a Bullocks Oriole. The Bullocks is a very colorful bird that eats insects, berries, and nectar. It's range is the Western United States. It is often found near habitat edges including riparian, woodland, and scrub forests. They breed here in the Southwest, preferring cottonwoods, mesquites, and willows. What I like about this photo is "the stare." He's out in the open, I am at close range, and he's looking me straight in the eye. And, again, nice contrasting --  and muted background.

Bullocks Oriole

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Brown Pelican

The next on my list of "5" Star Photos is the Brown Pelican, an infrequent visitor to the Southwest. However, it always makes me laugh because it is the subject of the one limerick I have committed to memory:

A curious bird is the Pelican
His beak can hold more than his belly can
He can take in his beak enough food for a week
And I'm darned if I know how the hell he can

Add caption

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Unlike the Broad Billed Hummingbird whose range is restricted to Southern Arizona, the extreme Southwest Corner of New Mexico, and Northwestern Mexico, the Broad Tailed Hummingbird can be found in the inland parts of several western states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. And while it is not quite as colorful as the Broad Billed, it's buffy flanks, orange and white tail feathers, and rosy red gorget make it an attractive hummer. It like this photo because of the contrasting yellow/orange wildflowers upon which it is feeding.

Broad Tailed Hummingbird

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Broad Billed Hummingbird - III

The last of my "5" Star Broad Billed Hummingbird photos shows a completely different coloration. In this case the BBH is dark green with little, if any, hint of blue. Contrast this with the post from yesterday where the BBH looks entirely blue.  The coloring does not come from pigmentation in the feather structure, but instead from prism-like cells within the top layers of the feathers. When light hits these cells, it is split into wavelengths that reflect to the observer in varying degrees of intensity. That is essentially how it can look blue from one angle and green from another. 

Broad Billed Hummingbird

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Broad Billed Hummingbird - II

Another Broad Billed Hummingbird, this time eating nectar from wildflowers in Miller Canyon (Huachuca Mountains, Arizona). Hummingbirds, especially males, are often very colorful. When you get a chance to photograph them with flowers it creates lots of colors. Muting the background makes both the hummingbird and flower stand out.

Broad Billed Hummingbird

Monday, January 14, 2013

Broad Billed Hummingbird

Today's "5" Star Photo is a male Broad Billed Hummingbird photographed here at The Azure Gate B&B in Tucson, AZ. Nice color, nice detail, nice close-up.

Broad Billed Hummingbird

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bridled Titmouse

First a welcome to new viewers from: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Ireland, Nigeria, and Puerto Rico. Thank you for visiting our website. 

Just to recap, I am showing my "5" Star Photos, in alphabetical order, and have just finished with bobcats.

So what's next after nine Bobcats? Bridled Titmouse. No, not quite the same excitement as a Bobcat, but nonetheless, warranting a show. Why a "5?" First, very nice detail. Second, the offsetting green from the fir tree on the right to the black "abyss" on the left. I think it makes this little, fairly common, bird stand out.

Bridled Titmouse in Madera Canyon, Arizona

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bobcat - IX

Last, but not least of my "5" Star Bobcat photos is this one of a Bobcat who was resting in a Mesquite Tree until he spotted some food. Then down he came.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Bobcat - VIII

There are two kinds of Wildlife Photographers: 1) those that try to capture wildlife doing what they do when humans aren't around; and 2) those that try to capture the moment of a wild animal looking directly at you.  As you may have guessed by now, I am the latter. I like to have a photo where the animal is looking at the viewer, just as he did me when I was in the wilderness with it.

The Bobcats wander through our property looking for a tasty Desert Cottontail rarely seem concerned enough about me ... to look at me. Case in point: Today's "5" Star Photo is a Bobcat that never looked at me. I know he knew I was there. He just didn't care. He was totally focused, sneaking  through the prickly pear cactus getting ready to pounce on a rabbit.  


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bobcat - VII

Today's "5" Star Bobcat comes with a wonderful story. I was hiking around Sweetwater Wetlands here in Tucson. I was a couple of steps ahead of my daughter when she called my name quietly. I turned to look at her and she had covered her gaping mouth with one hand and pointed to a bush with the other hand. Yep, I walked right past a Bobcat. Standing did not give me a good angle so I sat down in front of the Bobcat. Still wasn't a great angle, so I laid down on my stomach using my elbows as a tripod. Problem? Yep, I was now too close for the lens I had. I was five feet away, nose to nose. So, I turned over on my back and put on another lens. Then rolled back on my stomach and took a whole roll of film. Rolled back again and put in a new roll of film. Rolled back on my stomach and took another whole roll of film. Same thing for a third time, except after a couple of photos the Bobcat got up, looked at me, and I'd swear said, "Don't you have enough photos by now?" Then he walked off. It was eleven years ago and still one of my favorite experiences -- and photos.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Back to Bobcats - VI

Back to my "5" Star Photos, and continuing with Bobcats. 

It's always exciting to see a Bobcat. But they seem to have their own agenda. And they are seldom deterred from that agenda.  So, if one is on a "mission" it might not be possible to get a good photo. Often they will walk totally focused on what is in front of them without looking back. I know they know I am following them, but they just don't seem interested. Occasionally, one will stop and look or turn and a quick photo is possible. Such is the case today. This Bobcat walked by my office, stopping to get a drink from the "bird bath". By the time I got my camera and went out the front door all I could see was his backside. But then suddenly he stopped again, looked to the right, and "snap" I got my photo. A very nice adult male Bobcat. Then he was gone.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Canyon Lake: Desert Bighorn Sheep

Pardon the interruption. I'll get back to my "5" Star Photos tomorrow. Saturday I had the opportunity to play "tourist." Christine and I met our daughter and her family at Canyon Lake which is near Tortilla Flat along the Apache Trail 60 miles east of Phoenix. The agenda:  a picnic and Steamboat Ride on the Lake. The "Dolly Steamboat" took us up into the canyon where we not only had some wonderful scenery, but got to see some Desert Bighorn Sheep grazing along the canyon walls.  So, I thought I'd share a few of those Bighorn Sheep photos. The black streaks in the last two photos are marks from years of "waterfalls" during the monsoon season.

Finding Bighorn Sheep is sometimes challenging even when they are in the area you are looking. First, they could be far away. Binoculars or a spotting scope may even be necessary.  Second, they "blend." Mother nature has provided them with a camouflage coat making it difficult to spot them. Often the best way is to look for the "white rump." In the above photo there is a Bighorn. You'll have to look closely to find it.

Here is a closeup using a 400mm lens of the same shot as above. You can now see the Bighorn more easily. He's looking down at us.

A little later two Bighorns were grazing on the vegetation. I took 15 or so photos -- most of which the Bighorns had their head turned or pointing down as they were eating, so it took a while to get the one I wanted. And here it is (above).

On the return, we spotted six Bighorns. Love the little guy on the left going into the cave. This photo also gives you a good idea of the setting. It's a sheer cliff. The many caves provide shelter.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bobcat - V

Continuing with the alphabetical presentation of my "5" Star Photos is another Bobcat. We have walls like this one around our property. The walls are about six feet high.  We also have a large number of Desert Cottontails and other enticing prey for the Bobcat. So, periodically we will see one of the Bobcats perched on the wall waiting to pounce on an un-expecting animal.  On this occasion the Bobcat obviously saw me  -- photo --  after which he jumped down and walked off.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bobcat - IV

We see the larger wild animals (Bobcats, Coyotes, Javelinas) more in the fall/winter/spring timeframe. But, it is not unusual to see one in the summer. Here is a young Bobcat trying to get some shade from our Blue Agave's and some Aloes. It was June and the temperature was about 104 degrees F. I was able to get several photos, but this is the one I like the best, hence the "5" Star rating:

Young Bobcat

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bobcat - III

Continuing with my "5" Star Photos in general and the Bobcat in particular. 

We have some wonderful guests who having been staying with us for a month every year since we opened in 2002. Just prior to breakfast one morning, I was explaining about the Bobcat asleep in the flower bed at our Catalina Guest House when this guest mentioned that she had never since a Bobcat in all the time they had been here. So, I took her over to where the Bobcat had been sleeping. Just as we were arriving the Bobcat jumped over the wall from the courtyard and started walking in front of us. Here is one of the photos I took. Our guest was, to say the least, thrilled!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bobcat - II

The Sonoran Desert is full of surprises. One morning I was out walking our property, and passed by one of our guest houses and found a Bobcat asleep in the flower "bed" of the courtyard.  The courtyard wall is about 5 feet talk, which obviously was not much of an obstacle for him. He seemed perfectly content to let me take several photos. Here's a close-up that I rated "5" Stars.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013


First, a Big Happy New Year to everyone. I hope this year provides many joyous opportunities of seeing wildlife.

Second, a Big Thank You to new visitors from: Tanzania, Ecuador, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Belize, Bangladesh, Jersey, Honduras, Venezuela, Lebanon, and Ethiopia.  That brings the total to 80 different countries around the world. It's truly a world wide web, and connects all of us at least in terms of one common interest: wildlife.

I've been lucky to see Bobcats in many places. In Southern Arizona, I have seen them in the Galiuro Mountains, Whitewater Draw, Sweetwater Wetlands, and our back yard.  Of course, our back yard is 5 acres of sonoran desert with probably 25-50 Desert Cottontails among other enticing food for Bobcats so it's not a big surprise. Yet, every time I see one I get excited.

I have several "5" Star Photos that I'll be showing over the next few days. The first is a favorite. It is a mother Bobcat with one of her two kittens up on our roof. The second kitten is hiding behind the air conditioner on the left. 

Bobcat with Kitten