Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whitewater Draw Waterbirds

Another quick yesterday trip to Waterwater Draw looking for the American Bittern. Not only success in finding the Bittern but lots of great photos. Here are some:

Northern Pintail

American Bittern

Greater Yellowlegs

Northern Shoveler

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Green Winged Teal

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coatimundi - IV

One more "5" Star Coatimundi photo today. This one was a young Coati, (mother was still around with two other youngsters). But this one was very curious. Maybe I was the first human he had ever seen and didn't know what I was. Very "sweet" looking. I was able to get several photos of him while all the others ran away. The event happen in the Galiuro Mountains of Southeastern Arizona.

White Nosed Coati

Monday, February 25, 2013

Coatimundi III

Here is another case where a Coati came to me. I was sitting at Cave Creek Ranch in the Chiricahua Mountains photographing birds when this Coati came wandering through. As you can see he looked at me, let me take quite a few photos, and then climbed a nearby tree and started eating from the bird feeder. Love the detail and the expression on his face.

White Nosed Coati

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Coatimundi II

Back to my "5" Star Photos and the Coatimundi (White Nosed Coati). In some cases you search and search and can't seem to find what you are looking for. And, in other cases  ... they come to you. Such is the case with today's photo. I had been searching for a couple of hours for Coatis in the Galiuro Mountains of Southeastern Arizona. I got to an area where I had seen them before but none were around (that I knew of). So, I decided it was time for lunch and sat down on a fallen tree. About half way through my lunch I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and this is exactly what I saw:

White Nosed Coati

I had my camera next to me so just picked it up and turn around while still sitting on the tree trunk. After about 10 seconds of starring at each other he ran off. It was a wonderful 10 seconds.  And, produce a wonderful photo.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Snow in Tucson? Hummingbirds still find food

A departure today from my "5" Star Photo series to bring you yesterday's events. We have lived in Tucson, Southern Arizona for 11 years and for the second time, it snowed. Many birds winter in Southern Arizona because it is a much milder winter climate. Not always the case though. A month ago we had record freezes at 19 degrees. And two nights ago snow. Yet, birds seem to find food. Now we do keep our hummingbird feeders full throughout the winter, but there is usually a more natural food source available. Just gives us some sun and all the Rosemary bushes start to flower. So, yesterday morning I noticed an Anna's Hummingbird drinking from our rosemary's flowers. I grabbed my camera and here she is:

Female Anna's Hummingbird on Snow Covered Rosemary

Thursday, February 21, 2013


We come to one of my favorite animals to photograph -- the Coatimundi or White-Nosed Coati. This is a wonderful, curious animal slightly larger than its cousin, the raccoon. Males can weigh up to 27 pounds and 44 inches in length (24 inches of that the tail). The Coati inhabits wooded areas in both dry and wet climates. In Arizona they tend to like riparian areas with access to water. Their range is from Southeast Arizona and Southwest New Mexico, throughout Mexico and Central America to Northwestern Columbia. They are omnivores, preferring small vertebrates, fruits, carrion, insects, and eggs. They can climb trees easily, where the tail is used for balance. I have seen them move from tree top to tree top just like squirrels.  They are most often on the ground foraging. Their predators include boas, raptors bobcats, mountain lions, and jaguars. They readily adapt to human presence; like raccoons, they will raid campsites and trash receptacles (More so in Mexico and Central America). While the raccoon and ringtail are nocturnal, coatis are active day or night. They will sleep  in caves,  high in trees or hallowed out tree trunks that have fallen.  Adult males are solitary, but females and sexually immature males form social groups. Several times I have seen groups of 15-20 of them, although reports of 40 or more exist. They are quite intelligent and can be domesticated easily. This photo was taken in the Galiuro Mountains of Southeasstern Arizona.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Butterflies: the Sulphurs

What makes a "5" Star Wildlife Photo? 

Combination of factors really: 1) the rarity of the subject; 2) what the subject is doing; 3) colors; 4) composition; 5) background and foreground; 6) focus; and 7) detail. Yet, inside each of those categories there can be differences that please the eye. In some cases you might want the entire photo in focus, in others, just the subject with the background out of focus (like today's photo). And, while the butterflies in this particular photo aren't "rare" the offsetting colors (yellow and magenta) with the dark background are a big plus.

Cloudless and Dogface Sulphurs on a New Mexico Thistle

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Clark's Nutcracker

Continuing alphabetically with my "5" Star Photos is Clark's Nutcracker. This is one of my older photos, taken 22 years ago in Olympic National Park, Washington. It's the only photo I have of this bird, named after the explorer William Clark. It is found in the pine forest mountains of Western North America at altitudes between 3,000 and 12,000 feet. It's main food source are pine seeds. Interestingly, they will store seeds for later consumption. It is estimated that they store up to 100,000 seeds per season. They will also eat insects, berries, and other small fruit.

Clark's Nutcracker

Monday, February 18, 2013

Citrus Butterfly

Today's 's "5" Star Photo comes from the Asian and South Pacific. However, it has now spread throughout most of the tropical climates of the world.  It is a Citrus Butterfly, aptly named because it prefers cultivated lime and other citrus trees. Although beautiful, it is considered a "pest" and an invasive species. It's aggressive nature,  strong flight, and continual development of agriculture in the tropics has lead to its expansion.  It is one of the few Swallowtail butterflies that doesn't have a prominent tail. 

Citrus Butterfly

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Something Different

My photography's "focus" has been primarily mammals and birds. But, occasionally I come across something else that catches my eye. Today's "5" Star Photo is one of those occasions. I was hiking in Cibola National Wildlife Refuge which is on the Arizona side of the Colorado River.  (Interestingly, you cannot get to Cibola from Arizona, you must drive into California to get there).  Although 25,000 acres, vehicle access is limited to a four mile auto tour. The rest of the refuge is only accessible by boat.  This is to protect the waterfowl that migrate through the area. Cibola protects 85% of all the geese that winter in Arizona. There is a short trail off the auto route. It is on this trail that I came across what I though was a beautiful photo op:

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cattle Egret - III

The Cattle Egret is one of the family of Herons and Egrets that changes its plumage when breeding. In this case the normally all white Cattle Egret get orange patches on the back of their head, mid back, and breast; their legs turn pink when breeding as well. It is a strikingly beautiful bird during breeding season (March through July). This photo was taken at Lake Cochise in Southeast Arizona May 11th, 2008.

Cattle Egret

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cattle Egret - II

Continuing with my "5" Star Photos and the Cattle Egret. Sometimes a bird or an animal will let you get very close in order to take a photo. Such is the case with this Cattle Egret taken near Fig Lagoon in about 30 miles west of Yuma, Arizona. 

Cattle Egret

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"5" Star Photos: Cattle Egret

Back to the series on my "5" Star Photos. The Cattle Egret is a wading bird that actually seldom "wades." It is typically found in small flocks on upland habitats where it feeds primarily on insects. Today's photo was taken in the southeast corner of California on a farm where insects are always plentiful. There were about 30 in the flock. 

The interesting thing about the Cattle Egret is it expansion over the past century into North America from Spain and Africa. It is commonly found among cattle (hence its name) so it has been expanding to areas wherever cattle are raised --- which is pretty much everywhere now.

Cattle Egret

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Last from Whitewater Draw

Two more photos today from Whitewater Draw; an occasional winter resident, the Long Billed Dowitcher; and a pleasant surprise a Vesper Sparrow.

Long Billed Dowitcher

Vesper Sparrow

Monday, February 11, 2013

Raptors from Whitewater Draw

Last, but certainly not least, Whitewater Draw usually "draws" raptors. Today, some raptor photos I took last week there:

American Kestral

Red Tailed Hawk

Another American Kestral

Dark Phased Red Tailed Hawk

Sunday, February 10, 2013

More from Whitewater Draw

Continuing the activity at Whitewater Draw in Southeast Arizona, we come to the Snow Geese. As I said the main attraction is 30-40 thousand Sandhill Cranes, some of which you can see in the second photo. But also there are several hundred Snow Geese (maybe some Ross' Geese as well). Here are a coupe of photos of the geese on the move:

Snow Geese

Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Whitewater Draw Ducks

Having lived in the Northwest (Seattle) for 18 years before moving to Tucson, ducks were almost like pigeons in New York City's Central Park. And just about every species including the seagoing ones. Arizona  --- a different story. Usually Mallards, Northern Shovelers, and Coots can be found year round in Southern Arizona. However, winter brings many of other duck species. So it is NOW a treat to go out looking for them during those winter days ---- even though I saw them daily in the Northwest. Whitewater Draw is a good pace to start. And, while the main attraction there are the thousands of Sandhill Cranes, don't overlook the beautiful Northern Pintail, Gadwall, or Green Winged Teal that can be found. 

Green Winged Teal

Northern Shoveler

Northern Pintail


Friday, February 8, 2013

Whitewater Draw and 30 Thousand Sandhill Cranes

I had a chance to get over to Whitewater Draw in Southeast Arizona yesterday to see what the winter had brought. Typically this time of year the main attraction is Sandhill Cranes. No exception yesterday. I would guess somewhere between 30 and 40 thousand Sandhill Cranes. There were several hundred Snow Geese and a variety of Ducks and Shorebirds. I'll share those in the next couple of days. But Today, it's the Cranes. Sometimes the Cranes are further away and "close-ups" aren't possible. Yesterday, there were so many, some had to be close.

The scene as I first arrived. (This is a small segment of the area).

Getting a little closer.

The Sandhill Cranes are always squawking.

And they occasionally move from one area to another.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Before we get to today's "5" Star Photo, I'd like to welcome new visitors to our Blog. They are: Bahrain, Guyana, Kuwait, and Turks & Caicos Islands. That brings the total number of countries (that I know of) to 88. I "love" that the "love" of wildlife is common regardless of differences in political views, religious views, ethnic, and nationality.

Several years ago while in Jasper National Park looking for Caribou I drove up to Medicine and Maligne Lakes where I had seen them before. When I got to the frozen, snow covered Medicine Lake I saw seven caribou out in the middle  ---  maybe 300 yards away. So, I stopped the truck, got out, grabbed  my camera and tripod, and slid down the embankment (not intentionally) and on to the lake. I was still much to far away for a photograph. So, I walked out on the lake a hundred and fifty yards or so, thinking that was a safe distance. I set up my tripod and started taking photos. Soon the caribou started running parallel to me. But, then, all of a sudden, the bull turns (as do the others) and starts running straight towards me. I realized that I am not going to out run the caribou, especially in the snow, so I remain "calm" and motionless. And once they got 50 yards from me they stopped. I took a few more photos, said thank you to them, turned, and trudged back through the snow and up the embankment. By the time I reached the truck I was dripping with sweat. You see the temperature had risen to minus 7 degrees. Here are two of those photos:



Sunday, February 3, 2013


Continuing with my "5" Star Photos is a (Northern) Cardinal. Although it is primarily found in the eastern half of the US it is a regular visitor to the southern half of Arizona.  Although not abundant, it is often seen here at The Azure Gate. It has a very distinctive call consisting of 4 to 6 high sharp "whistles". He loves sitting atop our tallest mesquite tree singing to the world.

I like this photo for the contrasting red on light blue. 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Canada Goose

Next up on my series of "5" Star Photos is the Canada Goose. Now in Southern Arizona, sightings of Canada Geese are treated as rare and something special. But, after 18 years in the Northwest, Canada Geese are like Mourning Doves or Gambels Quail in Tucson. This was one of my first photo trips to British Columbia. Actually, I may have still be more of a fly fisherman than photographer at the time. At any rate, it was over 20 years ago. And, as I past Campbell Lake on my way to Hosli Lake I saw this "V" Shaped string of Canada Geese moving through the weed beds of this shallow lake. Since I was still "searching" for anything to photograph (with my new camera) I decided why them them. I am glad I did. 

Canada Goose

Friday, February 1, 2013

Calliope Hummingbird - Female

Back to the series on my "5" Star Photos. Here is a female Calliope Hummingbird. Again, the smallest bird in North America. It is also unusual in that it has a very short tail -- another identifying characteristic. When the wings are folded back they extend beyond the tail. I like this photo because it has some color from the wildflowers and a muted background which lets the hummer stand out.

Calliope Hummingbird - Female