Friday, May 31, 2013

Danaid Eggfly

Continuing, with my series on "5" Star Photos we come to the Danaid Eggfly which can be found in tropical areas of Africa, Asia, and Australia. This photo was taken at the Tucson Botanical Garden's Butterfly Garden. (You'll note that it is out of my alphabetical sequence. That is because I had originally mis-identified it as a Friar).

Danaid Eggfly

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly

I have a few dragonflies that I call "5" Star Photos. The first is the Flame Skimmer. This photo was taken at Beaver Creek in Central Arizona halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff.

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Carr, Ash, and Miller Canyons

We had no guests to serve breakfast on Tuesday, so I got up at 4:00 am and off I went. I started at Carr Canyon, then Ash Canyon, then Miller Canyon -- all in the southeast end of the Huachuca Mountains here in Southern Arizona.

Birding has become more challenging since I have gone deaf. I have to pretty much see a bird fly in order to find them. Unfortunately, usually if flying it is away. Nonetheless, I did have some fun. In Carr Canyon I found a Scotts Oriole, Western Tanager, Ash Throated Flycatcher, and Magnificent Hummingbird, getting "okay" photos only of the Tanager. The Oriole was against the sky high up in a tree and turned out just a silhouette. Same with the Magnificent.  The Flycatcher was just too far away to get a good photo. I did get a nice photo of a White Tailed Deer with her fawn, however.

Next stop was Ash Canyon. Still not many hummers there. But I was treated to a Varied Bunting and got my first good photo:

Varied Bunting
Then on to Miller Canyon. I'd guess about 100 hummers visiting the feeders at the moment. Included was the White Eared Hummingbird which is rare to the US. I only got him at one of the feeders:

White Eared Hummingbird

I also hiked up Miller Canyon in hopes of finding the Northern Pigmy Owl. Evidently I was about 15 minutes too late as he moved much further up the canyon. I made a quick stop to look for the Spotted Owl, but was not successful there either.

All in all still a wonderful day in the wild.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ferruginous Hawk

Continuing with the alphabetical series of my "5" Star Photos we come to the Ferruginous Hawk. The Ferruginous Hawk is a winter resident here in Southern Arizona. It is mostly found in the interior Southwestern States although a sometimes summer visitor to Wyoming and Montana. It is the largest of the Buteos with a wingspan of 56 inches and weight of 3.5 pounds. The farmlands around Sulphur Springs (Southeastern Arizona) provide a multitude of rodents -- a favorite prey -- which is where I took this photo.

Ferruginous Hawk

Friday, May 24, 2013

Wild Burros to Wild Horses

Horses are the perfect example of the difference between a wild animal and a domesticated animal. As you walk or drive by (or through) a ranch or farm where there are horses, the horses will pay little or no attention to you. And, if they move at all they will move toward you in hopes of food. Not so with Wild  (Feral) Horses. Wild Horses will run away as quickly as possible. This is so with dogs for example. A domestic dog will run at you, a wild dog (wolf, coyote, fox) will run away from you.

My first encounter with Feral Horses was nearly 50 years ago on Assateague Island in Maryland in 1964 before it became a National Landmark. Christine and I took a small "people only" ferry (that ran twice a day) over to the Island. We were the only ones on the island as I recall. As we walked toward the opposite shoreline we saw a heard of Feral Horses. As they saw us they started running away. It was one of those incredible ... Hollywood Movie type .... sights. I can't speak for the way it is today, but my experiences with Feral Horses in other locations in the US and Canada are similar.

In South Central Oregon (Hart Mountain) I came across six Feral Horses at a distance of a quarter mile. Even then, when they saw me they took off running away. It was wide open land so I got to see those Horses run full speed for at least a mile until they were out of sight.

In Northwestern Alberta I was driving a 100 mile dirt road and came across four Feral Horses in a wooded area. Again, as soon as they saw me they disappeared into the woods. Here's the only photo I got (before they disappeared):

Feral Horses
About two hours after that incident I came across two Feral Horses fighting. These were the days before digital so I only managed a few photos. But, one of those photos I thought good enough to rate "5" Stars:

Feral Horses
I had a similar experience of a Feral Horse running away at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona.

It certainly is different than seeing a domestic horse.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Last of the Feral Burros

The last of my "5" Star Feral Burro photos is a mother and colt taken at Imperial National Wildlife Refuge. I have to repeat myself, these really are beautiful wild animals. I is so exciting to see them in the wild  --- and to develop a momentary relationship with them.

Feral Burro

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Feral Burro Terrain

Here is an example of a "5" Star Photo that shows the kind of topography Feral Burros often live in: rugged barren mountainous desert. They can survive on little water and little in the way of vegetation  -- yet, they look healthy.

Feral Burro

Monday, May 20, 2013

Feral Burro Family

Continuing with my "5" Star Photos in general and Feral Burros in particular, we come to one of my favorite photos. This little colt looked like a stuffed toy from FAO Schwartz in NYC. And, since I am a sucker for stuffed animals the photo is endearing to me.

Feral Burros at Imperial National Wildlife Refuge

Sunday, May 19, 2013

More Feral Burros from the Trigos

Here is another "5" Star Photo of Feral Burros from the Trigo Mountains. I love how the Burros are walking together with three looking straight ahead and the front one with his head turned to look at me.

Feral Burros

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Feral Burros in the Trigo Mountains

From Cabeza Prieta we move to the Trigo Mountains. The Trigo Mountains are north of Imperial National Wildlife Refuge along the Colorado River separating Arizona from California. (on the Arizona side). This is where I go to find Burros and Desert Bighorn Sheep. I love the terrain, and it is usually quite and peaceful. A 4x4 is absolutely required to get into the area. I am always thrilled when I come across these beautiful animals. Here's one of my "5" Star Photos from the Trigos:

Feral Burros

Friday, May 17, 2013

Feral Burro - The Desert Calls

Another "5" Star Feral Burro photo from Cabeza Prieta in Southeastern Arizona. I guess the saguaro in the background is the "give-away." It was just as the sun was setting so there is some sunset light shinning on the mountain behind the Burros.

Feral Burro

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Feral Burro -- II

It was dusk at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge which is adjacent to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southwestern Arizona. I have talked about Cabeza Prieta before. It is a wonderful -- if not, hostile environment. But it provided me several "5" Star Photos. This was my first group of Feral Burros I had ever seen. There were seven of them altogether. They were a little cautious, always keeping an eye on me. If I got too close (30 feet) they would "hee-haw". So, I tried to stay 31 feet away. This seems to be a favorite photo of others as well. 

Feral Burros at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feral -- Wild -- BurrosFeral

Continuing with my "5" Star Photos we come to the Feral Burro.  Burros have an interesting history here in the United States -- but, now sort of a sad one. Burros were brought to the US from the deserts of Africa in the early to mid 1800's to be used as "pack" animals. This was because they were strong and could withstand intense desert heat and little water. 

As explorers and miners died or moved on, their Burros were left behind. Over the generations Burros became wild -- acting like any other wild animal i.e. running away when they see humans. There are about 5,000 in the wild, mostly in Western Arizona, Southeastern California, and Nevada. 

Like Wolves and Coyotes, Burros don't get a fair treatment in Hollywood movies or cartoons and thus aren't seen by many as some of nature's most beautiful animals. I was literally stunned by their beauty the first time I saw them in the wild. Over the next few days I will show several of the "5" Star Burro photos I have taken. Most of the photos come from Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Imperial National Wildlife Refuge, and the Trigo Mountains (just north of Imperial).

Feral Burro at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Emperor Swallowtail

Back to the alphabetical series on my "5" Star Photos we come to the Emperor Swallowtail. The Emperor comes from sub-saharan Africa. He was present at the Tucson Botanical Garden Butterfly Exhibit which is a six month "show" of butterflies from around the world. This particular month it was butterflies from Africa. It is a photographers dream as you walk around in a greenhouse amongst  hundreds of butterflies and flowers -- albeit 95 degrees and 95% humidity. 

Emperor Swallowtail

Monday, May 13, 2013

Flowering Flora Fotos -- The End (for now)

We have a wide variety of "Greenhouse" Cactus as well as the typical cactus that grow naturally in the Sonoran Desert. Many of these are look like Barrel Cactus or Miniature Saguaros. They all produce amazing flowers. Here are some of them that are blooming right now -- or have bloomed in the past two weeks:

And, the real thing: Saguaro in Bloom

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Back to Flowering Flora Fotos and Cholla Cactus

So, on to Cholla Cactus Flowers. We have several different kinds of Cholla:  Jumping or Chain Fruit Cholla, Staghorn or Buckthorn Cholla, Pencil Cholla, and Teddy Bear Cholla. The Staghorn and Jumping Cholla are now blooming:

Jumping Cholla

Staghorn Cholla

Staghorn Cholla Close-Up

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Photographer Birder

We have some wonderful guests staying with us (Susie and Steve) that have become good friends over the years. Yesterday, after breakfast we headed out together to Huachuca Canyon to do some birding. The scenery was beautiful, the "hike" was welcomed exercise, the company was enjoyable ......... oh, and the birding was better than expected. 

Here's how the day went pictorially: 

Almost immediately there was the barking of an Elegant Trogon. Thanks to Steve we located it very quickly. Getting a good photograph was a little tricky as it moved around frequently and always with lots of tree branches and leaves obstructing the view or making focusing difficult. Of the 15 or so photos only one was in focus with no obstructions. Of course, his head was turned at the time.
Elegant Trogon

Then we were treated to a pair of Hepatic Tanagers. The male quickly flew up the wall of the canyon. I could see him occasionally but he was much too far for a photo. I only got one photo before he flew away. It's a completely out of focus photo that I only -- temporarily -- saved to demonstrate the difficulties in photographing birds.
Hepatic Tanager Male
The female Hepatic Tanager presented a different challenge. She flew about six feet from me, but with my super telephoto lens was too CLOSE to focus on. She also had the habit of sitting directly above me or directly into the sun. After a couple of minutes though she appeared at a distance of about 100 feet and I was able to get some photos. This is the one I like best:
Hepatic Tanager Female
Next comes a treat for me. My first good photo of a Black Throated Gray Warbler. With the photo comes the knowledge of just how beautiful this bird is. The illustrations in Sibley's for example, really don't do this bird justice. So, for me, this was the prize of the day:

Black Throated Gray Warbler
We continued on to an area with a magnificent Sycamore Tree. It just felt like the perfect place to sit for a bit. To our surprise and good fortune, Steve found a couple of Hummingbird nests in the surrounding fir trees. We watched as the hummers flew into and out of their nests. It was delightful. It took some maneuvering to get to a place where a photo was possible. Susie suggested that I climb an adjacent tree.   After we all had a good laugh I continued to search for an answer. A hillside next to one of the nests provided the best angle. Identifying the hummer is a bit tricky, but I am guessing a Black Chinned Hummingbird. Here's one of the photos of her sitting on her nest.

Black Chinned Hummingbird
 Next, a California Sister Butterfly seemed to provide a wonderful photo op:

California Sister
And, in the occasional absence of birds, plants provided a couple of photos:


Just some Grasses

Then finally, what would have been a nice treat was a Hermit Warbler. But, once again he moved around so quick a photo was very difficult. This one too will go into the trash bin as soon as the post is done.

Hermit Warbler
So, all in all a wonderful day birding with good friends. Thanks Susie and Steve!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More Flowering Flora Fotos

As I continue with plants that are currently flowering here at The Azure Gate B&B, I come to cactus. 

Hedgehog cactus have already bloomed (March); Fishhook Barrel Cactus doesn't bloom until Summer. But prickly pear, cholla, and the Saguaros are now blooming. Our guests have taken hundreds of photos of the blooming cactus the past two weeks.  Today, the prickly pears:

Indian Fig or "Mission" Cactus

Close-Up of the Indian Fig Cactus

Enggelmann's Prickly Pear (the most common)

Close Up of Enggelmann's Prickly Pear

Pancake Prickly Pear

Black and White Spined Prickly Pear

Black and White Spined Prickly Pear

Purple Prickly Pear

Purple Prickly Pear

Rabbit Eared Prickly Pear

Monday, May 6, 2013

Agaves, Yuccas, and Ocotillo: Flowering Flora Fotos

Continuing with "Flowering Flora Fotos" we start with Ocotillo. Ocotillo are not abundant on our property. They much prefer foothills. Where we are is relatively flat just adjacent to the Catalina foothills. Next we have some more Agaves and Aloes which we have an abundance of. There are several species, which I am sure a botanist could provide scientific names for. Then finally the Red Cane Yucca -- a favorite plant of our Javelinas. Consequently, we don't have many of them left.


Agave sp.

Agave sp.

Aloe of some kind

Red Cane Yucca

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Flowering Flora

Now, back to the Flowering Flora. We had record freezes here in Southern Arizona in February. And while they were particularly hard on our flowering plants, especially the hummingbird loving salvia, we  still have several flowering plants. So, here are those photographs, again taken in the past week here at The Azure Gate B&B.