Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hedgehog Cactus Flower

Flowers often make for good photos. Wildflowers, unlike garden flowers can be exciting because they only grow at certain times of the year and you have to go look for them.  So, in that way they are "special." Cactus flowers are even more exciting because their window is even fewer days of the year -- and they only grow in certain parts of the world. Hedgehog Cactus flowers are the perfect example. Hedgehog Cactus are found in the southwest, only in the desert, are relatively small (a foot tall at most),  and not abundant even in locations where they exist. Their flowers last two days or so. Here is one of my favorites:

Hedgehog Cactus

Monday, July 29, 2013

Harris Hawk Gathering Nest Materials

Continuing with my "5" Star Photos. Here a Harris Hawk stopped on a utility pole en route to making a nest in a nearby tree. It almost seemed like the hawk wanted its photo taken. Why else would he have stopped there in the open?  I had to thank him for that wonderful and unique opportunity:

Harris Hawk

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Harris Hawk Scolding

Living on 5 acres in the Sonoran Desert has provided many "5" Star Photo Opportunities right outside my door. Today's is the perfect example. Here a Harris Hawk was perched on top of tree. I have easy access to my roof so could get very close. The hawk was obliging at first, but maybe it was one step too many and he scolded me. It wasn't the photo I was looking for  ............ but it was perfect. Thank you Harris Hawk.

Harris Hawk

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Harris Antelope Ground Squirrel Climbing Cactus

"5" Star Photos don't have to be Grizzly Bears, Caribou, Elegant Trogons, or butterflies. Almost any wildlife can present itself in a way that gives the potential for a "5" Star Photo. Today, this Harris Antelope Ground Squirrel provided such an opportunity. These little events happen very quickly. If you don't have your camera with you, ready to shot, ..............  well, as they would say in Jersey, "forget about it." This little chipmunk looking squirrel was really quite cute and fun to just watch. Here he is climbing a small fishhook barrel cactus looking for its fruit:

Harris Antelope Ground Squirrel

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Harrier Hawk Moon

Continuing with my "5" Star Photos we come to one of my first Award Winners, a Harrier Hawk at Dusk. This photo was taken in 1997 before digital cameras and digital manipulation software became the craze. Now, with digital you could take 30-40 shots to get this. But with film, I had one. And, of course, with digital manipulation, you could create this photo at a computer. But, no this is real.

It was taken in Northeastern Oregon near the town of Joseph. I was watching the hawk flying low over a field looking for a meal. Then he began to soar and snap, I caught him just at the perfect moment as he reached the moon. 

What is exciting about wildlife photography is capturing a "once in a lifetime" photo --- and, how often that may happen.

Harrier Hawk

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gulf Fritillary: The Art of Color

Back to my alphabetical series on "5" Star Photos. Butterflies  often make for beautiful photos. First, they are very colorful themselves; second, they often are on very colorful flowers; and third, there is often an off-setting green background. Such is the case with today's Gulf Fritillary I captured going from one lantana flower to another. Backyard butterflies, have to love 'em. 

Gulf Fritillary

Monday, July 22, 2013

On Pause: Burrowing Owls

Pausing for today from my series on "5" Star Photos, I wanted to share with you my success in finding Burrowing Owls. 

Normally, I look at the ABA.Org birding news for Arizona/New Mexico everyday just to see what's going on. But occasionally there is a bird sighting that makes me jump in the car and head out to that site. Yesterday was such a day. There was a post about Yellow Billed Cuckoos in Empire Gulch, Las Cienegas, Arizona (about 50 minutes from here). It was such an inviting post:

"In the lower gulch where there is almost always standing water, we were treated to exceptional views of several YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOs, completely in the open and of long duration. In fact, from the parking area to where the water comes to the surface, we likely saw 5-7 cuckoos."

Yesterday, I spent several hours in the Gulch but no Yellow Billed Cuckoos. Such is often the case when looking for a specific bird that someone had seen the day before. One of the things I've realized over the years of "birding" is that  ......  and this is really key:   birds have "wings!"  

However, just a week ago there was a post about Burrowing Owls at the Safelite Autoglass Corporate Headquarters near the Tucson International Airport. This too, made me jump in the car and go take a look. But, this time it was successful. In all, I saw six Burrowing Owls. Here are a few of those photos:

Burrowing Owl standing just in front of a storm drain in the parking lot.

Just across the street from the corporate office is another building with hearts  painted on the  walls. Here were three Burrowing Owls sitting on the fence in front of a heart. Had to be worth a photo.
A close-up of one as he began to "fly away"

Burrowing Owl near his escape route.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Grizzly Bear Feast

Okay, so this isn't exactly the best photo in terms of focus and detail. However, it gets a "5" Star Rating simply because of what it depicts. Here is a very large adult Grizzly Bear eating what is left of a Bison with 40-50 Ravens on the ground (there were another 40-50 circling in the air). The photo was taken in Yellowstone National Park.
Grizzly Bear

Friday, July 19, 2013

Grizzly's Sharing Dinner

Yellowstone National Park provides a safe environment for people to see potentially dangerous Grizzlies. These two Grizzlies were devouring an Elk. What started out as about five people watching, an hour later had grown to at least 50. Several Park Rangers were there to be sure all were safe. Occasionally, the bears would look up (as in this case) just to see how many humans there were. But by enlarge, they were determined to get every last morsel out of that elk. It made for a nice "5" Star Photo:

Grizzly Bears

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Grizzly Bear among the Wildflowers

Continuing with my series of "5" Star Photos: Grizzly Bears. This particular bear I found between Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. He was searching for bugs around fallen trees. With the wildflowers in front of him, it made for a nice photo:

Grizzly Bear

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Grey Wolf: What qualifies as Luck?

What is "Luck?"  If "luck" was to see a Grizzly Bear in the wild, what would you call seeing a Grey Wolf in the wild? Very Lucky? But what if you saw both a Grizzly Bear and a Grey Wolf? What if you saw them both at the same time? And, what if you were able to photograph them together? Are we talking lottery kind of luck yet??

Okay, so you put yourself in the place with the most potential. How about Yellowstone National Park? So, I am at Yellowstone looking for Grizzly Bears and/or Grey Wolves. I was down in Hayden Valley when I saw at a distance what looked like a hundred or more Ravens circling overhead but off to one side. I thought to myself, must mean something big. And, if something big, maybe something big is eating it causing the Ravens to wait their turn. So I pull off the road and start hiking, camera and tripod in hand. After a couple hundred yards I come to a rather steep hill. So up the hill I climb. I get to the top and WOW!!!! I can see down below (about 100 yards away) a very large adult male Grizzly Bear chewing on a Bison. This was back in the "film" days, and I was running on empty (or close to it). So, I had to conserve film. With digital, I would have taken 300 photos easily. But as I paused (to conserve film) I looked around and saw a lone Grey Wolf sitting, patiently, about 75 yards further away. 

I should point out that I made no attempt to get any closer. This distance was going to have to do. I had my 400mm super telephoto lens and hoped that would do the trick. 

After watching for about 30 minutes, the Grizzly Bear stood up, turned and started walking away from the Bison (and from me). At the same time the Grey Wolf stood up and started walking toward the Bison. As you might imagine I am literally shaking with excitement. I am anticipating -- hoping -- for the moment when the Grey Wolf and the Grizzly Bear pass each other in the same frame.

So, just how lucky is this:

Grey Wolf and Grizzly Bear

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Green Heron: Sometimes You are Just Lucky

Let's face it. Sometimes you are just lucky. 

Such is the case with this Green Heron. As I mentioned, Green Herons are much more secretive than their cousin the Great Blue. Often a Great Blue will fly away if approached, but it is not uncommon to find one more interested in "fishing" than having their picture taken. Green Herons are different --- well, at least in the Western US. When I have found them (Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington) they have usually been much further away than I would have liked. But, on this particular occasion at Agua Caliente pond in Tucson it was different. Very early one morning I found this Green Heron more interested in fishing than having his picture taken, and I was able to get very close (within ten feet).  So, I lay down on my stomach, using my elbows as tripods, and snapped away. Here is one of those photos:

Green Heron

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Green Heron - I

Next up, the Green Heron. The Green Heron is much more secretive than the Great Blue Heron  and certainly a much lower population. Found more often in the Eastern US and near the Western Coast. I like this photo because of subdued colors which don't detract from the fact that the heron has just caught a small fish. He was sitting on this fallen tree branch and catching whatever passed him by. You'll see from tomorrow's photo how colorful the Green Heron is.  But today, it's about fishing:

Green Heron

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Green Darner Dragonfly: Simplicity at its Finest

Continuing alphabetically with my "5" Star Photos, we come to one of my favorites. No, not the two Grizzly Bears eating an Elk, or the Grey Wolf passing a Grizzly in an open field. No, not a Lucifer or Berylline hummingbird. Just a dragonfly. This Green Darner was a complete surprise. When I took the photo I thought it would turn out nice. But, wow. I love the muted green background, the simplicity of the photo with just the tree branch and the dragonfly. Nice detail, good composition. Couldn't have ask for a better photo. And, it's just an "insect."

Green Darner Dragonfly

Monday, July 8, 2013

Greater Earless Lizard

Maybe not quite as exciting at Great Horned Owls -- or Grizzly Bears, but nonetheless a nice photo, is the Greater Earless Lizard. Found in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the north central Mexican states, the Greater Earless Lizard is diurnal, active both day and night. They spend their day foraging for insects or basking in the sun. However, if temperatures get above 111 degrees they head back underground. They are characterized by the lack of external ear openings, which is presumably to prevent sand from entering their body while they dig. 

greater earless lizard

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Great Horned Owl: V

Here's a "5" Star Juvenile Great Horned Owl photo I took a couple of months ago. Great detail and coloring.

Great Horned Owlet

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Great Horned Owl -- Eucalyptus Background

So continuing with my "5" Star Photos in general and the Great Horned Owl in particular we come to this one that seems more like a Japanese painting than a photo. Sitting gracefully on a limb of a eucalyptus tree, he somehow seems above us all. Owls, unlike other birds -- especially doves and quail -- seem to know when humans do not mean them harm. They don't flitter around nervously or fly off into the wind when they see a human. Makes photographing them fun -- well, when you find them.

Great Horned Owl

Friday, July 5, 2013

Great Horned Owl - III

Here is another "5" Star Great Horned Owl photo. This one taken at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Arizona. I like the almost psychedelic background created by the blue sky and green leaves of the tree. 
Great Horned Owlet

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Great Horned Owl - II

The second of my "5" Star Great Horned Owls. In this case I love the color contrast between the Owl and the green background of the eucalyptus tree. Also the nice detail of the owl:

Great Horned Owl

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Another Great: The Great Horned Owl

There is a Great Horned Owl nest just across the street from us in a 60 year old eucalyptus tree. It has been the home of Great Horned Owls for at least 12 years. During that time two sets of adults have lived there. Both of the original parents died about 5 years ago; about six months apart, during which time the surviving male found a female only to died a few months later. There have been 11 years of offspring numbering between 25 and 30 young in total. Today's "5" Star Photo, the first of the Great Horned Owls, is off two of the offspring four years ago:

Great Horned Owlets

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reflections on a Great Egret

The last of my "5" Star Great Egret photos comes from Potholes National Wildlife Refuge in Central Washington. This photo also taken at dusk and once again shows how wonderfully photographable the Great Egret is.

Great Egret

Monday, July 1, 2013

Still More of that Gorgeous Great Egret

Continuing with my "5" Star Photos and the Great Egret we get to one I took many years ago somewhere in Northern California. These were the film days before photo software made life easier for a photographer with 10,000 plus photos to label,  organize, etc. I remember everything about taking this photo: it was a small pond; it was sunset; the egret was at one end; when he saw me he flew to the other end of the pond. I remember the landscape. I remember the horizon. I remember just about everything. I just can't remember where it was.

Great Egret