Monday, September 30, 2013

Mexican Hat Coneflower

I love the colors on this Mexican Hat Coneflower which grows wild in Northern Arizona:

Mexican Hat Coneflower

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mexican Bird of Paradise

Continuing with my alphabetical series on "5" Star Photos we come to the Mexican Bird of Paradise. This is a tree that grows wild in the Sonoran Desert --- and to be so colorful. 

Mexican Bird of Paradise

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mesquite Tree Storming

I am essentially a wildlife photographer. However, every once in a while I'll see something else that catches my eye and begs for a photograph. Today's "5" Star Photo is one of those. Christine and I had just finished hiking in the Santa Rita Mountains when a storm came up rather suddenly. Storms make great photographs and this was no exception:

Mesquite Storm

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Marbled Godwit

The Marbled Godwit lives on the coasts of California, Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and South America. Sometimes it finds its way up the Oregon and Washington Coast as well. And occasionally we find them here in Southern Arizona. Yet it breeds on the prairies of Southern Alberta, Canada. The photo below was taken in 1998 or 99 at Ocean Shores, Washington. I was there for a juried photo contest/show both years. While there I took advantage of the shorefront and got some nice photos. Here were a pair of Marbled Godwits I found one of those years. Little did I know at the time that I wouldn't see them that often.

Marbled Godwit

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

More Mallards

Back to the "5" Star Photos and Mallards. This photo has not faired that well since I took it back in the late 1980's. I was still mostly a "fly fisherman" and certainly not a great photographer. This photo was taken at East Lake in Central Oregon with a pretty inexpensive (and not very good) camera. The two ducks were asleep on the end of a tree trunk that had fallen in the lake. 

Mallard Ducks

Monday, September 23, 2013

Birding, Birding, Birding Oh My!

I check out the American Birders Association Bird sightings reports on a daily basis. I do this to 1) see what is going on in Southern Arizona and 2) give me something to do if I can get away.

Here is an ABA report from Saturday:

"In the (Santa Cruz) Flats there was a marked increase in the number of raptors. Among them were four species of falcons, including two CRESTED CARACARAS, a PEREGRINE FALCON, two PRAIRIE FALCONS, and lots of AMERICAN KESTRELS. The caracaras were viewed perched and on the ground looking west from Wheeler Rd. just north of Baumgartner. A very close look of an OSPREY perched on a telephone pole along Greene Reservoir Rd. offered great photo ops. Other raptors included two NORTHERN HARRIERS, scattered SWAINSON'S HAWKS with over 50 at the Evergreen Turf sod farm, and two BURROWING OWLS at the sod farm. A flock of 40+ WHITE-FACED IBIS were in a flooded field on the east side of Tweedy R. across from the sod farm."

Christine and I had to drive up to Phoenix on Sunday, so thought, "Wow, this would be a great opportunity to check out and photograph all these raptors."

So we hit the Flats (on our return) driving up and down Philips Road, Pretzler Road, Tweedy Road, Greene Reservoir Road, Baumgartner Road, and Wheeler Road.

What a difference a day makes.

No Crested Caracaras
No Peregrine Falcons
No Prairie Falcons
One American Kestrel
No Ospreys
One male Harrier Hawk
One Swainson's Hawk
One Red Tailed Hawk
One Ferruginous Hawk
No Burrowing Owls
No White Faced Ibis

And as for photos, only a marginal (at best) Swainson's Hawk and a okay Raven:

Swainson's Hawk


It may have had something to do with the wind and dust storm that we were faced with. However, being out in nature is never a complete disappointment. So, we returned happy nonetheless.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Ubiquitous Mallard

The Mallard. Okay, a very familiar dabbling duck. Found anywhere --- everywhere. They can be found in City Parks and on Tundra Ponds.  Just about anywhere there is water there is a Mallard. US estimates for the Mallard is 10.6 million birds -- compared to the Northern Shoveler which is second most at 4.4 million birds. I always find animal/bird populations fascinating -- especially when I am in search of something with a huge population. For example, I've been searching for Mountain Lions for 20 years now. I don't have a photo or even a "confirmed" sighting. Yet, there are 30,000 Mountain Lions in the Western United States. 

But, back to the Mallard. I like this photo because it was several young Mallards sleeping. Of course, as I approached they awoke with one "quacking."  I just thought it made a nice photo. So, here it is:


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Magnificent Hummingbird

Next up on my "5" Star Photos is the Magnificent Hummingbird. The Magnificent and the Blue Throated Hummingbirds are the largest Hummingbirds in the US. It is found in the Madrean Sky Islands of Arizona near the Mexican border. It is occasionally found in the extreme Southwest corner of New Mexico and Southwest Texas. Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains of Southern Arizona is the most reliable place, however. The male is very colorful (as you can see from the photo). 

Magnificent Hummingbird

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lucifer -- Hummingbird, That Is

Continuing with my alphabetical series on "5" photos we come to the Lucifer Hummingbird. Lucifer is a rare hummingbird to the US. It is occasionally seen in Southwestern Texas, and the extreme Southwestern corner of New Mexico. It is most often see in Southeastern Arizona. That is not to say it is abundant anywhere. The best place to find this beautiful little hummer is the Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast. It is a daily visitor there from May through September. It is occasionally found in the Portal area of the Chiricahua Mountains and occasionally seen in the Santa Rita Mountains. But, the south end of the Huachuca Mountains is really the best place.

Lucifer Hummingbird

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Common" Loon

I find it interesting that in many cases a bird is named, "Common ..." such as the "Common" Loon. Common Moorhen, Common Snipe, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye also come to mind. Also, in the animal world Common Porcupine. It is also true of butterflies like the "Common Mormon" which is only found in southern Asia.  I would think that if something is called "common" it is plentiful -- and "common" throughout the world.  In reality, it seems like that is NEVER the case. Nonetheless, today's "5" Star Photo is a Common Loon. This photo was taken while fishing in British Columbia. I like the fact that the loon was nesting, is a close up, and has an offsetting green background.

Common Loon

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Incinerator Ridge, Mount Lemmon, Arizona

Yesterday I spent about 5 hours on Incinerator Ridge, Mount Lemmon. It is a very peaceful spot (mid-week), especially this time of year. Lots of birds, including a Tennessee Warbler that is rare to Arizona.  Here are some photos from the trip:

Stellar Jay

Red Tailed Hawk

Olive Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Yellow Eyed Junco

Townsend's Warbler

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Common Loon

Continuing with my "5" Star Photos we come to the Loon (Common). I took this photo while fishing on Island Lake in British Columbia. Island Lake is one of the great "trophy" lakes in BC. It isn't easy fishing but the reward is wonderful: minimum 3 pound Kamloops Rainbow Trout, average somewhere between 4 and 5 pounds. But like all lakes in BC, it seems as though there are resident Loons that you must feed with your first catch. This particular Loon waited right by my float tube until I hooked a fish. Then he dove down, chased the fish, and finally took it. I like that the purple in the neck stands out as well as the red eye and black iris. It's one of my favorites.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Long Eared Owl II

I was hiking in the Galiuro Mountains of Southeastern Arizona looking for Coatimundi without much luck. However, as is often the case, I found something else that I was not expecting. And, not only that but some good looks and good photos. It was a Long Eared Owl. A nice treat indeed.

Long Eared Owl

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Long Eared Owl

The Long Eared Owl is a beautiful owl that is a year round resident in Southern Arizona. Southern Arizona also gets some migrants from the southern Canadian Provinces.  It is widespread however, with populations in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa. It has very distinctive orange eyes and long ear tufts. The photo below was taken at Whitewater Draw in Southern Arizona. It was pretty well camouflaged and didn't move an inch in the hour and a half I was there. It was a challenge to find an angle that would give me a good photo. But as you can see, eventually I found one:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Leucistic Mourning Dove

Next up on my series of "5" Star Photos is our Leucistic Mourning Dove. This was a dove that probably hatched five or six weeks ago. He can now be seen daily around The Azure Gate. Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the production of melanin in the body. Leucism is a genetic mutation that prevents melanin from being deposited normally on feathers.  Leucism is a very rare condition that affects 1 in 550,000 birds. Typically birds with abnormally white feathers do not survive long because they are so much more visible to predators. Those that do survive may have trouble attracting a mate. Consequently, the mutated genes that cause albinism and leucism are less likely to be passed on to a new generation. However, we are hoping that this little guy will have a nice long life here at The Azure Gate. It is quite beautiful, and looks completely white when it flies. 

Leucistic Mourning Dove

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lesser Goldfinch III

The third of my "5" Star Lesser Goldfinch photos is a male sitting on one of our pomegranate trees that happened to be flowering. I especially like the composition which puts the goldfinch off center but balanced with the flower:

Lesser Goldfinch Male

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lesser Goldfinch - II

With the abundance of Lesser Goldfinches here at The Azure Gate comes multiple opportunities for photos. Here is another "5" Star Photo of a female Lesser Goldfinch:

Lesser Goldfinch

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lesser Goldfinch

We have between 40 and 60 Lesser Goldfinches around all the time. Many nest here. So, I don't really have to travel far for a photo. In fact, I can get very close. Here is a female that you can just about count the number of feathers on. I love the clarity in the photo. Plus it is a very sweet bird:

Female Lesser Goldfinch

Monday, September 9, 2013

Leopard Lacewing

Continuing alphabetically with my "5" Star Photos we come to the Leopard Lacewing butterfly. This is one of my favorite photos; wonderful color in both the butterfly and the flowers -- but not overwhelming; very pleasant and peaceful colors. It comes from India, South China, and Indochina.

Leopard Lacewing

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Returning to my "5" Star Photo series -- in alphabetical order -- we come to the Killdeer. The Killdeer is found throughout North America often wintering as far south as Central America. Killdeer are considered "shorebirds" often wading in very shallow water and marshes. It is very "sandpiper-like" in that regard.  However, they can also be found far from water in open fields and grasslands. 


Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Joys of Birding -- or so

Once again the ability to accept defeat has surfaced. I spent the last two days photographing --- well, not necessarily photographing -- with some "birding" friends. Thursday we visited: Florida Canyon, Madera Canyon, Montosa Canyon, Amado WTP, Rio Rico Ponds, Kino Springs. Friday we visited WOW Arizona and Incinerator Ridge on Mount Lemmon. What a nice list of birds including townsend's, hermit, yellow, and red-faced warbler; western wood peewee, yellow eyed junco, several vireos, stellar jays, black hawk ---- oh, the list goes on .... 

The best birding spots were Florida Canyon and Mount Lemmon by far. However, I must admit that I didn't come home with one photograph that I would rate a four or five. 

But all those birds were quick looks. Gone in a flash -- or darting around on the backside of bushes and trees.  I wish that birds --- well, didn't have wings. It would make photographing them much easier. On Incinerator Ridge you are walking beneath a forest of pine trees. Unfortunately not much light gets through. Add to that the "flightiness" of birds and you can understand the difficulty.

However, we did see a Berylline Hummingbird in Madera Canyon at Chuparosa Inn. And, there were plenty of hummers including Allen's and Costa's at WOW Arizona. The hummingbirds were my best photos of the past two days. Here are a few:

Berylline Hummingbird

Allen's Juvenile Hummingbird

Costa's male and female fussing

Broad Billed Hummingbird

Black Chinned Hummingbird

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Kestral on a WireKestral

Now, back to my alphabetical series of "5" Star Photos. Next up, the Kestrel. I would have liked to have gotten a photo of a Kestrel in a tree, but it seems the only time I see them they are on a utility pole or fence. Of course, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum occasionally has a "Kestrel Show" where they have one strapped to someone's gloved hand. I've got a couple of really good photos there. But, alas, that's not what I do. My photos are supposed to be Exclusively Wildlife. So, this is the best I can do. It's still a nice photo. Good detail, good color. So I am pleased in that regard.

So, the (American) Kestrel:


Monday, September 2, 2013

Javelina Visit

My apologies for not getting a post daily these past two weeks. I am in the process of revising my book on Butterflies of the World, trying to get it finished by the holiday. In the meantime, though, late yesterday afternoon (and for a couple of hours after dark) about 20 Javelinas visited us. It was difficult lighting at best -- and even more difficult to move around to find better lighting. The first photo is a female with two piglets that continued to walk away without looking back. The second was a Javelina that was very curious about me and actually walked slowly toward me-- and seemed to want to "hang out" with me.. Much later we heard some commotion outside and it was the Javelinas trying to get into our garbage cans (I tie them together for just this purpose). This morning I went out to survey any damage. They did manage to break a very nice bird bath and chew up some recently planted Indian Fig Cactus. They also dug several "beds" to rest/sleep in. And, in the process of doing that expose some underground electrical wiring. Oh well, life in the desert.

Javelina with piglets