Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Next up: Raven. Ravens are fascinating birds. We see them daily here in Southern Arizona, yet this photo was taken on the Columbia Glacier in British Columbia. We see them here on the desert floor but also on Mount Lemmon at 9,000 feet.

Ravens are very intelligent. In places where wolves live Ravens often follow wolf packs knowing that a meal is not too far away. In Southern Arizona they follow hawks in the winter or turkey vultures in the summer for the same reason.

They also seem to know exactly where all the picnic areas are in the Northern Hemisphere and usually like to be included in the gathering.

Ravens have one of the longer lifespans of birds at 21 years.

In today's photo the Raven is sitting on a patch of snow.


Monday, December 30, 2013

The Queen Butterfly

We have made it to the "Q's" in my series on "5" Star Photos. 

Today, the Queen Butterfly which is found in the tropics and temperate regions of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. It likes meadows, fields, marshes, forests, and deserts. This photo was taken in our backyard:

Queen Butterfly

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pyrrhuloxia: The Gray Cardinal

Yesterday, it was the female pyrrhuloxia, today the male. This photo was taken in one of our Palo Verde trees:


Friday, December 27, 2013

The Early Bird Catches the Pyrrhuloxia

Back to my series on "5" Star Photos. Today's photo was taken early one morning here at The Azure Gate. It is a female Pyrrhuloxia, also called the Gray Cardinal, that found a worm in one of our mesquite trees.

I love the "expression" on her face  -- it's "This is my breakfast ... you go get your own."


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen!
"On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!

Santa's Reindeer

Monday, December 23, 2013

Where are Santa's Reindeer?

It's the day before Santa's Big Travel Day. So, he has to round up his drivers. But where are they? Well, here are Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer:


Friday, December 20, 2013

The Last of the Pronghorn

One last "5" Star Pronghorn Photo again from the National Bison Range in Western Montana. This time the snow stopped falling just long enough to capture a small herd of males. It's always a special treat to be able to get this close to Pronghorn.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pronghorn in Western Montana

One of My Favorites. The drive up to Yellowstone National Park from Southern Arizona takes you through some incredible scenery and wildlife areas. US Highway 191 runs from Douglas, Arizona on the Mexican border to the Canadian Border. Some of the highlights include: Chiricahua National Monument, Cochise Stronghold, Coronado Scenic Trail Byway, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Grand Teton National Park,  Yellowstone National Park, and a dozen National Wildlife Refuges and Wildlife Conservation Areas. 

US 191 takes you through Western Wyoming and 100 miles of Pronghorn country. On one trip I came across a beautiful male Pronghorn very early in the morning. Pronghorn have huge eyes and can detect movement from 4 miles away. They escape predators by outrunning them. (Only the Cheetah is faster --- and not many of them live in the Western USA). 

However, this particular Pronghorn was kind enough to let me get close. I expected to see Pronghorn but certainly not this close. With the muted wildflowers in the background it created one of my favorite photos. Worth "5" Stars.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pronghorn: Is it a Photo or is it a Painting?

National Bison Range. Teddy Roosevelt set aside some of the first Wildlife Areas by Executive Order starting in 1903.  In 1908 he got Congress to agree to a National Wildlife Refuge System. The National Bison Range in Western Montana was established with the first Congressional appropriations. 

In addition to herds of Bison, the Range supports populations of Elk, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Pronghorn, and Bighorn Sheep as well as Coyotes, Mountain Lions, Bears, and Bobcats. The Refuge has recorded 211 bird species.

This is one of my favorite Refuges. I have been there at different times of the year: winter, summer, spring, and fall. And, much like Yellowstone, it never disappoints. 

On one winter trip I found a small band of Pronghorn. The snow and snowfall created a unique photo setting. 

This "5" Star Pronghorn Photo doesn't even look like a photo. It looks more like a painting. The snow was falling heavy enough to create what many have said to be reminiscent of  "Japanese Art." 

You can almost see the brush strokes of the grasses as if painted on a silk canvas. This photo of the four female Pronghorn hangs in my office with a bamboo color mat and brown and gold frame. Just lovely.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Pronghorn Walking Through Thistles

Continuing with my series of "5" Star Photos in general and Pronghorn in particular we come to an early favorite. I was exploring the National Bison Range National Wildlife Refuge for the first time; summer of 1997. I came across this small band of Pronghorn, mostly females and youngsters walking through the thistles. It's one of those photos that I thought would be good  -- but turned out even better.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pronghorn from Las Cienega - II

Here's another "5" Star Pronghorn Photo from Las Cienega in Southern Arizona. I like the fine detail and the wonderful grasses.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pronghorn from Las Cienega

Las Cienega Wilderness, Southern Arizona. Empire Ranch sits among the 25,000 acres of what is now Las Cienega Wilderness. Empire Ranch began in 1860 as a 160 acre ranch. Many Western Films were made on the ranch including: Red River, Oklahoma, 3:10 to Yuma, Hombre, and Winchester '73. John Wayne, Paul Newman, Jimmy Stewart, Steve McQueen, William Holden, James Garner, Shirley Jones, Maureen O'Hara, and Janet Leigh were among the many stars who were filmed there. 

The area today is a haven for wildlife: a wide variety of Birds, Pronghorn, Black Tailed Prairie Dogs, Javelinas, Jackrabbits, Bobcats, Coyotes, etc. I've spent many an hour birding or looking for Pronghorn. This year I came across a small herd of about 20 Pronghorn. Pronghorn are generally very difficult to get close to. They have enormous eyes which can detect movement from 4 miles away. Yet, this group allowed me some wonderful photos before running off. 


Friday, December 13, 2013

Eagle Creek Pronghorn - III

Here's the third "5" Star Pronghorn Photo from Eagle Creek, Arizona:

Pronghorn Fawn

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pronghorn Story

On one of my trips to eastern Arizona I took a diversion to Eagle Creek. The diversion was a 22 mile (one way) road to an area supposedly full of wildlife.

When I reached the site, there wasn't a drop of water in the creek ... not even a sparrow to photograph. Feeling as if the extra four hours was going to be a waste, I started back down the same old dusty road but this time I noticed a vast field (maybe 500 acres) of grass which could be good Pronghorn terrain. 

Low and behold, I looked out the window and about 200 yards away I saw something other than grass. I stopped, looked through my binoculars and saw a male Pronghorn lying down with just head and antlers showing. I started walking toward the Pronghorn taking photos every 30 steps or so, thinking, "Well, this probably is  the last photo" -- but no, the Pronghorn didn't move. When I was 30 yards away I saw a Fawn lying down behind the Buck.

Now I was really excited, and started taking photos of the little guy too. Dad and Baby were only about 10 yards away now. Dad suddenly got up and started walking away (more photos), but the Fawn just lay there. Dad, who was now about 50 yards away, made a sound; a low deep sound. The Fawn stood up but instead of walking toward Dad, walked toward me -- to within 15 feet. 

Had this Fawn ever seen a human being?  (Typical curious kid I guess). When Dad made another call, the Fawn turned, looked at Dad, and started running away as did Dad. I said "thank you very much" to each of them and walked the 200 yards back to the Jeep.

I got in my Jeep, turned on the engine, put the transmission in drive, looked out the window and noticed that the young  Pronghorn had followed me all the way back, and was now only 10 yards from the car. I put the transmission back into park, turned the engine off, got out of the Jeep again, and took many more photos. 

Soon the Buck came back as well, although a bit further away. He made another sound, crossed the road after which the Fawn followed. Soon they were far away again.

 I re-lived the amazing 90 minute experience while driving the five hour trip home. I was  so lost in the memory, the trip went by in a blink.

Was I the first human the fawn saw?

Here's the male running:


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pronghorn in Arizona

For the next few days, it will be "5" Star Pronghorn Photos. This one taken in the Eagle Creek wilderness in eastern Arizona. Nice buck walking among the grasses:


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Prickly Poppy

Most of the year this 'weed" looks dead or dying or otherwise nondescript. However, when it blooms it can produce a "5" Star Photo:

Prickly Poppy

Monday, December 9, 2013

Prickly Pear Cactus Flower: The Best for Last

The last -- and my favorite -- of the "5" Star Prickly Pear photos. I especially like this photo because of the rich dark burgundy and black background that offsets the yellow flower. The burgundy inside the flower matches the background for added beauty. I took this photo at Saguaro National Park.

Prickly Pear Cactus Flower

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers

Back to my alphabetical series on my "5" Star Photos. I left off with Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers. How about this bouquet?

Prickly Pear Cactus Flowers

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sweetwater Wetlands

Continuing my little trip around some of Tucson's birding spots I checked out Sweetwater Wetlands. Again nothing unusual, however I came back with some nice photos anyway:

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Gilded Flicker

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fort Lowell Park

Next up and my rounds about Tucson was Fort Lowell Park. Again nothing rare, but as often is the case there is a photo to be found. This time a Black Phoebe. It reminds me of another photo I took at Fort Lowell Park of a Vermillion Flycatcher sitting atop a "NO SWIMMING" sign.  They make for fun photos:

Black Phoebe

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lakeside Park, Tucson

I had a chance to check out some of Tucson's parks yesterday. And, although nothing out of the ordinary, sometimes the ordinary becomes extraordinary. These first two photos from Lakeside Park and good examples:

Vermillion Flycatcher

Hutton's Vireo

Tomorrow: Sweetwater Wetlands.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Prickly Pear Cactus Blooming

Prickly Pear Cactus is everywhere in Southern Arizona. It grows like a weed. If a pad breaks off, it will grow roots and become a new plant.  But it is also susceptible to drought. And, it is also the home of ground squirrels and other burrowing animals. While the cactus serves to protect the animal the burrowing leaves the roots exposed which eventually kills the cactus. Between the current drought and the burrowing there is quite a lot of dead cactus everywhere as well. 

Yet, starting in late March and into May, the Sonoran Desert becomes alive with Prickly Pear Cactus flowers. On any given cactus there will be 20-40 cactus "pads." On each cactus pad there will be 2 to 8 flowers. 

Here is the first of several "5" Star Prickly Pear Cactus photos. I especially like the composition of this one with the cactus off center allowing for the contrast with the grasses and wildflowers.

Prickly Pear Cactus Blooming

Monday, December 2, 2013

Praying Mantis

Not exactly a Bobcat, but this Praying Mantis was just outside my office and set up perfectly for a photo. He even looks like he's "praying" for me to take one:

Praying Mantis

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Postman Heliconian

As I have mentioned before, butterflies can make for exceptional photos. Often very colorful themselves, butterflies are usually found around flowers. Here's a Postman Heliconian  as evidence: