Thursday, January 30, 2014

Round Tail Ground Squirrel

Round Tailed Ground Squirrels are very cute. No doubt about it. They are also very destructive. They dig holes underneath cactus. Several holes. Lots of entries and exits to escape potential predators. The problem is that these holes tend to dry out the roots of the cactus eventually killing the cactus. Round Tail Ground Squirrels are "unaffectionately" called "Pack Rats." While they are squirrels and not rats, they do collect everything -- anything is sight to put around their "house" creating an unsightly mess.

But they are cute as can be.

Round Tail Ground Squirrel

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Roadrunner II

Continuing with the Roadrunner. The name "roadrunner" comes from the bird's habit of racing down roads in front of moving vehicles and then darting to safety in the brush. It can "run" at speeds up to 20 mph.

Here this Roadrunner was cooling down by spreading out his wings. He wasn't disturbed by me and allowed some photos:


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Roadrunner, Beep, Beep

Back to my alphabetical series on my "5" Star Photos we come to the Roadrunner. The Roadrunner is a fun bird to watch. He walks three or four steps, stops, then raises his tail. Then three or four more steps, stop, raise tail ......

We have them around our property and I have seen them catch very fast lizards, so their awkwardness  is deceiving.

Sometimes they'll run away when they see me, but other times they'll hang around and even pose for a photo:


Monday, January 27, 2014

Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson, Arizona

Finally a swing through Sweetwater Wetlands produced a variety of birds including an assortment of ducks including the less frequently seen ruddy duck pied billed grebes, ladderback and gila woodpeckers, verdins, button's vireos, black phoebe, common yellowthroat, and sora. The last three I have photos of although the yellowthroat and sora didn't turn out as well as I had hoped:

Black Phoebe

Common Yellowthroat


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Santa Cruz Flats, Arizona

Up Next: Santa Cruz Flats -- or as Christine says "The Alternate Universe." Santa Cruz Flats is halfway between Tucson and Phoenix and quite nondescript. Half of the area is farmed with cotton or turf. The other half is barren wasteland (or appears so anyway).

It is well know by birders though, providing a wintering wonderland for raptors and -- oddly enough, shorebirds. Yes, shorebirds that flock the flooded fields.

On the farmland I found 7 Crested Caracaras, which are members of the Falcon Family, although in behavior more like Vultures.

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracaras

Also in the farmlands, I was a bit surprised to see three Snow Geese:

Snow Geese
 And, in the "wasteland" I was happy to find a pair of Burrowing Owls:

Burrowing Owls

Burrowing Owls

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ironwood National Monument

Ironwood National Monument near Marana, Arizona is an area that I have not explored. So off I went with Christine and some guests for a scenic tour and hike.  The landscape is fascinating with the mountains, saguaros, and ironwood trees. The ironwood trees are the oldest trees in Arizona at 1500 years. 

Ragged Top Mountain is the biological and geological crown jewel of the national monument. Several endangered and threatened species live here, including the Nichols turk’s head cactus and the lesser long-nosed bat. The national monument also contains habitat for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. The desert bighorn sheep dwelling in the region are the last viable population indigenous to the Tucson basin. The area holds abundant rock art sites and other archaeological objects of scientific interest. Humans have inhabited the area for more than 5,000 years. More than 200 sites from the prehistoric Hohokam period (600 A.D. to 1440 A.D.) have been recorded in the area. 

The Bighorn Sheep are lambing now, so I resisted the temptation to find them. I'll wait until April when lambing season is over and see if I can find them.

The hike we took toward Ragged Top Mountain ended with a Bull standing in the middle of the trail and not wanting to move. We were ready to return to our car and continue on our way, so we turned around.

During our drive we came across an abandoned homestead, a Harris Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, Gila Woodpeckers, a Loggerhead Shrike and a few other birds. Here are some of the day's photos:

Ironwood National Monument, Arizona

Old Abandon Homestead

Harris Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk

Gila Woodpecker

Loggerhead Shrike

Blocking the trail

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Madera Canyon

It was a good day hiking, birding, and photographing in Madera Canyon. Finding birds and photographing birds are two different activities. We saw several Canyon Wrens, Dark Eyed Juncos, Bridled Titmouse, Acorn Woodpecker -- oh, and of course Mexican Jays. Those attempts to photograph weren't successful. 

However, the Great Find was a Red Breasted Sapsucker -- which I was able to photograph. The RBS is rare to Arizona. It lives primarily on the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Southern California. But this beautify male seemed to want to be photographed as evidence that he made the trip to Arizona. Also photographed was a nice Hutton's Vireo:

Red Breasted Sapsucker

Hutton's Vireo

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

San Rafael Valley, Arizona

My apologies for the delay. I have been out photographing several birding spots in Southern Arizona the past several days: San Rafael Valley, Madera Canyon, Ironwood National Monument, Santa Cruz Flats, and Sweetwater Wetlands.

Here are some of my finds in San Rafael Valley:

Harrier Hawk

Western Meadowlark

Mule Deer


Tomorrow: Madera Canyon Surprise

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ring Necked Pheasant - II

The second "5" Star Ring Necked Pheasant photo comes from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Northern California. However, Ring Necked Pheasants aren't native in North America --- Originally, they were only native in Asia. However, it is the most popular game bird in the world so many were brought to the northern parts of the US specifically for hunting. In many areas, the birds are bred and then release for hunting. Many generations of those that weren't kill (feral birds) have become so plentiful in the US that they are assumed to be native. Many have found their way to protected areas such as Sacramento NWR.

 I particularly like the close up which shows the detail and coloration of this beautiful bird.

Ring Necked Pheasant

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ring Necked Pheasant

As I mentioned yesterday, the Ring Necked Duck doesn't have a clearly visible ring. However, in the case of the Ring Necked Pheasant the ring is clearly visible. I like the green background in this photo. It allows the bird to jump out at you.

Ring Necked Pheasant

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ring Billed, I Mean Ring Necked Duck

Ducks are ducks. And with the exception of the rarer ones: Black Bellied Whistling Duck, or Harlequin Duck, you get to a point where you walk right by one and not even blink let alone stop to take a photo. And yet, they can occasionally offer you a "5" Star Photo if you are willing to stop for a moment. Such is the case with today's Ring Necked Duck.  

I sometimes have to stop and think about its name. Ring "Necked" Duck. As you see one the first and foremost thing you see are the two rings on its bill. You don't see any rings on its neck. But, what's in a name?

Ring Necked Duck

Monday, January 13, 2014

Red Winged Blackbird

Next up, alphabetically, is the Red Winged Blackbird. The Red Winged Blackbird is found throughout North and Central America in open grassy areas. It generally prefers wetlands, and inhabits both freshwater and saltwater marshes, particularly if cattail is present. It is also found in dry upland areas, where it inhabits meadows, prairies, and old fields. It is a migratory bird spending its winters in the southern warmer areas. It feeds mostly on seeds and insects.

Red Winged Blackbird

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Red Tailed Hawk - V

The last of the "5" Star Red Tailed Hawk photos is one that is "on the edge." Normally, I prefer photos in a more "nature" setting. So, the hawk on the telephone pole doesn't quite fit my criteria. And yet, telephone poles all over the country often have raptors on them. It's become a "natural" resting point for them. This photo has wonderful detail though. You can count the feathers. So, "5" Stars:

Red Tailed Hawk

Friday, January 10, 2014

Red Tailed Hawk - IV

Another "5" Star Red Tailed Hawk photo taken in San Rafael Valley along the US/Mexico border. I love how you can clearly see the tail feathers all spread out:

Red Tailed Hawk

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Red Tailed Hawk - III

Continuing with my "5" Star Red Tailed Hawk photos we have one taken sitting on a flowering Century Plant in the Galiuro Mountains of Southern Arizona:

Red Tailed Hawk

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Red Tailed Hawk - II

Continuing with my series on "5" Star Photos in general and the Red Tailed Hawk in particular I have a photo taken many years ago while traveling the Oregon Coast. Red Tailed Hawks are the most widespread and numerous of the raptors in the United States. Their plumage varies quite a bit from light to dark. In fact, if you can't positively identify a hawk as something other than a Red Tailed Hawk, then it is probably a Red Tailed Hawk.

Red Tailed Hawk

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Red Tailed Hawk Chic out of Nest

Today's "5" Star Photo is of a young Red Tailed Hawk that fell out of its nest.

Red Tailed Hawk Chic

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Red Mountain Arizona

I have said this before, I am not a landscape photographer. Often I am in "awe" of landscapes without a clue of how to capture them in two dimensions. To me landscapes are "unphotographable." Yet, I see what professionals can do and I'm stunned. 

Occasionally though, I stumble across a beautiful landscape and give it my best shot. Nine times out of ten the result goes in the trash bin. However, one in ten turns out pretty good. Here then is one of my few "5" Star Landscape photos:

Red Mountain Arizona
Red Mountain is half way between Flagstaff and Grand Canyon. Most people speed by Red Mountain not even considering it is worth a stop. After all, you're only 40 minutes from one of the Seven Wonders of the World. How could Red Mountain top that???  

But, I must confess. I love Red Mountain. I would rather hike into the Red Mountain canyon, sit, meditate, contemplate life --------- than be one of 5 million people visiting Grand Canyon.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Red Dome Blanketflower

Many opportunities exist for the wildlife photographer -- not just animals, birds -- or butterflies. Here as I was hiking looking for bears I came across a field of Red Dome Blanketflowers. This photo jumped out at me -- and I liked the result.

Red Dome Blanketflower

Friday, January 3, 2014

Red Banded Pereute

As I continue with my alphabetical series on "5" Star Photos, I have a Red Banded Pereute that is striking in its simplicity. As I have mentioned, butterflies often provide for wonderful photos. It's not just their color and color patterns but often the flowers that they are feeding from. In this case it is just black, green, and red. Very simple and very peaceful:

Red Banded Pereute

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year and Thanks

It's January 1, 2014. Happy New Year to all.

Here are some numbers:

1) 1266 posts since September, 2009.
2) 121,298 visits to my blog over the years.
3) 119 Countries on 6 continents:
a) Europe: 42 countries
b) Asia: 34 countries
c) North America: 16 countries
d) Africa: 13 countries
e) South America: 11 countries
f) Australia and Oceania: 3 countries
4) Top ten countries: USA, Canada, Russia, UK, Germany, India, France, Australia, Netherlands, Latvia.

So a BIG THANK YOU to all, and a very happy new year to you.

Happy New Year