Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

Barn Owl
It was a day off from road treks.  So I took my other half Pat to the Desert Museum near Tucson.  The purpose of this visit was to check out the new Warden Aquarium. 
Mountain Lion
I counted wild birds while working on my photography skills. And to be honest, I am getting to the point in birding where I just want to watch birds and not have to take pictures of them.  My number one rule is "Get a good shot of the lifebird".  Afterwards, just enjoy the observations.
Emperor Swallowtail on Hibiscus
And while I've seen all of these birds in the wild, it's not always easy to get up close and personal.  So I figured, why not cheat and get some great stock photos from these birds?  National Geographic does it as do many other wildlife photographers!  And how do I know???  After staying at many birder bed and breakfast places, the owners tell us what some of these photography gurus do:) I still prefer the wildlife shots but it's still nice to see the details.
Western Screech Owl
And so I had a blast:)
In the wild, as most of us know, it's important to stay quiet and completely still.
Moving a camera  up with its very audible "click" will scare away some of our elusive friends.
Today's challenge though was to capture the beauty and personality of the animal filmed.  It was about NOT taking that "zoo pic" but capturing the essence and personality of the subject.
I have an affinity for owls. Owls trump most birds except maybe the Harpy Eagle. Or the Toucan.  Maybe a parrot:)  Well....you get the idea:)
As I'm understanding the wildlife better, my fears are also quieting down a bit.  The Barn Owl flew near my ear and everyone went, "Oh my gosh guy!"  One time a Bobcat came running towards me and then turned to the side.  It didn't frighten me.  I'm always super careful but I'm learning to read animal and bird behavior better.  The Owl was just going after food.  The Bobcat was only running down the path to capture a mouse.
Now I've heard stories.  Canada and the northern parts of the United States have issues with Great-horned Owls going after "Soccer" Moms.  I couldn't figure out why this was happening until it was mentioned that while running, their ponytails looked like moving mice.  I laughed at first and then thought about it visually.  A head injury from owl talons is not cool.  So to those soccer moms out there, cover up!  And hide that ponytail under a baseball cap! Public Radio is so informative:)
There is a story out there just waiting to be written and I hope to write it for you all one day.  Arizona is/was home to several parrot species.  I will be studying these birds over the next year here in Arizona.  I hope to find some(beyond the lovebirds and monk parrots of Phoenix and Casa Grande). The Thick-billed Parrot is a rare treasure and if you ever come across one, consider yourself extremely lucky!  It is endangered and while there is a successful captive program going on around the country, these birds have lost ground to habitat destruction, poaching, and high predation from hawks like the Northern Goshawk.  The reintroduction to the Madrean islands looks to be highly unlikely.  Currently these birds are found in the Mexican state of Chihuahua and I'm thinking a trip there would be fun.
However, Western Screech Owls are common in Tucson.  Here's one below I recently took in the wild.  Not the greatest of shots, but these tiny owls are still a wonderful find!

I've been thinking about adding an owl box to my garden here at El Presidio.  The only issue?  3 feral cats that roam freely thanks to ghetto neighbors.  I love cats.  I love owls.  But if I saw an owl killed by a feral cat, it would be the cats end.  I'd capture it and have it taken to Pima Animal Control.  And bye bye feral cat.  They kill over 3 billion birds a year! We have 5 cats at our place and they are not allowed outside.  But they do get an entertainment window to watch birds.  It's a win win for birds and cats alike.
And so, the owl nesting box will have to wait until Greystoke, Tubby, and Bear no longer come around.
This spring I will be working on my butterfly garden again. This past summer, we saw so many of them around our property.  It's all about using the right plants:)
I can now relax my camera when it comes to the Barn and Western Screech Owls.
The little guy below was very curious.
I think snakes are cool(when they are behind glass).  This Mohave Rattlesnake gave me the shivers.  There's nothing worse than coming across a snake in the wild while birding.  I now have a first aid kit for that potential bite.
Mohave Rattlesnake
One trek I have yet to make is to the Aravapai reserve.  It's home to many of our Bighorn Sheep.
Bighorn Sheep
Soon our hummingbirds will have babies.
And as for the aquarium???  It was divine!  Check out the video below from my Iphone:) Until next time.....


  1. Sometimes it's nice to get a little more upclose and personal with wildlife. I'm sure these at the museum are relatively accustomed to people. More great shots.

  2. Your wildlife photography is truly, truly amazing. I have to take my hat off to you as a photographer-guru. I love your photos of the owls.

  3. I have visited the Dessert Museum and really enjoyed it, so I recognized some of the critters from there. The owl pictures are amazing, I see them rarely and am usually so surprised I don't get a picture.

  4. Wonderful post Chris with some great photos - a great place to practice wildlife photography.

    Good luck with your parrot project - look forward to reading all about it in the future :) Love the aquarium video :)

  5. Chris, your photos are wonderful. Love the owls, especially the barn owl. And the cats are all cool. I would love to see the parrot in the wild, I guess that would mean another trip. Great post, have a happy day!

  6. Owls, bug wings and cats!! I am on overload!!
    Wonderful pictures. I love them all. I would love to know what a hummingbird egg looks like.

  7. love the grays in those screech owls! so cute!

  8. I like owls also---and you are the Owl King--when it comes to AWESOME photos. I emailed you a video of a cat and barn owl... TOO CUTE.

    Great pictures of the other critters also... Loved seeing the Bighorn Sheep when we were in Yellowstone last Sept.


  9. Qué bonitas imágenes.. Y qué guapa esa lechuza.. genial!!!.. Un saludo desde España..

  10. I was starting to wonder if you had really visited an aquarium! :-)

  11. You've done a great job again in capturing these creatures. And the details are so, so marvelous, especially those eyes!

  12. Such great photos! Loved seeing all the animals. Aquariums are so addicting. I could watch for hours. Funny about the pony tails and owls. I keep that in mind. Ha! Thanks.

  13. Woweee kiddo these are awesome shots! I love owls too. The way they can turn their heads around cracks me up! And cool video. Are those ocean worms?

  14. You are an amazing wildlife photographer...I understand about just wanting to observe the birds tho...more and more the older I get too. It is just nice to stand in wonder, isn't it???

  15. Oh my gosh Chris, so much going on over there. I'm with you in the appreciation of owls thing, love them..just bought another tee shirt with an owl on front. There's something about their eyes that look almost a little human like don't you think, not like other birds. Sounds like you have a lot to do in your garden to get ready for spring/summer, I cannot even begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to winter here, it can't come soon enough! Have a good weekend, take care.


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