Wednesday, March 27, 2013

300 Lifebirds

Greetings all,

Today was a big day for me as I hit 300 lifebirds!  I know I know.  "That's it?", you're all saying:)  Yes.  10, 000 birds out there and only 9,700 +some to go:) But with my work ethic and OCD nature, those numbers will go up. It's not as easy as it sounds:) I began truly birding just a year and a half ago.  And I only began serious birding when I met Kathie Brown.  So I blame it all on her:)   So today, I thought, I'd take you on a brief countdown from the EBIRD list of birds I've seen and photographed during my travels.  It was fun revisiting all of these shots.  So here we go.....

25-Lesser Kiskadee.  At number 25, I found this bird in Panama City on the Amador Causeway.  I thought the tree leaves and bird were perfect together and took the pic.

50-Mallard Ducks.  Invasive for some countries and seen everywhere, the Mallard is well known around the world.  This shot was taken at Bay Beach State Park near Green Bay, Wisconsin.

75-Red-tailed Hawk.  The pride of the Desert Southwest.  The Red-tail Hawk is a beauty.  Here he stares down a punk Loggerhead Shrike.  They had issues on this day.  At Box Canyon near Green Valley, AZ

100-Black-throated Sparrow.  Many say this bird is handsome.  I think they're correct:) Taken at Saguaro National Park, Rincon Unit, Tucson, AZ

125-Mexican Jay.  We all have Jays in our lives and at our feeders.  The Mexican Jay is the Jay that I see on every outing in Pima County.  We both speak Spanish and have a good relationship.  Thankfully, there aren't any issues with Border Patrol and this bird.  Gracias a Dios! Madera Canyon, AZ

150-Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher.  Truly a catch.  This bird is sought after by everyone in the US.  Arizona is its' northern most range.  Here the bird nests at Ramsey Canyon.

175-Plain-Capped Starthroat.  This bird taught me the thrill and anxiety of the "chase".  It was my first bird that I couldn't let go.  I lost many nights of sleep pursuing this rare Mexican migrant.  During one day with people from around the US, this bird came to the feeder and allowed me some much needed R&R....and relief from the chigger bites.  Ash Canyon B&B in the Huachuca Mountains

200-Belted Kingfisher.  I love Kingfishers.  They are one of my favorite birds to see in the wild.  Taken at Sam Lena Park in Tucson, AZ

225-Western Meadowlark. The beautiful song of the Meadowlark makes people smile ear to ear.  Near Sandario Road

250-American Pipit.  While maybe not an exciting bird for many people, it sure makes looking at a farmer's field more interesting.  Santa Cruz Flats near Picacho Peak, AZ

275-Hepatic Tanager-Who doesn't like Tanagers?  Whitehouse Picnic Area, Madera Canyon.  Now drum rolls please........who is number 300????

300-Swainson's Hawk!!!!!  Today on the way to work, I saw one on the telephone pole!  The picture above was taken at the Renaissance Faire for up close study and detailed shots.  For every hundred gained is a celebration earned.  More soon.....

Monday, March 25, 2013

Patient Observations

Greater Roadrunner
As we approach April, I find myself with 212 birds on the list for this year.  Now that's pretty good, but if you're playing this as a game or competition, it's not good enough:)  While on my journeys, I've really found some wonderful birds up close and personal.
Northern Rough-winged Swallows
Of course, some I see often, but I can't help but take their pictures.
Northern Mockingbird
With spring in full force down here in Tucson, we're finding lots of birds displaying courtship behaviors.
Many of these birds are singing out on the limbs of trees and bushes trying to find the love of their life.
This really has allowed me to get closer to the birds and snap the shots.
Gila Woodpecker
If you just sit, like I did with Kathie, the birds will come right up to you.  And that's when these normally difficult to film birds come out and jump very close to us.  We had so much fun snapping shots of sparrows, towhees and quail!
Black-throated Sparrow
We've been attracting attention lately observing birds.  Tourists find us and ask us questions like, "Any good birds?"  "What do you see?"  Then they try to take shots of the birds after they've scared them away.  Several younger kids went to photograph the Gambel's Quail.  But if you sit and wait....
Canyon Towhee
They will come to you!!!  It's been difficult to lose the curious and oblivious tourists on this quest to find birds.
Gambel's Quail(male)
Before I was polite.  Now I just walk away as quick as I can.

Recently on a birding trip, Kathie met several people who followed her blog.  It's always exciting meeting  everyone, but take a look at what was going on while she was chatting.....
Kathie and the Acorn Woodpecker
An Acorn Woodpecker was at the feeder!  She didn't see the bird because she was excited to meet the nice couple.  But I couldn't help and take a snapshot of her chatting while the bird took advantage of the distraction!!    That made me have a good laugh.  When she finished talking and turned her head, the bird made her jump as he flew off the feeder. "Oh my gosh, there was a bird next to my head."  Yes there was Ms. Brown.  Yes there was:) And a Northern Harrier flew over your head:)
Don't get me wrong.  I love people.  I wouldn't work with people if I didn't find them interesting BUT as a wildlife photographer, I want to get as close as I can to my target bird without the distractions.   The details are breathtaking on these big and small birds.  It requires extreme focus and QUIET!
I was in love with our photo shoots on this day.  The birds were fabulous as were the walks.  
Song Sparrow
Not all days are successful, but some days, the finds are exciting and the pics are terrific.
Common Merganser(female or hen)
Right now, I have some photography that will be published out of Brazil on UNESCO sites.  And there's a potential art show getting put together with my work in Quito, Ecuador for next summer.  Now that would be an epic birding trip for 2014!  I'd have some work on display at a gallery and then I could go around the country for epic treks.  Life is good and it's becoming more and more fantastic as time goes on.
But for now, my focus stays in Arizona as I hunt down as many species as I can within our beautiful state.
the Great Egret
Life truly is an adventure.  Since this photo shoot, we've had some epic journeys into the mountains and canyons.  There have been incredible finds.  Where will we be next?  Stay tuned for more.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Las Brisas Del Mar

Ring-bill Gull
Who knew a gull could inspire so much happiness?  Growing up with gulls, I found them to be full of aggressive mischief and poop.  But on a recent outing with Kathie, this gull changed the way I felt about our day.  It was a difficult morning for me.  I had a hard time focusing.  I was tired.  And frustrated.  Essentially, I was not on top of my game.  What's worse was that I didn't get great shots of my lifebirds or any bird in general.  This was the only bird shot I was pleased with(above).  Kathie saw that I was not my usual self and was very kind and patient.  I've been pushing myself to do better, but as we all know and experience, we don't always have it our way.
Roosevelt Lake-no people
In times like these, I have to remember to breathe and just take it all in.  I used to do this but my brain is wrapped around birds birds birds birds.  Plotting.  Planning.  Scheming.  Ultimately, it has changed me.  Not all for the good.  I understand why many birders get irritated on the trails now.  Too many people will spoil a day quickly.  Such was the case when Kathie and I went to Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  Now Las Aventuras took you there about 2 years ago.  It was an amazing place.  And it was actually my first time taking pics of hummingbirds (which aren't really so good looking back on them:)  That's the fun part about having a blog. We watch ourselves grow as writers and photographers. I can only answer for the photography:) We have to start somewhere.  There were birds and oh so many of them.  But do you think any of them would work with the photographer???  Not on this day.  Terrible shots would be taken of the Williamson's Sapsucker, the Warbling Vireo, and Verdin nest!  The lighting was all wrong.  And hawks were hungry making everyone hide really well.
The Apricot Trees at El Presidio.  Each blossom is a fruit. 
So the biggest thing we looked forward to(the Boyce Thompson Arboretum) turned out to be the worst idea.  Sure I got lifebirds, but they came without awesome photos.  There were too many tourists screaming and shouting along the trails and THAT was frustrating.  I am a lister, chaser, photographer, and do enjoy the counts(as long as they aren't Northern Shovelers!:)  But I am chaser and photographer first.  We didn't dip on any of our birds this day, but I did dip on the photos and that made me frustrated.
Sabino Canyon near the dam-no people
So it made me rebel several days afterwards.  In fact, Kathie and I both had it up to our necks with people spoiling the birding mood and we went off and did our own thing.  When we arrived at Roosevelt Lake, it was like the dawning of a new day!!!  Except that the sun was was the realization that we had a long drive back home! But what a truly magical and a great way to end our day.  Yet we both were sad that we chose to bird at Roosevelt at the end of the day instead of the beginning.  Live and learn I guess.  The days that followed made us focus more on the road less taken(by tourists) and our trips were unforgettable....and people-less.  And the glorious birds!!!
My Red Baron Peach Tree
But meanwhile, back in my garden at El Presidio.  Spring has arrived.  My peaches and apricots are blooming.  The winds have changed.  No longer are the cold breezes present.  And with this change marks the beginning of spring here in the Old Pueblo.
Lucy's Warbler -no people!
Kathie and I would both continue to bird together and alone.  But we grew wiser about our planning and we birded before the great masses of people came full force.  In Tucson, it's high season for tourists.
Great Egret as the sun sets at Agua Caliente Park-no people
Migration has really been an exciting time for us.  Sometimes it came from watching the Turkey Vultures blast off in the morning at Ft. Lowell park.  Or listening to the new chorus of bird songs around the city.
Turkey Vulture-I'm in a wash alone
This Lark Sparrow below tweeted and fanned his voice like a bug to catch that lucky lady to begin their new lark sparrow family. Good luck buddy!
Lark Sparrow-a guy with a dog was at the park....a sign to go home
Families begin.  Rookeries form.  And all around us is this wonderful harmonious song that is carried forth on the warm winds.
The Circle of Life.  Great Blue Herons land for the night around Roosevelt Lake
The Sandhill Cranes of winter have mostly gone and left these fields empty once again.
Whitewater Draw-no people
During one afternoon after work, I stood in the middle of Sweetwater as thousands of Yellow-headed blackbirds flew around me. The wind from their wings brushed against my face and made me smile.  Again no people were present.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds at Sweetwater-no people
And the gull over the water reminded me why I bird.  It's not always about finding the lifebird or getting the shot.  Sometimes it's about taking it all in.  Kathie has that part down.  I still work on it. When I saw the gull, I felt energized again and excited.  This bird is the symbol of my hometown from Wisconsin and it reminds me why I moved to Arizona many years ago. In my own way, I'm that hometown gull who found his way into the deserts and canyons. On this night, I saw something incredible.....a majestic gull flying over a desert lake.

 I must remember to pay attention to the direction of the wind.  Going against it is most unpleasant and creates more work. Yet when I move with the momentum, I float effortlessly like the gull over water. In other words, sometimes it's just best to stay home and not bird:)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Yonder Come Day

Yonder come day,

Double-Crested Cormorant with Neotropic Cormorants

 day is a’breakin’

Yonder come day,

Yellow-headed Blackbirds

 oh my soul!

Yonder come day,

 day is a’breakin’

Rock Squirrels

Sun is a’risin’ 

in my soul.

                                         Trees are green 

and the
air is sweet. 

Gila Woodpecker

Good earth is singin’

Vermilion Flycatcher
                                      underneath my feet.
                     I’ll point my feet down that freedom line.
Great Mormon Butterflies
                                  Walkin’ that road I’m
                                            feelin’ fine.
Harris Hawk
Great-tailed Grackle

Walk That Road!

White Morphos

Walk That Road!

Yonder Come Day
Traditional Georgia Sea Islands Spiritual