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Showing posts with the label birds

The Best Camera in the World... the one that you actually brought along. I experienced both sides of that double-edged sword, today.

Is it the miracle of moisture that has brought Mother Nature back to life in this godforsaken hot arid wasteland? Lately a Western Tanager seems to have established residence in my campground. And for the first time, I met the "Mrs." as well.

What a little lens-tease he was! He would light upon a bush right next to the road Coffee Girl and I were mountain biking on. Since I take my new camera in a handlebar bar, it is easy to grab it. But there are still a few more steps to fumble through -- do you remember that classic scene in "The Unforgiven", when Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) tells the hack western writer, "Being quick with the draw don't do no harm, but a man who stays cool will kill ya..." or something like that.

And I just barely missed photographing him four times. He would move down the road ahead of us another 50 feet, and I would pa…

Outdoor Perfection

I actually got a picture of both of them disporting on the ridge, but it isn't worth showing. After all, that is the whole point.

Chilly, dry air. A mostly blue sky, with a few puffy clouds. And just enough cool breeze to stimulate without annoying. But I wasn't the only creature to respond to the breeze. A turkey buzzard was using ridge-lift to fly along, almost effortlessly.

A mountain bike, a dog, and a turkey buzzard. I thought my dog was tired until she saw that turkey buzzard. Then she blasted across the ridge, using the trail as her route -- quite surprising. The turkey buzzard was curious about her, but didn't taunt her as much as a dastardly raven would.

It doesn't get any better than this. But you're not telling us anything new, the long-suffering reader is thinking. But I don't care. I'm not trying to invent something, I'm merely trying to wallow in something good.

Some Big Wings Soar

Sometimes I think a person who has escaped the cubicle and the rat race can undermine their own cause by puffing up with expectations that are too grand and romantic. No matter how you envision the perfect lifestyle, daily life still has to be built one humble brick at a time: perhaps a better diet, working on your rig, taking the dog for numerous walks, watching thunderstorms build up, reading and writing, investing, or keeping a keen eye for wildlife and birds. 

Lately I have drifted away from photographing birds. The great advantage of being a bird watcher is that it can be done anywhere and almost any day. But that is looking at life the way a Baron d'Holbach or utilitarian philosopher would. There are advantages to their approach, as I was writing about last post.

Or there is that other utilitarian, Benjamin Franklin, who wrote a classic line in his autobiography: "Human Felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advant…

A Brave Little Beast

A couple birds carried-on a noisy aerial dogfight over my trailer. It's not unusual for a couple small birds to get after a large raptor, but here a single small bird held forth, valiantly. The fight went on for half an hour. My dog was annoyed the entire time.

But isn't it amazing what inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras can do these days! Those two birds were up there, say, 300 feet. I took the optical zoom way out there, so far that it was hard to keep them in the frame. And yet the box turned green -- focus was achieved. And even after digital zoom was added, the photo is still pretty clear:

I am now reading Jack London's "The Sea Wolf," so my mind takes to "wind sports". I wonder if London ever wrote a couple paragraphs on something like what is in this photo, and what meaning he read into it.

"Top Gun" at Cliff's Edge

Luna, NM. If you ever spend time reading product reviews or discussion forums on digital cameras, well, I hope you get more out of them than I do. It's far easier to just say that the "best" camera is the one that gets taken -- every time.

Recently I was chewing myself out for forgetting my camera on the short dog-walk when Coffee Girl treed the coatimundi, the first I've ever seen. It's so easy to do so because short walks don't seem to "count." 

Chastened by self-nagging, I went for a late afternoon dog-walk, this time with my camera. Out the RV door we went, walking up the short distance to the cliff's edge.

Although I could camp -- and in fact have camped -- right at the cliff-line for a dramatic view, experience has shown it best to camp a short distance away. This is a statement that many optical sybarites would never buy. I can think of one Lazy Daze motorhomer who would back his living room and IMAX window right up to -- or even hang over -…

Western Tanager

It would have been easy to drop my hiking pole over the cliff (like Gayle the other day) when I saw this bird on a trail that would soon present a marvelous vista of Ouray CO.  After fighting the urge to immediately run to Bobbie (in the Ouray RVing and Hiking Team) for help, I actually managed to identify it as a western tanager. It would only pose for one shot before it flew off. (From my 'birds' album in Picasa:)

This made the hike for me, as did coffee and banana/pumpkin bread back in town.

To Nail a Mockingbird

They say that coyotes can fool you into thinking there are a half a dozen yipping away, when in fact it's only a couple. I've been experiencing that with a "flock" of birds in the riparian areas around Glenwood NM. 

It's so hard to write about the pleasure of hearing birds in the morning. It always sounds corny or sappy. But over the years, I notice that this pleasure is growing.

I couldn't take it anymore. I just had to find out who was making all the noise in my camping area. Actually most of it was quite musical. Maybe it was just one bird who was vocally gifted. At long last I photographed the culprit.

I really should learn how to record sound on my camera and present it on the blog. This fellow could make at least a half dozen distinct sounds; he would switch from one hit-tune to the next. It was hard to keep track of them all.

He is a medium-sized, slender bird with a grey back, white breast, and showy white bands on the wings, which are most noticeable whe…

Owl in a Cactus

I've only gotten close to an owl once before today, and that was when mountain biking in a ponderosa forest. They are larger and more powerful than I expected. They seem more exotic and menacing than other raptors. So I grinned from ear to ear when a friend walked us over to an owl nest on the southwest side of Tucson. (Gee, maybe I should provide GPS coordinates so readers will have the ultimate in convenience in finding the owl. Isn't that how "RV blogs" are supposed to work?)
An impudent Malevolence in the shadows...

Capturing the Perfect Cactus Photo Cliche

Somewhere and somehow I got a photo cliche into my head: a Gila woodpecker or a cactus wren or a curved bill thrasher sticking its head out of a cactus lacuna. These rascals are always interrupting my bike rides by tempting me with the expectation of capturing this photo cliche. But as I approach, they skedaddle.

Phainopeplas are not rare around here. What I liked about this next guy is the geometry of the ocotillo stalks that he chose to frame his portrait with:

And then there is the bird with the sexiest curves of all, the curved bill thrasher:

The Garrulous Grackle?

During one of our quotidian rides to the bakery and coffee shop, these noisy birds caught my attention. So did their silhouette. Subscription prices and advertising income are a bit low for this blog, so I can't keep a paid birder on staff. If anybody has a guesses about what kind of birds they are, please speak up.

The garrulity of birds is always fun to capture "on film". It makes them look more sentient and intelligent. It's also satisfying to use the camera to invoke the feel of other senses, such as sound in this case.

Gila Woodpecker?

Perhaps I'll have a chance to enjoy one of the bird preserves in Arizona before I take flight in April. Until then there will be only occasional opportunities. In my current campsite in the Sonoran desert I can hear a pretty good symphony in the morning. How nice that is compared to the 7 and 24 noise pollution of camping in a city. It's more fun to hear than see them. (Some campers couldn't be bothered by any of this; they'd have to wake up in the morning-- grin.)

I've warned readers that -- unlike my opinions on sex, politics, and religion -- my bird identifications are prone to error. But I think this little devil is a Gila woodpecker:

Better Than a Stick in the Eye

It was so cold in Silver City NM that we only had one good birding year. Sensible birds go to Arizona in the winter, but not to dry lunar settings like where I am now. The best refuges are along creeks in southeastern Arizona. I miss photographing these rascals. Of course to do it right you need a five pound camera, a one-foot-long telephoto lens, and a tripod. You must also be willing to go where the birds are, rather than the other way around. So I'll never be a real birder. Still, it's fun to get what I can. It's remarkable how much variation there is in the color of red-tailed hawks.

The Next Life of Certain RV Bloggers

It is very satisfying to rise to the challenge of walking in generic (non-national-park) deserts and finding things that interest you. You have to use every angle that you can think of. You can't just be passive and expect the sheer optical pop-titude [*] of the place to wow you into a state of entertainment. (This is one of the False Doctrines of the Desert that some blogs preach. grin.) In the Wickenburg AZ area Coffee Girl and I went to work on the generic Sonoran desert landscape.
Imagining the topography as time lapse, accelerated photography is one of the great advantages of arid land, since geologic layers are exposed. Except for crumples in the earth and lava expulsions, much of the topography is formed subtractively -- that is, erosively -- from layers upon layers that have different erosion rates.

This caprock is only four inches thick; it overhangs about one foot. The mesa is only 20 feet over the lower lands adjacent to it. And yet this numerically humble caprock illustr…

Swallows near a Coffee Shop

This is the last of the swallow homebuilder photos. I promise. With hindsight I really appreciate how lucky I was a couple weeks ago to see and photograph them during their maximum presence near my coffee shop. I haven't seen them since.

I was surprised how contentious these birds were with each other. It wasn't exactly a replay of the harmonious, Amish, barn-raising scene in the Harrison Ford movie, Witness. Nor did it make me want to go out and buy Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village. If anything, these swallows were fans of Ayn Rand.

A Male of a Quail

It's a guy thing, I guess. Or maybe this Gambel quail is just trying to warm up instead of looking macho.

An Un-photographed Owl

I was mountain biking along a scenic ridge the other day when I was startled by some large and noisy animal on the ground, just a few feet in front of me. A deer would have been a good guess. There is nothing exciting about a deer, but I didn't want myself or the bike to get kicked by those snapping hoofs.

It was no deer. It was a large owl that took off from ground level. Well, we've all seen an owl at one time in our lives, but I've never seen one that close. Its big head reminded me of a small football helmet. I didn't see the specific place where it landed, but it might have been at the tree where a half dozen small birds started screaming bloody murder.

It certainly would have been a pleasure to photograph this owl, but it would have taken a helmet mounted video camera. I knew of a mountain biker who did that.

Long-suffering readers know that I am always railing against the perverted aesthetic of nature that is common in our society. I know what made this owl imp…

A Quail of a Tail

Actually there is no tale today. But it was good to get my first photograph of quails after being startled by them a thousand times. My dog has gotten quite fond of charging into bushes to flush them out; she looks like a bowling ball scattering the pins. There is a small dust storm after this, but I'm not sure if the cause is the dog or the furious beating of quail wings.

The male half of the Gambel quail couple in on the right.

Playing Hard to Get

It's natural for a beautiful girl dog's thoughts to turn to Love with the spring weather we've been having lately. My kelpie, Coffee Girl, has a new playmate in the morning: a French Brittany spaniel, named Jake. (How declasse'.) I've never seen her act so silly before; she runs alongside him, licking his face. When he stops, she pushes the side of her body against his. A lot of good it does her. Jake is a (hunting) workaholic who has no time to waste on romantic nonsense.
He has another quirk besides this: he picked up a cholla thorn the other day. His owner had to hold him down, while I pulled the two thorns out. They barely required any pulling, yet he howled bloody murder about it. I couldn't resist giggling.

On our bike ride to town we saw an impressive, medium-sized, brown hawk that flew only five feet off the ground. A half dozen times I almost got my camera out, but he wouldn't cooperate. What a tease! It had a conspicuous transverse white stripe on t…

Bluebird Rivalry?

Why is the old boy on top conquering the female's heart? The lower male seems more colorful.

Nice Tuft

I'm not any good at identifying birds in silhouette. But the tuft grabbed my eyes from a long distance, and he let me approach.
Update: the two commenters were right. It's a phainopepia. I forgot to check my own Picasa web album before giving up on the silhouette above: