Look into My Crystal Ball

I got a new toy, a crystal ball for photography effects. So far, I haven’t really been to a location that is especially conducive to this little gadget but I’ve experimented with it a little. The above photo was taken at the Desert Botanical Garden. After I realized I wasn’t going to get anything I was pleased with, I walked around in the late afternoon sun and got some regular photos.

Currently the Garden has an exhibit by Jun Kaneko scattered around various areas. Some people love it, some not so much. I’m probably in the latter category but I do know that they need to bring exhibits in so that more people will come to the garden so they can support their mission of research, education, and conservation. The sculptures are mostly glazed ceramic forms although the one, below, is a bronzed form.

Below are the stars of the show, the Tanukis, based on Kaneko’s interpretation of the Japanese raccoon-dog which is a real animal and also a popular theme in Japanese art. See more on Tanukis here.

Visitors are encouraged to hug the Tanukis and everyone wants their photo taken with their favorite one. I was volunteering one night at a busy event and countless people handed me their phones and asked me to take their pictures.

A few days later, I went over to Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden to try my luck with the crystal ball again:

Still not thrilled with the results, I snapped a few other shots:

Red-naped Sapsucker

Gila Woodpecker

I have a glass stand and a wooden stand for the ball but the photos I’ve seen that I like the best are those where the stand doesn’t show, either by cropping it or by not using it. However, if you don’t use the stand, you have to be careful that the ball doesn’t get scratched by whatever you have it on and that it won’t roll away and break. Here’s a practice photo I took with the glass stand…not thrilled with seeing it.

Do you want one? This is the one I have.

Do you want to see some beautiful photos taken with them? Check here.

Want some tips?

CAUTION: It’s true that the ball can refract the sun’s rays and cause a fire. I set mine on a white table outside for about 3 minutes. When I touched the refraction on the table, it was burning hot!

P.S. It’s my 9 year blogiversary on 2/13!

 

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McDowell Mountain Regional Park

This is Four Peaks as seen from McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  At 21,099 acres, it is one of the largest parks in the Maricopa County Parks System and is known for its stunning mountain views.

In a few more weeks, the daylight hours will be long enough to head farther out of town but we have been staying fairly local throughout the winter. We have a lot of new places on our list and several that we want to go back to again so this particular park and the one before it (White Tanks) will probably not go on our “repeat list.” It’s a nice park and I’m sure a lot of people love it but the 3 mile North Trail Loop that we walked seemed like a really long 3 miles, just not real exciting.

Black-throated Sparrow

It also was not overly birdy until we got to one small area toward the end of the hike that was very chirpy and busy. In addition to many of the above sparrows and the other birds in this post, we saw many House Finches, a Cardinal, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and several White-Crowned Sparrows.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Loggerhead Shrike (the impaler)

Phainopepla, female

Common Raven

Packrat Nest

Weaver’s Needle in the Superstition Mountains

Gila Woodpecker, female

One of the best things about many County Parks, I’ve noticed (in at least AZ, IN, and MI), is that they often seem to have bird feeders as they did here by the Visitor Center. We spent a little time before we left watching who would come to the feeders and talking to a friendly bird-loving ranger. No lifers but it was only the second time I’ve seen the following bird (there were 2):

Canyon Towhee

I did learn something new…

The Four Peaks are named, from left to right: Brown’s Peak (the highest at 7,657 feet), Brother’s Peak, Sister’s Peak, and Amethyst Peak. There is an amethyst mine up there, very rustic, that produces beautiful amethysts. And I just found out that you can take a helicopter tour to the mine, according to this article! That sounds totally amazing and is pretty expensive as the article states. I do have a ring that has Arizona amethyst in it so now I know where it came from.

Eat or Be Eaten

American Kestrel, male

I know everyone needs to eat but please don’t eat any of the sweet birdies I feed, Mr. Kestrel.

Orange-crowned Warbler

And this is what I feed “my” birds daily:

  1. Suet Cake (1)
  2. Orange (1~halved)
  3. Grape Jelly
  4. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS)
  5. Thistle
  6. Sugar water for the hummingbirds (4 feeders)

The Orange-crowned Warbler (above) really only eats the jelly anymore.

Abert’s Towhee

The towhees eat everything but the thistle and hummingbird food.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Same for the thrashers and they seemed to be working on a nest the other day although I couldn’t locate it.

Anna’s Hummingbirds, males and female

Bugs and nectar for these guys.

Northern Mockingbird

Mockingbirds are bold, aggressive birds yet they seem shy around the food. They will eat everything but the thistle but I don’t see them come to the feeders very often at all. They watch and wait before they come in to have a bite.

White-crowned Sparrows, adults and immature

These guys eat nothing I put out but do like mulberries. It will be a couple months until we have mulberries, though, so we’ll see if they stick around. There seem to be 4 of them.

Gila Woodpeckers, female and male

These woodpeckers love the oranges but will also eat suet and BOSS. I don’t think I’ve seen them in the jelly yet. But the male is so loud when he arrives, announcing to everyone that he is here, and the female sneaks in without a chirp. Many people I know say they drink from their hummingbird feeders but I’ve never seen them do that in our yard.

Verdin

Pretty much oranges only for the Verdins now that the only hummingbird feeder I had that they could drink from broke.

Eurasian-collared Dove

These doves are hogs, especially in the BOSS feeder, knocking all the seed to the ground. When they leave in the summer, the White-winged Doves show up and they’re just as obnoxious. Oh, yes, we have pigeons, too; same for them, obnoxious.

House Sparrow, male

Everyone’s favorite invasive species eats everything I put out except the thistle. They’re raucous and plentiful but I don’t really mind them much. This guy was after peanuts which I put out once in awhile for a special treat.

House Finch, male

The finches eat everything, including thistle, but they’re so pretty, I enjoy them.

European Starling

I guess I’m lucky because some people complain that starlings, another invasive species, are feeder hogs. We have a few starlings but I’ve never seen any eat any of the food. I do enjoy the sounds they make; it sounds like a happy circus when they’re around.

Lesser Goldfinches, males and females

And these little cuties, so different from the House Finches, eat only thistle. I love that they like the swings. They sit on them while they wait for an opening on the thistle socks.

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White Tank Mountains

Looking east toward Phoenix and beyond

Our first day trip of 2018 was to the far west side of the valley to the White Tanks. In 1963, Maricopa County acquired the land that makes up the north end of the White Tank Mountains from the Bureau of Land Management and opened up the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. The park is currently the largest and most primitive park in the Maricopa County Park System with over 29,000 acres and elevation ranging from 1,370 to 4,087 feet.*

We walked the Waterfall Trail. It had rained the night before but not nearly enough for the waterfall to run. Neverthelss, it was a remarkable sight. The park is also full of petroglyphs from the Hohokam period, the prehistoric culture that occupied the Salt River Valley and surrounding area between AD 100 and 1450. Most of the artifacts there have been dated from AD 500 to 900.*

There is a large concentration of petroglyphs in a fenced area called “Petroglyph Plaza” and others are scattered throughout.

The end of this particular trail is at the waterfall.

There was water in a small pool at the base of the waterfall but, even without running water, one can see the sediment and erosion from thousands of years of flowing water. It was pretty awesome looking.

Where were all the birds???? We hardly saw any. This is the only photo I got.

Black-throated Sparrow

Hopefully, our future trips will be more birdful.

*Some of the information was obtained from this publication.

 

 

Cacophony and Color

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

Our yard has been pretty active lately but it seems to have gotten even more so the last few days. Some new, colorful birds have been dropping by and sometimes it is so loud out there that it sounds like we’re deep in a busy, bird-filled forest.

Verdins

Orange-crowned Warbler

“Tink,” above, is no longer the yellowest bird in the yard! Since I hung a thistle sock a few days ago, a whole flock of these guys, below, have moved in. There must be at least 20 of them and they are very chatty. I only recently saw a couple in the yard and, once the thistle was out, the word apparently got out among their friends. I love watching them, they’re so bright and pretty.

Lesser Goldfinches, male and female

I was hoping the thistle would draw some other kinds of goldfinches or some Pine Siskins (which would be lifers) but, so far, the only new birds I’ve gotten are:

Rosy-faced Lovebird

The lovebirds were originally escapees from a pet store back in the 1980s but they were able to flourish here and now there is a large, feral population. I had seen them pass through our yard now and then but now they are dropping bu more regularly. They also like black oil sunflower seed and they like the swing, too, but I haven’t gotten a photo of that yet. You can always hear when they are around.

Gila Woodpeckers, male and female

The male is very loud and raucous but the female has just started showing up to eat oranges and she is very quiet.

Gilded Flicker, female

Yard bird #37:

Northern Flicker (Red-shafted), male

House Finches, male

Some of these male House Finches are soooo bright red that I keep thinking I’m seeing Cardinals. We have many, many more bird species in our yard as regulars but these are the most colorful of the bunch.

Hope your New Year is off to a great start and that you have all sorts of fun plans ahead. These were my 2017 Goals and the results:

  1. Volunteer 100 hours at Desert Botanical Garden. Volunteered 102.75 hours.
  2. Find 60 new Lifers (new birds). Found 58.
  3. Go on many AZ day trips with Tony. Went on 23.

2018 Goals are about the same: 100 hours, 50 Lifers, 25 day trips.

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