Wintering

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It’s cold here in Phoenix right now…really. See?

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The birds in our yard are happy to have some food.

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annas-2-11-28-16Anna’s Hummingbirds, males

I was just telling a birder friend last weekend that I had a sweet Orange-crowned Warbler who wintered with me last year and that I hoped it would come back this year. Monday I walked outside and guess who was here? And I’m pretty sure it’s the same one because it has a little black “muzzle” around its bill. I’m so flattered and amazed that it came back to my yard and hope we have many photo shoots in the future.

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That same friend and I went on a little birding outing last weekend. She had yet to see the (rare for AZ)  Red-breasted Sapsucker that I mentioned in my last blog post. And I had never seen a Red-naped Sapsucker, reported at the same Scottsdale park. It was a very cloudy day, not the best for photography, but we found her target bird:

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rbss-backRed-breasted Sapsucker

And we found my target bird, a lifer:

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rn-sapsucker-2Red-naped Sapsucker

It had been months since I last had a lifer. My friend and I then went back to Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden as she had never been there. No lifers and not much bird action at all on a cold, cloudy day.

mock-sxg-11-26-16Northern Mockingbird

costasCosta’s Hummingbird

LIFE WITHOUT MARBLES

In sadder news, we had our almost 19 year old cat, Marbles, put to sleep last week. The vet came to our house and it was very peaceful. Marbles left purring.

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He loved laying in sunny spots. We didn’t get Marbles until he was 6 so we only spent 12 and a half years with him. He was always a very small cat but very alpha, especially the first few years. He mellowed later on and he and Google were great brothers.

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This is Google saying goodbye on his last day.

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Kitty dynamics always change when one dies. We still have 3 indoor cats, who don’t get along with each other very well. Maybe that will change now. And we also have our many outdoor cats. Soon I will update on them.

Sharpshooter

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Not me, my new lens. I’ve been trying to determine if it is, in fact, sharper than my previous super telephoto lens. It’s definitely sharp in good light but I guess I can’t expect miracles in low light.

So last winter an out-of-range Red-breasted Sapsucker wintered in a Scottsdale park. Amazingly, he returned again this year to not only the same park but the same couple of mesquite trees he preferred last year! I guess he enjoyed his winter in Scottsdale as many other snowbirds do. This year he was a little higher up than last year so my photos are not as good but I loved seeing him and think it’s so amazing that one little bird can find the very tree he was in last year.

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I stopped at Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden on my way home and saw a few other critters (almost all in low light).

cottontail-sxg_edited-1Desert Cottontail

finch-11-19-16House Finch, male

mock-sxgNorthern Mockingbird

monarch-sxgMonarch Butterfly

mourning-dove-sxgMourning Dove

says-sxgSay’s Phoebe

starling-11-19-16European Starling

And back to my yard:

american-snout-11-19-16American Snout Butterfly

hum-11-22-16Anna’s Hummingbird, male

inca-doveInca Dove

This guy, thankful for nuts…

thrasher-nut-11-22-16_edited-1Curve-billed Thrasher

happy thanksgiving!

Back in Circulation

red-eared-terrapinRed-eared Terrapin

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towhee-2-11-5-16Abert’s Towhee

thrasher-granadaCurve-billed Thrasher

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mock-on-wireNorthern Mockingbird

goose-in-woodsDomestic Goose

wigeonAmerican Wigeon

eucd-11-5-16Eurasian Collared-Dove

hum-11-5-16Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Back in February, 2015, I got a new lens for birding, the Sigma 150-500mm. It was on sale. Shortly thereafter, they released 2 versions of a Sigma 150-600mm (hence the sale). I was very happy with my lens and could handhold it whereas the birding friends I knew who got the 150-600mm could not handhold theirs. Those things are huge…but do deliver a very crisp photo. If I was in great light and all, my photos were crisp, too, but as time wore on, I felt it focused sort of slowly and could be sharper so I started thinking about the Nikkor 200-500mm. It was quite a bit heavier and bigger than my lens, though, so I kept stalling because I was afraid I would have to use a tripod or monopod.

Then another acquaintance in my birding group, who is an excellent photographer, and who is able to “test drive” lenses (I don’t really know how he pulls that off) said the new Tamron 150-600mm, 2nd generation, just released in September, was faster and crisper than the Nikkor. I looked at the specs and it was only 4 ounces heavier than my Sigma and just slightly longer so I felt it could still be handheld. It was the same price as the Nikkor so I traded in my Sigma and now have the Tamron.

I really haven’t tried it out much yet. I went out to a park one day and got a few photos but, other than that, have mostly used it in my yard. Our yard is pretty dark so I don’t think I’ve experimented enough yet to gauge the sharpness. The extra few ounces are actually noticeable as far as handholding but I think I’ll get used to that. The extra reach from 500 to 600 is very noticeable. I usually have buyer’s remorse but I’m trying to get over it. I guess I have to say that I just haven’t used it enough, under the right conditions, to know if it is markedly sharper and faster to focus but it has excellent reviews so I’m hopeful.

And here are a couple photos taken with my 18-300mm. These 2 Macaws live at Dig It Urban Gardens and Nursery, where I went the other day.

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skipper-aboveFiery Skipper

 

The Countdown

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I wasn’t going to get into the election because I don’t want to alienate anyone…but I changed my mind plus these are all the photos I have right now.

Both of these murals were done by local muralist Angel Diaz about voting against Maricopa County’s long-time, attention-grabbing, controversial Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. His opponent is ahead in the polls right now. Do you see the additional hidden message in the top mural? I didn’t notice it when I was there but see it now.

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I know tensions are running high on both sides so I won’t say much here. We voted early and dropped our ballots off at an early polling location a couple weeks ago.

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The Arizona Democratic Party has a sense of humor

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And they really had a taco truck there.

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Google’s PSA:

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You can probably guess who I’m voting for…

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At any rate, it will all be over in a couple days and we can get back to just the normal scary stuff like creepy clowns.

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Spooky

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This is the only actual Halloween shot I’ve taken this year. I thought the birds would be more responsive to getting a treat by doing a trick for me but…wrong. Just this guy, one time…at least while I was watching and waiting.

So I had to find some older photos that might seem a little spooky or creepy…hope you don’t get too scared.

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dsc_1381ExoSKELETONS

bones-on-ballDem Bones

dsc_0001-cropCreepy Mausoleum

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dsc_2426Lalo Cota mural

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lalo-cropped-squareLalo Cota painting

ants-dhr_edited-1Emerging from the depths of the earth…

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Boo!

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