Hibiscus, its 7th year
Summer in this city means photographing my yard because it’s too hot to go anywhere else…
Verdins, adult and juvenile
Abert’s Towhees, adult and juvenile
Water is life, we have plenty out for the critters…
Ornate Tree Lizard
Northern Mockingbird, juvenile
Rough Stink Bug
Curve-billed Thrasher, juvenile
House Sparrow, fledgling
House Finch, juvenile
Brown-headed Cowbird, juvenile
Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head.
(Summer in the City, written by Steve Boone, Mark Sebastian, John Sebastian, 1966)
Bald Eagle, immature
This is either Hope or Joy, one of 2 Bald Eagles hatched in a nest in a Scottsdale golf course last spring (in a densely populated area). They were well-known locally then and each of them fell from their nest as nestlings and were placed back in by Arizona Game and Fish and Liberty Wildlife rehabbers. You can read their story and see them as babies here and here. I never saw them last year as their exact location was a secret, for their safety.
Anyway, I was at Lake Marguerite, which isn’t far from that golf course, a couple times recently looking for a Hairy Woodpecker and the second time I looked up and Hope or Joy was watching me! It’s always exciting to see a bald eagle, I think, and he/she took off right as I watched, zipped over the lake, swooped down, grabbed a fish, and flew off right by me. And I even saw the Hairy Woodpecker (which was my 12th lifer this year) but the photo is basically a black and white blur so I won’t show it here. However, I got a couple shots of this girl:
Ladder-backed Woodpecker, female
I was also at Granada Park recently, my old standby park that I don’t visit much anymore, and I was surprised to see this beautiful guy watching me from the trees. While not a lifer, it was the best shots I’ve ever gotten of one.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s
And when I was recently volunteering at the Desert Botanical Garden, I walked around afterwards and saw a few more critters.
Gila Woodpecker, male
Costa’s Hummingbird, male
Costa’s hummingbird, female
Amazingly, four Wood Ducks have been hanging out about half of a mile away from our house in an odd little office complex pond (see a photo of it here). There are 3 males and 1 female. This was another lifer for me! They are not really common here and I’ve been trying to see one for a long time. I never thought I would see 4 at once! And so close to home!
I’ve been there twice so far. The security guard said they fly in and out so they are spending their time somewhere else nearby, too. I’m hoping they plan to winter here. So beautiful!
House Sparrow, male
I’ve been trying to get the backyard birds to pose for holiday shots. Herding cats is easier than herding birds. I should have stuck with cat holiday shots.
House Sparrow, female
Not surprisingly, only the sparrows are participating so far.
Last year I only saw our wintering warbler eating oranges but this year it is digging the suet, too.
Anna’s Hummingbird, male
Anna’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.
The 2 species of birds, above, are among my favorite yard birds, and they both have been kind enough to pose on my perch.
Here’s the “nature” part of this post. The American Kestrel who drops by fairly often was dining on a Yellow-rumped Warbler the other day. I know raptors need to eat but I always feel bad when nature takes its course anyway. The Yellow-rumped Warblers are just returning to town for the winter so this winter visitor didn’t get the welcome it wanted. 😦
I have yet to see one this year so I hope this guy doesn’t eat all of them. Here are a couple more of my year-round favorite yard birds (and I hope they don’t get devoured).
Gila Woodpecker, female