All Good in the ‘Hood

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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!

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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!

our-perch-boy_edited-1House 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.

our-perch-girlHouse Sparrow, female

Not surprisingly, only the sparrows are participating so far.

thrasher-straightCurve-billed Thrasher

towhee-12-7-16Abert’s Towhee

ocwa-suet_edited-1Orange-crowned Warbler

Last year I only saw our wintering warbler eating oranges but this year it is digging the suet, too.

verdin-12-3-16Verdin

inca-12-7-16Inca Dove

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hum-3-12-716Anna’s Hummingbird, male

 

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Sharpshooter

verdin-sxgVerdin

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.

harleyHarley

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skipper-aboveFiery Skipper

 

Abundant Sunshine

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I have no clue what this insect is but I’m trying to find out. He has some loooong antennae, though. He was soaking up the sunshine nibbling the lantana.

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Today’s weather sounded more like a fortune than a forecast. I intended to go birding somewhere but made the often repeated mistake of sitting in the backyard watching the birds “for just a couple minutes,” and then it was too late to head out. Tomorrow…

cb-thrasherCurve-billed Thrasher

grackle-girlGreat-tailed Grackle, female

incaInca Dove

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annas-2-9-23-16

hum-molt-10-3-16Anna’s Hummingbirds, males, molting

verdin-and-hummerVerdin and Anna’s Hummingbird

You can see that Verdins are only a tiny bit larger than hummingbirds.

cloudless-sulphurCloudless Sulphur

bee-9-24-16Honey Bee (with full pollen baskets)

kestrel-boyAmerican Kestrel, male

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The female Kestrel flew in a few seconds later and all the rest of the birds took off. They soon left, empty-taloned.

flesh-flyFlesh Fly

eufala-skipperEufala Skipper

Notice how the skippers, above and below, seem to have tiny little horns coming out of their heads? I never noticed that until today, after years of photographing them.

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fiery-skipperFiery Skipper

The lantana is the popular place to be if you’re a little flying critter. I’ve seen some other butterflies there in the last few days but haven’t been able to get any shots.

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September in My Yard

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My birding has been almost non-existent the last few days even though I keep meaning to go out. Mornings are now cooler although it still gets to around 100° in the afternoons so it’s best to be an early bird. I hope to step it up this week. This is FALL migration, after all!

verdin-8-30-16Verdin

So many people in my Facebook birding group are getting exciting migrants in their yards but not us, yet…I keep looking, though.

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All of the hummers in this post are Anna’s Hummingbirds. Other people in the area are getting Rufous and Black-chinned passing through so I hope to see something different soon. I am very glad that we have our Anna’s year-round, though. It would be lonely without them.

towhee-molt-8-29-16Abert’s Towhee (molting)

sparrow-perch-wingsHouse Sparrow, male

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finch-9-14-16House Finch, male (photobombed by House Sparrow)

thrasher-tongueCurve-billed Thrasher (showing his tongue and peanut)

eucd-9-5-16Eurasian Collared-Dove

And completing the Quadfecta of Doves:

page_1Inca Doves, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove

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So I did possibly (probably) get a new yard bird recently that is also a Life Bird. Many experienced birders agreed that this is a Clay-colored Sparrow (below), which would be somewhat out-of-range, but a couple identified it as a Brewer’s Sparrow which would make it not a Lifer and not a new yard bird.

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I submitted it to eBird but never heard back and I’ve seen a few other people reporting Clay-coloreds in the area so I’m going with that for now. Yard Bird #30. Isn’t he cute and inquisitive looking? I’ve only seen him once; he must have moved on.

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Be on the lookout for new and unusual birds in your areas during this migration period. You might see something awesome.