The Halloween Ball

Curve-billed Thrasher with treat

The birds (and other critters) have been having a ball in our yard the last few days leading up to Halloween. In addition to their regular oranges, grape jelly, and suet, they’ve been enjoying bird seed packed with fruits and nuts that I recently won in the Pennington Wild Bird Photo Contest (with this photo). Plus they find extra goodies in the yard like insects, berries, and pomegranates.

Gilded Flicker, female, yard bird species #33

This girl, above, has started dropping by for a drink now and then. She’s so pretty.

Honey Bees enjoying pine sap

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Northern Mockingbird

House Finch, female

White-crowned Sparrow, first of season

Eurasian Collared-Dove

House Finches, male

Gila Woodpecker, male

Queen Butterfly in Mesquite

Orange-crowned Warbler

If this is the same warbler, this will be its third year to winter in our yard. He or she is also over a month early so I’m not positive it’s the same one yet. Time may tell…I hope it is or, if not, I hope the other one will show up later and I’ll have 2. There is grape jelly in this feeder and this bird loves it.

House Sparrow,male

Abert’s Towhee

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Autumn Returns

Verdin (on the Autumn Equinox)

Painted Lady

These were all taken in our yard in the last few days (okay, one is an older one but I won’t say which). It’s been very nice here, seeming like Fall, but it will probably warm up again before Fall really begins. However, we’re at the point now where the mornings and nights will be pleasant and that’s when we know we’re in the home stretch here in Phoenix…a happy time for most of us.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Anna’s Hummingbirds

Giant Swallowtail

Painted Lady (again)

House Finches, female and male

towhee-2-10-21-16Abert’s Towhee

Inca Dove

Gila Woodpecker, female

HAPPY AUTUMN!

 

All Good in the ‘Hood

wood-duck-2-12-7-16_edited-1

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!

wood-duck-headon

wood-duck-2

wood-ducks-3

wood-duck-couple

wood-duck-12-7-16_edited-1

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

hum-4-12-7-16

hum-3-12-716Anna’s Hummingbird, male

 

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.

rb-sapsucker-1

rb-sapsucker-2

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

towhee-11-5-16

towhee-2-11-5-16Abert’s Towhee

thrasher-granadaCurve-billed Thrasher

mock-closeup

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

blueBlue

skipper-aboveFiery Skipper