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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Bring on the Buses

Orange-crowned Warbler

I love this bird, who I used to call “Yellow Bird,” but now call “Tink,” because of the sound she (might be a “he”) makes. As I’ve mentioned before, this is her third year to winter in our yard. I’m assuming it’s the same one because it’s always only one bird and they do often migrate to the same place.

A couple weeks ago, Tink became Lifer #390 for a local birder that I know, Karen. Karen’s life count is way ahead of mine but, after seeing Tink’s photo on Facebook, Karen told me she needed this bird for her life list and I told her it was pretty much guaranteed that Tink would show up if she came over. Whew, Tink did eventually show up! That was my first experience delivering a life bird to someone in my own backyard.

But, coincidentally, the day before Karen came over, there was a lot of bird action in my yard. That day I got yard bird species #34, 35, and 36! Sadly, some of the pics are lacking in quality but I’ll show you anyway:

What Am I?

I went out to put out the daily bird food quota and heard a very light drumming sound. This bird was in our pine tree and flew off just as I noticed it. I got my camera and came back out and a couple hours later, it showed up again, just briefly enough to fire off a few bad shots. I thought it was a Red-naped or Red-breasted Sapsucker and asked the ABA (American Birding Association) experts what they thought. Some thought Red-breasted and some thought a hybrid of the two and requested more photos. Well, the bird never showed up again while I was out there…until today but when I ran in to get my camera, it flew off again! At any rate, I know it’s still in the area so I still have hope that I get a good shot soon. Neither of those birds would be lifers for me but if it’s really a Red-breasted Sapsucker, they are uncommon for the area and it’s possible that some local birders might want to come to see it if it’s a regular visitor. Hence, the buses…I like to think of busloads and van loads of birders dropping over to catch a glimpse. 🙂

Species #35 was this guy circling overhead:

Red-tailed Hawk

And, of course, a few days ago, it landed right in a tree in our front yard! Once again, cameraless, I ran inside to grab my camera and off it flew. It would have been a great closeup.

The day was so fruitful for me in my yard that I stayed outside for a few hours, hoping the sapsucker would return again. Just as I was getting ready to go inside, 2 of these showed up, species #36:

Lesser Goldfinch

I’ve not seen them since but I was certainly surprised to have 3 new bird species in quick succession. I think I saw 17 different species in my yard that day. Here are a few more:

White-crowned Sparrow, male

He’s all alone and has been here for several weeks, just hanging out with the House Sparrows.

Anna’s Hummingbirds, male

Verdins

House Finches, male and female

Gila Woodpecker, male

And, I believe this particular bird is now spending its second winter in our yard:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Now I really have to hope that Sapsucker will show up again and let me get a good diagnostic shot so the buses can start rolling in…

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Seven Springs

The other day we went to a place in Tonto National Forest called Seven Springs. We drove 8 miles on a washboardy dirt road to get there. Unfortunately, due to a long drought, the drive was not overly pretty; the area was fairly dry and sparse. However, it was very birdy at our destination. There were hundreds of birds flying around. American Robins are not seen in the Phoenix area very often so, even though they are a common bird in so many parts of the U.S., they are fun for us Phoenicians to see and they are really such pretty birds. Well, this place had tons of them!

The area is full of pinyon pines and junipers so berries and nuts abound.

Western Bluebirds were also very plentiful there.

Western Bluebirds, male and female

Cave Creek

Red-naped Sapsucker

Phainopeplas

Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided subspecies~new to me)

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon subspecies)

And, yes, there were lifers involved! I saw a Juniper Titmouse and have a bad photo of it. And the other lifer was:

Sage Thrasher

This is Humboldt Mountain that has a FAA radar facility at the top and is located right by Seven Springs. You can see how dry some of the area is now:

And, if you celebrate…

A Berry, Merry Christmas to you!

Wintering

annas-1-11-28-16

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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hum-tongue-11-22-16

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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ocwa-2

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:

rbss-1_edited-1

rbss-backRed-breasted Sapsucker

And we found my target bird, a lifer:

rn-sapsucker-5

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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mar

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.