Spring’s Arrival

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Happy Spring! I know it may not look like spring everywhere but it does here in Arizona. These first 3 shots were taken in our yard on the Vernal Equinox and the others were taken close to it.

Painted Lady on Lantana

There are actually 4 critters in the above photo, 2 besides the obvious butterfly and bee, which I didn’t see until editing the photo. The answers to this puzzle will appear at the end of this post.

Fiery Skipper on Lantana

Black-chinned Hummingbird, male

We only have Black-chinned hummers in the spring. I don’t know if this is the same one that has been coming for the last couple of years but he arrived on schedule and usually stays until May. It’s very hard to get a shot with the purple collar showing but here is one from last year. I hope he will be cooperative again this year. Right now he is very shy and skittish.

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Giant Swallowtail

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Yesterday I was at the Desert Botanical Garden, specifically looking for this one particular bird that has been there for several weeks. I’m always amazed when I can find one little bird in a big place but this time I actually did within about 10 minutes and not where he normally hangs out. He should be migrating to California soon but maybe he has decided to stay. He is molting right now so his throat feathers will be more resplendent in coming weeks but he’s still pretty cute right now.

From Granada Park in Phoenix:

Yellow-rumped Warbler, female

American Wigeon,male

Rosy-faced Lovebird

From Lake Margherite in Scottsdale:

Northern Shoveler couple

From Evelyn Hallman Park in Tempe:

Green Heron

What says “Spring” like baby ducks?

Mallard ducklings

The four critters in the butterfly and bee photo:

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Granite Mountain Trailhead

These photos might look a lot like those I posted a couple weeks ago at Brown’s Ranch Trail. We went back to the beautiful McDowell Sonoran Preserve in north Scottsdale. We were a few miles northeast of Brown’s Ranch at Granite Mountain Trailhead. The difference was this day was cloudy, there were almost no birds, and there was a ton more granite. Oh, and the views of the surrounding mountains were pretty awesome.

Four Peaks

Granite Mountain

Cactus Wren

Curve-billed Thrasher

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We saw a few squirrels but we also think we saw a Bobcat…no photo, of course.

Weaver’s Needle in the Superstition Mountains

It was a great day for a hike, though, as the weather was very pleasant and the views were great.

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Brown’s Ranch Trail

Brown’s Ranch was founded in 1917 by E.O. Brown, a Scottsdale entrepreneur, and encompassed 44,000 acres at its peak, supporting 3,000 to 5,000 head of cattle. His descendants lived on the ranch until 1970. After changing hands several times, the remainder of the ranch was acquired by the City of Scottsdale in 1999 for inclusion in the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Preserve is a large, permanently protected, sustainable desert habitat that includes an interconnected network of non-motorized, multi-use trails (hike/bike/horse) accessed from multiple trailhead locations over 30,500 acres. It is the largest urban park in the U.S.

Brown’s Mountain

It was a sunny, windy day and the 3 mile Brown’s Ranch Trail just got prettier and birdier the farther we went. We’d never been to any part of the Preserve before and I had no idea it was so beautiful. The trails were great. We’ll be exploring more of it soon.

White-crowned Sparrow (on agave stalk)

Ocotillos

I imagine in the spring, when the desert is in bloom, that it is even more spectacular.

Cactus Wren (on agave stalk)

Cholla, glowing

Cone Mountain

Phainopepla, male (on agave stalk)

Saguaro skeleton

Harris’s Hawk

Gilded Flicker couple

Curve-billed Thrasher

Red-tailed Hawk

Yes, those are bullet holes even though shooting is not allowed in the Preserve. But this is Arizona, the Wild West.

Mount Humboldt with FAA Radar Facility

Northern Mockingbird (on agave stalk)

There were no lifers but it is definitely on the “return to” list, at some point. And I learned that birds love dried agave stalks so I am in search of one for my backyard photo props.

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!

 

Spring Fling

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Giant Swallowtail

Aloe

Black-chinned Hummingbird, male

It is definitely spring here in Phoenix. Sorry if it isn’t where you are. Soon enough, we will be trying not to be miserable while you are basking in lovely weather. We had a lot of rain (for us) this winter so it’s extra vibrant this year. These photos are mostly from my yard but a few are from Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden (the first one and the last 3).

Hibiscus

Geranium

Painted Lady

Lantana

Palo Verde Sap

I noticed this colorful Yellow-rumped Warbler, below, feeding off the aloe and thought he looked unusual. He seems to have the characteristics of two different subspecies, the Myrtle and the Audubon’s. When I got home, I checked with my bird experts and they agreed that he is what is known as an “intergrade.” I think that’s a fancy word for “hybrid.” Anyway, these 2 subspecies only breed in a small area of Alberta, B.C., so he had a long trip down here. They are somewhat uncommon but not really “rare” in Arizona. Nevertheless, I was excited.

Yellow-rumped Warbler Myrtle x Audubon’s Intergrade, male