Identification for the Birds

Here is a problem every novice or occasional birder is bound to face…

We were enjoying a beautiful hike through Zumwalt Meadow in Kings Canyon, CA observing all of the plants, scenery and wildlife we encountered.

Keep in mind that much of this trail has tree roots, rocks, boulders, fallen branches, etc. so keeping eyes ahead or up is not an option for those hiking along. We would stop when a sudden motion or noise caught our attention or we just wanted to gaze at the scenery. We are avid gazers and thus would probably be considered somewhat pokey when it comes to the more speedy hikers.

But I digress… We were climbing upward through a somewhat narrow corridor formed by boulders on either side and ahead, no more than twenty feet away, an attractive multi-colored bird landed in a tree. I was almost sure this was one that I hadn’t identified yet so of course I was very interested in photographing the bird for future identification.

NOTE – For those who want to know why I didn’t or more truthfully, couldn’t, identify the bird right there and then, read my earlier post – Photography and Birding: Good Photo, Bad Photo

The bird was mostly black, with orange-brown sides, a buff bottom and rump with white markings on black wings. The face also had some blotches of other colors as well. Immediately I thought this was an oriole of one type or another.

Black-headed grosbeak

By the time I was able to stop and take note, the bird was flitting from branch-to-branch and this (above) was the first photograph I was able to capture. Hmmmm – pretty hard to ID from that shot.

What was infuriating was that the bird would jump down closer to me, let’s say eight feet away, but would be among a mass of branches; drats!

Black-headed grosbeak

There was one instance, when the bird was just above my head and I got a good luck at its rump and underparts.

Black-headed grosbeak

Although the bird was skittish, it appeared to have a certain curiosity as it lingered in the area for a long time; in bird minutes!

Black-headed grosbeak

In the field it is hard to tell exactly how good the photographs are and whether or not there would be enough information to piece an identification together, but using all of the photos, I believe I was able to correctly ID the bird.

Let’s take a look….

Using the Internet, I was able to find a few reference photographs. This was one of the better shots

Black-headed grosbeak
Photograph By Alan Vernon – Male Black headed grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)Uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0,

NOTE – Text added by JBRish

Looking at my less than stellar photos, I was able to locate most of the same markings. For those new to birding, keep in mind that males and females often have different markings and colorations. I knew this wasn’t an oriole as I originally suspected primarily because of the shape of the beak. An oriole would have a much more pointed beak.

NOTE – This is why I like to take multiple photographs and work the identification at my leisure.

What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comment section below.

To read more posts about birds or birding, click HERE.



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2017

Photography and Birding: Good Photo, Bad Photo


We were recently visiting Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks on one of our bi-yearly hiking vacations where we take to America’s beautiful national parks and spend a week or so hiking up and down mountains and admiring as many beautiful and natural areas as possible during the time we have set aside.

As stated on this blog before, I am an occasional bird watcher. For those who are just chiming in, I enjoy locating and identifying birds especially when I am in a new area. Here’s my problem…I am not a very well educated birder. I am a rank novice, but I don’t let that discourage me.

How I Bird

Here is my approach. A couple of years ago, I purchased a bridge camera with a long zoom lens. It has the equivalent of a 24-1200mm lens on a 35mm camera. That is a long zoom and it allows me to photograph birds at quite a distance. Truth must be told here…I can’t say this is a great camera. It is a good camera and certainly good enough for me. When I chose the Canon SX50 HS, it was a “cost-benefit” decision. In other words, it was a camera that had what I wanted at a price I thought was reasonable and I was willing to compromise a bit on picture quality.

That being said, it has done most of what I asked of it. The one thing I now know that I didn’t know before is that it has a relatively slow autofocus and doesn’t always select the object of my photographic desire. Even the best cameras, costing ten times more than my selection, have misfires as well.

OK, so let’s get to the meat of this post. I have my bridge camera and we are hiking through Zumwalt Meadow near Road’s End, Kings Canyon. BTW when they say Road’s End, they mean it. That is where the road ends!

The meadow was beautiful. We had some concern that parts of the Zumwalt Meadow trail would be under water, but we got lucky and the water at receded enough that we could complete the loop.

During our walk, shortly after we crossed the boardwalk portion, I saw a quick moving bird a distance away. Surprisingly, it looked like a shore bird that I would see on the coastline. What was it doing here?

I quickly got my SX50 HS ready and began to focus on the moving subject. I fired away and, at the time, I knew I was missing some of the shots because the focus was “hunting” for the bird, but I also knew it was getting some pictures of the bird.

Lucky for me, I was able to capture three photos that, added together, enabled me to identify the avian mystery.

WARNINING *** These photos are not of great quality. They are what I call “good enough.” I generally take time to compose and double check focus, etc., but with moving birds it is a bit difficult.

The Evidence

Here is the worst picture of them all.

Sandpiper Photo number 1
Spotted Sandpiper moving across a fallen log

As you will note from the photograph, there is a lot of debris between me and the bird. Now remember the camera is zoomed in so it is difficult to keep the bird in the viewfinder. If you ever tried to follow a bird or even find a stationary bird using a binocular, I think you will understand the problem.

The camera had a hard time deciding what was the area of focus. It appears the camera locked on the branch or broken part of the log as the main subject. I really can’t find fault with that. The bird was scurrying so there was no way for me to change the focus options at that point. This is a small version of the photo so it may look sharp to you, but the bird is not in focus.

My main goal in this situation is to get the pictures of the bird and worry about the details later. It doesn’t always work, but more often than not I have success (check out Photography – When is good enough, good enough? A bird story).

Spotted sandpiper picture number two
A photo of the Spotted Sandpiper just as it started to move its wings

The photo above is a bit better because more if it is in focus and the movement of the wings still leaves the head relatively clear.

Spotted sandpiper photo number three
This was the last photo I took in the sequence before the bird was totally hidden by the nearby foliage

This is perhaps the sharpest overall photograph I was able to capture of this particular bird. It is a shame that the sandpiper was slightly out of frame and the beak is only partially visible, but that’s the way it goes sometimes!

Please understand…I am not blaming the camera. I am not as skilled in using this equipment as I should be, but I do the best I can. That being said, when I added all three pictures together, I have a good idea of what this bird looks like.

Solving the Mystery

My modus operandi is to review my photos when I get home and then gather my bird identification books and a good piece of birding software – iBird Ultimate – to identify the mystery bird.

Let me say one thing about iBird Ultimate. This is a great program for someone like me. One of the major benefits is that the user can enter a geographic location in the United States and it will show which birds may be visiting at that time of the year. This helps to narrow the search.

Additionally, if you find a bird that looks like the potential subject, there are usually several additional photos to view which enables users to see a variety of views and variations for that particular bird.

Once I queued up my resources, I was easily able to determine this bird was a Spotted sandpiper. The last thing I do, which is much fun, is I take out my ABA North America birding list and mark off the bird as “seen.” Now I have one less bird to worry about although I will continue to seek a better photograph if the opportunity presents itself.

Read more about the Spotted Sandpiper HERE.



All content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross

Photography Quote — 20170711

Today’s Photography Quote

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
– Karl Lagerfeld –
– Photograph ©Jeffrey B. Ross –

NOTE – In the Sonoran Desert there is a Monsoon season starting mid-June and ending in the early Fall. During this time, storms can develop quickly often without notice. During those times the sky turns dark and may produce severe lightning and thunder. This photograph was taken during one of those events when the sun was peeking through the clouds.


Photo Meta Data

File Name: stormy_desert_sky
Capture time: 5:15 PM
Capture date: November 11, 2011
Exposure: 1/125 @ f5.5
Focal Length: 23.2mm
ISO: 200
Canon Powershot A590 IS

*Edited: Lightroom with text added in OS X Preview

See previous STATUS QUOtes Photography Quotes HERE



All content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross

Hiking the Peralta Trail, Gold Canyon, AZ – 20160630

Hiking the Peralta Trail, Gold Canyon, AZ – 20160630

NOTE – Keep in mind that we took this hike and these pictures represent the trail as we saw it in December, 2009. The trail may have changed a bit since them and some of the flora may no longer be exactly where we are reporting, but this is a good representation of things you may find along the way. Perhaps you will find even more intriguing highlights.

Of course the large rock formations and mountains will remain largely unchanged.

Spent desert flower stalk
Spent desert flower stalk

As I pointed out in one of the first posts about the Peralata Trail, there is an abundance of desert flora along the trail as far as the eye can see. There is beauty all around during the spring as cacti and desert trees bloom freely.

Once the bloom is over, some of the plants continue to provide aesthetic interest with their dry stalks, etc. I so appreciated this willowy structure highlighted against the dark, shadowy background in the picture above. It was truly striking! The lower group of plants sporting their colors of yellow and orange were supporting cast members.

Read more about the Peralta Trail HERE.

Previous posts and photographs in the Peralta Trail series in chronological order:

********** originally published this post
*All photographs Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with all rights reserved.

Kings Canyon, CA Photograph – John Muir Quote


“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” — John Muir


The image above was captured during a recent hiking vacation we took at Kings Canyon National Park, California. We were on top of the Buena Vista Peak. The day was cloudy and gray with very little sun. When we plan a hiking vacation and there is rain, we hike anyway because that was the plan. Unless there is a deluge or hazardous conditions, we hike.

While we were at one of the highest points of the Buena Vista Trail overlook, the sun began to peak through. This reminded me of the John Muir quote accompanying the photograph.

NOTE – On our hiking vacations, the emphasis is on hiking and not necessarily photography. I do try to capture the best photographs possible, but we normally don’t capture sunrises or sunsets purposefully. We generally take nature as we find it and make the best of it. originally published this post
*All photographs Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with all rights reserved.


Photo Meta Data

File Name: 000032_kings_cnyn_1704-wquote
Capture time: 4:22 PM
Capture date: June 12, 2017
Exposure: 1/60 sec at f/16
Focal Length: 25mm
ISO: 125
Camera: Nikon D3300

*Edited: Lightroom with text added in Photoshop


See previous Photography STATUS QUOtes HERE

See Jeff’s other photographs on Instagram

Photgraphy – Importance of Capturing Family Life (Video)

I viewed this video on the heels of Father’s Day and it is a reminder that to many people, family is the most important component of life. And while the video helps to underscore the emotional reasons for this and an accompanying appreciation of familial ties, it also suggests the importance of photography in capturing the history and milestones of the family.

  • Do you take pictures of your family?

  • Will those pictures be of importance to your children in the future?

  • Will your grandchildren enjoy seeing their parents as children.

Watch the video below and find these answers for yourself.

Here are the notes from the YouTube video page:

“Brent Gilmore has worn many hats during his lifetime, but none so fulfilling as that of dad. He’s not only juggled his share of strollers, dirty diapers, and 1 am wake-up calls, he’s also learned to balance his fatherly duties with those of the family historian—photographing his family’s tender, wonderful moments and keeping them safe for his children and future generations. See how Brent has mastered the busy roles of father and photographer, and why he trusts SmugMug to keep those precious memories safe and secure.” originally published this post

See previous Photography STATUS QUOtes HERE

See Jeff’s other photographs on Instagram

Photography: Animal Silhouettes or People

As readers of JBRish know, photography is one of my hobbies and it is very interesting to me to find that there are so many subsets of photography for specialists.

Did you ever try to take a good picture of food? It is harder than you might think. Look at a couple of recipe websites and notice how interesting and wonderful most people manage to make the ingredients and finish serving appear.

Besides food photography, there are the more popular categories of landscape, portraiture, travel, etc. Of course there are some very unique categories as well such as astrophotography, medical photography and street photography just to name a few.

Then there are those photographers who are just very creative in what they do. I have often come across an interesting photograph and wondered: “Why didn’t I think of that?” And then again, even if I had, there is a world of difference between thinking of something and the doing. The photograph below is an example.

The only information I could gather is that this photograph was taken to support animal adoption. Some consider it an example of optical illusions. I just think it is pretty darn clever.

Have you seen any interesting photographs that were extremely creative? If so, why not provide that information in a comment for all readers to appreciate?



NOTE – I don’t have the information for appropriate attribution. If anyone can provide the correct data, please leave it in a comment and I will certainly update the post.

Tin Man Lee’s photographic wildlife celebration of Mother’s Day

One of my favorite wildlife photographers, Tin Man Lee, has created a moving and beautiful tribute to mothers in honor of their special day. Although it is a year old, the message and pictures are timeless.

I hope you enjoy this brief video as much as I did.

A celebration of Mother's Day 2016 with wildlife photography from Tin Man Lee on Vimeo.

You can visit Tin Man Lee’s website HERE

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms!

STATUS QUOte – Photography – 20170418

Photography Quote

“I never have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse.”

– Diane Arbus –

Photograph Copyrighted by J. Ross
Photograph Copyright by Jeff Ross – ALL Rights Reserved [ as though someone would want this photo?! ]

Don’t try to adjust your computer. This (above) is the correct photograph. Please read on…

To underscore the Diane Arbus quote, I posted the picture above that was taken during our trip to Yosemite National Park. We were on our way back from a day of hikiing and photography at Hetch Hetchy under cloudy skies and some rain. We had hiked for much of the day and we were tired. The scene was of a rustic cabin behind a barbed wire fence just on the meadow side of a wooded area. It was very quaint and “pioneer looking.

Obviously this was not what I had intended and the photograph was so underexposed, I could not resurrect it in the form I hoped to have it. No excuses, but this camera was a new camera and I had only used it once before. You can read about it as part of my article: My Photographic Conundrum. Part 4 talks about the Nikon D3300 which is the camera used for the photograph above.

I just happen to be one of those people who doesn’t like to give up easily so I decided to see if I could resurrect it in some form or fashion and low and behold, the image below; not great, but salvageable.

NOTE – I am going to write a post about how I transformed this photo from wrecked to resurrected using Adobe Lightroom and Google Nik Collection.

Photograph Copyrighted by J. Ross
Photograph Copyright by Jeff Ross – ALL Rights Reserved

** – Photograph Notes – **


Outside of Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite National Park, CA
(Edited with Lightroom and Nik Collection)

File Name: 0494.NEF
Capture time: 4:32:22 PM
Capture date: June 11, 2016
Exposure: 1/4000 sec @ f/22
Focal Length: 55mm
ISO 1600
Nikon D3300 originally published this post

See previous Photography STATUS QUOtes HERE

See Jeff’s other photographs on Instagram