Birds: “Curiouser and Curiouser”

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Green-tailed Towhee

I think humans like to look at other living creatures and assign to them characteristics of our own species. We anthropomorphize other living things. We immediately understand that animals feel fear and love of some kind. I am not sure if all non-human animals share a sense of curiosity, but some obviously do. Dolphins, whales, primates, etc have all demonstrated behavior we would tend to classify as curiosity.

I have found that some birds are curious as well.

In the picture above, there is a bird sitting far away from where we were standing. Because of my interest in birds, we stopped to watch it for a while. You can’t make out the bird in the yellow circle in the photo above, but there was a very pretty bird sitting on that rock. A bird I had never seen before.

It took me a while to get out my superzoom camera and take a closeup of that particular bird, but here it is.

Green-tailed Towhee

As we rested a good number of yards away, sitting on a rock, the bird continued to flit around, but at one point it landed on a tree stump that was only about twenty feet away; relatively close for a wild creature. I had the distinct impression that this bird was curious about us and what we were or weren’t doing. Since we were sitting quietly watching the bird, taking a drink and resting, I think the bird realized we had no bad intentions and it took chances to come close to us. It didn’t “park” there or stay very long in any one spot, but it did fly away and then come close again.

Eventually we packed up and moved on. Later I was able to identify this bird as a Green-tailed Towhee. This is one of the prettier birds I have seen with it’s red-orange tuft atop.

NOTE – Green-tailed Towhee. Park Ridge Fire Lookout Station Trail, Kings Canyon, CA

Green-tailed Towhee

Read more about the Green-tailed Towhee

See previous JBRish posts about birds HERE


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

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2017


Photography – Retrospectography


Leaf-footed Bug on Yucca

Retrospectography – The further appreciation of a photograph or picture which reveals insights into that image which were not recognized or appreciated at the time of original capture.

Originally coined by Jeffrey Ross on JBRish.com – as far as research reveals

One of the wonderful things about photography is that there are retrospective insights to be garnered after the initial experience. One of my favorite parts of being a photography enthusiast is arriving home after an excursion and reviewing the pictures. Every once in a while there is an interesting surprise!

My wife and I were hiking in the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico for several days and on one of the last days we were exploring an area near Fillmore Canyon when we passed a noteable yucca.

I was drawn to the plant by the interesting arrangement of leaves and tendrils dancing in the air. I stopped to admire and photograph the yucca.

I did notice the bug above the flowers at the time, but there was something that went unnoticed until I arrived home and reviewed the photographs.

During the moment of photographic capture, I did not appreciate the beautiful color of the antennae of the Leaf-footed Bug (Acanthocephala terminalis). Isn’t that an amazing orange color?

Leaf-footed Bug on Yucca

Not Only did I enjoy the contemporaneous photographic experience, I also appreciated learning more about, and further admiring this creature of the wild.

You can find more information about Leaf-footed bugs at this Austin Bug Collection page. This is a large family of insects.


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

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2017



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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12140735

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 JBRish.com posts about birds or birding, click HERE.


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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com 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

Introduction

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.


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

©Jeffrey B. Ross



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!

Killdeer’s Empty Nest in our Front Yard

Mother Killdeer

Readers of JBRish know that we have been hosting a mother Killdeer while she incubates eggs in her nest. A couple of days ago, the mother was off the nest for a moment while we were working in the front yard and I noticed that only three of the four eggs remained.

This morning, I did not see the mother on the nest so once again I walked over to the nest to see that there were no eggs or remnants of eggs.

I think perhaps that the eggs were eaten by a predator since there were no broken shell pieces to be found. I looked for chicks, but could not find any. I will continue to search for baby Killdeer, but they may have become part of the “circle of life.

(The eggs were to the right and just below the single weed we let grow in deference to the bird. As is customary with Killdeer, she lined the nest with small pebbles; nothing soft)

Abandoned Killdeer nest

To read the other JBRish posts about our Killdeer visitors:

Birds of Arizona – Killdeer ( Charadrius vociferus )

Killdeer Eggs in Our Yard; Oh My!

For more information about the Killdeer’s rearing process, you can read The Precocious Killdeer.

JBRish.com originally published this post
All photographs are Copyright by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved

See previous Life in the Desert posts HERE

See previous JBRish posts about birds HERE

Killdeer Eggs in Our Yard; Oh My!

Several days ago, I reported about the Killdeer that have taken up residence near our house in North Phoenix, AZ. We saw them for days as we worked outside early in the morning tending our plants and preparing for the warmer, or more appropriately, hotter weather. You can see that initial post HERE.

Well, now we know why they were hanging around. They found a spot on the side of our landscape that they felt was just right for their “nest” although it is far from comfortable or nest-like from my obviously non-avian point of view. It is actually a depression they created by moving some of the landscape stones to the side. The mother must also bear the brunt of the intense sun for the entire day. Our attempt to set up a shade barrier frightened her and had to be removed for fear of having the nest abandoned.

Killdeer eggs

Four Killdeer eggs in a hard-packed nest

Killdeer mother tending the nest

Killdeer mom tending her nest in the hot Arizona sun

It is amazing to see how well both the mom and the eggs blend with the surroundings. Each morning we must strain our eyes to find her once again!

Birds of Arizona – Killdeer ( Charadrius vociferus )

We were living on our street for more than eight years before I noticed this very interesting bird visiting our neighborhood. At first I thought it was a shore bird that had lost its way, but I soon discovered there were several of these feathered residents.

Off to the books I went and I discovered that the bird was a Killdeer Charadrius vociferus ).

Killdeer

This morning two of them were in and around our yard so I began to stalk them with my Canon SX50 HS superzoom. They were very timid and didn’t want to stay in one place very long.

Killdeer

I was fortunate to get some pictures, but not all of them were as sharp as I would have liked.

Until I saw these photographs, I never appreciated the orange eye ring!

Killdeer

This bird probably thought it was hiding from me by burrowing in next to our somewhat elevated street.

Killdeer

 

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

See additional photographs and posts about birds HERE.

Spy Camera & Monkey Death – BBC Series

I think most people who watch any substantial amount of television would agree that the BBC produces some of the best shows available. I especially enjoy their nature exposés. They have a new series, Spy in the Wild, which is designed to give viewers a “close up” view of life among a variety of groups of animals.

This intimate look into the lives of these creatures is made possible by the new technology available through very small and very good cameras as well the craftsmanship of those who build the robotic animals that, for the most part, seem to pass for the real thing among their fellow tribe members.

In the video below, Langur monkeys appear to genuinely grieve over the death of the artificial monkey. It is sad, poignant and thought provoking. We are reminded how similar we are to these animals.