Birds of Arizona – Red-tailed Hawk ( Buteo jamaicensis )

For casual bird watchers, identifying a particular bird can be quite a challenge. One would think that a Red-tailed Hawk would look very much like every other Red-tailed Hawk, but it isn’t quite that easy.

Unfortunately, there are often variations on a theme. One problem, for example, is that a juvenile bird often looks quite different than it does as an adult. This can reveal itself with differnt feather patterns or colors or perhaps a less developed feature that, when the bird is mature, would be quite prominent.

Facing this challenge, I often farm out the job of identification to the wonderful world of birders on the Internet. That is how I was able to determine that the bird below is a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.

As you can see, we have a power pole near our house and very often one hawk or another will stop by to enjoy a meal or keep a lookout for the next one. While they are atop this perch, I am often able to walk close to them to capture a portrait.

Red-tailed Hawk
As I approached, the bird wanted to keep an eye on me.

Red-tailed Hawk
Here the bird decided to turn around to face me.

Red-tailed Hawk
When approached, hawks don’t necessarily run away, but will often just stare back!

Read more identifying Red-tailed Hawks – Telling Juvenile from Adult Red-tailed Hawks

Metadata for the bottom Photograph

File Name: 000022_49.CR2
Capture time: 9:55:03 AM
Capture date: February 6, 2016
Exposure: 1/640 sec @ f/6.5
Focal Length: 215mm
ISO: 200
Canon PowerShot SX50HS
Lens: 4.3-215mm
Edited in Lightroom

See previous JBRish posts about birds 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 – 2018

Photography: As Shot – Colorful Tom Turkey

NOTE – “As Shot” photographs are some that I have posted on Instagram, but without any unwarranted imposed crops, less detail reduction and more of an explanation.

On the road near Hereford, Arizona with storm clouds closing in

Tom shows his colors when is around the hens – Happy Thanksgiving – 2017!

On a hiking trip to Brown Canyon in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, southern Arizona, we were treated to a display by this Tom Turkey who was parading around in front of two hens.



File Name: turkey_tom_0597.CR2
Capture time: 2:26:46 PM
Capture date: April 12, 2014
Exposure: 1/640 sec @ f/5.6
Focal Length: 25.065mm
ISO: 100
Camera: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
Lens: 4.3-215mm
Edited in Lightroom


Read more photography posts 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 –

Birds of Arizona – Phainopepla ( Phainopepla nitens )

Yesterday was an interesting day for me as the weather prediction was not excellent, but still fair and relatively mild with a predicted high in the low 80’s and we were eager to take a hike. We decided to select a route off of the Granite Mountain Trailhead (The Bootlegger Trail) which is part of the McDowell Mountain Preserve.

Whenever I hike, I anticipate capturing a picture of a bird that is either better than one that I currently have of that bird or, as a bonus, a bird for which I do not have a picture.

I have seen many Phainopeplas, but I have never been able to take a good picture of one. I also know that this is the time of the year that they visit the Sonoran Desert. I spotted one just 100 yards from my backyard a few days ago, but it was not in a very nice setting so I passed.

Today I was able to take a “starter picture” of a Phainopepla that we spotted along the Bootlegger Trail. I am labeling this a starter because I am hoping to capture a photograph that is even better one of these days!

As I have stated on this blog before, I am an amateur photographer with very limited bird photography experience and just a bit more as a birder. The only camera I have with a long reach is my Canon PowerShot SX50HS and that is the equipment I used for the shot below.

Phainopepla captured at the McDowell Mountain Preserve
Phainopepla captured at the Granite Mountain Trailhead along the Bootlegger Trail which is part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Phainopeplas remind me of Cardinals or Waxwings because of their sleek profile and the tuft. Males are black while females are more grey. Interestingly enough, they have a red eye which is very striking and not always easy to capture in a photograph. I am placing a cropped image below to show more detail even though it may not be as sharp as I would like.

Phainopepla captured at the McDowell Mountain Preserve
A cropped version of the image above

Now I have one more picture for my collection!

Read more about Phainopeplas HERE


File Name: 000017_IMG_0806.CR2
Capture time: 9:28:51 AM
Capture date: November 15, 2017
Exposure: 1/500 sec @ f/7.1
Focal Length: 215mm
ISO: 80
Canon PowerShot SX50HS
Lens: 4.2-215mm
Edited in Lightroom

See previous JBRish posts about birds 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

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



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

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

Scott Bourne – Gifts from A Life in Photography

“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” – William James

Let me preface this post by pointing out what a great time it is to be interested in photography or to be a photographer whether it is from a hobbyist or professional perspective. It is so easy to take for granted the wealth of information available to us today because of the Internet.

There aren’t many artists, professionals in any field or accomplished practitioners of a given skill who would willingly and freely give away their hard-earned knowledge. Many of us, when we learn a special trick or secret, would like to hold it as though it would give us an edge. Scott Bourne is not one of those people.

picture of Scott Bourne
Picture Courtesy of a screen shot from YouTube Video, The Grid #49 – Guest: Scott Bourne

For those who don’t know Scott, I would like to make the introduction. He can be found almost on a daily basis sharing his knowledge and skills. This is information he has worked years to codify and embrace and he offers it to anyone with the inclination to read or listen.

Recently, for example, he posted an article describing the use of the relatively new Adobe Portfolio option. Naturally he tried it first and then wrote about his experiences and not only that, he posted his portfolio (not completed at the time I am writing this; just experimental) for all to see. This isn’t just theory, this is real!

Another thing I have to appreciate is that Scott is a no-nonsense guy. You wouldn’t have to read too many posts or listen to more than one podcast to find that out! And that’s a good thing! When he says that he has tried almost every new camera, he means it. He can speak to the pros and cons of many cameras available currently and he does. I don’t have the resources, time or skill to assess these things, but you can get a head start in such matters by listening to Scott on his photofocus podcasts or by reading his posts at

Enough by way of introduction. Let me share some of Scott Bourne’s work and explain why I admire and follow him. (By the way…I am not a relative of Scott’s. I have no vested interest in writing this post except to recommend his work as a resource for those who want to become better photographers in general, and especially those interested in bird photography.)

It is not easy to pick out the work I like best because there is so much goodness out there.

Let me just share a few pictures.

Wolf with pup
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

This is a beautiful, tender picture capturing the relationship of the adult with a pup. The viewer can sense the emotional connection and the wariness of the ever-vigilant adult.

Perhaps Scott is best known for his bird photographs and this picture of a barn owl is amazing. Not only is this a beautiful picture of the animal, but the composition is perfect. (arrows are from the screen capture and are not part of the original photo)

Barn owl in window
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

I enjoy bird photography and one of the most difficult pictures to capture is an excellent photograph of a bird in flight. There is even an abbreviation for it..BIF. Realize that one must capture the bird while it is flying by making sure to track it correctly with perhaps a zoom lens and making sure that the lighting and composition are as good as possible. Go into your back yard and try this even if it is not with a zoom lens. It is difficult. That’s what makes some of these pictures truly outstanding!

Egret in flight
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

The picture above is one of my favorites. It shows the motion of the bird and yet the face of the bird remains sharp. The viewer can sense the motion. I just find this captivating. NOTE – This was a screen shot and was slightly cropped on the right and left sides.

Tufted puffin
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

Who doesn’t like puffins? Doesn’t this Tufted Puffin look majestic? The details and colors are truly stunning!

Scott has made many trips to specifically photograph eagles. And he has a bevy of pictures of these regal birds so I will just include the two following as examples.

All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

Juvenile Eagle
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

This (above) is a juvenile eagle which has not grown into his adult coloring.

Not only does Scott Bourne have “the eye” to capture the essence of the bird such as plumage, movement and coloration. He also demonstrates his flare for the drama and beauty to be found in nature such as this shot at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

Cranes at sunset at the Bosque
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

And it is not just birds. Scott enjoys all wildlife such as this Coastal Brown Bear; Grizzly.

Standing coastal brown bear
All Photos used with permission and Copyright by Scott Bourne

Thank you Scott Bourne for being so generous and giving so much to the photographic community. I know you have inspired many others and will continue to do so!


Some bird photography resources created by Scott.

A Simple Primer on Photographing Birds in Flight

How To Photograph Birds | 20 Tips & Some Resources

About Bird Photography – Finding The Birds

Photographing Birds – What NOT To Do

More “general” resources from Scott:

10 Things Beginning Photographers Should Know

Details Matter – Going The Last Mile For A Better Photograph

On the Light Stalking website, Scott has several e-Books that are available free of charge. I have read some of them and I an assure you, just studying the photographs will be inspirational and educational.

Essays on Inspiration, Vision and Creativity in Photography, by Scott Bourne

A Photographer’s E-Guide to Making Sharp Photographs, by Scott Bourne

Nine Motivational Essays on Photography, by Scott Bourne

You can see more of Scott’s work at his 500px siteClick Here

Cornell Lab 100 Years of Bird Studies

Cornell Ornithology Lab Logo


A brief video about the beauty and science of studying birds.

From the YouTube website:

“As we conclude the Cornell Lab’s 100th year of studying and conserving the birds that enrich our lands and our lives, thank you for helping us start 2016 ready to do more for birds and nature. Hear from the Cornell Lab’s Executive Director John W. Fitzpatrick in this video celebrating how birds bring us closer to nature.”

Birds of Las Cruces, NM

NOTE: To read more about one of the birds presented and to see an alternative picture, click the link associated with the name of the bird in the article below.


NM Birding Trail Sign

During our hiking visit to the Las Cruces, NM area, I was able to focus my attention on bird photography as well; forgive the pun.

One bird that was a new sighting for me was a Scaled Quail.

Scaled Quail

I thought the pattern on the feathers was quite interesting.

Hiking along a canyon wash, I spotted a bird atop a wall.

Rock Wren

It had a somewhat familiar look because, as I later found out, it is a relative of the Cactus Wren. It was a Rock Wren.

Rock Wren

The smallish bird below sitting on a branch is a Western Wood-Pewee.


As a gust of wind came along I caught a shot of a Peewee from the other side.


We also encountered a… Black-throated Sparrow


and a Chipping Sparrow as we made our way up and down the mountain trails.

Chipping Sparrow

At the nearby Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park we spotted additional birds

This Swainson’s Hawk was very high in the sky, but I did the best I could. The unique color pattern of the underside is a sure give away.

Swainson's Hawk

Several Barn Swallows were dodging in and out from under one of the roofs and the light was very dim, but this appeared to be a parent with some food for a nestling.

Barn Swallow

A Northern Mockingbird did not seem to mind as we moved in to get a closer look.

Northern Mockingbird

At a rest stop on the way home from Las Cruces this fellow was hopping from trash bin to trash bin looking for some goodies.

Chihuahuan Raven

Chihuahuan Raven

Critical Role of Migratory Birds – Texas Hot Spot

From the YouTube Video Notes (emphasis added):

“Published on Jun 19, 2015 – Did you know the coast of Texas is the most important spot for migratory birds in the U.S. and Canada? Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center staff journey to this small island annually to study songbirds returning from their tropical wintering grounds and share this experience with local schoolchildren. Understanding these species and teaching the next generation about them is critical to their survival. Learn more in this video made possible with the support of ConocoPhillips. #WeSaveSpecies #StateoftheBirds”