2023—Salmon Fishing on the Uganik

What an incredible week we just had on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The fabulous folks at Rorher Bear Camp hosted us for our first visit there during the fall salmon run. We were happy to see that the Mama Bear and three cubs that we first encountered this past May were still in the area and were comfortable with our being in their home along the Uganik River. We photographed them each of the four days we were there. The cubs are a bit bigger now and were adept at chasing and catching the Pink Salmon and Silver Salmon heading up the river. At least most of the time. The cub in this image tried to pin down this salmon, but it slipped out of the bear’s grasp.

2023—North to Alaska

I’m back in Alaska. It’s fall and the salmon are running. That means it’s time to revisit the Kodiak Brown Bears as they fish for salmon to fatten up for the winter. This is Mama Bear with one of her three cubs that we encountered on the flats on the Uganik River this past May. I wonder if we’ll see them again? If we do see them, they’ll be fishing and eating salmon instead of munching on grass. I hope we do.

2023—Larger Than Life

Black-chinned Hummingbirds are small hummingbirds and their visits to feeders at Madera Canyon, AZ this past July were brief. As soon as someone spotted a male Black-chinned hummer, it was called out but it seemed to me that whenever one was around, it was visiting a feeder far from me. It was rare that I saw one close enough to have a decent size image, even when set to DX mode which effectively crops the image in camera. The day before we flew home, a male Black-chinned Hummingbird visited the feeders and I was ready. I had set my camera to DX mode knowing he would be far away and he was. Suddenly, however, he appeared directly in front of me, completely filling the frame. I didn’t have time to change back to FX mode. I took just a handful of images and he was gone. I was lucky. I love seeing this tiny bird so big in the image, larger than life.

2023—Fingers Crossed

As my move date away from the garden I’ve nurtured for thirty years approaches, I am in a Hummingbird Dilemma. But first, I must make clear that this Broad-billed Hummingbird does not visit my yard, or anywhere in California for that matter. I took this photograph this past July in Madera Canyon, AZ. My dilemma has to do with the birds who have become accustomed to my flowers and my feeders and my worry that new owners may not be interested in keeping them as visitors. I have ordered hummingbird feeders for my new garden and I am planning to keep feeders filled at the old house once it goes up for sale and until it sells. I’ll probably leave some salvia and some California fuchsia, the Anna’s Hummingbird’s preferred flowers, as well. Then I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed.

2023—The Magnificent One

It’s hard to imagine why this magnificent hummingbird, whose common name once was Magnificent Hummingbird, is now called Rivoli’s Hummingbird. Well, it all started in 1829 when a French natural historian and surgeon called René-Primevère Lesson, named this hummingbird Rivoli’s in honor of the 2nd Duke of Rivoli, a distinguished amateur ornithologist. It turns out that the Duke collected bird specimens and when a contact of his, an Italian doctor and naturalist named Paolo Emilio Botta, visited ports in Mexico and California in the early 1820’s, he sent species he collected to the Duke who in turn sent them to Lesson who apparently was responsible for naming birds. Lesson also named the Anna’s Hummingbird after the Duke’s wife, Anna. For some reason, in 1983, ornithologists in charge of naming birds (who are those guys?) changed the Rivoli’s Hummingbird to the Magnificent Hummingbird, a very appropriate name in my view. When I first saw this magnificent bird, it was called the Magnificent Hummingbird. But, in 2017, the same group (who ARE those guys?) split the species into two groups, and called the birds that live between the southern United States and Nicaragua, Rivoli’s, returning the bird to its original name. Those birds south of Nicaragua are called Talamanca Hummingbird. I did find out who those guys are. And, unlike those guys in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they are not trying to get us. The American Ornithological Society committee on classification and nomenclature lumps and splits bird species, sometimes combining and sometimes splitting, often the result of DNA testing. That’s what happened to the Magnificent. And I guess since it’s been returned to its original name, all is well. But, I still think this gorgeous bird is truly magnificent.

2023—Flying with the Angels

She was my companion for 22 years. And what a fascinating 22 years it was. Bobo, the Red-lored Amazon. Her feathers were brilliant and eye-catching: emerald green, pale blue, bright red, and lemon yellow. Her voice was a lilting wolf whistle, or an ear-piercing shriek, or a subtle clicking (I never knew what I might have agreed to when I responded with my own clicking), or the occasional “Hi, Bobo!” or even the single word, “well!” with a rising inflection that meant so much. Her constant companion was a dried chili pepper, a security blanket of sorts that was deposited at the end of wherever she ventured in exchange for something else so I always knew where she’d been. I bear scars from her bites; she was not a parrot that could be handled unless it was on her terms. Before turning out the lights in the evening, I would sit in front of her cage and she would lay her head in my lap and allow me to scratch her head, until it didn’t suit her and the beak presented itself. On Tuesday, she had a stroke. I knew something had gone terribly wrong and I took her to the Vet. They let me hold her, wrapped in a towel, until the end, something I hadn’t done much during our lives together. She enriched my life and I am poorer now that she is gone. I will miss her. She is flying with the angels now.

2023—Banana for Breakfast

Bobo never ceases to amaze me. Her recent health problems, which remain a mystery even to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, seem to come and go. At the moment, she is currently acting like her old self, eating and engaged in the world around her. Yesterday morning she came down the ladder to the counter where I was fixing her food. In the 20 plus years I’ve had her, this is the first time she has done that. She normally watches from the top of her cage or from inside her cage. Her appetite seems to have returned, at least for now. She beaked through the small dish with fruits and veggies and selected a banana slice, which, when she’s eating, is one of her favorite foods. I had to document this event so I grabbed my camera from the kitchen table already set up with the 400mm lens and the 1.4X teleconverter for Hummingbirds. I had to back away about 8 feet to keep her in focus and by this time, she had climbed back up the ladder with her prize and was stepping onto the top of the cage where she devoured her banana for breakfast.

2023—Intense Concentration

One of the coolest things about scooting around Lake Kissimmee in an airboat is that you get to witness an endangered species, the Snail Kite, so close that you that you feel as if you could reach out and touch them. They were hunting for apple snails exposed by the airboat as it skimmed over and roiled the water. These magnificent birds flew right next to the boat and barely looked our way. Their concentration was so intense as they hovered in place searching, that we were able to capture images like this, a banded male, so close that the wing tips aren’t in the frame. His uniquely curved bill and talons, evolved to extract snails from their shells, are clearly visible.

2023—Super Blue Moon

I couldn’t miss out on photographing the rare Super Blue Moon last night. The next one isn’t until 2037. I missed the moonrise which was too bad because photographing the huge moon rising behind a building or trees or mountains would have given more drama to the size of the Moon which is at perigee, meaning it is the closest distance the Moon gets in its elliptical orbit around Earth, about 222,000 miles. The furthest distance in the orbit, called the Apogee, is about 253,000 miles. The fact that the moon is so close makes it a super moon. The fact that this is the second full moon in the month, makes it a blue moon; it has nothing to do with color. Put the two together and you’ve got a Super Blue Moon. The moon was in the east but the neighbor’s oak tree blocked my view so I walked down the driveway with my Z9 and Z800 with the 2X teleconverter. That combination did a pretty good job of filling the frame with the moon. I guess 1600mm is the perfect focal length for a full moon if that’s all you want in the photograph. Saturn was supposed to be out there somewhere but I didn’t see it when I was out about 9PM.

2023—On the Path to Enlightenment

While I waited at my new home for the Astound installer to arrive to hook up my Wi-Fi this afternoon, I made a quick survey of the backyard. I don’t know how I missed this Buddha in repose on my many previous visits but I did. There is a retractable screen just outside the sliding glass doors and when I raised the shade just to make sure the remote was working, there he was, facing the rising sun in meditation in his search for enlightenment.

2023—The Key to My Future

Escrow closed yesterday and I picked up the key to my new house. I am excited to be moving to an “active adult” community, something I thought I’d never do. But, as much as I love my home, and as much as it suits me after my complete remodel of it in 2008, the stairs have become my nemesis (and I thought it was only the squirrels). I’ll put my house on the market in a few weeks, after Bobo and I move in to our new home. I already know a few people who live in my new neighborhood and will be joining some of the photographers there for morning walks and photography outings. The HOA limits feeders and bird baths and bird boxes but I have heard that some of my friends exceed the bird feeder and bird box limits so I might just bend the rules a bit myself. I’m told that Western Bluebirds and Tree Swallows are local nesters, something I don’t have here. The front yard is low maintenance and the backyard has lemon trees and raised planter beds for tomatoes and herbs. I’ll be adding a cascading fountain like the one I will be leaving here because the birds seem to love moving water so much. So, here is the key to my future. And it is quite promising!

2023—Purple Gallinule

With their bright primary color palette, Purple Gallinules stand out in the marshes of Lake Kissimmee in Florida. They spend much of their time on large lily pads, crossing the water on the floating green leaves. This bird is between lily pads in this image, searching the swampy edges for food. Last March, we skimmed across the lake on air boats so we could access places not normally seen up close like this.

2023—Spring Morning Fill Up

In late May I was testing out my new Nikon Z8 and of course, next to my parrot, Bobo, my go to test subjects are the hummingbirds that live in my garden. This female Anna’s Hummingbird was visiting some newly planted red salvia I had just added to a hanging basket. The chain it hangs by is visible in the background. The background was a lovely green and the red flowers popped but sadly the hot weather quickly killed this unknown salvia a few days after I took this photograph so I haven’t had this perspective since then. This is one of the hummingbird postures I love to see, the arched body hovering.

2023—Spring Sunrise at the Terraces

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park is a stark but gorgeous landscape. This past May, we were there early but there was no color in the sunrise and by 7:30 when I took this image, the light was already harsh. I switched the picture control to black and white and attached my 11mm fisheye lens. The steam from the hot springs across the travertine terraces is backlit by the sunburst behind it.

2023—Hiding in Plain Sight

Lurking deep in the leafy protection of a Brazilian pepper tree, a Black-crowned Night Heron peeks out at the Audubon Venice Rookery in Florida this past February. The rookery was alive with nesting activity and Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets and Anhingas were putting on quite a show. I saw the Heron with twigs in its beak on the outer edge of the trees near the water, but I didn’t see it at a nest site. It eventually retreated to the darkness of the trees, seemingly content to watch the activity from the sidelines.

2023—Joe Cool

This American Avocets looks like Joe Cool as it struts down the beach at Bolivar Flats in Texas. Male and female Avocets look the same except that the beak of females has a more pronounced curve than the males. Although I spent hours over several days this past April photographing American Avocets, I am not certain I can tell the difference. I’m returning to Bolivar Flats again next spring. I’ll make sure I observe beaks so that I will be able to distinguish males from females. In this case, without other birds to compare the beak curvature to, I’m not going to venture a guess as to the gender of this bird.

2023—Springtime Hummingbird

A female Anna’s Hummingbird sips nectar from a purple salvia on my patio this past May. I was testing my new Nikon Z8 camera at the time. Here’s a little bit of Hummingbird trivia. The Anna’s Hummingbird was named by René Primevère Lesson, a French naturalist in the early 19th century to honor Anna d’Essling, wife of François Victor Masséna, Second Duke of Rivoli. The Rivoli’s Hummingbird, once called the Magnificent Hummingbird, a gorgeous bird that I’ve photographed in Madera Canyon, AZ, was named after the Duke who was an amateur ornithologist.