A praying mantis, innocently lurking on one of my Just Joey roses caught my eye Tuesday morning.  I got my camera and tripod but the breeze was a little too much to get a decent photo with the macro lens so I clipped the rose, put it in a vase, brought it inside and photographed it inside.  My houseguest, Susan, helped by holding the flash and I took a few shots but I was worried that the mantis might fly off or crawl away.  The mantis was quite active during the few minutes he was inside but he did stop long enough for me to determine that it has a compound eye, with a grid-like covering.  After the portrait session, Susan took it back outside and it climbed back onto the rosebush to continue its quest for prey.

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2016—My Friend The Tree Hugger

My dear, long time friend Susan has come to California from Wisconsin to celebrate our High School graduating class’s 70th birthday bash held Sunday at Armstrong Redwood State Park.  Susan misses the magnificent California redwoods and wanted a photo of herself hugging a tree.

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2016—Crack That Whip

The only regret I have about my recent Australia birding trip was that I failed to make an audio recording of the Eastern Whipbird.  This bird, more than any other, was constantly with us, hidden in the dense foliage, but we knew they were there by their distinct call and response; the sound of a cracking whip, was unmistakable.  The male makes the loud whip cracking sound in response to the female’s call. Sometimes they were so close to us, probably within just a few inches, and the sound was so resonant, that it made your ears ring. Click the right arrow to hear a brief snippet of the Eastern Whipbird’s  call and response.   This is an audio file I downloaded from a site called FreeSounds.

And here are three views of one of the birds we saw early in the week.  They are about the size of an American robin.  This bird was very curious about something in the road and was not disturbed by us or put off by our cameras.  Later in the week, the whipbirds were much more difficult to photograph because they kept out of sight in the dense cover of the rainforest.  But we could still hear the snap of their whip cracking through the trees.

Eastern Whipbird looking down


Eastern Whipbird looking left


Eastern Whipbird looking right


2016—The Distant Hills

I’m home from Australia but I haven’t quite recovered from flying across the International Date Line.  That does something to your brain.  I wasn’t affected going to Australia but returning home has been a challenge.    Although I’ve been home about 48 hours, I’m still trying to acclimate.  I lost a day going and I got the lost day back coming home, but that hasn’t yet registered with my body.  Hopefully, I’ll return to normal soon.

Because I’m still a little loopy I’m not quite yet ready to concentrate on editing the thousands of bird photographs I  took in Australia.   I saw thirty seven species of birds, most of them new to me, and I photographed twenty-four different species, sadly not all successfully.   However, I got enough good captures that I’m very pleased with the results and it was a fun and rewarding trip.

I took this photograph at sunset the evening I arrived at O’Reilly’s.  I loved the layered look of the distant hills.

The Distant Hills.jpg

2016—Conquering Fears

I am afraid of heights.  For as long as I can remember, the thought of climbing a ladder or step stool,  clamoring up a tree, or approaching the edge of a  cliff have all caused me to shudder with anxiety.   My photography buddy, Richard, is also afraid of heights and I think his acrophobia is even more severe than mine.  So, it was a ridiculous notion to think that either one of us would even consider “The Bridge Climb” let alone go though with it.  But, go through with it, we did!  Along with a group of 12 other similarly acrophobic tourists, we braved the cool temperatures, impending rain, and ridiculous and scary heights to climb to the summit of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Sydney, Australia on Monday afternoon.  Built in 1932, the bridge rises the equivalent of one and a half football fields above the water.  We walked up and down 1337 stair steps (some were steep ladders) and traveled close to a thousand feet in horizontal distance over a six lane roadway and two train tracks.  A train screamed by me  with a deafening roar as I descended one of the ladders.  We were dressed in special body suits and equipped with fleece jackets and rain slickers, both of which we had to don during the walk due to the chilly temperatures and the rain that began to pelt us.  We were given radios, hats, and handkerchiefs and we hooked onto a continuous cable that kept us from pitching off the bridge.

The climb turned out to be exhilarating, exciting, heart-pumping, and just plain fun.  We were both so happy that we decided to go through with the three hour adventure, and, I think it helped to conquer, or at least temporarily alleviate, our fear of heights.  We weren’t allowed to carry anything with us.  I had to lock up my camera and remove my earrings, but Harry, our guide, obligingly photographed us at various stages of the walk.

Below is a photograph I took of the structure afterwards when we took a ferry across the harbor to a place called Manly.  We climbed from the granite supports at the left of the photograph, up across the top of the structure to the center, walked across to the other side and descended back to where we started.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

This is Richard and me about halfway up the structure.

bridgewalk carol and richard

And, here I am almost to the top with the iconic Sydney Opera House in the background.

Bridgewalk opera house background

At the center span, I’m giving a victorious thumbs up after reaching the pinnacle of the bridge.  The attachment strap and the cable to which it was hooked are both visible.Carol atop bridge

2016—Parrot Head

I like Jimmy Buffett but I hadn’t considered myself a Parrot Head until I visited Australia and found my head covered with parrots.  These parrots are Crimson Rosellas (red and blue) and Australian King Parrots (red males and green females) who live in and around O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park.  They are wild but they are accustomed to people and  take advantage of the sultana raisins and walnuts offered by staff and tourists.

Moose Peterson took “official” portraits of each member of our group bedecked in parrots.  The day before, we all practiced a little portrait photography with our 600mm lenses.  I was first up so Moose took photos of me using my camera and the first shot below is one of the test shots.  During the official portrait session the next day, Moose used his 24-70mm lens and a soft box to improve the lighting.    Moose’s wife, Sharon, documented the chaotic and fun photo shoot and I took a video of Richard’s portrait session using my iPhone [click here to view video] ; it features Moose, Kevin, Sharon, Eric, and Richard.  The birds spent quite a bit of time frolicking on our lenses and camera bodies (not to mention our own heads and  bodies)  but there was no permanent damage to us or our equipment although a couple of parrots tried to nibble on my lens hood.

Parrot head Moose 4.jpgParrot head 2 Mooseparrot head moose

2016—The Rainforest

Entering the Australian rainforest at Lamington National Park is like stepping back millions of years into one of the ancient epochs when mega marsupials roamed the continent.  The rainforest here in winter is cool, but not cold and slightly moist but not dripping.   It is lush and green and the calls  of  its resident birds resound throughout the canopy, bird songs  I’d never heard before coming here.  The Green Catbirds remind one alternately of cats in a vicious fight or a hysterical, screeching baby. The calls between pairs of Eastern Whipbirds echo around you and if you’re close enough (which is the usual case here) the crescendo ends in a deafening whip-like snap than can  make your ears ring.  To photograph birds here, I used either my 600mm lens or my 300mm lens so the birds are isolated in the photograph.  There is little of the rainforest surroundings evident in the  bird shots.   So,  to give a better feel for our environment here, during one of our afternoon breaks I took about an hour and walked alone into the rainforest using a wide-angle lens.  It was a little eerie to be alone and enveloped by the rainforest with its strangler figs and ancient ferns and its unique sounds, none of which were human.  While most of the paths meander at ground level, the treetop walk zigzags and sways high amid the lush green canopy.

Rainforest 1Rainforest 4Rainforest 9Rainforest 2Rainforest 7Rainforest 5Rainforest 8Rainforest 6Rainforest tree walk

2016—A Room With A View

We’ll be in Sydney for a couple of days.  My room has a great view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and to its right, the iconic Sydney Opera House.  An airplane was flying over while I took this 30 second exposure from the window of my room.

Sydney at Night.jpg

2016—G’Day From Australia!

I’ve spent this past week in a rain forest at a place called O’Reilly’s in Lamington Natonal Park, Queensland, Australia.  I’m here with a group of photographers led by Moose Peterson and Kevin Dobler of K & M Adventures to photograph some of the fascinating birds here in this rain forest environment.   Because the internet connection has been spotty, I haven’t posted to my blog since I’ve been here.   Today, Friday (Thursday for those of you in the United States), is our last day at O’Reilly’s before we head to Sydney for a couple of days before flying home.

This is a sunset shot I took on the day we arrived here, the view from my room.

Day 1 Sunset


2016—The Arboglyphs

Arboglyph?  What is an arboglyph, you ask?  Well, similar to petroglyphs, which are symbols or pictures carved, etched, or painted onto rocks, arboglyphs are words or pictures carved onto a tree trunk. Think carving you initials on a tree.  And, while Petroglyphs are usually prehistoric, the arboglyphs I photographed are much more recent.  Most  were carved in the early and middle decades of the 20th century by sheepherders tending flocks on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  They are carved on aspens that grow in small groves  scattered around the hillsides at elevations over 8000 feet.  But, unlike petroglyphs that have millennia-long life spans, arboglyphs are lost when a tree dies.  Aspen trees have life spans of about 100 years so these arboglyphs aren’t going to be around for more than a few decades more.

I went with my photography buddy Bruce a few weeks ago to see and photograph these quirky trees.  The arboglyphs weren’t quite what I was expecting and they were not easy to photograph because they wrap around the trees, making it impossible for the camera to capture the complete carving.  I tried making panoramas but they just didn’t look right.  Most of the carvings we saw were names and dates, usually years  carved over names representing each season spent tending sheep.  Some of the trees had carvings that were obliterated by another carver…almost like gang graffiti of today.  And some of the carvings were rather primitive people, even a carving of Joe Louis in 1948, one of the years he held the heavyweight crown.  The sheepherders often used existing features of the tree as part of the drawing.  In the case of Joe Louis, a huge dark splotch represents his uplifted boxing glove but it’s not really visible in the photograph because of the shape of the tree.   I was surprised to find quite a few rather pornographic carvings.  I guess the sheepherders were lonely.  But it was difficult to decipher most of those carvings and it was only after pondering about them for a while did it finally dawn on us what we were looking at.    I hope I didn’t inadvertently include one in the slideshow.  At least two of the carvings in the slide show were made over 100 years ago.

And, as a reminder, if you can’t view the slideshow from your e-mail, click on the blog title to go to the website where you should be able to view it.

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2016—Not An Angry Bird

Female bushtits have yellow eyes which often makes them—allow me  to anthropomorphize a bit—appear angry; the males have black eyes which makes them cuter.   I noticed that in this group of shots, the little female looks more inquisitive or perplexed than angry.

This is another slide show.  If it doesn’t play on your smart phone from the e-mail, click on the blog title bar in the email which will take you directly to the blog where you should be able to view it as a slide show.

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2016—Taking Flight

The other morning the male Anna’s hummingbird was keeping an eye on “his” fountain while the bushtits descended en masse.  I’ve seen him chase one or two small gold finches away but I guess he felt outnumbered by the large number of bushtits and he didn’t  dive bomb the group.  In the first shot, he finally took to wing when the bushtits disappeared from the fountain.

In the second shot, he has just finished his bath in the fountain and is landing on a twig to preen.

Flying hummer.jpg


flying hummer 5.jpg

2016—Heading Down

The bushtits descended on the fountain Tuesday morning so intent on bathing that they didn’t seem to mind my slow approach.  Of course they all disappeared into the shrubs when I got too close but I paused and one by one, they returned.  This bushtit was heading straight down to the fountain about ten feet below.

Taking Flight.jpg