2017—Old Sunset Rose

The Old Sunset Rose cutting that my brother John gave me a few years ago continues to thrive despite the previously mentioned benign neglect of my roses.  This rose is an unknown variety planted in the late 1800’s when the Sunset Line & Twine Building in Petaluma was the new Belding Corticelli Silk Mill.  When Sunset closed and the building sold, John rescued cuttings of the old roses that grew wild around the building.  The cutting he gave me was neglected in a small pot until my friend Honora espied it and when she heard the history of the rose, insisted on repotting it.  It is now a large rambler and it has rambled and threaded its way among the branches of Winsome, the Ron Smith Memorial Rose that my friends Royetta and Cherry gave me shortly after Ron died ten years ago.  I really must stop neglecting my roses.  They reward me with such beauty.  I wonder how much more beautiful they might look if I gave them just the slightest bit of care.   Because this rose blooms only once in the spring and it is now covered with buds.  I’m afraid that the rose will be in full bloom while I’m away photographing birds and I’ll miss the gorgeous display.    So to commemorate this year’s bloom, I took a some  photos of the single blossom amidst a cluster of closed buds.  The first was taken in early evening light; the second the next day in late morning light.

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2017—The Magic Of Beach Panning

A few months ago,  I was introduced to the magic of Beach Panning, a  technique that puts the photographer down low at the same level with the shore birds on the beach.  Since then, I’ve had several opportunities to try it and now  I can’t seem to get enough of it.  Last week, I made a presentation about Beach Panning to the Placer Camera Club and prepared a short slide show with some of my favorite Beach Panning photographs. The video’s musical accompaniment is Angel Eyes played by my favorite jazz pianist, the great Oscar Oeterson — no relation to Moose Peterson who introduced me to Beach Panning.

Or, click here to view this video and click here to view other videos on the In Focus Daily YouTube Channel.

2017—Tactile Feeding

Roseate spoonbills are tactile feeders.  They have sensors on their long, flattened bills that feel small fish and other food as they probe the water, waving their submerged bills back and forth.  When they find a fish, their bill snaps shut on the prey in a vice-like grip, then they lunge their head forward and open their bill slightly, moving the prey toward their throat.  The small fish about to be swallowed by this Spoonbill is visible about mid-bill as it is flipped backwards toward the gullet.

Corkscrew Swamp, Ft. Myers, FL, March 2017

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2017—Introducing Sheila

Meet Sheila…Sheila’s Perfume to be exact.  She is a beautiful and fragrant floribunda that anchors the row of rose trees along my driveway.  My roses are glorious right now and I’m home for a few days at the peak of their spring beauty so I can enjoy and appreciate them.   They are gorgeous despite my benign neglect.  I don’t prune them the way I used to.  In fact, while I once spent hours deciding which stem should be clipped for the perfect urn-shaped rose bush, I now let my gardener slash at them however he sees fit.  I haven’t fed them in years.  I suspect the abundant rain we’ve enjoyed this year has contributed to their current glory.

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It was early April and the shore birds were in breeding plumage in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.  This avocet, a bird I’d never seen, in or out of breeding plumage, was feeding in the marsh in a place called Tyrell Park on the edge of a golf course south of Beaumont, TX.  There were scores of avocets in the area and the water surrounding their legs was several inches deep so despite their long legs, it looks as if they’re swimming.  The avocet in the first shot has just captured a morsel in its long curved beak.   The group of avocets in the second shot appear to be working together as a group to corral some crustaceans or small fish.



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2017—Nose Dive

Taking, let alone featuring, butt shots of birds is considered rude.   I am mindful of this and try not to do it.  But, sometimes, when my camera rips off a dozen shots in a second, butt shots happen.  And sometimes, the resulting photographs are fascinating.  I love these two shots as this Great Egret looks for a landing spot in the crowded rookery.

Egret nosedive 1


egret nosedive 2


2017—What’s With The Semipalmates?

Here’s another bird that’s semipalmated.  When I first reviewed the images of this bird, I thought it was a sanderling in breeding plumage.  As it turns out, this bird is actually a Semipalmated Sandpiper with, you guessed it, incomplete webbed feet.  Sanderlings are in the sandpiper family but, Sanderlings don’t get their breeding plumage until May.

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2017—What The Heck Is Semipalmated?

The other day on Boliver Flats in Texas with my friend Connie, I noticed a couple of birds that I thought were plovers.  When I reviewed my Sibley Guide to Birds,  I identified them as Semipalmated Plovers in breeding plumage.  I got to wondering what in the world makes this plover “semipalmated?”  What the heck does semipalmated mean?  Often the common name of birds includes a characteristic that sets them apart from other similar species.  But sometimes these names make no sense as in the “Worm-eating Warbler.”  Don’t all warblers eat worms?  But I digress.  I looked up “semipalmated” in my Funk And Wagnalls and it turns out that semipalmated refers to a bird’s foot that has incomplete webbing between its toes, i.e., not quite a duck’s foot.  The first photograph below shows the right foot of this Semipalmated Plover and it does have a minuscule web between its toes but I think there might be a better characteristic that would distinguish this species of plover from another.  The second shot shows the “semipalmated” foot a bit better but the bird was further away from me when I took the shot and the shadowy silhouettes of the birds in the background are a little distracting.


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2017—That’s Life On The Lek

The male Greater Prairie Chicken at the right of the first photograph is giving his best display in an effort to impress the female  who has visited the lek to scout out potential mates.  As she seems to lose interest and looks away from the male, (image 2) he moves closer (image 3).  Still unimpressed , she moves away in search of a more suitable mate.

prairie chicken pair 1Prairie Chicken pair 2


prairie chicken pair 4.jpgprairie chicken pair 3

2017—Posing In The Marsh Grass

On Monday, we drove the auto loop through Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on East Galveston Bay and stopped to walk along a boardwalk to see what birds we could find in and around the brackish marsh.  This Savannah Sparrow was trying to be inconspicuous in the tall marsh grass growing along the boardwalk and s/he posed for us. 

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2017—Sharp-tailed Grouse Set-to

On my last day of shooting at Switzer Ranch near Burwell, Nebraska, we had just a couple of hours before we had to leave for the three and a half hour drive to Omaha to catch our flights out.  In the pitch dark, we were driven to the blinds, retired school buses with the windows and seats removed, to await the arrival at the lek of the sharp-tailed grouse for another morning of their attempts to attract females.   The mid-thirty degree temperatures felt much, much colder as the howling wind blew straight into the blind at our faces.  Keeping the big lenses steady on the tripods, even with proper hand holding technique, was a challenge as the strong wind buffeted our big glass and the bus jolted with the pressure of the wind hitting the wall behind us.  As the sky began to lighten ever so slightly, we began to hear the calls of the grouse and to see dim figures dancing and charging in the daybreak.  As we started to shoot, our discomfort lessened as we concentrated on photography.   The wind kept the birds uncharacteristically still and low to the ground.  This is one of the very few shots I got of a sharp-tailed grouse set-to.  The blowing prairie grasses prevented me from capturing a clean shot with a completely clean background.  The wind blew the grass behind the grouse’s neck just as he leaped into the air.


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2017—Carry A Big Stick

Connie and I were at the Smith Oaks Rookery on High Island, Texas at sunrise on Tuesday as the cacophony of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Cormorants, and Roseate Spoonbills increased in intensity as the sun came up.  The competition for construction materials was intense as birds stole sticks from one another.   The rookery is across the water from the Audubon Society’s viewing platforms but sometimes the birds flew to the area near the platform to secure just the perfect addition to the nest.  This spoonbill scouted to find a branch in an area just a few feet from the platform.  When he took to wing, I managed to capture him as he flew off with his prized stick.  He was so close to us, he completely filled the frame.  I used my Nikon D500 and 300mm lens.

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2017—God Bless Texas!

I’m visiting my friends Sandy and Connie McNabb in Montgomery, Texas.  On Sunday, Connie and I went out shooting in Montgomery, then Sandy took me to the range so I could shoot  a Smith & Wesson .38 Special (soon to be my very own weapon of choice), and after dinner Sandy took me for a fly-over of Lake Conroe in “Sheepdawg,” his SeaRay.  I took this shot of Sunday evening’s Texas sunset, complete with God beams, from the cockpit of Sheepdog as we flew low over the lake.

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