2020—New Look

Today, In Focus Daily has a new look. It’s still a work in progress but I have been thinking about updating it for some time now and I thought I’d try a little change. And, with my passion for Hummingbirds, it is only appropriate to introduce the new look with a photograph of an Anna’s Hummingbird taken with my new Nikon D6.

The Anna’s Hummingbirds seem to enjoy sitting on the perches I stuck in the pots near the feeders. It is the perfect resting spot between slurps at the feeder or sips of nectar from the salvia. And, it gives me more opportunities to photograph them. I may have to remove that perch that juts into the frame at the lower right. It isn’t used and it doesn’t need to be in the shot. I’m not really sure if this is the subadult Anna’s that’s been spending so much time in the yard but I think it is. His gorget didn’t reflect any color the way the light hit in the late afternoon. Nikon D6, Nikkor 300mm PF, Nikon TC-14EIII.

2020—In Flight

The young Anna’s Hummingbirds have started to tolerate my presence and allow me to approach within a few feet so I can sit and enjoy the show. If I’m not already outside, when I see one buzzing around the feeders or the fountain I grab my camera which is always at the ready and slowly walk outside. Yesterday morning I went out three times before I left for my morning walk. It’s given me an opportunity to get more familiar with the new Nikon D6 autofocus system. Maintaining focus on a hummingbird in flight can be a challenge. But, when they hover in flight, it is possible to lock on the eye and maintain focus even when shooting with a slow enough shutter speed to blur the wings. Nikon D6, Nikkor 300mm PF, Nikon TC-14 EIII.

2020—More Peruvian Lilies

At the grocery store a day or so ago I found some Alstroemeria that looked green in the store’s lighting. I decided to try some more focus shift shooting with the Nikon Z7. This time, instead of using the Nikkor 105mmf/2.8 Micro lens, I used a native Z lens, the Nikkor 24-70mm S. I think its results are an improvement over the micro lens, probably because the micro lens has a much more narrow depth of focus than the 24-70. They are actually less green than they they looked under the store’s florescent lights but they still have a greenish hue.

2020—Lesser Goldfinch

There seem to be more Lesser Goldfinches in my garden this year than in past years and they have dominated the fountain, especially on these first 100 degree days. This female Lesser Goldfinch waits in the Photineas before taking her turn to frolic in the cool water below. Nikon D6, Nikkor 300mm PF, Nikon TC-14 E III.

2020—Nikon D6!

My Nikon D6 DSLR arrived last Friday. It is Nikon’s flagship camera and I love it. Since its arrival I have been getting acquainted with it. It’s particularly welcome right now because my Nikon D5, what the D6 will replace, has been languishing at Nikon’s Service Facility in Los Angeles since it arrived there on March 16 for routine cleaning and servicing. Immediately after it arrived, the facility closed, deemed a non-essential entity by the State of California. I know it is safe there and will eventually be serviced and returned to me but just when that will happen is anybody’s guess. Getting the new D6 in my hands was very welcome indeed. The heft and ergonomic feel of the camera is just as good if not better than that of the D5. It’s a large camera but is so well designed that it doesn’t feel heavy to me and shooting with it and its expanded autofocus system has been heavenly. My shooting options right now are limited mainly to my backyard so I have been on the lookout for subjects. My favorites, the Anna’s Hummingbirds, have been fairly elusive but I finally captured a sub-adult male who cooperated by sitting still on one of the perches I strategically placed between the feeders and a potted salvia late Monday afternoon.

2020—Lady Pyrrhuloxia

The Pyrrhuloxia is a song bird closely related to Northern Cardinals. In fact, female Northern Cardinals look very similar to both male and female Pyrrhuloxia with their crest and coloring. The main distinguishing feature is the bill, more yellow and more parrot-like than that of the Northern Cardinal. They thrive in the hot arid deserts of the Southwest United States and into Mexico. This female Pyrrhuloxia perches in the heat of South Texas, panting a bit.

2020—Hummingbird Sippy Cup

I guess you can call the bell shaped salvia blossoms a hummingbird sippy cup. Yesterday morning I noticed one of the Anna’s Hummingbirds sipping nectar from one of the flowers on the Black and Bloom Salvia plant. My camera is always at the ready to capture something fun in my backyard and this hummingbird was taking its time, giving me enough time to capture a few frames before it darted away.

2020—Water Droplets

Water is critical to the survival of birds, and in places where ground water is scarce, water features that provide this essential element provide a welcome respite. Santa Clara Ranch in South Texas was designed for wildlife photographers and includes numerous water features to help native birds in this dry, arid place. When the temperatures hover in the high 90’s and low 100’s all kinds of birds flock to the ponds. This is a Long-billed Thrasher enthusiastically drinking water. Several water droplets fly off its bill and drip back into the pond.

2020—Striking a Pose

It’s hard to miss a male Northern Cardinal. This brilliant red male strikes a pose. The red of his feathers draws attention to him and apparently, the lady cardinals love the color. Female Northern Cardinals have a bit of red on their crests and wings but are drab by comparison and don’t sport the brilliant hues that make this male stand out. Photographed from a blind in South Texas. Nikon D500, 500mm PF.

2020—Reflecting on Texas Birds

This time at home has given me lots of opportunity to revisit some of my past photography adventures and reflect on the many gorgeous birds I’ve had the good fortune to photograph. I have a soft spot for jays and the Green Jay, native to the southern tip of Texas, seems to have all the same personality traits of the Scrub Jays here in California that I know and love. The major difference is the colors of their feathers. It is much more striking, exotic, and tropical.

2020—Bad Toupée

According to Cornell Lab’s All About Birds, ” The Crested Caracara looks like a hawk with its sharp beak and talons, behaves like a vulture, and is technically a large tropical black-and-white falcon. ” I photographed this pair of Crested Caracaras in South Texas last May. I mean no disrespect to these really quite spectacular birds, but they look like someone sold them very ill-fitting toupées.

2020—Bright Adult

Bright adult doesn’t refer to any kind of intelligence quotient but rather, in this case, to this female Lesser Goldfinch being a “bright adult” as referenced in my Sibley Guide to Birds. When I downloaded the photographs I noticed she seemed yellower than some of the other females I’ve seen in the yard. Most are pretty drab by comparison. The males, with their black caps and lemon yellow bodies, are really the bright ones. When I looked at Sibley, some females are considered “bright” and are distinguished not only but the brighter yellow of their feathers but also by a few white feathers at the base of their primaries. The Lesser Goldfinches are becoming much more tolerant of me and I was able to approach the fountain, sit down just three feet away, and take photographs while this little female continued to bathe, seemingly undisturbed by my presence.

2020—Crested Caracara

Last year I spent a marvelous week in south Texas photographing birds native to that area. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. I was planning to return there last week but sadly the current state of the world has postponed that trip until next year. In the meantime, I am enjoying the photographs from that week. All of our bird photography there was from blinds so our presence was shielded so we had lots of opportunities to see and photograph some magnificent birds. The Crested Caracara is Mexico’s national bird and we were close to the Mexican border. This is a juvenile Crested Caracara waiting his turn at a carcass.

2020—Cautious Bather

The Lesser Goldfinches are very cautious and wary. Usually, when I step outside they disappear in an instant. I noticed a group bathing on the mill stone fountain and walked outside with my camera, approaching slowly, watching their reaction to me. To my surprise, they continued bathing then moved to the urn fountain. This male Lesser Goldfinch pauses between dunking into the bubble that is directly behind him. He was still cautious but was tolerant of my presence. Several stayed and bathed, taking turns at both fountains. Maybe they’re finally getting used to me. Nikon D500, Nikkor 300mm PF, Nikon TC-14EIII.

2020—Purple Works

Red flowers attract hummingbirds. But other colors are also attractive to hummers. This dark purple salvia, called Black and Bloom, is much darker than other salvia I have in the garden but the Anna’s Hummingbirds seem to love it. The plant is not quite as lush as it has been in past years and this year there is only a single spire blooming so far but it is a favorite of the juvenile male Anna’s. It was late in the day and I didn’t raise the ISO or lower the exposure compensation so the shutter speed was only 1/50 of a second so the movement of the wings and the tail are quite pronounced.

2020—Every Two Weeks

The Fortnight Lily has waves of blooms that seem to come every couple of weeks, hence its common name. The current bloom of lilies along my walking route is starting to disappear and I wanted to try the focus shift technique on one of them before it was too late. It’s starting to heat up here; Friday is expected to be in the high 90’s and I think the Fortnight Lilies only continue blooming when the weather is a little cooler so this might be my last shot at it.

Nikon Z7, FTZ, Nikkor 105 mm f/2.8 Micro, 3 Nikon SB 5000 Speed Lights.

2020—Strategic Perch

A few days ago I participated in one of the many on-line photography classes being offered now via Zoom and other group meeting technology. It was a backyard birding class by my friend Moose Peterson. One of his many recommendations to help enhance our limited photography options at the moment was to add perches in strategic places in the backyard. The perches, positioned near the food or water attraction, will be a place for the birds to rest and wait their turn. The great thing about these perches is that the photographer can select perches appropriate to the size of the bird being photographed and place them in such a way as to make sure the background will enhance and not detract from the subject. I found a few potential hummingbird perches on my morning walk the other day and stuck some of them temporarily in pots between the feeders and blooming salvia until I found a permanent place for them. As I sat on the patio late in the afternoon, the juvenile male Anna’s Hummingbird appeared and began to feed on the salvia. He was behind the salvia blossom so I couldn’t get a clear shot of him. Then, he landed on the newly planted perch and posed there while I took a couple of shots. I guess I don’t need to move this perch to a better location.

2020—Tiny Critters?

Macro photography can reveal tiny details that aren’t always readily apparent. When I found some Pineapple Guava the other day, I thought its flowers would make an interesting focus shifting subject. The flowers are small, about an inch and a half in diameter and I didn’t examine them closely before setting them up to photograph them. When I completed the final focus shifting image, combining 75 images into one, I was surprised to see that the flash against the black background highlighted some tiny webs on the flower petals. I’m sure there are tinier critters somewhere amongst the petals. I’m not going to look any closer. Nikon Z7, FTZ, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro lens, 3 Nikon SB 5000 Speed Lights.

2020—Kangaroo Paw

Last year I bought some plants that I had read would attract hummingbirds. They’re called Kangaroo Paw. The flowers are fuzzy and red but they didn’t seem to have any way for the hummers to get nectar. The hummers buzzed around the flowers, but they didn’t ever drink from them. A couple of days ago, I noticed a couple of the flowers looked a little different. A few of the red “paws” had finally opened revealing the pistils and stamen and hopefully some nectar.