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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday morning, while I was sitting at my kitchen table looking out at my garden which has suffered from the far-too-many 100° plus days we’ve had off and on for weeks, I noticed that the California Fuchsia was blooming despite the weather. And yesterday, it was a delightfully cooler and overcast morning something very rare here this time of year. I began to feel nostalgic about the Hummingbirds and all the birds that I have enjoyed watching in my garden for more than 30 years and realized I haven’t taken any hummingbird photographs at home since I returned from Madera Canyon more than a month ago because of the heat. So I got my Nikon Z9 and 400mm lens and set them on the kitchen table to wait. I’ve planted flowers to attract hummingbirds and hung hummingbird feeders in my garden for all those 30 plus years. For the past 12 years, I’ve photographed those hummingbirds visiting the feeders and the flowers in my garden. They are mostly Anna’s Hummingbirds with an occasional Black-chinned, Allen’s, and Rufous making brief visits. Sure enough, an immature male Anna’s appeared and sampled every open flower flitting from the California Fuchsia to the Salvia to the Hummingbird Mint and back to the California Fuchsia. I captured a few frames (well, more than a few) before he disappeared into the safety of the Photinea. My nostalgia was brought on because I just bought a new house (with no stairs) and I’ll be moving, probably in mid October, and leaving all of the birds here behind. I’m looking forward to my new home and planting hummingbird friendly flowers and hanging feeders there, although the HOA limits bird feeders to two and only in the back yard. But I’ll miss the birds here. When I sell this house, I hope the new owners will want to keep the birds coming to this garden and provide nectar and keep the garden of flowers flourishing. In fact, I may have to add a contingency in the sales agreement that requires it.
This is another education bird from this past April’s visit to the Bird of Prey Health Group open house. A Western Screech Owl under the care of a local falconer stares intently at something of interest in the distance. Those huge eyes are pretty amazing.
The e-mail from the SacYolo Mosquito Control arrived yesterday afternoon. My and surrounding areas were to be sprayed starting at 8:00 PM last evening and ending at 6:00 AM in an effort to contain the invasive mosquito Aedes aegypti which has been detected here in past years and again this year. This mosquito carries West Nile virus which can have devastating effects on bird populations and to some extent humans. This is the second notification of spraying I have received this summer. Earlier this year I photographed a Golden Eagle who is known as Tesla because she survived electrocution many years ago. Unfortunately, her injuries prevent her ever returning to the wild. Tesla is now an education bird for the Bird of Prey Health Group, an organization I volunteer for. Tesla contracted West Nile virus a few years ago and recovered. However, the virus left its scars. Tesla is blind in one eye and the eye color in that eye changed after she had the virus. Looking at her straight on the color difference and the blind eye are quite apparent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the spraying will be effective.
At Smith Oaks Rookery on High Island in Texas this past April, the birds nesting there were in constant motion ferrying sticks to build and fortify nests. This Great Egret carried an especially ornate stick. Whether it was to add to a nest or impress his mate, it would certainly get her attention.
Cornell Labs calls them “creatures of the air.” Soaring aloft and floating on thermals, Swallow-tailed Kites spend most of their day in the air, rarely flapping their wings. We watched as this bird circled low over trees on the edge of Lake Kissimmee in Florida and snatched large wormy larva off leaves. Then it would continue flying, still not flapping its wings, and deftly consuming the larva before dipping low over the trees again for another bite.
A female Black-bellied Plover in breeding plumage has a tug o’ war with some sort of wormy thing on Bolivar Flats in Texas this past April. She pulled it taut for a while. I held down the shutter release hoping to capture the moment when she won, knowing she would. She held on for quite some time and just as I thought, “how many images do I need of this?” and lifted my finger, the worm snapped and I missed the dance of the sproinging worm.
Sticking out like a sore thumb (that might be a bit of an exaggeration) an immature American Avocet stands among adult Avocets in breeding plumage, their head and neck feathers a deep rust, while the immature bird’s head and neck are a light gray. American Avocets forage for aquatic invertebrates in shallow water while wading or swimming. The immature bird pictured above seems undecided about its next move.
Houston Audubon’s Smith Oaks Rookery is a favorite roosting and nesting place of thousands of waterbirds. Herons, Egrets, Cormorants and Spoonbills build their nests and raise their chicks there. This Roseate Spoonbill ferries a large stick to its nest somewhere in the rookery. The trees surrounding Claybottom Pond reflect green in the ripples of the pond’s surface, creating an ethereal backdrop for the pink bird.
When I walked past the fading bouquet on my dining room table, left over from last week, I noticed that some more of the lily buds were opening. The morning light from the high transom window made the perfect, dramatic backlight for them.
I just can’t get enough of the hummers of Madera Canyon. I’m so thrilled that we’re going back again next year. This male Broad-billed Hummingbird has plenty of sparkle in the early morning sunlight on our last morning there this past July. The sun was bright early that morning and it lit up the the background which in this shot was the huge scar on a huge oak where a huge branch had broken off. He almost looks as if he knew we were leaving there shortly, looking into the lens.
It beckons. What makes sugar water, the human-offered replacement for nectar, so irresistible? Hummingbirds are drawn to feeders with sugar water. Honeybees, Wasps, and Bumblebees swarm to those same feeders. And, on our last morning in Madera Canyon, a lone Swallowtail Butterfly spent quite some time drinking with its long straw-like proboscis at one of the feeders. Most of the time I watched, its wings were closed and it was facing me so I couldn’t see the pattern of the wings. Finally, it fluttered to the next portal so I could see and appreciate the intricate, colorful, and delicate pattern of its wings. I have read that Butterflies find their nectar by its smell.