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.