February and March are prime months for seeing Bald Eagles as they migrate through the high desert. They follow the flocks of snow geese, tundra swans and numerous ducks that fly through the area on their way back north.
I like to photograph and record nature with realism. Birds of prey have to eat and that is messy. Eagles cull the weak and sick birds from the flocks. They fly over large rafts of snow geese scaring them into panicked flight. They pick the ones off the water that are too weak to fly or are struggling. Nothing goes to waste. Ravens follow the eagles and clean up any scraps.
When we think of hummingbirds we tend to think of perpetual motion, speed and agility. It may come as a surprise to read that they actually spend quite a bit of time perched and at rest. I hung two perches designed for Hummingbirds near a couple of the feeders I have in the backyard and they use them regularly.
Hummingbirds are fiercely territorial so perching near food sources is common. They also conserve energy by doing this.
The birds use a variety of perches around my backyard. Any bare branch is attractive to them. They also perch on dead flower stems.
I have several sculpture objects around the yard that are Hummingbird related and it is especially amusing to me when they perch on those.
Of course the whole point of the Osprey’s efforts are to come up with a fish! For a few weeks last summer this small pond afforded me numerous opportunities to photograph the Ospreys as they hunted. I sat for hours on the edge of the pond for many days to capture the action. In the following series of photographs you can see the Osprey almost submerged in the water as he/she successfully snags a fish, to the point it flies off with it’s prize.
I was surprised when reviewing the photos at how deep the Ospreys go into the water. I thought they just skimmed the top of the water and grabbed fish.
If you look closely you can see a trout in the Osprey’s right talon.
Just like everyone else, I’m looking for things to do while the this quarantine/social distancing drags on. Going through photos is an activity I’ve been enjoying. I took a lot of photos of Ospreys fishing last year. They look angelic to me against the soft summer sky.
You can see that the Osprey is intently studying the water below.
After the Osprey sees a fish near the surface it starts the dive.
These photos don’t capture the speed that this all takes place at. I had to take a lot of photos to get it done. 🙂
Short-eared Owls are easier to find this time of year. They are unusual for owls as they can be active while it is light enough to photograph them. I find plenty of sleepy Great Horned owls early in the morning getting their naps on and while I am grateful for the opportunity to take their picture its exciting to see owls going about their owl business hunting and eating.
In the flat fields of the Sierra Valley, I’ve been lucky enough to find quite a few Short-eared owls congregating in the late afternoons. They have been pretty cooperative posers, not too flighty or scared as I shoot them from my truck.
These owls love open fields and grasslands as they hunt small mammals like mice and voles.
Short-eared owls are widely distributed occurring on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They are not threatened and seem to be doing well as a species.
My habit is to get obsessed with a particular species. For awhile, I chase that species in what I hope is a compulsive but healthy manner, until I have a collection of images that I like. In the pursuit I learn a lot about the animal or bird, where to find, good methods to get close to them, general habits and knowledge to aid in the quest.
A friend of mine was commenting that he wanted to get some photos of Kestrels. I told him we have many in the area and general places he could find them. He kept expressing, with some frustration, that he was not able to find them and that was all it took to awaken the species challenge in me.
These are beautiful little birds that are relatively easy to find and photograph. They are widespread across North America and are doing well, not threatened or endangered and fun to watch. They like open fields and border areas. They use trees, power lines, fences and rocks to perch on. They hover over an area to hunt and then dive onto their prey. They eat insects, lizards, small birds and mammals.
Kestrels are the smallest bird in the Falcon family and the only Kestrel in America. They are unusual in the Falcon family as the male and female differ subtly in colors.
I did not realize how long it has been since I posted anything! Summer is a tough time. It is hot out and it is not my favorite time of the year to be stumping around looking for animals. Combine that with some family visits and other distractions, makes for a two month absence.
I have been hanging out in my backyard with my camera and favorite summer obsession; Hummingbirds.
Last fall I replaced a lot of my shrubs with plants guaranteed to attract hummingbirds and waited anxiously all winter and spring to, one, see if they survived and thrived, two, if they really attracted the tiny birds. Yes and yes to all questions. I have a plethora of birds buzzing, eating and fighting in my backyard.
I planted Agastache Blue Blazes, Agastache Desert Solstice and Monarda Bee Balm. The Hummers love them all.
I have spent the last few years learning as much as I can about Hummingbirds. They are fascinating to watch and provide all the entertainment we need in our backyard every summer. I have the schedule down now. The Anna’s and Black-chinned show up the first week of May here. They may be around earlier but that is the earliest I have seen them. We put out the feeders at this time. We carefully tend those making sure they are clean and fungus free changing the water often. The little birds seem to really need it this week as we have had very cold weather and it may snow tonight. They have been visiting often.
In mid-July we get hordes of rampaging Rufous Hummingbirds. They fight over the flowers and feeders non-stop. I don’t see many of the other types once the Rufous take over. I replaced many of my shrubs and perennials with plants that attract Hummingbirds last fall and I am anxiously awaiting bloom and boom time with the hummers.
I took these photos using my new blind which works quite nicely in the backyard. I set it up draped over my tripod near this birds favorite perch for several hours and then ducked under it late this afternoon. It did not seem to care or notice me in it.
This morning I arrived at the pond where the wild horses drink to hoping to get more stallion fighting shots. I do have some recent ones. That will be the teaser. Not much action from the horses today but there were a lot of birds to watch at the pond. White-faced Ibis, Dunlins, Avocets, and Long-billed Dowitchers and Black-necked Stilts.
The Black-necked stilts provided the drama much to my surprise. Two Stilts, and it is easy to see how they got their names on those impossibly long legs, were peacefully probing the mud flats for their breakfast when this other male flew noisily in and started attacking one of the other males. It really was quite a show. When I got home and started editing the photos I saw how truly violent this episode was. If you look closely you can see that one of the Stilts has pierced the other’s neck with his long sharp beak. Ouch!