Jewels of the Garden

Hummingbird Feeding on Red Agastache

Hummingbirds are called the Jewels of the Garden or Jewels of the sky. It is easy to see why. As they flit through the colorful flowers the sun catches their brilliant, iridescent feathers giving them a gem like appearance.

Hummingbird and Pink Agastache

These birds are some of my favorite photo subjects. I have turned my backyard into a hummingbird, or pollinator garden as I have written about in the past. I love being able to hang out in my own space, no driving, complete privacy and unlimited time to devote to these tiny subjects.

Pollinator Heaven in Pink

I don’t know what impacted my flowers this year, but I have very few great photos of the Hummers with beautiful flowers. This is one I like. The flowers seemed to be stressed by the heat and bloomed early and faded fast. I still had a good showing of birds but just not the number of pretty flower and bird opportunities I’ve had in the past.

Hummingbird with Faded Monarda

Common Yellowthroats

Female Yellowthroat with Dragonfly

I was fortunate to find a nesting pair of Yellowthroats earlier this summer. They were busy feeding their young ones and the number of dragonflies that were consumed was staggering!

Male Yellowthroat

The males are more colorful with a bandit like mask of black across the eyes. More dragonflies in his beak for the nestlings.

Feeding Interaction between the Couple

I was happy to capture this interaction between the male and female while they were feeding their young.

Bald Eagles

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.

Bald Eagle in Flight
Bloody Feet

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.

Hummingbirds at Rest

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.

Using the Perch

Hummingbirds are fiercely territorial so perching near food sources is common. They also conserve energy by doing this.

Perching on a Branch

The birds use a variety of perches around my backyard. Any bare branch is attractive to them. They also perch on dead flower stems.

Rufous on Flower Stem
Hummingbird on Dead Headed Bee Balm

I have several sculpture objects around the yard that are Hummingbird related and it is especially amusing to me when they perch on those.

Ospreys – End of the Dive

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.

Osprey

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.

Osprey leaving the water with fish

If you look closely you can see a trout in the Osprey’s right talon.

Osprey with fish
Gaining speed
Osprey

Angelic Ospreys

Osprey looking for Fish

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.

Osprey fishing

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.

Starting the Dive
Diving

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

Short-eared owl with prey

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.

Short-eared Owl in afternoon light

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.

Short-eared Owl in profile

These owls love open fields and grasslands as they hunt small mammals like mice and voles.

Short-eared Owl in it’s habitat

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.

Short-eared Owl

Thanks for looking! 🙂

American Kestrels

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.

American Kestrel

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.

American Kestrel

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.

Kestrel with Cricket

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.

Kestrel in flight