This time of year, White-crowned sparrows return to the lowlands of the southwest in large numbers. They spend the summers in the northern boreal forests and the higher mountain ranges. Their reappearance is a harbinger of colder temps as fall and winter arrive. They are a welcome site in the sagebrush steppe as a lot of the other birds have fled to warmer climes. Often, they can be found in the same areas as Rufous-crowned sparrows foraging for seeds. I enjoy photographing both species as they have a distinctive and attractive appearance.
Jewels of the Garden
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.
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.
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.
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!
The males are more colorful with a bandit like mask of black across the eyes. More dragonflies in his beak for the nestlings.
I was happy to capture this interaction between the male and female while they were feeding their young.
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.
Some recent favorites…Wordless Wednesday
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for looking! 🙂