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 haven’t been taking photos of wild horses for some time. Honestly, they can be a little boring depending on the time of year. We are approaching the best time to photograph them in my opinion as it is getting close to foaling time and that means lots of cute babies and fighting stallions.
These Stallions let their bands get too close too each other going to water so I saw some action.
I saw lots of pregnant mares and I think I was about two weeks too early so will be checking on the herds the next few weeks. It was great to see so many colorful pintos and paints out there this year.
I started out modestly planting one variety of plant that would attract hummingbirds. I wanted to be able to take photos of them on flowers not feeders. I have four feeders to attract and help the tiny birds out through spring, summer and fall. Then slowly the obsession grew with wanting to create a hummingbird heaven in my back yard. Over the last few years I have replaced non native shrubs and plants with a variety of native flowers and plants. Of course lots of other pollinators profit from the pollen rich flowers as well.
I planted a lot of wild Bergamot after I fell in love with the plethora of flowers it produces. The hummingbirds are not crazy about it but the butterflies and bees are frequent visitors.
All the plants from the Astagache family are Hummingbird favorites. This variety is long blooming and the Hummingbirds love them.
After several unsuccessful attempts to grow Bee Balm I found a spot they liked and have three large examples. They are a showy flower that hummers love. I especially like the photos I get of Hummingbirds with these.
It took hard work to transform a rather sterile landscape into a colorful garden full of plants and flowers that pollinators are attracted too. I love sitting in my backyard this time of year watching them enjoy the fruits of my labor. Bees and all Pollinators are under stress as at this time. Consider planting for them when planning your garden.
I planted Giant Purple Sage last year hoping they would attract Hummingbirds as advertised. The Hummingbirds are not at all interested but they are magnets for Western Swallowtail Butterflies.
I’ve planted several plant types that were supposed to be irresistible to Hummingbirds only to find the birds were not attracted to them. I might be offering them too many choices. The Purple Sage has been a hit with all kinds of bees, butterflies and moths so I’m happy with the plantings.
My Bee Balm is starting to bloom and all the pollinators love them.
Just about 4 weeks to go until the Hummingbird migration starts and their favorite flowers should be in full bloom in the garden. Looking forward to their annual invasion and antics in my backyard.
We had our first series of wildfires this weekend. A lightning strike in the Pine Nuts in Douglas county started us off. Then we had a real thriller yesterday on Peavine Mountain above Reno. Still waiting to hear what the exact cause of this one was. High winds and dry conditions made this an extremely dangerous fire. It made for an exciting afternoon Saturday if you were anywhere near the area. I live on top of a hill that gave us a great vantage point to watch the fire and the heroic efforts to put it out. Huge Tanker planes dropped load after load of brightly colored fire retardant on the fire and around it to create a fire break. I used a long lens to capture some of the action. We were miles from the fire.
The pilots worked this fire in an incredibly choregraphed dance that had them in and out of the smoke, flying just off the ground, and soaring back into the sky making it all look effortless. This has to be a huge adrenalin rush and scary as hell.
Amazing work by these pilots. They saved many homes and lives this day. Thank you!
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 was at a cocktail party/gathering last night and was chatting with folks about my camping trip this week in the desert. The discussion turned to photography and how I had got the nice coyote shots. Without thinking I started telling about finding a dead mule deer, most likely a mountain lion kill, and dragging the carcass to a better spot in good light and hunkering down in the sagebrush to take photos of what ever showed up to eat it. I was thinking Golden Eagle as I had scared one off the deer when hiking up the canyon but this coyote showed up and I snapped away. I then realized I had lost everyone at the dragging the carcass part.
I never stopped to think that my behavior is out of the norm but the expressions on folks faces kind of told me that it is. I have to smile I guess.
Thank goodness I have people in my life who put up with my weird behavior for the sake of a photo.
This year I have started venturing further off the beaten track in search of wild places and wilder animals. I am working on overcoming a lifelong fear of the dark and have been camping out alone. So far so good but I do wish the little critters would not make so much noise at night trying to get into my food. My imagination runs a bit at 2:00 AM.
On this trip I visited Upper High Rock Canyon. Added a new bird to my life list with this Long-eared Owl. I couldn’t get a better shot of it as it was in thick trees but it was a thrill to see one. The coyote, I have mentioned. It got pretty close before the camera shutter sound scared it off. Isn’t amazing how well they blend in to their surroundings?
After having such an extraordinary experience last week, I just had to go back. I found that the Antelope/Pronghorn were well into their rut and small groups have formed into large herds. The action was fast paced as big bucks were chasing does around and fighting with each other for the females.
Lots of photos to edit, but here are a few of my favorites so far.
I was able to spend a few days this past week up on the vast and lonely Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. It is one of my favorite places on the planet. It is the fourth largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 at 573,504-acres. You pretty much have the place to yourself on most days. In the three days I spent there I saw a total of 5 people. Two were in a car, two on touring motorcycles and Paul who is the acting camp host at Virgin Valley, distributing toilet paper to the few primitive pit toilets found at the scattered campgrounds throughout the Refuge. The brief chat Paul and I had was my only conversation.
The first day and a half I did what most people do and drove around looking for antelope and what other animals I could find to look at and take photos of. It is not my favorite way to interact with a place but the landscape can be a bit daunting as you look out as far as the eye can see across windswept sagebrush steppe. I had limited success and more importantly was not enjoying the lack of intimacy with my surroundings so I decided to try my luck with my blind.
I set up as it was getting light near a water source in the shadow of an old round rock corner post. Out here, where the ground is rocky, hard and wood hard to come by, they use horse fence shaped into a barrel filled with rock to build stability into fences. Cattle were removed from the Refuge in the early 1990s and all the wire removed in the last decade, but some of these relics of ranching are still around.
I barely got the blind draped around me and the action started hot and heavy. There were about 25 sage-grouse across the small water hole from me. Then almost immediately the antelope started coming in for their morning drink in singles, doubles and larger groups. Most did not even glance my way. One or two can be seen looking at the camera as the clicks alerted them that something was not quite right but even those who were suspicious took their drink. While I did not see them, I was serenaded by coyotes fairly close several times that morning.
Deer came to drink in several groups. The females with fawns in one group and big bucks hanging out like frat boys in another. One bachelor bunch made up of three big guys, big three and 4 points; had a small two point tagging along with them. I am sure this was his first year away from mom. As they finished drinking and made their way back up the slope the big boys all took turns poking two point in the butt as if to say, “hurry along there son.”
It is breeding time for antelope so it was fun to watch the big bucks chase off the youngsters. They would spot each other from quite a distance and charge off at great speed.
As the morning wore on, Northern Harriers started dive bombing the sage-grouse. They do kill and eat sage-grouse but I think mostly younger birds. I did not see them take a grouse in this instance. I have some photos of the harassment I will share in another post.
At times I hardly knew where to point the camera there was so much going on! It was amazing to watch animals behaving naturally and feeling like I was truly getting a peak into their lives.