Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Correction: I had originally thought this was a Ringed Turtle-Dove as it matched the description in my National Audubon Society Field Guide. The Eurasian Collared-Dove is excluded from that guide for some reason. I purchased The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America today and found that the Eurasian Collared-Dove is a better match and the more likely identity.

I will leave my original post below unchanged:

Per Cornell's All About Birds, "The Ringed Turtle-Dove has been domesticated for so long that its wild origins are not known for certain. It frequently escapes from captivity, and feral populations have become established in some cities in the southern United States."

I found this Ringed Turtle-Dove at the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. It was reasonably tame, so I was able to get some good close pictures. There is larger variety of Doves here in Albuquerque then in the Portland area. Besides this Ringed Turtle-Dove, I saw White-winged Doves and Morning Doves. There are also Band-tailed Pigeons and Inca Doves.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hermit Thrush

Conditions were difficult for taking pictures along the trail at the Sandia Crest because of the heavy shadows and bright shafts of light through the trees. When we came across this Hermit Thrush not only did those problems exist, it also wasn't very close to us. I didn't have much hope that it would turn out very well, but while not the greatest, it's at least good enough to get a good look at its features. Thank goodness for image processing software.
While we didn't see many Hermit Thrushes, we heard several. Especially during one of the stops on the way back. Their song is very distinct and memorable. As a matter of fact, while I've never seen one here in Oregon or anywhere else, I'm sure I heard one tonight at Champoeg State Park during a walk I took there.
To hear the Hermit Thrush's song click here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Common Grackle

I grew up with Common Grackles being, well, common. They were everywhere during the hot summer days in Minnesota. In Oregon, however, I have never seen one as their range does not reach this far west. That's why it was a thrill to see one again.
I first got a shot of it coming in for a landing on a tall dead branch near the parking lot pond. I'm not sure, but it looks like it is missing a few feathers although had no trouble flying (perhaps it is molting). I did a quick web search and didn't find anything similar.
Although it doesn't show up much in these images, Grackles have iridescent feathers and though black, they can flash blue, green and purple when the sun shines on them.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cooper's Hawk

While walking the trail along the Rio Grande River in the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park Friday morning, I came across a Cooper's Hawk that was not easily spooked. In fact, it occasionally swooped down over my head flying between two trees. Not really menacing, but it definitely got my attention. I took several pictures of it, but it was difficult to get a good exposure as there was a bright sun shining from the rear through the leaves and branches of the trees in which it perched.
I conveyed the story to one of the birders on the field trip I took yesterday and she suggested that it may have a nest near by. This made a lot of sense based on the Hawk's behavior, so, I got the idea that I would come back in the evening in the hope that it would still be near by when the sun would have moved to the other side providing front light. That didn't work out, however, as a summer rain moved in later in the afternoon and evening.
Since I didn't have a meeting today until 4:00, I decided to make one more morning trip to the Park. It was a pretty successful trip and while there I decided to visit the area that I saw the Hawk. Sure enough, it was perched in one of the same trees I found it on Friday. I took more pictures and tried to adjust the exposure based on what I had learned from the previous shoot. Again it swooped down over me and I shot the top image as it was just taking off.
It landed in the other tree and I was having a little trouble finding it. Then I saw something moving on one of the branches, but it looked slightly different. To my surprise, it was a juvenile Cooper's Hawk. The Hawk was indeed trying to scare me away with its swooping. I took several pictures. A couple of times during that time the juvenile stretched out its wings. It was the second time that I captured the center image.
Finally, I noticed a large ball of sticks in the same tree, not far from the juvenile. It had to be the nest and I included a picture of it in the bottom image.
Truly an exciting experience!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Common Raven

Today I went on a field trip with some birders from the local Audubon Society in Albuquerque. We made our way up the Sandia Mountains, ultimately reaching the top at Sandia Crest and the Crest House. There we hiked trails in the hope to see a Three-toed Woodpecker. These birds are hard to find, but there had been recent reports of sightings in this area.
Unfortunately, we did not get any confirmed sightings, though a couple in our group thought they might have gotten a glimpse. All was not lost, however, as the scenery was beautiful and we did see and hear many birds. Most, however, were at a distance so I did not get many good photos, but I did a reasonable shot of a Hermit Thrush that I will post soon. The Hermit Thrush is a new bird for me and it has a beautiful, almost haunting song!
Another new bird, at least from a photography standpoint, was the Raven in the image above. This was taken along the highway on our way back from the field trip. I road back with local Audubon Society president Beth Hurst-Waitz and she was kind enough to stop and let me get out of her car and take a few pictures of the Raven. It had an interesting guttural call.

Friday, June 25, 2010

White-winged Dove

I'm in Albuquerque, NM this weekend on business. I have meetings on Thursday and Sunday, so I thought I'd take some of the spare time I have and shoot some pictures of the birds in the area.
This morning I visited the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. I saw some familiar birds and many new ones. There many of these White-winged Doves flying around the park. I dismissed them as Morning Doves at first until I got a closer look. The Doves in the image above were sitting on a feeder at the park along with others. I was busy taking their picture when something spooked them. Suddenly, about 20 Doves all took off at the same time creating quite a commotion.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

White-crowned Sparrow

I'm really getting tired of how Blogger messes with my images. This image is washed out compared to what I uploaded. None-the-less, it still looks nice.
White-crowned Sparrows are almost as cooperative as Song Sparrows when it comes to taking their picture. This one was sitting on a sign at the beginning of the trail at TRNWR.

I'm going to be changing servers soon that'll be more work, but will let me control the image quality. I may repost some images at that time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Song Sparrow

I can always rely on a Song Sparrow to provide me with a great picture opportunity. They are trusting enough and common enough that I get a close opportunity just about every time I go out.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Red-winged Blackbird - Mother and Juvenile

While duck and geese juveniles have been apparent for some time, I am now starting to see song bird juveniles. When I came upon the Red-winged Blackbird in the top image I didn't realize at first that it was a juvenile. I became suspicious since it didn't fly as quickly as I would have expect and there was a fair amount of blackbird activity around it.
Then it became obvious when it started calling out and it's mother swooped in with some food. While I saw the mother feed the juvenile, I unfortunately missed that shoot with my camera.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bullock's Oriole - Female

When I arrived at TRNWR yesterday afternoon, I started my walk as I usually do along the trail leading to the south side of the visitor center. There is a small grove of trees including some large Oaks and the large Firs that serve as a lookout perch for the Bald Eagles. There is a bench along this trail that looks out over the refuge. While standing near this bench, I noticed something fly in from one of the pines to the roof of the back of the visitor's center.
It turned out to be a female Bullock's Oriole and it appeared that it was harvesting spider nests under the beams that make up the edges of the roof. It would spend some time poking at these nests and then fly back to a branch about half way up in one of the Firs. Each time it flew back to the pine I moved in a little closer.
Eventually it moved down further along the back side by the overlook and finally off to some distant woods. I'm not sure if it is nesting at the refuge, but if it is, I hope to see the male at some point.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

American Goldfinch

Another cloudy day, but at least its not raining. One good thing about the clouds is that I don't have to worry about what direction the sun is coming from when I shoot.
I hung out for awhile at the pond near the bird blind today and saw an unusually high variety of birds in a short period of time. It's been a good place to take pictures, but I usually only get a single good opportunity.
This female American Goldfinch landed off to the side of where I was standing and was the bird that was the closest to me during that period. Goldfinches in general are not easy to shoot as they are flighty, small and don't let you get close. While I've seen many this spring, I haven't had many chances to get a close shot.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I bought a picture guide to birds, animals and plants of TRNWR. I thought it would be helpful in more quickly identifying difficult birds. Well, I got a tough one today. According to the guide, both Cooper's Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks frequent the refuge. The picture above is one or the other. They look very similar. I decided on Sharp-shinned based on two things. One, its tail appears to be squarer than what a Cooper's Hawk is supposed to have. And, two, its head is fairly small.
Cornell's All About Birds website states that these to hawks are some of the most difficult birds to distinguish between and I don't doubt them. The pictures look very similar. And since this is the first of either that I have taken pictures of, I'm very green at making the right call. I'm about 51% sure I made the right call in this case. ;-)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Long-tailed Weasel - Juvenile

I had completed my walk of TRNWR and decided to stop off at the visitor center before I left. On my way back to the car, I decided to take one more look in the trees just to the south of the center. They've been active with House Finches lately, but I haven't been able to get any descent shots as they tended to stay up high in the trees, so I was hoping to get a better opportunity. This area is also fairly active with White-crowned Sparrows.
I was taking some pictures of White-crowned Sparrows when I noticed something scampering along the trail just ahead a bit. It turned out to be some Long-tailed Weasels and I soon discovered that they were juveniles. I'm guessing that there were about four of them. They were hiding in the grass just off the path and would scurry out in the open, sometimes one by one, sometimes in twos or threes. When more than one emerged, they were usually wrestling with each other, rolling around and jumping about.
Unfortunately they mostly stayed in some heavy shade and my lens wasn't fast enough to get nice crisp shots. Many of the shots of them playing were just brown blurs, but a few, when I caught them still, turned out well enough to post.
This was the first time I've seen weasels in the wild, so it was pretty exciting.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Great Blue Heron - Gloomy

Well, isn't this different.
I took this picture of a Great Blue Heron sitting in a tree off in the distance about a week ago on a gloomy day (we have had a lot of those lately). When I viewed it on my computer I thought it was interesting, but I didn't know what to do with it.
I ran across it again tonight while looking for something to post. Then I thought, why not gray scale it and turn the contrast up. Make it even more of a silhouette than it already was. I played with that some, but wasn't happy with it.
Then I remembered that I had played with some of the more exotic filters that Pixelmator has a while back. There was one called Gloom that might just do the trick. Sure enough, I liked it, so I tweaked the color and brightness a bit and after several different attempts decided I liked this one. A bit Tim Burtonish, don't you think? :-)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Scrub Jay - Dazed & Confused

While walking along the side walk at Mentor Graphics, I noticed a Scrub Jay on the ground with its wing opened and its head laying off to the side. It didn't look good as you can see above. I assumed that it was injured in some way. This notion was reaffirmed as I got closer to the Jay as it didn't seem to acknowledge my presence. Typically Scrub Jay's are very weary of letting anyone get too close to them.

Then, suddenly, it seemed to perk up and it started to preen its feathers, still oblivious to me.

After preening for a bit, it then sat up and seemed like it was going to be okay.

But then, just as quickly, it began drifting off again.

Little by little.

Until it appeared totally out of it.

It was then that someone spoke to me. It turned out to be the security guard that I have run into a few times. Having had a few conversations with him, he appears to know a thing or two about birds. "It's in a sun trance", he said. At that, the Jay woke up and flew off. I had never heard of such a thing, but I couldn't deny what I had just seen and photographed.
I searched for this on the internet, but came up more or less empty except for some videos someone had posted of a rescued Scrub Jay named Blue in a similar trance; Here is the blog; Scrub Jay Blue and his life as a rescued animal. It's very interesting.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bald Eagles

These two Bald Eagles were perched up on the tall pine next to the visitor center at TRNWR this past Saturday morning when I arrived. Based on my observations and the comments I have received from others, I have come to conclusion that they spend a fair amount of time up in that tree. Especially in the early mornings.
The images above are actually two separate crops from the same picture. The Eagle on the right wasn't focused as well as the one on the left so I didn't do a cropping of just it alone. It's really cool to see Bald Eagles on a regular basis. I hope they continue to increase in numbers.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Savannah Sparrow

These pictures of a Savannah Sparrow were taken shortly before those of the Belted Kingfisher I posted yesterday. I believe these benefited from stopping the lens down a couple of stops as the light was better and the result appears to be sharper than I would have expected at the distance I was away.
I was happy to get the opportunity to take these shots as I have been trying to get some descent shots of Savannah Sparrows. As I mentioned in a past post, they are rather flighty and weary of letting you get too close. They also unintentionally taunt you by running along the path, just out of range and most of the time with their back to you. This one, however, was quite cooperative, although it would have been nice to get even closer.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Belted Kingfisher

I got an early start this morning since I had reserved the bird blind at TRNWR, however I only spent a little over an hour in there as there wasn't much action, at least nothing any closer than I could find walking the trails.
On my way to the blind, this Belted Kingfisher flew up and perched on a branch not too far from me. I've seen an occasional one fly across the refuge lately, but this is the first time I've seen one this close other than while in the blind.
Last night I read on the internet that lenses tend to have the best sharpness a couple of stops slower than full open. I have trouble with softness, so I thought I'd try switching to aperture priority mode and dial in f/7.1 rather than using program mode. In that mode the camera usually selects f/5.6. I'm not sure that was a good idea for early this morning as it was cloudy so the light was low. As a result, the camera ended up selecting a slower shutter speed causing these pictures to exhibit more camera shake than I would have expected. Live and learn :-).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Western Bluebird

I did some research lately on Western Bluebirds because I remember hearing a few years ago that there has been an effort to rebuild the population in the area by erecting houses. I thought it would be fun to see if I could find some in the area. They don't seem to frequent the refuges and wetland areas I typically visit to take pictures.
I discovered The Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project on the web and found there that Champoeg State Park is having a Bluebird Day this coming Saturday. Champoeg State Park is only about a 15 minute drive form my home, so I was pretty excited to visit the park and see if I could find any nesting.
As you enter the park it isn't long before you start seeing the houses along the road. Champoeg's website recommends walking the trail near the Willamette River so that is what where I started. Much of the trail is forested so I didn't expect to see any bluebirds there since I had read that they like open grasslands. Eventually the trail opened up into a vast grassland area and I could see a few houses off in the distance. One of the houses had a bluebird sitting on it, but it was way off in the distance. Not one to venture off the trail, I continued on to see what else might be ahead. The trail eventually reentered into a wooded area and I continued walking until I came to the campgrounds at which point I decided to turn back.
Once I returned to the grasslands I looked to see if there was any trail that led off in the direction of the house that saw the bluebirds. Sure enough there was a trail leading that way so I followed until I found a grass road the led right past the house. This was probably a service road that the park employees use to monitor the bluebird nests. As I approached the house I saw that there was both a male and female nearby. I slowly walked near the house and then crouched down low and waited to see if they would come to the house with me nearby. They were weary of my presence, but eventually returned to the house to feed their chirping young. If they had seemed too stressed, I would have backed off, but they were mostly acting cautious. I'm sure I was much less intrusive than the nest researchers.
I took lots of pictures. The pictures of the male above are the first two I opened on my computer after offloading them from my camera. They were great shots so I thought I'd just post them before looking at any more. I'll post more soon, including the female.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Common Yellowthroat

Picture taking opportunities are starting to dry up as Summer approaches. This is due to a couple of factors. First, the Spring migration is pretty much complete reducing the number of birds and their activity. And they are less accessible because of tree foliage and grass growth. One bird I have been hearing a lot lately is the Common Yellowthroat. Only trouble is "hearing" is not necessarily "seeing".
Along the north service road, west of the outlook at TRNWR, there is a short stretch that tends to be more active with a few birds. I've seen Lazuli Buntings, Cedar Waxwings, Rufous Hummingbirds and Yellowthroats fairly reliably and within close range of the trail.
The sequence of pictures above are of a female Yellowthroat that I saw along this stretch. It was less obstructed sitting in this Blackberry brier than it would have been in a bush or heavy grass. It sat there long enough for me to get several shoots off.
Note the insect in its beak.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Spotted Towhee

A couple of months ago, I'd see Spotted Towhees regularly. Then they seemed to become scarce. But yesterday I saw a couple of them along a quick walk through TRNWR. This one was relatively close and in the same tree as the female Brown-headed Cowbird I posted yesterday. In fact, I was taking this Towhee's picture when I noticed the Cowbird.
This picture was actually quite underexposed because of the bright background light coming through the trees (there is actually more of the the light in the full image as this is a cropped down version), but there was actually quite a bit of detail in the image once I brightened it in post.
One thing I noticed about the two I saw today is that they were both singing much more than earlier in the year. I'm not sure if that is coincidence or not.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Brown-headed Cowbird - Female

This bird had me going. For awhile I thought it might be a California Towhee which would have been pretty unusual as their range is not this far North. I was even considering requesting help on the internet. Then, while paging through my field guide, I came across a picture of a female Brown-headed Cowbird. It looked similar, so I did a web search and am now very certain that this is a female Brown-headed Cowbird. Nothing exotic (I was getting a little excited that I may have had a significant sighting), but I learned something new and that is one of the things that I like about this hobby.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Green Heron

I thought it would be fun to post a variety of crops of the same picture. The images above are of one of the Green Herons that make a pond at Mentor Graphics home. The image turned out quite sharp, but had a couple of interesting features to work around. One is the nice reflection in the water and the other is the bright Yellow Water Iris leaves off to the right.
The bright Water Iris leaves are a bit distracting and overexposed. There is not much I can do with them by adjusting exposure. If I were more highly skilled, I might try to work with layers and lay something over it. So, that leaves cropping it out or living with it.
The top image attempts to totally crop out the leaves and feature the full reflection in the water. The center image does the same thing, but opens up the sides a little allowing some of the leaves. The bottom image ignores the both the reflection and attempting to crop out the leaves. It instead features the direction of the head and beak and crops horizontally instead of vertically. In the case of this picture, I like the bottom image the best, but that is just my opinion.