I have been home a lot for the last couple weeks and have enjoyed getting out in the yard to watch the hummingbirds. We’ve had more than usual, but the prettier ones (I won’t even attempt to name the species)tend to leave the yard when I go outside. The feeder at the kitchen window attracts several hummers who sometimes (but not often) will feed at the same time. Our larger feeder out on the patio has been dominated by one hummingbird who sits on TOP of the feeder for over an hour at a time, preferring to guard it rather than feed. I have known children with that same personality trait!
Newport Beach scene in black and white.
Newport Beach scene
I had a free morning yesterday, so I was able to get outside and practice backyard bird photography with my long lens. There was nothing more exotic than finches, jays, and doves- but it was all good practice.
Yes, another bird- and another artsy fartsy bird at that! This is a ptarmigan, perhaps a female or a juvenile (can’t remember), and it is the state bird of Alaska. This info is courtesy of my Park Service son-in-law, so I am breaking with my policy of not identifying birds, because I’m always wrong- or at least I believe everyone who identifies a bird incorrectly for me. Crossing my fingers here. . .
It was our youngest grandson, Henry who spotted it as we were walking a trail at the Nature Center. It was motionless in the grasses and probably scared out of its mind. I said, “Oh, look a grouse!” We all gathered on the trail watching it, as I snapped 4 or 5 shots. Then Justin gave the command to Penny, the golden retriever, who promptly flushed it out and away flew the grouse/ptarmigan/chicken(?) into the woods.
I gave it the clipping mask and stroke treatment, because it’s fun and I just can’t stop doing it. . .
Some of the leaves are actually starting to turn, even though it still seems like summer here. I’ve got my Halloween decorations out and am drinking a pumpkin spice latte as I write this- so, according to the calendar and Starbucks, it IS fall! In the spirit of autumn, I took this photo of a goldfinch against the backdrop of fall leaves.
It is so much easier to capture a bird sitting on a branch than one in flight! I love how fluffed up this little finch looks!
More practice with the long lens . . .
I confess to adding a texture, because, despite the long lens, I’m not really a wildlife photographer. 😉
Just walking at the top of the hill. . .
Our roadrunner guest made himself right at home in our yard. He is a predator after all; I try not to think of what he might have eaten besides lizards. I haven’t seen any of the young quail for awhile, alas. These shots are before and after he helped himself to some water in the fountain.
By the way, this is the same roadrunner I featured in yesterday’s blog post. His crest is sometimes up, and sometimes down. Supposedly the crest goes up when the roadrunner is communicating with other roadrunners, but this one has been a loner.
Last week, we spotted a roadrunner coming into our back yard several times each day. One day, Carol and I were out there for over an hour with our cameras, and the roadrunner was everywhere! We even watched him kill a large lizard by- sorry!- whacking him repeatedly against the rocks (don’t worry- no photos). At one point, he came down to the lower level and drank from the fountain- leisurely and unafraid.
Here he is in all his glory:
I’ve taken many, many hummingbird photos over the years. And now I am trying to take better ones. The hard thing is to take them in flight, in focus, and in a good spot in the frame (good composition and background). So far, I have many, many shots of their tails as they take off- or just sitting at the feeders. At least in this shot, the wings are outstretched and moving.
Here is another shot of Mr. Quail. I love being able to get closeups with my long lens.
Thanks to the expert tutelage of my friend, Carol, I am finally able to use my long zoom lens with the gimbal head I got for my birthday. I am working on assembling and disassembling the lens and tripod combo, as well as focusing and panning techniques for bird photography. I am far from competent, but am thrilled with my results so far!
Meet Mr. and Mrs. Quail, regular visitors to our backyard:
At the beginning of our visit with our grandboys, we went to Butterfly World and the new OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale. I fell in love with this toucan (I had never been so close to one) and spent a lot of time watching him watching us. He was in a fairly unreal environment, which I enhanced in post-processing.
I am now the owner of a long zoom lens- and am totally intimidated by it! It is heavy (4.5 pounds)and very zoomy (up to 600mm), but so much fun! Until yesterday I had only used it in the driveway (it has been rainy and dreary), but I finally took it out for a short walk at Willow Lake. I was fortunate to have my photo assistant (Lonnie) with me to carry the tripod (I didn’t attach the lens to it until we got out to where I was setting up). I know my friend, Carol carries her much heavier gear on a tripod over her shoulder, and I even watched a Moose Peterson video on doing it this way- but I was nervous about handling the new gear, not having the special tripod head etc. But once I was by the lake, it was all fun!
The shot below was taken as we walked to the lake. It is the same spot where I took reflections shots earlier this month. Normally there is no water here. This was taken before I put the big lens on; I just used the lens which I happened to have on the camera, my 50mm.
As you can see from the above shot, it was very overcast and even more unfortunately, there were no herons or egrets there to greet me. So once I got the tripod set up, I had some practice with the ducks who were reluctant to pose and were mostly swimming away from me. I have a lot of shots just like this one:
Not too impressive, I know, but- take my word for it- he was very far away! And it’s all good practice!
This eagle owl may be wise, but he is also pretty stern looking!
There was a windmill in the background while we took photos of the two hawks last Saturday. I kept composing my images with that in mind- and then ended up cloning it out in the sepia portrait I posted Tuesday of Emily, the Swainson’s hawk. This is the Harris’s hawk with the windmill in the background- with a little texture editing.
Being more of a windmill photographer than a bird photographer, I also took several photos of the windmill, including a multiple exposure shot. I will be posting those next week.
Here’s that sweet face again!
This is Marlee, a female Barn Owl! I can’t decide which I love more- that sweet face or her beautiful feathers.
This is Emily, a Swainson’s Hawk, who posed so nicely for this portrait that I decided on an old-fashioned look for the editing. Normally I dislike sepia, but it seemed to suit the image.
I seldom photograph birds, especially since my friend, Carol, has set the bar so high with her amazing, professional quality bird photography (oh, THAT’S what a bird photograph should look like!)- but I went along with my camera club on an outing to the Arizona Raptor Experience. It was fantastic! We were there by 7:00 a.m. and had beautiful light for most of the morning. And the birds were magnificent!
I’m not posting any action shots- although I did get 3 acceptably sharp shots out of dozens I took. It was operator error- my camera and lens did pretty well. I did get some pretty raptor portraits.
Today it’s a Harris’s Hawk (which I always thought was a Harris Hawk). Tomorrow will probably be a Swainson’s Hawk. See you then!