January 19, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

Time Flying By in the Desert

Yesterday I renewed for another two week stay here in the desert, been here a month now and am accomplishing pretty much nothing! Reading a few books, watching the ever increasing number of finches, sparrows, and doves at my feeder, and doing a little painting.

Though there have been a few grey, cloudy days and even a little rain, the weather here just can’t be beat! Every night, for a month now, the temperature drops to around 50 degrees, then warms back up to the high 60’s or low 70’s during the day, a wonderfully moderate range that just suits me to a  ” T “. If I had to design the perfect climate for year round living ( for me, at least ), this last month would be it. Now that we are into the new year, I am aware the temps will slowly start to rise and I will eventually be forced to move on, but for now, this is just paradise for me.

Male White Crowned Sparrow
Male White Crowned Sparrow

I’ve attached a couple of small dead branches to the side of my tray feeder so I can get some closeup shots of the birds that come in to feed. This is a male White Crowned Sparrow, one of probably a dozen or more that visit each day.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

A male House Finch. if they weren’t so numerous, they would probably be thought of as a particularly handsome and colorful bird. probably a half dozen of these guys showed up at the tray feeder when I first put it out, now there are probably more than forty at the feeder and on the ground beneath it at any one time.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

It took a week or so for the first doves to show up, a single pair of Eurasian Collared Doves and 4 or 5 Mourning doves. Like the Finches, the Mourning dove numbers have increased daily and now there are a couple dozen feeding on the ground beneath the tray feeder.

Mockingbird Drinking
Mockingbird Drinking

Since I am in the desert, perhaps the most popular item added to the feeder tray is this old tuna can of water. I usually have to fill this at least twice a day.

Harris's Antelope Squirrel
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel
Harris's Antelope Squirrel
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel

In addition to the birds attracted to a free meal, at least four of these Harris’s Antelope Squirrels have shown up to chow down on seeds scattered on the ground. They appear to peacefully coexist with the ground feeding birds and the birds show no sign of wariness, often feeding shoulder to shoulder with these small rodents.

And finally, last week, a small covey of California Quail discovered the seed beneath the feeder. So far they have been very uncooperative photography subjects so I will hopefully post some shots of these comical little birds next post.

Tray Feeder at Sunrise Viewed from Dinette Window
Tray Feeder at Sunrise Viewed from Dinette Window

This is the view from my dinette window where I can keep an eye on the tray feeder and it is through this window that all of the above photos were shot. As I mentioned in the last post, I have found a quiet, fairly isolated spot here at the Imperial Dam LTVA and that is definitely adding to my enjoyment of this really inexpensive spot to while away the winter. In addition to the exquisite weather, this particular spot is blessedly quiet and peaceful, no noisy neighbors, no vehicle traffic, no intrusive lights … hard to believe I could find a spot where I had nothing to complain about.

Adventures in Acrylics

Brown Pelican Acrylic
Brown Pelican Acrylic

I have finally found the inspiration to attempt to resume my painting efforts. Although I had a little success selling watercolors and oils at my art gallery back in New Hampshire, I had only sold one or two small acrylic paintings. I have to admit I just found the medium difficult to handle, thus I would always fall back to doing oils and WC’s.

But with no large, well ventilated art studio now that I am full timing, oils are kind of out of the question and I really want to try and figure out how to handle these very frustrating acrylics.

Truncas Barns and Burros Acrylic
Truncas Barns and Burros Acrylic

So I thought  I might post some ( rather sorry, kind of embarrassing ) progress shots of my venture into acrylics. My reasoning being this might force me to continue working on these paintings rather than give up in frustration as I normally would … and I am getting very frustrated at this point. But if I have a small audience waiting to see a finished painting, my sense of pride will force me to continue on until I achieve some kind of satisfactory result. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, I will get to show you a couple of decent, completed, acrylic paintings.

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November 24, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

Yet More Cranes and Geese

Snow Goose Explosion
Snow Goose Explosion

A Snow Goose explosion, caused by a predator approaching too close, or just one nervous goose thinking something was amiss. This noisy flock takeoffs occur all throughout the day and are pretty spectacular to see, and especially to hear.

Another Kind of Flock
Another Kind of Flock

A different kind of “explosion”, the people explosion, peaked with last week’s Festival of the Cranes. Post festival, the numbers of people has moderated and it has once again become a little more enjoyable to venture out on the refuge.

Snow Goose
Snow Goose

One of the advantages of arriving here a little early is the opportunity to catch some colorful backdrops of autumn foliage colors. With a couple of hard freezes occurring lately, the leaves are all turning brown and dropping now.

Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Snow Geese
Snow Geese

Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes

Lesser Sandhill Cranes
Lesser Sandhill Cranes

This pair of Lesser Sandhills was seen leading a procession of Greater Sandhills down one of the irrigation ditches on the North Loop Road in the refuge.

Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes
Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes

The above image gives you a pretty good idea of the size difference in the two types of Sandhill Cranes. This year I am seeing a far greater number of Lesser Sandhills than I have on previous visits.

Sandhill Crane Greeting
Sandhill Crane Greeting

These are very vocal birds, calling out greetings as they fly in and again after they land.

Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble

Not really sure if this was a squabble or just a dance.

Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane Squabble
Sandhill Crane with Shotgun Cartridge
Sandhill Crane with Shotgun Cartridge

A sad reminder that these birds are hunted once they fly off the refuge. I took this shot late one afternoon and assumed the crane would simply use one of it’s feet to pull the shotgun cartridge off it’s upper bill. But then I saw it fly in the next morning with the cartridge still attached.

Mulie Dash Through
Mulie Dash Through

This young mule buck came flying through the cornfield where the cranes were foraging and photographers were shooting. Really moving at a rapid clip as you can see from the image where all four feet are off the ground.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes

A family unit foraging. The leucistic Sandhill Crane showed up with a family this year for the first time, I was told.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Crane Family Fly In
Sandhill Crane Family Fly In
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

I love this flight position, assumed sometimes as much as 50 feet above the landing area, as they glide into the wind and prepare to land, oftentimes calling out greetings to those gathered below.

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

I’ve been here almost a month now and with temperatures plummeting it just might be time to continue on south to slightly warmer climes and maybe find some hummingbirds to shoot, quite a change of pace from these large guys.

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November 3, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

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Pintails Over Bosque del Apache

Week One at Bosque del Apache NWR

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Pintails over Bosque del Apache

Not that many cranes here yet, and very few Snow Geese, but incredible numbers of Pintail Ducks, with plenty of Mallards and a few Widgeons also. In the top image of ducks over the foliage, there actually is a pair of Cinnamon Teal hidden amongst the pintails.

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Pintails over Bosque del Apache
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Pintails over Bosque del Apache
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Mallard Pair over Bosque del Apache

All the shots above were taken from the Flight Deck at Bosque, but without the normal thousands of Snow Geese ( yet ), the birds are all landing quite a ways out in the barely flooded field, too far away from the deck to get any great shots. Once the geese arrive and crowd the area, birds will be forced closer to the deck and there should be better chances of getting some nice flight shots.

The one good point is that with very few birds here now, I have the flight deck all to myself instead of having to fight for a space to shoot from.

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Pintails

The Pintails are amassing in the thousands along the South Loop pond and in the narrow waters next to the road.

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Pintail Doing What I Don’t Know

I have seen ducks assume this position before, but I have no idea of what they are doing or what it may mean.

pintailpreening
Pintail Preening
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Pintail Preening

The preening routine I am familiar with.

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Pintail Preening
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Pintail

One handsome fellow!

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Leucistic Sandhill Crane in Flight

Had my second sighting of the leucistic Sandhill Crane this morning at the ponds along the highway.

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Leucistic Sandhill Crane in Flight

Overcast skies in the early morning hours and the cranes’ far off travel path along the opposite shore of the pond resulted in less than perfect shots, but this second sighting gets my hopes up that maybe I will get some good shots of him sometime during my stay here.

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Predawn Takeoff

While waiting for the leucistic Sandhill Crane to take off, I had the opportunity to shoot many other cranes as they headed out from their night roosting spot to the surrounding fields to forage for the day. Again, because of the very dim light, not very many turned out sharp enough to use, but I kind of liked the feel of this one shot. Later in the season, when this pond sometimes has a thin coat of ice on it, these morning takeoff shots get quite interesting.

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Bosque del Apache Coyote

This week I ran into three different coyotes here in the refuge with this guy being a fairly good sized animal, about the size of a German Shepherd. Their coats look pretty bad because of all the seedheads and burrs that are stuck in their fur.

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Bosque del Apache Coyote
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Bosque del Apache Coyotes

Liked the composition here where the large coyote pictured above approached what I assume was probably his mate.

Some really lousy weather is forecast for the next several days, rain, rain, and more rain with possible localized flooding so it looks like I won’t be out taking photos for a while.

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October 12, 2016 North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Sunrise Angel Point
Sunrise Angel Point

Another Spot Checked Off the Bucket List

Left Red Canyon Campground around 8 AM for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and after Just three or four hours on the road (with a stop in Kanab for groceries and gas), I arrived at the National Forest’s DeMotte CG and luckily someone was just leaving Site #4, a pull through with solar and satellite access ( no trees ). Absolutely no Verizon here and it’s a 20 mile trip to the North Rim, but the North Rim CG is reserve only and completely full, of course, and too tree covered to work for me, so DeMotte CG it is for my North Rim stay.

Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Up before dawn the next day and made it to the North Rim Lodge area just before sunrise.

Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Sunrise, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Took a few shots from the pathway around the lodge as the sun slowly rose and gradually brought the temperature above freezing.

North Rim Lodge
North Rim Lodge
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim Foliage
North Rim Foliage
Angel Point Pathway
Angel Point Pathway

I then took the short trail out to Angel Point, again doing more than a little huffing and puffing on the short hills due to the elevation of close to 9,000 feet.

Kaibab Squirrel
Kaibab Squirrel

I really had hoped to get some nice shots of the unique Kaibab Squirrel, a subspecies of the Albert Squirrel, found only on the North Rim. Unfortunately, I didn’t see all that many, and the few I did encounter were very camera shy.

Kaibab Squirrel
Kaibab Squirrel

That bushy white tail is something else!

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Angel’s Window

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon

On my last day here, I took the road out to the Cape Royal vista point and walked out to the ” Angel’s Window ” overlook.

North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Now don’t get me wrong here, but I have never been all that overwhelmed by the Grand Canyon. I mean, yes, it is a geological wonder, but I have just never been completely awed by the vistas from either the South Rim or from the lodge area of the North Rim.

Angel's Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Angel’s Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

From the Angel’s Window area, I have to admit that I was impressed. I spent close to two hours here, until after the sun had actually set, and it was spectacular! Here, I can see why folks are so inspired by the Grand Canyon.

Angel's Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Angel’s Window, North Rim of the Grand Canyon

If the North Rim is on your bucket list, then make sure you take in sunset at the Angel’s Window, the Grand Canyon at it’s best.

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