January 30, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Sunrise
Sunrise

Same Old, Same Old

Sunrise Over Imperial Dam
Sunrise Over Imperial Dam

Some wonderful sunrises this week as clouds rolled in for a few days. But I am getting bored. One (of many) of the worst parts of having this rotten disease (myeloma) is having to be anchored to a nearby medical facility for my chemo treatments. Before MM, I was able to move around freely and explore the desert in the winter, as in, leave here and check out the birds in Sierra Vista or Portal, then move on to Texas if I had the notion. No more.

Sunrise Over Imperial Dam
Sunrise Over Imperial Dam

The images above were taken on two different mornings as I nursed my morning coffee.

A New Bird Deterrent Besides the Bees

Merlin
Merlin

I was out and set up to shoot some bird images this morning and about fifty Mourning Doves had descended on my feeding grounds when they all suddenly bolted and scattered in all directions. The cause of the commotion was the Merlin pictured above after he made his unsuccessful run through the feeding area. For the next hour, every time a few birds would return he would blast though again scaring everyone off. I gave up after an hour of this and took the shot above before retreating to the motorhome.

Mourning Doves
Mourning Doves

I remember wondering, about a month ago, whether I would ever get any birds in here this year. Now I have about 50 Mourning Doves, 30 or so Gambel’s Quail, and …

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbirds

… a dozen or so Red-winged Blackbirds showing up every morning. My experience with the hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds that mobbed the feeding station in Salineno, Texas, where I volunteered a few winters ago, made these guys my absolute least favorite avian visitor.

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbirds
House Finches
House Finches

Have a fair number of House Finches coming in, but nowhere near the number that were here last year.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

And finally, the Gambel’s Quail have graduated to using the platform feeders. Up until now they fed exclusively on the ground, but this one pair has figured out that the food is more plentiful up off the ground. I get a big kick out of watching these guys scurry around and bicker among themselves, and when they are this close it is fascinating to listen to all the constant conversations they have amongst themselves.

January 26, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher
Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher

Sorry, Just More Birds

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

I had intended to only stay here at Falcon Lake for a week or so, but the iffy weather farther north where I am heading and the phenomenal good fortune I have had in attracting colorful birds to my campsite setup, have kept me here for three weeks now.

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

Shooting small birds in action is always a bit of a challenge, but with patience and practice, I have been able to get some pretty nice shots here and so I am hesitant to leave since I can’t duplicate this setup elsewhere. Several of these birds do not venture much farther north than right here and I have yet to find anyplace like this as far as the number of colorful birds go.

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

The main attraction to me has to be the Northern Cardinals interacting with the Pyrrhuloxias. I find the females of these two species to be as attractive as the more brightly colored males.

Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal

As you can probably sense from these photos, sharing a feeding spot is not something these birds tend to do. About the only birds that will willingly share the post feeder are the Green Jays. For everyone else, there is always a bit of a tussle to see who commands the perch alone.

Pyrrhuloxias
Pyrrhuloxias
Green Jay and Great Kiskadee
Green Jay and Great Kiskadee

Now into my third week here, I have finally had a pair of Great Kiskadees find my setup. These are the largest of the flycatchers and are very interesting to observe as they prefer taking their food on the wing rather than sitting down to dine.

Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia
Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia
Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia
Great Kiskadee and Pyrrhuloxia

While in flight, they will jab their beak into the peanut butter/lard/cornmeal slathered on the inside of the post, either getting a chunk or knocking it out onto the ground, where they instantly drop down to pick it up before someone else may notice it. All this action is accompanied by a shrill shriek with every change of direction.

Red-wing Blackbirds and Pyrrhuloxia
Red-wing Blackbirds and Pyrrhuloxia

At times the action is quite hot and heavy with several birds making a run at the coveted perch on top of the post. Near collisions occur regularly, but I have yet to ever see any two birds actually collide.

Pyrrhuloxia, Ladderback Woodpecker, and Curve-billed Trasher
Pyrrhuloxia, Ladderback Woodpecker, and Curve-billed Trasher
Long-billed Trasher and Red-winged Blackbird
Long-billed Trasher and Red-winged Blackbird

I find it interesting to observe the hierarchy as to who defers to who. The thrashers appear to be top dogs, not hesitating to knock anybody off the perch, followed closely by the Mockingbird, then the Green Jays. The Kiskadees will make a run at the Jays on occassion but remain perched in the bushes when the Thrashers or Mockingbirds are seated on the post.

The Cardinals and Pryyhuloxias challenge each other regularly, seemingly based on just the individual bird’s dominance or submissiveness. All the really little guys like the Orange-crowned Warblers, Black-crested Titmice, and The Bewick’s Wrens defer to everybody and just dart in only when the post is not occupied.

And then there are the #%&*# Red-winged Blackbirds that will challenge anybody when they charge the post in numbers, driving off the birds I am trying to photograph.

Green Jay and Mockingbird

Green Jay and Mockingbird

Long-billed Trasher and Mockingbird
Long-billed Trasher and Mockingbird
Pyrrhuloxia and Red-winged Blackbird
Pyrrhuloxia and Red-winged Blackbird

My success rate for these images is at best maybe one nice capture ( that I would bother to post ) out of maybe every 70 – 80 shots that I take. There really is no way that one can use autofocus on these little guys since the action is so fast so I have found that I have to manually focus on a point where I hope the action occurs and turn auto focus off. Thus it really is pretty much hit or miss. How the scene is setup determines how successful I might be ( more on that next post ).

Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher
Pyrrhuloxia and Long-billed Trasher

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January 19, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Northern Cardinals with Prryhuloxia
Northern Cardinals with Prryhuloxia

A Little Rough Weather

Rainy Day Bird Watching
Rainy Day Bird Watching

Ran into a short stretch of cold, dreary weather the last few days that curtailed my birds in action photography. I managed to keep an eye on them through my window that just happens to be at eye level with the roof of the picnic table shelter at my campsite. After taking several days to draw in the birds, I didn’t want to quit feeding here even though I couldn’t do any photography due to the lack of light ( and the fact that it was a little uncomfortable with temps only in the 40’s ).

Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal

By late this afternoon, the rain stopped though the skies remained gray with no sunlight coming through the overcast skies. There was enough light to do some shooting and the abundance of birds in here today forced me outside to take some shots.

Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal

Actually the gray skies provide some of the best diffused light allowing the birds colors to really pop without having to worry about blown out highlights.

Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal

I always get a kick out of watching the many disputes these guys have over feeder rights.

Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal
Prryhuloxia and Cardinal

I included this shot simply because I have a really hard time trying to figure out exactly what position the cardinal is in. Quite the contortionist!

Catbird and Mockingbird
Catbird and Mockingbird

The catbird was a new visitor today.

Green Jay and Mockingbird
Green Jay and Mockingbird
Green Jay and Red-wing Blackbird
Green Jay and Red-wing Blackbird
Green Jays and Prryhuloxia
Green Jays and Prryhuloxia
Catbird and Cardinal
Catbird and Cardinal
Male Prryhuloxias
Male Prryhuloxias
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals

The many male Cardinals are always squabbling over who gets to occupy the feeding post, they do not share.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinal and Curve-billed Thrasher
Northern Cardinal and Curve-billed Thrasher

A couple of nice sunny days are in the forecast this week, so I will be trying yet more of this type of shot, hopefully with a lot more light so I can use a little lower ISO and maybe get a little more depth of field.

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January 17, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Female Cardinal and Prryhuloxia
Female Cardinal and Prryhuloxia

The Cold Catches Up with Me

Temperatures last night dropped into the mid twenties and daytime temps only climbed into the thirties, it even spit a tiny bit of snow for a few minutes. So I mostly stayed inside and worked on the computer and took a trip to Rio Grand City to have my monthly bloodwork done and pick up some birdseed at Tractor Supply.

Pyrrhuloxia Pair
Pyrrhuloxia Pair

I had no real desire to venture outside and do any bird photography, but I did feel sorry for the birds in this extreme cold ( for South Texas, not the rest of you suffering from REAL cold a little farther up north ), and so went out occasionally and filled two feeders. Looking out the window, I did observe a lot of activity around those two feeders, with much more concentrated action on my post feeder than I was getting in previous days when the birds had more choices of where to land and feed.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

So, around three in the afternoon, I finally bundled up and grabbed the tripod and camera and set up to take advantage of the flurry of activity, hoping to be able to get some nice action shots.

Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird

Plenty of action, but unfortunately, because of the leaden gray skies, there was very limited light to shoot by and I was forced to use an extremely high ISO to be able to freeze any action at all resulting in very noisy images not suitable for enlargement or publication.

Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird

But the great interactions caught in this poor light might make for some good photo references for possible future paintings and I thought I might share them on the blog as well.

Green Jay and Red-winged Blackbird
Green Jay and Red-winged Blackbird

As I wasn’t outside fending off the blackbirds most of the day, they now felt entitled to come in even though I was out there. I absolutely despise these birds, that always arrive in huge numbers, because of all the food they consume and how they manage to drive off all the birds I am usually trying to shoot. But I will have to grudgingly admit that they did make a contribution to some of the better captures I managed today.

Female Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinals

It is supposed to remain frigid tomorrow and then start to return to normal temps by the weekend, so there may be some decent, much sharper action shots  yet to be had.

Female Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia
Female Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia

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