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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lucifers at their best

Yesterday Mac took this picture of a juvenile male Lucifer Hummingbird practicing his courtship skills. Way to go!

Today we were talking about cameras and I was seriously thinking about buying a 5D Mark II. Turns out Mac had one in his vehicle so we decided I would try it out before buying. We put my 100-400 lens on it. As he was showing me how to use it, I took a couple of practice shots of a female waiting for her Prince Charming to show up. She turned first one way, then the other. Waiting... and waiting.. She looked very appealing; healthy and well-groomed. At her very finest!

Suddenly Prince Charming appeared and I was on my own with the camera, desperately trying to focus on the action after my two minute lesson. Mac was pretty much doing the same with his gigantic Canon, except he knew what he was doing. He was rewarded with some excellent shots. For me, I got better than I had ever before. Here are some of mine. That male really displayed for a long time (stamina good). Vim, vigor, and vitality... check. Contortions first class! And it did the trick! Sold me on the camera too! 

They mated, but we couldn't capture it. This last capture shows her dropping down to mate with him in the air, out of the cameras' frames before either of our hearts could take another beat.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lucifer Hummingbird display

For any of you that haven't seen a male Lucifer Hummingbird display to a female, here's a link to a short video clip. Today the females are hanging around waiting for the males to display, so they're in the mood. One even waited with nesting material in her beak.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Long but good day

A mouse in the house woke me at 4 AM and I couldn't get back to sleep. Then at 7 AM Mac and I headed for the Davis Mountains to take pictures. So I'm exhausted, but it was a good day.

Not that I'm happy with any of my photos; I'm not. Here's a very cooperative female Two-tailed Swallowtail. I'm not happy with it because of the fly on its antenna, not to mention it's on a feeder instead of a natural background.

I was satisfied with these Acorn Woodpecker shots, although it wasn't a species I particularly wanted more photos of.

On our way back to CMO we stopped by the Burrowing Owl site hoping to find one by its burrow. We found one but it flushed before we could photograph it. While searching for burrows with owls around them, quite a ways from the road I spotted one in its burrow. Too distant for a good shot by me, but Mac got good shots. Here's mine. At least it was far enough away that it didn't flush.

When I got home the offending mouse was in my trap, and it started raining lightly. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Cooler as promised

Only got up to 90° today, which was a welcome relief after the triple-digit temps for the last 3 days. So I watered moderately, still hoping for rain soon, but not getting my hopes too high.

Nothing inspired me to lug the Canon around or take photographs while watering though. Later I took a couple of test shots of the only thing handy, a Sleepy Orange, one of my most common butterflies. I think it turned out pretty good, so hopefully I'm learning.

Tomorrow Mac and I are going into the Davis Mountains to attempt to photograph Rivoli's Hummingbirds, or anything else interesting we come across. It was horribly windy today. Hope it calms down by tomorrow.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Enduring the heat

Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler and a chance of rain all next week, so just having to get through these last 3 days of triple-digit heat.

A couple of days ago we went to the park looking for Blue-throated Hummingbirds since Mac had never seen one. He took this photo of me totally unbeknownst to me. I'm usually pretty aware of what's going on around me, so I was really surprised.

We did find at least one Blue-throated. Since I hadn't lugged my Canon, my pics weren't very good. Probably wouldn't have been if I had lugged it either. This is it. The bird only perched way up in a tree.

The new tower along Terlingua Ranch road seems to be finished, but my cell phone still doesn't work there, so I'm not sure what the deal is. I think they just don't have the system operational yet.

Can't wait to get back to CMO tomorrow.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Never satisfied

Back in town after my one day trip to CMO to photograph the Broad-billed Hummingbird. I'm very dissatisfied with my photos of the bird. Sure hope it's still around when I get back down there so I can try again.

Coming to town, I couldn't resist snapping a couple Burrowing Owl shots as  I went by their nesting area.

Meanwhile, stuck in town I photographed some of the Mexican Hat flowers here. It intrigues me to see the varieties of color they exhibit, all in the same patch.

Forecast looks good for a chance of rain. Got my fingers crossed. But just cooling off will be an improvement. It was 104° at CMO yesterday.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Continuing Broad-billed Hummingbird

Got shots of the Broad-billed Hummingbird early this morning and it stayed around all day. Of course my shots aren't as good as Mac's but here is one of them.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Saw a Lucifer Hummingbird female with a tangle of cobwebs on her bill and head. Lots of nesting and courting activity going on these days.

UPDATE: After I got to town I got a text from Mac that he photographed a male Broad-billed Hummingbird at the oasis so I headed back down tonight. Hoping to locate it tomorrow, but meanwhile, here is one of Mac's shots. So envious!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Caught by surprise

I never ever just sit and watch birds. I'm always watering or something. But yesterday we got a lovely half inch of rain so I decided to just chill and watch birds. After about two minutes of doing that, I decided to try for Lucifer display shots. So I set my camera on a faster speed and auto focus in hopes of better catching the action. Then I saw that the displaying was occurring constantly near the feeder under the pecan tree. So I proceeded to go sit back there. No sooner did I sit down and start tinkering with the camera settings again than I noticed a female hummingbird perch in a tree near me. I rather unconsciously noted the color of the back was a sort of blue-ish green, but didn't take real notice until it flew toward the feeder. That's when my brain kicked into gear... the sound... the back color. Instantly I realized it was a Broad-billed Hummingbird!

And knowing that any second another hummer dominating that feeder might chase it away for good, I had to document it as best I could, with no clue what my camera settings were at that second. Only an hour later did I discover I had set it on auto-focus. Because I shoot in manual 99% of the time, I struggled against the auto, trying unsuccessfully to focus manually. Manual would have been better probably, but since it was on auto, it would have been best to let the camera do its thing. And the ISO was way too high for that deep shade. Also the camera was accidentally bumped to one shot, so I was trying desperately to make it shoot continuously. What a comedy!

The bird never returned but I did at least document it. Barely. So it could have been worse.

I located a Turquiose-tipped Darner today at the back water feature. Mac's photo is so much better than mine that I'll forego posting mine and use his. He's so sweet to share his pics with me and I'm so envious that his are so much better.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Out of my comfort zone

For years I've been complaining about the quality of my photos and people have been telling me I should shoot in RAW instead of JPEG, so finally I decided to do it. That involved me having to download software that came with my camera. So, henceforth, my photos will be in RAW, unless I determine it makes no difference. After I shoot in RAW, I convert them to JPEG so I don't see why I shouldn't just shoot in JPEG to begin with, but apparently it makes a difference. Here's my first shots with RAW. I stopped by the Burrowing Owl place on my way to CMO late this afternoon.

I don't think one shoot will tell me much, but in time, I should be able to determine if I'm making progress.

It was wonderful to have rain today. CMO got a little over half an inch. None ran into the tanks, but I don't have to water for a few days. I was getting really tired of everything seeming hopelessly dry no matter how much I watered.

Mac got a picture of some baby Scaled Quail today. I love precocial chicks that are not helpless when they hatch. Mac said there were about eleven chicks in this brood, but I only see eight in this photo. So cute. Maybe I'll get photo opportunities of them tomorrow since I won't have to water.

My gratitude to Mac for allowing me to share his photos.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alpine funeral

Today we attended the graveside service of a good friend and neighbor. His wife passed away in November and he didn't last long after. Here's what a funeral looks like for an old cowboy and roper. He was a good musician too. Rest in peace, Sam Allen Mather. (Click on video to see.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A big Mac day

Early this morning I started cleaning out the stucco tank so I can pump the big tank's water into it. Then when the big tank dries out, I plan to get it cleaned out. But I'll need help for that one.

Meanwhile, Mac helped me some with the stucco tank. Afterwards, I was exhausted and took a long nap, while Mac hung out at the oasis taking photos. So if it wasn't for his generosity I wouldn't have any photos to post today. Here's the molting Lucifer Hummingbird, almost finished. Just about 5 more pin feathers to go. Not exactly a typical Lucifer gorget, but close enough.

Next is a Greater Roadrunner that entertained Mac for hours. The lizard is an Eastern Collared Lizard.

Just wish I could take photos half as good as Mac does.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Every day's a new day

Today Mac and I went to Lajitas. First time this year for me. Still no interesting odonates, but Mac got his lifer Gambel's Quail, which was one of our objectives. I didn't photograph them because I already have a lot of pictures of them, but he's satisfied with his photos.

We saw a flock of 19 White-faced Ibises, which ebird flagged as being a large number. Good thing I got photo evidence that there were 19.

About the only other thing I photographed at Lajitas was this ringtail. I'm hoping it's a White-belted, but it's probably just an Eastern. The former would be a lifer for me.

Back at CMO, I noticed the molting Lucifer Hummingbird only has a tiny patch of white left under his chin. I figure by tomorrow he'll be indistinguishable from the other male Lucifers. While he's finishing his molt, other Lucifers have fledged and are testing their skills. Here's a juvenile male practicing defending his feeder.

He's soon challenged by another juvenile male. It happened too fast for me to capture with any clarity, of course.

UPDATE: Experts say that ringtail is a Mexican race of Eastern Ringtail. Already had that one.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A couple of atypical birds

This has to be a unique photo, since Lucifer Hummingbirds don't normally molt in the United States. (Photo courtesy Mac Womack.) I'm eager to see if the remainder of his gorget fills in.

2017 5-16 CMO
Here's another bird that I don't recall ever seeing in this condition... a House Finch. (Photo courtesy Mac Womack.) Not sure what's going on with it.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mac is back

Here's Mac's photo of that molting Lucifer Hummingbird.

Since Lucifers molt in their wintering territory, this might be our only chance to observe the process, if that's what this actually is. Still lots of pin feathers to be seen.

In town today, Going back to CMO tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Shades of buff

Lucifer Hummingbird females come in hues from almost white on the undersides to almost rufous. The above female is one of the darkest I've seen. The males find her very attractive though. Here she is  hiding in a bush as a male displays to her.

Along Terlingua Ranch Road there's a nice patch of verbena still blooming but I never see any interesting butterflies when I stop to look. Not much of anything blooming at CMO right now. Too hot and dry. Waiting for the summer rains.