Sunday, October 17, 2021

Today's walk report: 101721

 Comme Ci, Comme Ça...

It was the early trip to the garden I had hoped to make yesterday. Unfortunately, it was only 46º and the lighting left something to be desired. On the upside it was a pleasant, quiet and very peaceful walk and I got to spend some time following a bird I've only seen a couple of times before.

At first I thought... maybe I'm only going to get pictures of the sky today?


There are few signs of the change in seasons.

I did happen to see the Calypte anna hummingbird known as Dusty but the few pictures captured were beyond the compromises I'm going to make for the next bird. The funny thing about Dusty this morning was right after I did get a few camera clicks off he took off, soaring way up to the top of one of the tallest pine trees on the campus. Perched on top of that tree there appeared to be a modest sized bird of prey, perhaps a prairie falcon and I don't know if it was Dusty's intention but he went straight at it and the other bird quickly departed. I decided not to wait for Dusty's return. 

Instead I headed up the dreaded stairs to the top of the hill. I didn't realize what these birds were when I took this picture. Since one of them moved along ahead of my path I soon figured it out. This is a pair of northern flickers (Colaptes auratus). They're part of the woodpecker family. I've only been able to capture images of flickers a couple of times in the past. The little bird over the one on the left was probably a black phoebe (Sayornis nigricans).

Lucky for me the bird on the left went in the same direction I was headed. In my past encounters I never realized just how varied and beautiful their overall plumage was. So I'm posting some images to show you what I saw. Unfortunately my shutter speed, lighting and distance from the bird were far from optimal. I believe this is a young female.

The surprising burst of color when the bird was taking flight...

Also, I've got to say, lately I've had some real struggles in focusing on my subject and not a bunch of sticks.

These mourning doves were somewhat obliging however one more step forward and they bailed on me.

And with that I headed home.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Today's walk report: 101621

 First, two details that saved my day, at least they took the sting out of a bad start to an early morning. Those two things were taking this walk on the phone with Docken and simply taking this walk. What started the morning, once I was prepared to leave the house, was a garage door that wouldn't open. Well, it opened a little. Upon close inspection I discovered one of the springs had snapped in two. The garage door opener didn't like that. Nor did I. Preliminary study into the matter indicated I might be able to do this repair on my own but then I again, I might suffer in the attempt. So, I got on the phone. The job was swift and like almost every service and repair company/person I've ever had the displeasure to deal with (oh, you too?) I was lied to and had to pay up the wazoo. It's not like it's the 1980's, we can look this shit up now but they still lie with impunity. Anyway, the door got fixed and I ended up driving to the local college campus about four hours later than originally planned.

Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), there were three of them and they were interacting with intensity. This particular bird stole the show. Notice its wide-open beak in this first shot. The screech is loud and piercing, Docken also took note of it over the phone.

I stayed with this bird for several minutes.

All three hawks were circling together in the sky but for the most part it was a wider shot than my 300-70 mm lens at 70 mm would accommodate. I did manage to get a few shots off of the three on them before they flew too distant. Even so, this aspect is Panavision, or Technirama, Dimension 150 if you will, all from bygone eras in filmmaking. So be it, don't you deserve to see what I saw?

Moving in a vigorous circular motion along the top of the hill here are some other pictures. These two donkeys are my friends. You can ask them, they will tell it's true. I first met these donkeys over 10 years ago.

I've known most of these goats for just as long but I never asked them if they'd be my friend.

This is a common or European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). You don't usually see them alone, you see them in masses. I saw an article today referring to them as "America's most hated bird." That's pretty harsh, don't you think? Then I saw another article in Smithsonian Magazine online saying we can blame Shakespeare for their invading North America. I'm okay with that call, I guess. Last and maybe least there was this article, How Mozart Changed My Mind About America’s Most Hated Bird. Really now? You don't say?

I think it's a pretty bird.

Then, finally, there was this event. Having been a cross-country runner in High School my educated guess is this was a city quarter final race. There were too many runners for it to be a regular meet and quite honestly some of the runners I saw would not have qualified beyond a quarter final race. Sorry, more power to them and with all due respect, at whatever level, cross-country running pretty much qualifies as some sort of masochistic indulgence which defies logic. I decided to leave the campus as this was wrapping up, this shot only represents a small fraction of the people who were about to exit as I did.

Special thanks to Docken for the "look on the bright side" viewpoint this morning and to the hawks for being awesome birds.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Today's walk report: 101021

 I did what I should've done yesterday, besides the decision was sort of forced upon me. This morning the film crews (see yesterday's post) had taken over most of the parking lot I walk from to get to the botanical garden, in fact it may have been off-limits to outsiders. I wasn't going to bother finding out. Instead, I drove up the hill and parked in a lot containing only two other cars. Come to think of it, those two cars are always up there, every weekend. It's the main parking lot for the music department and theater arts. Aside from some campus crew people down along the hillside trimming trees, there was no one around. Onsite classes are beginning October 25th and it appears the campus is in full-on preparation mode in order to catch up for being essentially a closed campus for over a year and a half. Baseline COVID tests are required for all students and employees attending school on campus. So there.

Meanwhile, I saw two raptors before I even finished parking my car. Years ago I had mapped out "laps" on this parking lot for extending a workout on my bicycle, so I knew laps around the lot were right about a 1/4 mile. I modified this slightly, considering I was on foot. I did several laps which turned out to be .38 miles a lap (although there were a couple modest detours, extending those laps) while I spent most of my picture taking time monitoring two hawks, a Cooper's hawk and a young red-tailed hawk. This went on for 61 minutes. 

Here's the basic outline of those laps from Google Earth. The covered parking are solar photovoltaic carports. They are, in fact, the first solar panels I ever saw. It was a long time ago.

 Here are the pictures. The two hawks were along the left hand (western) edge of the walk.

The first bird I saw perched was this red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). I didn't realize how young this hawk was until I got home and saw the pictures. It never left this position during my stay. For the closest shots this young beauty was 44.8 meters (49.1 yards) away.

While the lighting changed a little, there wasn't much of any variety in the pose. I actually saw the Cooper's hawk first as I was parking but it was moving from one spot to the next and it was awhile before it settled in for pictures. During the exercise portion of my journey I happened upon a few other photo ops. There were several crows scoping things out.

My first thought on this bird was, I'm going to have to look this one up. I went to my Cornell Labs bird ID app to find out this is a Cassin's kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans).

 Once again, Canada geese (Branta canadensis) flew overhead.

I had to fudge with the shadows on this one a little to make sure it was a Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).

On the last two laps around the hilltop the Cooper's hawk decided to sit a spell and cooperate on some photos.

 Here's how far apart the Cooper's and the red-tailed were from each other at that point.

I walked two laps hoping the rising sun would provide better lighting for the Cooper's hawk but the bird gave me something better by moving south a tree or two.

Just as I was about to drive back down the hill I saw this large mourning dove and I'm pretty sure it's the same one I took pictures of on August 1st.

It was a nice round of picture taking and it turned out to be a pretty decent walk despite the repetition. Hopefully COVID protocols won't affect me as a visitor on the weekends. I'm fully vaccinated and carry digital proof of vaccination on my phone. If you haven't done so yourself, I highly recommend it. It's safe, it's fun and it might even save your life.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Today's walk report: 100921

Not much of a walk and pretty weak on the photo front too but here goes...

The campus was getting set up for filming once again and this time there were way too many people milling about. Some of them seemingly walking around rather aimlessly and since I seemed to be spending much of my effort on the lookout, wanting to avoid people, I left rather quickly. Docken and I were on the phone together and most of my side of the conversation was me bitching about people, so that wasn't good either. 

Before arriving my much grander plan was to schlep up the hill looking for birds of prey and in retrospect perhaps I should have just driven up there and poked around... oh well. Last complaint, I swear... I wasn't paying too much attention to the camera ISO and I should have changed the mode dial to afford me more creative control. Pictures were pretty grainy. 

Crews were setting up much closer to the garden this round. The entrance to the garden is less than 50 yards from where this truck was parked and people were venturing as far as midway inside the garden.

It appeared they were going to focus filming in a small building used primarily for assemblies. Sign of the times, they needed to augment the air circulation/filtration to the building. The device is marked, "Cinema Air". How refreshing.

 I entered the garden a little north of where I would've normally. Covid or no, I would generally avoid people either way. I wandered around quite a bit looking for some activity. It was colder than usual, about 47º so not a lot was stirring. I followed one female Selasphorus sasin hummingbird through a good portion of the garden for awhile but wasn't able to get a decent shot off. The garden is approximately one acre in size. This flock of 14 mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) was unusual, at least I don't typically see that many milling about together. 

 Yes, I said 14, this one was a few feet in front, as if standing guard.

Back to the usual hangout for male Calypte anna hummingbird, Dusty, I first spotted this young male Anna's hummingbird which Dusty seemed to be unusually tolerant of.

Then there was Dusty...

And that, dear reader, was about it. I went sort of roundabout to see if walking the stairs looked approachable without running into the ubiquitous film crews but it didn't appear likely so Docken and I chatted back to the car and as I returned home.

Meanwhile, while writing this drivel and gazing out my office window, this lovely giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) was fluttering around the bougainvillea and plumbago plants in the backyard. You know, if I sit here long enough a bird of prey will eventually show up.

In parting and somewhat in theme with the television crew and where we seem to be heading, here's the song which was in my head upon rising this morning. Specifically the line, the species has amused itself to death.

And out in the valley, warm and clean
The little ones sit by their TV screens

No thoughts to think
No tears to cry
All sucked dry