Archive for Photography

Spring Quail Chicks

Female and 2 chicks One of the Chicks

Mid afternoon, I was getting drowsy sitting at the desk, so I picked up my SL1 Canon and put the 400mm lens on it to go out and see what I could photograph in our busy little desert. Just as I came out of the back patio screen door, I noticed some quail and their chicks on the hill behind the RV drive. The photos above are of a mama and two of her chicks and a single chick. Click on either image to enlarge.

We have been seeing young quail for a few weeks now that the breeding season is in progress. The young birds leave the nest within the first day after hatching and follow their parents to places where they can forage for themselves. Quail do not feed their young so foraging is necessary for them to survive. The chicks are flightless for the first ten days or so, but shortly after that they can follow their parents as they fly up on the back retention wall behind our RV drive. We have seen a couple of broods back there which is entertaining to watch as the little ones, one by one, flit up to be with the others up on the wall.

You can read more about these interesting birds at All About Birds - Gambel’s Quail.

Photo Details: Cropped and resized by myself - Canon EOS REBEL SL1 - Normal Program Mode, 1/500 sec, F5.6, ISO320, Focal length 340mm. Lens model: EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

There’s always something to photograph out here like Gila Woodpeckers, Cactus Fruit getting ripe and a Birdhouse I recently repaired and hung in a mesquite in the outback.

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First 2021 Cherry Red Cactus Flowers

Cherry Red Flowers

Our first of the season Cherry Red Cactus Flowers opened up today. These two are on top of the original “mama” cactus that we separated from her “pups” in October of 2018. This Trichocereus Grandiflorus cactus is just outside our courtyard gate where they are visible (like a hot red beacon) when approaching our place from the east.

Several of the pups are located in the courtyard in pots and one of them is in the ground not far from where the Mama is located. Most, if not all of them have flower buds which means we will be seeing more of these over the summer. Click on the image above to enlarge.

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Woodpeckers

DrJim, at the Every Blade of Grass blog, posted an interesting article on the appearance of a Northern Flicker Woodpecker in their yard in northern Colorado. Since we have our share of woodpeckers here in mid-central Arizona, I thought I would post about them. We see mostly Gila Woodpeckers but occasionally see Gilded Flickers too.

Gila Woodpeckers in Mesquite Tree Gilded Flicker and House Finch on the Backyard Feeder Gila Woodpecker on the Saguaro

Images: Woodpeckers - Click on any image to enlarge. Left and right images credit me. Center image credit Damsel

The image at the left shows a Gila Woodpecker couple in/on the mesquite tree directly across the road in front of our house. We have been seeing them having activity there since march or so. The image in the center is of a Gilded Flicker flushing a House Finch off of our backyard feeder. On the right is the male of another Gila Woodpecker couple perched adjacent to their hole in our big saguaro by the garage. We just noticed woodpecker activity in the saguaro over the past month.

One of the most interesting things to us in our retirement home is the desert wildlife. We are in a semi-rural area where these critters abound. Just this morning, we observed a Gambel’s Quail pair and their five or six little offspring on the retention wall behind the RV Drive as we were eating breakfast. Unfortunately, by the time the cameras came out, the birds were elsewhere. Maybe another time.

We haven’t been really good about regular blogging lately, but between the two of us, we get some really good photos of our desert wildlife and I think we might resume putting some of those up from time to time. Plus, it is springtime and Flowers are in bloom. Damsel has a bunch of those that we should share.

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Spring in the Desert

Beavertail Cactus Flower Pink Hedgehog Cactus Flower

For the past couple of days, some of our native cacti have had flowers open up. The one on the left is a flower on one of our beavertail cacti and the one on the right is on a hedgehog cactus. Both species are native and were growing here when we moved in over ten years ago (that long?).

Below are a couple of male House Finches who are engaged in their spring rituals of trying to attract the attention of female Finches with their spring songs and aerial dances. These are so nice to watch in addition to Cardinals, Doves, Thrashers, Woodpeckers and Phainopeplas doing their things as well.

There are many other species of birds and mammals running about this patch of desert in the springtime. It’s like having our own private zoo.

House Finch Singing House Finch on Rosemary Shrub

Click on any of the images to enlarge.

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Another New Camera Lens

SL1 w/New 250mm LensI posted here before about acquiring a 400mm telephoto lens for my little Canon EOS Rebel SL1 and that lens is worth every dime I spent on it. The only drawback is its size and weight when you want to go out into the desert to capture a few photos of critters. It is a bit clunky lugging it around on a walk up the road or for other events where you might want to get photos of subjects that may be dozens of yards away or perhaps more than that.

Image - Camera with the new EF-S 55-250mm Zoom Lens attached. Click on the image to enlarge.

The SL1, when I purchased it in 2014, shipped with the standard 18-55mm lens and an additional 75-300mm telephoto lens, neither of which were of really decent quality. The latter, after a couple of years, developed an autofocus intermittency and had to be scrapped. Plus, in 2019, we replaced the stock lens with a superior quality 18-135mm lens.

So, the bottom line is that I wanted a lightweight intermediate zoom lens for those times that I mentioned above. So far, since I received the new lens last Thursday, I am pleased with its performance. I took the cactus wren photo today at a range of about 35 feet and the lunar photo last Friday during the full February “Snow Moon.” I cropped both images down from the full-frame size to enhance the subjects. Click on either image to enlarge. I am especially pleased with the sharpness of the mountains and craters on the moon which is not bad for an intermediate telephoto lens.

Cactus Wren on Saguaro Snow Moon

I other news, I renewed my expired AZ Driver’s License yesterday. The expiration was covered by an extension due to the pandemic, but that extension ran out at the end of February, so I drove to the MVD and got my renewal. I should get the new license by mail in a week or two.

In other other news, our COVID-19 vaccines have not yet arrived in our area. There are two venues in town through which we can be vaccinated but neither on-line registration is yet available. We’re both eligible for the vaccines by virtue of age.

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Night Blooming Argentine Giant Cactus Flowers

Night Blooming Cactus Flowers

Our Argentine Giant (Echinopsis candicans) offered these two beautiful flowers last evening. This is the second blooming on this cactus this year. Since we purchased this cactus in 2011 and planted it in front of the house, it has reliably given us flowers every year. This year, it is also starting to grow “pups,” which are the three buds seen near the base of the cactus in the image at the left above. This variety of cactus spreads out as it ages with several pups, each eventually producing flowers.

About Argentine Giant from Wikipedia:

Echinopsis candicans has a shrubby growth habit, with individual stems up to 60 cm (24 in) tall. The plant as a whole can be as much as 3 m (10 ft) across. The stems are light green, with a diameter of up to 14 cm (5.5 in) and have 9–11 low ribs. The large white areoles are spaced at 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) and produce brownish yellow spines, the central spines being up to 10 cm (3.9 in) long, the radial spines only up to 4 cm (1.6 in).

The fragrant white flowers open at night. They are large, up to 19 cm (7.5 in) across and 18–23 cm (7.1–9.1 in) long.

Summer is not over by a long shot and there are more desert flowers to come. Stay tuned.

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Flag Day 2020

Flag Day 2020

We would have our USA flag up and flying today except that the winds are forecast to be gusts to 35 which is a bit much for our little flagpole and very hard on the flags themselves (we also fly the AZ state banner). Regardless, for the Flag Day occasion, I dug out this photo of our flag (proudly flying atop the pole) which I took last month with my little SL1 Canon Rebel and the EF 100-400 telephoto lens. Click on the image to enlarge.

We take this occasion to salute the Red, White and Blue, regardless of all the turmoil being reported in the media. Our little niche of desert space and the surrounding community are mostly in normal mode save for minor COVID-19 effects on some businesses and facilities. We have no riots, no looting, no edicts handed arbitrarily down from government bureaucrats and have enjoyed a nice relaxing environment here at home and in town. We thank God Almighty for those blessings.

On a different topic, Damsel and I were tested for our DNA through Ancestry and discovered our “roots.” The results weren’t much of a surprise since our sisters had already done this and shared the results, but it was an interesting experience to locate distant DNA matched possible relatives. I have been building my family tree and the links they provide are quite helpful. In the hobby sense, it is an interesting undertaking to find some of our closet “skeletons.” I have no intent of mentioning any of that here, but the whole genealogy quest has been sort of fun and interesting. YMMV

So, to those patriotic Americans who take the Flag Day occasion to revere and celebrate our Nation as envisioned by the Founders, enjoy the day for what it is - a celebration of our heritage, our legacy and, God willing, the future greatness of America and the Flag for which it stands.

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