Monday, March 28, 2016

Sierra La Laguna

Easter Sunday rolled round, and for us that meant a road trip out thru the Mexican desert. We are always looking at our Gazetteer, for those little black line, roads that are used, sort of maintained but not a lot of traffic. They usually go some where, but in many cases, the road is more goat trail than not by the time we are thru. We always plan on them going some where, circling around or connecting to another road, just so we don't have to back track. Our trip to Sierra La Laguna was not one of those roads. First of it started out like a two lane, VERY WELL improved dirt road. I mean it was graded, smooth, and very wide. Once we got to the boundary of the Biosphere, that all went away. I do have to admit, this turned out to be a grand day, great company ( my lovely wife Jeanne) beautiful weather, some very beautiful, diversified country, and know, a bunch of birds!!

I am going to start out with one of the biggest surprises of my Mexican birding experience ever! It happened at the very end of our day, where we pretty much have run our of road, and turned around near a stream bed with little bit of a trickle of water in it. This seemingly year round water had allowed a nice grove of date palms to thrive. this grove of date palms, were nearly 30 ACORN WOODPECKERS!!  For those of you who know me, I was like a kid in a candy store!! I always thought that the rumors of Acorn Woodpeckers this far south were just confused locals with a little to much cerveza in them. I had even seen where the local Fish and Wildlife (such as it is) had used a photo of an Acorn Woodpecker on it!! Like, really? So, I will eat my silly words, and admit, there really are Unicorns here in Mexico....

We found that many of the flowering trees were all in bloom, so all the nectar eaters were having a great time, like this female Hooded Oriole

This Gila Woodpecker was enjoying nibbling on this cactus bloom!
 This is the first time I had ever seen the Northern Cardinal actually eating the stamen out of the flowers....

This guy found a bush full of berries....and he was really going to town on them!
Speaking of eating, this American Kestrel had a small lizard for breakfast!

There were an amazing amount of the small Kestrels in the area!

This big old Redtail Hawk soared right over head! 

This female Cardinal was well protected back inside the thorn bush. Actually, virtually every plant down here has is the only way they survive!!

This Gray Thrasher was well camouflaged inside this bush.....but stuck his head out just long enough for me to get a photo!

The Ash-throated flycatchers were well represented in this area as well...

This Lark Sparrow was sitting right on top of a bush as we went by....not the normal behavior for these very decorated little sparrows.

While this blog is about birds, I have to give a little shout out to this very old Spiny-tailed Iguana. Jeanne spotted him as we drove by, and he sat still long enough for one quick photo. Then he ducked inside him hollowed out log, I guess that is why he has gotten to be so old!!


I am back!!

The cyber world got me last week!! I was not paying attention, and Microsoft just took over my computer. Next thing you know, I now am running Windows 10!  That in of it's self is not a bad thing, but the fact that I lost (for a while) my entire desk top, links and passwords really put me in a bind. Added to that, it appears that back in 2009, we tried to add a blog on the Google site, about our boat and the trip south. I used the same e-mail and password as the "Bird Nerd" site, so you just imagine how much that messed things up! Try as I might, I could not log on to my blog!!  Panic was setting in......but I persevered!!

So, I am still getting things cleared up, and back on track till then, here is a shot of the Belted Kingfisher that was fishing right in front of our boat last night!!

Thursday, March 24, 2016


The Phainopepla is a wonderful bird despite it's rather dull coloring. The male is all black and the female is a dull gray. The male is blessed with a beautiful, ragged crest that is more often not, at full display.

Their diet consists of berries, any small insects, fruits, vegetables. Phainopepla have a specialized mechanism in their gizzard that shucks berry skins off the fruit and packs the skins separately from the rest of the fruit into the intestines for more efficient digestion. So far this is the only known bird able to do this.

While the population is a migratory species, the birds of the Mexican Baja are a permeant, breeding population. 

They tend to live in very hot dry areas, from Arizona, New Mexico south.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring is for Hummingbirds!

I was up early this morning just watching the Hummingbirds zoom around the feeder here outside my office door, and it made me realize that while here in Mexico, Spring is a much less noticeable thing than say the PNW, it does occur. Spring and Hummingbirds just seem to go together so well, I decided to assemble a group of fun Hummingbirds shots! 

Happy Spring everybody!!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sunday Morning

I was laying in bed, thinking about the day to come, and what I wanted to accomplish. There is always things to do in the office, with out a doubt there is a boat project or two....or, I could go get some photos of the different "Black Headed" gulls before they migrate out of here!! All this thinking cause me to get a late start, but I headed for the beaches to see what kind of gulls might still be around. I was hoping to see Laughing, Sabine's, Bonaparte's, and maybe a Franklin's. This group of gulls all show a completely black head during breeding plumage. They also migrate north about now, so timing is everything. I covered a lot of beach front, but all I found were the one I figured I would not find....isn't it always that way? Here is a picture of the Franklin's Gull.

Of course while I am out there, no reason to limit my shots to just the gulls.....This Black Phoebe has always been one of my favorites to photograph! Very patient, always posing so nicely...easy to work with.

The White Ibis is one of the largest wading birds we have around here. This one was snaking on little fishes that hung around the low spot where the water rushed in. The lighting just seemed awesome!

The American Avocets are just starting to get into their breeding colors with the orange tint to their head!

The Killdeer is a pretty common little wader, especially around parks, golf courses, and sports fields. We hardly ever see them down here so this was very nice surprise!

There seemed to be a lot more Black-necked Stilts that I have ever seen before. Caught this group on their way to another part of the field!

I keep hoping the White Faced Ibis will start their breeding plumage but so far..just plain brown. Eventually they will get a white crescent in the front of their face, between the eye and the bill.

This is a fun little gathering.....A Blue-winged Teak, Cinnamon Teal, the afore mentioned White Faced Ibis, and a Greater Yellow-legs.

And since we are doing little gathering, we will wrap up todays post with  Our American Avocet and the Male Cinnamon Teal!!  Thanks everybody.....

Saturday, March 19, 2016

American Oystercatcher

When we sailed into the warm Mexican waters, one of my very first surprise discovers was the American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliates. This is the beautiful cousin to the Black Oystercatcher that we had seen frequently up in The PNW. I have had several chances to photograph this colorful bird, so here is a few of the past results!!

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Sentinel Tree


If you were to go to any library, book store or photo shop there will be a limitless number of books on photography. There will be written text on the technical side, the aesthetic points, and an unlimited list of how to books for every kind of camera and format used. The new computerized photo enhancement techniques now have quadrupled the number of books on the subject.

With the newer cameras, which are very much like mini computers that happen to take pictures, the learning curve is pretty steep. Each new body that I use seems to take me forever to figure out. They all do the same thing, just relocate the buttons around a bit. Instead of being able to operate the camera by feel, I need to start all over again with the learning curve.

I have spent over 40 years now playing with cameras, and more times than not they have been pointed a bird of some kind. I am the first to admit, I never really knew much about the working end of the cameras I was using. You put in film, pointed to at your subject, hopefully it was in focus and push the shiny little button…and like magic you had a picture! Now digital has come along and there is one less step I can mess up…putting in the film!

Time, a few classes’, and a wife with a degree in photography have turned me into what refer to as slightly better than average photographer! But, I produce an exceptionally high number of quality images that have proven to be very marketable. Let me also point out that while I have pretty good equipment, it is by no means state of the art. Both of my Nikon bodies are over 4 years old, and my newest lens is now over two years old.

What I attribute my success to, is an exceptionally deep knowledge of my subject. Again, this would be the various species of birds, all over North America. While I have a good working knowledge of most of the finer points of my camera, IE the ISO, Shutter Speeds, and depth of field, putting myself in the correct position to capture the subject is what allows me to obtain the shot I am looking for.

A great example of this is a little bit of time I spent in the fishing village of San Evaristo, Mexico. The first day there was all about relaxing and winding down from a very busy week. The next morning, rather than getting up before the sun, I had a leisurely morning and was out in the field around 8-8:30. I carried my camera, but mostly looked at this morning as a scouting trip using the binoculars. I wear colors that will blend in with the area, sometimes it is a camo pattern, sometimes just a green, tan or brown that looks much like the natural colors of the terrain. I move slowly, knowing that I will probably disturb the local wildlife, but use their reactions to my advantage. I look for flight patterns, water or food locations, roosting trees and certain habitat that will attract the species I am hoping ton capture.

This particular morning, I noticed that nearly every species of bird in the area, whether just flying by, roosting or a location of safety when flushed, all stopped by at the same high branch of a nearly dead tree.  It was the highest point, and gave a great view the surrounding area. Then I scouted a location to set up, taking into consideration, morning light, back ground, and a location that afforded me some natural cover. In this location, and like many here in the Mexican Desert, I like to use a tall, older cactus to break up my outline and allow me to remain standing. In the standing positon, using a mono pod to support my camera and lens, I am afforded a reasonable range of motion that gives me several angles to shoot from.

Once I had all this committed to memory, I left the area until the next morning where I was in place long before the sun rose. Within the first 45 minutes of nice early morning light, I had 9 species of birds all land in the same bush, now less than 20 yards from my cactus location.

This “vantage point tree” has proven to be an excellent way to identify, as well as photograph the birds of a certain area.  Now while this particular area might be an extreme set of results, it shows that a little planning, knowledge of your subject and willingness to do some advance work can certainly pay off with some great bird watching and photography.

The Northern Cardinal

The Verdin

The Costa's Hummingbird

The Violet Green Tree Swallow

The House Finch