Friday, October 7, 2011

A Good Day for Pictures

I made my first evening trip to the Desert Botanical Gardens today, and I almost didn't see a single new bird! As I was leaving I did notice a Rufous-Capped sparrow, so the List still grows on.
What was really special though was the setting. The sunlight was picking up and reflecting off of the granite and sandstone hills that surround the DBG and a soft orange light filled the area. The birds were occupied in their evening foraging and were especially photogenic. Even though I did not see many new birds (and yes, I realize the day will come when I will not see any new birds at all), I did get a lot of great pictures of familiar birds, and virtually all of them provided better and updated photos for their respective entries. It was one of the best all-round photographical experiences I've had thus far.
I have not reproduced all of the photos here, but have filed them into each species' entry, which will be linked below.
All images can be enlarged by clicking on them.
 This fluffy Mourning Dove was the first to greet me at the DBG.
 An Anna's Hummingbird delicately sips her drink. It was after 5 pm after all. This is a female Anna's, courtesy of the connected eye-stripe to the forehead. I especially like all of the pollen that's stuck to her beak.
 Of all the places to find a Cactus Wren...
 This Curve-Billed Thrasher was either eating prickly pear fruits for his dinner, or is a cannibal--pretty stark contrast.
 Great Horned Owl: Lord of this Land. Mighty in Wisdom, Great in Sleepiness. 
 The House Sparrows even seemed to be especially pretty. I mean, they usually are kind of interesting because of their intricate coloring, but the right lighting and cool weather (finally!) just makes everything seem more photo-worthy. 
 I have still not been able to get the right shot of a Gambel's Quail. I don't know what it is. There are more Quail at the DBG than any other bird, but I just can't make it work.
 The debate rages on at the DBG as to whether this is the Pacific-Slope or the Cordilleran Flycather. I've thrown my lot in with the Cordillerans, but I don't know if it will ever be settled. There appears to be a stick poking into this handsome Cordilleran here. I wonder if he felt it?
 Verdins are great. They're colorful, energetic, and not overly shy, but they also don't give it all away up front. This lovely specimen was in the mood for lantana berries.

Not the most flattering angle, though I guess it was rude to watch her eat in the first place.
 Success! One of the last ripe berries.
 You know, looking at that beak and that berry, I'm not sure it'll all fit.
 This female Northern Flicker was digging for ants, which as I found out is a fairly common practice among Flickers. I guess it's easier than pecking wood. I really like her polka-dots.
 I really appreciate that this Cactus Wren posed among the purple for me. I'll vote for him to be my state bird any day!
 The Green-Tailed Towhees seem to be at the DBG in force now with Autumn setting in. 
 This Rufous-Crowned Sparrow was the sole new bird on this trip, and it figures that I couldn't get a decent picture. There's always next time Mr. Sparrow...I know where you live.
Even the Abert's Towhee, drabbest of birds, was looking good this evening. This specimen seemed to feel it as well. Standing tall and out in the open? Hardly the normal behavior for the humble Abert's.

House Sparrow

House Sparrows are everywhere all the time always forever. They live our airports, wal-marts, and apartment complexes. They're crafty, shrewd, and are probably better adapted to living on the street then amongst the trees at this point.
I hadn't bothered to photograph a House Sparrow yet, but this specimen seemed particularly clean-cut, so he was chosen among all the others to represent the vast House Sparrow empire.

Rufous-Crowned Sparrow

The Rufous-Crowned Sparrow has a darker back and darker wings than most of his cousins. They don't stray very far out of the southwest and aren't especially common, so it was nice to see one by the exit to the Desert Botanical Gardens. I didn't even have to do any work.
That being said, I didn't get great pictures either, and I'll be keeping a careful eye out for this rufous-headed rascal next time.
Apparently it's pretty rare to see them in the lower altitudes, and this was the first reported/documented sighting at the Desert Botanical Gardens, YAY.
 Here in the sunlight you can see the rufous cap, as well as the facial stripes and even the hint of a dark line running down the chin. These all help to distinguish the Rufous-Crowned Sparrow from look-alikes such as the Lark and Chipping Sparrows.
In addition to the rufous crown, you can see the peculiarly dark wings. Sparrows usually have a lot of mottling or streaking with white and lighter browns, but not this guy. The tail is similarly dark, but I cut it off in the picture...I know I know.

Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned is the third largest and most common Owl throughout North America. It seems kind of unusual for one of the larger species of birds to be the most common in the (owl) family, but then there's lots about owls that sets them apart from other birds. The "horns" are actually feathery tufts, and the owls coloration varies greatly by region.

Here are some fluffy Owlets almost ready to fledge.

The feathers underneath the beak of this second owlet make it look like the bird has a very creepy smile, as if he's contemplating all the mischief he will soon cause, or is thinking about eviscerating something with his Owl claws.