Saturday, April 21, 2012

Picking a Spot and Getting the Shot

I fit a pleasant hour of birding in at the DBG after work on Wednesday. The wildflower garden there is bursting with color, and as such is one of the few places where there is still substantial bird activity, even when it's 94 degrees outside.

Overbearing sunlight and a bit of laziness compelled me to just pick a spot and plop down for my time at the DBG. It worked out pretty well though. The birds soon felt comfortable and were pretty close. There was a lot of stuff in the way, but I had obscured views of Green-Tailed Towhees, Gilded Flickers, and a lovely MacGillivray's Warbler. I also had some nice, clear views of many birds, and the added bonus of pleasing scener made it a very nice session of photography.

This Curve-Billed Thrasher was foraging underneath an ironwood tree (my beloved source of shade). The dry, yellow leaf littler all around reminds me of cornflakes...wouldn't he love to be standing on a big pile of those!

I've often thought that Cruve-Billed Thrasher beaks are superfluously insidious-looking. They're very functional, of course, and help the birds dig into top soil and pry under the leaf littler in search of food. But lots of other birds accomplish this too, and without looking so dangerous. I bet the Thrashers are hiding something, like they are, in fact, raptors in disguise.

The Gardens are still buzzing (quite literally) with Hummingbird activity. There are Anna's Hummingbirds at all different stages of molt and maturity, constantly bickering and chasing each other away from the flowers, never having enough time to actually enjoy the prize themselves.

This young male was a bit more subdued. He had a nice shady perch and was content to let the other hummers fight to the death, perhaps planning to claim the whole Gardens as his domain once the competition had eliminated itself. Whatever his plan, part of it seemed to entail sitting right next to me. I actually had to zoom out to fit him in the frame. How often does someone get to say that about a hummingbird? I would've liked a tiny bit more light, but I was still  very pleased.

The Thrasher was on the ground, and the Anna's sat near the top of the shrubs. This female Phainopepla seemed to like life right in the middle. She was often obscured from view, and didn't seem to be too comfortable squirming in between the brush. I suspect she had a nest nearby, but I could not find it.

She lowered her crest and she is about to take flight--always good to maximize aerodynamics.

I returned to the same spot in the Gardens on Friday evening, this time with Maria and my family, as we all set out to enjoy the blooming gardens in the cooler evening temperatures. We toured the whole facility, and also made a specific stop in the same place, and again I was rewarded with some nice photographic settings. The sun was on the wrong-side of this House Finch, but his red body surrounded by yellow palo verde blooms still made for a nice composition:

He made it look pretty good. I wish I could eat flowers.

This grumpy Curve-Billed thrasher was one of the few birds tolerating the direct sunlight. He seemed to be guarding this net-covered yucca plant, and was determined that it remain concealed until its grand unveiling, whenever that may be.

But even the most stalwart sentries still need to blink, and this Thrasher was no exception. In this photo, the nictitating membrane is still visible, as only half of the eye is fully exposed.

It's nice to just sit and bird in one spot. I'm often too impatient and end up roving all over a site. I know I probably see less birds that way, and definitely get less photos, but it has the psychological bonus of making me feel like I'm doing something, like the number of birds I may see is actively within my control, even if that's not the case. Nonetheless, every time I just pick a place and wait, it's just as rewarding.