Well once again, I didn’t “get out and make some new photos” last week. But I do have some new ones to show you that I made right here at home.
These Florida clouds! We’ve had some especially awesome afternoon storms lately. This is an infrared image I made from our front lawn when Lynn told me she’d spotted some Mammatus clouds. And yes, it did start raining.
Cloudy with a chance of rain
We’ve seen hummingbirds here several times, but they seem very shy and hard to photograph. Even when I have a camera ready they skedaddle as soon as I open the patio door. We were eating lunch when Lynn called out this one, and I was able to get the camera and make some images from inside through a window before it left.
Yard bird 1: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
It’s been a tough time for lizards. Last week I told you about that Red-shouldered Hawk grabbing one off the screen. This week, we had a Bluejay hunting lizards in the back yard too. It was hard focusing on it through the tree leaves and by the time I made this image, that poor lizard was about gone.
Yard bird 2: Bluejay and the circle of life
So that’s how my photographic week went. I’m going to try even harder to “get out and make some new photos” next week. We’ll see.
Thanks to Lynn for once again being such an awesome spotter! I would’ve missed all three of these photos if she hadn’t pointed them out for me. Sometimes I get the feeling that there’s a lot more going on in our yard than I ever see. Maybe I should pay more attention!
And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there, cherish your friends and loved ones, and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos, even if they’re just in your yard!
The birds we saw in New Mexico varied from what we’re used to in Florida (of course). I saw 12 life birds while we were there. And this was really with just casual birding. I’m sure my more serious birding friends (thinking of you Kevin M.) would have found many more!
Gambel’s Quail – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
MK wanted to visit White Sands National Monument. I did too, but I’d heard a lot about the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge so we agreed to get up early and stop by there on the way. I was really glad we did!
Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Broad-tailed Hummingbird (on the left) – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
The volunteers at the Visitors Center were very helpful and pointed out where to look for the Golden Eagle. We would have missed it without their help. At first glance, I mistook it for a vulture! They also apologized since there were no Sand Hill Cranes (they migrate through in the winter). I assured them that we see plenty in Florida. Hopefully I can go back when it’s cold. Seeing huge flocks of cranes would be an experience!
Golden Eagle – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
MK was an excellent spotter. We found the Caissin’s Kingbird when she stopped to look at a road side field on the way home from White Sands. She also found the Yellow Warbler at the top of Sandia Peak – thanks MK!
Caissin’s Kingbird – Carrizozo, NM
I’ve called myself a “beginning” birder for too long. Maybe it’s time to change this to “casual” birder. I like birding and enjoy finding / seeing new birds and figuring out what they are. But I mostly enjoy the photography and get a bit disappointed if my images are poor. So, from me to you, here are my…
Birding hints from a casual birder:
Take advantage of travel. New locations can be an easy way to add to your life list.
Consider going even if it’s a slow time of year. Bosque is well-known for its Festival of the Cranes in November. But we found lots to see even in the middle of summer.
Research the local hot spots and add some to your itinerary. Find and check local sightings or species lists so you’ll know what to look for. I read through the wildlife list on the Bosque web site before we went. It lists bird species by month observed and was a big help.
Try to look at the right times of day when birds are more active. We saw the Yellow Warbler near dusk on Sandia peak, and had good luck at Bosque early in the morning. I strongly doubt we’d have seen as much in mid-afternoon.
Stop by the Visitors Center and talk to other birders there. The volunteers at Bosque were very helpful.
Don’t let birds you’re familiar with fool you. I might have missed the Golden Eagle and the Neotropical Cormorants if I hadn’t been looking for them. They look similar to other birds I’m familiar with in Florida.
A second set of eyes is very helpful. With two of us looking, MK and I saw more than we would have by ourselves.
Birding friends are helpful too. I probably could have figured out what all the life birds were on my own, but it was faster with Kevin helping. And having a second opinion is good too.
Photograph everything you see and confirm later. I wasn’t sure about the Golden Eagle until I enlarged the image on the back of my camera.
If you think you might be birding, bring your long lens. I didn’t and regret that. Thinking back on it, I should have left my ultra-wide at home and taken my longest lens instead. You can always stitch multi-frame panoramas to get a wider field of view. But you can’t get a longer focal length in post processing without losing quality.
I never expected to see so much – it was a great trip! Here’s what we saw:
Life birds: Golden Eagle, Gambel’s Quail, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Ring-necked Pheasant, Neotropic Cormorants, Swainson’s Hawk, Cassin’s Kingbird, Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, House Finch, Yellow Warbler
Other birds: Blue Grosbeaks (M & F), Crows, Common Ravens, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Road Runner, Barn, Tree, and Cliff Swallows, Wild Turkeys, Canada Geese, Blue Wing Teals, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Herons, Turkey Vulture, Mourning Dove, Robin, Grackles, …
Other wildlife: Prairie Dogs, Snakes (no ID, although one roadkill might have been a Rattlesnake), Deer, Rabbit
I was in Colorado last week and had a chance to go sightseeing in the mountains near Denver. Whenever I visit, I find it to be so scenic and photogenic that it overwhelms me. It’s different from what I normally see at home here in Florida and I want to make photos of everything.
Valley of sunbeams and shadows – Don’t miss Mount Evans if you ever get to Denver in the summer time. This is a four image panorama from near the summit, about 13,500 feet.
I find when I get back from a trip like this and go through my images, most don’t have the impact that I felt at the time. My “keeper” rate seems lower than from local trips. Maybe this is because I’ve photographed in Florida so much that I don’t see as many new things when I go out – so I make fewer photos. Luckily, I did end up with some that I really like from Colorado.
The Chapel on the Rock (Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel) – This is in Allenspark, Colorado, south along Route 7 out of Estes Park on the grounds of the Saint Malo Retreat. We didn’t know this was on our route. It’s wonderful to discover something unexpected like this while on a drive. Another 4 image pano.
I guess we humans are hardwired to find new and unfamiliar things more interesting. And familiarity can breed complacency. Do people in Colorado get used to the mountains and sleep in some days instead of getting up and out to see and photograph them? Like we sleep in here instead of getting up to go out into a world-class wildlife refuge like Merritt Island?
Bristlecone pine trees – Some of the trees in the Mount Goliath Natural Area are over 1,600 years old. I used my IR modified Olympus E-PL1 for this photo. Yes, it’s one more 4 image pano.
Wildlife is different out there too. Some non-Florida species I saw included six new life birds (Steller’s Jay, Gray Jay, Common Raven, Black-billed Magpie, Dark-eyed Junco, and a Broad-tailed Hummingbird) as well as plenty of Mountain Goats, Marmots and Chipmunks.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird – Behind my Sister’s house in Littleton, Colorado. These birds look very similar to the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds we have in Florida, but the Broad-tailed doesn’t have a black chin. No, this is not a pano.
I wonder if Florida’s unique landscapes and wildlife are as interesting to people visiting here as Colorado’s are to me when I’m out there?
Kevin M. saw some internet chatter about a Rufous Hummingbird sighting at Bok Tower. The bird had been hanging out in some flowering bushes near the “Window by the pond”. Although the Rufous does sometimes migrate through Florida, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are normally the only kind we see, so this is a bit unusual.
Kevin organized a Photography Interest Group expedition and he, Lutfi, and I headed over on Saturday morning to try to find this bird. It was right where it was reported and in fact there were several of them. We saw multiple Ruby Throated Hummingbirds too. The Rufous seem more aggressive – they chased the Rubies away from the plants where they were feeding.
Rufous Hummingbird resting on a twig, Bok Tower Gardens. Tiny birds: this one was about 3 inches long.
Info for Photographers
Bok Tower is open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m and admission is $12 for adults and $3 for children, although if you arrive on Saturday mornings between 8 and 9 like we did, you can get in for half price.
Personal photography is permitted in all areas. Commercial photographers should contact management to receive authorization before visiting.
This is a 250-acre botanical garden and bird sanctuary, located near Lake Wales and is one of the highest places in the state at an elevation of almost 300′. It’s named for the 205′ pink marble and coquina tower which includes a carillon that you’ll hear every half-hour and at twice daily concerts (1 & 3 p.m). Bok Tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Bok Tower door and reflection – the base of the tower from the reflecting pool side.
There’s quite a variety of subjects to photograph here. You can shoot landscapes, architecture, many kinds of flowers, and several varieties of butterflies.
Path and trees – a false color IRFE (infra-red, fish-eye) photo. I made this photo right before they started to set up for a wedding.
Bok Tower Gardens is also a bird refuge where you can find a number of species. The day we visited, we saw the Rufous and Ruby Throated Humming birds, Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, Doves, a Gray Catbird, a Brown Thrasher, a Tufted Titmouse, Cardinals, Red Wing Blackbirds, a few wading birds, and others. We heard that wild turkeys and Sand Hill Cranes are often on the grounds too.
Tripod/Monopod: Allowed and very useful for the normal reasons.
Lenses: To cover all the subjects here, you should bring a variety of lenses from wide (for landscapes), macros (for butterflies and flowers), and telephoto (for birds).
Best time to visit: Fall is good for migrating birds and springtime is great for flowers.
The gardens are about a 90 minute drive from the Winter Springs and are close to Legoland. It’s also close to the can’t miss Spook Hill.
Bok Tower is one of the best botanical gardens in Florida, plus it has the tower, scenic landscapes, and at times an interesting bird population. Well worth your time.