Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Sorry for putting up so many blog posts in the last few days. I'm sitting here this afternoon with the choice of getting some real work done or putting up photos of the painting I completed this morning. My brain is too fuzzy right now to do anything that requires concentration like painting.
  This one is a bit of a departure for me, a Carribean Coral Reef scene. The above photo was shot outside in dim winter light so the colors are kind of flat.
Princess Parrotfish, male and female.
Bluehead, male. I believe this is some kind of wrasse.

Four-eye Butterfly Fish with a female Bluehead behind it. I have no idea if these fish occur together in nature. I do know that they all inhabit Carribean reefs.
Carribea 24x12".
I would'nt mind doing more tropical reef paintings but I will need to gather more reference materials. There was a lot of imagination and guesswork involved in this painting. I only had one photo of each fish from an old field guide to rely on. Usually I have a half dozen or more reference photos when I try to paint something.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Ten Continued

Saddle-billed Stork is one of seven species of stork that I saw in South Africa. I was told that it is critically endangered in SA, and numbers only a few hundred individuals. We saw four of them in Kruger.
Seeing any kind of falcon is a noteworthy event in Alaska. While studying the birds of Southern Africa, I was impressed by the diversity of falcon species that occur there. Amur Falcons are one species that is abundant in some parts of the country, including the countryside on the outskirts of Johannesburg. This is a female. The male is sooty gray with bright red feet.
I was surprized to see this Spotted Eagle Owl perched on the corner street sign right near our lodge in the Johannesburg suburb of Benoni. The most impressive of the four species of owl that we saw were the Giant (Verreaux's) Eagle Owls.
Easily the most attractive of the ten weaverbird species that I saw was the Red-headed Weaver.
Seeing the prehistoric looking Trumpeter Hornbill gave me a huge thrill.

I saw more Sacred Ibis's in Benoni than any other part of the country. They were worshipped in ancient Egypt, where they are now extinct.

Sunbirds are the old world equivalent of a hummingbird. This little bird had the ponderous name of, Greater Double-collared Sunbird.
Woodland Kingfisher is a species that does not fish. This one was raiding spiderwebs for insects and spiders.
Another endangered species. Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, lives high in the Drakensburg Mountains.
An impressive bird for it's colorful elegance. Southern Carmine Bee-eater.
This Tawny Eagle was very cooperative to let me get this close for a photograph. Too bad the light was so bad.
I have had such a hard time deciding which species to add to my top ten list. The Cape White-eye is a bit obscure, but certainly deserves to be included. There are so many more wonderful new birds that I would like to include. but I have to stop somewhere. If you have not already seen them, go back to the nine trip reports that I posted in March of this year to see photos of the many great mammals etc.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Top Ten New Birds in 2010

The title of this post is deceptive. There is no way I could limit my favorite new birds of 2010 down to only ten birds. All of my lifers were seen in South Africa in late January and February. I really cannot pick a favorite bird, or list them in any kind of order. The Martial Eagle in the above photo is a good choice to start with. Martial Eagles are huge and majestic. This individual was spotted at dawn in Kruger N P.
Yellow-billed Kites were the most commonly seen raptor in SA.
A lousy photo of a great bird. Green, or (Knyshna) Touraco was one of my most hoped for species since long before I travelled to SA. This one was in a city park in St. Lucia on the east coast of the country.
African Fish Eagle is another majestic bird. One of nine species of eagle I saw in SA.
The Crowned Hornbill is probably the most attractive, and most shy, of the six species of hornbill that I saw.

Before I go to a new destination, of course I study the birds that occur there. There are always some colorful or unusual species that stand out, and I want to see the stand outs most of all. One stand out that I really hoped to get was Southern Red Bishop. I knew they were common but I did'nt know whether I would see any or not. I only had to step across the street of my lodging in Johannesburg to see them. They were everywhere.
One of the oddest raptors in the world, the Secretary Bird looks like a hybrid chicken, heron, eagle, whoknowswhat. We saw three or four of them in Kruger.
Studying birds in a book, seeing them on nature shows on tv, or even seeing them in zoos cannot give you a sense of the creature as it is in nature. There are always certain species that are impressive in some intangible way that can only be appreciated when you see thier natural behavior. One of the most unexpectedly delightful birds that I saw was the Speckled Mousebird. They are loaded with personality like a pet parrot.
Another fascinating species is one that is usually hard to observe although it was quite common. The Burchell's Coucal has lots of personality.

Another of the world's oddest birds, the Hammerkop. They are wading birds, like a heron. This is one of my favorite photos of the whole trip.
The largest of the six species of kingfisher that I saw, Giant Kingfisher.

Not too colorful, the Brown-headed Parrot is the only parrot species that we saw in SA. I can't end my list of favorite new birds here. I will continue with more great birds soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Easter

Okay, so I have my holidays mixed up. It's not quite Christmas. The lunar eclipse happened last night on Winter Solstice, it was too cold out for me to try for some photos. The calendar says that today is the first day of Winter, although it's been Winter around here since before Halloween. The sad fact is that come the real Easter, things around here will still look like they do right now.
Earlier this Summer I did a post about the suburban moose that hang around my new neighborhood. Since I have not seen them around for awhile, I thought they had moved on. Today they were back.
I'm fairly sure that these are the same cow, and male calf that I've been seeing. They are fearless of humans.
Pretty as a postcard. Consider these photos my Christmas Cards to celebrate the season.
This is the young bull. He has really grown since Summer.

Scenes like this help me to endure the long winters, and remind me why I came here in the first place.

Notice the clipped ear of the mama moose?
This is a photo from last Summer. See the ear? This confirms that these are the same moose. I'm glad that they have avoided being killed in a collision. These photos were taken less than 100 yards, (meters) from the busiest highway in Alaska. Hundreds of moose are killed by vehicles around here every year.
It is not snowing, a gust of wind blew some snow from the tree branches.
This photo of the calf shows the beginning buds that will soon enough be sprouting into antlers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Seward's Folly

This is a view of the tiny town of Seward on the Kenai Penninsula. It's pronounced Sue-ward, not see-ward. The purchase of Alaska from Russia was called Seward's Folly when Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State paid about 2 million dollars for the frozen wasteland.
A fishing boat has gone to ground close to home just yards from a repair dock.
Seward is located at the end of Resurrection Bay on Cook Inlet. It is one of my favorite places in the state.
The bay is ringed by Tidewater Glaciers like this one, Holgate Glacier. Much of it is protected by Kenai Fjords National Park.
Another glacier in Kenai Fjords N P is the smaller Exit Glacier that is an easy drive from Seward, and a good place to spot Black Bears.

The drive to Exit Glacier passes through some mysterious temperate rain forest. Bigfoot stories abound in the region.

A Black Oystercatcher on the bay.
Not a Walrus, this is a bull Steller's Sea Lion. They are truly massive.
Lovable Sea Otters can easily be seen right from the beach in town. They are much bigger than River Otters, which also occur in the area.
Seward is an ideal departure point for whale watching excursions. Humpback Whales are the most easily spotted whale during the Summer months. There are also birding cruises that leave from Seward and go to  the Chiswell Islands that are part of Kenai Fjords N P. You can see tens of thousands of puffins, and many other seabirds along the rocky cliffs of the islands.
Bald Eagles are so common that they soon become ho hum to visitors in town. I just love Seward and I wish I would take the time to go more often. Enduring hordes of Summer tourists is what keeps me away most years.