Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter Blues

This is what it looks like out of my bedroom window at 11:00 am. The sun is still behind the mountains. Yesterday especially was downright cold with a wicked wind to augment the misery. Nevertheless I was out there with my camera trying to capture the atmosphere of a winter day.
From the field beside my apt. complex, I have a good view of St. Innocent Russian Orthodox Church and the Chugach Mountains for a backdrop. In winter the light is often tinted pink. It is called Alpenglow.
I seldom paint buildings, but someday I may paint this church.
There used to be a trailer park here. It looks so much nicer now.

This photo was not taken yesterday but the Bohemian Waxwings are out and about in the nieghborhood.

They seem to thrive in the frigid weather.
Russian Jack Park is a 15 minute walk from my place. The trails in the park are cherished by the local cross-country skiers, and plodders on foot like me.
The trails leads through a tunnel under a busy street. There are many such tunnels around town. I wish there were many more.
The cold of winter is not what really gets to me. It's the dim winter light on most days, and especially the shortness of the day. This photo was shot after sunset, at about 3;30pm. It is Eagle River Loop Road.
The light at the base of these trees is coming from a lamp post out of the frame.
To compensate for the short winter days, there are lamp posts along many of the trails so skiers and pedestrians can have better visibility. Some people even manage to ride bicycles in this stuff. Although I dont comprehend them, lots of people around here prefer the winter months. This photo was shot at 9:30am.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some Woodpeckers

Recently one of the blogs that I follow did an interesting post about woodpeckers. It got me thinking about them as well. Over the years I have had the opportunity to photogragh various species. Which is my favorite? That's hard to say, but the Pale-billed Woodpecker of central America is as impressive as any that I've seen.
Here in southcentral Alaska there are four regularly occuring species of woodpecker, Downy, Hairy, Three-toed, and Black-backed. The first two species are very common, the Three-toed less so, and the Black-backed is very hard to find. The bird in the above photo is a female Hairy Woodpecker.
The male Hairy Woodpecker has a jaunty red cap. Downy Woodpeckers are almost identical in appearance except they are smaller and have a stubbier beak.
This is the first Black-backed Woodpecker that I have seen. I was so fortunate to find a nest in the above tree. This is the male. That day was also the day I saw my first Grizzly Bear. They were both in a city park in Anchorage. The bear followed me down the trail for about 100 yards. It was quite an adrenaline rush. I got photos of the bear also.
When I lived in Arizona there were many species of woodpecker, including the Red-shafted Flicker. They prefer to eat ants, but they will even eat bird seed.
The deserts in Arizona have the Gilded Flicker.

I have seen the clown-like Acorn Woodpecker from California to Costa Rica. They are a gregarious woodpecker. Of course they specialize in eating acorns. Like many woodpeckers they have a raucous vocabulary.

A close relative of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, the Red-naped Sapsucker. It was a very cold day in Arizona when I photographed this female in my yard. After it had it's fill of the apple, many smaller birds rushed in to feed on the apple.
Another sapsucker species that occurs in the higher elevations of Arizona, the Williamson's Sapsucker. This is the female at the nest in an aspen tree.
The male Williamson's Sapsucker looks like a completely different species of bird.
The temperature was -10f when I shot this lousy photo of a Great Spotted Woodpecker in Caswell Lakes, Alaska.. I believe it was only the second sighting of this species in North America.
I posted this photo earlier. It's a Black-cheeked Woodpecker in Cahuita, Costa Rica.
The smallest Woodpecker that I have seen is this Grey-crowned Pygmy Woodpecker in Phang Nga, Thailand. It looked to be about the size of a White-breasted Nuthatch.
A female Bearded Woodpecker in Kruger Nat. Park, South Africa.
A female Cardinal Woodpecker, also in Kruger.
This is a bad photo of a hard to find woodpecker in South Africa, Olive Woodpecker.
My life list of woodpeckers so far.
1. Red-shafted Flicker, USA
2. Gilded Flicker, USA, Mexico
3. Downy Woodpecker, USA
4. Hairy Woodpecker, USA
5. Acorn Woodpecker, USA, Mexico, Costa Rica
6. Red-naped Sapsucker, USA
7. Williamson's Sapsucker, USA
8. Lewis' Woodpecker, USA
9. Gila Woodpecker, USA, Mexico
10. Ladder-backed Woodpecker, USA, Mexico
11. Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Mexico
12. Red-crowned Woodpecker, Costa Rica
13. Golden-naped Woodpecker, Costa Rica
14. Hoffman's Woodpecker, Costa Rica
15. Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Costa Rica
16. Smoky Brown Woodpecker, Costa Rica
17. Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Costa Rica
18. Cinnamon Woodpecker, Costa Rica
19. Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Costa Rica
20. Linneated Woodpecker, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru
21. Pale-billed Woodpecker, Mexico, Costa Rica
22. Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Peru
23. Three-toed Woodpecker, USA
24. Black-backed Woodpecker, USA
25. Great Spotted Woodpecker, USA
26. Greater Flameback, Thailand
27. Cream-colored Woodpecker, Ecuador
28. Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Ecuador
29. Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Thailand
30. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Thailand
31. Little Woodpecker, Peru
32. Chestnut Woodpecker, Peru
33. Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Peru
34. Bearded Woodpecker, South Africa
35. Cardinal Woodpecker, South Africa
36. Bennet's Woodpecker, South Africa
37. Olive Woodpecker, South Africa.
Which species will I get to see next? That's a much anticipated thrill for me.
Thank you for indulging me with this little vanity of mine in listing these birds.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Critters of Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Boyce Thompson Arboretum is located out of the desert town of Superior, Arizona. It contains numerous plants and trees from around the world, all of them adapted to arid habitats. They were planted about a century ago by Boyce himself. The whole place is set amid some very beautiful desert landscape. There is a small stream in a canyon surrounded by dramatic rock formations. The area abounds in wildlife, especially birds. There are trails to follow, and the various plants and trees have identifying markers.
The little piggys above are known locally as Javelina. Everyone else knows them as Collared Peccaries. If you call them by that name you will betray yourself as a tourist. They have a legend for their ferocity, which is nonsense.

A colorful male Hooded Oriole.
The equally colorful male Bullock's Oriole.
There is a pond in the Arboretum where Black Phoebes nest.
A favorite bird of many visiting birders, the Green-tailed Towhee. By the way, the best time to visit the place is during the winter months, especially March. That is when the most birds are present, and the temperatures are more tolerable.

An uncolorful bird, Canyon Towhee. The more restricted ranging, Abert's Towhee also occurs at Boyce Thompson. It looks like the Canyon Towhee, but wears a black facemask.

Arizona's state bird, the Cactus Wren is the largest Wren species north of Mexico.
The diminutive Inca Dove is common in much of Arizona's desert landscape.
A Curve-billed Thrasher in a Tree Cholla after a rainstorm.
I got to watch that same Thrasher feeding it's young in the same cholla.
Most people dont associate Cardinals with the desert, but they are a common sight at Boyce Thompson.
Sonora whipsnakes are a lightening fast inhabitant of the desert around the arboretum.
You have to be fortunate to get a look at a Common Black Hawk in that area.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What is it?

Is it some kind of lichen, or rock? How about tree bark?

Maybe you have guessed that this is paint.
Maybe this is my radical new painting style, Abstract Impressionism.
At this point you can tell that it's vegetation.
More plants.

Here is some fur but what does it belong to?

An intentionally out of focus eyeball.
Have you guessed what it is yet?
It's a Cottontail. Titled, Pink Ears, 12x16".