Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Snipe Progress and a Bonus

This is a photo of the progress that I have made on the snipe painting since last week. The actual painting is not so pale. Somehow Blogger is to blame for changing the look of the photos when I try to upload them.
Anyway I really need to take a step back and slow down on the foreground plants to make them look good. The Chiming Bells plant to the right of the snipe really needs to be painted with care because it will be a major element to frame the bird.  There will be more flowers in the painting as well.
The promised bonus is simply a few photos from Uganda to flesh out this post. I shot so many photos that I think are interesting but they never made it into my initial series of posts about that trip from a few years ago. This is a Hammerkop perched on some decrepit boats on the shore of Lake Victoria at the edge of the Mabamba Swamps.
The Hammerkop preening.
A Spur-winged Lapwing picks at beach flotsam for something edible.
A famous oddity of the bird world, the Shoebill. Uganda is the most reliable place to see this rare bird.
A member of a bird family that is confined to sub-Saharan Africa; This is a Ross's Turaco. One of six species of colorful turacos that I got to see in Africa. Too bad the brilliant red wings that this bird has did not show in this photograph.
A beautiful male, African Firefinch. This is a common city bird.
The exaggerated white horns of Ankara Cattle. 
We were waiting for dinner to be ready at a restaurant and we decided to stroll through the neighborhood near dusk. We were thrilled to see a group of Banded Mongooses across the road.
They seemed to be thrilled to see us as well and came right over. They joined us for dinner in the restaurant; At least until the restaurant staff shooed them out.
Sunrise over the Kazinga Channel. This is right near the restaurant with the mongooses. This place has the reputation for being one of the best places in all of Africa for seeing a great diversity of wildlife. We saw lots of good things there.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Filippino Birds and Painting Progress

Gary's friend from the Philippines, Randy, sent a few more photos of the local birds like these, Wandering Whistling Ducks. They look very similar to the widespread, Fulvous Whistling Duck, which lives in Central and South America, although I saw them in Uganda..
Two wintering shorebirds. The bird on the right is a Wood Sandpiper, and the bird on the left is a stint, Temminck's Stint, I believe. Let me know if you think I got it wrong.
The bird on the far left is a real rarity for the Philippines, A Black-faced Spoonbill. The large white birds are Great Egrets, and the smaller egret is a Little Egret. The smallest birds are, Black-winged Stilts.
Great Egrets also occur in the Americas and virtually worldwide. Little Egrets are almost identical to the Snowy Egrets of the Americas, and Black-winged Stilts are very similar to the American, Black-necked Stilts.
A beautiful, Yellow Bittern. I got to see these in Thailand and Cambodia. The birds I saw were very shy and I could not get passable photos.
Philippines Ducks. These are considered to be rare, even in the Philippines.
Although I have already done a post about this painting, Cat Walk, 18x24". I have included it again because I got it professionally photographed. This photo is a little better than the photos that I took.
I also got this latest painting, Summer in the Pribilofs, 12x24" professionally photographed. This photo is far superior to the lousy photos that I shot. It shows what the painting actually looks like.
This is my current painting in progress. It is a Wilson's Snipe, 11x14". At this stage it does not look like much. I have spent a lot of time building up the layers of background vegetation and I have a lot more to add after I paint the snipe. Most of what I have already painted really does not show in the photo. I will probably add some flowers and it will have a dark foreground with  shadowy vegetation that partially covers the bird. At least that is the plan.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Getting All Wet

Today I was out and about in the dim light of Winter, enjoying a balmy temperature of 26 degrees above zero F. There were a few ravens about but not much else. The other day I was watching a pick-up truck driving across a local lake. So today I am being haunted by the ghosts of Summers past with open water and abundant life.
The photos of this post are a random selection of wet birds from recent Summers. The photo above is a post breeding Spotted Sandpiper wading across Fish Creek.
A Short-billed Dowitcher dips its toes in the water and admires its reflection. Or maybe that's just me admiring its reflection.
A pair of Hudsonian Godwits on the coast. The male cannot resist the allure of the cool water and takes a bath in salt water.
A Greater Yellowlegs ruffles its feathers in anticipation of a fresh water bath near Westchester Lagoon.
"What, no bubble bath?"
"Maybe I can churn up my own suds".
"Oh, this feels so good".
"Hey watch the splashing. I did'nt even want a shower".
This Herring Gull says,"let me show you wimpy shorebirds how to take a proper bath".
"Talk about wimps. If you want my respect, let me see you swim a hundred feet underwater like I just did." An easy feat for a Common Goldeneye.
The Common Merganser brags," I bet I can double that distance".

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Top Ten New Birds of 2013

The odd little bird in front is not on the list. I have seen Parakeet Auklets before 2013. My number 10 new bird of 2013 is the bird that looks like a seagull tucked into its niche in the rocks. It is actually a Northern Fulmar, one of the tube noses. I believe that I have seen them before but I was never sure enough to count them. It is one of the great new birds that I saw in the Pribilofs this past July.
Another Pribilof lifer, Pacific Wren. These used to be considered a form of the widespread Winter Wren, which I have seen years before. Recently taxonomists have split them off into a separate species. My 30th species of wren, one of the least colorful of the bunch. New bird number 9.
A bad photo of a bedraggled duck. Normally male, King Eiders are a magnificent sight. This sorry looking guy was also in the Pribilofs. New bird number 8.
This bird on the Pribilofs has been, up to this July, my main Alaska jinx bird. That means that they are fairly easy to find in the Winter, but somehow I always missed out on seeing them. New bird number 7, Snow Bunting.
Although this bird was photographed on the Pribilofs, the first Rock Sandpipers that I saw were in Seward in January. New bird number 6.
Probably the most delightful new bird of 2013, Least Auklet. These guys were nesting under the boulders on this beach in the Pribilofs. You could walk across the rocks and listen to the excited chattering of birds under your feet. You could sit down and soon Least Auklets would land all around you. Our guide said that if you sat still enough they would land on you. They did'nt quite understand what humans were. They were only about six inches tall. New bird number 5.
Another thoroughly delightful bird species. Crested Auklets are also very endearing. They nested on the precarious cliffs of the Pribilofs. Not at all fearful of people. New bird number 4.
This bird earns the number 3 position only because of its rarity. Otherwise it is just another boring gull. Actually I really love gulls. This bird is normally an East Asian endemic. This is a sub-adult, Slaty-backed Gull. They do turn up somewhere in Alaska nearly every year. Usually on some remote island. This one was at a city park in midtown Anchorage.
Another annoying gull. It is actually one of the most beautiful of all gulls. Red-legged Kittiwake. It is also very rare and declining. They are found only on a few islands in the far North Pacific, like the Pribilofs. New bird number 2.
The number one new bird of 2013 is a Eurasian vagrant that I saw in Seward back in January, and again in February. I could not get a very good photo of the Brambling so I used, (with her permission) the photograph that Seward resident Carol Griswold took. There were at least two of them last Winter, and another one being seen in Seward this Winter. On another note, the Dusky Thrush, ( Asian vagrant) that was first seen in Anchorage 3 years ago is still present this Winter.   But wait....
The A-1 new bird of 2013 is an Asian vagrant that showed up in Anchorage my first Winter in Alaska, in 1997. I remember standing around in sub-zero temperatures waiting for the Siberian Accentor to show up at someone's bird feeder. It never showed, and I suffered.
Since that time I have regretted that I missed such a rarity. This past January it showed up in Seward. I went there and found it near the Brambling. I also saw it again in February. Once again I could not manage to get a decent photo so I borrowed this photo from Carol.
There are a few other new birds that I saw in 2013 but could not photograph. They are, Hoary Redpoll, Red Phalarope, and Short-tailed Shearwater. All seen on the Pribilofs.
I'll end this post with my own bad photo the the Brambling in Seward.