Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Post Christmas Meanderings

This random post will start with some photos that Bart shot along the cliffs south of Anchorage. There is a place where Dall Sheep often come down from their lofty realm to browse close to the Seward Highway. I have seen them in that area many times but I never had a camera handy when I saw them.
Bart got a great family shot of a ram, ewe, and lamb recently. The wind often blows away the snow on these exposed cliffs. That is what probably attracts the sheep.
A ewe and a nearly grown lamb. Right now Bart is exploring the Everglades in Florida. I hope he gets some great photos.
Although I have not posted any artwork in months that does not mean that I have been doing nothing. I was contacted by an author to illustrate a book geared toward young people. The author Barbara has published several previous books about Alaskan wildlife. The next book will be about Alaska birds. I think it may be a coloring book of some sort.
Barbara asked me to draw a Spruce Grouse to show her a sample of my work. Now she wants to meet me to work out the particulars for illustrating the book. I have been working on two other paintings as well but I am not ready to post photos yet.
For some reason I have been reminiscing about African grasslands. I got this photo of a male, Long-tailed Whydah in Marievale Wildlife Refuge in South Africa some years ago. 
Such a long tail does not make for efficient flying but it does impress the lady whydahs.
A close relative, Pin-tailed Widow. Both species are nest parasites that lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.
A Blacksmith Plover in the rain.
Another grassland inhabitant, Swainson's Frankolin.
Black-bellied Bustards are common in protected grasslands in much of sub-saharan Africa. They often do some odd dancing rituals in the hopes of impressing their fellow bustards. It does not seem to matter whether there is another bustard present or not.
The grasslands contain lots of fat grasshoppers to attract Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills.
That's it for this week.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Top Ten Birds in 2015

Not the most exciting bird sighting in the world but I guess that this is my best bird sighting in 2015. It is one of only two new birds for the year. I have been so busy with other things and lazy when it comes to birding. I missed many opportunities to see good birds, but I did get a few goodies. This is Anchorage's first Eurasian Collared Dove.
This is a photo that I stole off the internet. From Cornell if I remember correctly. It is a female, Purple Finch. My second lifer for the year was a female Purple Finch in Seward back in February. I did not manage a photo of my own.
There were also a few birds that were not new birds for me; just new for my Alaska bird list.
This is a photo that I stole from Wikipedia. Many local Alaska birders were thrilled to see a Terek Sandpiper on the Coastal trail. It is a Eurasian species. It showed up twice over the course of the summer. I also saw a few of them in Thailand some years ago.
A terrible photo, but a first for me in Alaska. This is a female, Cassin's Finch. They are very similar to Purple Finches.
Another new bird for my Alaska bird list. I was happy to see this Say's Phoebe on the Coastal Trail. They may be common as dirt further south, they certainly are not common around these parts.
Another common as dirt bird south of Alaska, this is my first Killdeer in Alaska. It was in Seward in Feb.
I usually see Marbled Murrelets in Seward in winter but this is the first that I got close enough to photograph.
Although I have seen Hooded Mergansers in Alaska several times. This male is the first that I managed to photograph. This individual is always accompanied by this female Common Goldeneye. They are regulars in Seward.
I am always happy to see Surf Scoters in Seward. We seldom see them in Anchorage.
I have only seen a handful of Blue-winged Teal in Alaska. I got one this summer in Anchorage.
It was also a thrill for me to find some Harlequin Ducks along Ship Creek in Anchorage this summer.
This is only the second, Costa's Hummingbird that I have seen in Alaska.
I think that is more than ten favorite birds. There are many other contenders but I have to quit somewhere.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

More From Nipomo

Don sent me some more photos from Nipomo, CA. This Long-tailed Weasel has a distinctive white spot in the middle of its forehead. I remember being with Maggie when we saw an identical looking weasel near the town of Greer in Arizona. I was not fast enough on the trigger to get a photo. It was gone in an instant.
BTW I am putting the finishing touches on a Short-tailed Weasel painting right now.
This one managed to snag one of the local birds. I think it may be a young robin. Weasels are cute but deadly predators.
An immature White-crowned Sparrow in great light that shows off its warm colors.
The less colorful adult White-crowned Sparrow.
A plethora of Anna's Hummingbirds.
That many hummingbirds can suck up a lot of sugar water.
Scrub Jays always make an impression with their loud voice, if not with their bright colors.
A nice close-up of a Northern Mockingbird. They can sing the day and night away borrowing the songs of many kinds of other birds.
I love this photo of a White-tailed Kite soaring past the moon.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Turtles and Birds

 While Bart was in Hawaii he got to see some of the sea turtles that nest on the island. Since receiving protection the sea turtle population has recovered enough that sea turtles are a common sight in places.
They often arrive onto nesting beaches en masse and overwhelm egg predators with their sheer numbers.
I confess to having eaten sea turtle meat on two occasions way back in the 1970's in Mexico. It was delicious. I only feel a little bit guilty.
Is this guy big enough to prey upon a turtle egg or hatchling?
A fine portrait of a Cattle Egret.
Meanwhile back in Nipomo, California a sinister head popped up over the hedge in my friend Don's backyard.
The local song birds, like this Scrub Jay beat a hasty retreat.
This immature Cooper's Hawk is a regular visitor to Don's property. It is the scourge of the local birds.
The young accipitor has not yet learned that sitting in the bird bath is an ineffective spot for ambushing small birds. Maybe it thinks that the ceramic bird could be a tasty lunch.
While the Cooper's Hawk hogged the top of the bird bath a Spotted Towhee quietly searched for seeds underneath.
Don thinks that Spotted Towhees are the most beautiful of all birds. Which bird do you think is the most beautiful?
Another local bird that prefers to forage on the ground is the California Thrasher.
All of the birds in this post are old friends of mine from way back and I miss seeing them since they do not make it up to Alaska.
There is more to come from Nipomo.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Exotic Oahu

The last post was about Bart and Sandy's trip to Raratonga. Right now Bart is on a business trip to Hawaii, the island of Oahu.  He recently purchased a fine telephoto lens for his camera and he brought it along to occupy his time when he is not working. He has been sending me photos every few days.
This puts my bird identifying skills to the test. I'll call this one an introduced White-rumped Shama although the shamas I saw in Thailand have redder underparts. Maybe island life is changing them over time. They have wonderful singing voices.
Another introduced exotic, Red-vented Bulbul.
I love the scaling on its breast. A handsome bulbul.
The species deserves a third look showing  some more scaling on its back.
An introduced exotic that comes from the same region of the world, Common Myna. The Quimbies saw some in Raratonga as well.
This one comes from South America; A Brazilian Cardinal.
The most exotic of all, a House Sparrow. Although my caption is 'tongue in cheek', it would be an exotic bird here in Alaska. We never see them.
They are not all birds; this Monarch, (or Monarch relative) may or may not be an introduced species.
Not an introduced exotic, Pacific Golden Plovers get to Hawaii on their own.
This PGP has banding on its legs. Where was it banded, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Alaska, or Hawaii? That is what makes me curious.
Another shorebird species that naturally occurs in Hawaii. These are Sanderlings. Both Pacific Golden Plovers and Sanderlings breed in Alaska, although we seldom see them in Anchorge.
I believe that this Sanderling is a juvenile bird. Sanderlings look completely different in their breeding plumage.
There is more to come from Oahu.