Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Friday, May 29, 2015

Gibbons and Elephants etc

Finally I am getting back to Dan and friends in Thailand. They headed to northern Thailand where they climbed into the treetops in search of White-handed Gibbons.
They crossed from one tree to another on a zip line. It was certainly a highlight of the trip.
Their quarry was waiting for them in the tree canopy/ Younger gibbons like this individual tend to be lighter in color than adult gibbons.
Two adults swing effortlessly from the tree limbs in this photo.They seldom descend to the ground. Gibbons have a very loud call that can be heard echoing through the forests, especially in the early mornings.
I wonder what they think about humans joining them in their lofty home?
Once they made it back to terra firme they climbed up again, onto the backs of elephants. This is their friendly mahut whose name I do not know.
.They happily undertook their elephant trek through the tropical forest. I do not know whether the elephant enjoyed the excursion.
The whole group traveled across forested hillsides north of Chiang Mai.
The photo above makes me believe that this elephant is probably thinking, "just kill me now". Actually for all I know the elephant loves the whole experience. It's certainly better than standing around in a zoo compound somewhere.
Dan and co. enjoyed seeing some exotic butterflies.
I do not know the species, but I like the blue spots.
Thailand has Green Peacocks, a different species than the Blue Peacocks of India. Green Peafowl are a little bigger than Indian Peafowl.  They come in three different sub-species and all are endangered. The males have taller crests than blue peacocks and light brown rather than orange primaries. Female Green Peafowl are more brightly colored than female Indian Peafowl.
More to come from Thailand.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ship Creek Wonders

If you regularly read this blog, then you know that the majority of my local birding is done at Spenard Crossing, Westchester Lagoon, and the Anchorage Coastal Trail. That means that I neglect other prime birding locations. One that I seldom visit is actually closer to my home than the other locations, Ship Creek.
Ship Creek is a greenbelt that winds through the industrial part of town. It is a sliver of paradise in the midst of an ecological wasteland. That helps to explain why I seldom go there although I am always telling myself to go.
On Friday the office was closed so I had an extra day off. Instead of painting at home like I should have done, I took my new camera to Ship Creek. I started out upstream and worked my way to the coast, hearing loud industrial noises all around but seeing a more natural setting before me. Right away I spotted this male Harlequin Duck through the vegetation above. I could hardly believe that I was seeing a Harlequin Duck right in town. Not the first time that I have seen a Harlequin in Anchorage, just an unexpected joy in such a marginal site.
There was a lot of thick vegetation between myself and the duck. I tried to find a clear view so I moved from one vantage to another. My attention was so focused on the male Harlequin that I did not even notice the female as I took this photo.
Eventually I noticed the female Harlequin but I did not even notice the female Common Merganser that was squabbling with it. I never noticed the merganser until after the harlequins had drifted off.
I finally got more unobstructed views but I was still a good distance away. I regretted not having my HS-50 with its more powerful zoom lens.
In all I saw 3 pairs of Harlequins although these were the only ones that I photographed. I guess they breed in Ship Creek although I did not know that. What a treasure.
Just downstream from the Harlequins I found this Belted Kingfisher on some industrial debris.
A few miles downstream I got close to this male, Common Merganser.
It appears to be enjoying that scratch. What a foot. At this point I was plenty tired of lugging that heavy Sigma lens.
There were lots of White-crowned Sparrows. I also saw plenty of warblers, starlings, redpolls, juncos, Ruby-crowned Kinglets etc. There was a few Spotted Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, many gulls, other species of ducks including a single, White-fronted Goose at the mouth where Ship Creek enters the ocean. I missed seeing Dippers which nest along the creek. A reason to go back soon I hope.
I have made some progress on the swan painting.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

An Extra Post

I usually try to do a blog post on weekends. This is an extra post to show the results of a minor experiment that I attempted yesterday evening. It all started because I was bemoaning the need to use a tripod or monopod whenever I wanted to use my fancy new Canon camera and lens.
I only got the new camera because I was dissatisfied by my old camera's inability to get really sharp images at full zoom. Then it hit me. Why don't I put the old camera on a tripod to see if that improves the images?
The photo of a Green-winged Teal above is one that I shot with the old HS-50 on a tripod.
It had a mate next to it but I basically ignored her. She had her head in the water almost the entire time I was there anyway.
The HS-50 has image stabilization but maybe that is not enough. The Greater Scaup above was shot using both image stabilization and a tripod.  
At first I thought that this was a Lesser Scaup nearby the Greater Scaup but now I'm not so sure.
Further out there was a Ring-necked Duck near a pair of Greater Scaups.
You can almost see the nearly imaginary ring around its neck.
I shot this photo of a Gadwall on the same little pond where I shot the Gadwall in the last post. This duck is bigger because the HS-50 is more powerful than the lens on the Canon. This photo is clearly superior to that other photo. It is probably the best Gadwall photo that I have ever taken.
I also got a photo or two of this Am. Widgeon in poor light.
I also got this so-so photo of an Orange-crowned Warbler.
The best bird of the evening was this Wandering Tattler. It was about 9:00 pm when I shot this photo from quite a distance.
What are the results of my experiment with the tripod? The HS-50 is better when I use a tripod with it. Will I quit using the Canon? No. It has its advantages in many ways. It is good to have both cameras in my inventory.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Spring Arrivals and a Surprise

Poor Dan will have to wait yet another week before I can continue posting photos of his trip to Thailand. Who knows when I will finally get to posting photos of Maggie's trip to Iran? Yes I said Iran. No one goes there, but she did, and loved it.
In the last few weeks birds have been showing up in Alaska and I have been out and about with my new camera and lens to photograph them. Although I have zillions of Arctic Tern photos taken from this same perch in Westchester Lagoon, I had to try it with the new equipment.
I cannot see any improvement in image quality using the Canon 6D over the HS-50. The Fujifilm camera is so much easier to manage and more powerful.
I like this photo because you can easily see the drake Northern Shoveler but did you notice the hen shoveler right next to him?
She almost becomes invisible in the grass.
A boring shot of a drake Gadwall. Nevertheless I am happy to see him.
A more impressive Northern Pintail.
I photographed this pair of Steller's Jays several weeks earlier. They were gathering nesting material.
This bird was a nice surprise to see along the coastal trail. Do you know what it is? They do not normally occur in this part of Alaska. It is common further South but a nice new addition to my Alaska bird list. I have not seen one since I my last trip to central Mexico years ago. It is a Say's Phoebe.
All of the nature oriented people around here anxiously look forward to the arrival of Sandhill Cranes.
I believe that its mate was sitting on the nest hidden in the grass in nearby Fish Creek.
The crane gets a running start before taking flight. I did'nt disturb it. Noisy hikers on the coastal trail did. I don't think they even noticed the crane.
I posted this photo earlier. I decided to paint it.
Notice the changes I have made in the arrangement? It has been well over a month since I have lifted a paint brush before starting this 11x14" composition. Shame on me.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Photo Contest

I will interrupt Dan's Thailand vacation to post about an online Alaska photo contest here. I decided to enter some of my favorite photos. The contest ends on May 15th. The photo above is some storm clouds reflected in Goose Creek.
There was a large limit of 100 entries per person. Needless to say, there are many thousands of photographs that the judges will have to sort through. I entered something like 40 photos myself. One of them being the Fall foliage along the Knik River above.
How do you choose photos that are likely to stand out from thousands of others? I know that I do not possess the technical skills that real photographers put into their photos. If you follow the link to see the other entries you will see that I am not the only amateur in the contest.
There are many Moose photos in the contest but this is my best effort.
This could very well be the only spider photo that has been submitted.
I entered three photos of this church. They are all pretty good.
I tried not to enter too many photos of obscure species of birds although they tend to be my favorite subject matter. This is a Golden-crowned Sparrow.
Naturally I had to enter ar least some bird photos like these Western Sandpipers.
I tried to find photos of animals doing interesting things. Unfortunately I do not have very many of those. I like this Saw-whet Owl being inspected by a Red Squirrel.
This Common Murre breaking up through the ice is also interesting behavior.
Maybe not interesting, but it is kind of cute. Tree Swallows.
This photo of a Sea Otter is the one that has generated the most interest from viewers. Be sure to visit the website to view the entries. Among the many average photos there are some really inspirational photos. Use the site's search engine to view all of my entries.