Greater Roadrunner: Nevada USA

Okay, I’ll say it. I grew up watching Bugs Bunny as a kid and loved the cartoons with the roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) and that bumbling Wile E. Coyote who tried endlessly to capture that speedy bird. I must say that I admired the coyote. He was a persistent fellow and never let failure deter him.

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Up until last year, I had never observed a roadrunner and it was different than I expected (too many cartoons). It is in the cuckoo family living in open arid habitats in northern Mexico and in the southwestern United States.

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The roadrunner is capable of flight but prefers the ground. We were able to photograph it in a tree which is apparently not common. As you can see, all of our ground pictures are still shots. I did not anticipate the speed of this bird, which can reach speeds of 30 km/h (20 mph). Wildlife encounters are often brief. I had my shutter speed at 1/200 of a second which proved much to slow for a speedster like a roadrunner.

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The roadrunner nests in cactus or a thick shrub not far off the ground and will lay 3-5 eggs. These eggs will hatch in about 20 days and the chicks will be capable of running in another 18 days.

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Because it lives in an arid environment the diet includes a wide variety of desert organisms including snakes, lizards, scorpions, spiders, and insects. An adult bird is capable of killing rodents and small birds. It can be seen holding larger prey in its bill and smashing it into the ground repeatedly until its victim dies.

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Mountain Bluebird: Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert, Nevada

Our goal was to photograph the sunrise at Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas. We had photographed the canyon during the day just after a rare snowfall. The rocks in this canyon are multicolored and we thought it might make for some nice sunrise pictures. A coyote crossed our path as we drove in the night to reach our destination. As the sun began to rise Tricia decided to use her drone to capture a different perspective of a beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise Red Rock Canyon 1

As she continued with the drone I decided to hike into the interesting red sandstone rock formations. As daylight was beginning to wake the world, I came across a male mountain bluebird (Sialia currucoides). What a colorful bird! Unfortunately, the light levels were low first thing in the morning so I had to increase my ISO substantially in order to capture him. Using a high ISO allows you to shoot in lower light conditions but makes the pictures more grainy (not as sharp). Considering the conditions, I was happy with the end result.

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The pictures directly above and below have the red sandstone formations as a background and hence the red colored background. The mountain bluebird in the picture below is sitting next to desert mistletoe (the red plant). Mistletoe is a leafless parasitic plant that grows on other vegetation like desert trees and shrubs. It obtains some of its some of its nutrients from the plant it has embedded into.

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This mountain bluebird was in its’ winter range in February. It eats insects and berries. During breeding season it will lay 5-6 eggs in a natural cavity. They line this hole with grass and the young hatch in about 14 days. The naked birds grow rapidly and then leave the nest approximately 21 days. The mountain bluebird is the state bird of Nevada.

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American Coot (Mud Hen): Las Vegas Wetlands

Adding birds to our photography adds so many new subjects to what we can photograph when we travel to a new area. Along with the common gallinule, we got some pictures of the American coot (Fulica americana).

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They make their home in marshes and wetlands. These water birds are not ducks and do not have webbed feet. They have extremely odd looking feet and their toes fold back enabling them to walk on land. Their feet look out of proportion to the rest of their body. However, they are commonly observed with ducks.

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The American coot is common although this was our first encounter with this bird. The male and female are similar in appearance, unlike ducks where the male generally has brilliant plumage.

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To find food it can walk on land, consume aquatic vegetation while swimming, and is also capable of diving. Consequently, it has a varied diet which includes snails and fish. Nests are made from marsh vegetation and the female will produce about 8-10 eggs. Incubation is shared by both parents and the eggs hatch about 21 days later.

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Hummingbirds In Baja California Sur, Mexico

Every day we walk the arid canyons and hills around Danzante Bay along the Sea of Cortez. The sparse vegetation has many cacti and some flowering shrubs. Surprisingly, we see hummingbirds out here on a regular basis which we did not expect.

Moon over Mountain

At Villa Del Palmar where we are staying, they have flowering plants that attract the hummingbirds on a regular basis. There are two species that we have identified. The Xantus’ and the Costa’s hummingbirds.

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Costa’s Hummingbird
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Xantus’ Hummingbird

Hummingbirds proved difficult to photograph as they don’t stay still for very long. To get closeup shots we shot at 600mm with our 150-600mm lens. With such a narrow field of view, it takes time to find the hummingbirds. After you find it the next step is to focus on the bird but most of the time the hummingbird has decided to move to the next flower. They zip around from flower to flower in a very irregular pattern.

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Costa’s Hummingbird

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Xantus’ Hummingbird

The key to getting these photos was patience and taking lots of photos (most of them were discarded). Hopefully, you will enjoy these beautiful little birds.Hummingbird7

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Xantus’ Hummingbird
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Costa’s Hummingbird
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Xantus’ Hummingbird
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Costa’s Hummingbird

Birds: Often Overlooked In The Serengeti

Okay, we know everyone thinks of lions, elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes and leopards: the big animals. While working on our animal photos it became apparent that there were lots of bird photographs. 29 different species to be exact! Of course we want to give the illusion we are intelligent so onto the internet we go to find bird names 🙂 Three of the species below we could not find a matching photograph anywhere. Enjoy the birds and if you see we have labelled a species incorrectly or know the species we have as unknown, then let us know in the comments section.

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Black-Headed Heron
Bird11
Usambiro Barbet
Bird13
Helmeted Guinea Fowl
Bird24
Lilac-Breasted Roller
Bird29
Coqui Francolin

 

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Auger Buzzard
Bird4
Common Ostrich: Male
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Common Ostriches: Female
Bird2
Egyptian Goose
Bird16
Spotted Crake?
Bird9
Greater Flamingoes
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Lesser Flamingoes
Bird19
Unknown
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African White-Backed Vulture
Bird25
Superb Starling
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Unknown Pigeon or Dove: Ngorongoro Crater
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Yellow-Billed Stork. Note the crocodile in bottom of picture
Bird22
White-headed Buffalo Weaver
Bird18
African Spoonbill
Bird30
Red-Necked Spurfowl
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Great White Pelican
Bird14
Blacksmith Lapwing
Bird15
Cattle Egret
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Rufous-tailed Weaver
Bird12
Southern Ground Hornbill
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Unknown Weaver: Female
Bird8
Kori Bustard
Bird26
Spekes Weaver
Bird17
Black-winged Stilt
Bird31
Marabou Stork

 

 

 

Birds of Grand Cayman

We chose Grand Cayman as a good location to lay low and recharge after a  very busy field season with our business.  Our intention was to snorkel, go for walks and learn about our cameras. Since we decided not to take our underwater housings, all of our photos are on land.  We discovered that Grand Cayman is an amazing spot if you are interested in birds.

We stayed at the Morritt’s Grand Resort on the east end which is the quieter end of Grand Cayman. Our unit was beautiful, roomy & functional with a full kitchen.

A few more photos of the resort:

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Most days we enjoyed beautiful sunrises & sunsets

We had daily visits from a very nosy Greater Antillean Grackle 🙂

The number and variety of birds we were able to photograph was incredible. Although we are not bird experts we took the time to look these up and we believe they are all correctly named. Here are the types of birds we saw:

Smooth-Billed Ani

Bananquit

Cattle Egret

Green Heron

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

American Bittern

American Bittern

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Cuban Bull Finch

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Giant Kingbird

West Indian Woodpecker after a heavy downpour

West Indian Woodpecker

Ruddy Turnstone

Magnificent Frigatebird

Northern Mockingbird

Cayman Parrots (our favourite!)

Cayman Parrot

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