Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Blog Has Moved!

I have decided for various reasons to move my blog to a new site. It's now at

If you would like to easily follow from the new location, there is a box you can click on to subscribe to the blog and therefore receive an email notifying you of new updates!

Thanks so much for following thus far and I'll see you over at the new place...


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Birding in Phoenix

Verdin - Gilbert Water Ranch

After living in the country so long and spending most of my time in rural and wilderness areas, I am beginning to realize the benefits of urban birding. Especially in the desert. Wherever there is water, there are birds. This water may be waste water from our toilets and showers or reclaimed agricultural irrigation, but who cares. It's water and there are birds! These facilities are built to be as attractive as possible, so they put in and trees, shrubs, cactus, and flowering plants - which attract more birds! Many people like to enjoy the walking trails through these places, so the wildlife has become somewhat comfortable to our presence, making them the ideal birding and photography locations.

I have always tried to get out of the city to fill my nature cup, but when I can't, I head to the local water reclamation facility to "get away". And they don't smell all that bad, either.

Here's a handful of images from my latest adventures...

Clark's Grebe - Kiwanis Park, Tempe

Anna's Hummingbird - my back porch (not a wastewater facility)

Great Blue Heron - Gilbert Water Ranch

Western Grebe - Veteran's Oasis Park, Chandler

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grebe Yoga

Got out this evening to a new location - Veterans Oasis Park in Chandler, AZ. They tell me there are a bunch of ponds there, but I only made it to the first one. And never got off the paved sidewalk. This Western Grebe was in a great spot on the pond and gave me the perfect sun angle to shoot. He stretched a couple times, striking this interesting pose. Other than that he just hung out. So I might visit him again with the hopes of some more action.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gilbert Water Ranch

Between working inside so much on my calendar lately and the harsh summer light and heat, I haven't been doing any serious bird photography for some time now. So I got up early the other day and headed to the Gilbert Water Ranch to see some birds and make sure I still know how to use my camera.

The Wood Stork is still present and was exploring all the pools there, but wherever I went, there was the stork. We must have been on the same agenda. He was often with lots of Great Egrets, but I finally got him alone in the viewfinder for a minute while he was cleaning himself after a round of feeding.

Black-necked Stilts were abundant and had a handful of young of the year with them. Many other birds there to photograph, but as tempting as it was to wade out into a pool to get better shots, the place is a water reclamation facility and that probably wouldn't be the best decision.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rainy Day in the Sonoran

It finally rained here in the Arizona desert. It's been a long time since we've seen any and hope we'll get more during this unimpressive monsoon season. It actually rained for most of the two days I was in southern AZ looking for birds and it felt great! I managed a few bird shots but also took the opportunity to do a little HDR scenery shooting. My fingers are crossed for some cool lightning sometime soon...

Western Kingbird in the rain

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Windmill near Sonoita, AZ

Santa Rita Mountains, AZ

Friday, August 14, 2009

Unidentified Warbler

Update: Majority vote says it's a juvenile Yellow Warbler

Photographed this warbler at Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve on Aug 13 while looking for the Rufous-capped Warblers. There was some discussion about it amongst those of us there, but didn't come to a conclusion. Wondering what you all think it might be....... thanks!

Friday, August 7, 2009


After learning a few new tricks with HDR (high dynamic range) photography, I pulled out my Cactus Bling shot that I posted awhile back and had a little fun with it. I was disappointed in the way the original version looked since it didn't show the colors that were there in person, which is why I converted it to black and white. This is a common thing trying to photograph something in the desert during the day. So I guess this new version makes up for the lack of color before! I'm hoping to find some new subjects to do more HDR stuff with when I'm not having good luck with the birds.

On a side note, I was shocked and saddened to find the junk has been removed from this Giant Saguaro. Guess it was a victim of a road cleanup project. So this image is now one of a kind!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Just got back a few days ago from a great trip home to the Great Lakes region. It was cool and cloudy most of the time which provided welcome relief from the relentless heat and bright sunshine of Phoenix. I didn't bring home my big lens for shooting birds, but I did bring smaller stuff to have a little fun. I plan on shooting some star trails in the desert this winter, so the star shot was basically just a test. The old light is where they used to clean fish at night near our lakehouse up in Wisconsin. And some Illinois wildflowers...

Also had the chance to try out some Nikon gear and photographed the infamous kitten named Wildfire.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Neighbors

After moving to the other side of Phoenix and putting up some new bird feeders, we have quite a few birds to enjoy. The spirited House Finches told everyone in the neighborhood there was food at our place and they all came. White-winged Doves, Inca Doves, Mourning Doves, Great Tailed Grackles, Curve-billed Thrashers, Mockingbirds and Gila Woodpeckers have shown up. Gambel's Quail are down on the ground as well as the Abert's Towhees. Verdin come around in the trees but not to the feeders. The hummingbird feeders are popular too with the House Finches, but they do give way for the Anna's Hummingbird to drink. There are many around, but one particular male likes to defend the feeders. I photographed him when he was scolding the other male just for coming near.

The other photo is a Veery last spring in Ohio. I decided to post it after finding it while going through all my bird photos for a book project. We were in the rain when I made this image.
Makes me miss birding in the Midwest!

Monday, July 6, 2009


Last week I received my final prize from the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop - a new Lensbaby Composer. I experimented with it, using my cat as a model. She certainly is beautiful enough and has the body to be a centerfold! So here she is, my beloved Smokey.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


American Kestrel

This past week I was up in Yellowstone National Park for the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop. I was one of the four lucky amateurs to be selected out of over 2,000 to attend this workshop hosted by Apple and pro photographer Scott Bourne. The other pros were Steve Simon, Frederick Van Johnson, and Gary Hamburgh. The amateurs that also won the trip are Elyse Weadock, Olga Yiparaki, and Ara Roselani. Cathy Chung served as our historian and entertainment. We all had an amazing time with lots of learning, photography, eating and laughter. Yellowstone was incredible as always, especially with the snow and light conditions of late winter/early spring. To hear more about the workshop and everyone that was there, visit Here are some of my images made over the few days. Stay tuned for more...

Mule Deer

Lone Tree in Fog and Snow

Cowboy driving Bison back to Yellowstone

Common Raven squawking in the cold

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cactus Bling

Happy Vernal Equinox! This Saguaro is all dressed up and ready for the return of spring...

Another Round of Arizona Birds

Well I spent the past couple days wandering around southeastern Arizona, but spent the majority of my time in Madera Canyon. My original goal was to find three life birds, but things didn't go according to plan. So I threw in the towel on those birds and hung around with my camera at Madera Kubo. Met lots of nice folks and photographed a few species I haven't before. The roadrunner was at a lower elevation near Tubac.
Arizona Woodpecker
Painted Redstart
Acorn Woodpecker
Hepatic Tanager
Greater Roadrunner

Monday, March 2, 2009

California Condors

Made a trip to the Grand Canyon this past week with my girlfriend, her cousin, and two brothers. We were treated to great views of the condors at the south rim. Two of them were there on the cliff just hanging out and preening one another. A third condor appeared out of thin air and joined them on the rocks for a few minutes before they all took off and soared around the bend out of sight.

With the canyon being such an enormous place and the condors so few in numbers, I certainly feel lucky to have shared half an hour with them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Taking It Easy...

I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona; such a fine sight to see...

Green Heron - Arizona

Bosque del Apache NWR - New Mexico

White Tank Mountains - Arizona
The cactus in the front right of this image is Teddy Bear Cholla and according to my friend Ethan Meleg, "it's evil". Well, two days later I was in the middle of lots of cholla and found a cactus wren nest in the top of one. As I leaned in to check it out, the wren flew out right into my face and caused me to step back - right into more cholla. The bulbs full of spines break right off and I had three bulbs stuck into the back of my leg - two in my thigh and one behind my knee. The spines go in all directions and seem to have barbs on them that make them difficult and painful to pull out. Just one of these bulbs puts maybe a dozen spines in your skin and how do you grab it to pull it out??? I couldn't walk without spines pulling my skin and more trying to go in, so right there by the nest I had to pull my pants down and work the spines out with various camera parts. I was in so much pain that my eyes were watering and I was yelling and swearing through the whole process which took me almost 45 minutes to complete. The saguaros must have found it one of the funniest things they've ever witnessed and the wren was scolding me the whole time. I want to go back and photograph the nest, but maybe not until I find some Kevlar pants...

Black-necked Stilt - Arizona

Prickly Pear Cactus - Arizona

My job at the Ballpark

After months of hard and thankless work, Fitch Park looks great and baseball is finally here! The Cubs have been working out this past week and I've been able to meet a number of current and past players, as well as famous fans. Lee Smith showed me how to throw a few of his pitches that earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, joined the end of Fantasy Camp and I was lucky enough to share a few minutes with him. Eddie wrote a great song about the Cubs and how "someday we'll go all the way!" - he signed my ball and vinyl album and I gave him my anti-Bush t-shirt. Hopefully he'll wear it at a show sometime...
Lots more fun to come during this spring training!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ghost Bird

Just wanted to post this quick so this bird can be seen by all! On the way back north after some birding in Patagonia this morning, I checked my phone and saw a report of a leucistic American Kestrel. My reaction was "wow! a white kestrel!". Not knowing where in Arizona the bird may be, I figured I'd find out more about it later. No more than ten minutes later while driving up the two lane highway, I happened upon the white kestrel! Needless to say, my eyes bugged out and I can happily say the ABS brakes on the car are working great! I grabbed my camera, jumped out, and the bird flew off the power lines and back into the trees. I set my camera on my bean bag on the roof of the car and the kestrel flew from far back in the trees straight toward me and landed in a great spot for me to photograph him. So here are a couple of my shots. What a gorgeous bird!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bush's Last Weekend

Did you know W. has removed protection from the Grey Wolves for the second time this year? Last time he did this 110 wolves in the Yellowstone region were killed in as many days. The locals are cleaning their guns for round two. Why would he do this after all the time and money the government spent to return wolves to the northwest and restore our only complete ecosystem? I could offer some suggestions as to why, but I don't want to call him names on my blog. Maybe it was his parting shot as he leaves the white house, which for me can't come soon enough. If you don't know what I'm talking about, grab any book on the return of the wolf to yellowstone and you'll be enlightened. Maybe outraged in the end.

To put me in a better mood, I turn to sharing some of my recent shots from Arizona and Wisconsin.

Whitewater Draw - Arizona

Black-necked Stilt - Arizona

Lake Puckaway - Wisconsin

Red-tailed Hawk - Arizona

Sulpher Springs Valley - Arizona

Red-tailed Hawk - Arizona