I am an avid nature photographer. I take at least one picture every day. My favorite subjects are birds and lighthouses. If you find my photography pleasing and want to use any of my photos for non-commercial purposes, please ask for permission.

Friday, April 20, 2012

More of my favorite things---Birds

Today I am going to start out by writing about something we were able to see develop over a few days.  There was this Chipped Sparrow and a baby.  I always thought the baby looked too large to be a baby, but it certainly acted like one.  I took pictures of the two of them when the baby was twice as large as the mother.  I sent it around on email asking people to help me with this.  One of my friends that knows a lot about birds told me that a Brown Headed Cowbird had pushed the sparrows eggs out of the nest and laid hers there for the sparrow to take care of.  That is what the cowbirds do.  Here is the picture. That sparrow must have worked all day to keep that baby fed!!!!

I really like Pelicans.  It must be because they just seem so graceful.  They are not the most attractive birds.  As a mater of fact some people may say they are quite funny looking.  When we lived in South Dakota we had many of the American White Pelicans.  The White Pelicans scoop fish up while swimming.  The Brown Pelicans dive into the water to get their fish.  The picture of the American White was taken in Brown County in South Dakota.  The picture of the Brown Pelican was taken at the Children's Beach in La Jolla, California.

I love the next picture.  I need to send it into "Birds and Bloom."  I got this shot while in Mishawaka, IN.  So you suppose that duck shops there????

One of my favorite pictures is of this Blue Jay taking a bath.  He really got into it.  I am not sure how long it went on, but it was a hot day and he seemed to be enjoying it.

Another favorite bathing picture of mine is this one of a Mallard Duck.  Mallards seem to be everywhere.  I love seeing that green head of the male shining in the sunlight.  They are beautiful birds.

The next bird is another of those that are not everyone's favorite.  They were generally sea birds, but they have moved inland to lakes and rivers.  They are the Cormorants.  They are quite the divers and some have been known to dive into the water to a depth of  45 meters.  I found a lot of these birds in South Dakota.  I am not sure how long they have been there.  I don't remember them at all until about 20 years ago.  But their population has grown rapidly.  Here is a picture of one that I took in Marshall County, SD.

Here is a picture I took in Spink County, SD. this could be the front of a Halloween Card.

The Yellow Headed Blackbird is very striking in appearance. It has a loud call. It places its nest over water, attached to cattails and reeds.They use a lot of the same habitat as the Red Winged Blackbird.  The Yellow Headed Blackbirds are larger and more aggressive than the Red winged one are, so they chase them out of the area where they are at.  This picture was taken in Spink county, SD.

I am going to end with a couple pictures of the Bald Eagle.  They are my favorite birds to photograph.  I was lucky enough to be able to see many while visiting Alaska in both Eagle River and Homer.

I hope you have enjoyed my pictures and commentary on some more birds.  I tried to chose some pictures that were different from those you see everyday.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A favorite of mine--BIRDS

I believe one of the more fascinating of all of God's creations are birds. First of all they can fly.  Some are so large that one wonders how they stay up in the air.  Others like the hummingbirds are so small  that one wonders how they survive.  I am going to share with you some of my more fascinating pictures of birds.  Some birds are beautiful and some are not.  But they all are magnificent

The first pictures are of our nation's bird, the Bald Eagle. There is no way to describe what it is like to have these birds flying close to you.  They are truly a magnificent bird. The juvenile's head and tail turn white at about the age of 4-5. The male and female return to the same nest every year.  The nest can weigh up to a thousand pounds.

This one was looking right at me.

This is a lucky shot.  To get two flying that close together was marvelous.

Now lets go to a bird that is not considered to be a favorite--The Turkey Vulture.  I really am never very excited about photographing them.  However, God made them.  Did you know that they are one of the few birds with a developed sense of smell?  They are usually mute, making only grunts or groans.  It seems that they are always in the air.  Occasionally a person sees one on the ground.

The next is one of the owls found in Michigan.  The Barred Owl.  It is named that because of the dark horizontal "barring" on the chest.  They can often be seen hunting during the day.  I love this picture.  He looks so sleepy.

The next picture is of a peacock in all of his glory.  You can usually tell when one is around by their call.

Here is a picture of a what people call a Black Cardinal.  I did not know these birds existed until a few years ago.  When a person told me what they were, I actually thought they were wrong, so I looked them up on the internet.  The name really is the Phainopepla. His name means shining robe. When he flies, you will see a white patch on each wing.  The females are gray color.  What I thought was fascinating is the red eyes against the black.  These really are not classified as a cardinal.  They are actually in the fly catcher family of birds.  They are only found in the the southwest part of the United States.  I was very happy to get a picture of one as they are not that easy to find.

Here is another lucky shot.  Although their backs were to me, I was happy to get this picture of two Sandhill Cranes coming in to land.  These birds have a very distinctive call.  When they fly overhead, you can usually tell they are in the area, as they are not quiet.

Now a favorite with almost everyone---the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  I try every year to get a spectacular picture of one of these and every year I fall short.  We have even created a "Hummingbird garden" in our backyard.  Because of that we are attracting more of them, but I still have not gotten that perfect shot.

Last year we had the very noisy House Wrens in our front yard in one of our birdhouses.  Yes, they can nearly drive one crazy with their singing from dusk to dawn.  But, they are so little and really very cute.  Here is a picture of a baby house wren.

Living by Lake Michigan I feel obligated to add a picture of a sea gull. I call this one "Bird on a mission."

Now lets get to some of the more colorful birds. Those that we love having at our backyard feeders.  Let's start with the beautiful Indigo Bunting.  These come into my backyard briefly and seem to leave as fast as they come.  It is usually around Mother's Day that we see one.

 Then there is the Baltimore Oriole.  I usually hear them before I see them.  Just put out some grape jelly and some oranges and here in SW Michigan, you will probably have many.

Another colorful bird that I look for in the spring is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The males are very colorful.  The females are not, and they are mainly identified by their beaks.  In the spring, the males arrive first, followed shortly after by the females.

I plan to do another blog on birds in the future.  There are so many different birds and I have thousands of pictures.  Luckily for you, I will not share all of them.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Creating a good photo

This photo was recently chosen to be one of the photos posted on Birds and Blooms website for the monthly photo challenge.  It is a good photo, but I would not consider it a great photo.  Lots of people take really good pictures of Goldfinches.  I believe this one was chosen for the setting.  Usually when one photographs birds in the backyard at your feeders, they do not look like they are in a natural setting.  I prefer to have my pictures of birds all be in natural settings, but that is not the way it usually happens.  

We have many different bird feeders in our yard, because we feed all different kinds of birds.  Our feeders are hanging from the  large black hooks.  Here are some of the things we have done to take better bird pictures. We have removed a screen from one of the windows that is by the bird feeders. We also have attached a dead branch to the top of the hook to give the birds a natural looking landing place before they continue on to the feeder.  Last year I purchased some artificial greenery and attached to the branch.  This picture of the goldfinch is taken on the top of the feeder sitting on the dead branch with the artificial greenery behind him.  I have used depth of field on my camera to blur the background.  One cannot tell that the greenery is artificial because of that. I am pretty sure that when people look at this picture they think the bird is sitting in a tree.  That is what I want them to think.

I hope this blog has been helpful for those of you that like to take pictures of backyard birds.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

One hundred days visiting the Hawaiian Islands

We have been very fortunate to have spent nearly one hundred days visiting the Hawaiian Islands.  This mainly is because we have a daughter and son-in-law that have been stationed there for three years and they have been gracious in "putting up with us"  for a month each of the last three years.  We have visited five of the islands.   Oahu is one of my favorite islands because of all the things there is to do there.  And I am a doer.  I also like the big island of Hawaii.  I am all about God's creations and the volcanoes are awesome.  What power they have.  Plus, the flora on the Big Island is the best of all the islands we have been to.

I will go through what I liked about each island and maybe some of what I disliked.

First of all lets look at the Big Island of Hawaii. The volcanoes have to be my first stop.  The lava is flowing into the ocean and it is an awesome sight.  Below is a picture of a road that Dave and I traveled on when we went to Hawaii in the 1980's.

As you can see, the road is now covered with lava.  So is the house that that was the Volcano's National Park House.  It is amazing as to how much area the lava has covered up since we were first there.

Below is a picture of Rainbow Falls.  It is gorgeous and if you go back behind it, it is gorgeous back there too.

I said that the flora was gorgeous on the island.  The next two pictures are of that.

The next island I will cover is Molaki.  We went to Kalaupapa.  We took this little plane over and it was windy.  However, we made it just fine.  Kalaupapa is home to the people that have Hanson's Disease.  (Also known as leprosy.)  Flying over Molaki is beautiful.  It has the highest sea cliffs in the world. It truly is stunning.

Here is a picture of the runway.  As you can see, one needs a small aircraft.

While we were at the airport waiting for the plane that morning, my stomach felt a little funny.  I have a tendency to get very sick, when I get sick.  After we landed and got on the bus, I was really not feeling well at all.  I did get very sick.  To make matters worse, the island had not had rain for the longest time.  The people at Kalaupapa were not allowed to have children.  Children cannot even visit there.  But they are allowed to have pets and a lot of them have cats.  Because of that there is also a lot of farrow cats.  Without rain the urine of the cats does not get washed away and the area really smells.  Being sick and then getting a whiff of that was pretty awful.  But I did the bus tour.  We saw the church that was named after Father Damion who helped the people with Hanson's Disease have as normal of a life as they could.  Prior to that conditions were not good.  A picture of the church is posted below.

Now there is treatment for Hanson's Disease and the picture below shows the patient before the treatment and then afterward.  Quite a difference.  If I were to go back, I would visit the upper part of Molaki.  Needless to say, being very sick did not make nice memories for me.  I was even sick the next day.  I also think the cost was way high.  Someone is making a lot of money on us tourists.

The next island I will cover will be Maui.  I only got to go there once, and as I said before we got caught in a winter storm while there.  But we did have some time where we were not in bad weather.  The first was right after we landed and went on a whale watching tour.  The whales got up close.  They were so close that their spray landed on us.  They believe the one whale went under our boat.  The males were fighting and the whales were breaching.  It was totally awesome.

We also were able to go up to Haliaka Canyon on one day that it did not rain.  It is gorgeous up there.  That day we found a little snow there also.

We also found the Silver Plant while we were on our way up.  It is very rare and it really does look silver.  My picture really does not do it justice.

All in all I enjoyed the time in Maui.  I wish we had been able to drive the "Road to Hana", but it was not met to be.  We did have a wonderful dinner at the 'Melting Pot" while there.  And one of the best things was that nearly every time we stepped out of our door to the resort we were in we saw whales breaching.  A very fun time.  I would go back.

We went to Kauai two times.  The first time was the day after Christmas in 2009.  We flew in, rented a car, toured the island, and flew out in the evening.  We went to Kilauea Lighthouse on one side of the island and then we wanted to see Waimea Canyon on the other side of the island.  We saw both, but were stuck in a traffic jam the rest of the time.

This past year we went back to Kauai for a few days.  We again went to the lighthouse area because it is a National Wild Life Sanctuary. We got to see several of the native birds.  It was one of the highlights of Hawaii.

There was the Red Footed Booby.

And the Nene.  The Nene are Hawaii's State Bird and really quite difficult to find.

But the best thing on Kauai was "Glass Beach."  Yes it is a beach made up mostly of sea glass For those of us that love picking up sea glass, this was a little much even for us.  As we drove up to park there were spinner dolphins out in the ocean jumping.  Totally amazing.

We also got to see a Monk Seal while there.  They are endangered.

The last day that we were there we walked through a rain forest and then had lunch and after that spent an hour or so in the orchards.  We got to taste any fruit we wanted to that was ripe and we were allowed to take as much home as we could.  I enjoyed tasting the fruit.  I did not find any that I did not like.  While in the rain forest I took a picture of this crab spider. It is a funny looking spider.

And the last picture I will post from Kauai is just a scenery picture that says you are in Hawaii.

Now on to Oahu.  My favorite paid activity there is the Outrigger Barefoot Sunset Cruise.  We went on that each of the last three years.  It is a relaxing and fun time.  You sail out from Waikiki and stay until the sun sets and then you return to shore.  We saw whales breaching two of the three times.

We also visited the USS Arizona Memorial all three times.  This past year we got the go on the Commander's Boat Cruise out to the Memorial.  On that tour they showed us many of the other memorials.

We spent many hours at Hanauma Bay.  Snorkeling was Dave's favorite activity.  I never managed to snorkel, but I enjoyed seeing the colorful fish from above the water.

Another favorite thing to do while on Oahu was to see the huge waves on the North Shore.  Of course that always met stopping at Ted's and picking up a Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie on the way home.  

Sometimes it also met a stop at Macky's Truck for some awesome coconut shrimp.  I think it is the best on the island.

I could go on and on about the Hawaiian Islands, but this blog is already quite long already.

I hope you have enjoyed it.  Please feel free to make comments.