Friday, May 31, 2013

Stellar's Jay

The Stellar's Jay is a striking bird, closely related to the Blue Jay. It is the only crested jay west of the Rocky Mountains. It was named after the German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Stellar. Primarily residing in coniferous forests, they also inhabit other forested areas. Stellar's Jays are omnivores, with 2/3 of their diet consisting of plant matter and 1/3 animal matter. The nest is usually in a conifer but sometimes they use the hollow of a tree.

These shots were taken at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, OR. Unfortunately, he scampered around in a shaded area, so these are not the sharpest of shots, and the best I could do hand held at a shutter speed of 1/320, ISO 3200, f/8. The rule is to have your shutter speed at or exceeding your focal length, so I'm pleased that these came out as well as they did, considering I was using the 400mm lens fully extended. My poor daughter's Nikon pooped out on her during our visit here, throwing out a shutter error message. It will have to make a trip to the camera hospital soon. :(
The feathering appeared a lighter blue when he was puffed up.

The only shot I was able to get from his back side. So although his face is blurry, I wanted you to see the detail of the feathers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Hello amigos! I had a glorious time in Portland with my daughter. What a good sport she was, driving me from the mountains to the high desert to Washington State! We both added many new birds to our life list, as well as other wildlife such as ELK! While we had some rain to contend with, it didn't interfere with anything we set out to do. Bertha managed to capture 953 images, so it may take a while to get my act together as far as sharing some of them on my blog. Don't worry, I will not be bombarding you with photos!

The image below was taken with my iPhone and is one of my favorites. This was from our first hiking expedition at Smith Rock. Nestled between the towns of Redmond and Terrebonne in Central Oregon, it is considered the birthplace of sport climbing, with over 1000 climbing routes of all difficulty levels. We meandered along Crooked River, the easiest of the hiking routes. Smith Rock reminded me of the Grand Canyon and is simply spectacular. I am so glad we ignored the weather forecast. Although it rained that morning, by the time we arrived at our destination, the sun made its appearance and blue skies smiled down on us. I felt very blessed.

Please stay tuned for more stories and images. I promise to catch up and see what you've all been up to as soon as I get my shower and a load of laundry in. Hope everyone has been well!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Coneflowers and a gift

One more post before I leave on my trip. The violent thunderstorm that rolled through here at 5AM bestowed three extra hours on my day. :) I hope all my friends in North Texas are okay, as I learned they had some pretty severe storms, too. Prayers still going out to Oklahoma and the Midwest.

Yesterday I made a quick dash to the arboretum to see what was blooming. Actually, I was hoping to see butterflies, but only saw a clouded sulphur that refused to light. The purple coneflowers were beckoning, so I obliged.
Isn't it sweet how the tall coneflower seems to be sheltering the little one?
It makes me think of the teachers in Oklahoma who sheltered the children from the tornado.

I have no idea what that snowflake-looking thing is in the upper right of the photo.

A sweet surprise awaited me when I returned from the botanical garden. My sweet friend at Gone Country had knitted me a beautiful red scarf! I purchased one from her in January and loved it. I meant to blog about it, but for one reason or another didn't get around to it. She has since learned a new method of creating the scarf and wanted me to have the 'new and improved' version—her words. Although I thought the first scarf was super nice, I must admit the new scarf is very full and luxurious. The yarn she uses is so soft, too. She has recently embarked on The Pink Scarf Project to help women fighting breast cancer. She's got a big heart and mad talent. :) Thank you for blessing me with this unexpected gift, and for remembering that my mom's favorite color was red.

I'd like to leave you with this:
Torn paper by French Kiss Textures
Butterfly by JoesSistah

Monday, May 20, 2013

Horses and miscellany

It's been so hot and windy here lately that I haven't photographed anything worthy to share. I've been wanting to show you my agapanthus, but the wind is wreaking havoc with their portraits. The heat really zaps me. I wilt like a piece of lettuce over a pot of hot water. Perhaps my trip to Portland will inspire me. I'm leaving Thursday, so this will likely be my only post this week. I have a lot left to do to get ready, plus dealing with some family drama, so I'll try to catch up with y'all next week. Be good and stay safe. My heart is heavy for those affected by the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and the Midwest. :(

Below are some shots from the archives.
Look at those crazy eyes. I felt sorry for this horse as I hate to see animals cooped up in stalls or cages.
You can see where he's chewed the front of his stall. 

Different horse, same stables, April

South Baton Rouge along River Road, April (iPhone)

Wild berries, Bluebonnet Swamp, April

Baby starling, early May

Baby downy woodpecker having trouble negotiating the fence.
Mama Cardinal seemed to be saying "Where's your mama?"

American robin, Baton Rouge State Capitol, April

Thursday, May 16, 2013


My mind has been so scattered lately. The root of it all (I suspect) is something that starts with an M and ends with a PAUSE. I've been forgetting about my favorite memes, so I hope it's not too late to enter them. I read a book called Still Alice recently, recommended by Lisa at Two Bears Farm. It's a fictional account of a 52-year-old with early onset Alzheimer's. While I loved the book, every little instance of forgetfulness makes me paranoid that I have the disease.

What was I saying? SEE?! Oh yeah, the memes. Here are some bird shots taken in my yard and at a nearby park.
Red-bellied woodpecker

Downy woodpecker baby being fed

My first sighting of the Eastern kingbird. Not the best shot, but at least I have a new bird to add to my list.

Loggerhead shrike aka butcher bird

Eurasian collared dove
These birds inhabiting North America are the result of a pet store robbery in the
Bahamas in the 1970s where several escaped. The store owner then released
the rest of the flock—another 50 or so. More interesting facts here.

As usual, I will be laying low for the weekend. My new computer policy, in addition to quitting Facebook, is to only blog during the week. While I don't post every day, I do still visit my favorite blogs each week day morning (and sometimes evenings). Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Edited to add two more memes I forgot about:
She Who Carries Camera: Garden Party!

Skywatch Friday
Eagle's nest in February

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What was I thinking?!

When the sign says you must be in good physical condition to hike at Clark Creek, it actually translates "Must have completed AT LEAST 3 months of boot camp, sanctioned by the U.S. Army".

What a freaking horrible birthday! I won't bore you with the details of Double D's scary driving getting us there AND him passing by several gas stations because they were .02 cents too high even though we were on Double E. Ha! I just realized Double D was on Double E. Anyway, twenty minutes into the hike, after going up one particularly steep incline, I knew deep in my gut that I had made a terrible mistake planning this hike. Possibly a fatal error. :/

At one point I sank down on the gravel path and cried. Double D kept trying to encourage me that I could do it. I envisioned needing an ambulance, but with no cell service so deep in the woods, I feared death was imminent. Good thing I had obeyed the warning on the web site about bringing bottled water, though one bottle each wasn't really enough.

When I returned home I only had 40 shots on my memory card. We heard birds everywhere, but because the trees are so tall and there were so many of them, the birds could not be seen. This is what I managed to get with my camera when my hands and legs weren't shaking. Don't worry about trying to compliment these photos as I know they are not my best. I hesitated putting my name on them and posting them at all.
As I came up a hill I saw these trees. I thought "How pretty!"
It all feel apart after that.

There are six waterfalls on the established trails. We only saw two.
And those two were so pathetic that I had no desire to find the other four. 

One of the few stairwells. More of these would have been helpful to have
something to hold onto. Imagine negotiating 8 extra pounds of camera gear
on the inclines with no railings or steps. BRUTAL.

Ebony jewelwing damselfly

Any idea what type of lizard this is?
Hilary, thank you so much for selecting Battle of the Birds as a Post of the Week! What a huge honor. Thank you, thank you!! Please visit Hilary's blog to see other POTW winners and Hilary's own amazing photography.

On a separate note, I am on a Facebook sabbatical for an undetermined time. It has not enhanced my life in any way. In fact, I either feel depressed after reading all the challenges that people face, or I feel less than adequate as I compare my life to those who seem to be living large. It's not healthy for me, so I hope those who recently befriended me will not take it personally. It's something I've been struggling with for quite some time. I've been on Facebook since 2007, and I've had to remove myself a couple of times for the same reasons.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Walk Like An Egyptian

I have had such a successful birding year already with yet another new species to add to my list: the Egyptian Goose. I was hiking at a newly discovered birding spot in town last week and met a group of ladies on their afternoon walk. They noticed my lens, stopped to talk, then pointed to the geese about 1/4 mile from where we stood. My legs couldn't get me over there fast enough. Luckily, I was able to get within a few feet without spooking them.

I have no idea how they ended up in Baton Rouge, but it was a treat to photograph them. The next day I went back to improve my photos and the geese were nowhere to be found. The clover had been mowed, so maybe they moved on to another feeding area.

**This is a scheduled post. Tomorrow is my birthday, so Double D is taking me hiking at Clark Creek Nature Area in Woodville, MS, about 60 miles from our house. In addition to birding, the area has several nice waterfalls and uncommon trees. Hopefully I will return with some nice photos!**

Further reading about the Egyptian Goose (Abridged excerpts from Wikipedia):
The Egyptian Goose is thought to be closely related to shelducks and their relatives. Native to Africa south of the Sahara and Nile Valley. They were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, appearing in much of their art. Because of their popularity as an ornamental bird, escapes are common and small feral populations have become established in Western Europe. Escapees have also bred on occasion in other places, such as Florida and New Zealand. Both sexes are aggressively territorial towards their own species when breeding and frequently pursue intruders in the air, attacking them in aerial "dogfights". They nest in a large variety of situations, especially in holes in mature trees. The female builds the nest from reeds, leaves and grass, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs. Egyptian Geese usually pair for life. Both the male and female care for the offspring until they are old enough to care for themselves.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Battle of the Birds

We have a new arrival at our backyard feeders: the red-bellied woodpecker. And he is quite smitten with the peanut feeder. For the last few days he has successfully fought off every starling that has tried to overtake the coveted feeder. He is a one-man army fighting for his cause. Finally, the starlings put their bird brains together and figured if they double-teamed him, they might be able to take the feeder back. It all came to a head recently and it was really fun to watch. What can I say? I'm easily amused. You can see how Woody is having a nice leisurely lunch at first, then the peaceful meal escalates into a frenzy as the starlings assert their dominance.
Mmmm...nice morsel...

It's so peaceful without those foul and uncouth starlings. Maybe they won't show today.

Spoke too soon! Dagnabit!

Starling: I am the angel of death and this is your warning.

Woody: Back off you brute!

Woody: I will cut you, fool!

Starling: Muah hahaha. We'll see about that. I have friends in high places.

Oh, crap.

Uh oh, I'm surrounded.

I'm outta here!
Woody either realized he was outnumbered or got tired of defending his territory. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of that $12.99 bag of peanuts. Well worth the price of admission!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! See you on Monday. :)