Urban Wildlife Habitat

Sweetwater Wetlands is a water treatment facility originally constructed in 1996. The wetlands now use reclaimed water and has become a wildlife viewing area in Tucson, AZ. There is about 2.5 miles of pathway for visitors to walk and it does connect with the “Loop”, yet no bicycles are allowed on the property. You can lock you bike at the fence and take a walk on a pathway from there.

On any given day, I never know if water birds will on the settling ponds, other birds in various trees, insects on the marsh grasses or hawks overhead. There have been days I viewed javelina and bobcats! Many people visit this urban wildlife habitat.

Here are some photos from my recent visit:

The red-winged blackbirds were definitely the noisiest of all the bunch, the duck was nonchalantly walking down a path … no doubt due to few people out in the late morning hot hours … and the turtles, well they may be finishing their mating act. Other visitors to the wetland may be more interested and focused on capturing insects as I guessed this man was with the specific net he was using. I could not capture any moth or butterfly in a photo, but he may have been also interested in damselflies.

For early morning time in nature, this urban wildlife habitat is an easy place to get to and visit, relax and observe nature. As the heat of the day rises, most wildlife settle in away from the hot air. This adds to my challenge, but I also like being out with fewer people on the trail and to see what else may be nonchalantly walking down the trail! (Reminds me too of the coyote I saw lying on a person’s driveway while I rode past on my bicycle.)

Always keep your eyes open; one can never predict what you’ll see in nature. That’s what makes being outdoors so exciting! Where and when are you headed outdoors? Enjoy.

People of All Abilities, Welcome to this Park!

In Pima County, Arizona, a park for all … who knew?

The east end of Speedway Boulevard in Tucson, Arizona ends at Douglas Spring Trailhead, but I wondered what about the west end? So I drove to this end of Speedway Boulevard, took a right turn on N Camino De Oeste and discovered Feliz Paseos Park! Needless to say this was my first visit.

Universally accessible trail system here.

I was most impressed with the trail signage. The directions were easy to understand and information provided more details than I ever expected. When home, I learned this private-public park’s goal was to have a universally accessible trail system. That explained the trail signs noting the grade and cross slope of each trail whether it be gravel or paved. Recognizing the special needs and capabilities of people with disabilities is a huge accomplishment and hopefully a model for other communities.

Super signage!

I enjoyed my visit and had a couple of instances to capture a photo, yet the black-tailed jackrabbit ran off before I could get a photo. Thanks to signage along the trail I learned the names of more plants and animals too. Today’s photos: black throated sparrow, cactus wren, saguaro cactus and a coyote was seen as I was driving out from the park. (And a sign of that jackrabbit that got away from me!)

Someday I will return to this park. I love the fact this park is close enough for all to visit and with trails all can handle along with quite a variety of wildlife to be seen.

Just over the hill and also bordering the park, houses can be seen.

Hummingbirds and Camera Work!

It requires patience to photograph hummingbirds; much easier to simply observe them and place the image in your brain!

During these pandemic days though, I have had time to watch the hummingbirds at our backyard desert willow tree. Its colorful flowers often welcome hummingbirds to flit from flower to flower and so some hummingbirds do. I decided one day to photograph them in our backyard at the desert willow tree. Although the hummingbird’s speed was enough to drive this photographer crazy, I held on.

Once I was all set to photograph a bird it was all about patience. The hummingbird flew in and around and under and beyond and was hard to capture in focus. I waited again … The bird would flit from flower to flower and hide behind leaves when taking its breather. I cannot say the bird was accommodating me.

But, I managed to capture some photos, see below, and am happy to share them with you. I know what I need to do with my camera work to capture better photos, but that is for another day. Enjoy!

Hummingbird coming in for the flower’s nectar.
Hummingbird enjoying this desert willow’s flower.
Hummingbird landing at a desert willow's flower to get nectar.
Hummingbird about to land.

Capturing Action of a Hawk

It was exciting! There was a Harris hawk on top of the pole. I knew it would soon take flight. I did not really know what I would see, nor what I would capture in a photograph. I readied my camera. Where do I begin!?!

I refer to myself as a novice wildlife photographer. I get so excited about the action to eventually unfold that I sense great hesitancy within myself in how I should get my camera ready for the action. I don’t want to miss the action, but I also need to be sure the camera is set!

I begin with shutter speed. Bird flying, I select shutter priority. Dialed in, got it. I consider depth of field and set my aperture. Yes, the hawk is still on the pole. What ISO? Test shot of the hawk on the pole looks okay so I believe I am set.

The hawk has something in its talons!

Do I really have the best lens for a photo as this hawk flies off? Maybe not, but nothing can change in that department. I was only carrying my camera today because I never know what I will see and want to photograph. Often I have had regrets when I do not have my camera. (Best bird watching happens when you have no camera!)

The hawk flies and I immediately see the talons were holding a rabbit in place atop the pole. Wow! Thankfully I had continuous focus and burst on as I tried to get a decent photo or two. Not bad for this lens, but also not great … that’s the way it is sometimes. Any way I look at it though, it was an amazing sight for me to see! Photo or not, it is in my memory!

Wished for Wisconsin Travel

January 2020, I had a great idea! Could I organize a road trip to Madison, Wisconsin? Once settled at a state campground, here was my plan: photography and bird watch in the morning, photography and bicycle ride on bike paths and rural roads during the day, and enjoy dinner and craft beers in the evening.

February 2020. So I could camp at state parks, I got my Non-resident Annual Admission Sticker to WI State Parks and Forests and to bicycle ride on their trails I got the WI Annual State Trail Pass. I wanted both done to have 2 less things to do when in the state. Campground and hotel reservations were also made from Arizona to Madison and Stevens Point, Wisconsin. My plan was to be traveling for a month but I only booked half the accommodations. I researched Audubon Centers and other places of interest, along with bike paths that criss cross the state of Wisconsin. How could I not get excited about eating cheese in this state? It has the largest number of milk goats and 600 or more cheesemakers. I did not know it is a large cranberry producer and despite being known for its Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, I heard a craft brewery scene had been growing. I wanted to check all of this out!

I was ready for Wisconsin camping and bicycling!

March 2020, do I have to cancel my May into June visit to Wisconsin? Covid-19 has run rampant the past few months around the world, including the USA. What shelter-in-place world am I living in now?

April 2020. The numbers of USA Covid-19 cases and deaths related to the virus increase across our nation. I cancel all my accommodations. Thank goodness I only booked a couple of weeks, but I am sad. I love to travel and discover new places and things. Darn, darn, darn!

May 25, 2020, I thought I was going to be on the road this day, Memorial Day. I had booked my WI state park reservation back in the winter since I figured everyone else would be camping this weekend too. Instead I am home in Arizona with limited access to most places and our Covid-19 cases still on the rise. I will take time on this day to honor the men and women who died while serving in the US military. There usually are parades, but there is a 3pm, your local time, national moment of remembrance on this day too … a time to think and thank those who served, and I want to thank those individuals who still serve!

You and I are alive; let’s have a good Memorial Day wherever we are!

The message on this trail is a good one!

Forget Your Birding Plan

My goal was to photograph the red-faced warbler. Well actually to get a better photo since the last time I saw one. How difficult can that be? For starters, I needed to find the bird. And have my appropriate camera lens out and ready to capture the photo.

Forget any birding plan you may have; it’s a crazy idea to think you’ll view and accomplish what you want. Last week I did not see the red-faced warbler till I was further in the woods so today I casually walked the path observing yellow-eyed juncos, robins, and gnatcatchers. Then to my surprise I see a pair of red-faced warblers!

I was happy and annoyed to see this pair as there was no way to capture a good photo! I decided to follow them down the path. I mean how far could they go and not allow me another opportunity to see them in this vast forest!?! Stupid idea on my part. It’ll be hours before I see red-faced warblers again.

I spent 4.5 hours in the forest and did capture a couple of okay photos and saw a bird I had never seen before: the painted redstart. Here’s a photo:

Painted redstart

This bird was then displaying it feathers and putting on quite a show … obviously not for me, but I tried to capture the action in a photo.

Painted redstart trying to catch someones’ attention!

I walked past acorn woodpeckers, Swainson’s thrush, Western bluebirds, yellow rumped warblers and FINALLY I see red-faced warblers! I am hoping for the best light. I am holding the 5 pound zoom lens to capture a good photo within focus. I am wishing my tripod was set up, but I am not going to let these birds escape me again today. So here is one photo:

Red-faced warbler

I will keep working on my birding, my photography and my patience with hopes that someday my birding plan will go as I planned. No, that’s crazy! That will never happen.

Sexy Time for Roadrunners!

Last week my bicycle ride was eventful! While cycling a quiet neighborhood there was this fluttering sound on the other side of the road. My cycling partner and I noticed roadrunners having sex! Amazingly the male was simultaneously holding a dangling dead lizard in his beak … talk about multi-tasking!

My photos are not very good, but here the two roadrunners are in action.

Male on female while he holds the lizard in his beak!

The male went running off, then returned seeming to offer the female the lizard. Now they had the lizard being torn between the two of them! The female cowered and the male strutted away. Wow, what a sexy time!

Female roadrunner cowering.
Male roadrunner strutted away.

Day 26: Hidden

I spent more than an hour in one spot bird watching. Why? Did I have nothing else to do with my day? No, I find to photograph birds one needs to be patient, plus I did have plenty of time.

I was watching a house wren fly in, pass me and then disappear. For the longest time I could not figure out where it was going? In the forest underbrush and upward to its canopy of leaves there were plenty of places for this wren to go and be lost to me.

I changed my position, waited for it to fly by me again, and began to narrow down the field of landing places for this bird. On one fly-by the bird had a blade of dried grass and it slowed the bird down as it tried to enter a hole in a tree knot. Finally I saw where the wren was building its nest! It was hidden yet also in plain view once one knew where to look!

The wren did plenty of work and also took time to rest between flights. As a result, all of my time observing and the bird’s work easily involved more than an hour. The location of the wren’s home is safe with me.

House wren takes a breather while working on a nest on the next tree.

Day 25: Magic

This is magic to me … use of editing tools on my photos.

I know these tools are not really magic; however, to use them and more clearly see a bird in a photo surely seems like magic to me! I was in a canyon looking for a particular bird and using a new camera lens. I waited an hour and finally saw a few birds in the area. One was right above me and not with the best light for photographing it, but it was a bird I hoped to see. I snapped a couple of shots and the bird was gone.

Not till I was home looking at my photos on my computer did I know if I captured the bird in a photo. I am new to the editing programs so I simply hoped for the best and tried some “magic” to the photo. No doubt better lighting at the time of the shoot would have helped tremendously!

While this is still really a rough photo, otherwise I would refer to it as a lousy photo, it does prove to me I saw the bird I had hoped to see. There is enough information in the photo for me to identify the bird and that was the magic at work for me!

I do remember the old days when I would wait days for a roll of film to be developed, often times with really lousy photos on the roll when I finally saw my work. Today, I love digital technology and the magic of the editing tools! Now to get outdoors again and take a photo with better light.

Red faced warbler

Day 20: Music

I can listen to most music. When I am in my car I choose a music channel dependent on my mood. Will it be hard rock, blues, classical or the 80’s? It may even be Broadway tunes! Interestingly, it is only when I am driving my car or flying in an airplane where I mostly listen to music. Hiking or bicycling times are for listening to nature; no ear buds here.

When I travel, I love to attend organ concerts or evening music presentations around the world. I have heard fantastic quartets, choirs and musicians. Whether sitting in a beautiful church in Poland, a cave in Portugal, or on a grassy knoll in New York, it is time to relax and enjoy the music!

Last year I met a musician; it was the bird on his head first capturing my attention. Actually, he was not much of a musician, but I loved his spirit! Yes he strummed some tune, walked away realizing none of us were appreciating his talent, and returned just before we took off. With some change from my pocket, this Moroccan man allowed me to photograph him. Music takes all forms which is why I love travel and music!

Moroccan musician and his bird!