Potpourri – A Few Recent Birds, Critters And Experiences

Four bird, one mammal and two “experience” photos – all  taken within the last several weeks.

 

1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I include this shot because it’s my first decent Loggerhead Shrike image of the year and it demonstrates a rather subtle behavior in dealing with strong wind while perched. The bird had aligned its body facing the stiff, very cold wind and simply refused to give me a head turn with eye contact. But the flip side was that it had rotated its tail about 90° and spread it slightly to give me a good look at the black and whites there. I assume it did this so its tail would in effect act as a weather vane and aid in keeping the shrike facing directly into the wind.

 

 

1/1000, f/7.1, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Turkey Vultures began returning to northern Utah a couple of weeks ago. I caught this one in the midst of a rouse before taking off. At this shutter speed there’s some motion blur in some of the feathers but in this action situation I’m fine with that since the head is sharp.

 

 

1/1600, f/8, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 108 mm, not baited, set up or called in

I don’t post many bison photos partly because it’s hard to catch them in interesting behaviors. But this bull had an itch on its chin that wouldn’t quit so he was relieving it with intense scratching on one of the several water “guzzlers” on largely dry Antelope Island. He had been scratching when I drove up and continued to do so for several more minutes. I almost expected him to be groaning and moaning in enjoyment and relief but he was silent the entire time.

 

 

1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

On one of my recent posts involving mating and nesting Red-tailed Hawks some readers expressed surprise that red-tails would nest so close to the road (that nest was in rocky cliffs about 200′ away from the road). Some red-tails are even more tolerant of humans and traffic than that – much more.  This pair has been building a nest on a telephone pole only about 20 feet away from a paved road with significant traffic. They seem unphased by traffic that close – including many large trucks and stock trailers.

I worry about this nest. Utility companies remove nests on utility poles because of fire hazards and danger to the birds (they don’t do it if there are eggs or young in the nest). On this morning one of their crews removed a raven’s nest about 15 miles further north on this road along the same utility line. I suspected that they would also remove this nest later in the morning but the next time I visited the area it was still there. And it still was yesterday, even though it’s now much larger and closer to completion.

 

 

1/6400, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Normally I’d delete this shot of the same birds because it’s soft (I added extra sharpening to compensate) but with my finger on the delete button I hesitated when I noticed something interesting. The female of the pair is delivering nesting material to the nest but when I looked closely at what she had in her beak I could see that she’s carrying seven individual straight and unbranched twigs that almost look like giant toothpicks.

Usually these birds carry single branches or sticks to the nest one at a time (in either their beaks or talons, depending on size and awkwardness). But it seems to me that these single, straight “sticks” would all have to be picked up individually, one at a time. I often watch red-tails foraging for nesting material and I don’t recall ever seeing one of them picking up sticks with other sticks already in its beak.

A little thing perhaps but it caught my attention.

 

 

It will come as no surprise to readers that bird photography trips often don’t go as planned (and hoped for). Following are a couple of examples.

A week ago today I awoke before 4 AM, spent almost two hours completing my blog post for that day and then drove just over 100 miles to be at my birding destination at about dawn. The forecast was good and there were mostly clear skies (when it got light enough to see) the entire way.

 

But this is what greeted me on my arrival – dense fog that stuck around the entire three hours or so we were there. There were raptors in those cliffs but in these conditions it was mostly a waste of time and effort to attempt to photograph them. This is the chance you take whenever you’re near the Great Salt Lake this time of year. On my way home, within 20 miles of leaving the area the fog disappeared and conditions were good again. Frustrating!

 

 

On our bird photography trips Mia rides up front until we reach our destination and then she moves to the back seat for photography so we can both shoot out of the same side of my truck. When she walks around the pickup to get into the back seat she always does me the favor of pushing my huge drivers side mirror far forward so it’s not in my way as I photograph birds out my window. She reverses the process when we’re ready to head home and gets back into the front seat.

But she had a nasty surprise a few days ago as we left Antelope Island.

 

 

On that morning midges were incredibly thick along the causeway (you’d have to experience it to even believe how thick…) so the front of my pickup, including the front of my mirrors, was covered with fresh, thick and juicy “bug” guts. We didn’t think about that before she pushed my mirror back into position (black bugs on black plastic are hard to see) so this is what her hands looked like when she pulled them away from my mirror. She wasn’t a happy camper (and I don’t blame her) so after that experience she’s been using an old plastic bag to grab the mirror before moving it back into position.

Today’s post is somewhat fragmented and disjointed with no truly common theme but sometimes I just go with the flow and see where it takes me.

This was the result…

Ron

 

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27 comments to Potpourri – A Few Recent Birds, Critters And Experiences

  • Chris Sanborn

    Playing catch-up on my comments, Ron, work getting in the way of pleasure this week. But I had seen these photos the other morning, got a good LOL from the bison scratching his itch. But of course the RTHA shots really grabbed me, as did your description of their nesting location — double whammy, next to electrical wires AND a road. See, now I’m going to have to worry about babies or fledglings getting pushed out of the nest by siblings or blown out by winds, to no good result … Wish that work crew had moved in on that nest this week! Will keep a good thought for the family — perhaps you can give us a report later in the season? I do like the mama with her sticks pic — reminds me of a shot I got of a dark-eyed junco gathering twigs in a yard and I swore it looked exactly like that bird had a mustache!

  • Love the pot-pourri; the itchy bison and the pick-up-sticks Red-tail in particular.
    Sigh on the bug guts.

  • Always pack some handiwipes…

  • April Olson

    Nice potpourri. It looks like my day yesterday. The east wind kept the midges away. Surprisingly there were not many people either for a Saturday. It looked like the only nice day so I took a chance and was not disappointed. I wish the utility companies would build more safe platforms to direct the birds into more desirable spaces on their polls. We still get a high number of electrocuted birds in the rehab.

  • Patty Chadwick

    How come she (Mia) didn’t just lick her fingers? I hear bug are high in protein and fiber…..love the itchy chin bison shot…glad to know fresh water is available to them. As for yesterday, the devil made me do it…but at least you know you’re completely safe for another 364 days…. 🙂

    • I’ll let you ask that question of Mia, Patty… 🙂

      Critters can always find fresh water on the island if they go to one of the fresh water springs near the shore and elsewhare but it would be a very long trek for most of them.

  • Susan aka blue

    Theses ordinary details truly add depth to the stories you share, Ron. Thanks…

  • Levi V.

    That last photo was a great one to pair with my morning cereal huh? No, but I don’t mind. I’m not squeamish and I never have been. Whether its bugs or dead critters doesn’t matter. Last week in class someone said, there’s a spider on your back! I mostly didn’t believe him at first, but then the whole class confirmed it. It got to my hair, and when I pulled it out, it was a big wolf spider (I’d been thinking more daddy long legs, or even a mosquito hawk mistaken for a spider, which there are tons of this year probably because of the rains). And the day before yesterday I found some (badly) hidden poached deer bones in a narrow concrete channel 5 ft deep leading out from a pipe under the road in the mountains nearby. Made for some nice bones in the collection. Worth getting stuck in the mountains that day with a couple friends, but that’s a whole other story.
    Nice series also. I especially like turkey vultures.
    Levi

  • Alice Beckcom

    I feel pretty lazy sitting here in my home looking at your beautiful photos and reading your interesting stories to go with them. It is too bad that the fog got in your way and then cleared up when you were too far away to turn back. I like the turkey vulture as I’ve never seen one photographed. Thank you for your great efforts.

  • frank sheets

    Fun variety today Ron. As always, appreciated. Re the TV, I had exactly the same happen to me while in Borrego. TV did its preflight rouse and I caught it as you did. I was set a little faster than you, 1/1300th, and that was still not fast enough to freeze the movement of the feathers resulting in the same motion blur. Still like the image. He was looking right at me, I’m sure saying “get out of my space.” Nice hand dressing for your wife. She could have a patent on some sort of high protein hand moisturizing cream.

    • Frank, I’m ok with motion blur in certain situation and this is one of them. Just to set the record straight Mia is my best friend and constant shooting companion but she isn’t my wife.

  • Marty K

    Photopourri — my favorite kind of post. 🙂 These are all really interesting shots. I noticed the multiple twigs and wondered how she managed to pick them all up in one trip; perhaps they were in a pile to begin with. Glad you were slow on the delete trigger finger. That vulture is pretty nifty too.

    I’m totally with you on the bed thing, but it was always a no-win argument with my mom. You definitely owe Mia big time for the bug-gutty hands! Ewwww. 0.o If it were me, you’d be riding shotgun (and touching gross stuff) for a while. 😉

  • Dick Harlow

    You can have the midges, we have to deal with the Mosquitos and Black Flies as soon as the weather warms up!

    • We have mosquitos and biting gnats (and horse flies and deer flies) but the midges don’t bite. They can sure make a mess on your vehicle though…

  • Dick Harlow

    I enjoyed these shots it is enjoyable to have a change of pace from time to time. The Loggerhead shot is a great shot of a bird we don’t see here in the east. TV’s came back to VT last month and have been lately taking a low profile due to our weather conditions, but we are also see the Black Vulture, which is becoming regular more often. And, as you know I love mammal shots as well as avian images.
    I guess I have to admit that I like the feel of getting into a made bed each night! VBG!

    • “I guess I have to admit that I like the feel of getting into a made bed each night!”

      So do I but sometimes the effort required just isn’t worth it… Thanks, Dick.

  • Judy Gusick

    Wonderful shots/post, Ron. I’ve never noticed a hawk using a power pole tho the Osprey’s do regularly and, in certain areas towards Townsend fake poles have been set up near by and “primed” for them. 🙂 The Bison scratching his chin his fun – sturdy objects needed for that! 🙂 Your windshield appears to have a couple of “nicks” in it – the joys of gravel and dirt roads tho the highway also supplies some of those! YUK on the midges! I wondered how you and Mia worked the available windows thing.:)The brown of the vulture is beautiful. VERY nice collection and stories!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed them, Judy. Yes, I have three “nicks” in my windshield, all from gravel thrown by big trucks or vehicles going much to fast when they go by me on remote roads. Gotta get them repaired but I keep putting it off – too many things on my plate!