Friday, April 17, 2015

Bird Watching at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

Apologies for the weird and maudlin post yesterday - I've never had to deal with getting news like that from a friend and it really threw me for a loop.  I suppose I've been lucky up until now to have avoided anything like this so far.  My dad's stroke was so completely sudden that there wasn't any time to think about it until after it was all over.

So, I'm trying to get my brain back into a happier place and thought it would be good to focus on something I've really been enjoying lately:  birds and improving my photography skills.  Toward that end, I've been reading lots of tutorials and decided to grab the kid and head to the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary nearby for a morning of bird watching and photography.  Ryan brought his camera, too, and we sort of made a competition out of who could get the best shots and find the most unusual birds (even though the sanctuary is only a few miles from my house, many of these birds don't frequent my neighborhood).  Mostly, we just had a lot of fun!

While I'm sure I'll never be a noted photographer, I can at least tell that my skills improved a bit from the research I did.

This is a Dark-Eyed Junco.  I think it's kind of cool that their beaks are pale pink - that seems unusual to me.  There was a whole flock of them on the ground near a bench I was sitting on.  Not quite as clear as I would've liked, but a whole lot better than the last birding pics I took with my iPhone through a window into my backyard LOL. 

Okay, not a bird, but this gray squirrel did pose so nicely for me (although I still ended up with a bit of blur...must get tripod!) 

This is a bird I'd not seen locally before - a White-Breasted Nuthatch.  He was tough to capture - really flitted around a lot and kept taking off every time I moved the camera.
This shot is slightly closer up, but he's a little behind the big log he's sitting on.

Another bird I didn't know we had in the local area - an Acorn Woodpecker.  They were all over the place at Tucker and you could really hear them pecking and pecking!  They have bright red heads and when they fly, there are bright white splotches on their wings that flash.  This one seemed to prefer a telephone pole to an actual tree.
And then there were two of can see the red head on the one on the right.
Took me a while to identify this one.  I could tell it was some kind of sparrow, but the bold black and white stripes on the head didn't match any of the sparrows I was more familiar with.

It turned out to be a White-Crowned Sparrow.
I love birds with bright colors...and we don't seem to have that many of them so I always notice when a bright splash of blue turns up.

I'd give anything if my camera had a more zoom on it - I wanted to get closer up to this guy.

He wouldn't let me do it, though.

Until...finally I caught him at a different feeder elsewhere in the sanctuary and I was able to sneak up a little closer.  This is a Western Scrub Jay.  I remember jays from my grandparents' house in New Mexico - but they must have been a different kind because they were larger than this bird and had crests on their heads (I'm guessing they were Steller's Jays).  The only one like that that I have ever seen in California was during our trip to Lake Tahoe a couple of summers ago.

Now, we come to my favorite of all the birds - hummingbirds.  I just can't get enough of them and there are somewhere between 5-7 different kinds to be found at the Tucker Sanctuary.  They totally cater to them, too, as there are feeders EVERYWHERE and the hummers will buzz you off the trail if you block their flight to a feeder.  They are very bold for their size!  I'm not sure which species this one doesn't have the bright head of a male Anna's, but is also missing the reddish brown feathers of an Allen's or Rufous.  It might be a female or juvenile.
This is a male Anna's Hummingbird.  Head feathers look pretty dull until the sunlight hits them JUST RIGHT and then...
...POW!  Look at that amazing hot pink!  They truly look like flying jewels!
I thought these all came out pretty well for trying to capture something moving as fast as a hummingbird.  My goal is to continue to improve to the point that I can justify buying a more advanced camera with things like a zoom lens, etc.  I'm even looking into classes in the hopes that maybe Ryan will have enough interest that we can take one together.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Highest of Highs and the Lowest of Lows

If I didn't already have proof enough that life is truly the biggest, scariest roller coaster around, this week has sure confirmed it for me.  I went from receiving some really fantastic, long-awaited good news to getting some really super terrible news...all in about 24 hours.

When I came back from vacation on Monday, I was greeted with the news that I have advanced in my career and moved ahead at my company.  I've been working very hard towards this goal and it was really exciting to find out that my hard work has paid off.

The next day, I received the devastating news that a dear friend has been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition.  It was like getting punched in the stomach and now I find myself ping-ponging back and forth between states of happiness for myself, but absolute sadness on behalf of my friend with a mid-way stop in Guiltsville.

How do I reconcile these two extremes?  Is it even possible?  I'm not even sure why I'm writing this other than the hope that putting my feelings down in words will somehow clarify things for me.

I hope to be back in balance soon and am looking forward to sharing some of the amazing photos and experiences from our trip.


Friday, April 03, 2015

Catch Up Bead Porn

Okay, so, the bird obsession has lasted a little bit longer than I thought LOL!  I've been out and about taking bird photos at some nearby "birding hotspots" and now have the eBird application on my iPhone.  I also got a nice pair of binoculars and have been reading up on how to improve my photography.  I want to get a new camera, but I figure I can only justify it if I start to get serious about learning how to really use the camera I currently have.

Hey, when I get into something...I go whole hog (see "beads" and "obsessed with"...ahem).  The good news is, I think all the photography work has definitely yielded some results.  I took some amazing pictures at the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary last weekend and will be sharing them as soon as I've got time to download and edit them.

An upcoming family vacation promises even more opportunities to put my new bird-finding and photography skills to work as well.

In the meantime, I thought a bead porn post was long overdue:

Textured brass ring and...

...textured pewter ring and...

...hammered brass ring from Dream Girl Beads.  I use these rings  with my waxed linen cord bead/wrap/knot technique.
Tiger ebony wood ovals and...

...drilled rings from E and E Bungalow.

Pewter dragonfly clasp and...

...pewter seahorse clasp from Fab Beads.
Textured copper toggle clasps from Supply Your Soul.
Brass shell charms and...

...whale's tail charms from Havana Beads.

Enamel disk charms and...

...enamel rings from Eden Art Glass.  I used both of these enameled pieces in a couple of recent pairs of earrings.

Cute bunny polymer clay pendant and...

...coordinator charms from Beady Eyed Bunny.
Multi-colored Mykonos ceramic squares and...

...short tubes from Linden Avenue.
Ceramic bead set from White Clover Kiln

Green blue droplets and... sherbet ceramic sticks from Suburban Girl Beads.

Brightly dotted lampwork from Puffafish.  I just used these in a necklace design - came out so pretty!  Great materials always give you a better shot at great results.
Tiny, yummy glass "droplets" in shades of green/blue...


...and violet/green are all from Pinocean.  What can I say?  There was a sale and I couldn't make a decision LOL!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Photos from Bird Land

I promise to get back to all things beady soon, but I just had to share a few photos that I was finally able to take of the activity at the bird feeder.  They are not super high quality as I did have to take them through a window, but I was still able to catch a lot more than I had thought would be possible.

I figured out that if I get below the edge of the window sill and crawl up onto the couch and move really slowly, I can raise my iPhone high enough to snap photos without scaring the birds.  Can't use my regular digital camera as, apparently, it is too noticeable really freaks out the birds.  I think because the iPhone is so slim and is in a dark case, it's not as obvious to them.

Here's what I was able to capture:

This is a male House Finch.

He has a red head and chest.  The females are all brown/tan/cream and don't have the red.
These are the mourning doves that like to come in the late afternoon up until sunset and clean up whatever has fallen from the feeder above.  It's awesome to have a great clean up crew!  Normally, I only see them in pairs of two so it was a little odd to see a third one - hopefully nothing happened to its mate.  I couldn't capture it in the photos, but their necks and wings have a subtle lavender iridescence to them in the right light - you think they are very plain birds until you see that and then it's like pretty!
I got super lucky and managed to already be in mid-click on the iPhone camera when my little hummingbird showed up and took a seat at the feeder.  I had just brewed a new batch of nectar about an hour before this so was excited to see this little visitor drop by.

I just kept clicking non-stop and got a shot of it actually drinking!

And flying...okay, kinda blurry, but still so cool!

This shot is a bit better...if only the hummer wasn't the same color as the fence LOL!  I'm still learning my identification skills, but I'm pretty sure this is a Rufous...and I think it's more likely to be a female (or a juvenile) because the colors are more subdued.
This bird first showed up last weekend and I spent most of the week trying to identify it from one brief glimpse and not having much luck.  I finally saw it again later in the week and realized it was a bit lighter in color than I had remembered from my first sighting and that it has a pale cinnamon/pink area underneath its tail.
Armed with that information, I'm pretty sure I've correctly identified it as a California Towhee.  This one, like the doves, is part of the ground clean up crew.  I did see him go to the main feeder once or twice, but he seems to prefer the ground.
This is my favorite of all the birds that have come by so far - mostly because I never realized we had any local birds that had this kind of coloration.  Just goes to show how much is going on around you that you can totally miss!

He's very timid...and will not come directly to the main feeder at all.  He starts out on a high branch in the palm trees in my neighbor's yard that overlook the feeder, then moves to a lower branch, then moves to the fence and then finally will go to the suet cage...

...and attempt to grab a mouthful in mid-flight...

...which I was lucky enough to capture (look at that bright yellow on his back - so pretty!)...
...and then off he flies with his beak full of yummy suet!  And that's our Yellow-Rumped Warbler
I will get over this obsession soon LOL.  I probably watched too many episodes of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" as a child (and now you know how old I am, too!)