Swallow Nest Building

Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva). Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

I have to confess that I never knew how swallows carry all that mud to build their large nests.  It should have been no surprise to learn from this image that the mud is actually transported as a big blob stuck onto the bill.  This bird made repeated trips to the water’s edge – each time returning with a tiny amount of material for the nest.

Swallows are quite challenging to photograph in flight because they fly fast and make rapid changes of direction.  This bird was flying into a strong headwind and was purposefully heading in a straight line towards the nest. Both of these factors enabled the shot.

Canon EOS-1DX; EF100-400 f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM at 100mm; 1/16400 sec at f/5.6; ISO 2500

Crow mobbing a Bald Eagle – Lopez Island WA. June

Crows and Bald Eagles do not coexist well because eagles have a taste for crow chicks. The traditional “anti-predatory” response is to mob the predator. In this case a single crow conducted a series of almost 20 “dive-bombing” runs which eventually scared the eagle away.

Bird Faces – A new exhibit

I have a new show opening today that can be previewed here.

My primary photographic targets are birds in flight, so I spend a lot of time watching and waiting.  Sometimes, a bird and I look at each other for long periods of time, each wondering when the other is going to move on. This show is a small collection of images from such moments and it is a chance to reflect on the wonderful adaptations the can be seen in the facial features of birds. [Read more…..].

TOCO TOUCAN (Ramphastos toco ). Pantanal, Brazil. June.

TOCO TOUCAN (Ramphastos toco). Pantanal, Brazil. June.

Macaws at the Chuncho Clay Lick

Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao), Red and Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus), Blue and Yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna), Chuncho Clay Lick, Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios, Peru.

Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao), Red and Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus), Blue and Yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna),
Chuncho Clay Lick, Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios, Peru.

Clay licks provide Macaws with minerals that are critical for their nutritional health. In a remarkable spectacle, the birds arrive in pairs over a period of hours and roost high in trees above the clay lick.  Eventually one brave bird lands on the lick – where they are at increased risk from predatory hawks. Suddenly, the entire surface is filled with color from Scarlet Macaws (top), Red and Green Macaws and Blue and Yellow Macaws (everywhere else!).

The Peruvian Pygmy Owl

    Peruvian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium peruanum). Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary, Peru. MayPeruvian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium peruanum). Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary, Peru. May

The Peruvian Pygmy Owl is a compact 6.5” tall inhabitant of the western slopes of the Andes in southern Ecuador, Peru, and northern Chile.  One fascinating characteristic of this bird is the “decoy” eye spots on the back (nape) of the head and neck (right image above). This presumably makes potential predators believe that the owl is vigilant when, in fact, it is looking the other way.

Central and South American Birds

My travels in search of photogenic birds over the last several months have found me mostly in Central and South America.  Venues have included Costa Rica, Ecuador – including the Galapagos Islands – a transect  of Northern Peru, and an exciting trip to the Tambopata National  Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon Basin. The next series of postings will present some birds that I met along the way.

The Sunbittern: A bird with moth-patterned Wings II

Sunbittern (Eurpyga helias). La Mina, Turrialba, Costa Rica. March.

Sunbittern (Eurpyga helias). La Mina, Turrialba, Costa Rica. March.

This heron-shaped bird blended in well and was sometimes quite hard to spot as it foraged alone in the pools along a stream in La Mina, Costa Rica. Then suddenly, during a brief leg and wing stretch, the magnificent moth-like pattern of the wings electrified the stream bank.

Toucan with half an upper mandible

Black-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus abbreviates). Dominical, Costa Rica. March.

Black-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus abbreviates). Dominical, Costa Rica. March.

A third bird this week with less than a full complement of parts! This Black-mandibled Toucan has lost about half of its upper mandible. This can occur during fighting for territory or over a potential mate and must have consequences for food gathering and effective preening. You can read a remarkable story about  engineering a prosthetic mandible for a toucan here.