Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

Woodhouser's scrub-jay

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay and California Scrub-Jay Are Now Two Distinct Species

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay is Little Jay’s new Species name, as of July 7, 2016.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
Little Jay has a Big New Name

The official word is from the American Ornithologists Union. The two new species were originally lumped together as “Western scrub jay,” but for some time there has been talk of splitting that group. Small parts of Nevada see some overlap of the two, but beyond that location, location, location is everything.

Here in New Mexico, a scrub jay is Woodhouse’s scrub-jay. This makes identification easy for me. For my friends in Nevada…sorry.

I don’t want to mislead readers into thinking I discovered the species split while casually perusing the latest bulletin from the American Ornithologists Union (although I am sure I have friends who do). A great resource is Greg Gough at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. I had talked with him a couple of years ago, and again just recently when I was working on Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display. He sent me an email this morning advising me of the species split.

Another Woodhouse’s scrub-jay fledgling from a previous year, now with a a new species name:

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
Fledgling Scrub Jay: Water Is Life!

Cooper’s Hawk Book Now at ABQ WBU

My Cooper’s Hawk Book Is Now Available at Albuquerque’s Wild Birds Unlimited

My Cooper’s hawk book, Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display, is now available at the Albuquerque Wild Birds Unlimited at 7200 Montgomery Blvd NE, 87109. I am very pleased that the paperback book is now available locally, not only because the Cooper’s hawks are found in large numbers here, but because this remarkable display took place in my very own back yard. Serendipity on a Sunday afternoon…

my Cooper's hawk book
Front Cover, “Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display”

For interested friends and readers not in the Albuquerque area, Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display is available in both Kindle and paperback formats at amazon.com:

Click for Preview

I hope interested friends in the Albuquerque area will stop by Wild Birds Unlimited on Montgomery and support an Albuquerque business that is supporting local photographers and authors.

Individual prints from this Cooper’s hawk courtship display may be purchased at my portfolio site.

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now in Paperback

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now in Paperback as Well as Kindle at Amazon

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display is now available in paperback format as well as Kindle format at Amazon.com. This was a very unusual display, one I was able to catch in photographic images almost by serendipity.

Both formats contain 32 images of this young hawk’s display. A friend wrote last night

I just read it and loved it! The last few images looks like he was bowing at the end of his performance. Amazing! I’m so glad you caught this.

Another friend noted in a review

The most interaction I ever got from Cooper’s Hawks is when they would often bring their catches and sit on a branch that extended over our deck and eat dinner with us.

The Cooper’s Hawk courtship display Susan captured is what makes this book so special and fun. It’s a short visual chronicle of a display rarely given a private exhibition to anyone but a female hawk.

The paperback edition is $12.99. The Kindle edition is $4.99. The title is part of Amazon’s MatchBook program; anyone who purchases the paperback may purchase the Kindle for $1.99 instead of $4.99. Suitable for all ages.

courtship display
Back and Front Paperback Cover

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now Available

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display Now Available as Kindle on Amazon

Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display is now available at Amazon in a Kindle version. A paperback edition is also coming.

Can be read on most devices with the free Kindle app. (See end of post for link.)

The volume contains 32 images taken on August 3, 2014. At the time, I knew I had witnessed something remarkable. I knew it was a very intense encounter. Initially, I took it to be some type of territorial display.

This spring, after doing some reading and going back through the images, I came to realize it was something quite different. The behavior is described in the literature, but this on the ground (more precisely, in the trees) display is not well documented photographically.

The encounter with this beautiful young hawk was serendipitous. The display was something I knew nothing about until I saw it that day, and it was almost two years later before I grasped its meaning and the insights it gave into the life of a male Cooper’s hawk.

Cooper's Hawk Courtship Display
Young Male Cooper’s Hawk

In the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to see and to photograph some rather amazing events that I will remember for the rest of my life – the Blood Red Total Lunar Eclipse of September 2015; the Alignment of Jupiter and Venus in the early morning hours of 2015; and I would add this hawk encounter to that list of things that became important to me as observations of life.

Amazon.com – Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices

Courtship Display

Young Cooper’s Hawk’s In-the-Trees Courtship Display

Courtship display did not even enter my head as I photographed this young Cooper’s hawk putting on some kind of display in a large juniper tree in my neighbor’s back yard. I knew I had never seen anything quite like it, and I felt very lucky to have photographed it. I posted some of the images some time ago, and then things in my life got busy. Then they got even busier.

At the moment, I am still busy, but, at least temporarily, things seem somewhat stable. 2016 has started off great in terms of productivity with photography and photo essays. Color vision is my current passionate interest. In working on that, however, I came across the images of the hawk display. Over time I have come to realize what that display was: a courtship display. This behavior is described in the literature, but photographic documentation is scarce. I decided to take a little break from the color vision, and publish the images, both in paperback format and Kindle format. This is the first volume in a series, “As Seen in New Mexico…”

“Cooper’s Hawk Courtship Display” will be available in both formats at Amazon some time in June (mid-to-late). I’ll post when they are available at my Amazon page.

This is the Kindle cover, as well as the front cover for the paperback:

courtship display
Kindle and Paperback Cover

Was this young male just confused, or was there method in his madness??? Stay tuned…

Garden Joys

Garden Joys – An Early Morning in the Garden

Garden joys abound in the high desert, even with the typical spring winds, this time of year. For the past several months, I have been very busy with projects of my own choosing, driven to work by no one but myself. Snail mail for required proofs for one of the projects has given me a kind of enforced relaxation time. Last evening I set one goal for today, to enjoy my back yard.

For the past several days I have seen cedar waxwings, a very infrequent visitor to my yard, drinking at the bird bath. I have noticed them at around 7:00am, so last evening I set my camera with plans to try to photograph a cedar waxwing. When I first got up I watered all the container plants and then filled the bird feeders. By that time it was almost 7:00am, so I sat down on the patio with my camera and a cup of coffee. Immediately I saw the doves, finches, and sparrows that are frequent visitors here, and a little male black chinned hummingbird drank at one of the feeders, not really bothered by my presence. At 7:07am the magic I was hoping for happened. This cedar waxwing appeared in pyracantha, on a branch that allowed me to photograph it without distractions that would have been present at the bird bath.

garden joys
Cedar Waxwing, an Uncommon Visitor to My Garden

It flew away at 7:08am. It had given me one minute to obtain the portrait I had hoped for.

After the cedar waxwing flew, I saw the first female black chinned hummingbird of the season. The females arrive about two weeks after the males, and the timing was perfect. She was thirsty! She drank, and drank, and drank. A male hummer watched her from his guard post, and did not interrupt her breakfast. When she finished, she flew into a large rose bush near where I keep the hummingbird feeders. Year after year I always thought it possible the hummers nested there, but I have never seen a nest. Maybe this year…Because at that point, the male who had been observing her began the flying loops of the hummingbird mating display. Those are always so much fun to watch.

Finally, sparkling green trees early in the morning. They only look like this for a few minutes, but they also are garden joys.

garden joys
Sparkling Trees in Early Morning

Thank you for joining me during my forced relaxation time. 🙂


The Roadrunner, an Iconic Bird of the Desert

The roadrunner, a member of the cuckoo family, is the official Bird of the State of New Mexico. They are abundant even within the city of Albuquerque. They are regular visitors to my yard, using the ubiquitous block walls as superhighways. Unlike people, who seem to walk in the streets rather than on the sidewalks in this neighborhood, the roadrunners make great use of sidewalks and garden walls, and seem to be in the streets here only when crossing! They have smartly adapted to an urban environment.

One recent afternoon I caught sight of the young Cooper’s hawk just hanging out in what seems to have become one of its favorite spots in a pine tree, which does provide good cover for it. I was amazed that many little birds were at the feeders I provide, blissfully unaware of the presence of the hawk, who would soon be looking for dinner or an afternoon snack. I grabbed my camera and set out to photograph the hawk. As I usually do, I left the lens cap on, planning to remove it when I was settled into a chosen spot for photographing the hawk.

Silly me! I walked out the door, and about six feet to my right was a roadrunner with a hapless lizard hanging from its beak. Yes! Get that picture quick! Uh, no, remove the lens cap! In the time that took, the roadrunner swallowed it prey. Missed that one! But, the roadrunner did hang around for a few pictures before running off to another yard.

Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner. Look at that beak, capable of snapping prey in half.
Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner. Look at those feet!

I went out to photograph a hawk hiding in a tree, and instead got a roadrunner in the open and in the light. Not a bad deal overall. 🙂

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has a nice video of roadrunners in that state:

Cooper’s Hawk at the Restaurant

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk, at “The Restaurant”

Cooper’s hawks visit frequently. I have seen one in the yard each day for the past week. I like to see the hawks. They are magnificent birds. But, I don’t want my little birds to be a daily meal. I think it is time for me to take down these bird feeders for the little birds for a bit, until this Cooper’s Hawk stops coming by every afternoon.

Cooper's hawk
Cooper’s Hawk, hanging out waiting for an easy dinner

This part of Albuquerque, with its “urban forests,” is home to a very dense population of Cooper’s hawks – as dense as in any of their natural habitats. They are very successful in this urban environment, partly because of people like me who attract their meals for them. The hawks have to eat, too, but I don’t have to make it too easy for them.

2015 Insight New Mexico

through her eyes

2015 Insight New Mexico: Through Her Eyes

Insight New Mexico has become the premier photography exhibition for New Mexico women photographers. Organized by LeRoy Perea, Insight is an outgrowth of the popular ANMPAS (Annual New Mexico Photographic Art Show), held in December. Both are juried shows, and it is always an honor to have images selected for showing in either one.

The theme of this year’s show is Through Her Eyes. From the press release:

Through Her Eyes” the 2015 InSight exhibit opening April 5, 2015, at Expo New Mexico showcases the work of women photographers of New Mexico. It was juried by nationally respected women photographers: Jennifer Hudson, Linda Ingraham, Margot Geist and Phyllis Burchett. The show includes more than 125 images, representing the work of 61 emerging and professional women photographers residing in the state. You will see an array of diverse subjects, themes, and unique processes, and every image is available for purchase.

I am very happy that my two images were selected for inclusion in 2015 Insight New Mexico, a show which is always fun. This year’s theme, Through Her Eyes, spoke to me. “The Observer, The Observed” was photographed and processed after I returned from Texas to be with my son. The amaryllis in “Postcard Series – Amaryllis” was photographed last year, but the processing of this image was also done after I returned from being with my son. Although rather different at first glance, the underlying theme of each is life transitions, with moments of beauty and of insight, and layers of meaning.

“The Observer, The Observed”

insight new mexico 2015
The Observer, The Observed

The Crow as symbol and in myth is a powerful creature around the world, but nowhere more so than in the Southwest. Crow is a Messenger who moves between Worlds; a Trickster who can steal Light from the Sky (the Sun) and bring it to people who need it; and an astute Observer. In early January I was out photographing a cloud bank rolling over the Sandia Mountains, with a storm predicted to follow it. Suddenly, some raucous crows appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and they left as quickly as they came. This one crow, however, stayed behind, briefly, and seemed to pose for this one image, almost as a gift.
This image will be available as a Fine Art Giclée Canvas Print.

“The Postcard Series – Amaryllis”

Insight New Mexico 2015
The Postcard Series – Amaryllis

Amaryllis – bringing life, colorful life, indoors in the winter. These flowers hold the promise of spring, while being beautiful in the present. Postcards – old postcards, saved postcards, speak to memories of the past. Past travels? Past good times with old friends? Memories of things that made us who we are? The Postcard series combines memories of the past with beauty of the present. But, beautiful flowers do not last forever. What of the future? That is for the viewer to determine…
This image will be available as a Fine Art Giclée Bamboo Watercolor Print.

The exhibit will be held in the Fine Arts Building at Expo New Mexico (the New Mexico State Fairgrounds) from April 5th through April 26th. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays) from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The cost to see the exhibit is free.

I hope to see my friends from the Albuquerque area there.

Territorial Doves

white winged doves

Peaceful Doves? Not When Territory Is an Issue!

Doves are generally thought of as peaceful creatures. And, in some ways, and most of the time, they are. They seem to spend all their waking hours eating and making more doves. The white winged dove did not have much of a presence when I first moved to Albuquerque, and now they are everywhere. I rarely see a mourning dove these days, which was the more common dove when I first arrived.

I photographed these white winged doves during the Great Backyard Bird Count last weekend. I was kind of glad they put on a show.

At first glance, you might think these two look peaceful enough. But, note the raised wing of warning!

white winged doves
See that raised wing? Someone is about to start a fight!

And then, a full blown warning:

white winged doves
“I’ll show what I’ve got!”

That was followed by a real attack:

white winged doves
“Take that! If you don’t like it, go somewhere else! This is MY territory!”

Then, the two began to settle down gradually. A little later they returned to ground feeding, as if nothing had happened.

white winged doves
These doves are ready – almost – to call the fight over.

They gave me something beyond the usual to photograph. 🙂

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