The Gray Catbird is curious, and often one of the first birds to check me out in his neighborhood. This one came out in the open, but I often see them barely visible, skulking on or near the ground in dense cover, or hear their raspy mew call from somewhere in the brush.
Male Common Yellowthroat
Photographing this Black-capped Chickadee was the culmination of years of wishing, hoping, and planning. The wishing and hoping didn't help much, but the planning made it all work out. He wasn't very interested in me as he gleaned insects and quickly moved on.
This adorable pair of Canada Jays, also called Whiskey Jacks, seemed to be inseparable as they flew from treetop to treetop. I'm not sure what the relationship was between these birds since you can't tell sex visually, but I love the natural portrait they created.
I watched this Ruby-crowned Kinglet work the trees and bushes along a dry creek and positioned myself in that path. I photographed other birds while he was away. Suddenly, he landed nearby. I briefly had eye contact, but something startled him, and I got this shot.
This Tricolored Heron was in low light, and it was getting darker, but he was too good to pass up. I was concerned about scaring him away but decided to move closer. It turned out my concerns were unfounded. He was clearly focused on something else, and I got this shot.
The beak of this Black-billed Magpie looks almost silver in the late afternoon sunlight. He flew to this perch and called out in his harsh squeaky voice. It reminded me of the Red-winged Blackbird at sunset, not in sound, but in manner.
This Red-bellied Woodpecker landed in a Sycamore tree near me as I was planning my next move. In a short time, she had retrieved a small pecan stored months earlier. I got this shot just before she took off. What other birds have you seen store or retrieve food?
A large pond ahead looked promising, so I started to circle it. Partway around, this Great Egret landed nearby but started walking away. I paced its steps until it stopped and turned around. I got this shot just before it turned away again.
Just as I arrived at a new birding location, several American Crows showed up calling loudly. They were not there to welcome me but to check me out or ward me off. They were initially raucous but quieted as they became more observant. I think this was the leader.
Male Anna's Hummingbird in flight
Photographers talk about the all-important light. I was so excited to capture this male Anna's Hummingbird as it moved quickly and then hovered in mid-air! I eventually got this shot, showing how areas that are usually rose-pink look black when photographed in poor light.
While in desert terrain, I had avoided the heat of the day. But as the sun started to set, I got out for a while. A covey of Scaled Quail crossed in front of me. One bird lingered in the shade of a bush, and just as I started to take his photo, he stepped out in the light.
Birds don't always fly away in your presence. This Snowy Egret was on a bank further away but flew to this snag in the water, which was a bit closer. This perch was most likely a familiar point to survey the area and choose where to hunt next. It stayed only a few seconds.
Driving down a side road, I saw a bird up ahead. I didn't want to spook him, so I started slowing down, hoping to stop closeby. I was delighted to see it was a Western Kingbird. He didn't fly away when I came to a stop, so I got this shot before slowly driving away.
This Scissor-tailed Flycatcher took off and often landed from this perch about 50 feet away. I had to put my heavy camera down occasionally to rest, missing several shots. He finally took off at a time I had the camera ready, and I got this shot. I was exhausted afterward.
The desert southwest is a magical place in winter with warm temps and low humidity. Add the joy of seeing the Gilded Flicker, which has a severely limited range, and it will make you want to go back again and again. This one sat atop an ancient Saguaro Cactus.
To me, this Bushtit looks like she needs a hug. She is so very plain with different shades of gray against gray rocks. At the same time, she is undeniably cute. These little fuzzballs are easy to sex as the females have pale eyes, and the males have dark eyes.
I have a soft spot for Sparrows, and the Lark Sparrow is a favorite. The bold markings are distinctive, and I look for them everywhere within their range. I saw one briefly that disappeared, probably a mate, and then watched as this one flew up and started calling.
Occasionally I see some bird, usually a Blue Jay, chasing a Barred Owl or hawk in flight, but it's been a challenge to capture that behavior. Here is an example of a brave Northern Mockingbird about to pounce on a Barred Owl, fussing all the way.
I don't see the secretive Yellow-billed Cuckoo very often, so I get excited when I do. They have a distinctive and unusual call and seek out caterpillars in the tops of trees. This is a distant shot of one. He was so focused on finding food that he was oblivious to me.
From a bench, I watched my grandchildren on a playground, occasionally taking candid photos of them. Then I noticed a bird flitting through the tree. It stopped, watching something above, and I got this single shot of the White-eyed Vireo before it moved out of range.
I noticed an American Goldfinch flying back and forth between a tree and the other side of bushes out of sight. I cautiously eased around the bushes, not wanting to disturb a potential nest when I saw this one feasting on the seeds of several dead Coneflower plants.
The Black-throated Sparrow is a desert bird that is still active at dusk, so I set out at sunset to get a photo in the soft light of the early evening. I found this one singing on a higher bush, but he stopped and ducked into thorny brambles just before I got this shot.
I've found that walking along a river with large Cottonwoods is often an excellent place to see woodpeckers. That's where I spotted this Red-headed Woodpecker circulating between massive trunks. I took this shot just as another one distracted him, landing higher in the tree.
As I walked along a river looking for birds in bright light, I was excited to discover this Dark-eyed Junco. I first saw him on a limb, but he appeared washed out against the blue sky. When he landed on the roots of a tree, it created this sharp outline that worked better.
Last summer, I saw this Bullock's Oriole fly off with a beak full of caterpillars, so I waited for him to return. He moved through the branches quickly, and I wasn't sure I would get a shot, but he dropped down on this lower limb just long enough for me to snap this photo.
The Black-and-White Warbler is a beautiful bird that doesn't show well in poor light. This one seemed to be clinging to the shadows. I had my doubts it would work out when he stuck his head into brighter light and gave me this slightly backward glance.
This Willet had been pacing the waves to and fro, but decided to come further onshore. I got this shot just before he paused beyond the high watermark. Then I listened to the gently crashing waves, wishing at that moment I had brought a chair to sit and watch the sunset.
I love to spend time with the Warbling Vireo. While they are not colorful, the male sings a lovely song. I was focused on the male above as he was calling just before I got this shot. I didn't notice until later his mate, below and out of focus, photobombed the scene.
The afternoon sun was bright and backlit this Wilson's Warbler as he sang his song. My small movements didn't seem to bother him, and he surprisingly held his position. He continued to sing until his mate landed nearby, and they took off together.
Male Painted Bunting
I was hoping this male Painted Bunting would turn around to expose his multi-colored back. I found myself leaning to one side as if to coax him into another position. Alas, this is all he would give me before moving on, forever proving that birds really don't pose for me.
The Greater Roadrunner is a capable hunter of the desert southwest. It is fast, able to kill and eat rattlesnakes, and has colors and patterns that blend well with the warm hues of desert habitats. I followed this one with my camera until it disappeared into denser brush.
Immature Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Here is another potential stumper. When I first saw this bird, I thought it was a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Later, when I had a chance to examine the photos closely, I saw the telltale rose-colored patches and shading on the breast, indicating it is an immature male.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird won't be back in Tennessee until late-March at the earliest. However, I remember seeing this female and being struck by the tiny band on her leg and what looks like an errant tail feather. I can't wait to see them again.