Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

October 14, 2011

Cactus Birds

Filed under: behavior, Birds, composition, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch, light — richditch @ 2:51 pm
Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

10/07/2011, 6:55 am, Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E(2x), ISO 400, 1/320th second @ f/11

Now that the weather has finally become more bearable around Phoenix I’m getting out to shoot more often. After trying to hide from the heat by visiting Boyce Thompson Arboretum on most of my few summer trips it is time to get back to the closer Gilbert Water Ranch.

If I intend to check pond 1 on a visit I will park in the main lot along Guadalupe just east of the library. When I start from this lot I always like to check out the nice stand of Saguaros just off the lot. When the Saguaros first blossom they are a great place to see and photograph a variety of birds that come in to feed on the ripe fruit. I was surprised to find a one cactus still flowering! And sure enough it was noticed by a resident Curve-billed Thrasher. I’ve taken many photos of thrashers and other birds at the top of Saguaros, and I suspect I’ll take many more in the future. I love the colors and textures to be captured.

Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

10/07/2011, 6:53 am, Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8 plus TC20E(2x), ISO 400, 1/250th second @ f/11

The cavities in the Saguaros are also worth watching. They are created as nest sites by Gila Woodpeckers who then try to defend them from European Starlings and even from House Finches.

Thee are the usual photographic challenges. Desert light is typically harsh, so it is usually necessary to shoot when the light is at its softest just after dawn. And that means the light levels could be low and so could shutter speeds, so it is necessary to use a sturdy tripod and shoot only when the subjects are stationary. Another issue can be the height of the Saguaro: the blossoms are often near the top and might require tilting the lens up at a steep angle. A long focal length helps minimize the tilted angle, and with luck you might find a shooting location on a rise of dirt that brings the camera up closer to the height of the subject.

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