Saturday, February 12, 2022

Post #213 - Waterfowl photos from Arizona

Our nomadic year of pet-sitting continues! Last time I recapped my bike-birding exploits in Henderson, Nevada, and this time I'll share a few photos I captured while we were in Prescott, Arizona. Although we were there for ten days (Jan 16 - 26), I didn't discover Fain Park (pictured below) until our second-to-last morning. It's nothing remarkable, just a man-made pond surrounded by hillsides and rudimentary trails, but the small sample of wintering waterfowl which it held were remarkably approachable; accustomed to being fed, the ducks swam towards me as soon as I lay prone on the frozen earth. The scaup, in particular, spent a lot of time inside the minimum focusing distance of my 600mm f/4 IS II lens (14.75 feet), so I had to shoo them back at several points! I shot from the blue shoreline with the morning sun rising behind me to the southeast. That big wall in the foreground is the dam which creates the lake.

Let's start with this male Lesser Scaup. He was very confident in his approach, this image being nearly full-frame, and the golden water results from the reflection of the backing hillsides. With zero wind at this moment, the surface was as flat as a Trump electroencephalogram (aka EEG).

Lesser Scaup (male) - Aythya affinis
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS R5
1/2500 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Since the female wasn't as contrasty as the male, I raised my lens a few inches so that I could capture a bit of texture on the water. I really like how the browns, tans, golds, and yellow blend together in this frame.

Lesser Scaup (female) - Aythya affinis
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS R5
1/2500 at f/5.6, ISO 640

This male Canvasback wasn't present on my first visit, but I nearly crapped my pants when the stunning bird dropped into the park pond on my return the next morning. I've only had one other opportunity at this species, at Alondra Park near Los Angeles, but a concrete lip on the urban pond prevented me from getting my lens as low as I would have liked. Without similar impediment this time around, I was able to isolate this guy in super smooth surrounds.

Canvasback (male) - Aythya valisineria
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS R5
1/3200 at f/7.1, ISO 800

He kept his distance at the outset, but he eventually swam a bit closer. I'm a huge fan of close-cropped headshots, so I was stoked with this result. Craned neck a definite plus!

Canvasback - Aythya valisineria
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS R5
1/2500 at f/7.1, ISO 800

And lastly, I present this male Common Goldeneye. He wouldn't come as close as the others, so I had to slap the 1.4x teleconverter (TC) onto my lens.  TCs can degrades the images when they're used on crappy lenses, but I don't have to worry about that with my 600 prime.

Common Goldeneye - Bucephala clangula
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS R5
1/2000 at f/7.1, ISO 800

I also did a fair bit of bike-birding around Prescott. Our pet-sitting gig (red pin on below map) was close to Willow and Watson Lakes, and I enjoyed a trio of long-staying Tundra Swans on the former and several Wood Ducks on the latter. Exploring farther afield, I caught up with Williamson's Sapsucker and Pacific Wren (pictured below, poor digibinoc) at Granite Basin Lake. All four of those were state birds for me, so it felt great to grow my Arizona list under my own power. Since Prescott is at 5,400' of elevation, I was really sucking wind on the 1,000' climb up to Granite BAasin. It felt like 2014 all over again! I visited the highlighted sites on different days, but I've shown them as one ride to streamline the imagery and give you a global view of where I explored. The bottom image is a view of the northern part of Watson Lake.

Things have been really hectic since we left Prescott. I spent a week in Albuquerque, flew to Minnesota to guide a six-day owl/finch tour, and returned to ABQ yesterday. I have three additional days around ABQ, then Sonia and I drive to Denver in Super Bowl Sunday, hopefully in time for the game. We're there for 3 weeks while we execute back-to-back pet-sits, but I'll disappear for five days in the middle of those to guide another winter tour, in Massachusetts. I'm not sure how I got suckered into leading all the cold weather tours for Tropical Birding, but I'm sure I'll survive (I really don't mind the cold). Plus, if the 2014 Polar Vortex didn't break me while I was on the bike, nothing will!

That's it for now. Later......

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dorian! Nice to see what you are up to these days. Vagabond pet sitting sounds like a great gig! These virtual times allow for great flexibility. These days I am totally remote, too.