On a recent birding trip to southeastern Arizona, I ran across a mammal I have long wanted to meet: the White-nosed Coatimundi, Nasua narica. Known as a coati for short, this attractive beast is a member of the raccoon family, Procyonidae, as suggested by its facial mask and faintly ringed tail. All of the world’s four coati species reside only in the Americas. Other species include the Eastern and Western Mountain Coatis, and the South American Coati. Only the White-nosed Coati occurs in the United States, where it is found from southern Arizona, across the southwest corner of New Mexico to south Texas from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico. The White-nosed Coati?s range extends all the way through Central America into northwestern Columbia. Continue reading
When word broke on a Monday of a Red-flanked Bluetail found at the William Andrews Clark Library, it caused a panic. We scrambled for our field guides to see what one even looked like, and then looked up the library hours of operation. The news wasn?t good: the facility only opened during the week when most of us are working instead of birding. This whole working-for-a-living thing really puts a damper on birding! We spent an anguished week watching the reports verifying the bird was still present. Fortunately, the bird hung around, so we drove to Los Angeles to chase it. A crowd of about 100 local birders milled around by the library gate, mixing with visitors from further afield. Promptly at 9:00 am, the gates opened and people started speed-walking towards the opposite end of the property. The grounds were beautiful: lush, with mature lawns, dense hedges, and concrete walkways shaded by huge ficus and magnolia trees. Continue reading
Few subjects provoke the ire in a roomful of birders more rapidly than whether or not to count introduced species. The ins and outs of what is “countable”, what is “established”, and what is still an exotic alien has reddened faces and clenched fists among birders for decades. After that comes the discussion of which state bird records committee is loosest or tightest in their approach to exotics. By then, former friends begin to disperse faster than the young of the year.
But in the end, that is not really what matters here. When it comes to counting exotics, I find myself more and more adopting an eBird stance. That is: count them all, do it as accurately as possible, and submit your data. In the end, the importance of this goes far beyond a mere life list. What matters most is the impact that these growing populations of exotics have upon our native species and the environment in general. Make no mistake about it, that impact is huge. Continue reading
Happy 4th of July 2014 fireworks
We went to see the fireworks near Laguna Niguel Regional Park for 4th of July. Optics4Birding is located in southern California in the city of Irvine. I live about 15 minutes from work and near the Laguna Niguel Regional Park. The hills surrounding this area open the possibility for seeing many of the firework displays in South Orange County.
From where we were we could see four different shows at once. It was really impressive. I have never tried to take photos of fireworks before so it also became a learning lesson. A little reading on the internet gave me instructions for doing this. Shortly before dark we hiked up a dirt road in the hills next to our local high school and setup my camera on a tripod. Next year’s photos promise to be much better now that I have a bit of experience with this.
Since I do quite a bit of photography at night for our owling.com web site, I hoped that this would not be too difficult. Still this is a very different type of photography. Photographing the owls at night is done at closer range using a flash. Photographing the fireworks require extended shutter times with a camera on a tripod. All considered, this is just one more method of taking photographs.
I tried several different settings to do this. The best results came from setting my ISO between 100-400 and taking a timed photo of 5 to 8 seconds. I used my 100-400mm Canon lens so I could shoot some of the distant fireworks too. The shots were taken with the aperture set at 5.6. For a first try at this, the photos were just fine and I was happy.
Happy 4th of July to all from Optics4Birding. We hope to see many of you out looking at nature this upcoming year. Enjoy the photos and try to get outdoors as much as you can. We believe at Optics4Birding that if we all enjoy the outdoors, we will protect it and its precious life.