Category Archives: Photography

A Surprise Visitor at Our Door

Praying Mantis side view

Praying Mantis side view shows the gripping claws on its forelegs.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a surprise visitor at our door as I arrived to open up. Standing there on the shelf in front of our suite was a Praying Mantis in its famous pose! As you can see in this photo, mantis?s front legs are heavier than the others, with powerful claws for grabbing their victims as they go by. This posture makes mantises look like they are praying while they are preying, hence their name.

There are about 2400 species of mantis worldwide in 430 genera. Most mantises easily camouflage themselves as parts of plants so their prey won?t recognize them until it?s too late. Then they reach out with their lobster-like claws to nab their target. They will sometimes stalk nearby prey.

Praying Mantis head on

Front view. Gives a better look of its face.

Mantises have binocular vision. Their eyes are placed at the upper corners of their large triangular head enabling depth perception, and they have flexible necks that allow nearly 180° movement of the head. Their compound eyes have sharp vision in the center and the other lenses provide peripheral vision for detecting the motion of prey or predators. Placement of their eyes on their large triangular head Other species walk on the ground and may be browner in color than the green of the one in these photos. In either case, mantises will eat virtually anything. They are known to eat various insects, small reptiles, and even small birds. They are also preyed upon by larger versions of the same species.

Most mantises have a 1 year life cycle. They mate in the fall and lay their eggs, which hatch in the spring. Some species perform sexual cannibalism, with the females beheading the males and eating them after fertilization. The female then dies, leaving the sturdy eggs to hatch on their own.

Wild Goose Chase

Wild Goose Chase: Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

The chance to get two life birds in SoCal in the same day led to a literal wild goose chase. On Sunday 3/12/2023, my wild goose chase took over 350 miles of driving and added several year birds as well. The first leg was a 75 minute drive to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. We were able to get into a private duck club at which a Wood Sandpiper was resident. We were only the second guided group admitted. The Wood Sandpiper stayed partially hidden and quite a distance away for more than an hour. It then flew to another pond. When I reached the new location, it was much closer, in more open reeds and better light. These images taken with my 100-400 lens with a 2x crop factor required only slight centering crops and resizing.
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A Most Unusual “Raccoon”

The coati coming over the fence to steal some sugar water

The Coati makes its entrance

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

A Chaseable Red-flanked Bluetail in California

Red-flanked Bluetail on the grounds of the William Clark Library

Red-flanked Bluetail at the William Clark Library in Los Angeles, California

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

Bishops and Munias and Whydahs! Oh My!

Adult Scaly-breasted Munia drinking

Adult Scaly-breasted Munia drinking

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

Fireworks in Laguna Niguel Regional Park

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 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.

4th of July 2014 Fireworks in Laguna Niguel

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