Death in the willow.

The other day I was enjoying watching the ruby-throated hummingbirds fly around the backyard. Currently I have six hummingbird feeders up and going for the fall migration. There must have been 3 or 4 hummers fighting for the feeder closest to the desert willow. I was listening to the hummers making their little chatter. Suddenly I heard a hummer scream, if that is possible, I

Praying mantis after killing a hummingbird.

looked over and saw that one hummer was upside down and twisting from a branch in the desert willow. I thought he had gotten his leg caught on something. I ran to grab a ladder, but on closer inspection, the hummer was not moving any more. Then I saw it, the branch was not a branch but a predator, a large brown praying mantis, it had killed one of the hummingbirds. What to do? Well, I photographed the scene of the villain and his prey. Then the mantis dropped the dead hummer to the ground. No, I didn’t kill the mantis, but I did knock him out of the tree. Nature is hard sometimes, well OK, it is hard all the time. Something dies and something lives. It was just hard that this little immature hummer’s life ended so quickly.

Stay put

I was at one of my favorite places at one of my favorite times, which is thirty minutes before sunrise. This particular Saturday morning was no different. I was set-up to photograph the sunrise right at the water’s edge at Old Bison Ranch. It is summer time that means snakes are out and about, so I need to keep a watchful eye out for them. It’s always a privilege to see them on their morning hunts. Before sunrise it is all about being prepared for the sunrise and the drama that may or may not happen with the clouds. The birds are waking up at this time and several are flying about. Once the sun is up and shining, that golden light is everywhere and I get antsy. It is time to switch from landscape photographer to wildlife photographer. But this morning I felt my gut telling me to “stay put” so I did. Nothing was happening, no birds were moving around or coming in to hunt along the shoreline. I started to move, then my gut told me to “stay put”, OK, I sat there for a little longer. But not long after that I moved my tripod just a little bit, then heard something at the water’s edge. Yep, it was a Yellow-bellied water snake right at the base of my tripod, too close for my telephoto lens and too close to move my tripod, so I whip out my handy iPhone to take a video of the little guy. Then he struck my tripod leg … and that was so cool. I watched him for several minutes before he moved away.

When I am out there in the morning setting up for the sunrise I am always talking and asking questions of God. This morning the Lord was just telling me to “stay put” and a little treasure of nature came to me.

There is coachwhip in my backyard.

Coachwhip
Coachwhip in my backyard last year image

I told Patti, it is over 80 degrees today maybe I should wait until tomorrow to mow the yard, it will only be in the 60’s. Nope, I am not going to put it off, I am going to get it done. Out the back door with safety glasses on, ear protection in hand, I get 15 feet from the gate and I stop dead in my tracks. I slowly removed my safety glasses to make sure I am seeing what I am seeing. At the corner of the gate is a Coachwhip, it must be over 3 feet long with his head about 7 inches off the ground. I slowly step back and headed back to the house, just hoping that the Coachwhip will stay around.

I come into the house grabbing my camera yelling “Coachwhip, Coachwhip” Slowing walking back to the gate to see if the Coachwhip is still there. We, yes, Patti and Morgan had heard me yelling when I picked up my camera, watched the Coachwhip for a several minutes before the Coachwhip crawled off into the tall grass and bushes.

Now I thought that was the end of it, but I was wrong, we walked along the bushes hoping to spot him. I positioned myself where I thought the Coachwhip might go, Morgan spotted him at the base of the rose bush, Morgan was about 5 feet from the bush. The Coachwhip then started out into the yard heading straight for Morgan, “Daaaaad” Morgan said. I assured her that he would not hurt her, the he passed within inches of her feet moving to our berm in the middle of the yard. He disappeared into the tall grass once again, Wow, that was so cool. We wondered if we would spot him again. We positioned ourselves with the sun at our backs then waited and watched.

Sure enough, we spotted the Coachwhip again, he posed along time for us, moving along the rocks. Then he went back into the tall grass and bushes. Then we spotted him moving into the wax myrtle. I was telling Morgan Coachwhips can climb and so he did. In a very short time, the Coachwhip was several feet off the ground. Morgan and I positioned ourselves around the tree with the sun at our backs. We watched him climb around in the tree then move from the tree to a small bush and back to the ground. I thought this can’t get any better. I thought he is going to hide in the rocks at the base of the tree.

Nope, he moved out into the sun, on a bed of dry leaves and posed there for a long time. Morgan and I sat down on the driveway to get a better angle and took several images of him. Finally he moved into the neighbor’s yard, which is a danger zone, the neighbor has a hoe.

Wow, that was fun. And now, I get to mow my yard when it is in the 60s.

Backyard Drama

It was a warm summer evening, no it was not, and it was hot and muggy. I decided to do some yard work, but that did not happen. As soon as I stepped into the backyard, it started to sprinkle, not much, but enough to make me take pause for a moment. I heard the hummingbirds buzzing around, one hummingbird got within 3 feet of me. Change of plans, grabbing my camera, I was thinking I’m not going to get any yard work done tonight. I spotted movement on the other side of the pool, was it a cricket? I looked thru my 400 mm telephoto lens, no it was some kind of wasp dragging a spider. How cool was that, I lowered my lens about to step to the left and get a better angle; but before I could get my camera up, a spiny lizard ambushed the wasp taking the spider. I don’t know who was more amazed the wasp, or me because he kept going in circles for several minutes looking for the dinner that was lost.

Wow! That was cool and exciting. I was thinking what we need now is a Mississippi kite to fly over the yard. Well, once again before I could even react a Mississippi kite flew directly at me about roof top level. Then, there was another one. As I tracked the second one, which was moving way too fast for me to get a picture, I spotted another Mississippi kite in the top of the tree by the back door. OK, how long had the kite been sitting there?

You guessed it, the rest of evening, I watched and waited for the Mississippi kite to take off and hunt. Which happened many times. There is always tomorrow night for the yard work, but the Mississippi kite may or may not be sitting in my tree.

A close connection

It was the last day of the wettest May on record. It rained so much, that you could cover the entire state of Texas with 8 inches of water. And now my plane was being delayed by the lightning. I was concerned that the delay would make me miss my connecting flight at LAX to Redmond. I was surprising my folks, by dropping in on them, I had not been “home” in 7 years. We were finally on our way about an hour and half behind schedule. I had the window seat, a retired black gentleman, wearing a brown suit, was in the middle seat. We spoke a bit, he was on his way back home, retired from the City of LA and still lives there. I was only half way listening to him. He, said that he was moved to this flight from a later flight, and he didn’t say why they moved him up. We made it to Los Angeles with 30 minutes to spear. We were assured that the connecting flights knew that we were coming. When I got off the plane, I was not sure where I was suppose to go. I noticed the gentleman who was seated next to me, he was waiting to show me how to get to the other terminal. We walked a little ways, he directed me on which way to go. I thanked him and scurried off. I made it to my gate 10 minutes before the plane was suppose to depart. I saw that the gate attendant walked away before I got there. I got her attention and asked if I had time to use the restroom. She looked surprised and said “I am closing this gate right now”. Well, I guess I will have to hold it and got on the plane. Storing my camera bag in the upper storage, sitting down, the steward closed the plane door. Now that is what I call a little too close for me, if the gentleman had not helped me, saving me only minutes. I would have missed the only flight to Redmond that day. Was he an angel? I think so.