Chilly Day at the Buffet

Yesterday I arrived home from a business trip. I was a cold and dreary day. When I got home I loved on my pups, refilled the bird feeders, and read the mail from the last few days. I built a fire and settled in for a cozy afternoon watching movies with a lap full of happy dogs.

I have a crepe myrtle right next to the house and I can see a glimpse of it through a window right next to the TV. I was distracted from my movie by moving branches and a flash of red…

20130113-191459.jpg I don’t typically shoot through a window, but he was so stinking close, I had to give it a shot. I was less than six feet away. I had to focus manually because of the branches in front of him. He looked over and spotted me in the living room and took off.

I decided to gear up and give the feeder a shot. Overcast skies make for nice detail with no glare. It was only 25 degrees so I put on some long johns and Carharts and took my place on the mud porch and waited to see who might show up.

I was delighted to capture a bird fight dominated by a tough little fellow, you can read about him by clicking goldfinch. Happily, there were many more visitors to the buffet, most of them with better manners than a goldfinch.

The female red-bellied woodpecker came by for lunch when the light was absolutely perfect.

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Despite the rowdy behavior of one male goldfinch, most of the boys were well behaved at their fillet feeder on the buffet line.

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The male downy woodpecker stopped by for a bite. These guys are always just a bit overdressed for brunch.

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The buffet has been honored to welcome some winter visitors!
Dark Headed Juncos – they mostly eat off the floor, but occasionally they show up on the mezzanine.

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20130113-200348.jpgAnd although I wish he would have sat for a better shot, this White Throated Sparrow has been foraging in the lower levels with the other newcomers. He seems to be alone so far, his peeps seem to be a bit late for their reservation at the buffet – rest assured we will hold their table.

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I was inspired to check in with my guests at the buffet because of the appearance of one of my snobbier and more elusive guests. It turns out he was not alone – he had friends looking over the joint. From top…

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20130113-201819.jpgTo bottom…

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Even with the welcoming atmosphere of the buffet, some of the cards preferred to keep watch from above. One stood lookout from the west…

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20130113-202214.jpgWhile the other kept watch from the east…

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20130113-202305.jpgAs snobby as these cards are, you’d think that they’d be better tippers.

All-in-all not bad for a chilly Saturday service.

You Have No Idea Who You’re Messing With

If I were to ask you what kind of bird is the toughest, the most intimidating – what would you say?

Eagle? Falcon? Hawk?

Sorry, here at the Stone House, those wimps don’t even come close.

Not the best photos, but I think it’s clear that the badass of the buffet is…

The Goldfinch!

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This feeder is MINE!

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Back OFF!

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Outta here!

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And don’t even think of coming back!

Urban Birding & Wildlife – Las Vegas Style

On my recent trip to my hometown of Las Vegas I was astounded by the variety of wildlife that I encountered. Since I have been focusing on shooting birds and other wildlife for the last year, I thought I would take the opportunity to shoot some of the strange and wonderful species found in the western desert.

I stopped in at Floyd Lamb State Park.

Tangent – you might wonder who Floyd Lamb was. He was the brother of Ralph Lamb, who has become a household name in the US since the premier of the show Vegas last fall. If you watch the show you probably know that Ralph’s TV brother’s name is Jack – me thinks Ralph didn’t want to share the spotlight – that’s OK because Floyd has an awesome park named after him – kinda trumps a TV crime drama if you ask me. End of Tangent.

Back to Floyd’s park – so many birds…

This guy is a white crowned sparrow – I saw these all around Las Vegas…

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So much flashier that my Ozark sparrows…

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But then again it is Vegas.

In a nearby bush I spotted a thrush. Not common in the desert…

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I bet he was probably just visiting.

Over at Floyd’s pond I was overrun by mud hens, or coots as some call them.

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Their feet aren’t exactly webbed…

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Still they work pretty well for swimming…

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And they do the job on land pretty well too.

I noticed some larger birds diving into the pond and coming up with fish…

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I spotted a few of them bracing themselves from the wind up in a tree. These are crested cormorants – juveniles so they don’t have crests yet…

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Their green eyes were pretty striking…

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And they can scoop up a pretty sizable fish with those bills…

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These guys have huge webbed feet with wicked looking talons.

From Floyd Lamb Park I moved a bit closer to home. I get shots of birds at my house all the time, I should be able to get some good shots at my brothers house…

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First I was attacked by this wild creature…

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I stepped back as it assumed a defensive posture between me and the Christmas tree…

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He puffed himself up to make it clear that it was NOT OK for me to pass…

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The scariest thing about this wild beast was not it’s impressive beak, it was its eardrum shattering voice. After a while the Christmas spirit took over and he permitted me to enter the living room.

Not all the wildlife at the homestead was so aggressive….

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Some of the beasts were almost serene…

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Playful…

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Zen like…

Some beasts were a symphony in color…

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I found it hard to imagine a beast more colorful…

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He brings to mind an explosion at a crayon factory…

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All the best colors mixing together.

This creature made me think of a dingy mop…

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Aglow in the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree.

The last creature I encountered was very unusual…

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Her eyes appeared to be a bit in front of her nose…

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And she had a fierce anger, she tore into the closet…

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And made off with her prey. To the victor go the spoils, no wire hangers for this fearsome beast!

I am glad to be back home in the safety of the woods where I am not accosted by scary beasts that screech in the night or steal my hangers, by my, what an adventure it was.

This is a piece I have had in my head for a long time – a bit of the vagabond history of my Grandmother’s family told through images of their automobiles.

The King of Isabelle Avenue

As a photographer, sometimes I like to look at photos and sort them in non-linear ways, I think you can learn more about how you see the world by breaking them up in sets that have atypical things like color or objects in common.

A few years ago I started going through my Grandma’s old Cox family photos. I started sorting them by family members and began to notice a pattern. I noticed an awful lot of snapshots that included an important part of the family – the family car. The history and migration of my family can be traced through those photos of the Coxes and their cars.

1920’s

This photo was taken in the late 20’s in the Ozarks. It looks like the boys were coming in from working in the fields north of Branson, Missouri. Charlie started his life on a farm in Missouri and this looks to have…

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A Visit to the Fruity Chicken

I spent the holidays with my family in Las Vegas. My brother Max is the author of the often mentioned Fruity Chicken. It’s his blog about raising chickens and fruit trees in Las Vegas. The virtual Fruity Chicken is located on WordPress, but the real one is located at the base of Sunrise Mountain on the outskirts of town. I thought I would use a post to show you around the nearly famous grounds.

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The photo above is the view from the house on the lot adjacent to the chicken pen. The truth is that the Fruity Chicken rests on an acre packed with potential and a house in the midst of a massive remodel. My first day in town Max offered to show me around the new digs. Of course I brought my camera.

I have spent the last year shooting wild birds to improve my ability to make quick decisions with my camera – to get better at catching the shot. A walk around the back of the lot put my practice to the test – I’m accustomed to shooting from my porch, here I was out in the open when I spotted some movement in the oleanders. The bars on the wings reminded me of a jay, but the coloring was all wrong, it was a vireo – only in town on its way to Mexico on its annual migration.

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He decided to some out of the oleanders and look me over.

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Back in the oleanders I spotted some movement and caught a couple of white crowned sparrows.

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We made our way over towards the chicken run when we came across some sentries – the roof pack – Oddy and Michone. They permitted us to pass.

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The Fruity Chicken is filled with lots of types of chickens. I’m fascinated with their eyes. I have no clue what kind these are, but I liked the looks they gave me.

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The Fruity Chicken has a few non-chicken residents as well – there are a small group of ducks as well – some with mohawks like this girl.

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I probably should have taken shots if the orchards or the houses, but I only have eyes for the birds.