Elusive

Blue Jays are a strange breed.  They are so very common yet, I have been struggling to get a good shot of one.  You would think that a relatively large bird, that is usually pretty aggressive with other birds would be an easy subject but, not these guys.  They spook at the slightest breeze.  They are kind of bullies at some points but I have seen them get scared off by sparrows.

They also have a very wide variety of calls.  One of these seems to be an imitation of a hawk – maybe in hopes of scaring other birds away.  I can always tell when they are around but every time I go out to get a shot, they scatter.  While the other birds slowly return to the feeders, the Jays stay out at the edges of the yard.  They fly up to the top of the trees and if I move at all they fly off.  I got this one by setting up at a spot near the yard-favorite suet feeder and snapping a shot with my cable release.  (He flew off immediately at the sound of the shutter of course!)

As soon as I went inside, there were 3 Blue Jays lined up to get to the feeder.  They are really bid teases!

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
280mm @ f/11 – 1/60 sec – ISO 400

Flowers of all types

The butterfly is a flying flower, the flower a tethered butterfly.

                                                                 Ponce Denis Ecouchard Lebrun

Once again, nature shows me how beauty appears in so many shapes and forms.  The colors and details of the butterfly’s wings against the flower’s petals and color is amazing.  The delicate legs and antennae, the curl of the proboscis which allows this insect to draw nectar from the flowers, all part of a little creature that we see float past on lazy summer days.

Doesn’t it just make you want to sit and wonder over the miracle that is our home?

Butterfly Encounter
Chattahoochee Nature Center
Roswell, Georgia

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
250mm @ f/9 – 1/40 sec – ISO 100

Just hangin’ out

It’s funny but, I think I took as many shots at the first spot we stopped in the Botanical Gardens as I did in the rest of our visit!  This turtle was sitting along the edge of the water garden by the front entrance.  At first, we weren’t sure if it was a garden decoration (statue) or if it was live.  On closer inspection, you could see him move around a little but he wasn’t about to leave his preferred spot.

I don’t think they really set it up this way on purpose but, the contrast between the mossy golden foreground and the green duckweed behind him really made a nice environment for this turtle portrait.

State Botanical Garden of Georgia
2450 S Milledge Avenue
Athens, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
340mm @ f/11 – 1/100 sec – ISO 200

Trumpet pitchers

On Monday, I posted a shot of a dragonfly on a pitcher plant.  This is a more complete view of the plant as it is quite interesting on its own.  The plant shown is a variety of Sarracenia – North American Pitcher Plants, also known as Trumpet Pitchers.  These plants are actually meat-eaters as the pitcher of the plant traps insects and digests them.

I had seen Old-world pitchers known as Nepenthes at the Atlanta Botanical Garden before.  The Trumpet Pitchers are different in that they grow straight up from the ground where the Nepenthes pitchers are on a stalk or vine.  I was also surprised to see the flowers on these plants since I had previously though that the pitcher was a flower.  The pitchers are actually specially formed leaves.  As you can see in this shot, there are yellow flower on stalks present on the subject plant.

Nature is amazing!

State Botanical Garden of Georgia
2450 S Milledge Avenue
Athens, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
150mm @ f/11 – 1/100 sec – ISO 200

Crimson eyes

One of the most impressive flowers from our trip to the State Botanical Garden were the very tall, very big hibiscus.  Joyce said these reminded her of the crepe paper flowers that were the fad back in the 1970’s.  These blooms were almost the size of dinner plates and had pink (as shown here) and white varieties.

The Crimson eyed Hibiscus (also known as Crimson-eyed rose-mallow or Marshmallow hibiscus) is a popular garden flower which grows naturally, in swampy wetlands.  We actually saw some of these from the boardwalk along the Chattahoochee River recently though they were not a large as this.  When I think of hibiscus, I picture the potted plants that are often used for decorations at resorts around swimming pools.  Those varieties are common in Florida but the blooms are probably a quarter the size of these giants.

Crimsoneyed Hibiscus
(Hibiscus moscheutos var. incanus)

State Botanical Garden of Georgia
2450 S Milledge Avenue
Athens, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
100mm @ f/11 – 1/250 sec – ISO 200

Trying to open the pitcher?

In front of the Visitor’s Center at the State Botanical Garden is a water garden full of lilies and pitcher plants.  On a hot July day, the water and plants attract quite a few dragonflies that are not all that concerned with people passing by.  This particular one had laid claim to a bright red pitcher plant and stayed there for quite a while so I could get his portrait.

I had put my long lens on the camera with hopes of seeing hummingbirds but it turns out that this is a pretty good tool for close-up shots as well.  The only problem was that I kept getting closer than the minimum focus distance and had to back up a number of times.

I thought this came out really well since I was hand-holding the big lens and got some fantastic sharpness on the little details like the hairs on the dragonfly’s legs.  I kind of wish I had set my aperture a bit smaller to get the whole of the wing-span in focus but I wanted to blur out the background for a smooth look.  The green background was provided by a lily pad in the pond behind the pitcher plant.

State Botanical Garden of Georgia
2450 S Milledge Avenue
Athens, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/6.3 – 1/640 sec – ISO 400

Mississippi Kite

I experienced a new bird breed yesterday when visiting the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia.  Joyce saw this elegant bird flying by first and we spotted where he landed, high on a bare branch.  It was very had to figure out what it was for a number of reasons.  First, I had never seen one of these before and second, it was approaching high-noon so, it was hard to pick out details of a white brested bird against the clouds and brilliant sun.

Joyce thought it may be an eagle and I thought it was a hawk of some sort until I saw it through my lens.  When I got a better look, I thought it might be an Osprey but, they don’t have the white head like this.  I have to credit David Akoubian for identifying this bird for me.  Being the great “bird nerd” that he is, he came back quickly with an ID on it.

I was lucky that I brought my long Tamron lens on this trip.  We heard that there were lots of hummingbirds at the gardens so, I hauled the big gun along.  Never expected to see this kind of sight but I’m glad that we did!

Mississippi Kite
(Ictinia mississippiensis)

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/11 – 1/1000 sec – ISO 250