Posted tagged ‘mountain bluebird’

MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD: A Slice of Western Sky

June 9, 2010


Sublime beauty in a small bird

The color is startling: a pure cerulean blue that mirrors the vast dome of sky stretching over the sagebrush.  A color so achingly intense, when the light illuminates it just right, that it renews my appreciation for the wild palette every time. That is the powerful attraction of the male Mountain Bluebird.

I photographed these bluebirds near a pair of nest boxes along a fence bordering Washington State wildlife lands on Whiskey Dick Mountain. This is hot, dry country in the sagebrush-steppe lands near the Columbia River,

Sagebrush, barbed wire, and windmills in the land of the Mountain Bluebird

where Big Sagebrush and Bitterbrush dominate the landscape. In spring, the earth between the shrubs is filled with wildflowers, and the cooler temperatures of the early season make hiking bearable. During my visit, the Mountain Bluebirds had paired off and were defending their nest box, but no eggs had yet hatched so the adults were not incubating or carrying food.

An interesting fact: the Mountain Bluebird has NO blue pigment in its feathers; the intense blue is created by the structure of the feathers themselves, which scatter light in the same way that the deep blue western sky scatters light. I find that the bluebird blue is most intense when the sun is at a low angle, directly behind my back. But these birds are breathtakingly beautiful anywhere, anytime.

Female Mountain Bluebird on Bitterbrush

Defending its nest box against swallows and other invaders

Male on Big Sagebrush, the dominant plant of the shrub-steppe ecosystem

Female staring intently at the intruder

Alert male on Bitterbrush

Master of his domain

The cerulean blue is a perfect match for the vast western sky

An impressionistic view of the Mountain Bluebird near its nest box

Female Mountain Bluebird on Bitterbrush

Mountain Bluebirds are relatives of robins and thrushes

For more information about Mountain Bluebirds, the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology is a good place to start.  Go to All About Birds.

To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com.

To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website.

Birds Among the Ancient Pines

November 30, 2009

While camping in California’s White Mountains, Karen and I photographed a few birds in the Bristlecone Pine forest, and in Limber Pine and Pinyon-Juniper forests.  This was a magical trip, with frosty mountain weather and stunning, seemingly Tolkien-inspired forests.  We were there primarily to photograph the Bristlecones, but when a few birds showed their pretty faces, we spent some quality time with them.  These are my favorite bird photographs from those wonderful days in October.

.Clark’s Nutcracker feeding on the seeds within Limber Pine cones.

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A camp-robber Mountain Chickadee swooped down from this Utah Juniper and began feeding on our carrot cake muffins sitting on the picnic table.

.A Western Scrub-Jay joined the Mountain Chickadee in foraging on our picnic table.  Did you know that these birds like Jarlsberg Cheese imported from Norway?

.A Mountain Bluebird pauses to look at me from the trunk of one of the oldest trees on earth (well, it used to be, now it’s dead), the Great  Basin Bristlecone Pine.

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This Clark’s Nutcracker used two adjacent branches as its perch while probing Limber Pine cones.

.A female or juvenile Cassin’s Finch is well-camouflaged by the trunk of this dead Bristlecone Pine at above an 11,000′ elevation.

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A Western Scrub-Jay looks down at our breakfast table like a vulture.

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This experience gave us our best close views we’ve ever had of Mountain Chickadees.

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A Clark’s Nutcracker with a Limber Pine seed it its bill.

.Two Clark’s Nutcrackers feeding on Limber Pine seeds.

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With a stunning flash of elegant black, white, and gray, a Clark’s Nutcracker takes off to fly to another tree.

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To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website

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