Lazy sea lions

These sea lions are living the good life, basking in the sun and relaxing, or at least it would seem. This photo was taken at La Jolla Cove in San Diego, California. There are tons of sea lions and birds relaxing on the rocks, it is a pretty amazing sight to see. However, it is also a little sad, because there are far too many people who do not give the animals their space and cause way too much stress for the animals.

Sea lions basking in the sun

Preening pelican

Eight species of pelicans make up the family Pelecanidae. Two species can be found in the United States, the American white pelican and the Brown pelican, seen here. This pelican was found in San Diego, along a coastal trail. I wonder if people in California view these beautiful birds as no big deal since they are so common, because every time I see one, I am so captivated by them. This pelican was busy preening, or grooming its feathers to keep them in good condition.

Preening pelican in San Diego, California

Napping duck

It amazes me that birds sleep on one leg, with the other leg tucked up against their body. Sleeping standing up seems like it would be hard enough without having to worry about having to balance on one leg. On the other hand, it must be nice to have such a flexible neck to be able to tuck the head in under the wing to keep it nice and warm while sleeping. This photo was taken on the island of Crete in Greece with a fairly long lens, so I was a good distance away from this duck, but based on how he was looking at me, I don’t think he was too happy about me interrupting his nap.

Napping duck standing on one leg with his head tucked in under his wing

Butterfly eyespot

Have you ever seen a butterfly with coloring on its wing that looks like an eye and wondered why the butterfly looked like that? I have. The obvious answer is that is it a defense mechanism, intended to make potential predators question whether it is really a butterfly they are seeing or something larger that may want to make the predator the prey. This is a large part of the function of the eyespot, but it is also believed to play a role in courtship as well. If you want to know more, you can read all about the evolutionary significance of eyespots in butterflies here. Anyway, the photo of this butterfly was taken at the Mexico City Zoo.

Butterfly with a large eyespot on the trunk of a tree

Elusive hummingbird

It took me quite a few tries to get a picture of this hummingbird. It would show up outside the window, feed on the plant outside the window, and disappear by the time I managed to grab my camera. After lots of near misses, I finally got this photo. I was not an expert on photography by any means so there was certainly some luck that went into this photo. I like how the near wing of the hummingbird is sharp while there is just a little motion blur in the far wing. It’s a good thing I got this photo because my luck in getting photos of hummingbirds since then has been quite bad, it seems like every time I see one, my camera is either not nearby or has the wrong lens on it.

Hummingbird in mid air

Eagles of the Ramparts

This photo was taken in Provins, France, a medieval tourist town outside Paris. Among the attractions is the “Eagles of the Ramparts” show, which showcases the history of falconry in the area. The birds were amazing, the falconers were amazing, and the show was enjoyable even though it is in entirely in French. The composition of this photo was largely luck because there was so much happening during the show and everything happened so quickly, but I like how the bird’s wing disappears out of the corner of the photo and the empty space on the left side in the direction they are moving.

Impressive bird with its falconer during the Eagles of the Ramparts show in Provins, France.

It’s all in the eyes

The secret to any good animal photo, whether it’s a bird, giraffe, monkey, or dog, is making sure that the eyes are in focus and properly exposed. Since animals usually move around however they want and don’t necessarily pose for the camera, that can be a problem. But, as Rick Sammon says, if the eyes aren’t in focus and properly exposed, you’ve missed the shot. And let me tell you, I’ve missed the shot plenty of times. But it’s our failures that make us appreciate our successes, right? Personally, I also prefer animal photos where the animal’s eyes are focused on something away from the camera. The photo of this big cat was taken at Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City.

Black and white photo of a spotted leopard with its face partly hidden by a tree branch.

Mexican pelican

Many people think more about beaches than bird-watching when it comes to Mexico but many of the birds that spend the summer in the northern United States spend winters in Mexico, so a winter trip to Mexico can provide a great opportunity to see (and photograph) birds. This pelican was one of dozens hanging out near the port of Chiquilá, from which one can catch the ferry to the beautiful island of Holbox. When not flying around, the pelicans liked to gather in large groups, so trying to get a photo of just a single bird was a bit of a challenge, especially when the time to take photos of these beautiful birds was limited by when our ferry was departing.

Photo of a pelican

Mule ride in the Grand Canyon

There are two ways to reach the bottom of the Grand Canyon within Grand Canyon National Park. One is to hike down, the other is to ride a mule to the bottom as part of a tour. While it is logical to think that the mule ride is the easier way to the bottom, people who have done both say that they are more sore after the mule ride down than the hike down. Regardless, as this mule was making the trip back up from the bottom of the canyon (at a much faster rate than we were hiking at, I might add), his rider seemed to be enjoying the trip just fine.

Mule ride in the Grand Canyon

El Tortugario

El Tortugario is a sea turtle sanctuary located outside Cuyutlan, Mexico. The sanctuary collects sea turtle eggs to protect them, hatches the eggs, then releases the baby sea turtles into the sea, and if visitors are at El Tortugario on a day when sea turtles are being released, they can participate in the process. In addition to releasing baby sea turtles, there are sea turtles of various ages, educational materials, and a wonderful boat tour through a nearby lagoon filled with all kinds of birds. Cuyutlan is a small, off the beaten path seaside town with a nice beach but not a lot to do. However, for a place to get away from the throngs of tourists and enjoy a slower paced vacation, it is quite nice.

Baby sea turtle being released into the wild