Ok, so to those of you that hate bats, hopefully I can change your mind with these two very cute photos. In inner Sydney an hour before sunset the sky is full of winged creatures called flying foxes (also known as a fruit bat), which is one of Australia’s mega-bats. This particular type is native to Australia and is called a Grey-headed flying fox (typically a grey head with a neck collar of orange-brown fur). These little guys might be bigger than you think, with adults having an average wingspan of 1 meter (3.3 ft). They settle on the giant fig trees when in fruit, and if you are anywhere near, you will hear them squabbling loudly at each other. Unlike micro-bats they don’t use sonar to get around, they use their eyes an ears like we do and can see in the dark as good as a cat can. If you watch them closely enough you will see how cute they are, hanging upside-down and watching you while munching on a fig, which also means they poke their tongue out a lot. To me the photo below is just like an adorable teddy bear. They love nectar, pollen and fruits and are vital to maintaining the ecosystem by dispersing the seeds. I hope you also see how adorable a bat can really be once you get past the whole night creature with leathery wings.
This juvenile Green Heron was photographed in Belize, and what amazes me with these birds is how different they appear as an adult compared to a juvenile. This bird is called a Green Heron because as an adult his back and wing feathers will be a very deep green color (rather than brown) and a chestnut red neck and breast. Hopefully he will get to keep those lovely white streaks down the front of his neck. This little fellow is stretching his neck out to see as far as he can from his perch, but a lot of the time they will sit with their neck folded. These birds have quite a spiky hairdo which they can emphasize at will by raising their crown feathers when annoyed or disgruntled, or just because they can.
Since we’re on the topic of woodpeckers, I thought I’d show you a different kind. This beautiful, puffed out bird was diligently hole checking on an island in Belize. It was traveling with a friend from palm tree to palm tree, which made me realize that the woodpeckers I’ve seen have often traveled in pairs. I’m not entirely sure what kind of woodpecker this is, as it has the face markings of a ladderback woodpecker, but more yellow coloring on the underbelly than usual. I saw them at the same times each day which gave me multiple opportunities to observe their behavior and get some great photos.
This was a treat to finally get to photograph on of the largest woodpeckers in America. Growing up in Australia I didn’t know there were different types of woodpeckers, I thought there was only one. This particular bird is a Pileated Woodpecker that lives in Yosemite National Park. My ignorance about the woodpecker is valid considering they exist worldwide except for Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Madagascar and extreme polar regions. In America, well before I had even seen a woodpecker, I had learned to recognize the signs of woodpecker activity on trees who have had numerous holes poked into them and display naked areas where the bark has been hammered off. I’ve also often heard the bird in the distance hammering on the tree, but not actually seen the individual making all the noise. They hit the tree surprisingly hard with their beaks over and over again at incredible speed, it is a wonder how they don’t have a permanent migraine.
If I didn’t have photographic proof, would you ever have believed that I found a lizard with blue spots? Well this Aruban Whiptail lizard with a ‘too cool for school’ facial expression is real and comes in differing degrees of blue. Many species of whiptails reproduce asexually by parthenogenesis, meaning the females eggs undergo chromosomal doubling without being fertilized and produce babies with the genetic make up (clones) of the mother. Because of this reproductive quirk, many species of whiptail lizards are all females. Goodbye males and genetic diversity and hello to a world where females rule all. See ladies, it can happen!
For other lizards posts please click here.
During a recent trip to the west coast of the US, we couldn’t have missed this bird if we’d tried. They are out in numbers around Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park where conifer forests are prominent. Having spent time around Blue Jays (a close relative) in New York I think Stellar’s Jays are by far the noisiest of the two and make their presence known. In addition to numerous distinct vocalizations, they are also known mimics of the calls of other birds, animals and can also produce non-animal sounds.
I’m sure I’ve said in the past that all reptiles are beautiful, but I think this Iguana might just be the exception. I think he might have even been the inspiration for Gremlins (and not the cute furry one). He seemed like the king of this particular paddock, so it seems that looks don’t matter in the Iguana world and size definitely does!
For more Iguana’s that are easier on the eyes click here.
It is said that Yosemite National Park is home to only one type of rattlesnake, and I was honored to meet him. This is the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake which is patterned with grey and white markings. I might be the only person that would call this the highlight of their trip to this spectacular national park. My friends were understandably horrified when I told them that this was the perfect snake to photograph – not frightened and running away nor aggressive, just happily working it’s way through the tree roots and occasionally stopping for a photo. What a treat!
Another epic landscape photo showing the colorful landscape of Zion National Park in Utah. Down below you can see the road that travels in the valley between these giant rocky mountains, which are perfect for hikers to get a scenic view of the area. It was very strange to me to be seeing a landscape that looks like a dessert, but at the same time, also a place where snow was falling. The wonders of mother nature at their best.
A sharp U-turn of the Colorado River has created this famous rock formation named Horseshoe Bend. So famous, that even I woke up BEFORE sunrise to get there (I almost never do that!) so that I could watch the colors of the landscape change as the morning sun washes over it. As amazing as it was, I would love to go at sunset so that the setting sun could appear in my photograph. It is true what they say – that sunrise and sunset are a photographers dream. It helps to have incredible scenery to capture, with all of its own rich colors, and the landscapes of Arizona are as rich with color as they come.