Wildlife Of Resurrection Bay

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Resurrection Bay is an arm of the Pacific Ocean located on the Kenai Peninsula 150 miles or so southeast of Anchorage.  There is a modern highway linking Anchorage and Seward, the town at the head of the bay.  The bay is about 16 miles long and about eight miles wide.  It is ringed by steep hills, cliffs, towering mountains, and several glaciers.  On our last day in Alaska we took an eight-hour chartered boat trip around the circumference of the bay.  We found the bay to be teeming with all sorts of wildlife.

Numerous Sea Otters lolled in the waters of the harbor at Seward.  These animals, driven nearly to extinction by the fur trade, have made a remarkable and heartwarming comeback.  The otters that we encountered lived up to their reputation for cuteness, lying on their backs in the water, half asleep.

Their cute appearance is misleading.  Sea Otters are tough and resourceful predators.

Sea Otters weren’t the only aquatic mammals that we saw and photographed.  Harbor Seals lay on exposed rocks.  Seals aren’t very mobile when out of water so the question is: how did these seals find themselves on a rock whose top is at least four feet above the bay’s surface.  The answer is that they climbed onto the rock at high tide.  Low tide makes them appear to be much more agile on land than in fact they are.

We saw other aquatic mammals that I did not photograph. These included Stellar’s Sea Lions, Orcas, and a Finback Whale.

Mountain Goats ranged the cliffs high above the bay.

The goats that we observed were on cliffs that appeared virtually to be vertical.  Somehow these animals had managed to ascend these cliffs and were grazing without concern for the sheer drop-off.

We also observed numerous bird species including several species of cormorants.  These included Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants.  The birds shown below include a Double-crested Cormorant (center of image) flanked by two Pelagic Cormorants.  I was more than surprised to see Double-crested Cormorants inasmuch as this species shows up in some of Tucson’s parks during the winter months.

Tomorrow I will return to bears one more time and offer some final thoughts.  Then, it’s back to desert life.

Images made with a Canon 5Div.  Images 1 and 2 shot with a 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens.  Images 3-5 shot with the addition of a 1.4x telextender.  All images at aperture priority setting.  Images 1 and 2 shot at ISO 640: image 1, f11 @ 1/125; image 2, f11 @ 1/400.  Image 3 shot at ISO 1600, f9 @ 1/640.  Image 4 shot at ISO 800, f9 @ 1/400.  Image 5 shot at ISO 800, f8 @ 1/1600.

Bald Eagles At Resurrection Bay

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One of my objectives on my trip to Alaska was to get a decent image or two of a Bald Eagle.  I’ve seen eagles only very rarely prior to taking this trip and I’ve attempted to photograph them without notable success.  Bald Eagles are not residents of the Sonoran Desert, so my opportunities to photograph this species have been extremely limited.  Occasionally, someone claims to have sighted one here, usually during migration, prompting a stampede of birders that resembles the California Gold Rush.

So, for me, Bald Eagles are a precious item, birds that definitely are on my wish list.  I anticipated success from the moment we boarded a boat at
Seward to tour Resurrection Bay, about a three-hour drive southwest of Anchorage.  The guide, a helpful and very knowledgeable  young woman,  smiled broadly when I asked if we’d see eagles, and said: “sure.”

And, see them we did.  Much of the bay is ringed by shoreline with tall conifers.  We discovered eagles perched on these trees at regular intervals.

In the eight hours or so that we cruised around the bay we must have seen at least 15 of these magnificent birds.

Most Bald Eagles choose to reside near water and fish are an important element of their diet.  At Resurrection Bay the eagles use the conifers as lookouts, scanning the bay with their acute vision in hopes of locating a fish that they might seize.

The birds seemed to be relatively indifferent to us. Nearly all of them remained perched even as our boat bobbed directly beneath them.  I had hopes of seeing an eagle capture a fish.  That didn’t happen, but I did capture an image of an eagle in flight with a partially eaten fish in its talons.

These are huge birds, much bigger than the hawks that I’m used to photographing.  For comparison purposes, an adult Red-tailed Hawk weighs about two and one-half pounds and has a four-foot wingspan.  An adult Bald Eagle weighs nine pounds or more and has a wingspan of about six and one-half feet.

All of the eagles that we saw at Resurrection Bay were adults.  It takes young eagles four years or more to acquire adult plumage and juvenile plumage looks quite different from that of the adult birds.  I asked our guide why there were no young birds visible and she told me that in the two or three years prior to this year the water temperature in the bay had been abnormally warm.  That caused the native fish to vacate the bay.  The shortage of food caused adult birds to cease breeding and it also caused starvation among younger and less experienced eagles.  Fortunately, the bay’s waters have returned to something approaching their historic temperatures and, consequently, fish are back in abundance in the bay.  Biologists are hopeful that the local eagles will soon resume breeding.

Here’s an example of a young bird, likely a fourth-year Bald Eagle whose image I captured on an earlier boat trip to photograph puffins.  Notice the abundance of white feathers on the eagle’s underwings, something that is absent in adult birds.  Notice also that the bird’s head, neck and tail have yet to acquire the pure white plumage of an adult.  This youngster is molting, as is attested to by its very ragged tail and missing wing primaries.  It may look considerably different after it completes this summer’s molt.


There’s a majesty to these birds that I find to be absent in smaller raptors.  My eagle encounter whetted my appetite, so much so that I’m planning to join a photo tour in December that will concentrate on eagles.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting (except for fifth image, which was shot without telextender).  First image shot at ISO 800, f9 @ 1/500.  Second image shot at ISO 1600, f8 @ 1/3200. Third image shot at ISO 1600, f8 @ 1/2500.  Fourth image shot at ISO 800, f8 @ 1/1250.  Fifth image shot at ISO 640, f7.1 @ 1/1600.  Sixth image shot at ISO 1600, f8 @ 1/2500.

Horned Puffins

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I will return to the Coastal Brown Bears once more but first I’m going to spend a few days showing images of some of the other wildlife that I photographed in Alaska.

One afternoon we took a short boat trip to visit a small island a few miles to the west of where were staying.  And, on our trip’s final day, we drove from Anchorage to Seward where we boarded another boat in order to view the diverse wildlife inhabiting Resurrection Bay and its environs.  On both trips we saw numerous Horned Puffins.

Puffins are species of auk, aquatic birds of the Northern Hemisphere that occupy niches similar to those occupied by some penguins in the Southern Hemisphere.  They subsist entirely on small fish,  for which they dive.  Puffins, unlike penguins, are capable of flight.  Two species of puffin inhabit coastal Alaska, the Horned Puffin and the Tufted Puffin.  We saw both species.  However, I was only able to capture acceptable images of Horned Puffins.

All puffins are renowned for their somewhat comical appearance and their huge, colorful beaks.

Puffins have made a few evolutionary compromises to attain their present form.  They capture their prey by “flying” after it under water, using their wings to propel them after the small fish that are their mainstay.  Their wings are short and stubby in proportion to their bodies, great for swimming, but not so great for flying.  In the air, puffins are somewhat awkward fliers, keeping themselves aloft with extremely rapid and choppy wingbeats.

Taking off is a challenge for puffins.  It’s hard for them to generate enough lift under those stubby wings to become airborne.  In order to achieve flight, puffins must generate a fair amount of speed.  It is impossible for them to take off from a standstill, as many other birds are capable of doing.

On land, puffins roost on cliffs 50 feet or more above the water.  In taking off from their cliff perches,  puffins simply dive off headlong and count on gravity to accelerate them to a speed sufficient to attain flight.  That is a crude but effective strategy albeit a risky one.  Diving puffins risk being blown into the rocks by unanticipated wind currents.

It’s a very different story when taking off from the water.  There, it requires a supreme effort to become airborne.  In order to get airborne from water a puffin must frantically flap its little wings.  It uses its legs and feet to propel it along the water’s surface as it attempts to fly.  For a few seconds, a puffin attempting to take off from the water’s surface literally runs on the water, beating its wings as quickly as possible as it does so.

Our group’s leader, Aaron Baggenstos, made a slow-motion video of a puffin taking off from the water.  The video shows that the puffin “ran” for 21 steps before becoming airborne.

Truly remarkable, are these birds.

Images made with a Canon 5Div.  Images 2, 3, 4, and 6 shot with a 100-400mm ISII zoom lens.  Images 1 and 5 shot with the same lens but with the addition of a 1.4x telextender.  All images shot at aperture priority setting.  Image 1 shot at ISO 1000, f8 @ 1/640.  Images 2, 3, 4 and 6 shot at ISO 640, f5.6 @ 1/4000.  Image 5 shot at ISO 1000, f6.3 @ 1/800.


Alaskan Brown Bears, Part VI — Agro’s Cubs Go All Out

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Yesterday I posted about Brown Bear cubs’ propensity for play.  Today, I’m posting about one particular set of cubs — yearling triplets belonging to the sow named “Agro” — and their all out play that we witnessed one morning.

By the end of our stay with the bears Agro and her cubs had become a familiar sight.  She and her cubs were constant visitors to the beach and  the adjacent grass.  The cubs are highly mischievous and they often seemed to be more interested in wild play than in eating.

One morning we were on the mud flats at low tide as we witnessed Agro bring her cubs out to the flats in order to dig for clams.  Agro was intent on eating and she more or less ignored her cubs for a while.

The cubs had no desire to go clamming.  At first, two of them decided to play “King of the Mountain” by seizing control over and contesting possession of a large dead tree lying on the beach.

One of them took an aggressive stance and challenged his or her siblings to push him or her off the tree.

That phase of play didn’t last for very long.  Evidently, the cubs decided that the attraction of getting soaking wet and mud-covered surpassed that of playing on a dry beach.  We watched as two of the cubs collided like sumo wrestlers, trying to knock each other off balance.

Eventually, one cub succeeded in pushing the other to the sand.  The next phase of play consisted of the “victor” of the sumo match jumping on the other cub and engaging in mock biting.

The victim of the feigned attack was not thrilled about this phase of play.

Soon, he or she extricated himself or herself and sumo wrestling resumed, now fiercer than ever.

And so it went, for more than one-half hour.  Finally, just when one would have thought that these cubs were exhausted, one challenged another to a footrace and there ensued a mad dash.  The cubs raced in a large circle using us as their midpoint.  They went around twice before quitting.

We have a tendency when we observe animals to forget that fun is not a human invention.  These playful bears are a reminder of the reality that they, and other species as well, enjoy life just as much as we do.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, all images shot at ISO 640.  The first image, f6.3 @ 1/1600.  The second, f5.6 @ 1/1000.  The third, f63 @ 1/1250.  The fourth,  f6.3 @ 1/800.  The fifth, sixth, and seventh, f6.3 @ 1/1000.  The eighth, f6.3 @ 1/5000.


Cubs’ Play

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Coastal Brown Bear cubs play with each other.  They play a lot.  Well over one-half of the images I made of Brown Bears are of cubs at play.

We saw the same behavior again and again during our days observing the bears.  A mother and her cubs would be foraging or on the move from one location to the next.  Suddenly, one of the cubs would challenge another to wrestle or play fight.

The challenge invariably would be accepted and mock combat or some other form of play ensued.

Cubs’ play is physical, it is intense, and at times, it seems to be extremely violent.

The cubs choose almost any available venue as a playground.  Playing in water is just as acceptable as playing onshore.

As violent as their play appears to be, no one ever seems to get hurt.  The cubs have unwritten rules governing their mock combat.  They never use their claws — fearsome even on a yearling cub — to inflict scratches or wounds.  And, although the cubs appear to bite each other during play, the biting is feigned.

Play burns a lot of calories but the very well nourished cubs that we observed seemed to have calories to spare.  They certainly didn’t lack for energy.

Why do they do it?  Biologists studying bears don’t know.  Some speculate that play prepares the cubs for the physical challenges that they’ll face later in life.  Others think that play’s purpose is to build muscle, improve conditioning, and sharpen coordination.

Personally, I think that while bear cubs may benefit from play, they don’t understand any reason for playing other than that it is fun.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting.  First image shot at ISO 1000, f8 @ 1/1000.  Second image shot at ISO 1000, f8 @ 1/640.  Third image shot at ISO 800, f8 @ 1/1000.  Fourth image shot at ISO 1000, f8 @ 1/1000.  Fifth image shot at ISO 1000, f8 @ 1/2500.  Sixth image shot at ISO 500, f 7.1 @ 1/1000.  Seventh image shot at ISO 800, f8 @ 1/1000.

Alaskan Brown Bears, Part IV — Foraging

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What do Coastal Brown Bears eat?  A short and not entirely flippant answer is: anything that they want to. Although these bears can capture and kill prey, they are omnivores, eating both plant and animal material.

The bears that we observed foraged on two types of food consisting of beach grasses and clams.  The area we visited included a sea of grass extending inland from the shoreline for a substantial distance.  For the bears these grasslands were one gigantic salad bar.

We watched as the bears grazed almost nonstop.  According to our guide an adult bear may consume 30 pounds of grass or more each day.

Grass is of poor nutritional value and, although the bears can digest it to a certain extent, it does not provide them with necessary fat and protein.  To obtain that, the bears must eat animal material.  At Lake Clark, clams supply the bears with vital nutrition.

The tides along the Cook Inlet are big, rising and falling several feet each day.  Low tide exposes enormous mud flats that  cover  an expanse of hundreds of yards in depth from the high tide mark to the waterline.  Millions of Razor Clams bury themselves in this mud, sometimes as much as two feet beneath the surface.  The bears have learned to dig these clams from their muddy homes.  Each day at low tide bears walk out onto the mud flats and dig for clams.  Mother bears always are accompanied by their cubs.  Older cubs eagerly dig for clams along with their mothers.

Here, two third-year cubs begin digging.  Notice that although these cubs are twins, one of them is much larger than the other.  That is not uncommon among bear cubs.

The mud on the flats is thick and gooey.  It adheres to everything.  The cubs become covered with the stuff as they dig.

They not only don’t seem to mind, but like young children everywhere, they seem to revel in their muddiness.

Digging for clams sometimes requires a long reach.  This cub has its foreleg buried in mud up to his or her elbow.

As the cub reaches for the prize it looks around suspiciously, wanting to make certain that a sibling doesn’t sneak up and grab the clam.

With the prize attained, the cub reacts to an approaching bear.  No worries in this case, the other bear expressed no interest and the cub was able to eat in peace (the clam is visible by the cub’s left fore foot).

The bears harvest clams by the bushel.  These animals’ prodigious appetites enable them to pack away huge amounts of food when the opportunity exists.  As the summer progresses native fruits and berries ripen and the bears shift their focus to eating those plants.  In early autumn they will fish for salmon as they spawn.  Salmon are the grand prize for the bears.  They are rich in fat and protein and eating them enables a bear to pack on quite a bit of weight in preparation for winter dormancy.

The first image made with a Sony RX100-3, aperture priority setting, ISO 320, f7.1 @ 1/160.  All other images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting.  The second image shot at ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640.  Remaining images shot at ISO 500, f6.3 @ 1/800.

Alaskan Brown Bears, Part III — Motherhood

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Brown Bears are solitary animals.  They don’t rely on each other for companionship.  The adults don’t willingly associate with each other although they will sometimes gather at a food source.   That aside, the adults’ interactions are confined to breeding and occasional fights between boars competing for territory and mates.

The exception to this rule is the bond between cubs and mother bears.  Sows are devoted mothers, caring closely for their offspring until they are about three years of age.  Mother bears and their cubs travel, eat and sleep together, and even when the cubs are more than two years old, they don’t wander too far away from their mothers.

Brown Bears frequently produce twins and occasionally triplets.  We saw several pairs of twins and one set of triplets.  The yearling cubs in this first picture belong to a sow nicknamed “Agro.”  We would encounter this family often over the four days that we photographed at Lake Clark.

All of the cubs that we saw, including Agro’s cubs, were well-nourished.  It was obvious that the mothers were doing an excellent job caring for them.

The cubs learn by emulating their mothers.  The mothers took them along as they foraged.  On several occasions we watched sows and their cubs digging for clams.

One evening we watched a sow take her third-year twins for a swim.

The cubs nurse until they are more than two years old.  They continue to nurse occasionally even after they’ve begun foraging for food.  The youngest cubs, cubs born this year, are known as “spring cubs” or “cubs of the year” (“coys”).  They are far more dependent on mother’s milk than are older cubs.  One evening we watched a sow known as “Crimp Ear” (she has a deformed left ear) nurse her first year cubs.  She lay down, exposed her breasts, and allowed her cubs to suckle.  For a couple of minutes she appeared to be the picture of maternal contentment.

However, once she decided that the cubs had had enough, Crimp Ear simply rolled over and brushed the still-nursing cubs away with her forepaw.

She then watched, seemingly indulgently, as her cubs complained bitterly about having their feeding terminated.

Tomorrow, I’ll post some images that reveal another aspect of these bears’ behavior, their foraging.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting.  The first image shot at ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1000.  The second shot at ISO 640, f8 @ 1/1250.  The third shot at ISO 640, f6.3 @ 1/800.  The fourth through sixth images shot at ISO 800, f7.2 @ 1/500.

Alaskan Brown Bears, Part II — Sows And Boars

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We encountered several adults during our four-day photoshoot.  Adult male bears are called “boars” and adult females are called “sows.”  The basis for this terminology, which uses the same appellations as applies to pigs, is utterly beyond me.

The differences between male and female Brown Bears are instantly apparent.  For one thing, the males are much larger than the females.  An adult male often exceeds 700 pounds whereas a female may weigh from about one-half to two-thirds that amount.  The males are invariably solitary.  And, they are often are heavily scarred as the result of fights with other males or hostile encounters with unreceptive females.

This boar, which we were to see more than once, is a giant compared to the other bears that we encountered.  My first reaction upon seeing him was that he resembled a fur-covered SUV.  His enormous head and shoulders instantly distinguish him from female bears.

Sows, of course, aren’t exactly delicate flowers.

But, nonetheless,  they appear positively petit when compared with the big males.  That’s all relative, of course.  The sow depicted in the second and third images almost certainly weighs over 400 pounds.

The sows that we saw had more attractive coats than had the males and definitely appeared to be plumper relative to their overall size.  Boars lead a tough life, punctuated by battles.  Their existence is more nomadic than that of the sows.  Their primary role is to breed with females and there is fierce competition among the boars for that opportunity.  Females will reject a boar’s advances if they aren’t ready, and rejection can be violent.  The boar pictured below shows the many battle scars that he has picked up along the way.

This sow, by contrast, is unmarked.

And, unlike the boars, this last sow seemingly had time for reflection.

The sows that we observed invariably were accompanied by their cubs.  Tomorrow, I’ll post some images of mothers with their cubs and discuss these bears’ maternal lives.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting.  First image, ISO 1000, f10 @ 1/250.  Second image, ISO 1250, f7.1 @ 1/250.  Third image, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/400.  Fourth image, ISO 400, f7.1 @ 1/320.  Fifth image, ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/640.  Final image, ISO 640, f5.6 @ 1/800.



Alaskan Brown Bears, Part I

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Over the next couple of weeks or so I am going to depart from this blog’s usual format to publish images and text about a trip that I made to the shores of Alaska’s Cook Inlet during the first week of July to photograph Coastal Brown Bears and other wildlife.  For me, it was one of the more thrilling experiences of a lifetime.  I came home with thousands of images from which I have extracted more than two hundred of the best.

In order to visit these animals I traveled with a group of photographers as part of a tour organized by Aaron Baggenstos of Aaron’s Phototours.  He was a superb team leader and guide and our trip was exceptionally well planned and led.  I’m the guy in the orange rain jacket in the image below.  Aaron is third from the left.

The bears live in Lake Clark National Park, on the shores of the Cook Inlet, about 150 miles southwest of Anchorage.  It is not possible to get there by automobile.  We flew in and out by bush plane.  Our principal plane, a DeHaviland Beaver, seemed to be nearly as old as I am.  However, it functioned perfectly, and the flights were quite comfortable even if the noise level inside the plane was deafening.

Over the course of four days of intense photography the members of our group were in close proximity to bears.  There were times that we stood so close to them that we could hear them eat and there were several instances in which a bear approached to within 15 feet of our group.

I’ve always been fascinated by large predators and Coastal Brown Bears are about as big as they get.  Brown Bears may be found throughout the northern hemisphere and all of them, from Europe to North America, belong to the same species, Ursus Arctos.  There are numerous subspecies of these animals.  North America’s Grizzly Bears and Alaska’s Coastal Brown bears are different subspecies, but they are close cousins.

These animals can attain immense size with males in some subspecies weighing well over 1000 pounds.  The bears that I observed are a bit smaller than that, but still huge, with the adults weighing upwards of 700 pounds.

We observed these bears foraging, sleeping, and playing on a coastal plain that included a vast expanse of grass and a tidal zone that became an immense mudflat at low tide.

Brown Bears have a fearsome reputation as predators, and publications and the internet abound with stories of bears vs. human attacks.  A staple of romantic literature about the Old West is the tale of the attack on a hunter or trapper by a grizzly bear.  Every year we read stories about hikers and cyclists who fall victim to these animals.  Given that, how could we venture so close to these animals and walk away unscathed?

I think that the answer to this question has more than one element.  First, and foremost is the fact that the Lake Clark bears are very familiar with humans.  Bears aren’t hunted there.  People have come to the area to observe the bears for decades and so, the animals are inured to humans’ presence.  Furthermore, we offered nothing of interest to them.  We were strictly forbidden to carry food into the field.  The bears, on the other hand, had an abundant food supply consisting of the grass that grows densely near the shoreline and clams at low tide.  Moreover, nothing that we did interfered with the bears’ activities.  Although we stood close to them, we never cut off their lines of travel and never interacted with them.  We stood quietly, talked in low tones, and made no sudden movements.  Although the bears certainly were aware of our presence they ignored us.

Over the four days that we photographed these bears we saw them engage in a wide variety of behaviors and activities.  We photographed bears of all ages, from older adults like the ones pictured above to cubs ranging in age from a few months to three years.

My plan over the next week or two is to post about all of the aspects of bear life that we witnessed.  I will post images of male and female bears, of mothers and cubs, of cubs playing, and of bears foraging.  And, I’ll post images of other wildlife that we saw and photographed.

The second image made with a Canon 5Diii, 70-200mm f4 L  zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 400, f7.1 @ 1/320.  All other images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting.  The third image shot at ISO 1000, f8 @ 1/1000.  The fourth image shot at ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/800.  The fifth image shot at ISO 400, f6.3 @ 1/640.  The sixth image shot at ISO 800, f8 @ 1/1250.  The final image shot at ISO 500, f5.6 @ 1/2500.



Fledgling Vermilion Flycatcher

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Back in April I posted about a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers, male and female, at Fort Lowell Park near our Tucson home.  The little flycatchers appeared to be in love.  I’ve gone back to the park periodically, hoping to find a nest or fledgling birds.  I had no luck until a couple of weeks ago.

I was in the park when I spotted the male, sitting on one of his favorite perches.

The male was, as usual, patrolling his territory.  He’d sit on his perch for a minute or so, fly off in search of insects to capture, and then either return or land on another perch a few yards away.  I concentrated on photographing him.

But, after a couple of minutes, I noticed a second bird sitting on a chain link fence a few yards away.  The second bird seemed to be shadowing the adult male, following it around.  My first reaction was that this was a female flycatcher, probably the male’s mate.  But, there was something unusual about this second bird’s behavior.  It wasn’t a very sophisticated flier.  It kept trying to squeeze through the openings in the fence, which were just a hair too small to allow the second bird passage.  After a minute or so of this, it gave up and flew to a different perch, again just a few yards from where the male was perching.  I took the opportunity to photograph it.

I believe this to be a fledgling bird, probably one of the male’s offspring.  Female Vermilion Flycatchers lack the males’ brilliant red plumage, but they usually have pale yellow or orange breasts and abdomens.  This little flycatcher is lacking that plumage, suggesting that it is sporting a fledgling’s feathers.

I also suspect that it is a fledgling bird from its behavior.  Its clumsy attempts to squeeze through fence openings are the sort of thing that fledgling birds do.  There is a learning curve for fledglings and they go through a period after leaving their nests when they are extremely naive, just like all youngsters who are one their own for the first time.  The fact that it was hanging around the male also suggests that it is a fledgling.  Young birds often continue to get fed by their parents for a few weeks after fledging.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII lens+1.4x telextender, M setting, ISO 640, f8 @ 1/1250.