July 31, 2021 - About this time three years ago, I launched a birding website via Smugmug.   I called it Wings and Wonder.  You open it by launching  wingsandwonder.com.  The site features my bird photographs and offered the photographs for sale.  I haven't sold any; so I've decided to expand the site.  I know that doesn't make much sense.  But it could be that I enjoy seeing and photographing birds and showing my pictures and money is not the reward I'm looking for.  It also could be that the organization of the site helps me get my arms around the 23,000 plus pictures that I've kept over the years, including thousands that were taken after I let this site go dormant.   

I ought to qualify that remark.  By no means have I posted or included 20,000 photographs. I've cherry-picked the ones I like best and that fit into a series of galleries on the website that are not inclusive but help me organize my favorite pictures and help the viewer decide where to spend his/her time.  By organizing, I've discovered photos that I had forgotten all about.  For example, I've been longing for a photo of a Barn Owl in flight.  When I was combing through photos, I discovered that I had already taken one a few years ago.  In my old age, I had just totally forgotten about it.  If you want to see it, open the Owls gallery.  Organizing will also help me decide where to trim.  The temptation is great to go after every rare bird that pops up but it doesn't leave much time to improve bird photography and processing.  That being said, i do have a gallery for rare or vagrant birds that show up in Arizona.

I even added a couple of new galleries for this relaunch.  One is devoted entirely to just one bird species:  Elegant Trogons.  Over the years I've accumulated a lot of Elegant Trogon pictures and had my best outing ever a couple of weeks ago in Madera Canyon.  These birds are mostly only found in the sky islands of Southern Arizona near the Mexican border.  They attract birders from all over and are a thrill to see and photograph; so why not give them their own space?

I've also launched a gallery called MBY.  That is, My Back Yard.  I have a few good photos from when we lived in Mesa, but I'm getting a greater variety in the backyard of our house in northeast Phoenix near Scottsdale.  Behind our backyard is the Arizona Canal and on the other side of the canal is Reach 11, a primitive city of Phoenix park that draws a fair number of birds.  I take some pleasure in just hiding on my patio and photographing Rosy-faced Lovebirds and Hooded Orioles and share those photos on this site.  Shoot I've seen Western Tanagers on my fountain a couple of times.  No pictures.  But someday.

Finally, I was pumped by a migration season birding trip this April that Pam and I took to the Texas Gulf Coast.  I'm still mining pictures from the 10-day trip.  Waking this website up gives me the motivation to keep working on photos that are now over three months old.

A little bit about how the site works.  You'll see a slide show when you open the site and come to the home page.  It's to enjoy.  If you go to the featured list of photos, you'll see several dozen of my favorites.  I hope to amend this list every couple of months, depending on my success in the field.  If you want to dig deeper, go to the galleries.  You'll see galleries on warblers and buntings and other smaller birds.  You'll see galleries on tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks  and other colorful "Kodachrome" birds.  There are galleries on birds of prey, a gallery for birds of the AZ desert and the AZ high country.  There are galleries from the British Isles (mostly Puffins) and from Sax Zim Bog in Minnesota, dominated by Great Gray Owls.  ETC.

If you get a chance to browse through this site, let me know what you think.  Good and bad. And thank you for reading this blog entry  - Jim

June 2, 2019 - In the late spring/summer, SE Arizona is the only place in the US you can count on seeing or hearing the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. You are more likely to hear than see them. Their squeaky-toy voices burst out from the mountain canyon treetops where they fight and play seldom coming down to be seen at eye-level. I was in the right place at the right time in Madera Canyon last week.  Please go to the "Featured" Gallery"  or the" High Country" galley in the "Birds by Locations" folder to see my eye-level picture.

Dec. 17, 2018 - It's been a great year for photographing owls and it's ending with a bang.  Last week I  headed five miles down a dirt road southwest of Tucson  and got good photos of both male and female Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls (Cactus sub-species).  These small (6.75 inches in length) neotropical owls are only found in Southern Arizona and parts of Texas in the U.S. They are much more common south of the border and all the way into South America.  But rare in Arizona.  This wasn't my first Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.  Pam and I saw one on the King Ranch in Texas last April.  But it was on a tour and I wasn't able to get quality time with the one that our guide called down.   Go to my owl gallery to see pictures of this pair of rare owls.

Nov. 19, 2018 - Forgive me for not updating this blog sooner.  It has proven to be a busier than usual fall.  Foremost was the arrival of my first grandchild.  The parents and baby are staying with us until they can sell their house in a Minnesota and buy one of their own here in Arizona.  Biggest news on the birding front is that my photo of a female Montezuma Quail has been selected to be displayed in the Arizona Game and Fish 2019 calendar.   That honor comes with some money; so I'm a very happy birder.  I've put the quail in the Featured Gallery as well as the Quail Gallery--if you want to take a look.  I did have some successful outings since the last post.  I got some very good looks at a group of Long-eared Owls here in the Phoenix area.  Photos are in the Owl Gallery.  A rare for Arizona male American Redstart showed up and I was able to spend a couple of hours alone with him.  I sat in the middle of a path where he was foraging low in and around a Mesquite tree.  He became as interested in me as I was in him.  Look for him in the Buntings and Warblers Gallery.  I'm a big fan of Lawrence's Goldfinch which sometimes find their way into Arizona from California in the winter.  I've photographed them before, but the photographs from this visit are by far the best.  I'll make sure I post a couple of shots in the Featured Gallery.  Until we meet again.

Sept. 5, 2018 - Once again I bow down to serendipity. A couple of days ago I stopped my truck  about a mile short of my destination where there was a cattle tank and  a few scrubby trees (perhaps Mesquite ).  I was alone on the  dirt road that leads down to well-known birding area called Florida Canyon.   Thunderheads were forming over the Santa Rita Mountains that loomed ahead and it was clear that rain had fallen recently and was threatening an encore.   As my comfort break ended I heard a bird sing in a crisp, clear  voice.  I'm not particularly good at identifying birds through their songs.  I just knew it wasn't familiar.  It sounded like a small bird, perhaps a warbler since they have been migrating south.    I decided to see what I could see.  It took awhile but I finally tracked the intermittent song to a small, dark silhouette near  the top of a tree.  Could it be? I wondered as I focused my binoculars.  Yes, it looked like a Varied Bunting.  Determined not to make it easy for me, he flew away.   I eventually refound him and a her, and he eventually returned to the same area as when I saw him originally.   Because he was so small and dark, I needed my 1.4X extender to get more out of my 100-400mm lens.  I also put on a flash unit I use in fill-flash mode.  I hadn't seen or photographed a Varied Bunting in three years.  I was a happy camper.  A chance stop and a bird i hadn't seen in a long time.  You can't beat that.     They're essentially border birds found in southern AZ, Southern NM and southwest Texas.    I've posted a couple of the pictures I took in the Warblers and Buntings gallery.  I also will put one picture in the "featured" gallery.  I hope you enjoy this seldom seen bunting.

Aug. 16, 2018 - The story of Wingsandwonder.com has many beginnings. So, I’ll just pick one. Several years ago my wife Pam and I had gone to the Huachuca Mountains to celebrate my birthday in the cool air of Arizona’s high country. I was walking along a path in the forest when a small bird cloaked in deep black and white and bright red came into view. He saw me as soon as I saw him and he split, leaving me standing there in wonder. What was that beautiful little bird? I wondered. How could I get him to hold still long enough to leave more than just a blurry imprint on my mind? I wondered. But that wouldn’t be enough. I needed his picture so that I would never forget what he looked like and so that I could show family and friends this wonderful bird in Arizona’s mountains. From a glimpse of a Painted Redstart began my journey to serious bird photography hobbyist and finally to the Wings and Wonder website. If you’ve read this far, it’s likely that you share my fascination with our winged wonders. It’s also possible you’ve already looked at some of my pictures not just from Arizona but from Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog, Ohio’s Magee Marsh, Texas’s Lower Rio Grande Valley and Atlantic Puffin nesting grounds in the British Isles. I can only hope that the pictures have met with your approval. And maybe just maybe you’ll be moved to take one or more home with you.

~ Jim

Aug. 14, 2018 - My first blog entry on my new website, Wingsandwonder.com:  Thank goodness for the hot summer months here in the Phoenix Valley of the Sun.  The call of the Great Outdoors slackened long enough for me to buckle down in front of the computer and get this website project off the ground.  As much as anything, the project was motivated by my desire to bring some sort of order to the thousands of bird pictures piled up in my computer's  sock drawer.  It was also motivated by wonderful people who have expressed  an interest in my bird photographs.    Time in a sense stands still and they can easily dip into my collection whenever they want.  They can even buy a picture--if they want.  I still intend to post to birding group pages on social media sites, but time goes by uncomfortably fast on social media. Oh, one more thing.    I wish to thank Phoenix-based wildlife photographer Kathleen Reeder for being my coach on this project.  Type her name into Google and you'll see great wildlife photos from a real pro.

~ Jim

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