Small, aggressive, energetic, and colorful, hummingbirds have been a target for my lens for several years.  Four hummingbird feeders off our deck have, at times, had nearly 100 individuals clamoring for the sugar water.


At other times, as right now, an aggressive individual keeps all the others away.  While I’ve identified 4 species here over the years, the majority are Anna’s.  A few smaller rufous are always around and it’s usually an individual of this species that keeps all others at bay.  An occasional black-chinned appears off and on during the summer but only during spring migration do I see an occasional calliope.

Anna’s Hummingbird                                  Rufous Hummingbird


Hummingbirds are unique; found only in the western hemisphere. They range from southern Alaska to Patagonia, including islands of the Caribbean, but the majority of species occur in tropical and subtropical Central and South America within the tropical and subtropical forests of the northern Andes.  Ecuador has over 130 species.


As hummingbirds primary food is nectar from flowers, many bill designs have evolved to utilize the great variety of tropical flowers.

DSCF1557 DSCF1655

IMG_6662 IMG_6235

One could easily see the evolution of the swordbill hummingbird’s bill to extract nectar from flowers too deep for other birds to obtain.

IMG_9889 Swordbilled Hummingbird 8

On my trips to Central and South America I’ve had an opportunity to photograph a lot of hummingbirds, I think my total is somewhere near 40 (meaning I have well over 100 left to see and photograph!  Never happen!).


Taking images of hummingbirds in flight is a challenge as the speed of their wings requires extreme shutter speeds …

♂ RufousHB5

…so a “set-up” where several flashes are often arranged near a feeder or flower to stop the action is often used.

Set-up images


Personally, I prefer the photos of the perched birds better as they show some of the habitat but because they don’t sit very long and move fast, I have a lot of frames with nothing but the perch.



Here are some of the ones I’ve captured over several trips to Central and South America.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet (Ecuador) 

Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Guango Lodge, Ecuador   

Green Thorntail (Ecuador)

Green Thorntail 3a

Long-billed Hermit (Panama)

Long-billed Hermit 3                                                                    

Collared Inca (Ecuador)                                                                                

Collared Inca, Guango Lodge, Ecuador

Purple-crowned Fairy (Costa Rica)

Purple-crowned Fairy 2

Glowing Puffleg (Ecuador)

Glowing Puffleg

Booted Raquet-tail (Ecuador)

Booted Racket-tail, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador                                                                   

Sapphire-vented Puffleg (Ecuador)

Sapphire-vented Puffleg 2

Violet-bellied Hummingbird (Panama)

Violet-bellied Hummingbird 4                                                      

 Brown Violet-ear (Ecuador)

 Brown Violet-ear 5

  Great Sapphirewing (Costa Rica)

Great Sapphirewing, Yanacocha, Ecuador

 Black Mango (Panama)

Black Mango 2

Buff-winged Starfrontlet (Ecuador)

Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador

 White-necked Jacobin (Ecuador)                 Purple-throated Woodstar (Ecuador)

White-necked Jacobin 6Purple-throated Woodstar 2

Violet-tailed Sylph (Ecuador)                      Velvet-purple Coronet (Ecuador)

Violet-tailed Sylph 4Velvet-purple Coronet

Sparkling Violet-ear (Ecuador)                      Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Ecuador)

Sparkling Violet-ear 5Rufous-tailed Hummingbird                              

Rufous-crested Coquette (Panama)           Buff-tailed Coronet (Ecuador)

 Rufous-crested Coquette 1Buff-tailed Coronet, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador


From primal ooze they say we came
That cells congealed to form a brain
And since…the world’s not been the same
Humanity evolved.

For those first several million years
We hid in caves to quell our fears
Protected there, we persevered
To our lot we resolved.

Then we began to sharpen stones
And tie them tight to sticks and bones
To the ends of staffs… which then were thrown
We soon learned of our might.

It wasn’t till these tools we made
That man, the hunter, found his place
Then soon the warrior was embraced
And found a cause to fight.

In all those years that went before
There was no strife or need for war
Then greed, and skill with weapons bore
O’er battlefields we trod.

To justify the path we’d laid
The lives we took by gun and blade
To lead us in a world crusade
We so created God.

We offered our prayers up to Him
That war in His name, we should win
That He absolve us of all sin
At our communion feast.

But victory did not bring us calm
It brought, instead, human aplomb
With brain and hands…we built the bomb
And said it would bring peace.

The world is better now, I think
Since humankind became extinct
And rat and cockroach rule the stink
Of what we once called “Earth.”

Our spirits roam the starry plains
Reflecting back from whence we came
But cannot overcome the shame
And thus, defy rebirth.

It begins again in primal ooze…

Dean Carrier

Our Domestic Military

Like it or not, we are Hell bent on becoming a military society. This not only stems from our federal efforts to solve foreign political and religious problems through military means; or on the growing capacity and focus of our internal state and local law enforcement agencies to control, rather than protect their citizenry; or on the extreme growth of a radical military citizenry who believe the Constitution supports, even condones, revolution and is amassing military firearms to be prepared for it. It is all of these.

Recently, at a course on firearm safety, the instructor cautioned us that “your concern is not whether you might get into a gun fight, but WHEN…and you need to be prepared for it?” In America? Really? I try to think of all the friends and acquaintances I’ve had in the past 75 years and cannot point to one who was or knew anyone involved in a domestic gun fight. Guns were for hunting.

I admit as a teen-ager I got into my scrapes with the police; throwing cherry bombs from a vehicle; driving over someone’s lawn; throwing water balloons at police cars. But when I was apprehended, I was not shot, or handcuffed, or tear gassed, or jailed, but was put in the back seat of a police car and taken home and my parents for my retribution. The officers were stern…but fair and I even knew some of them by their first names because they lived in our neighborhood.

At the Snow Goose Festival a couple years back the two personnel manning the California State Parks booth were law enforcement officers, both wearing full battle gear on their belts: automatic pistols, mace, handcuffs, baton, etc. I recalled the State Parks were places my family took me to learn about nature, camp, hike and fish…not to be intimidated by a military presence. These didn’t appear to be the ones I’d want to ask how the fishing was in Lake Oroville.

Why has this changed? Well, when I was a young man no one walked into department stores or restaurants carrying automatic weapons to “prove” their Constitutional rights; no one owned a military weapon capable of killing a couple dozen kids before reloading; and few believe war was the panacea to all our foreign problems. But, it’s a new world out there and I, for one, am glad to have been part of the old one.

Of Driftwood and Men


Along a forlorn coastal strand

I walk in morning’s fog-dimmed light

And there where arching wave meets sand

Like soldiers fallen in a fight

….lies driftwood


The broken stems of once great trees

From forestlands now under siege

On mighty rivers found the seas

Adrift on oceans to this beach

….came driftwood


These battered, scarred and broken shapes

Half buried by the wind-blown grains

From random currents thus escape

And find the sea’s sandy moraine

….this driftwood


I view each graying weathered trunk

Amidst the ocean’s cast debris

Of cork and bottles – human junk

Yet find within a solemn peace

….how I love driftwood



Down lamplit paths of city streets

I walk by fading evening light

And there where wall and sidewalk meet

Lay broken men of pauper’s plight

….like driftwood


They wait, their minds in untold strife

No laughter, nor a gentle touch,

To perform their final role in life

Alone, green bottles in their clutch

….as driftwood


Repulsed, I hasten past toward home 

To seek the warmth of hearth and bed

And leave those soiled men alone

Slovenly clothed and poorly fed

….life’s driftwood


Though now in bed, I shiver cold

My guilt, its burden overwhelms

As conscience asks one hundredfold

Why can’t I love those tattered men

….as I love driftwood.


          Dean Carrier


This year I reached the three-quarters of a century mark.  I anticipate that I have a few more productive years ahead of me but when I publically rant against the NRA’s obscene passion for ownership of guns developed specifically for mass-killing of human beings, my friends warn me I’m flirting with disaster; that I could get myself killed.  My bumper sticker, Another American for Sensible Gun Laws, breeds regular middle-finger salutes from drivers of big 4WD trucks and I encountered a brave citizen attaching a semi-threatening note to my truck in a local parking lot (but who refused to discuss the issues with me face to face, calling me a “f—– Liberal.”)

Well, whatever the few years that remain for me, I will not submit to spending any of them being afraid of the nut cases or the NRA who supports them.  So, I will continue to argue, “There is no place in a civilized society for personal ownership of firearms designed for one purpose and one purpose only…the killing of human beings.”

Maybe I should be afraid, but I’m not!  I’m more than willing to focus on facts, so here’s a few “facts” on the NRA’s purpose of gun ownership found in a recent NRA affiliate newsletter.  The lead article was entitled, Top 5 Firearms from the 2014 NRA Annual Meeting. 

First, all of the firearms portrayed were military semi-autos and here are direct quotes from that article.

  • “Who said us civilians couldn’t own a submachine gun? SIG has high hopes for this wicked multi-caliber “pistol”(wink-wink).” (Indicating there are ways to get around the federal ban on automatics)
  • “The SRM Arms model 1216 is only 32.5 inches from muzzle to recoil pad. What that means for us shooters is an easily maneuverable semi-auto shotgun for clearing rooms or shooting out of a vehicle.” (How many times have you, or anyone you know found it necessary to “clear a room” with an auto-loading shotgun or shoot it from a vehicle?)

The argument in support of the NRA definition of the 2nd Amendment is almost always, “the citizenry needs guns to prevent domination by an oppressive government.”  So, who would such a government rely on to oppress the citizenry?  It’d have to be our military…so you sure can’t support them.

And is our military capable of oppressing us?  Probably, as it currently hosts over 275,000 tanks and armored combat vehicles; 10,000+ fighting aircraft; 1.3 million trained personnel, and even a stockpile of over 3,000 tons of serin gas, not to mention nuclear devices.  The logic that a bunch of untrained NRA members could offer any meaningful military opposition makes as much sense as giving each of eleven construction workers a football and betting they can beat the Green Bay Packers.

I was raised to believe a Democracy was a political system where the citizenry voted and the majority made the rules.  The NRA, a minority, believes they should make the rules through threat of sedition.

Scary times ahead, I fear.


It seemed only logical to take the week before the surgeons rearranged the digits on my right foot and head to SE Arizona for a few days of photography.  Things went well: No foot pain; beautiful weather; and good numbers of birds.  Flew into Tucson and rented a compact car to drive to Patagonia (near the border and Nogales).  The Nature Conservancy has a reserve on Sonoita Creek and, although the drought has really dried up all the waterways, it seemed like the best bet for a beginning.

I arranged to rent a two-room apartment for 2 days.  Called “Camel Parts” (????) it worked out well with a good bed and shower.  Otherwise I was out looking for birds.

Camel Parts


The next two mornings along Sonoita Creek I found a lot of the birds I was targeting…

Vermillion Flycatcher


Gray Hawk






Curve-billed Thrasher


…and some of the more common ones

Gila Woodpecker


Gamble Quail…


The lonely males  singing their hearts out!


…and a herd of javelina.


At a private residence in Patagonia with hummingbird and bird feeders I found

Broad-billed Hummingbird


Ladder-backed Woodpecker


Ground Dove


After 2 days it was time to head back to Tucson by way of Saguaro National Park-North Side.  The weather was perfect for some nice scenic pictures and an unusual event…all the saguaros sporting masses of blooms.




Clark’s Spiny Lizard


Round-tailed Ground Squirrel


I’d forgotten how much I had loved working in the Arizona desert in the mid-1960’s.


Of course, that was before the nut-cases controlled the politics and before the houses came right up to the boundaries of the National Park.


I spent the next day at Sweetwater Wetlands in the City of Tucson, a really great wetlands developed for treated waste water and, although it was slow, scored a few good birds such as:

Common Yellowthroat


Red-winged Blackbird


American Coot


Cooper’s Hawk


All in all, a very good trip!


Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over. (Un-provable, but attributed to Mark Twain)

BILLIONS!  A word rarely used during my youth but now a daily term applied to annual corporation profits; sales of small software companies; the US defense budget (with a 682 preceding it); numbers of consumed McDonald’s hamburgers; and…yes…the personal wealth in dollars of a growing number of private individuals (442 in the US alone and you may even know one or two or at least heard them speak while running for public office).  It’s also a term astrophysicists commonly apply in multiples to the number of galaxies and their associated planets in our solar system and maybe even to the number of solar systems out in the beyond (possibly “infinite” is a better word).  Yet, for all we currently know, there is only one planet in these billions and billions and billions of possibilities that supports life: our earth.  And why is it so unique?  Two elements combine to provide one compound, H20… water!

No living thing can survive without water.  Be it plant or animal, lichen or redwood, flea or camel, water is its key to survival. Humanity in particular needs water, not just that 60% of our body weight is comprised of it, but we need fresh water sources to replenish that and to allow our food sources–plants and animals–to thrive.  Humans survived for many hundreds of thousands of years without oil; without steel; without uranium or gold (and even without iPads!!!).  In our evolutionary beginnings we even survived and prospered without fire.  But without water it would have never happened.  The first amoeba to have sprouted claws and learned to climb trees would not have happened (or if you’re religiously inclined, Adam and Eve would have died of thirst before Cain and Able were born).  Yet since water is available to many of us by the simple turn of a faucet or flush of a toilet, it seems ubiquitous.  And seeming so we treat it thusly… haphazardly; a commodity we can waste, abuse and pollute with essentially no repercussions.

If you are to believe the 99% of the earth’s educated scientists (which I do), the earth is warming and rapidly so.  In doing such, water is not disappearing but it’s changing in nature.  As an example, glaciers that currently provide the primary source of water for societies living in the foothills of the Andes and Himalayas may well disappear in our children’s lifetimes.  What then?  Granted, there will be more water in our oceans (no problem to Oklahomans but devastating to many Floridians or those on Manhattan Island) but large supplies of fresh water are needed to grow crops, water lawns, and simply to put in plastic bottles to sell at Costco.

Yet the influx of global warming with its changing weather patterns provides wonderful arguments for the uneducated.

  • “Hey, it rained 24 inches in a day in Florida last week, so what’s the problem?”  True, but how do you get that water to the turbines at Bonneville Dam; the alfalfa crops in Utah; the golf courses in Palm Springs; or the swimming pools in Phoenix?
  • “We can tow ice bergs in from the Arctic and Antarctic!”  Better hurry, they’re melting too.  Scientists have now provided evidence that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet “…has passed the point of no return.”

Flying from Tucson to Sacramento last week was eye-opening, especially as we crossed California’s Imperial Valley where miles upon miles of desert lands are in agricultural production, ALL of the water coming from the Colorado River system, a watershed suffering its worst drought in 1,250 years.  Then it was on up the Central Valley that produces well over 75% of most of our nation’s fruit and vegetables.  Yet looking east at the Sierras, the valley’s dependency of summer runoff, all but the highest peaks were devoid of snow and the big reservoirs in the foothills had wide tell-tale shoreline rings.  Entering the Sacramento Area where, even today in one of our worst droughts, lakes of flooded rice fields extend for miles and sprinklers were pumping water onto the thirsty alfalfa fields.    So where will this summer’s agriculture water come from?  Local farmers say that’s a silly question, “From the ground, pumping from our infinite ground water supply.”  So…where does the ground water come from?  From rainfall that has seeped into the earth over eons.  Oops…no rainfall this year…or last…or…  So what happens if the ground water runs out?  Already, in southern California’s Cuyama Valley the groundwater has been depleted to the point where irrigated agriculture is no longer viable.  But, not to worry, our local Congressman, Doug LaMalfa (likely with the help of the Koch Brothers) has it all figured out as his campaign posters read “Water, Jobs, Liberty!” (yet no one’s clear on how he plans to provide for any of the three).

In years past the California Department of Water Resources regularly spoke of the “new water” they had located.  At one meeting a number of years back I was loathe to ask the speaker, “Where did you find it?  I thought we knew where all the rivers and lakes were already.”  The answer was they’d developed a “new” equation for estimating runoff.  This worked well until the drought hit.  Oops again!

In his must-read book, The Cadillac Desert, regarding the history and future of water in our western states, Marc Reisner prefaces the book’s beginning by quoting the poet, Shelley, with his poem, Ozymandias.  This seems as good place in which to end my concerns (or solidify them):

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear –

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.’