Odd Photos, or Photos of Odd Things

by Dan Weisz

Here are a few odd photos, or photos of odd things, taken over the past week in and around the Foothills Clusters:

A few streets from me, I noticed a very old saguaro with large arms but with its main trunk missing.  Growing atop the cut-off trunk was a prickly pear cactus. That’s odd!  Both of these cactus are tough survivors in a harsh climate.

House finches are a very common bird of the Southwest who have taken to urban life well.  The males usually have a cheery bright red head and breast.  This orange/yellow male is odd but not uncommon.  The red of a male house finch comes from pigments contained in its food eaten during the bird's molt- these birds can’t make the bright red or yellow colors directly.  The more pigment in their food, the redder the male.

This handsome male Pyrrhuloxia has a bill with a very odd shape.  Usually, we see it closed.  Here, in its wide open position, it looks even more odd.  If you look very closely at the open bill, you can imagine it saying the word “odd”.

Another classic “cardinal” shaped bird of the Southwest, the Phainopepla sits on the top of a mesquite tree.  The crest and long tail look somewhat similar to the profile of a cardinal and the Pyrrhuloxia.  The Phainopepla’s  name comes from the Greek for “shining robe”, a tribute to the glossy, jet-black plumage of the male.

Sitting atop a hackberry bush, the Phainopepla protects his territory with that red eye looking out for other birds.

But once the Phainopepla turns and stares straight ahead, you can see how “odd” looking he really is.  What appeared to be a round head in the photo above, becomes a squared-off head in the photo below.  The crest is oddly wide.  The glossy feathers reflecting the sunlight look blue in this light.

The final odd photo of the day:  Javelinas roam throughout the desert and suburban areas of the southwest and are known for their musky smell.  That comes from the scent gland visible in the photo below on the rear end of the javelina on the right.  They will rub their scent on rocks and tree stumps to mark their territory.  Apparently, they also rub their scent on shepherd hooks holding oranges for the birds!  Javelina also rub the scent on each other to help with identification of the family.

For my photos, I use a Nikon D7200 camera.  Most often I use a 70-300 zoom lens and sometimes I use a 200-500 lens.