In which our heroine gets an idea

In which our heroine gets an idea

This is a repost from my emailed Nature Report of Oct 20, 2012

OK, boys and girls. We have some real news! Previously when I described my adventures to you in emails, I illustrated the birds with pictures I stole from the internet. There were a couple of my own pictures, but mostly I relied on others.

But it started me thinking about cameras and taking pictures and ... and.. after much thought and research I have embarked on a companion hobby to birdwatching.

I will learn to take good pictures.

The camera I got is Panasonic Lumix FZ200 in case you are interested in such things.  It is what they call a Bridge camera - it does not have interchangeable lenses like a 'real' DSLR, but it has less weight and more automatic features. And I think it takes great pictures, but you can be the judge of that.

So, I found a friend who agreed to get up at 7:30 am on Saturday and go to Brazos Bend State Park with me to play with the new camera. This friend is experienced... what I call a Slide Rule photographer... who has extra lenses, knows about apertures and f-stops and shutter speeds and all that. Me, I am perfectly content to let technology carry the day. My friend had  Canon with the 300mm lens and I had my new toy.

We started out at 40-acre Lake at the pier. Friend got all excited about the Moorhens, but I have seen them a million times. We did find this really huge alligator swimming all around the pier.

Ugly alligator with pond scum

Ugly alligator with pond scum

You can see this alligator has the nictitating eyelid exposed. It was creepy, but having them stare at you is creepy, too.

While we were looking at the alligator, I got all fixated on this white feather floating on the algae/duckweed/pond scum. Pretty, no?

Floating feather

Floating feather

This is going to be long. Go get a drink or something and come back.

And then we spotted this guy as we were leaving the pier. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker. We were both chasing him to get a good capture.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

He was about 30 feet away and up. They move fast, but at least the area was clear and we could keep up with him. I took about 8 pictures and this is the only one where you can see the whole bird. Friend and I compared results and new camera was definitely holding its own.

Heading around the lake, we saw Cardinals, Eastern Phoebes and a juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron which I had seen last trip. I was watching for the American Bittern, and sure enough, there was one in about the same place. He still wanted to hide behind the reeds, but I got a much better picture than last time.

American Bittern who thinks he is camouflaged

American Bittern who thinks he is camouflaged

About this time I noticed I have a serious deficiency in my photographic skill level.

None of my birds have feet.

I am so .. focused on getting the body of the bird, his eye, his posture, all the cool things that make the birds unique.... I forget about his feet. I will work on this.

We looked for the alligator and the babies I saw last time, but she must have moved them to deeper water. Since there were no alligators close by the water's edge, I worked on the Water Hyacinth blossoms. The new camera has a nice Macro setting and I am giving it a workout.

Water hyacinth blossom

Water hyacinth blossom

We saw more Anahingas, White Ibis, more Great Herons. We found a Belted Kingfisher, but he was just too far away. I took more pictures of birds without feet. In fact, I might make it a theme! What do you think about this one?

Great Egret cooperating with my skill level

Great Egret cooperating with my skill level

After dissuading two children from poking an alligator with a stick, we found this guy fishing. We watched him for a really long time. This is an adult Little Blue Heron. If you look closely, you can see he actually speared the frog.

Little Blue Heron with NOMS

Little Blue Heron with NOMS

So, there you are. I have a lot to learn, but it is great fun. I will let you know how things are progressing.

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Alligators and Bitterns