Barges and Puddles

Barges and Puddles

One of my favorite places on the Brazoria Loop is around the tiny town (population 56) of Quintana. Last week's Tri-colored Heron was found south of the town along the road to Bryan Beach. Quintana is centered around the Neoptropical Bird Sanctuary where you can find warblers and colorful visitors during migrations. 

Just north-east of the town is the Quintana Jetty. Evidently there is good fishing there; the jetty is almost always full of fishermen. And fisherwomen. Along the Freeport Harbor Channel are some cuts with abandoned piers, casualties of hurricanes past, but still a wonderful destination for perching pelicans, egrets and cormorants. And the gravel road to the jetty is lined with old utility poles favored by ospreys. 

Just a great place for birds and photos. Recently we checked out the area and were totally surprised by a new resident. 

 Panorama of pelican displacing barge

 Panorama of pelican displacing barge

This is a canal barge and it is parked near a very reliable place for photographing pelicans. I looked this up on Google and found out it is for sale - just 600K. Nice Christmas present for some one on your list. 

You have to look at it as a photo opportunity.

This reminds me of WWII posters Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2  f/5.6 ISO 200 HDR with tons of post-processing but mostly Topaz Simplify

This reminds me of WWII posters

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2  f/5.6 ISO 200 HDR with tons of post-processing but mostly Topaz Simplify

And here is the barge as Photo Art. I took over 120 photos of this rusting hulk and you can look for details of this subject to appear in future mashups and illustrations. 

Heading down to the jetty we passed an Osprey on a dead pole. By dead pole, I mean one without live electrical wires. He wasn't eating or fluffing his feathers or even bothered by our attention. I still took way too many photos just in case he did do something photo-worthy.

Blase Osprey  Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 320

Blase Osprey 

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 320

Bill had his tripod out and I stood braced against the truck for these shots. A sedan with two ladies stopped and asked me if we were there to photograph the "rocket ship coming down". I suppose they were referring to the Orion reentry, but then again, who knows? One other time a man asked me if we were there to photograph some "special ship" coming in. 

That is the way it is when you carry around long lenses and tripods. If we dressed in camouflage I suppose people would think we are after the wildlife, but my current wardrobe comes from Kohl's specials and Academy. 

Avocets, willets and a skimmer Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/6.3 ISO 200

Avocets, willets and a skimmer

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/6.3 ISO 200

And this is a puddle at the parking lot for the jetty. There are cars and trucks just to the right, and quite a bit of activity around. Sometimes there are Photoshop-challenging cups, bags and trash in the water but this time the water was very clear. That strip of water in the background is the harbor channel.

We set the tripods for low shots, pulled out some towels and trash bags to sit on and waited.

Note: This is my office. This is where I do my work. I love being retired. 

American Avocet in non-breeding colors Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

American Avocet in non-breeding colors

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

There is something about getting eye-level with the birds. Not always possible but it worked for these cooperative American Avocets. These are the ones that will develop a beautiful rusty head and neck later for breeding plumage.

It was a bright, cloudy day and the sun was behind me. If the birds wandered much to my right, there were harsh shadows. You learn to time your shots or be resigned to having a lot of deletes. 

Strutting Avocet Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

Strutting Avocet

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1600 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

Now... if I hadn't set the stage for you, would you have even dreamed this was taken not 10 feet away from a truck, a barking dog and a couple of fishermen?

And a BIG ship?

Army Corp of Engineers ship Panorama with post-processing

Army Corp of Engineers ship

Panorama with post-processing

This huge ship went by us and turned around and came back the other way. On the north side of the channel is a big dredging operation; it takes constant maintenance to keep the flow of goods and services to our petrochemical facilities. 

Young Great Blue Heron stops by for a drink Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 640

Young Great Blue Heron stops by for a drink

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/1250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 640

And the birds and fish don't seem to mind at all. This is a young Great Blue Heron, he is mostly brown and doesn't have any shaggy chest feathers yet. He kept a wary eye on us while he drank water and even played at picking up rocks from the puddle.

A Black Skimmer literally skimmed the surface of the puddle while I watched in awe. I hate it when that happens; I am so impressed by what the bird is doing I forget to take a photo. But, he joined the party and proceeded to take a bath. Then he had to flap those giant wings dry. Really, their wingspan is 42-50in (107-127cm).

Black Skimmer after a bath Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

Black Skimmer after a bath

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

I should do better with the Skimmer skimming, as they are fairly slow and completely predictable. I will keep trying. 

Black Skimmer still drying off from the bath Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

Black Skimmer still drying off from the bath

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

These close ups show their fantastic specialized beak. Notice how the lower part is much longer than the top? The three species of skimmers (family Rynchopidae) are the only birds with this adaptation. The lower mandible slices the water's surface and scoops up small fish, insects, crustaceans and mollusks. And the Black Skimmer has slit-shaped pupils since the bill falls within their field of binocular vision; this aids in capturing the prey. 

Source: Wikipedia (see footnote #3 and #4)

Least Sandpiper levitating Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

Least Sandpiper levitating

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/5.6 ISO 200

So you sit around and wait because you never know what will happen. There are the ones that do their tricks facing the wrong way

Least Sandpiper portrait Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 400

Least Sandpiper portrait

Sony A77 II with 70-400mm G2 1/2000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 400

OK. Here is a better one. Least Sandpipers spend 98% of the time running around; I was lucky this one stood still for a second. That is an observation, not supported by verifiable facts. 

Have you ever been to a town as small as Quintana? Do you look at puddles for wildlife? And seriously, do you know anyone that needs a barge?  Let me know in the comments below. Try Chrome or Firefox if Internet Explorer is still wonky.

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