Short Stories for January

Short Stories for January

Here is it the end of the first month of the new year, and I want to begin a regularly scheduled feature of winding up each month with a bit of this and that. I tried the Short Stories format a few times last year and it seemed to be well received. We have had a lot of cloudy weather (some really cold and windy) and I have been going to Texas City Dike, Galveston and Surfside regularly. With my fave photographer and best boyfriend EVAH, Bill Maroldo, of course.

Opportunistic Snowy Egrets Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2; f/6.3 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Opportunistic Snowy Egrets

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2; f/6.3 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Texas City Dike rarely disappoints for birds. There is one small remaining dock with four shrimp boats on the port side of the dike. I understand before Hurricane Ike, there were a lot more. These Snowy Egrets were snatching what looked to be shrimp leftovers from one of the boat decks and then flying off to the rocks with their good fortune. Except for when they dropped it to the waiting gulls below.

Snowy Egret showing you everything Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2; f/6.3 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Snowy Egret showing you everything

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2; f/6.3 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Same day, same setting and same bird. I still like playing around with filters and making art but somehow, I haven't had a lot of time for it lately. Reinstalling everything after the hard drive crash has taken more time than I expected, plus one of my key plugins is not installing properly.

You would think being retired would afford hours and days of uninterrupted free time, but somehow... I am always busy and behind in my projects. The other night coming home from Galveston I saw all those office buildings along the Loop, still alight with late workers and cleaning crews.  OMG. I am so grateful not to have to sit in an office or .... shudder.... endless meetings anymore.

Sleeping Long-billed Curlew Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/6.3 1/1250 sec ISO 800

Sleeping Long-billed Curlew

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/6.3 1/1250 sec ISO 800

January marks the time when we start seeing Long-billed Curlews. There is a male that we have seen for several years at Texas City Dike, but Surfside seems to be a more favored spot. We have seen them in lawns eating mole crickets and in the glasswort-filled marsh. But this year we hit a bonanza. Six or eight Long-billed Curlews in a mostly dried up puddle near where we regularly find Clapper Rails. These were not obscured by foliage and quite cooperative.

Several were obviously napping and not at all bothered by a couple of photographers. Bill got out with his crate and 600mm lens. I stayed in the truck and propped the 500mm plus teleconverter on the window with a bean bag.

Long-billed Curlew resting Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/6.3 1/1000 sec ISO 1000

Long-billed Curlew resting

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/6.3 1/1000 sec ISO 1000

This curlew was really resting. I have never seen one sit on the ground before. Maybe that is common behavior but obscured from observation by the tall grass and weeds? Birds are so fascinating.

Long-billed Curlew stretch Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/6.3 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

Long-billed Curlew stretch

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/6.3 1/1600 sec ISO 1000

And what comes after a nap? A big stretch, of course. I took 307 photos in about 22 minutes. Usually you leave when the bird moves or flies out of range, but occasionally you leave when you have all the photos you need.

Northern Shrike not on a wire Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/6.3 1/1250 sec ISO 1250

Northern Shrike not on a wire

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/6.3 1/1250 sec ISO 1250

We have stopped by Lafitte's Cove in Galveston several times this month. It is the site of the warbler migration stop over later in the Spring but the pond out front has been very productive at this time of the year. Loggerhead Shrikes are hard to sneak up on, and most opportunities are on overhead wires. So, one on a natural perch is a real prize.

Green-winged Teal Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/5.6 1/800 sec ISO 1250

Green-winged Teal

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/5.6 1/800 sec ISO 1250

Lafitte's Cove is great for winter ducks as evidenced by this male Green-winged Teal Duck. You can use your tripod on the boardwalk and get fairly close. Mostly ducks just swim around and occasionally bottom-up, but this wing flap was fun.

Even baby Nutrias are cute Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/5.6 1/200 sec ISO 2000

Even baby Nutrias are cute

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/5.6 1/200 sec ISO 2000

Last time at Lafitte's we pulled into the parking area and Bill spied this little guy not 10 feet in front of the truck. He moved off rather quickly, but came right back as I was getting my monster lens and tripod ready. In case you don't recognize this furry animal, it is the scourge of Louisiana - a baby Nutria. It was really late (5pm) and really overcast (ISO 2000) so this was shot with a super low shutter speed (1/200).

Osprey with the tail end Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/5.6 1/640 sec ISO 2000

Osprey with the tail end

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G; f/5.6 1/640 sec ISO 2000

Near Surfside one afternoon we found an Osprey perched on a pole with a fish. What made this one remarkable was the pole was a short service pole, maybe 20 feet high. Usually they are atop a 35 foot pole (hey, my first job was for the electric company and I know the size poles they place) and it is difficult to shoot up at such an angle. This shot was taken from the passenger side of the truck; I had the big lens propped on a bean bag between the open door and the truck body. Then I had to stand on my toes to make it work.

So, that is what I have been doing so far this year. My townhouse sale should be closing as you are being notified of this adventure; getting that done is a major accomplishment. I am quite pleased with my move to Sugar Land and already thinking about flowers and gardening for Spring. And the warbler migration. How did I ever find time to work?

Taking a Gamble

Taking a Gamble

Breeding Plumage Pelican Style

Breeding Plumage Pelican Style