Short Stories for Fall
Dec 2, 2016 - Wow. It has been a busy season! Most of these photos and stories happened in October and November, but I didn't have time to write them up. All in all, it was a mostly disappointing Fall with a few fantastic high points. We had too many bright and sunny days plus unusually warm weather. How hot was it? Hot enough the local nurseries and plant outlets had no cool weather annuals to sell. By the time it cooled off, they were stocking Christmas trees and poinsettias. But I have a few interesting photos for you that didn't fit with the single-bird features I have been writing about. Let's get started!
We were set up with tripods and crates on the side of Casco Rd at Surfside watching an assortment of waders on sunny afternoon. Last year this spot was all construction for a pipeline connection, but now it is a prime pond for birds. Occasionally there would be a cloud or the bird would be positioned so the harsh shadows were not emphasized, but the light was not ideal. But, we were making the best of it. We had seen a Great Blue Heron stalking fish but he was a fairly young bird and not all that attractive, so we were concentrating on some Snowies. That all changed when the Great Blue found a giant sized fish. We watched him attempt to swallow it at least four times before giving up. Must be hard to give up such a big prize.
That same day we saw this Tricolored Heron with a rather large fish as well. Most of the time you see Tricolors with much smaller fish, but he gobbled this one down with no trouble at all.
The new pond is connected to an inlet that curves around and becomes part of the Intracoastal Canal. The areas are affected by the tides, so sometimes this pond is just a mud flat with pools for the smaller birds to fish in. Other times it is deep enough for the bigger waders.
Over at Bay Avenue near Surfside, I found this Great Egret playing sentry on a shabby beach house. I played around with some filters and the History Brush in Photoshop to enhance the peeling paint. We have seen Nighthawks sleeping on the railing before.
A super exciting find is the Merlin at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge! Bill Maroldo and I were heading in late one afternoon and passed a parked truck on the main road. We pulled over and found out (1) the driver was a FB friend (Hi Andy Pena!) we hadn't met yet and (2) there was a Merlin in a short, bare tree by the fence line. I got a couple of shots braced on the truck window before he flew that turned out OK but not great. We circled through the park and checked the location on the way out. Sure enough, he was back and catching/eating dragonflies from the same perch. Bill got a lot of good shots, but it was way past ISO 1600 so I had to pass.
The next time we visited the park, it was a little bit earlier (and brighter) and the Merlin was perched on a solitary fence post instead of the bare tree. I got tons of clear shots, with him looking around, but, alas no dragonflies. We made another trip this past Tuesday but never saw him.
Merlins are here during our winter and the males are said to be grayer than the brown females. Perhaps this is a female, but there is so much color variations in raptors I am just not sure.
I think this Loggerhead Shrike might have been the same day as the second Merlin sighting, I am not sure. I know the wind was blowing and I was worried I didn't have enough shutter speed. I wanted a lot of depth of field so the foliage in the foreground would be in focus (I hate that smeary green look at the bottom of an image) and it was very late in the day so there wasn't a lot of light. I can see I took shots at several different speeds (1000 - 1600) and f/stops (7.1 and 8.0) just in case. You do that don't you? Take a number of shots at varying exposure? Of course, that happens only when the bird cooperates.
A lot of time we are just lucky to get a shot with whatever setting you had for the previous shot, and then try to quickly adapt to the new conditions!
If you get around the area you know where this is. It is the old windmill at the back side of Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. There is a squatty tank to the right of this, but I framed it out because Bill was over there doing wide-angle shots. I was standing in the road looking at the weird twin cloud formations. I bet I have photographed this windmill (and its tank) hundreds of times and it always looks different. In fact, we were there the night of the Super Moon, I wanted to see if the moon would come up anywhere near the windmill. That would have been so cool, but there were so many clouds we didn't see the moon until we were almost home.
We did set up our tripods and took photos of the moon from my front yard. The images are nice, round, shiny discs with great detail but not what I really wanted. Dang.
What is going on with you? Did you put up Christmas lights over the Thanksgiving holidays? I thought about it for at least 15 minutes and decided just to enjoy my neighbor's efforts!