Short Stories for February

Short Stories for February

This format is working out great for me as all during the month I mentally file away locations and subjects that will fit. Or find a home for the odd photos that never made it to an adventure.  Some of my blog posts require a lot of research so this is a quick and easy way to share images and thoughts. Except %^$#@ Squarespace failed to save my changes yesterday and I am writing most of this up for the second time. I swearz.

I think I told you that last year I started posting on Facebook, after resisting FOREVAH and it has been a wonderful source of information about bird sightings. I can see what others are finding in the field and get tips on rare or special birds. A lot of my friends have driven from this area to Irving, Texas (that is about a 4 hour drive) to photograph a Mandarin Duck that lives in a local pond. The duck has been so popular on the Birds of Texas site there was finally a heated argument about "native birds" and whether it was appropriate to post photos of this escaped pet. And you think politics is a contentious subject!

We haven't gone to see the Mandarin Duck, but we did make a special trip to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge to see a Burrowing Owl.

Burrowing Owl just before he scooted off into the brush Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 Gf/6.3 1/800 sec ISO 1250; tripod from the road

Burrowing Owl just before he scooted off into the brush
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 Gf/6.3 1/800 sec ISO 1250; tripod from the road

Burrowing Owls are uncommon along the coast as they generally occur in the panhandle of Texas or much further west. Take a look at the Texas Breeding Atlas to see where they have been documented to breed (scroll down for the map).

So this was a rare opportunity to photograph a bird we don't generally see.  You might find him down the road to Frozen Point. He (or she) lives under a little concrete slab in a cow pasture right near the coast in the Wildlife Refuge. No one has seen a mate and I worry for this solitary bird (and the little Mandarin duck in Dallas) that they will have a lonely existence.

Monk Parakeets in Texas City Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2f/6.3 1/2000 sec ISO 1000

Monk Parakeets in Texas City
Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2f/6.3 1/2000 sec ISO 1000

We have a few introduced birds along the coast that I have shared with you before. The Orange Bishops and Nutmeg Mannikens show up from time to time.  But the Monk Parakeet is well established. I had never seen one, but knew there were several colonies near League City / Kemah. But, because of Facebook's Birds of Texas site, I found out there is a group that hangs around the shooting range at Texas City.  We swung by there one day last September when the Blinding Sunstorm™ prevented decent photos on the dike. You can hear them way before you see them! These were in date palm heaven that day, and not easy to photograph as they move fairly quickly and you have to shoot straight up.

Girl grackle with shrimp Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2f/6.3 1/1250 sec ISO 1000

Girl grackle with shrimp
Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2f/6.3 1/1250 sec ISO 1000

Shore birds are not the only birds that hang around the shrimp boats at Texas City Dike. This female Grackle has a big mouthful. Grackles are opportunistic feeders, but you knew that already from seeing them in the WalMart parking lot.

Yellow-rumped Warbler AKA Butter-butt Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/5.61/640 sec ISO 1250; tripod from the boardwalk

Yellow-rumped Warbler AKA Butter-butt
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/5.61/640 sec ISO 1250; tripod from the boardwalk

We have stopped at Lafitte's Cove in Galveston several times this winter. I showed you some photos of the Green-winged Teal ducks and even a baby Nutria last month. The Spring Warblers haven't arrived yet, but there are a still a lot of winter visitors. The Yellow-rumped Warbler flits around hiding in bushes and low trees, chirping and driving you mad. Finally, I got one to stay out in the open long enough for some clear shots.

Eastern Meadowlark saying good night Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/6.3 1/800 sec ISO 1000; braced against truck window

Eastern Meadowlark saying good night
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/6.3 1/800 sec ISO 1000; braced against truck window

Earlier this week we went to Smith Oaks Rookery for two days (that is next week's subject!) and came home down the Bolivar Peninsula to catch the ferry back Galveston. The mudflats and jetties were teaming with birds.

It had stopped raining and the light overcast made it possible for both of us to shoot out the truck windows. We found a lot of sparrows along Rettilon Road at the Audubon Bolivar Flats Sanctuary. This Eastern Meadowlark must have been bedding down for the night. He called out one song and then closed his eyes, ignoring us taking his photo. 

Crested Caracara after the storm Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/6.3 1/1000 sec ISO 1000; braced against truck window

Crested Caracara after the storm
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/6.3 1/1000 sec ISO 1000; braced against truck window

As you may have figured out by now, Bill always drives when we go out shooting. That means he controls the distance and angle to birds we find along the road. And he will U-turn and practically drive in the ditch to get a chance to shoot from the driver's side. With the 70-400 lens I can sometimes get a good shot over his shoulder in that tiny open area but I am not as successful with the 500 mm lens because of its weight. 

Usually I have to carefully sneak out and prop the lens on the hood or even between the door and truck body. But sometimes the bird is on my side, as was this wet Crested Caracara. A very regal bird for a carrion eater. Oh, they do hunt sometimes; I saw a photo on Facebook of one carrying a small turtle.

Do you do Facebook? Are we Facebook friends? If you are reading my blog, we should be friends, don't you think? Send me a friend request :-)

High Island in the Clouds

High Island in the Clouds

Oystercatchers and Other Things

Oystercatchers and Other Things