Short Stories for April

Short Stories for April

Besides enduring the Tax Day Flood I have been to Galveston five times this month, to Texas City twice and the Brazoria Loop area three times. And I spent a couple of afternoons poking around old Rosenberg. Some trips were especially good and some were pretty awful. You can't control the weather; the weatherman says clouds and it is sunny when you get there or the wind is from the wrong direction and all the birds are facing away from you. Or they predict historic floods and it sprinkles. Or "thunderstorms in the area" and 240 billion gallons of water falls from the sky.

Snowy Egret fishing in the surf at Texas City Dike Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/8.0 1/1600 sec ISO 640; tripod

Snowy Egret fishing in the surf at Texas City Dike
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/8.0 1/1600 sec ISO 640; tripod

Texas City Dike is almost always good for birds. I am working on a post for you about all the mating terns we have seen, but here is a nice Snowy Egret working the waves near the breakers. I know, Bill posted one on FB the other day almost identical. What do you expect? We are sitting side by side and using big lenses.

Male Snowys were just showing up at Smith Oaks Rookery when we were there earlier this month; this guy has a hint of red around his bill. Full breeding plumage includes orange-red lores and feet. I want to go back to the rookery in a few weeks to check on the spoonbill babies. The Roseate Spoonbills were just starting to breed in mid-April and it takes about a month for the eggs to hatch.

Willet and hermit crab at Texas City Dike Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/8.01/2000 sec ISO 800; tripod

Willet and hermit crab at Texas City Dike
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/8.01/2000 sec ISO 800; tripod

And here is a Willet. He looks quite elegant poking at a shell to see if a hermit crab is at home. Willets seem to be the default shorebird. Funny how they can masquerade as an exciting find ... look! look, it is a Whimbrel! No, a Godwit! oh, noes ... it is just a Willet! I did a whole adventure once on Willets if you need a refresher course: Was that a Willet?

Willet rockin and rollin in Surfside Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/8.0 1/1600 sec ISO 640

Willet rockin and rollin in Surfside
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/8.0 1/1600 sec ISO 640

He does look out of character here starting to take a bath. I have taken a lot of photos of birds bathing and most are really disappointing. The only time they look good is as they jump out of the water. Or just at the fluff-up prior to dunking under the water like above. I took this from the truck window, Bill was out with his tripod and crate in the mud.

Whimbrel strikes an pose Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/8.0 1/2000 sec ISO 1000; braced on truck

Whimbrel strikes an pose
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/8.0 1/2000 sec ISO 1000; braced on truck

This Whimbrel was poking around the high water around bay houses at Surfside.  If I remember correctly, Bill got to stay in the vehicle and I draped myself across the hood of the truck. Whimbrels look a lot like Curlews, but the bill is much shorter and they have more pronounced head stripes. And not quite as rusty in color.

Whimbrel glancing up Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/6.31/2000 sec ISO 1000; braced on truck

Whimbrel glancing up
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G ~ f/6.31/2000 sec ISO 1000; braced on truck

It is unusual to find a Whimbrel perched on anything, so we got really excited about this one. Do a Google search for Whimbrel images and almost all are in the water and a few in flight. We were coming back from High Island and stopped near Frenchman Rd on the Bolivar Peninsula just before the ferry dock. Great place for birds if you are over there. So, this time he was on Bill's side of the truck, I got out and crept carefully around the back of the truck. I balanced the big lens on the corner of the truck bed and got some great photos. 36 in fact, he stayed for a while.

Fiesta party owl Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 ~ f/8.01/800 sec ISO 400; hand-held

Fiesta party owl
Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 ~ f/8.01/800 sec ISO 400; hand-held

I know. But would you have passed up this Owl?

One house in Surfside has about five scattered around the premises; this one was on the boat out front. Looks pretty scary to me, but I don't know what they are trying to deter.

Texas City train with sunset sky from another time and place Sony A77II with Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 ~  HDR

Texas City train with sunset sky from another time and place
Sony A77II with Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 ~  HDR

We have been playing around with wide-angle lenses lately. I am still learning, I don't think my mind functions in this genre yet. Most of the time I am disappointed in my efforts. I know, you need an anchor in the foreground, you have to get really close and all that... I need more training. Ha.

Detail in Antique store in Rosenberg, Tx A77II with Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 ~  HDR and a bit of Fractalius and Oil Paint post-processing

Detail in Antique store in Rosenberg, Tx
A77II with Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 ~  HDR and a bit of Fractalius and Oil Paint post-processing

The above was not so much wide-angle as just a close up. We went down to the Richmond-Rosenberg area one afternoon to take photos of old buildings and collections to use in post-processing art. Now I have all these plant ideas I want to try. Garage sales often have some really cheap, permanently tarnished silver plated bowls that could make fun planters. This one had some holes poked in the bottom, a sprig of ivy and a fake bird's nest and they wanted $28 for it.

New front yard! View from side where giant philodendron used to live.

New front yard! View from side where giant philodendron used to live.

And in between chasing birds I have been finishing up the front yard. The change is just awesome. I love being able to see my house (and out of the windows) instead of all those overgrown bushes. I planted three dwarf Little John Bottlebrushes on the far side of the bench, and three Peter Pan Agapanthus in the bed under the Crepe Myrtle. A few Foxtail ferns and the rest are perennials and a few annuals I couldn't resist.  And the Mandevillas in pots on the two trellises near the entry. Nothing that will get too big or need regular pruning/trimming. I hope.

So what is happening with you? Are you drying out from all our rain? Any landscaping plans in your future? Let me know in the comments below.

Brilliant Birds on the Move

Brilliant Birds on the Move

Photo Art

Photo Art