Summer Short Stories

Summer Short Stories

August 26, 2016

Wow! It was a bit of feast or famine with the birds this summer. The first part of the summer was hot and dry and way too much sun. Many of my favorite birds were concentrated in shrinking water sources, but the light was harsh and the temperature was brutal. Late July and August brought cloudy skies and lots of rain. The light was considerably better, but the birds spread out since food was available everywhere! I do have several adventures written and ready to share in the coming weeks, so this is a bit of a preview.

Eastern Kingbird at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/640 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250; braced in truck window

Eastern Kingbird at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/640 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250; braced in truck window

We made several trips to Anahuac in early summer. And it seemed there was a Eastern Kingbird on every other bush. They are summer visitors to US, breeding and raising their young. Later in the year they will migrate through Mexico and Central America to winter in the forests of South America. They grab insects out of the air and often return to the same perch. Any behavior that helps photographers is welcome. If you have a clue where they will be next, you can prepare.

Male Red-winged Blackbird calling out "Kong-a-rheeeeee" Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/1250 sec f/8.0 ISO 1250; braced in truck window

Male Red-winged Blackbird calling out "Kong-a-rheeeeee"
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/1250 sec f/8.0 ISO 1250; braced in truck window

Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere! This one was taken at Anahuac, but they can be found in any of the marshes and fields, often with other blackbirds, grackles and cowbirds. We have them year-round and they build nests in the reeds and raise their young. Always on the lookout for interesting breeding strategies, I found the male Red-winged Blackbird is highly polygamous, often having as many as 15 nests to defend against other males. Who knew?

Young Black-crowned Night Heron Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/500 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250; braced in truck window

Young Black-crowned Night Heron
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/500 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250; braced in truck window

We didn't see as many baby birds as last year; early Spring flooding was hard on ground nesters such as rails and shorebirds plus we weren't out much in the early part of the summer. But, conditions couldn't have been too bad as juvenile birds are plentiful. This is a young Black-crowned Night Heron we found outside of Surfside recently. Look carefully and you will see a spider on his leg! Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned juveniles are very similar; you can distinguish them by the color of the lower mandible. It is just the opposite of their names; the Black-crowned has a yellow lower bill and the Yellow-crowned's is black.

Great Blue Heron under Intracoastal Canal Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/1000 sec f/8.0 ISO 1250; braced in truck window

Great Blue Heron under Intracoastal Canal
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/1000 sec f/8.0 ISO 1250; braced in truck window

Sometimes the birds get really close. This Great Blue Heron was fishing under the Intracoastal Canal bridge at Surfside. I watched him pluck little silver fish from the shallow water. I knew the photos were good; sharp and clear. What I didn't realize at the time was the water in the background was picking up a horrid reflection from a rusty red metal building behind him. Oh, you don't see any red reflections? It is because I replaced it with a nice bit of blurry green and blue. Mad Photoshop Skillz.

Juvenile Black-necked Stilt at Surfside Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/1600 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250; tripod

Juvenile Black-necked Stilt at Surfside
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/1600 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250; tripod

And sometimes they just get close and it works out perfectly. This young Black-necked Stilt  was walking toward me in a ditch; I was getting worried he would get too close. Minimum focus distance with the big Sony 500mm is 13 feet. I have to be that far away to focus and sometimes they will fill up the frame even then. Like this little guy; I couldn't get any of his long legs. That was an incredible day and I am going to do a whole adventure on what we found in the shallow water.

Coyote running through the marsh Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/400 sec f/7.1 ISO 2000; braced in truck window

Coyote running through the marsh Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G + 1.4x TC; 1/400 sec f/7.1 ISO 2000; braced in truck window

Some times we find wildlife other than birds when we are out. Recently we were on a residential road headed toward the Intracoastal Canal near Surfside, and I thought I saw a wild dog standing in the middle of the road, but even at that long distance he looked awfully long-legged. I checked with the binoculars as Bill slowly moved forward. The animal looked really wary and started to move to my right through the marsh.

My camera settings were the same as for a posing Tri-colored Heron we found on a post a half-hour before, but they came out pretty well. All the time I am clicking I was thinking, this has to be a coyote, dogs don't run like that.

Once he got out by the fence row, he stopped running and turned to watch us.

Later we had moved down by the public boat ramp and I looked back to the field where we had last seen him. He was still watching us. I posted this photo on Facebook and the consensus was it had to be a hybrid with a dog. What do you think?

And what else did I do this summer? I got my sprinklers fixed on July 18th and it has rained almost every other day since then; go figure. My garage is now empty of left-over paint and junk. What a relief to have it organized and neat.

I had a crown replaced and then my last wisdom tooth removed - all on the lower left. The tooth extraction wasn't too bad, but I still have residual numbness (paresthesia) that should eventually go away. So far, my gums and teeth now have feelings, but my lips and chin are still numb. It is mostly annoying but my oral surgeon thinks I am on track to recovery.

Also, I worked on my bedroom here at the new house. New curtains and lamps and hung the pictures. And after internet shopping for new furniture, I decided my teak mid-century modern dressers I bought in the late 70s are just fine. I did re-purpose an old TV-cart (remember when we put the TV SET on a CART that could roll around?) by removing the castors and replacing them with hair-pin metal legs.

DIY project turning TV cart into nightstand - phone photo

DIY project turning TV cart into nightstand - phone photo

It was a nice summer. My sister and brother-in-law came for a visit, as well as my nephew. Bill and I cooked a lot of ribs, fajitas, chickens and pork chops on the grill plus we had plenty green beans, zucchini, squash and peppers from his garden. We are caught up with The Vikings and Orphan Black. And watched the second season of Marco Polo.

And I found time to re-vamp the website. What do you think of the new format? And how was your summer? Did you think I wasn't coming back? Let me know in the comments below.

Anahuac Antics

Anahuac Antics

Waterlogged Texas

Waterlogged Texas