Last Trip of 2017

Last Trip of 2017

Jan 5, 2018 ~ We made our last trip out before the cold weather blast on Friday, Dec 29 and it was a great way to wind up the year. Around 11 am we headed down to one of our favorite birding places, Surfside. Perfect overcast conditions in the low 50s, but we were prepared for the cool weather and actually it was rather nice. Brisk temperatures but gloves were not needed. And a lot of these shots were taken from inside the truck. 

Osprey almost airborne
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2500
 sec f/7.1 ISO 1600; braced in truck window

There are utility poles along the exit road at the Intracoastal Canal Bridge in Surfside where Ospreys can usually be found. Marsh and open water surround the canal providing excellent hunting for the Fish Hawks. We were able to park the truck directly across from this guy and he obliged to pose for a few shots. This was just prior to lift off.

Tricolored Heron with killifish
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000
 sec f/8.0 ISO 1600; tripod

The tide was higher than on our last trip but we found a nice Tricolored Heron fishing just off a road. We set up crates and tripods and got a lot of nice shots. Hmmm...I got 143 and Bill probably took twice as many. He was about 20 feet in front of us (the above image is barely cropped) and f/8 was good if the bird was parallel to the camera's sensor, but chancy if he lunged toward us. 

You have to be quick!
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000
 sec f/8.0 ISO 1600; tripod

Here is one successful shot; I have quite a few that aren't. It is hard to maintain focus with all that water splashing around.  Note the high shutter speed as well. 

Snaggle Tail
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2500
 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600; hand-held

We flushed this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk off a pole. The red colored tail is faint in young birds, but the wing shape and belly band identify him as a Red-tailed. Wonder how he lost two tail feathers?

OMG yes it is a Peregrine Falcon
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1600
 sec f/6.3 ISO 2500; braced in truck window

A big surprise was this Peregrine Falcon casually perched on a railing at a bay house. It looked like one of those plastic owls people put up to keep birds away. From what I read, this could be a juvenile due to the heavily stripped chest. But those sideburns are a definite marker plus I could see his feet were huge as he flew away.

I took this from the truck window; Bill got out and was able to get a bit closer before he flew. My shots of him in flight were marred by a utility wire that has been removed from this image. 

Spotted Sandpiper (non-breeding)
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1250
 sec f/6.3 ISO 3200; braced in truck window

We found a cute little Spotted Sandpiper bobbing around the rocks at Guilty/Quilty Pond near the Surfside Jetty. They only get spots on their breasts during breeding season. That is one of the things that make birding so challenging. Juveniles, adults, male, female, breeding, non-breeding birds can all look different. 

Annoucing his departure
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000
 sec f/7.1 ISO 3200; braced on truck

This nice Reddish Egret was not hungry. He had recently been preening, there is still a piece of fluff stuck to his bill. He stood around teasing us for a long time, then squawked and flew away.

Osprey and headless fish
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2500
 sec f/7.1 ISO 2500; hand-held

After remarking that we had yet to see an Osprey with a fish, we spotted on having dinner on a pole. Sometimes they will continue to eat - we watched one once on a very short pole completely consume his fish, but other times they spook easily. This one had just eaten the head and didn't stick around. 

We checked on Snaggle Tail and got a few more photos. It was turning into a good day for raptors.

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk in a stare-down
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2500
 sec f/6.3 ISO 2500; tripod

He was back on his same pole and watched us intently as we approached with our big lenses. Isn't that a cool stare? I was able to track him pretty well as he flew away. The 500 mm weighs 6.81 lbs, plus 1.94 lbs for the camera. To be precise, additionally there is the teleconverter coming in at 6 oz for a grand total of 9.125 lbs to swing skyward.

Even I am impressed I can do it.

Poles with hawk
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2500
 sec f/7.1 ISO 1600; hand-held

Just in case you think getting these hawks are EASY, here is a different Red-tailed Hawk that was not interested in being famous. You spot them, stop the truck, get in position, aim and focus. 

And they rise up.

And generally turn and fly AWAY from your lens.

Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1000 sec f/6.3 ISO 2500; braced in truck window

We finished up at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, hoping to see if the Merlin that likes to hang out on the entrance road was around. No luck with him but I did find a great juvenile White Ibis. I love their colors as they change to adults. There were some ducks and lots of Great Egrets too far away for photos. 

Soon it was dark and we headed home please with our day. And then New Year brought cold days and three nights of freezing temperatures. We are such wimps; I couldn't deal with real winter weather! Did you get out and chase birds during those cold days? Or did you stay home and watch the feeders? Let me know in the comments below.

Little Bitty Birds at Brazos Bend

Little Bitty Birds at Brazos Bend

Galveston and Bolivar Day Trip

Galveston and Bolivar Day Trip