Perched Birds

It really won't be long before birds are sporting breeding plumage and courting. We are seeing dark blue lores on Great Blue Herons, and other waders are sporting new feathers. Great Egrets will start building nests at High Island in February. In the mean time, we are chasing raptors and finding birds where we can. 

But it is hard work. Not as many waders, a bit too early for migration but a lot of perched birds. On wires, posts and occasionally on nice snaggy trees. 

Male Kestrel giving us the stink-eye
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250; braced on truck

While wandering around the back roads in Brazoria county looking for elusive Sandhill Cranes we found a male Kestrel perched on a fairly low wire. They aren't as bad as Kingfishers at bolting when you stop the car, but pretty close. This one just stared at us for a while, long enough for me to even get out and aim between the vehicle and the open door.

And then a big truck roared by and he was history.

Killer Kestrel at the tip-top of a tree
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2500
 sec f/8.0 ISO 640; braced on truck

We left the area and traveled on to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. Just at the split to the Auto-tour there are a few tallish trees where we always look for raptors. We have seen Merlins there, and Kestrels. And there was another male Kestrel not far off the road. This one was also willing to pose for us. Look how much nicer they are posed on natural objects instead of wires or poles! Of course, you take what you can get, but still. 

And note the changes in settings. This was a couple of miles and about a half hour later. It was still overcast, but much brighter and the sun was intermittently peaking out behind me. Lower ISO and upped shutter speed just in case when he flew it would be toward me. Alas, he flew down and away and was totally obscured by small branches.  But I was ready!

Opsrey conducting imaginary symphony
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 1600; braced on truck

Of course, with Ospreys you generally do find one on a pole, although we did see one in 2013 at the Texas City Dike. No, really right there at the edge of the surf. The above Osprey was down Blue Water Highway close to San Luis Pass. This shot is out of a sequence of six where he just raised his wings and didn't take off. I was shooting between the truck and the door in that opening. It is a pretty good spot; you can even brace the long lens on the vehicle, or if you have time throw a bean bag in the space. Then, he started to look restless and I stepped back to go around the door. You know, to have more mobility to track him in flight.

Except when I got moved and in position,  I looked up and he was airborne, flying away from me of course.

Male Kingfisher Galveston West end
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 2000; braced on truck

With Belted Kingfishers, 90% of the time if you even get a shot, he will be on a wire. The male above did not immediately fly off when we stopped. I don't think we will ever be so lucky again as with the Belted Kingfisher Stays for Dinner from two years ago

Merlin announcing his prescence
 heNikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1250
 sec f/6.3 ISO 2500

Merlins are usually around this time of year, but we have not found any yet. But, due to the freezing weather we haven't been out as much. This little guy was from early last year at Brazoria and I love the rough perch (not too heavy for the image), the partial fluff up and open beak. It must have been late in the day judging by the high ISO and barely adequate shutter speed. 

Catch of the Day
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000
 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600; braced in truck window

Lots and lots of Ospreys this winter. On Sportsman Road in Galveston we found a guy with a really fresh catch. I mean, it was still flopping around! He was not happy with us aiming big lenses from below and soon departed. 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher from last Spring
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000
 sec f/6.3 ISO 800

Barbed wire perches are preferable to utility wires I think. At least the bird is closer to eye level. This was taken at Anahuac last Spring and I would guess out the truck window. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers should be evident soon as they nest here in the Summer. 

Backyard visitor 
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250; tripod

And this Red-shouldered Hawk was a real surprise - right in my own backyard! I took this through the window in my bedroom. He stayed long enough for me to get my camera, format the card and set up the tripod. I got 83 shots before the Blue Jays ran him off. I know this must be the one that is eating the White-winged Doves that come to my feeder. I have found three crime scenes this Winter, and once I caught him in the act. Of course, that time I couldn't get my camera fast enough. Of course. 

Are you impatient for Spring and warmer weather? Have you been getting out or just concentrating on backyard and feeder birds? Let me know in the comments below!

Let's Talk About Editing!

Let's Talk About Editing!

Little Bitty Birds at Brazos Bend

Little Bitty Birds at Brazos Bend