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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!