A Trip Out of the Flatlands

A Trip Out of the Flatlands

Oct 12, 2018 ~ Wow, isn’t this the old Columbus Day? I know, it has a new name and new date but I learned that little ditty about the “ocean blue and 1492” and the date when I was a child. Somethings are hard to change.

We just haven’t been out much at all; alternating days of rain and sun, too many days taken up with medical and dental check ups, chores and repairs and then a trip north to my sister’s for my birthday.

Oh, not too far north, just past Ft Worth.

They have hills up there, y’all. Really.

What used to be a fine downtown store in Calvert, Texas
Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~ ISO 400 f/6.3 at 27mm HDR; hand-held

On the way we stopped at Calvert, Texas for some wide-angled fun. It is on Hwy 6 just north of College Station. A great little town with preserved store fronts and old fashioned architecture. Most of the buildings are now antique stores but I think the old Opera House might have productions now and then. Highly recommended locale for fun photography. We have done the store fronts a few times before, so on this stop we went around back.

Wooden shutters are probably original but the iron bars might have come later?
Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~ ISO 100 f/8.0 at 30mm HDR; hand-held

The Houston and Texas Central Railroad agreed to stop in Calvert (half-way between Bryan and Waco) in 1868 which is the reason the town flourished as a trading center for area cotton farms. Not as many renovations to the rear of the buildings and you can imagine the commerce and industry. The train track is right behind me; I am sure there were wooden warehouses and loading docks that have been gone for a long time. It was the site of a huge cotton gin during Reconstruction and quite prosperous before fires and disease decimated the population.

White Pelicans on their way south for the winter
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.7x TC ~ 1/1250 sec f/7.1 ISO 1600;

And for a little birthday fun Bill Maroldo and I spent the day at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. For fellow flatlanders, it is at the south end of Lake Texhoma, which is part of the Red River system along the border between Texas and Oklahoma. There is a road around the southern shoreline with short branches off to horse-head pumps. And as you can see it is a stop for White Pelicans on their way south.

Most of the park was closed due to high water from recent rains plus it wasn’t as birdy as we hoped. We did see a few skittish Great Blue Herons (like the one on the lead in above), some Avocets in non-breeding colors a long, long way off and several hawks. Not being able to get out on the branch roads was a real disappointment; I could see Tricolored Herons and other waders way off in the distance.

Monarch Butterfly
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1000 sec f/8.0 ISO 1600; hand-held

The Nature Center is first-rate with a fabulous Butterfly Garden next to the parking lot. We spent quite some time with our Nikon 300 f/4s chasing Queen, Monarch and Gulf Fritillary butterflies among the flowers. Lots of Buckeyes and Skippers as well.

Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1250 sec f/10.0 ISO 1000; hand-held

Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1250 sec f/10.0 ISO 1000; hand-held

We got directions from the volunteers how to go around to the Goode Day Use Area of the park and enjoyed the rolling hills on country roads although Bill was claiming he was getting altitude sickness :-) We stopped several times and while he was off in the brush I found this on a fence next to the road. Do you think it is a sign? There were no houses near by…You do find odd things when you are out chasing birds. FB has a whole page for that.

Once we got to the northern area there wasn’t much to see and the other roads were also blocked by high water so we went back and made a circuit through the park again. We even got out and hiked back to a pond where we heard the Eagles might hang out. But alas, only a solitary Red-bellied Woodpecker way far away.

Walking back to the truck we agreed we are flatlanders at heart and more at home in the salt marsh and mud flats than the hills and woods.

Well the pistons keep on turning
And the wheels go round and round
The steel rails are cold and hard
For the miles that they go down

Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~ ISO 200 f/6.3 at 29mm HDR; hand-held

On the way out we crossed a lonesome rail road track. There were no cars, no trains and so we got out and made bracketed shots for HDR. Bill was saying we seldom see train tracks that are completely straight to the horizon. It is a Union Pacific line and I traced it on the map far into Oklahoma.

One-eyed hawk surveys his kingdom
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.7x TC ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 800; hand-held

Alongside one of the country roads we spotted a large Red-tailed Hawk. When I downloaded the image I couldn’t figure out why his head was out of focus. Close examination shows he is missing his right eye. One would think it was an injury he sustained as an adult because he seems healthy and well fed. Without binocular vision necessary for successful hunting it is hard to think he will survive.

He had turned his head and watched us parked on the road for a long time before he flew off.

Samsung phone photo by Bill Maroldo

Samsung phone photo by Bill Maroldo

My sister had an Italian Cream Cake for me when we returned. Don’t bother counting the candles; I will always be 16 yrs old to my sweet little sister. We had a great visit - eating, staying up late and talking about family and old times.

Emma by Bill Maroldo
Nikon D850 with NIKKOR 14-24 f/2.8 ~ 1/125 sec ISO 4000 f/5 at 24 mm; hand-held

And enjoying Emma. She belongs to my great-nephew Heath and is still young and wild. Bill had to take these photos in silent shutter mode as she ran and hid under the bed at the camera’s noise. Speaking of noise, this was taken at ISO 4000 with the awesome D850.

First Baptist Church, Waco Texas
Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~ ISO 500 f/6.3 at 30mm HDR; hand-held
Post-processing with Topaz Adjust

On the way home we stopped in Waco. You HAVE to do the Magnolia Silos at least once and pay homage to Chip and Joanna Gaines for changing the world’s opinion of their hometown. We did not have to wait in line, and it was fun but I don’t need any more knickknacks or decorations. We did find a really cool church on the way back to our truck. The First Baptist Church of Waco was established in 1851. You can read about it long history here.

Then after I got home I decided to give myself a big birthday present. I had a Nikon D850 on backorder from B&H FOREVAH but… Houston Camera Exchange just happened to have a one in stock, so we hurried over to get it. The camera has been out over a year and is still extremely hard to find. So far I have been to Cullinan Park a couple of times to try it out and I am getting more comfortable with all those megapixels.

Snow Egret making a challenge for my new auto-focus
Nikon D850 with NIKKOR 500mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/2500 sec f/7.1 ISO 1000; tripod

Most mornings there have been dozens of Snowy Egrets flying low over the lake and then dragging their yellow feet in the shallow water. Occasionally he will reach back and pluck a tiny sunfish from the turbulence. It has been tricky; they are very far out, most of their flying is away from the shore and once the sun comes out… strong harsh light on white birds and reflected water is difficult to say the least.

Next time I will tell you more about the new camera rig and have more photos. I hope to get back in the groove of posting every Friday now that summer is finally over. Aren’t you glad to move into Fall? And we can start thinking about Halloween and Thanksgiving… Curlews and Sandhill Cranes! Let me know how you are doing in the comments below.

Flocks of Feathers

Flocks of Feathers

Brazos Bend Afternoon with a Green Heron

Brazos Bend Afternoon with a Green Heron