Checking Out Cullinan Park

Checking Out Cullinan Park

Sept 7, 2018 ~ We finally got a bit of rain, mostly afternoon showers, so we have been going out trying to find some birds. Cullinan Park is very close and we made a quick trip one afternoon this week. On the way to HEB. Yep, it is that close!

A pile of alligators
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600; hand-held

The big hit at Cullinan right now is the baby Alligators. They are on a mud bank very close to the boardwalk and can't be more than a week old. You can see how small they are compared to the old Bic lighter one is draped across. Mom was close by; Bill saw her moving mud up on the bank with her snout on a previous visit. I couldn't really count all the babies but I bet there are about two dozen. Very high mortality rate for all babies in the wild. 

Lonely Lil Blue
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600; hand-held

I had brought only my light-weight setup, the Nikon D810 with the Nikkor 300 f/4E PF lens. With the Nikon 1.4x TC it has a decent reach of 420mm and makes nice ... environmental shots. You have to be much closer to get good bird shots with this combo. Still, the weight trade-off is great when you are walking around.

This juvenile Little Blue Heron has almost all of his big-boy feathers. He was really too far away for a good shot. It is a pretty big crop; starting with 36MP, this was about half at 15MP, then reduced to 1500 px for the blog. 

Black and Yellow Garden Spider or Golden Orb
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1000
 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600; hand-held

The 300 f/4 PF is great for semi-macro shots. This is a Black-and-yellow Garden Spider and they are all over the parks this time of year. She builds a huge web, often with a zig-zag part called a stabilimentum and waits for her prey. This one may have had her web disturbed; only the thick zig-zag part was hanging off one of the railings. 

Green Heron imitating a statue
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1250 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600; hand-held

We found this Green Heron patiently waiting for something to catch in the dead reeds. Others have found one on the flat lily pads, but after watching him for almost an hour, he wasn't moving. I gave up way before Bill Maroldo did. 

This is a good example of why serious glass is needed for bird photography. You can see how far away the Green Heron is in my shot - 420 mm and about a 50% crop. And that is from a full frame camera with 36MP sensor. Large crops can lose a lot of detail.

He had brought his big lens and tripod so he got a much better photo than I did.

Same bird, different camera and lens - photo by Bill Maroldo
Nikon D850 with NIKKOR 600mm f/4E VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/400 sec f/8.0 ISO 1000; tripod

With the 600 mm lens plus 1.4x TC, he has effectively 850 mm. Just about twice the 'reach' as I do. And notice the ultra-slow shutter speed. That surprises you, doesn't it? He is using a tripod, and has f/8.0 for good depth of field and ISO 1000. You know Green Herons can stay absolutely stationary for long periods of time. If the bird started giving signals of a lunge, then I bet he would have made some quick adjustments. 

AND his Nikon D850 has a 46MP sensor; he can make a larger crop and still have a very decent sized image. If I had cropped my image that close, the image quality would suffer. OK. Wanna see for yourself. Click on his and then the super-crop of mine below to embiggen and see for yourself. 

Image cropped too much loses sharpness and clarity

OK. Wanna see for yourself. Click on his and then the super-crop of mine above to embiggen and see for yourself. To get the same magnification I had to crop mine down to 3.5 MP and there just aren't enough pixels left to make a clear sharp image. 

Brooding rooster
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1000
 sec f/7.1 ISO 3200; hand-held

But the Nikon 300 f/4 is awesome if your subject is close. Several times we had been startled by loud... crowing. The culprit was this male chicken deep in the brush. He walked around a bit and called a lot. He was about 15 feet away peeping at me between the leaves.

I am not sure where he came from; there are rumors of cock-fighting in the area. He could have escaped or been dumped. No one is exactly sure what kind of chicken he is. If you have any ideas, please post in the comments. Sorry I couldn't get a full body shot, but he was not moving from his little domain. 

Lonely lady
Nikon D810 with NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR + Nikon 1.4x TC ~ 1/1000 sec f/6.3 ISO 3200; hand-held

I mentioned Bill stayed with the Green Heron longer than I did above. That happens ALL THE TIME. I don't have his patience plus 25 photos of a Green Heron that was not moving with my baby lens was enough for me. I wandered around and found that spider and then I was sitting at one of the picnic tables near the parking lot and noticed movement to my right. There were at least three female chickens carefully checking me out. I managed to get a few shots of one. She is really pretty with the light orange feathers. Oddly enough, she was wearing a band on one leg; not the kind we are used to seeing on banded birds, but almost like a zip-tie. They were out on the grass but quickly scurried back into the brush. 

It is cooling off a tiny bit (89F is better than 99F) but we still have another hot month to endure. We made a trip to Brazos Bend State Park yesterday I will tell you about next week. Are you getting some of this rain? Did you notice the stores already have Halloween stuff out to buy? And what kind of chickens have taken up residence in Cullinan Park? Let me know in the comments below!

Brazos Bend Afternoon with a Green Heron

Brazos Bend Afternoon with a Green Heron

Sizzling Summer Stories

Sizzling Summer Stories