Short Stories - End of Summer 2019

Short Stories - End of Summer 2019

August 16, 2019 ~ With the unrelenting heat, we have not been out at all. Too hot even to do macros or buildings; I don’t even want to go outside. So, this week I have some photos and stories that didn’t make the big time. Sometimes I start a blog post, and then we go out and get more exciting images to share or a post gets pushed back and then what I have is just not topical. Or I have too many good images for a post. Or the story just doesn’t hang together. Lots of reasons.

But basically, if it bores me, it will surely bore you.

Kentucky Warbler at Quintana in the Spring
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/5.6 ISO 1600

I didn’t do much on Spring Migration this year. We missed a lot of it with Bill Maroldo recovering from surgery and from most reports it wasn’t one of the best. This was taken March 23 and I believe my Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF was brand new. Bill didn’t have his yet and he was using my 500 f/4 some of the time because it was lighter than his big 600 lens. This was our second trip to Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary that season and I think all we had to show for it were some Wilson’s Warblers and Grackles. Certainly not enough to write a whole post about.

Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/5.6 ISO 1600

But we were behind that blind with the cut-outs at the drip and this little Kentucky Warbler just came out of nowhere. I believe there was a female in the area but I only have nine shots of this little male. It was a ‘lifer’ for me and so cool to get with his crest up. They winter Central and South America and just pass by us here on the coast.

Maybe we will see them again as they migrate in the fall.

Wood Storks and White Ibis
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/5.6 ISO 1600

Most of the Wood Storks have already passed through on their way south by now. We saw these in July at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge but by the time I was ready to write about them, they were mostly all gone. I only noticed this year that their feet are light colored in contrast to their dark legs. Snowy Egrets are like that; can you think of any others?

Adult Wood Stork showing you his pink foot
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/1600 sec f/6.3 ISO 1600

When we first drove up, they were very close to the road. That is unusual because they are like Sandhill Cranes; they have some sixth sense where they move slowly away once you stop near by. Bill was shooting out the driver’s side window and I quietly got out. I needed to move away from the truck’s hood as you cannot successfully shoot through heat waves. I moved slowly to the edge of the road and … they slowly but determinedly moved away from us.

Bill was convinced if I had gotten lower when I moved, they would have stayed put. He hasn’t been so annoyed with me since I flushed a Kestrel off a wire at Galveston East End back in 2014.

Wood Stork gif

We did get some shots of them taking off and landing later that day. I was pretty happy with the BIFs this year, that little 500 PF makes it so much easier.

Yes, it is a Bobcat.
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2500 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

Back in July we came around a curve on the back part of the auto tour at Brazoria and …. standing in the road looking at us was a Bobcat! I was so excited I fired off a couple of shots through the dirty windshield. I was worried he would run when I got out and at least I would have something for documentation. But he just slowly moved toward the high weeds as we slowly approached on foot. The images I have with him standing on the road are not sharp; I think the reflected heat from the white gravel affected the focus.

He moved into the weeds and never looked back at us. He was much larger than I expected and I wonder how many times we have driven by one hiding in the thick brush just …. watching us!

We saw a deer standing in the road to the boat launch the other day close to the Nature Center. No photos, he turned and bounded over the fence as soon as he saw us go by in the truck. We have seen wild hogs a few times and once years ago we saw a coyote. There are a lot more mammals living in these refuges than we think.

Black-crowned Night Heron at Surfside  Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2500 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

Black-crowned Night Heron at Surfside
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2500 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

We found this Black-crowned Night Heron off Casco Road in Surfside a while back. They do breed and nest here; we have seen youngsters at the rookery at McClendon Park in West Houston. We have some year round but get more migrants from the south as well for breeding season. It has been a good year for them (and Yellow-crowns) as we are seeing juveniles all over.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron at BNWR  Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 800

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron at BNWR
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 800

Like this juvenile at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. They are brown and streaked which better protective camouflage as they learn their hunting skills. If you have trouble differentiating the young Black-crowns and Yellow-crowns, remember:

  • Black-crowns are more brown and the bottom bill is YELLOW

  • Yellow-crowns are more gray and the bottom bill is BLACK

It is just the opposite of their names…

Yellow-crowned NIght Heron juvenile
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

Above is a young Yellow-crowned Night Heron we found at San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. He is much more gray than brown but they both have a lot of white streaking and dots. The Yellow-crowns have longer legs than the Black-crowns but that is not always easy to see. We are seeing so many in areas where they both occur we have started calling the youngsters “Young Night Crowns”.

Reddish with an itch
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 800

We found this Reddish Egret perched on an old post on the road under the bridge at Surfside. We stopped to take some shots; I got out and walked along the edge of the road until I got a view WITHOUT so much of the refinery in the background. Sometimes just moving a few feet can make a lot of difference in an image. Often we are so intent on the subject we forget what is behind it.

He was preening and preening. Then he started scratching. And kept on scratching. I have about 2 minutes of scratching. He stretched a bit and finally we just left.

On the run…
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 800

And of course, I have more Clapper Rail photos than you can imagine; I have written about them many times in the past. We found this one on Casco Road in Surfside one afternoon. He had been in the marsh, but ran across the road near us. They can run really fast and are hard to keep in the frame if they are really close.

This one is going so fast both feet are off the ground!

Wait for me…  Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250

Wait for me…
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250

This is one we found on Bay Road that was in a big hurry as well. Even birds you have photographed a hundred times can be a challenge when you notice some detail, some behavior you haven’t caught before. And of course their appearance can change with the seasons. Even birds that don’t develop breeding plumage will look better during the Spring.

This time of year birds are looking rather ragged and spent after raising chicks. It has been so hot and dry the birds are often concentrated at the few ponds and water sources left. Good opportunities if there are a few clouds; bright harsh light is hard to work with. Maybe we will get some rain. Let’s not wish for too much; it is hurricane season!

Are you inside doing backups and edits? Or braving the heat early in the day? I am doing house projects and re-watching all of Walking Dead. Let me know how you are spending the dog days of August in the comments below. And don’t worry if I don’t do any blog posts until it is cooler.

Saturday Afternoon at Brazoria

Saturday Afternoon at Brazoria

Back-to-back Days at Brazoria

Back-to-back Days at Brazoria