A lot of times, people take stock of where they are spiritually at the beginning of the year. They make resolutions to do different things that will help them draw closer to God throughout the year. Have you ever stopped in the middle of the year to evaluate how well you’re doing in meeting that goal? That’s an easy goal to let go of and forget because there are so many distractions. If you made that kind of goal at the beginning of the year and you’ve fallen behind, take heart. Our God gives second and third and fiftieth and one hundredth chances. If you want to begin to work on that again, let me introduce you to my devotional book series. I’d like to offer you a free eBook where you can spend five to ten minutes a day reading and contemplating God’s presence in your life. This site won’t even collect an email address! If you don’t know how to send a book to your Kindle, I can help you do that. Gain a habit that will enrich your every day life.
Today I did my video and birding at the Oso Bay Wetlands Refuge. I do a video every week for my devotional/Bible Study blog called “Daily Enduring Truth.” Because I came in relation to my video, I was a little later getting to the Refuge than I would normally be. The birds were scarce around noon in the heat of the day. I saw some kind of hawk, but the pics were too blurry to use because he was so far off. I’ll share some pictures of an egret I saw in just a bit. I saw a Turkey Vulture, and I’ll share that pic, and the same pair, presumably, of mottled ducks that I talked about the other day. So what was the most exciting sighting of my day? The people.
I normally show up early in the day during the week. Showing up at noon on a Saturday meant that I got to see a lot of people: visitors there for the first time, families with little kids learning to love the outdoors, couples, joggers, people walking quietly. It was so exciting to see all those people out there enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. They may not have realized that they were following William Wise’s suggestion, quoted below this paragraph, but they were and everyone seemed to enjoy it!
Stop reading this blog, close your browser, push back the chair and walk out the door. Talk to God; cast your concerns at His feet; enjoy this world that He created. You just might get addicted. I know because I go there every day. So, pray and go birding!
I enjoy the wilderness style parks that reveal the natural beauty of the world God has created. So, while I didn’t see many birds today, it was time well spent.
One bird you can almost always see is this amazing bird known as the Turkey Vulture or the Turkey Buzzard. When you watch it soaring around overhead, it’s one of the most beautiful, graceful birds around. As scavengers, though, they don’t get good press. And the red head that looks so cool from a long way away is just plain ugly when you see it up close. I love watching these birds, though, and got a decent pic today.
If you clicked on my video, then the egret, which I presume to be a Great Egret, you’ll see in the next pictures was right behind me. I kept hoping to get a picture of him catching and eating a fish, or something. He was stalking and darting his bill down to get something, but I never caught him in action. I’m gonna just post the pics without saying much about them. These egrets are beautiful birds and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
The third picture is my favorite from all the pics I took of this egret. I like the open mouth….
I keep hearing reports that the bird population seems to be going down. Obvioualy, a few days shouldn’t be the sole proof of that idea. Still, I haven’t come across any sites that prove that theory right so far this year, and, a few sites SEEM to indicate that it may be right. Keep looking, keep watching and see if you agree with that idea.
…is better than the best day at work. I actually took these pictures on Monday, but got caught up with a bunch of stuff the last couple of days and never posted them. I went by the Oso Creek waterway, spaces shown to me by Bill Mays, who’s published a couple of my short stories. I asked him about the amazing pictures he gets, and he showed me his secret spots. I go there occasionally, but I don’t see as much as he does. On my way there, though, I gained sympathy for people who commit one of my pet peeves: turn or change lanes without using their signal. I was getting into the lane from which I’d need to turn, eventually. There was no one in the lane I needed, so, I turned on my blinker and started to move into the lane. When I did that, I realized the person that had been about twenty car lengths behind was ten car lengths behind and was speeding as if he was hoping to close the gap so I couldn’t change in front of him. (And then, later on, he turned before he ever caught up to me.) Our society seems to value courtesy far less every year.
Now, for the birds. Didn’t see many worth taking pictures of. The waterway is beautiful, though and I took a pictures in one place. I thought I had a few more, but I didn’t.
As I walked toward my first stop, I saw a black, duck-like bird flying. When I looked at the picture later, I realized that he was a double-crested cormorant. When I got to the place, I saw a bird that I thought might be the same one. Examining the pictures later made me realize it was. So, here you have a picture of a double-crested cormorant in flight, and then at rest….ok…fishing. I missed the shot of him diving into the water.
I’ll show the picture later, for reasons that will become obvious, but I heard the call of what I thought was a gull. Now, gulls are not one of the birds I get excited taking pictures of, but, given how few birds I had seen or heard, I decided that a good picture of a gull in flight would be nice to have. So, I snapped that picture and moved on. I kept looking into the foliage on the side, not seeing anything. OK, as I walked, I must admit that I was disgusted by the amount of litter left in the area. How hard is it to take your trash back out with you when you’re in the woods. (Hint: if it’s too hard to take out, then don’t bring it in with you!) One spot I looked at had a stalk of celery left on some branches. I decided that someone had done that to draw some kind of animal to the area, hopefully for a picture, and chuckled at that. Then, I looked up and saw these birds. At first I thought they were loggerhead shrikes, but I found out later that was some kind of trick my imagination was playing on me. Just sparrows, but since it looked like they were the fruit of the tree, I still snapped and am posting the picture.
As I looked for that picture, I saw one that I had thought about posting, but decided not to. It was a fuzzy female cardinal, because my autofocus looked at the trees instead of the bird. Now, back to the “gull” earlier. But first, I walked across a flood plain down to another prime picture spot and there in the trees was this beautiful osprey. It was hard to decide which shot to use and decided on this one because it showed so much of the beauty of the bird. When I got home, I realized that what I thought was a sea gull, was, in fact, this same osprey. i haven’t see many of these beautiful birds, but I love seeing them when I do.
As I’m returning to my picture taking, I’m getting hungry for a new lens. I currently have a lens that adjusts to 250 mm. I’d really like one that extends to 600 mm for much clearer shots, especially on birds in flight. My wife isn’t excited by the idea. How can I convince her that this would be a great investment? I’d love your suggestions!
Every week, I do a video introduction to a Bible study I write on my Daily Enduring Truth Blog. This week, I decided to go to the South Texas Botanical Gardens so that I could do the video, and then walk the trails. I’ve generally seen a lot of birds along the trails here. I did the video in the Hummingbird Garden. Most of the flowers weren’t blooming yet and it’s been a little cold for hummingbirds, so we didn’t have the color background I hoped for, nor did we see any hummingbirds. My wife, Lucy, accompanied me and did the video work today. Imagine our surprise near the end of our visit we say the picture of the parrot named Lucy. So, my Lucy posed with their Lucy.
After that, I got a couple of nice scenery shots. I love the view of the creek and the view of the lake. I usually see lots of birds on the lake, but I only saw one today, a cormorant and I couldn’t get any good pictures of it.
As I was leaving the lake, a Great Blue Heron flew past. Today, the birds seemed to be either out of range or they showed up when I wasn’t ready with my camera.
A little bit farther along the trail there’s a bigger lake also. I didn’t get any pictures of the lake, but a few pics of the birds on the lake. As best as I can tell, this is a green winged teal. It’s darker than the ones I saw at the Suter Wildlife Refuge, but the head and the little white chevron in the front were helpful in identifying it. Again, please feel free to corrct me if I’m wrong.
In a tree on the other side of the larger lake, I saw this Loggerhead shrike. Those birds fascinate me, and I love the mask around their face. This was one of the ones that was too far away to get a really good pic.
On the other side of the bridge (used to walk over the marshy, muddy edge of the big lake) I saw this Lesser Yellow Legs. I’ve seen a couple since I started shooting again even though I don’t recall seeing them before this time.
In Texas, you gotta see a mockingbird or two whenever you go out birding…just because. This was one of the few birds I found as I followed a trail close by Oso Creek.
Finally, if you remember, this is a botanical garden. While it was too early for most flowers, we saw a few beautiful flowers. We had planned to go today to take pictures. Just before we left, we got a letter reminding us that we needed to renew our membership. We did so gladly because this is one of the most beautiful spots in the area with both cultivated and natural beauty.
Let’s face it…last Saturday’s pics were bad. They were so bad they were criminal…sort of. So, yesterday I returned to the scene of the crime to see if I could get some good pictures. Well, I had another plan as well, but that didn’t pan out too well. The Suter Wildlife Refuge has trails going two ways from the parking lot. One is to the gazebo by the bay where I took pics Saturday, the other is through the trees down to the shore. Since I had gone to the gazebo area before, I started out going to the trees. In the past, I’d seen a lot of songbirds and gotten good pictures along this path. On this day, I saw two birds and didn’t get a chance to take the picture. They were too small, too fast, and rushed for cover.
One reason I didn’t see many birds, I believe, is that the city is doing some work on the Refuge, seeking to create a more native environment. It was pretty noisy. It should be good in the long run. When I got close to the shore, I didn’t see any birds, but I saw a few where I took long range shots. This double crested cormorant, I think that’s right, flew to join his buddies sunning themselves on a rock. Even with cropping, this pic looks a long way off. One of my dreams for this year is to get a longer range lens to use for these shots. I got a few other shots, but they weren’t crisp and clear. So, I walked back to the gazebo. Of course, since I could see the water around the gazebo, I walked quickly. I had seen a whole flock of white pelicans close by!
One of the things that struck me was the beauty created by God just using black and white..well…maybe with a bit of orange accent. In this picture, you can see black skimmers, sea gulls, American avocets, black-necked stilts, and white pelicans. I thought the pelican scratching behind his ear was interesting…thought about my dog when I saw this. While looking at this picture, I noticed the green wing teals behind the pelicans. I looked for them, hoping for a better pic than the other day, but couldn’t find them, that I know of. I wished I’d noticed them while I was there so I could have gotten a better picture.
One of the most beautiful birds on the coast is the black skimmer. It’s black and white, with an orange accent around the beak. It feeds by fying just above the water and dipping it’s beak in the water as it flies along. According to All About Birds, “Possibly the best description of the Black Skimmer’s bounding, head-down foraging style came from the great seabird biologist R. C. Murphy in 1936. He said they look like ‘unworldly… aerial beagles hot on the scent of aerial rabbits.'” I usually see them in large flocks, like those flying to your left, or at the bottom of the picture above. As much as I love the picture with the whole flock rising up in the air at one time, I wish you could experience the beauty yourself.
One of the more humorous, to me incidents of the day was when a brown pelican caught a fish. If you can see the brown pelican, he’s just swallowed the fish. When he first caught it, the seagulls swarmed him, trying to get anything he might drop, or, make him lose the fish. The white pelican came over to help out his fellow peli….or so I imagine. Then, once he swallowed the fish, the other birds pulled back and later he was seen swimming with the gulls following behind like ducklings following their mother. (They attacked any time the pelican found something else to snack on.
Then, finally, this bird. I’m beginning to recognize some birds again. I thought this was either a godwit or a willet, and research leads me to believe that it’s a marbled godwit. (Willets have shorter beaks and longer legs, I think.) He just kept searching the shallows for invertebrates and plant tubers. (See what a little research will tell you!)
All in all, I had a great time on a beautiful day. I plan to do three of these Bird Brain Chronicles posts a week. I’m also trying to work a way to show the full pictures at a larger size so you can see the beauty of these birds. Please feel free to correct anything I said that was wrong, ask questions, or request a site or a bird for me to check out.
Note: I was just about to post this yesterday when I did something stupid and burnt my hand, making it hard to type. Sorry for the delay.
Just a note before I get into today’s version of #BirdBrainChronicles: As I was setting this post up,I checked to see how the pictures were fitting together. I wasn’t happy. I need to find a bettwer way to line up the pictures. Until I do, please forgive the wonky formatting.
The day began with fog. We’ve had a lot of that lately…I wonder if God has a trip to London in mind for me. Just kidding of course…maybe. We had fog until about 9:00, and when I got paged to go to the church and sign checks (which I should have done yesterday) I headed over there.
We usually drive by Middlecoff Park when we go to church, it avoids some of the busier areas of traffic. Today was no different. Only today, I saw these two beautiful sandhill cranes, feeding in the grass right by the road. The two cranes at the park though, just kept eating as I drove up and didn’t bat an eye, so far as I could tell, when I rolled down the window to take pictures. I took the two together and then isolated one of them. I should add that when I downloaded these pics to my computer, I lept for joy because they weren’t blurry. The two flying cranes were later, but I wanted to keep all these pics together
Sandhill Cranes flying
After I signed the checks at church, I headed to the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve & Learning Center because it’s a wonderful place to look for birds. Today, it seemed like the overall bird population was down, but I still had a great time walking and looking at the beauty of the area. Of course, starting the day with the Sandhills already had made the day successful, but the scenery along the walk and the birds I did see added to the enjoyment. Walking into the sun, the plants were filled with water drops from the fog. I started off taking a few pictures of the drops. They looked like God had given the plants diamond necklaces to glitz up the place.
Wait, what’s that I see in that last picture? A cardinal’s hiding in the brush. My limited photography skills don’t always capture the beauty I see, especially with birds hidden in the midst of branches and brush, but seeing this cardinal brought a smile to my face.
I love Cardinals, well, except for the St. Louis variety, and this was the first one I’ve seen this year. Then, I got a few better cardinal pics. The picture of the female came after I went to the overlook, but I wanted all the Cardinals together.
I experienced my lack of expertise in identifying birds today with the next few birds. One, I only knew because I had seen other people identify similar birds as ruby-crowned kinglets. (I still haven’t ever seen the ruby crown displayed!) They’re small, and this one was flitting around the branches. I never got a good look from him, this is the best of the lot.
These next two were hard to identify because they were backlit by the sun, and it was hard to see the colorations, but the duck looking one appears to be a Northern Pintail and the other one a Lesser Yellowlegs.
And this one, I thought at first was a brown thrasher, but it doesn’t look like it after research. The song was beautiful, but I didn’t record it. Do you know what it is?
As I began walking back to the car, I heard the honking of the sandhill cranes, and that’s when I snapped the pic of them flying. I saw a number of mocking birds, and explained what kind of bird ockingbirds are to a young child coming out of the learning center with his family. He said that he wished that they ate bugs, and I told him that they do…lots of bugs.