Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 16 – The Other Side of Life, The Other Side of the Wetlands

Yesterday was a bad day. Not your ordinary, things aren’t going right, bad day – an especially bad day. I had gone to the bank to get our cash for the last half of the month when I got a text that my mother was being rushed to the hospital. I sent a text back to my sister that I was praying, and waited for the next teller. The phone rang and it was my sister telling me that my mom had just passed away. The phone call was brief, but devastating. I went back and waited for the same teller to finish what she was doing. When she finished she told me to have a nice day. I didn’t ruin hers by telling her why I probably wouldn’t.

My original plan had been to go take pictures after going to the bank. Obviously, those plans were derailed and I spent yesterday at home, mostly, dealing with the grief. As a Christian, while I grieve, I don’t grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but I can rejoice that my mother is at home with the Lord. Yesterday was rough, but I made it through the day. Today has been a better day mentally and emotionally. I did get out to take pictures today. Last week I was on one side of the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve, today I visited the other side.

 

We had rain most of the day yesterday and last night. I’ve always loved the pictures of water drops on leaves and as I entered the trail, I was able to get this picture. There’s probably nothing special about it to most people, but I enjoyed the chance to get this picture. There’s such a beauty when you see the raindrops on the leaves like that.

 

 

 

 

I’ve heard folklore about cardinals. I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that I don’t believe the stories. They don’t seem to have any biblical basis and it’s more of a superstition than fact. That being said, the first bird I was able to see and photograph was a cardinal. Superstition and folklore aside, I love cardinals. They’re beautiful birds. So, this first picture of the day set the tone for a good day, even though there weren’t many birds out today. Let’s face it…about the only time I don’t like cardinals are when they’re from St. Louis or Arizona.

 

 

 

 

Next along the trail was a white wing dove. We get a lot of these in South Texas. The white on the wing isn’t very distinctive on any of the pics I got, but as I debated on whether it was a white wing or a mourning dove, the eyes told the story. The blue circle around the eye makes this a white wing.

 

 

As I walked along, I saw, far off in the distance in the bay, these ducks. Given what I see most and the fact that I could barely see them, I figured they were northern shovelers. When I blew the pics up to 100%, though, they were a different type of duck. I had to look carefully, but they appear to be Northern Pintail ducks. That’s a new one for me, so that was exciting. I always love seeing the variety and beauty of the birds that God created.

 

 

 

 

 

Along the trail, I saw a bird do one of those things that kingbirds do when they sit on a tree, fly out to catch a snack, and then go back to the tree. I wasn’t able to get a real good picture of the bird. Google images says that it’s a house sparrow. I think it has too much yellow color for a house sparrow. I could be wrong, though. Any experts able to tell me what this is for sure?

 

 

 

There weren’t many birds out in the mud flats from the observation deck. I saw an egret, but it was so far away that I didn’t get a good picture. Then, two sandhill cranes came flying overhead. They’re apparently still working that cornfield where I saw them last week.

 

 

Heading back down the trail, I heard some beautiful singing I stalked the bird until I finally saw him. After discussion with one of the people in charge (later) and my own research, I believe it’s a long billed thrasher. They sing beautifully.

The Oso Bay Wetlands is a beautifully maintained park area and they have lots of learning activities for kids and adults. You can find information about this amazing place on their Facebook page

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 14 – Going Back to the T-Head

Today was cold which means that most of the birds wouldn’t be out. The one place I was sure would have some birds was the People’s Street T-Head, one of my favorite go-to places. If you’re not from Corpus Christi, The T-Heads jut out from the shore in the shape of a T. (Thus the name.) People’s Street is the home of the shrimp boats and you can buy shrimp right off the boat. The other T-Head and the L-Head (should be self-explanatory) have other emphases. All of them sport marinas. I like the People’s Street T- Head because the shrimp boats draw birds.

The first bird of the day was a Ruddy Turnstone. It was the first time I’d seen them this year. These little guys are energetic when they want to be and I saw them as they were darting across traffic. (Well, the street since my car was one of the few on the T-Head today, and I was .) They joined a herd of pelicans and some seagulls for a birdy party. I love the way the coloring works out on these cute little birds.

 

 

 

 

This pelican was slightly apart from the flock a little farther over on the dock. I think he was trying to get their attention so they’d join him in the hokey-pokey. “C’mon guys! You put your left foot in…” There are always a few comical shots from these birds.

 

 

 

The seagulls, meanwhile, were joining in the fun. This guy joined the pelican in his dance, and a good time was had by all. They were so cold that I was able to get pretty close to them. They may have been thinking, “This guy’s a Texan. Maybe he’ll barbecue us and we can finally get warm enough.” Of course, some of these birds take their hokey-pokey a bit too seriously!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, the cormorants were out. I was able to catch a couple in flight this time. I missed one taking off. Before they leave the water it seems like they’re running on the surface as they try to gain the speed to take off. They’re ungainly until they get in the air. Once they take off, though, they can move it!

 

Finally, I saw the obligatory grackle. Anywhere you go in Corpus Christi, the grackles are already there. There are some places at night where you’ll see hundreds if not thousands all sitting on the same wires. I don’t like grackles very much, but I love those eyes! They get me every time.

We have a lot of cold weather coming in, so I may not get out much to take new pictures. Would you be interested if I posted pics i took earlier? Would you prefer I posted birds from Rwanda? What suggestions would you have?

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 12 – Lots of Egrets

The #BirdBoxChallenge is a big deal these days. Based on the actions of characters in a Netflix movie, people are putting on blindfolds and trying to do normal, everyday tasks. You’d think there’s be limits, of course, because there are some things even the dumbest people won’t do. Like, who could imagine anyone being idiotic enough to drive a car blindfolded. Just won’t happen. Nope. Not here. Not in America….well, maybe. PT Barnum was right: no one ever went broke because they underestimated the intelligence of the American people! Anyway, I bring that up because I want to offer a variation of the Bird Box Challenge. I’m calling it the Bird Brain Challenge. Instead of blindfolding yourself to the fears of our surroundings, open your eyes and notice God’s handiwork in our world today. Look at the beauty and variety we see in people, in plants, in animals, and especially birds. Enjoy this beautiful world that God has made!

As to the pictures today – lots of egrets. There’s a reason. I’m actually going to link a picture back to my facebook photo album so you can see the whole sequence of an amazing egret battle! But, first things first. We were at the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center today. Lucy walked with me. We didn’t see the variety of birds we usually see, but we saw that amazing egret battle. The first bird we saw, though, was an Inca dove with it’s distinctive pattern on the wings. They used to visit our backyard when we fed the birds, but this is the first one I’ve seen this year.

 

Then, we saw some birds that were too far off to get good pics. After that, we came to a lake where there were numerous water birds. Most of them were too far off to see too much, but there were some egrets close by. They were photobombed by a darker bird that made me wonder if juvenile egrets are hatched with dark feathers. I late discovered what kind of bird it was, but I’ll save that reveal for later. What we did see was a growing tension among the egrets that led to a great battle between two males, I believe. Finally, one prevailed and chased the other one off, but thee was a bit of a twist in the ending. If you click on the picture of the egrets fighting, you can see the beginning of the fight all the way through. The captions explain the twist.

 

The darker bird was a juvenile white-faced ibis, if I got the identification right. He kept right on eating through the fight without a care in the world. Front row seats to the premier boxing match of the spring and he kept staring down at his dinner. I would have caught the identification when I looked at the pics later, but a different angle confirmed that it was an ibis.

 

 

 

As we continued on our walk, we saw some beautiful flowers and even a lizard. The last picture of the day was the butterfly below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a great day to be out in God’s world today. It was good to see families and friends walking the trail at the Botanical Gardens. It’s a beautiful place to go. Get yourself a yeary membership and you can go there often and see the beauty of God’s creation in the different stages of the year.

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 11 – This Was No Place Like Home

Mueller Lake Park in Austin is a beautiful park in a high end area of town. Anywhere you go, you have to pay to park. Well, in the park, the parking is free, if you can find a space. I did and took a walk around the lake. While talking with Austinites, I was told that this park was built on the site of their old air port. The lake is full of ducks, some domesticated, some wild, and some in-between. There were a number of different types of birds in the water and in the surrounding areas. I was met first by some coots swimming with the ducks. I believe the ducks are ring-necked ducks. (Google images said “mallard” but Bing Images led me to Ring-necked duck.) This is the first time I’ve identified ring-necked ducks. It’s always a joy to get a new bird! Most of the pictures that I have of them though, was when they were swimming away. This is one of the ring-necked ducks without the coots.

There were a number of domesticated ducks and Muscovy ducks as well. I’ve seen them locally, and, to be honest, they aren’t my favorite birds to photograph.

 

 

I saw some cormorants in different parts of the lake and loved watching them dry off their wings. Apparently, their wings aren’t totally waterproof, according to William Mays, so they have to dry off their wings. In the past I’ve seen ten or twenty of them at a time standing on the bank of a lake drying their wings this way.

 

 

 

 

Grackles abound in Austin as well. Who would have guessed. As I talked with someone walking the trails, because I blocked his path, he told me that it was perfectly understandable and that he loved watching grackles, too. I’m not a big fan of grackles, but ya gotta love the eyes.

 

 

I saw my first few yellow-rumped warblers of the year at the lake. They were hiding in a tree, flitting around quickly when they left, so I didn’t get very good shots, but they were there. You can see the flash of yellow in the pic. They have a similar flash on their rumps – hence the name. One of their nicknames is “Butter Butt.”

 

 

 

 

What body of water would be complete without an egret – a Great Egret in this case. There is such an air of royalty about them. Every move is deliberate as if planned. This one worked hard to shun my picture taking, but I got a few good shots in.

 

 

 

 

 

While there were a few mottled ducks and female mallards, the last duck I’m going to look at is a Crested Mallard. According the the article I just linked, this duck is the product of selective breeding to give this mallard the crest or tuft on its head. It’s apparently a tame bird gone wild. I thought it looked interesting, and so I shared it.

Today was a tiring day – walking around the park, then sitting and waiting on my wife who does contract work for the state. Then, we had a long drive home in rainy conditions. Still, it was a good one. Not only was I able to get some good pictures, I got to spend a lot of time with my wife.

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 10 – About Bird Brain Chronicles…and Today’s Pics

So you may have noticed the #BirdBrainChronicles hashtag and the category for Bird Brain Chronicles. “What’s happening?” you ask. This is still the Bob James Author page and I’ll be sharing authory stuff with you when I have it to share. I just wanted a chance to share my hobby/passion for bird photography with people. And, to be honest, I’m looking at ways I can expand this in the future, but this will help me get my feet wet. If you have any questions about photography, the places I choose, or suggestions or ideas, etc. please feel free to note them in the comments. Also, feel free to share links with anyone who might be interested.

Today, I took the advice of a friend I used to teach with when looking for a spot. Only, I remembered part of where she said, not the whole thing, and ended up on the wrong side of the road. I didn’t see any birds I could snap, so after I checked her directions, I started heading back to the right end. Only, due to a military airfield, it wasn’t a straight shot. So, I tried to cut over on a different road. I did see this egret and the cormorant, although the egret was camera shy and flew away as I tried to take her picture.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I got to the suggested road, I could see how it would have lots of places for birds to hide, but today the places were too good and I couldn’t see any birds worth shooting. (With a camera of course!) So, quite disappointed, I turned towards home. While on the homeward path, I came across this flock of sandhill cranes. There were about a hundred of them in the field. At first I thought they were sheep, then I realized they were the cranes. I took lots of shots, but I’m going to give you a more panoramic view of them rather than pictures of the individual birds. This is what I first saw, but the pics don’t do justice to the birds.

 

 

Then, just as I got to the bridge, I spied this osprey. He was so far away I thought he was on top of his kill. When I looked at his pic, I realized that he was on an old tire. While I’m happy that made it possible to see him, I continue to be appalled at the blatant disregard for our world. I look at the beauty of God’s creation in the birds and in the land and the plants. Then, that joy is jarred when I see the litter people leave thoughtlessly: not caring about God’s creatures, the land, or other people who seek to enjoy the land. I’m typing this while out of town right now, but I’m planning to bring along a small sack to pick up trash along the way in the future. I can’t clean the whole area, but I can clean my part.

And that fits in with the Bird Brain concept. While it’s been an insult in the past, science has shown that birds are great problem solvers. While my actions aren’t a permanent solution, they’re a start. God created a beautiful world for us, and we’re called to be his stewards.