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.

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 9 – Birding and Fishing About the Same

I grew up doing a lot of fishing. When you asked the guys in the bait shops about the fishing, they’d be sure to give one of two answers. “Well, good luck to ye. You shoulda been here yesterday, though.” or  “This ain’t exactly the best time to go fishing, next week is when the fish start running here.” I thought of that today when I decided to make Wednesday my “Wandering Wednesdays” where I travel a bit farther away from home than normal. I went to Indian Point Park which is on the bay between Portland and Corpus Christi. I’ve talked with guys who’ve gotten amazing pictures there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven by there and looked at my wife, wondering why I didn’t have my camera. So, today I went expecting multitudes of birds and great picture taking opportunities.

 

The first bird I saw was this sparrow. This feisty little bird saw me trying to steal his soul with my camera and skedaddled across the path and out of the way, but not before I got a few good shots in. Then, I walked down a boardwalk that’s set up to allow you to view the wildlife without harming the ecosphere. There are lots of little “pond” type areas, perhaps large tide pools, that draw the birds in. On normal days. But today was not normal – I was there to take pictures. I saw a flock of gulls a little beyond decent picture taking range and snapped a few shots to see if I could find something worth editing later.

 

 

 

 

As I was walking along though, this beautiful bird flew in. I don’t normally do two pictures of any type of bird on this blog, although they can all be seen in my Facebook Photo album, but after doing a few minutes of fashion modeling after he landed, this tri-colored heron  began hunting. While this was just my observation from this one tri-color, they spread their wings before grabbing at the critters in the tide pools that they see. Perhaps this is meant to strike fear in the hearts of their intended prey. I just thought it was kind of cute. I had high hopes for the day when I saw this tri-colored heron.

 

 

As I walked farther along, I saw an egret off in the distance. I took a shot, but it was too far away for it to  be much of a shot. I walked back, took a few more shots of the heron, and then looked around this park that I’d never visited before. There was nothing interesting in the pier area so I tried to walk down the road past the pools of water, hoping to see something. I saw one bird that was so far away that for awhile I wasn’t sure it was a bird! I’ve decided it was a heron of some kind, great blue or (more likely) a tri-colored. It was so far away that even enlarging it with Photoshop didn’t help. Walking didn’t yield any good shots, so I walked back and decided to drive further up the road.

 

 

I did see another tri-colored heron as i was driving so I pulled over and took shots through the open window. They came out ok, but I liked the shots I showed earlier better. After taking those shots, I tried a different place in this area, but those areas that are normally full of birds were empty. I still wanted a few more pics, so I headed back to the T-heads and my go to spot when I absolutely have to get some bird pictures. I didn’t take any pictures of the grackles, but there were some cormorants, seagulls (surprise!), pigeons, and brown pelicans. Most of the pelicans were sleeping, as if they were enforcing the Corpus Christi siesta. The guy in the pic below, I call him Peligandolf. He’s telling us that we will not pass. I’ll just leave the other types below the last paragraph without any further comment.

Even on a low volume day, Corpus Christi has a wide variety of birds and I love the opportunity to see God’s creation here.

 

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story, Daily Work

January 8 – Yes I Missed Yesterday But Today Was Good

I had a weird schedule yesterday and didn’t have any good period of time to go out looking for birds. I won’t get into it but after Sunday’s “Oh, those are birds,” day and yesterday not getting out, I wanted to get some good pics today. I headed out to the Suter Wildlife Refuge which has given me great opportunities for pictures in the past. (Well except for the most recent Christmas day but let’s not get into that. I was pleased with the chances today. I did try to take some pics of birds as they flew, but those didn’t come out well. It does keep me learning, though.

The Suter Wildlife Refuge is set up with a boardwalk out to a viewing area along the water. The first bit of water you see is an inlet that the electric company uses for cooling (I think.) The first bird I saw was a Great Blue Heron. I do enjoy the big birds. They are so much easier to get a good picture of. The little birds flit around all the time and won’t sit still for me. But the big birds, the royalty of the bird family, if they acknowledge you, it’s with a glare that lets you know that your presence may be tolerated. (If they fly away, it wasn’t.) Later I saw a second Great Blue Heron grooming himself and showing, by example, how all distinguished gentlemen should groom. (I did have problems getting my head upside down…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A common sight in that inlet are the coots. I wouldn’t normally include this picture but, if I read it correctly when shooting, it was eating, and I always like to get pics of the birds eating. This one was eating his salad with algae dressing, I believe.

 

 

 

 

Then, I saw the bird that made the whole trip worthwhile to me. A black crowned night heron was sitting on the branches on the other side of the inlet. A few years ago, I had gotten pictures of a yellow crowned night heron, but hadn’t seen a black crowned one. They’re a little smaller than most of the other herons based on my unscientific observations, but they’re beautiful birds. I joined another man who was enjoying his view of the bird. We talked after it flew away. The pictures I got of it flying were blurry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Downstream about ten yards from the heron was a Great Egret. Egrets fit in well as members of the royalty. Slow, deliberate, and stately they go about their hunting without acknowledging our human presence.

 

 

 

 

When you get to the observation area, you’ll generally see two groupings of birds. I’m guessing it’s because of sand bars, but I don’t know. Today, northern shovelers were up close and gulls, with a few terns possibly, were a little farther out. Then, past these two groups you’ll see pelicans, herons, and egrets. Straight ahead and to the right the birds tend to be individuals instead of in flocks, at least smaller groups. I didn’t get a good picture, but I was able to tell from the blurs that some black necked stilts were enjoying the day. The picture, based on my research on google images is of a greater sand plover who was running through the shallow surf looking for food. 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a few trails on the other side of the parking area that I usually take, but I was on a short time period today, so I headed home. I stopped at our local grocery store (HEB) and while there in the parking lot, I saw this female grackle wandering around the cars. All I can say is that you gotta love the eyes!

I enjoyed the day so much today that it made up for two off days. I love seeing the beauty and variety in nature. I can’t help but see God’s hand and design in all of these amazing creatures,

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 6 – Along Known Trails

Today was another day of very few pictures. I had the bright idea that, because it was Sunday and I had a lot to do I’d take pictures along some of my well-traveled paths. There were supposed to be some benefits to this idea, especially since I had hope of finding a kingfisher in a certain area I had seen one or two of them before. I stopped at that area first. It was across the street from one of our fire stations. One of the fireman was walking towards his car and asked what I was doing. When I told him, he started talking about the blue bird he’d seen in that area. Today, however he was chillin’ in the nest, watching the playoffs.

I got a couple of white wing dove pics there but the only ones that were close to good were bird butt pics, and you can only make so many jokes about something like that. Then, further on down the road, I spied this loggerhead shrike in the trees. I can’t identify most birds from far away, but, assuming I got this ID right, I can see and know if a bird is a loggerhead from a distance. He was on one tree as I stalked him, he then flew to a closer tree, giving me a better shot, and then he flew back to his original tree. I got one pretty decent action shot….

 

I saw a couple of birds that I tried to get shots of, but they were hiding in the trees making it hard to focus. When I got home, I walked around the block hoping for some exciting pictures. Some day I’ll have all kinds of exciting pictures that came from my back yard, but today is not that day. There were a lot of starling out and i got a few starling pictures. Starlings are an invasive species, so I’m not to fond of them. A couple of years ago, they chased a woodpecker family out of a hole that i had watched them work on for days. There is some beauty to the Starlings, though, so I’ll still take the picture. I finally found a white wing that wasn’t surrounded by branches and snapped a pic of him. There weren’t too many birds out but I can say that the pics I did take reminded me of how much I have to learn about photography.