Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

Return to the Scene of the Crime

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.

double crested cormorant
double crested cormorant

 

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!

 

 

black and white
The variety of birds

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.

 

 

 

black skimmer flock flying
black skimmer flock flying

 

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.

 

 

 

brown peli swamped 3
brown peli swamped 3

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.

 

 

 

 

 

marbled godwit
marbled godwit

 

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.

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 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, Daily Work

This One’s For the Birds! January 1-3 Pictures

One of my passions/hobbies is bird photography. As I looked at my work last year, I didn’t take much time for that. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than walking with a camera and finding a good bird to photograph. (Unless it disappears before I get the camera up…but we won’t go there.)

Since I live in Corpus Christi, which is the birdiest city in North America, or so I’ve heard. I though I would spend a little time each day taking bird pics and then telling you a little bit about them and the places I go to take them. After a while you may get some repeat info, but that’s ok. You can skip those parts. I’m hoping others will see these pics and want to follow my journey as well.

Since I didn’t start this on January 1, I’ll give a recap of those days.

January 1 was cold (for Corpus Christi) and overcast. This is the kind of day that the birds normally stay inside, huddled underneath a blanket, reading a good book while sipping a cup of hot cocoa. As I tried to think of where to go, I remembered that one place that there are always birds is the People’s Street T-Head. Shrimpers come into the docks there and sell off the boat. The birds are always around to help eat the culls from the shrimpers. So, I headed downtown. While we didn’t have an overwhelming number of birds, there was a good variety.

One bird you’ll generally see there is a brown pelican. Those guys are amazing flyers. I think they were the inspiration for the pterodactyls in Jurassic Park. I’m showing two pics here because I started chuckling, thinking we had the pelican version of Laurel and Hardy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another common bird on the bayfront is the seagull. Here’s a note, if it really needs to be said, is don’t feed the seagulls. I had a great laugh at the seagull in the picture below. We have a local restaurant chain called Boat ‘n Net. This seagull was on the back of a boat, tugging at a fish that was stuck in a net…so I accused him of eating at Boat ‘n Net.

 

 

 

 

 

Grackles are common birds in South Texas, and they tend to hang out around the bayfront as well. One thing you’ll never forget about a grackle is his eye. The eyes are beautiful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another bird I’ve come to love is the cormorant. I think this one is double crested. I’m still learning. These beautiful birds look like the Loch Ness Monster when they’re swimming on the water. Then they dive for food and come up 30-40 yards away. Here’s Nessie.

 

 

 

 

 

January 1 wasn’t a bad day, but it wasn’t a great day. January 2, though, was cold and rainy. I stopped short of my original plan and went to Lakeview Park. There’s always something around there. On the second, there wasn’t much, but we still saw domesticated ducks, which I didn’t really take pics of, Northern Shovelers and American Coots. My children think the Coot should be my spirit animal. I’m not gonna overload you with pics, since they were both swimming together.

 

 

 

 

 

January 3 started off cold and damp like the first two days of the year. After I got back from my picture taking expedition, the sun came out and would have been much better for shots of birds flying. (Faster shutter speed.) But, I finally got some good pics of Sandhill cranes! The first time I saw them, I stumbled on them by accident and they flew away before I could get the shots. The second time, they were too far away to get any good shots. Today they were within 100 yards of the path I was taking in the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve. I was told that they’d plowed the field the other day and the sandhills descended on it. There were probably about a hundred cranes there. (Hard to count because of the intervening trees. They are beautiful, majestic birds and I loved looking at them and shooting them…on camera that is. This pic has an adult and a juvenile. (I coulda used about 20 others.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw a few turkey vultures and a caracara flying around, but didn’t get any shots of them. I did see what looked like Roseate Spoonbills teaching a Snowy Egret (I hope that’s the right ID) how to eat. Two Roseates and the Egret were palling around and sticking closer than brothers! Here’s one of those pics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later, a godwit (again, I hope it’s the right ID) came by and sat down next to them.

 

 

 

 

 

I saw a group of black birds and almost turned away when a couple of ladies who were bird watching also noted that they were Groove Billed Anis and not grackles like I supposed. I don’t know that I ever saw them in the wild and I know I didn’t have any pics of them, so I was happy to get a few pics. Here’s one where you can see the grooves in the bill that give it its name.

 

 

 

 

 

Even in a group of slow days I saw almost 20 different bird types. Corpus Christi is an amazing place to go bird watching. Stay tuned for more!