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, 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,