Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Things That Happen When You Aren't Expecting It

. . . and this happened.

While sitting in the shade on a long wooden bench watching the Green Jays, Altamira Orioles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Cardinals this guy wandered in.

Took me by surprise and a grabbed my mother-in-laws arm (gently) and whispered in my quietest I-don't-want-to-scare-the-guy-off voice.


We watched as he made his way to the bird feeder and climbed up for some seeds.

Bird seed on his nose aside, he ate with manners scooping up the corn and sunflower in his paws.

We watched him for 15 minutes or so listening to the crunching sounds and smiling when he would glance our way making sure no danger was going to interrupt his meal.

Eventually he jumped down and scooted back into the woods as another couple moved in to watch the birds.

I have had encounters with raccoons before, but not this close or for this long a block of time.  And I defiantly did not get many photographs.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

When Less Would Have Been More

Today I had too much camera, or more accurately, too much lens.

Shortly after the sun was up I walked through a field hoping to see some ducks on the lake below and had my zoom lens ready to snap a few pictures if I were to get lucky.

There were ducks, but the walk through the dew coated grass in the morning sun was more of a treat.

However I could not do the experience justice with my zoom lens and found myself wishing I had brought far less.  A macro lens for closeup shots of the spiderwebs would have been a better choice.

It's not the first time I was surprised by early morning spiderwebs.  Back at the old house in the country I was treated to a field filled with them.  (I'm Walkin' Into Spiderwebs)

Strings of pearls.  So pretty.

I am really looking forward to another opportunity with a better lens choice very soon.  It's fall so I know I'll get a chance.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Harrier: One That Harries: To Make a Destructive Raid

I know there seems to be a theme to my posts of late.  Sorry about that, but I thought this was cool.  While driving through Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Texas this week I saw 7 Northern Harriers hunting low over the fields in the 34,000 acre "park'"(?).  Beautiful hawks that are so hard to photograph.

Females are brown and streaky
Males are pale and gray
I tracked one that was flying parallel to the dirt road I was on, racing ahead and stopping to get in position for a decent shot.  It was not a one time thing.  I must have used this strategy 5-6 times before I finally spaced it out and stopped well ahead of her to get a decent sequence.

Juveniles are more buffy on the breast with fewer streaks
She flew low behind the tall grass seeming to eye something.  (Love the splayed tail feathers)

That white rump is a sure sign you are watching a Harrier
When she popped out the other side I saw she had something in her talons.

As she banked off to the left I got a better view of what turned out to be a frog clutched to her body in one foot.

Harriers eat on the ground so I was excited to see the catch.
I have seen a Harrier feed on the ground before (Paul Rushing Park and it was my first ever Harrier to see last February), but this was my first to see a capture.  

So now I have a Peregrine Falcon, Great Blue-Heron, Crested Caracara, and a Northern Harrier doing what they do - they don't have an HEB or Kroger for birds so it is what it is.  Seems like I have started a new list.  Like I needed a new one.  Here are a few more shots I took this week around Texas.

Monarch migration. Laredo, TX
American Alligator. Anahuac, TX
Honey Bees.  Rosenburg, TX
Spider web in dew.  Tomball, TX
Bullfrog. Long Point, TX
Thanks for hanging into the end.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Eyes Too Big For His Stomach

When I watched a Peregrine Falcon eating an American Avocet (Once in a Lifetime Experience) a few weeks back it was a pretty amazing sight.  This week I happened upon another scene of nature being nature, however the two events could not be more different.

The Great Blue Heron is the largest North American Heron
I was doing a little hiking near Lewisville Lake in the Dallas area taking pictures of some Great Blue Herons when I came across this guy on the shore of the Elm Creek Trinity Fork that runs through the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area.  He had proven himself quite the fisherman having hauled in this very large catfish.

I estimate the fish to be between 10-12 inches long
I watched as he tried repeatedly to get it into position to swallow it.

Herons feed on fish, crabs, shrimp, frogs and even mice and other small rodents
Occasionally he would stop and take a break, wander down to the water to get a drink, then head back up the bank for another go.

Herons hunt in shallow water and along water edges
At one point he decided to drag the fish down to the water, dipping it into the creek.

They have been known to choke on fish too large to swallow
After dunking the fish in the creek the current took hold and threatened to wash the fish down stream, but the Great Blue Heron captured it a second time and brought it back up to the shore to give it another go.

By now I had decided I was going to see this through to the end no mater how long it took.  I have seen a lot of pictures of these birds swallowing large fish whole and really wanted to get that shot, though this was the largest fish I had seen one attempt to eat.  When I sat down on the bank I noticed a snake skin by my side.  A giant zoom lens is not the best for this kind of photography, but I did my best to get a shot.  Love the texture.

I watched as the poor guy tried one more time to wrangle the catfish, but then he became distracted and a little antsy.  It was easy to figure out why as this man wandered out of the woods.

He never tore his gaze from the man who I assumed at the time was a fisherman who was making his way toward him.

But eventually he became just too close and the heron abandoned his catch (too heavy for him to pick up and fly with may be), and flew off to a new perch.

I thought the man and the bird must have both been on the same page when the man stopped in the same spot as the heron had been to set up shop.  He was not a fisherman, however, and seemed from his equipment to be there collecting water samples or on some other environmental task.

If you saw the post on the Peregrin Falcon you have no doubt recognized the differences, but I'll lay them out here anyway.

  1. The falcon ate his prey in pieces whereas the heron tried to swallow his whole
  2. Obviously the falcon was successful and the heron was unsatisfied
  3. The falcon was not deterred by my presence while he ate and the heron was scared off by the guy with the interesting equipement
I saw a few other birds here of note: American Kestrel, Norther Flicker, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
The Kinglet was a new one for my Life List.  I'm up to 256!.  Check out my album to see the new ones.  Pretty excited.  And some of them are pretty good shots, like this one which has become my new favorite.

Blue-headed Vireo

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Waiting on the Weather

Somewhere it is fall, but not here in Houston.  Sure, some of the leaves have begun to fall from the trees and many birds are making their way through the area to winter in the south, but it's still in the upper 80's.  It's a little difficult to get into the spirit of Halloween (like the pun?) when the weatherman is factoring in a heat index of 100 instead of a wind chill of 62.

I guess I won't rotate my summer shirts up to the top of the closet yet, but I admit to looking up longingly at my plaid and long sleeved t-shirts.  Of course that means I'll look a little strange walking into the grocery store in a coral pink short sleeved shirt with white palm fronds printed on it and a pair of khaki shorts, but there really isn't a choice here.  Comfort before fashion.

Fall does get me in the mood for housekeeping.  Today I cleaned off the porch that was too hot to enjoy for the summer so it will be ready to sit out and sip wine on when the weather does turn.  I've also taken some more steps to finish the kitchen remodel that we started oh so long ago.  Today was also about cleaning out some files on my computer.  Specifically the massive photo files that have become more than I can manage.

I have a lot of pictures from the month that just don't seem to go anywhere, but here I can create a theme and do something with them.  So, folks, the theme of the day is bugs.  But I assume you must have already figured that out.

I know you don't want to find some of these guys in your house (or your car if you are my daughter-in-law), but in their place in the wild they have beauty.  And not just the colorful butterflies, but the spiders and beetles as well.

And speaking of spiders, how about a Black Widow in honor of the season that is slow in coming and the holiday that is on the calendar regardless of the temperature.

Porch clean.  Check.  Bug file.  Check.  Fall clothes.  Deferred until another day week.  All in all still a productive day.