Wednesday, April 27, 2016

One Thing Leads to Another

Everything had been cooking along just fine.  The pet door really made a difference for Rudy and Kracken.  They could come and go at their whim and enjoy the patio.  And they did.


Then out of the blue, after 9 months of thinking things were good, I found Kracken on the top of the patio fence.  Breck and I rushed off to Home Depot and bought a roll of screening to cover the opening so this would not happen again.


Is this the end of the story?  Nope.  Last night Breck and I headed out to Amy's for an after dinner ice cream treat and locked ourselves out of the condo.  Normally we would have climbed the fence to retrieve the back-up key stashed in the closet with no problem (and we have), but now with a screen it was not so easy.  I had to bang on the screen to loosen the nails to make a hole large enough to climb through to get the key.  Not fun.  So today I made another trip to Home Depot.


Now with a programable lock we won't be locked out again.  I hope.  I just need to make sure the batteries are charged.


It was really easy to switch out the old 1980's brass for new brushed chrome.   And it looks so much better.


But now I have shown you our very dirty door.  I'll be cleaning that tomorrow.  One thing always leads to another.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

High and Dryish

I know I have been posting a lot of birds lately.  It's not that that is all I'm doing, but I am enjoying it. Yesterday I went to W.G. Jones State Forest and yes saw and photographed more birds, but mostly just enjoyed the hike.   It was wet, and in some places muddy, but easily done. 


I wasn't sure it was going to be hike-able when I headed out since so many places around Houston are still underwater.  I attempted Riverpark Park a couple days ago in Sugar Land. and it was 100% under water.  It's a confusing photo, but that is the trail sign on the bottom left and the trail is covered in brown Brazos River mud.  The canopy of trees is reflected off the water.  Completely impassable.


It's a park I can't wait to go back to when it is dry.  But yesterday was about the piney woods.  I don't think I have ever seen so many pinecones before.


Cool temperatures, low humidity, and plenty of peace.  No quiet, though.  The birds were chirping up a storm.  I would have loved to have spotted more, but they were asking people to stay off the trails in much of the park where I was while an endangered species of woodpecker nests.


And I was fortunate enough to spot one of them AND get a picture.  Though it escapes me why "Red" is in their name.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker
It's a new bird to add to my Life List.  I have photographic proof that I have seen 168 of the 648 species of birds that can be seen in Texas.  I have seen more, many in my old backyard, but I only count them if I have a picture.  I am hopelessly a list person.


There was one other Lifer for me in this park.  When I first saw it I was afraid it was just another Northern Cardinal.  I was so happy when I got the shot on my computer to find it was something a little more exotic moving north after wintering in South America and southern North America.  He is a Summer Tanager.  You can see why from a distance I thought it was a Cardinal.

Summer Tanager
So, only two bird pictures.  Not an over share for those tired of the feathers.  I have taken the zoom lens off my camera and will take more pictures of my condo garden to give you updates and my condo which I haven't shown in awhile.  But one last nature shot.  Because.

Black Swallowtail on Lantana

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Number 61: Galveston Island State Park

Recently we took advantage of some vacation time to check out a park we had not been to before.  Number 61 for us was Galveston Island State Park.  No park sign picture this time because as we were heading into the park I spotted this guy and was distracted.

Cattle Egret
Check out his intensity.


The park spans FM3090 on the ocean side and bay side of the island.  We did all our hiking on the bay side hoping to see some birds.  We were not disappointed.  I learned a lesson though.  Taking pictures through the window of a car yields blurry pictures unless you turn the car off.  You can see what I mean in the photo below.   Argh.  Lesson learned.

White Ibis and Laughing Gull
Fortunately for my photography we did park the car and hike so many of my pictures turned out clear.  First we set out from the parking lot to an observation deck that looked out over the marshes.


Great Egret
Great Blue Heron
The land is flat at sea level and there are no tall trees to obstruct your view.  We hit the trail and were immediately rewarded with island beauty.

Buckeye


The trails are a mix of dirt and sand with bridges connecting some of the marshy areas.  We got a very clear view of a pair of Roseate Spoonbills, Breck's favorite bird, from the first bridge.



These Neotropic Cormorants let us get really close on the second bridge before deciding enough was enough and they flew away.

Neotropic Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant pair
The terns were pretty active at the bridge as well, plunging into the water for fish.  Their hunting habits are fun to watch.

Common Tern
I know I'm heavily relying on my bird pictures for this post, but I couldn't help it.  There were so many birds and I was in a honeymoon period with my new 400mm lens.

Red-winged Blackbird
Willet
The trails were easily followed and many of the birds we spotted ran right out in front of us.

Wilson's Plover
We headed down this trail at the end of the afternoon hoping to spot some American Oyster Catchers.  



It was not the prettiest of the trails and we didn't see a single bird until this.  It's an Osprey albeit blurry.  However keep in mind I was more than a football field away from this guy, in the wind, with no tripod, and camera I was not yet familiar with.  All that though does not change the fact I SAW AN OSPREY!  Check that off my Life List.


There are places to launch a kayak in the park to ride through the marshes.  Next time.  We did check out the launch for future reference and spotted these guys hanging out.  These are also blurry, but it had been a long day at this point and the wind was still a major factor as was my ability to navigate the settings.  I kept switching my focus from the bird to the grasses around them.  And I really need to get a good tripod.

Black-necked Stilt
This shot would have been awesome if I had the focus correctly places.  Such beauties.

Tricolored Heron
Redhead (ducks)
But you get the idea.  There is a lot to see in this park of which I have only shared a small part.  If I go back again with the kayaks I'll be sure to let you know.

* If you saw my last post Every Picture Tells A Story I want to tell you that I visited GISP first.  I learned from many of my focus mistakes I made here which helped me get the clear Yellow-crowned Night-Heron pictures.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Every Picture Tells A Story

I wasn't expecting it.  At first I didn't even see it.  I was following a Snowy Egret with my camera hoping to get a good flight shot.    When I pulled back I saw it.


Another bird for my Life List.  A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.


Taking small steps one at a time I crept closer and closer.  He was so focused on hunting he didn't seem to notice me at all.  Then he bent over, wiggled his tail feathers, and came up with a crawfish.


It may not look very big, but it really was.


He didn't eat it right away.  He maneuvered it this way and that trying to get it n the right position.  I almost felt bad for the crawfish as it tried to cling to the heron's beak.


But then he got the guy right where he wanted him.


And just like that (imagine me snapping my fingers), the crawfish was gone.


I watched him eat 3 crawfish each time wiggling his tail feathers before coming up with a catch.  Reminded me of my cats before they pounce.  Eventually he left the muddy water and flew up into a tree.


Yep.  They can do that.


I spent 15 minutes with this guy.  It was an awesome experience.