Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Raptor Rhapsody

I really thought I was going to Galveston to shoot some of the warblers (small, sweet, cute and cuddly song birds) that are migrating through this part of Texas right now.  I was just a little off.  Mind you I did get a couple pictures, but they were not the highlight of my day.  This day was all about the raptors (meat eating bird with long talons that feed off of other small animals).

First up, and my personal favorite and a new one for my Life List, the Merlin.


Part of the falcon family it is a very small bird about the size of a pigeon.  Kudos to my friend Robbin for spotting it through the window of my truck or I would have driven right passed her.  Yes, based on coloring, I believe it is a she.


Next up is the American Kestrel.  This girl is even smaller than the Merlin and only the size of a Robin.  Another female, but I saw the male as well.  Very camera shy and flew off when she realized we were bird paparazzi.  Seeing these two completed my wish list for the day, but our day held so much more.


This Cooper's Hawk was our first raptor of the day and an unexpected surprise.  Robbin, my partner for the day, and I decided to stop at El Franco Park on a whim to see the Least Grebes and this guy flew in to terrorize all the ducks, herons, egrets, and grebes in the park.  Males and females look alike so I can't tell what this one is, but size wise they are the size of a crow.


Driving down a back road we got a tip from a sweet couple in a car passing us the drive that there was a White-tailed Kite on the line.  Sure enough, but a little out of my lens's range to get a clear shot.


I saw 3 Broad-winged Hawks circling high above us on the island, but we spooked this juvenile out from his perch in some low vegetation.  After watching which direction he headed, we were able to find him perched in a dead tree and open for a clear photo.  His size is about the same as the Cooper's and a few inches larger than the Kite's.


But the prize for most numerous raptor must go to the Osprey.  We saw 5 of them on this day.  These guys are much larger than the other predators we saw at 23 inches long and much stockier.


This male gave us a long look and happily the opportunity for a close up of his intense eye.


You would think that this would have been enough, that I was satisfied, satiated, and replete.  Not really.  Robbin and I have already planned our next outing with a focus on raptors.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

September, So Different From August

I dodged the downpours, some unsuccessfully, and popped down to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge last week for a late afternoon visit.

Turkey Vulture

It was a much different scene from the last time I was there.


Lots of wide open spaces and very few birds.


Compare to the photos I shot just a month ago when these same ponds and marshes where filled with Wood Storks, White Ibis, Herons and Egrets, in numbers difficult to define.


That doesn't mean the park was completely devoid of life.  But you must look closely.

Tricolored Heron

This Osprey was easy to spot on the top of an old water tank, but the fish he is about to devour may need a keener eye.  And speaking off eyes, his are amazing.  Love the color and intensity.

Osprey

He was not the only predator I saw that day.  There were two White-tailed Kites enjoying the rain cooled air and fading light.

White-tailed Kite

Unexpected?  Absolutely.  There must be a fence down somewhere.  I took this through my windshield quickly before he wandered back into the brush.


While keeping my eye on the brush for another glimpse of the bull I spotted these two White-tailed Deer blending with their surroundings.

White-tailed Deer

With fall migration underway there are many birds beginning to make the move including these White-faced Ibis who were part of a much larger flock that came in to settle for the night.

White-faced Ibis

Speaking of fall, the colors are beginning to change around here.  Some of the leaves have begun to turn yellow and red, but these were part of a planned burn that took place since my last visit.

Mockingbird
Loggerhead Shrike

The storms made for some beautiful clouds, perfect for me to practice with my new wide angle lens.



Leaving the park with sunset approaching I see another downpour ahead.  I was hoping it would make for a beautiful sunset.


It did, but not until the sun was very low in the sky peeking below the clouds.


Loving my wide angle lens.



Thursday, September 22, 2016

Kentucky Quilt Barns

Quilt barns are a thing in Kentucky.


Driving the backroads they can be spotted if you have a keen eye.



As a quilter this was very cool.


Actually, it made me want to buy property again just so I could have an old barn to hang a quilt block from.


One evening on our trip, all 6 of us piled in the rented van and took off searching for these beautiful barns.


We saw more than I got photos of which just means I need to go back.  Oh, and I will.


The leaves were just beginning to change and I can only image how stunning the landscape will be in just a few short weeks.


We spotted this barn in a rain shower so it is not a clear picture of this Sunbonnet Sue block, but the raindrops give it an interesting texture.  How perfect too to have a field of drying corn in the background.



 This was one of my favorites, if a favorite can be chosen.



Unfortunately, every shot I took didn't turn out the way I would have liked.  Sometimes it's difficult to get good focus while standing on the side of a curvy two lane country road with cars whizzing by and dogs barking at you.


Case in point.  This picture pains me a little.  I would love to have a chance to shoot this again.  It was a great block, but it also had tobacco hanging to dry inside.  Beautiful.


Kentucky.  So worth the 15 hour drive.  And the 15 hours back home.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Number 64: Old Tunnel State Park

It had been a long time since we added a new park to our list.  Last weekend we rectified the situation and hit the road with our friends Ed and Diane.  After some good BBQ with more friends and a shopping trip to Fredricksburg, we headed over to Old Tunnel State Park.


This male Lesser Goldfinch was a new bird for me.
This was the first time Diane and Ed had joined us for one of our park trips.  In fact, a random Facebook post by Diane about bats over the little league baseball field is what inspired this trip.


Viewing the bats is kinda what you do there and it is best at this time of year before they all leave to winter in Mexico.  It is a very small park with a 1/2 mile hiking trail so bat viewing really is the main event.


Black-chinned Hummingbird
That said, with so much time to kill and a desire to see more of the park, we ventured down the trail.


Black-crested Titmouse
No matter how short the trail we always seem to see things of interest.

The mouth of the tunnel.
The bats were active well before the took flight from the tunnel.


They only allow 70 people on the lower deck to view the bets leaving the tunnel to eat at night so we arrived early.  Of course when we first claimed our seats there was still plenty of light for my camera to operate well.



The Ranger gave a short informative talk about the bats and instructions to sit quietly when they began to fly as not to disturb them.


Shortly after 8 as all light for chances of good photographs was fading, they began to emerge from the tunnel by the thousands.  3 million Mexican freet-ailed bats call the tunnel home and it is an impressive sight as they rush from the tunnel, down the creek, and up in a swirl like a living tornado.



The experience was amazing.  After watching mesmerized for 20 minutes, we found it just too dark to see and we headed out.   And like the Ranger said, now I have a desire to see more parks with bats.  Congress Avenue Bridge?  Waugh Bridge?  Maybe even Bracken Cave?  I'm ready!