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.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Once In A Lifetime Experience

Sharing my experiences at Texas parks, other outdoor spaces and the animals I've seen is something I enjoy.  It is what spurred my interest in photography and gave me a hobby I don't see ever tiring of. My wildlife posts have been filled with photos of deer families passing through my yard, butterflies and bees gathering nectar from my Vitex tree, and birds of every kind and color.  Some posts got wilder with pictures of bobcats, wild hogs, and snakes.  Lots of snakes.  (see Cold Blooded Beauties)  But this post is a little more wild than that.  Okay.  A lot more.  It's also very raw, pun intended, so be forewarned.  I won't be offended if you chose not to go any further.  That all said, let's get to it.
Cooper's Hawks are sometimes called Flying Cross
There is a large hawk migration that takes place every year from mid September to mid October.  Broad-winged Hawks,  Cooper's Hawks, and Mississippi Kites to name a few, make the move from the north to winter as far south as South America.  

Osprey can have a wingspan of 71 inches
The upper Texas coast sees many of them passover head in the thousands.  One day in September a location near Houston counted over 4100 in one day and the numbers can go even higher.  

Red-Tailed Hawk habitats includes deserts and grasslands,  coniferous and deciduous forests,
agricultural fields and cities throughout Canada, the US, and Mexico
I was lucky this year, able to see and photography many of these migrants.  There were three on my wish list and I got them all a few weeks ago:  Merlin, American Kestrel, and the Peregrin Falcon.  I worked the hardest for the Peregrin finding one hiding in the shade of an electrical pole.


I thought he would be the only one I saw and regretted not getting a better picture in a more natural setting.  Don't get me wrong, I was happy to get any photo at all, but I prefer a bird on a branch or in flight over a bird on a wire any day.  I got my wish this week on a trip back to the coast and came across a juvenile male that had just made a kill.

Peregrins dive at 200 mph 
Though I missed the dive from above, I was able to begin shooting shortly after he brought down an American Avocet.  I had approached into the sun so I moved around to get better light.


The process he went through was fascinating beginning with plucking the chest feathers.  The breeze was coming off the gulf and scattered them on the beach.

This falcon probably flew from the Arctic and will end up in South America for the winter.  
He did this with quick jerking motions pulling several out at a time.

Peregrins mate for life
 After the feathers had been removed he opened the chest and separated the ribs.

The average life span of a Peregrin is 17 years
Peregrines were removed from the endangered list in 1999
 I was completely captivated by the scene and the efficiency with which he approached his meal.  After opening the chest he began to eat the organs filled with nutrient rich calories.

Peregrines catch their prey mid air 
 I took 420 pictures.

Females are larger than the males
It took 7 minutes.

The Peregrin Falcons name means Wandering Falcon in latin
In the end he left very little waste.  I still can't believe that I was so lucky to have come upon the event and that he was not stressed allowing me to get so close to document with my camera.  I'm not sure why the pictures are appearing blurry in the post, but I assure you that they are crystal clear on my computer.  I was able to get with in 25 feet of him with a powerful lens and can see every feather and talon.


And just a note about the American Avocet.  There was a large flock 50 yards down the beach from where I found the falcon.  Probably the same flock that his kill had come from.  They numbered in the hundreds.  A beautiful bird to be sure, but also a part of the circle of life and the reality of nature.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

A View From The Top

It's way past time to do another Kentucky post considering we made this trip a month ago.



We did a lot of hiking and the views were amazing.


Even though it was early in the season, many of the leaves were changing.



Yes, the leaves were beautiful, but there were so many other small things that I found myself wanting to photograph as well.


A very cool wasp nest
More?  Oh, yes.  I have more.

My grandoggie, TRex was a trooper

But our trip was not just about the great outdoors.  It's Kentucky so there was bourbon too.  So I guess this isn't my last Kentucky post.  One more.  But you won't wait as long to see those pictures.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

It's a Good Day When . . .

A few of my favorites from my walk in Edith L. Moore Park in Houston this week.  Lovely park.

Leaves floating on the water creating interesting shadows.  If you didn't read this you
might think they were falling leaves in the fog.
The light was perfect.

Love, love, love the boardwalk trails.
The mosquitos few and far between.

Low light made for a less than focused shot, but I can't resist a bee shot.
And the birds were semi cooperative.

American Robin in a sunbeam
Getting out to a park is one of my favorite ways to spend my time.

Just because I liked the texture of the wood and the mold growing in the grain.
There is always something to see.

American Beautyberry will always remind me of our home in the country where it grew wild.
On this day I watched the Carolina Chickadees snatching the extra ripe ones and eating them.
Always something to make me smile.

Leaves captured and suspended in a spiderweb.  These remind me of wind chimes.

And always, always something I just want to get a picture of for no particular reason at all.

This is fall in south Texas for the most part.  Brown and dry.
Everyday is a good day in the park.


Monday, October 3, 2016

On Top of the World in Kentucky

I have been so distracted with the hawk migration going on right now that I find myself behind in my posts.  There are still a couple things I want to share with you about our Kentucky trip back in September.  Kentucky has 49 state parks of which we only visited 1,  but it was a stunner.


On a day when most of the family headed out for a little ball golf, my D-I-L Regan and I headed up to the top of Pine Mountain to do a little hiking.


All but two of the the hikes here are rated Strenuous or Moderate.  The elevation changes are the reason.


The scenery along the trail was beautiful.


The trees seemed to grow right out the rocks.


There were a few places I was not sure my grandoggie TRex would be able to climb with his little legs but he was a real trooper and surprised me.


The first trail we hiked was to Chained Rock which boasted a view of the town below and the mountains beyond.


There is an actual chain.  It was put there 1933 to hold the rock to the mountain and keep it from falling on the town of Pineville below.


I have an issue with steep areas.  They send me into a panic, actually.  So I opted to let Regan do the last of the climb . . .


. . .  and I stayed behind with TRex.


He was very concerned about Regan, watching the trail eager for her to return.  Even though I couldn't see her around this bolder, I knew when she was on her way back because his tail began wagging a mile a minute.


Even though I didn't do the last big rock, I don't think I sacrificed a bit of the experience.  That view.