Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 24th, 2012

Bright red fruits attract more than photographers

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Click for increased clarity.

So there I was on a cul-de-sac in my Great Hills neighborhood in Austin near noon on January 17. I’d been on my way home from taking pictures along Bull Creek when I spotted a well-caparisoned possumhaw standing out against the clear blue sky, so I slowed down, made a U-turn, and pulled back around into the cul-de-sac to take pictures of the tree as my last subject in that morning’s photo outing. Using my wide-angle lens, I was in the middle of photographing the possumhaw when I sensed something whooshing by. I took my eye away from the viewfinder and looked around but I didn’t see anything. When I put my eye back to the viewfinder and began photographing the tree again, I suddenly saw that a bird had landed in it.

I took a few quick pictures, but a wide-angle lens is hardly the thing you want for bird photography. Walking slowly back to my car so as not to frighten the visitor away, I quietly opened the car door, got my longest lens out of the camera bag, put it on the camera, and moved slowly back into position to do a better job than before. You see one of the results here.

Having almost no knowledge of the birds in central Texas—there’s only so much one person can delve into, right?—I e-mailed a copy of the picture to my birder friend Susan, who e-mailed me back and said it’s “a mockingbird guarding its stash.” At a time of year when not much is blooming and there isn’t a lot to eat, various animals rely on the small possumhaw fruits, and in fact I did see the mockingbird swallow one of them while I was photographing it.

For more information about Mimus polyglottos, the northern mockingbird, which happens to be the official bird of the southern state of Texas, you can read an article in All About Birds. For more information about the possumhaw, Ilex decidua, and to see a state-clickable map of the places in the southeastern United States where this tree grows, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2012 at 5:06 AM

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