Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

They’re not back

with 30 comments

Grackle on Pole with Full Moon 9077

In a couple of posts last fall I talked about and showed pictures of the grackles that were massing at sundown each day on the power lines at US 183 and Braker Ln. This year we saw the grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) gathered there in large numbers one evening about a month ago, but never again since then. Why they vanished from their evening haunt I don’t know, but their disappearance has put an end to hopes for a new round of photographs this season. Oh well, there’s nothing for it but to post a picture from my archives. The photo you see here is from December 7, 2011, exactly a year ago. The reddish tinge on everything in the foreground, including the bird’s feathers, came from the light of the setting sun. Making a first appearance in these pages is the moon, which served as a convenient halo for the grackle, even if many people consider these birds anything but saintly.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 7, 2012 at 6:16 AM

30 Responses

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  1. The greedy green caterpillar is in danger of being bumped off his perch as my favorite of all your photos. I’m rather fond of the grackles, myself, and this is an iconic photo in every sense of the word. It’s just a beautiful capture.


    December 7, 2012 at 6:48 AM

  2. They are a beautiful bird when the light hits their feathers just right, but birds that fly in swarms with the starlings creep me out!


    December 7, 2012 at 6:56 AM

    • I hadn’t noticed light on their feathers as much as I did in this photograph. For the benefit of people who aren’t familiar with masses of grackles, I’m planning to show a picture from below of a slew of them tomorrow. Let’s hope it won’t creep you out (you can close your eyes).

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2012 at 7:54 AM

      • My bad experience was actually with BAZILLIONS of starlings, and the mere sight of them isn’t so bad. It is the sound of thousands of wings, and pointy beaks all coming toward you at the same time, then at the last moment flying straight up into the air so fast you can feel the air move against you… and you almost faint.

        I blame it on Hitchcock.


        December 7, 2012 at 2:22 PM

        • Now that we know the details we can understand your feelings. Sure sounds like The Birds, except for the flying up and away at the last moment, without which you wouldn’t be writing to us now.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 7, 2012 at 2:54 PM

  3. Excellente photo. J’aime un peu le côté “hitchcockien” de cette prise de vue 🙂


    December 7, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    • Merci. Moi, je n’avais pas pensé à Hitchcock, mais l’année dernière il y avait des gens qui l’ont suggéré. La photo que je montrerai demain sera plus hitchcockien, je crois.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2012 at 7:58 AM

  4. I particularly like the juxtaposition of nature against human nature. Nicely captured.


    December 7, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    • In this blog I almost always show nature naturally, i.e. without human elements, but once in a while I’ve broken my “rule” and included the human side, generally when there’s no way to avoid it. In this case (and even more so in tomorrow’s picture), it reminds us how readily many animals adapt to the human world. I’m glad you found today’s juxtaposition effective.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2012 at 8:39 AM

  5. Love the light in this shot! It is remarkable how birds are so readily adaptable to man made influences.


    December 7, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    • I don’t recall if I noticed at the time how red the light was (most of my attention was on taking pictures), but the redness certainly shows up in the images.

      Grackles are among the most adaptable birds in Austin. It’s common here to see them hanging around supermarket parking lots waiting to grab bits of dropped food. That’s especially true of places like Whole Foods, where people eat at picnic tables outside the store. I may have to stake out the Whole Foods parking lot one day and see if I can get some closeups of grackles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2012 at 10:05 AM

  6. The antics of the male grackles always entertain me. I call them the stand-up comics of the bird world. (Maybe if I had grown up in Texas I wouldn’t be so fascinated by them.)
    So if the grackles are the stand-up comics of the bird world, I guess mocking birds must be the jazz musicians of the bird world.

    Lloyd Ewing

    December 8, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    • I didn’t grow up in Texas either, so grackles were new to me when I came here. One place I saw plenty of them was on the University of Texas campus.

      I like your anthropomorphic characterizations of grackles and mockingbirds. Do you have a candidate for classical musician?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2012 at 8:14 AM

  7. What a wonderful photo… i still love the grackles though.


    December 8, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    • I’m glad you like this photo, but I’m not sure how to interpret your “though,” which seems to imply something negative about these birds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2012 at 11:29 AM

      • Whenever I take pictures of grackles, I encounter people stumble upon me, snorting, ‘UGH, GRACKLES.’

        There you have it…. In some areas they’ve been considered pests, eating crops and whatnot, I suppose?


        December 9, 2012 at 4:45 PM

        • In Austin they’ve been considered a nuisance in large numbers because their droppings mess up cars and sidewalks and cause areas to smell bad. They can also make plenty of noise.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 9, 2012 at 5:04 PM

          • Funny… In the wetlands tonight, I walked under a flock of them, one of the largest I’ve ever seen here. The noise was FANTASTIC!

            But it’s hard for me to consider any creature a nuisance, honestly. Well, save humans. 🙂


            December 9, 2012 at 8:08 PM

  8. Wow!! great capture


    December 10, 2012 at 5:36 AM

    • It was fun going out several times in the autumn of 2011 and recording the grackles’ behavior. Let’s hope they come back in 2013.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2012 at 7:25 AM

  9. This bird is magnificient !


    January 10, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    • Some people consider these grackles a nuisance, but I’m fond of them. Too bad that large numbers of them didn’t return to this site in the autumn of 2012.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 10, 2013 at 2:07 PM

  10. […] Here’s where that query led. […]

  11. Love the grackles inasmuch as I also love the vultures and seagulls. These opportunists are excellent at what they do — kinda like having a bunch of moms around still cleaning up after our messes. Fantastic position with the moon. Super shot!


    January 1, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    • Sounds like you’re an equal-opportunity bird lover, Shannon, and I expect the comment about moms cleaning up comes from long experience. In any case, I’m glad you enjoyed this opportunistic shot of the grackle and the moon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2014 at 7:42 AM

  12. Wow, Steve. What a perfect composition. You got the glow from the sun and the halo from the moon! Now, that’s either great luck or great composition. I’m inclined to choose the latter… Chuckle… I laughed about the guy who searched for your grackle…

    George Weaver

    May 18, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    • Because the grackles gathered near sundown each day, I knew I’d have the warm light of very late afternoon. I hadn’t counted on the full moon, but once I saw that it was in the general vicinity of the grackle on the telephone pole, I moved around until I lined the bird up with the moon. So this time I can take credit for purposeful composition.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2014 at 5:07 PM

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