Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘birds

Two days, two birds

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On January 29th I stopped along Cameron Rd. in northeast Austin to photograph a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) with a good amount of fruit on it. After taking several pictures I glimpsed a mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) fairly high in the tree, so I hastened back to the car, switched to my 100–400mm lens, and made it back to the possumhaw, all in just three minutes (thanks, metadata). I hoped the mockingbird would still be there, and it was, though a little higher than before. I did what I could.

The next day we visited the small Selma Hughes Park on the Colorado River for the first time. What caught my attention were several dead trees heavily covered by dense vines, of which I took many pictures. Four days later, while looking through the photographs of those vine-covered trees on my computer screen, I noticed that four frames showed something I hadn’t been aware of at the time I took the pictures: at the very top of one dead tree stood a bird. It wasn’t in previous frames nor in the ones that followed. I’m thinking the interloper that had flown in and out without my noticing it was a bluejay (Cyanocitta cristata).

  

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Which of the following stories, if any, are real?

  1. A gun-control activist fired several shots at and almost killed a mayoral candidate in Louisville, Kentucky. Black Lives Matter posted $100,000 bail for the shooter.
  2. A member of the United States Congress claimed that the recent expiration of pandemic-related child tax credits has contributed to the current rise in crime because parents have been driven to steal baby formula from stores.
  3. More Americans aged 18 to 45 now die from fentanyl overdoses than from automobile accidents, Covid-19, cancer, suicide, or any other cause.
  4. Students in a graduate school course staged a sit-in after the professor corrected errors in spelling and grammar that the students had made in their papers.

Scroll down to find out which ones are real.

All those stories are real. You’re welcome to read the details about

the gun control advocate’s use of a gun in an attempted assassination
and
Black Lives Matter posting $100,000 bail for the assailant

and

the politician who blamed the conspicuous rise in crime on the need to steal baby formula

and

the deaths among Americans due to fentanyl

and

a graduate school protest against a professor who corrected grammatical and spelling
mistakes the students made in their papers [see item 9 in that article].

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2022 at 4:28 AM

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Not a partridge in a pear tree

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Not the Christmas song’s partridge in a pear tree, but a bunch of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in a live oak tree (Quercus fusiformis) is what we found on January 3 while driving along Burnet County Road 330 for what I think was the first time ever. Branches blocked the line of sight to all but the highest-perched birds, so I zoomed in on a few of those. Click the thumbnail below for a closer look at the top pair from a different frame.

After I moved a little closer all the vultures flew away, leaving me to take a few more-is-more pictures of the scraggly live oak branches in their own right.

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It’s heartening that people and organizations have been working to counter the onslaught of illiberalism coming from certain sectors of our society. In posts over the past year I’ve singled out some of the people and organizations that uphold free speech and due process, and that work against “wokeism” and “cancel culture,” or whatever other name you care to use.

Following is a list of people and groups working to maintain the values of a free society. Some of these consider themselves politically center-left, some center-right, and others centrist or independent. The important thing is that all of them favor freedom, value open discussion grounded in demonstrable facts, and deplore indoctrination. The links below take you to sites where material keeps getting added (as opposed to books, which could make up another list), so you can go back to each site from time to time—even daily for some—and expect new articles.

Heterodox Academy

FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

Quillette

FAIR (Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism)

Bari Weiss

The Daily Signal

Glenn Loury

The National Association of Scholars

Megyn Kelly

Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying

Douglas Murray

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The Federalist

Sharyl Attkisson

1776 Unites

No Left Turn in Education

Peter Boghossian

City Journal

Steven Pinker

Victor Davis Hanson

Abigail Shrier

Zaid Jilani

Judicial Watch

Reason

Vivek Ramaswamy

Coleman Hughes

The Epoch Times

Jewish Institute for Liberal Values

Christopher Rufo

Jordan Peterson

Michael Shellenberger

Matt Taibbi

Glenn Greenwald

James Lindsay

Tara Henley

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2022 at 4:22 AM

Whole lotta spashing going on

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On February 3rd we visited McKinney Falls State Park for the first time in more than a year. At one point as we walked along Onion Creek I startled some ducks and they quickly took off. I raised my camera, which fortunately had a long lens on it, and without time to adjust any settings I somehow managed to get this one picture with the ducks’ heads in focus. The wings, especially at their tips, were moving too fast to keep from blurring, even at the 1/500 of a second shutter speed the camera had been set to.

UPDATE: See the comment below from Circadianreflections regarding what species these birds are.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 19, 2021 at 4:37 AM

New Zealand: Gannets at Muriwai

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Six years ago today I took many pictures of Australasian gannetsMorus serrator, at their colony in Muriwai on the west side of New Zealand’s North Island. While we don’t usually get to see birds in flight by looking down, this is one place where we do. The Māori name for these gannets is tākapu, and in English we call a breeding colony of them a gannetry. Rest assured that during courtship there’s gallantry in a gannetry.

And here’s a tip for those of you interested in science and history (presumably anyone who’s reading this): for just $20 you can get a whole year’s subscription to Curiosity Stream, which offers thousands of programs to watch on your computer, tablet, or phone; with appropriate cables or equipment (Apple TV in our case), you can stream from those devices to a full-size television. We spent a good chunk of yesterday learning about the ancient ruins at Mes Anyak in Afghanistan; genetic engineering’s promises and perils; finding and exploring ancient shipwrecks in the Black Sea, along with evidence that only gradually did it change from a smaller fresh-water lake into its current larger saline state; the British artist and humanitarian Lilias Trotter, whom we’d never heard of.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 7, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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Deck the lines with flocks of grackles

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It’s been almost two years since the last post about the grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) that sometimes swarm near sundown at the intersection of US 183 and Braker Lane. Late in the afternoon on November 19th I went there with my camera and a long lens because the previous Sunday I’d noticed the return of the grackles. The picture above gives you an idea of how densely the birds line up on the wires in some places. The second picture shows the way the grackles tend to take off in large groups when something startles them.

And here’s a closer look at a grackle that seems browner than normal
due to the flash I had to use once night had mostly replaced day:

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 25, 2019 at 4:46 AM

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Pelicans

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Most of the birds that followed the Galveston-Bolivar ferry on October 7th were either gulls—two of which you saw a few posts back—or brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), which you’re seeing now.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2019 at 4:28 PM

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On the ferry

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“We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.”

So begins Edna St. Millay’s 18-line poem “Recuerdo” (Spanish for “I remember” or “Remembrance”). While we could have gone back and forth as often as we wanted on the free car ferry between Galveston and Port Bolivar*, on October 7th we went only one-way, northbound from Galveston. And we weren’t tired, because it was morning, not night; tiredness would come later, after we’d driven four-and-a-half hours back to Austin.

I hadn’t taken this ferry in decades, yet I had a distinct recuerdo of the way birds follow the boat, and now I aimed to follow the birds and see if I could get any decent pictures of them. My technique was to pan with a telephoto lens at a high shutter speed to track an individual bird as it wheeled by, trying to keep it in focus and also completely inside the frame. Sometimes I failed on one count, sometimes on the other. And occasionally I succeeded, as you see in these two photographs of gulls.

* The Spanish surname is Bolívar, with the middle syllable stressed: bo-LEE-var. The Texas place name, however, has come to be pronounced in a way that rhymes with Oliver.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2019 at 4:36 AM

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More birds at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

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How about the long common name black-bellied whistling duck and the scientific name Dendrocygna autumnalis (whose genus confusingly means tree swan)? We saw a group of those birds at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge on October 6th. A quintet that I watched placidly gliding by reminded me of a longer single file I’d seen two years earlier in Alberta. (Click each picture to enlarge.)

As for those buds rising from the water on erect stalks, they’re Nymphaea elegans, called tropical water lilies. I’ll devote a future post to them in their own right.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2019 at 4:44 AM

Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

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After we all spent time at the Artist Boat Coastal Heritage Preserve on October 6th, Shannon and Scott went off on what proved a successful quest to find a rare bird that had been reported in the vicinity. Linda drove Eve and me off in the opposite direction so we could swing around and visit the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, where it turned out that we, too, had some avian encounters. This post shows you one of them.

Don’t you think someone should train each kind of bird to sit on a sign for its own species and not on one for a different species? That way the tourists wouldn’t get confused. Our mismatched bird wasn’t a roseate spoonbill but rather a double-crested cormorant, Phalacrorax auritus. It made up for not knowing its place by sitting docilely on the sign as I slowly got closer and closer with my 400mm lens. Linda and Eve, who were watching from the car, thought I’d soon be able to reach out and pet the cormorant. Well, not quite, but I did get much nearer than I thought I would, as you can confirm from the uncropped closeup below, which I took seven minutes after the first picture. (Click to enlarge each portrait.)

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 27, 2019 at 4:38 PM

More from the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail

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The previous post showed you six of the things we saw on October 6th at the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail on the south shore of the peninsula that’s across the bridge from the west end of Galveston Island. Now here are another half-dozen finds.

Trailing fuzzybean, Strophostyles helvola

Drying pod of a trailing fuzzybean, Strophostyles helvola

American oystercatcher, Haematopus palliatus

Purple beach morning glory bud, Ipomoea pes-caprae

Purple beach morning glory flower, Ipomoea pes-caprae

Barnacle shells on a larger shell

While that last picture may not be entirely “natural,” holding the shell up against the clouds seemed like a natural enough thing to do for the sake of a good portrait. Magritte or another Surrealist painter could’ve shown the entire shell floating in the clouds.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 21, 2019 at 4:42 AM

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