Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘birds

Bayside Park

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The bay that Bayside Park sits on the western shore of is Mobile Bay.
In that Alabama park on August 10th I photographed a vine covered-pine tree.
The vine could have been trumpet creeper, Campsis radicans, which also grows in Austin.

After turning the other way, toward Mobile Bay,
I found a dark plant beneath a dark cloud.

I photographed a few other things, and then, as I was about finished, some birds flew into view. My telephoto lens was in the camera bag. The 24–105mm lens that was on the camera was set to only 56mm and the shutter speed to only 1/320 of a second (as I learned afterwards from the metadata). Those are poor settings for photographs of birds in motion but there was no time to change anything: all I could do was pan to follow the birds while I got off four shots in as many seconds. To my surprise, there was no blurring of my subjects. Shannon Westveer later identified them for me as American white pelicans, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Two kinds of little red things

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When I walked into my computer room early in the afternoon on February 22nd and looked through the window I noticed lots of birds zipping around in the trees. As little as I know about birds, I immediately recognized those as cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) that had come to devour the little red fruits (technically drupes, colloquially called berries) on the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) right outside.* We have several other yaupons on the property, and when I checked I found that the birds were intermittently feeding on them, too. Over the next half-hour I did my best to photograph some of the action, both shooting through windows and walking around outside as well. For whatever reason, these yaupon-devouring cedar waxwings proved more skittish than the ones I photographed nine years earlier, and the light was dull, so I didn’t get pictures as good as on that other occasion. Nevertheless, here’s an okay photo of what was going on.

The title of today’s post promised two kinds of little red things. The second, which I don’t recall ever noticing before, is the not-always-easy-to-see red tips on the birds’ inner secondary wing feathers. Those tips reminded people of red sealing wax, and that accounts for the common name waxwing.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

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* We’re on the slope of a hill, and although we live in a one-story house the window in the computer room is at second-story height, which puts me conveniently at the same level as most of the fruit on the yaupon tree.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 2, 2019 at 4:48 AM

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Falls and gulls

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Neither shortly after returning from our 2017 New Zealand trip nor during the one-year retrospective did I show you a picture of Haruru Falls in the Bay of Islands just minutes away from where we were staying in Paihia. Here, then, are a couple of photographs I took at the falls two years ago today. In the first picture, notice at least a dozen gulls in the background. I got much closer to one to make the second photograph.

But the most dynamic (because of wings being raised) portrait of a gull that day came from the Puheke Reserve on the Karikari Peninsula. The bird had been eating some of the little orange fruits you see close by it, and one second after I took this picture (thanks, metadata) it had spun 180° around to eat more.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 13, 2019 at 12:00 PM

November 6, 2016, in the desert of southern California

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Dunes along Interstate 8: one take at abstraction

Dunes along Interstate 8: a more minimalist take at abstraction

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2018 at 4:37 AM

New Zealand: Matakaea Reserve

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A year and a day ago we continued north from the Orkokonui Ecosanctuary and stopped at the Matakaea Reserve, where we saw gulls and fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) sharing coastal rocks surrounded by bull kelp (Durvillaea antarctica or D. poha) darker than the yellow strain we’d seen at Stirling Point three days earlier.

Click for greater size and detail.

Most of the seals, like the one below, drowsed on the rocks. (Thanks to a 280mm focal length and some cropping of the image, you might think I was closer than I actually was.)

A few of the seals shook off their lethargy and mixed it up.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 28, 2018 at 4:49 AM

Other looks at the grackles

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As you heard last time, grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) had returned en masse to the intersection of US 183 and Braker Lane in my part of Austin near dusk on January 28th. Here are a few more pictures of them.

The golden (actually yellow) arches of McDonald’s were not exempt.

One bird I saw early-on was so much more reddish-brown than the others that I felt compelled to photograph it. The almost-full moon came in handy.

The heavy traffic on US 183 doesn’t faze the grackles.

Not only doesn’t the traffic bother them, but they even settle into (non-native) trees that touch the expressway overpass. That’s where they spend the night.

By the time I took the last two pictures shown here, it had gotten so dark I had no choice but to use flash.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 31, 2018 at 4:55 AM

A welcome return

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A bit before 5:30 on January 28th, on the way back home from a concert, as we passed through the intersection of US 183 and Braker Lane I noticed that grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) were gathering in good numbers on the power lines there.

Five minutes later we were home. I got my camera equipment and headed back out for a welcome chance to play with the birds, photographically speaking. As dusk gradually came on, I found myself in the best congregation of grackles I’d witnessed in a long time—in fact, with one brief exception in 2016, it had been years since I saw any large group there. Why they showed up again two days ago, I have no idea, just as I never knew why they’d almost completely stopped coming to this intersection after 2012.

One difference from before was that this time some of the birds landed in groups on the road, and drivers were honking to try to get the grackles to fly out of the way and let the cars pass. At one point a guy who’d been begging for money at the intersection walked past me and said he was leaving because everybody was paying attention to the birds and not to him. No nature lover he.

The second photograph shows a phenomenon I saw repeated many times: lots of grackles would settle on one section of the power lines, then something would trigger them to suddenly take off en masse.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 30, 2018 at 4:47 AM

Posted in nature photography

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