Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘birds

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

Kelly Hamby Nature Trail

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On October 6th, Linda Leinen drove Eve and me from League City to a rendezvous with Shannon Westveer and her husband Scott at the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail on the south shore of the peninsula that’s just across the bridge from the west end of Galveston Island. It was the first meeting for the three of us with the two of them, and we all sang Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Getting to Know You” (okay, so we didn’t actually do that). In this post you’ll see three times two of the things we found on the beach.

Beach evening-primrose flower, Oenothera drummondii

Gulf croton, Croton punctatus

Beach morning-glory, Ipomoea imperati

Shannon has made the case for this being woolly tidestromia, Tidestromia lanuginosa

A colorfully banded shell

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2019 at 6:05 PM

Two birds soaring at Niagara Falls on July 25th

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© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 1, 2019 at 4:43 AM

Inanimate and animate on the brink of the abyss

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So it’s our first close approach to Niagara’s American Falls on July 25th, and I’m noticing a tree limb on the brink of the waterfall. Eppur non si muove, and yet it doesn’t move, despite the rushing water.

And these Canada geese are calmly sure of themselves so close to the abyss:

Thanks to Shannon Westveer for identifying the birds.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 29, 2019 at 4:37 AM

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

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2019 at 7:00 AM

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