Monday, January 12, 2015

Young, Brown, Love (Part II: The Comic Tragedy)

If you haven’t read (and looked at the photos) of my last post, “Young, Brown, Love Part I: The Amorous” (clickable link), please STOP and take a look—Part II needs Part I’s history. 

AND, if you didn’t read (and look at the photos) of my January 6th post, “Flying My Way” (clickable link), please STOP and take a look—the comic tragedy of this blog also needs that post’s history.

At the END (pun intended) of Part I of this story, I left off with those young Brown Pelican’s having progressed from the gentle love of bill caressing to the--well you know--this:

Now as mentioned, these two Brown Pelican’s completely ignored me, with my front-seat viewing, so involved were they with each other.  AND it was during their public display of affection that I looked away for a bit, to shoot the photos of the teenage Herring Gull, “Flying My Way”.

In fact, if you look closely at that post’s photos, you’ll note the teenage Herring Gull goes from flying over, to looking downward as if spotting something of interest:

I couldn’t believe it!  This feathered teenager (the Herring) sighted what this ol’ human was staring at:  Young, Brown, Love! 

The Herring quickly and quietly dropped and landed on an outcropping of “rock”, even closer to the two young lovers than I.  And yes, I kid you not, in this next photo of the Herring Gull, he is looking up at the two Brown Pelican’s as they continued the “billing” and gentle caressing of pre-mating behavior.
The look of a teenager watching some serious public display of affection:

The beauty of these young Brown lovers held the Herring and me transfixed!  

AND, just like me, the Herring was absolutely still and quiet—and the lovers progressed to the “position” of the first photo, with the female Brown giving more than a subtle invitation to the male Brown.

And why did I leave you with this “position” in Part I?  Why was the female waiting, and waiting? 

Well, just like that—the quiet solitude that the two Brown Pelicans thought was theirs was tragically interrupted by a convoy of White Pelicans, coming in to check out the “goings on” of the Browns.

And so begins the comic tragedy of this tale.  The next photo will share the close proximity of the Herring Gull to the Browns, as the White Pelicans approach.  

AND it also shows the blurry image of the young male Brown Pelican, suddenly distracted, looking in the direction of the incoming White Pelicans.  This was the first “look away” by the male Brown, forgetting at that moment the “position” of his female love.

BUT even MORE telling as a comic tragedy, look at what the first White Pelican is “eyeing”—and how the teenage Herring Gull takes note of this look:

And so all quiet was ended by THAT White Pelican coveting thy neighbor’s “rock” rather than showing any interest in the young, brown, love!  The White Pelican flapped a threat to the Herring, and the Herring flew away:

And what did this White Pelican do?  You betcha—the White made a rather public statement of claiming the perch on the “rock”, complete with one of those male-oriented “scratches”:

Now can I remind you of the female’s position (with her backside in the direction of this raucous side show)?  Well, bless her heart, she finally had ENOUGH of waiting! And so she moved back into an “upright” position, but not leaving her love. 

And I swear—I mean I SWEAR—the young Brown male looked over at me with that look of “Oh god, I’m feeling nervous; I think I blew it; what should I do now?”

Well, I knew to keep my mouth shut!  The female Brown took what I’ll call “appropriate” action.  She let out that familiar LOUD squawk of an exasperated female, feathered or human kind (we all know the sound of an exasperated female, not happy with WHATEVER is making her NOT happy). 

The squawk caused the White Pelicans to fly away with no subtle procrastination—I was so fixated on the female Brown that I missed their departing flight with my lens!

And then comes the tragic climax!  The young female Brown punctuated her exasperated squawk by taking her left wing and giving her young male lover a good whack to his front side.  I’m not sure how hard her left hook actually landed, but it put him in his place:  and he too departed!  

This photo caught the end of her verbalization and her left hook:

And so the story ends as it started in Part 1.  A beautiful young female Brown Pelican filled my lens.  Only this time, she really was alone.  

I quietly did what we women-folk do:  I shared a few empathizing and supportive words.

And then I too took my leave.  

I have the feeling that these two young lovers were not separated too long.  And one day, they may have quite a story of young love, for their grandchildren.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Young, Brown, Love (Part I: The Amorous)

Birding is what reminds me that we humans are not so unique, from Mother Nature’s perspective.  Long days and recent long years in the field reveal, to my amateur mind, a common behavior that we humans narcissistically claim as our own. 

My focus is mostly on the Feathered Ones. Whether their behavior seems so very human to me, or human behavior seems so very Avian, I cannot decide.  But my watchful observations give me a peace that surpasses all understanding.

A recent daytrip birding the Texas City Dike gave me a front-row seat to watch the best of living behavior: the beauty of young love. 

Setting the stage takes few words, but most importantly, I’d never received permission from a Brown Pelican to stand so close as to acquire such a detailed bill and plumage photo.  (After reading the words of this story, you will want to go back and "click on" the photos for full screen viewing--the pictures are worth a thousand poorly-written words.)  

Note the multi-coloring of the bill; of the throat; of the feathers that tell me this is a first winter young Brown One:

And soon I realized that this young Brown One was ignoring me because her focus was on that all consuming state of young love.   She was not alone.  I watched the delicate touch of these two:

And this photo, catching the tender caress of these two young lovers, caught a look of love in their eyes that touched my heart.  I was watching that sacred moment of tender love that we humans so cherish:

Well, this tender touch was all the encouragement the young male needed, and soon hormones and sexuality replaced all that tender, slow caressing.  The young male moved into position to declare a serious intent:

And so she turned, giving that silent hint of encouragement:

And I caught that look, HIS look—at her—well, you know what.  Where have I seen that look before?  Oh yes, sitting inside a shopping mall, people watching.  How often have we humans caught one human (young or old) checking out another human, in the same way as this young brown One:

And oh, but how she responded:

And she waited; and waited:

And what happened next?  I’ll post those pictures with Part II of this story… 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Brazoria NWR: The Birds and the Bees

I thought I’d share my “best” photos from my recent trip to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge.  The best of the best were the White-tailed Hawk photos from my January 3rd post.

The FM road to Brazoria NWR:

Stand on any of Texas's pristine coastal wetlands, and not too far in the distance you’ll see the petrochemical engines that are the backbone of our country’s consumerism.   We can’t pretend that we aren't closely intertwined with their products:

The “best” description of my birding photos is in quotes due to the very low lighting of the day, giving great birding and poor photos.  This untouched photo of a Red-tailed Hawk gives a feel for the conditions of the day:

After messing with my camera’s aperture and other settings, and the wonderful world of digital development using Photoshop Elements (I shoot Raw), things got a little better.

One of my closer encounters with an Osprey:

The best I could pull from the large number of Red-tailed Hawks I sighted that day:

A lovely Northern Pintail:

And a Northern Shoveler, not yet in full breeding plumage:

I’m never happy with my photos of Black-necked Stilts.  Their black-and-white plumage gives me fits.  But the “lean” of the second photo, and the mechanism of the “leg lift” of the third photo kind of cracked me up:

One of my childhood friends, the Loggerhead Shrike:

These three photos of Savannah Sparrows are not the greatest in the world, but I was pretty thrilled with them after spending a long time of playing hide and seek with a small, loose flock of Savannah's

This first photo shows my camera’s point focus capability; giving focus to a single small object in front of a large, complex background (I had a large number of out of focus shots as holding the lens still enough to "grab" the little birdy, and not the background, is a challenge):

And these two photos show my camera’s point focus capability within a complex setting:

And for Judy’s good dog Emma, I conclude with the warning sign from the NWR’s viewing platform:

May your day be birdy (with no bee stings)!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Flying My Way

The cold is flying my way.  But today, with my window’s shutters tilted upward against the brightness of the south sun, there is NO WAY that I can complain about the cold. 

But after tonight, the next 6 nights are forecast to be in the 20’s and 30’s, with a good bit of rain sprinkled over several days.  This “maybe once or so a year” freezing cold arrives tomorrow night. 

I still have no complaint with this forecast. This summer Texan loves these winter days.  BUT, this is not the week to head out in the RV. 

And today is NOT the day to spend time on the computer.  The winter sun and high of 62 degrees beckons me to go for a long walk on one of the local greenbelts.

So I thought I’d pause and share these photos of a teenage Herring Gull, flying my way, from one of my recent daytrips to the Texas City Dike.
These photos fall into my category of “shoot at flying objects and something good may happen.” 

There is an amusing (and amorous) back-story to these photos, including why this Gull flew my way.  I’ll share those photos and story soon.  

The story will be of an overly amorous couple (non-Gull) that caught the attention of this teenage Herring Gull and this second half-century Gal.  So note the "bird's eye view" in these photos; there was something that definitely caught this teenager's attention:

Hope my RVing friends have full LP tanks and good furnaces!

May your winter’s day be birdy!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The White-tailed Hawk at Brazoria NWR

The local weathermen nailed last night’s forecast:  we had thunderstorms and hard rain during the night; and today, although mostly without rain, stayed cold and without sunshine, as they forewarned.

But after almost a week of being indoors, I was in serious need of outdoor time.  I charged my camera this morning and loaded it, my binoculars and cold weather rain-gear into my truck, and headed to one of my favorite winter-day destinations, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge.

I know excellent birding photographers, with lenses and camera and skills more capable than mine, who do not “shoot” on such a dark, sunless day.  Dark days mean opening up the camera’s aperture, sacrificing any depth of field, not to mention detailing of crisp feathering.

But some of my favorite poor-quality photos come from days like today. They capture a great memory of what I consider to be best-weather birding. There is a reason that the children’s book, “It Chanced to Rain” is on my list of all time favorite reads.   

And so I drove away this morning, in misting rain, excited about that one thing I know:  the Feathered Ones, like me, enjoy being out and about on days like today.

I came home with some 900 photos, mostly too dark to develop.  But I’ll enjoy sorting and keeping the few that will be surprises.  The best surprise is the subject of today’s blog post: photos of a White-tailed Hawk! 

My first sighting of a White-tailed Hawk was in Freeport, December 2009; my second sighting was at the entrance to Bentsen State Park, November 2011.  Today is my first sighting with photos!

Even if you aren’t a birder (yet), Google the White-tailed Hawk and look up its range map.  If you live in North America you only have two options for adding this Buteo to your life list:  Come to the coastal savanna of Texas, or go to Mexico.

 With little daylight, I was thrilled to get enough quality of picture to see both the perched coloring and the in-flight markings of white tail, black tail band, and white tail tip.

It was a great day in the field; Brazoria NWR never disappoints.

May your winter’s day be birdy!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Images: The Imaginary World of My Ordinary Life

I am THRILLED to welcome 2015, putting a “four ending year” behind me!

Today seems a good one to share some of my favorite moments, developed into the imaginary world that I see, when viewing the “ordinary” Feathered Ones from my little corner of this world.

I sighted eleven new species of birds in 2014, without venturing one hundred miles from my stick house.  I’ve shared a few photos; I have some great memories of each sighting.  But I am not a Lister at heart.  Those moments and those photographs are not the entry into my imaginary world. 

I live an ordinary life, and it is my long walks with Mother Nature, observing the more common Feathered Ones, that gives me joy.  I hope these images will bring you a smile, or a laugh, or an interest to look again, and again, at a Feathered One.

The caption with each photo will ask you:  “Do you see what I see?”

But by clicking on each photo, for full screen viewing, you may enter your own imaginary world, seeing what your imagination can only show you.

The Mottled Duck, sharing that tranquil look of One at home in her surroundings:

A November day in Bentsen State Park,  where change and sameness spring eternal:

The Swamp Sparrow gave me a welcoming pose, showing off her beautiful living room at Brazos Bend:

The White Ibis that served as my trail guide as I slowly biked and birded Brazos Bend:

The Great Blue Heron, the wise One that welcomes me to the Texas City Dike, and reminds me to listen again and again to Joni Mitchell’s Blue:

The fall landscape, bayside at Galveston Island State Park. How can people say “There just isn’t much there?”

My self portrait and favorite photo for 2014; a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron’s posed interpretation of Mary Cassatt’s painting “Child in a Straw Hat”:

The One that first caught my eye when I was but age three, the Laughing Gull, drinking this year from the Spring of Living Water:

And that next generation of Laughing Gull that has the confident walk of the young; believing that the eternal is always in the present:

Ms. Red-winged Blackbird, waiting for the Ob-Gyn:

Friend or foe?  It is hard to find someone who will watch One’s back.  It seems easy to find those that will take from us whatever they can get away with, even our home nest:

The watchfulness of a Sora teaches me to pause and reflect and look for the goodness of the day:

We ordinary Ones can be a thing of beauty when we come together in community; when we take purposeful flight:

May your 2015 be birdy!