Pied-billed Grebes

Another common bird at the Leonabelle Turnbell Birding Center (Port Aransas, TX) was the Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). Most were in their winter coats, with either a missing or indistinct ring around their bill. However, at least one was showing the ring quite well (note the ringed bill on the bottom image, below). Here are my favorite images I captured along the boardwalk:

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Coming up on my “Fun Friday” post, a rather unusual critter that was a “lifer” for me :o)

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 7D Mark II body
  • Canon 100mm-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens
  • Handheld, with IS “On”
  • ISO 400 (top 4 images), ISO 200 (bottom 2 images)
  • Aperture f/6.3 (all images)
  • Shutter 1/320 sec. to 1/400 sec. (top 4 images), and Shutter 1/25 sec. to 1/100 sec. (bottom 2 images)

 

 

Posted in 2017, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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The Silent Stalker

One afternoon, after the whooping crane boat charter ended, I drove to nearby Aransas Pass and photographed birds at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. This excellent birding facility contains a short boardwalk that extends out over the marshy waters. Along the route, various birds and other wildlife can be observed at extreme closeup range. Today’s post features some of the Green Herons (Butorides virescens) that I was able to photograph. The Green Heron is a very quiet and slow-moving bird as it stalks it’s prey. However, once within striking distance, it is lightning fast! Here are a few of my favorite images:

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Over the weekend I was able to get my new 6TB drives formatted and all my images copied to them, so I am currently downloading the last of the images from this recent trip to the Texas Gulf Coast. Once done, I’ll be sharing more images from Leonabelle Turnbull, as well as more whooping crane images.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 7D Mark II body
  • Canon 100mm-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens
  • Handheld, with IS “On)
  • ISO 400 (top 4 images), ISO 200 (bottom image)
  • Aperture f/5.6 (all images)
  • Shutter 1/40 sec. to 1/250 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2017, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Fun Friday: Foggy Double Vision

Today’s “Fun Friday” post features a pair of adult Whooping Cranes foraging in the early morning fog that fell over Aransas NWR, captured during my recent trip to photographic the endangered whoopers on their wintering grounds along the Texas Gulf Coast:

Whooping Cranes in fog

Coming up … more Whoopers and other, water-loving birds.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark III body
  • Canon 500mm, f/4 IS lens + Canon 1.4x TC convertor (resulting in focal length of 700 mm)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with Wimberly gimbal head
  • ISO 3200
  • Aperture f/14
  • Shutter 1/800 sec.

 

 

Posted in 2017, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Fun Friday post, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Wintering American Avocets

Today’s post is a short break from the Whooping Crane posts, but the Whoopers will be back!

A lot of other birds were active on the Aransas NWR, including this group of American Avocets, sporting their winter plumage coats. During a flyby before landing, it was really great to watch them flying by in tight formation and in a synchronous fashion:

American Avocets in flight

After a couple of passes, the group landed in the pool in front of us and began foraging in the pool:

American Avocets foraging

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark III body
  • Canon 500mm, f/4 IS lens + Canon 1.4x TC convertor (resulting in focal length of 700 mm)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with Wimberly gimbal head
  • ISO 800 (top image), ISO 3200 (bottom image)
  • Aperture f/5.6 (all images)
  • Shutter 1/320 sec. (top image), 1/800 sec. (bottom image)

 

 

Posted in 2017, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Beauty at Work!

Still from the first day on the boat, as the day progressed and we made our way farther into the refuge (Aransas NWR), we had whooping cranes very close to our boat. We typically moved the boat to get a clear shot, then parked it along the bank and let the cranes move around and come to us. This technique worked pretty well, and I can honestly say that none of the cranes we photographed over the two days were frightened away by our boat, only by other birds. Here are a few images I captured:

Whooping Crane

Standing up to 5-feet tall, these adult Whooping Cranes were quite a sight to see! So majestic!

Whooping Crane

And finally we had a whooper that started finding and pulling up blue crabs right in front of us! This is the first of many images captured as the cranes foraged for the blue crabs:

Whooping Crane with a blue crab

As it ended up, this whooper, identified as #30 by his GPS radio, was quite a crabber! We were able to watch and photograph him finding and consuming many crabs. In another post, I’ll feature some of the interesting behaviors of the whoopers and the crabs that we witnessed during the crab dinners.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark III body
  • Canon 500mm, f/4 IS lens + Canon 1.4x TC convertor (resulting in focal length of 700 mm)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with Wimberly gimbal head
  • ISO 800 (top image), ISO 400 (middle image), ISO 1250 (bottom image)
  • Aperture f/5.6 (all images)
  • Shutter 1/800 sec. (top image), 1/600 sec. (middle image), 1/800 sec. (bottom image)

 

 

Posted in 2017, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Fun Friday: The Sentries

Today’s “Fun Friday” post features an image I captured during my recent wintering Whooping Crane photography trip to the Aransas NWR, located along the Texas Gulf Coast. As our boat slowly scoured the shoreline for bird activity, we came upon this pair of adult Whooping Cranes who seemed to saying, “You watch that way, and I’ll watch this way”. They were actually watching some nearby bird activity … a very large group of American White Pelicans were swirling around and landing nearby (I’ll feature the pelicans in another post).

Adult whooping crane pair acting as sentries

I’m planning on some more whooper images next week. But first, I need to format and install a couple of new external hard drives. While downloading images from this trip, I realized my two 4TB drives were nearly full! Yesterday, I ventured out and purchased two new 6TB drives. So my weekend is already scheduled for me! Stay tuned for some interesting behavior images :o)

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark III body
  • Canon 500mm, f/4 IS lens + Canon 1.4x TC convertor (resulting in focal length of 700 mm)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with Wimberly gimbal head
  • ISO 800
  • Aperture f/5.6
  • Shutter 1/400 sec.

 

Posted in 2017, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Fun Friday post, Nature Photography, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Whooping Cranes – First Encounter

Beginning today, my posts will feature the results of removing one of my “Bucket List” wildlife encounters … photographing our endangered whooping cranes (aka “whoopers”) while wintering along the Texas’ Gulf Coast. And what a wonderful photo trip it was! (By the way, I have added some whooping crane statistics and species information at the bottom of this post, for those interested).

I spent three days in and around Aransas NWR, photographing the whoopers, along with other wildlife I ran across. For the first 2 days, I was with a small photographer’s group (five of us) on a small charter boat. The boat was built for photography, with a flat bottom and room on the main deck and a raised deck, allowing sufficient room to shoot from a tripod. When we came upon a group of whoopers, the boat’s captain would quietly run the front of the boat upon the shoreline, making the boat “rock-steady”, allowing the use of telephoto lenses on tripods.

Here are just a few of my first day’s many encounters with the endangered birds:

Just after sunrise (on a very heavily cloudy day), we pulled the boat to the shore where this pair of adult whooping cranes, the first we saw, was busy foraging in the refuge waters, along with a large group of ducks (Note the leftmost crane has a green band on his right leg and a GPS transmitter on his left leg):

Pair of adult Whooping Cranes

Within a few minutes, some of the ducks spooked, causing the cranes to spook and take to the air:

Pair of adult Whooping Cranes taking flight

Pair of adult Whooping Cranes taking flight

(In this next image, two Blue-winged Teal are in flight above the cranes):

Pair of adult Whooping Cranes taking flight

An adult whooping crane flying over the refuge waters

We were quite close to this pair, before the ducks spooked them. However, as the day progressed we got much closer to some of the cranes. I’ll feature some of those images in upcoming posts.

Now, a little info on the whoopers. First, the numbers of whooping cranes is reported to have dropped to an alarming 15 birds, placing them near extinction in 1941.  Today, there are 2 main wintering groups of whoopers. The Texas group is estimated to currently be at ~350 birds (because of the flock size growing, officials have stopped counting individual birds, but now estimate their numbers), and I have read that an estimated total of ~500 whoopers reside in North America. But even with the attention on protecting these magnificent birds, their numbers were seriously threatened by (and affected by) the Texas drought that occurred a couple of years ago. The main food source for the birds are blue crabs, which are rich in protein and fat; when the drought hit Texas, the number of crabs were severely reduced, causing a lack of major food source for the whoopers.

A second wintering group of whoopers reside in Florida. I am told that that flock (I don’t know their numbers, but suspect it to be at approximately 150 birds) consist of hand-raised birds that initially were hatched in their northern summer grounds and then trained to follow an ultralight that was flown to Florida to wintering grounds there.

The whooping cranes in Texas travel an amazing 2,500 miles each year down from Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada, and are the descendants of the last wild flock (from the 1940’s).

In another post, I’ll include some more information on the whooping cranes, including their biology and behaviors.

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark III body
  • Canon 500mm, f/4 IS lens + Canon 1.4x TC convertor (resulting in focal length of 700 mm)
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with Wimberly gimbal head
  • ISO 1600 (all images)
  • Aperture f/5.6 (all images
  • Shutter 1/125 sec. (top 4 images) and 1/250 sec. (bottom image)

 

 

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When Things Go Bad … !

(A note to my e-mail blog subscribers:  Beginning with this blog post, I have moved my automated, e-mail blog notifications to a new software program, one that is an industry standard Email delivery service. My mailing list continues to outgrow the old notification system and this new delivery system promises to keep up with the growing interests. If you are receiving my e-mail blog notifications for the first time, or haven’t received any of my e-mail notifications for a long time, you should now receive them in your e-mail’s inbox via this new delivery system. Since you originally signed up for this blog notification service, I have migrated your e-mail address to this new system. If you do not wish to receive these notifications, you can easily unsubscribe, via the “unsubscribe link” that is sent with each e-mail notification. But I hope you stay with me and experience the natural world with me as I continue my photographic journey!)

Today’s post:  When thing go bad, they sometimes still yield wonderful and interesting results! Over the past two weeks, I have immersed myself in a wonderful nature experience. I have been in south Texas, photographing our wintering Whooping Cranes along the Gulf Coast at their wintering grounds in Aransas NWR. Having captured nearly 4,000 images, I still have a lot of downloading and editing to do, but hope to have some of the whooping crane images on my blog very soon (hint: maybe Wednesday)!

Today’s post features a few of the images I captured on my way home from this road trip. As I entered southwest Missouri, I decided to stop to photograph some of the wintering Short-eared Owls that have been reported in the area. But after waiting and hiking for a couple of hours, no owls ever took flight over the prairie lands. I suspect that the rather strong winds were grounding them for the evening. But as so often happens, lemons give rise to lemonade!

A magnificent sunset fell across the western sky:

Sunset falling over Shawnee Trails CA

Sunset falling over Shawnee Trails CA

Shortly after the sunset subsided, I turned around to see the full moon rising over the eastern sky:

Full Moon rising over Shawnee Trails CA

As is usual with nature, you can never anticipate what will happen! Sometimes the result is minimal. But sometimes a wonderful, unexpected encounter is the result!

Stay tuned for some whooping crane images!

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark III body
  • Canon 100-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens
  • Handheld, with IS “On” (and braced against my car)
  • ISO 500 (all images)
  • Aperture f/16 (all images)
  • Shutter 1/20 sec. (sunset), and 1/8 sec. (moon)

 

 

Posted in 2017, Blog, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Color on the Platte River

This post is being re-published from the spring of 2012. I am currently involved with a unique photography project that will take me 1-2 weeks. During this time, I will likely be on social media very little. I have set up a few posts to “self-publish” to my website blog; if/when time allows, I will try to post these to Twitter and Facebook, also, just depends on my available time.

I decided to re-post today’s post as I’m currently considering another trip to the Platte River this spring, to photograph the migrating sandhill cranes, along with some camping.

The Platte River trip started out slowly, with rain sporadically hindering us. But as the week progressed, we began receiving beautiful weather and some awesome sunrises and sunsets. In today’s post, I am sharing some images of the Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) as they return to the Platte River for roosting … and in one of those awesome sunsets!

Sandhill Cranes landing on the Platte River in the sunset

Sandhill Cranes flying in sunset

Sandhill Cranes roosting on the Platte River in the sunset

 

Posted in 2012, 2017, Bird Photography, Birds, Blog, Nature Photography, Sunrises/Sunsets, Travel Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Fun Friday: Fly Me to the Moon!

I ran upon today’s image while perusing my 2016 photographic images. This image was captured at a local Missouri Conservation Area during late afternoon. I was setting up my camera/tripod to capture the early evening sky, when the moon and Venus would be visible. As I worked on setting things up, I looked up and saw this commercial jetliner flying across the sky, near the moon:

Commercial Jet Flies Near the Daytime Moon

Photographic Equipment Used:

  • Canon 5D Mark III body
  • Canon 500 mm, f4 IS lens
  • Bogen 3221 tripod with ballhead
  • ISO 400
  • Aperture f/4
  • Shutter 1/2,000 sec.

 

 

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