Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Life Bird #150: The Elusive Osprey

It pays to take your camera along when making a pit stop.

Hmm... That didn't sound quite like I meant it, but I stand by the statement. There have been numerous occasions when I've been out birding, either by foot or in my truck, and emerged from a rest stop or port-o-potty to find birds that I've been watching for (or didn't even know to expect) perched outside just waiting for me. It's as if they've been carefully avoiding me as I moved through the area, but when I disappear for a few moments they have to stop by to see where I've gone.

Such was the case last week as I visited the Baytown Nature Center. I had one primary goal, one target bird that had eluded me both in the local coastal sanctuaries and in last summer's trip to Colorado — the Osprey.

I had tried all the suggested locales in the park to no avail, and after two hours of driving, walking and freezing I was about to give up on finding any ospreys. No sightings at the (completely deserted) Duck Pond or the Brownwood Marsh Pavilion, nothing moving on the promisingly-named Osprey Island, nary a sign of any perched in the trees by the Y-intersection. Finally I was running out of time and decided to head once more down the thin peninsula to San Jacinto Point for a final quick check for waders and cormorants near the fishing piers. I took my camera and binoculars and walked over to the little birders' room.

When I emerged from the cramped, plastic cave — Why are those things never tall enough for a person to stand up straight, anyway? — there he was, not thirty yards away, sitting primly atop a wooden piling near the water's edge.

Osprey - 2/15/2010
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

I moved slowly to a nearby park bench and sat, taking pictures, until this magnificent creature lifted suddenly into the air and headed across the bay. I followed his flight with my binoculars, but within seconds he was only a dark spot against the hazy background of the opposite shore.

Osprey - 2/15/2010

Minutes later I found him again, wheeling back towards me with a trophy clutched tightly in his talons, the triumphant fisher returning with his lunch.

Osprey with fish - 2/15/2010

Osprey with fish - 2/15/2010
Click any image to view full-sized version

I stayed in my spot as he returned to his former perch, taking a few more snapshots. But since he seemed somewhat reluctant to begin eating his catch with me in such close proximity, I decided to ease myself up and move on.

Osprey with fish - 2/15/2010

Osprey with fish - 2/15/2010
Click any image to view full-sized version

More to come from last week's trip to Baytown...

For more great bird photos from around the world, check out Bird Photography Weekly #78.

Bird Photography Weekly

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bird Photography Weekly #77

Since I spent Friday complaining about the cold dreariness of our Texas Gulf Coast winter, I figured maybe a little reminder of our other season might go a long way towards warming up the place.

Eastern Bluebird - 6/11/2009
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

These are what I'm really looking forward to again: the bluebirds of summer. Last summer, in fact, with the golden sun shining above and plenty of good ol' Texas heat warming the heart and scorching the grass.

Eastern Bluebird - 6/11/2009

For more great bird photos from around the world, check out Bird Photography Weekly #77.

Bird Photography Weekly

Friday, February 12, 2010

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

Okay, so it's a little past "mid-winter," but with all the rain and sleet we've had lately and the temperatures hovering just barely above freezing, I'd say the bleakness wins out.

Luckily, I did catch a break in the steady drizzle long enough to make a run over to Bear Creek Park at lunch. Most of the park is currently closed — due to being underwater at the moment — but I was able to find a few objects of interest lingering on the outskirts of the flooded areas.

Red-shouldered Hawk - 2/10/2010
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

This Red-shouldered Hawk was hunkered down against the wet and cold, and nothing and nobody was going to make him move.

On the other hand, there were dozens of warblers flitting about, heedless of the inclement weather conditions.

Pine Warbler - 2/10/2010
Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus)

Pine Warbler - 2/10/2010

There were harbingers of the coming spring already in place as well, mobs of robins scouring the soggy green groundcover for sustenance during the cool spell.

American Robin - 2/10/2010
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

And as always, the waders were out and about, treading slowly through the standing floodwater and along the water's edge.

Great Blue Heron - 2/10/2010
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

I look forward to the end of this rainy season, to heading back onto the trails at Bear Creek once the water goes down and things dry out just a bit.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fishin's Over, Time to Get Back to Blogging!

When a friend asked me the other day when I was going to "come back from that fishing trip," I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. Turns out that my last post here bore the somewhat prophetic title of "Gone Fishin'." The prophetic part — I haven't posted a single time in the five months since. Ack!

As a matter of fact, I have hardly even done any birding since last September. About that time we started going into overdrive mode on a big project at work, with pretty much all "off time" (including lunchtime, evenings, late nights, weekends, etc.) being spent in bishok mode (butt in seat, hands on keyboard). Before I knew it, Christmas was here with choir programs and family in town and everything else that entails. Then the kids' school was starting back up, our project was going into final testing and then production, everyone got sick, the autotrophs began to cool, Neanderthals developed tools, we built a wall (we built a pyramid), math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries that all started with the... well, you get the idea. Busy.

Now here it is February already and suddenly I'm realizing — I need to get outside and live again! So yesterday I headed over to the little neighborhood park where I used to go so often on my lunchbreaks and WOW, I'd forgotten how wonderful it was to sneak away from the office in the middle of the day and just walk.

It was pretty cool and extremely windy, but as usual there was plenty of avian life to see. Twenty some-odd white ibis waded through the marsh and mud across the field, looking for their own lunches. A couple of red-shouldered hawks soared in the winds above the treetops. The resident kingfisher skimmed over the surface of the bayou, his rattling call echoing through the area. And almost a dozen cormorants were busy swimming and diving in the smaller pond.

Neotropic Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

Yup, it's past time I take down the "Gone Fishin'" sign and got back to birding!