Sundays are a calm day. A day to look out the window and see what flying around. I took this photo last spring when I was shooting for the Coastal Bend Wildlife Contest or otherwise known as Wildlife in Focus. I spent a good while trying to figure out the exact species of sparrow this little guy or girl is, and now I’m second guessing if its even a sparrow. I thought at first it’s an oven bird, but that doesn’t quite fit either. And since I have work to get on with today, I’m letting you see the cute picture of a small bird and moving on.
Dove in south texas are mostly prized for the ability to provide a reason to go hang out in a field all day with some beers and good friends. They are related to the pigeon, and well, basically are just rural pigeons that because you call them dove you can eat them. They are decisively more skittish which makes taking their photo sort of fun.
So in the past I have posted about the male caracara bird, with his pretty beak, spotted breast and pretty gams. Just in case your mouse in broken and you can’t scroll down to the previous post for comparison, here is good look at the male.
And here is his leading lady. As you can tell she is less brightly colored than her male counterpart, as is so common in birds. When I first saw the lady, I thought it was just an old male who had turned faded and grey. Sighhhhhhhhhhhhhh….
My previous post has a little capsule of story about the annoying yet fearless northern mockingbird that pestered my backyard great horned owl. I fancy now that the pair now have an owlet but I haven’t been able to confirm that quite yet. I can’t tell if the thing flying through the trees with them is a little one or just another stupid mockingbird.
A great horned owl flying away from me and the pesky mockingbird
One of the coolest things about the wildlife in South Texas is that it is full of predators. When something dies it is never long before the ecosystem opens it’s jaw and consumes it until there is nothing left but bones. I know there is a show on the NatGeo or Discovery channel where they basically put out carcasses and see what comes to dinner. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of a hyena sticking it’s head in an elephants butthole.
Moving on- South Texas has an array of winged predators including hawks, several different species of owls, vultures, and falcons.
Caracara’s are the national bird of Mexico, often depicted with a rattlesnake in their talons. Besides being interesting looking birds- the males have spotted breasts, bright golden beaks and feet, they are an unusual member of the falcon family. Caracaras are much slower than other falcons and have many behaviors similar to vultures. You often see one or two hanging out with the group of black vultures and turkey vultures. Like here! In this photo I took. Doesn’t the caracara look annoyed?
This photo wasn’t taken in the best lighting conditions. I had a great shoot in the early morning hours and even though the birds were still flying around looking cute, the sun was getting higher and everything was getting back-lit and yucky. Still, I was in the zone and I wanted to see if I could flush one of the two owls in my backyard out for a shot. Well, gol-ly- I succeeded. But with a foe in tow. My yard is populated by a lot of birds, but the most prevalent are Northern Mockingbirds. They have a pretty call, but oh my oh my are they aggressive. Fearless in fact. The other bird next to this Great horned owl is in fact a fearless mockingbird, who proceeded to pester this owl almost non stop. A moment after snapping this picture the mockingbird went back to flying around the owl, pecking and pestering him. I’ll never know if that owl took off for the brush line because of me or that mockingbird. Aren’t the owl’s feet fantastic?
This is one of my favorite shots from the contest. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we didn’t use it because we had better photos of less common birds. Vultures are pretty disgusting creatures to hang around with. They make this terrible gurgling, clucking noise that is super creepy and they poop all over each other. They also step on one another and chase each other around like a tribe of cannibals. I have never met any tribes of cannibals, so if this isn’t what it is like, I apologize for being offensive. All the same, they are pretty important for the ecosystem so they perfectly fine in my book.
For now, anyways. We find out how our little team did in the Coastal Bend Wildlife Photo Contest, or what I guess is now called Wildlife in Focus contest in September. Recapping why being done with the contest is a moment to savor, I will enlighten or remind my readers that I began the contest back in February. Yes, February. A month difficult to remember exists when it is over 100 degrees outside. So from February through the first weekend of June, with the exception of a two week break, I was rising before dawn and coming in at dark all in the pursuit of photographing the native creatures. I became someone who regularly donned a gilly suit.
Juvenile red wing black bird with an older mature red wing black bird in background
I learned so much about cameras, lighting, movement, silence and dedication through this half year of grinding photography. It has been awesome.
The end was harried, but we made it through. So many submission requirements make getting the data together a long and much more methodical process then taking the photos themselves. And a lot less gratifying.
But the next phase of bright side is that I have tons of photos that are great that just didn’t make it into the running for the contest. Here are few of my favorites from the bird categories.