March 21, 2014 Goose Island, Texas

Scissortail flycatcher
Scissortail flycatcher

A Mixed Bag of Birds

Another solid overcast cloudy day here on Goose Island. Sunday, I leave here for South Llano River State Park out in the hill country of central Texas so this may be the last post for a week or two as it appears there is no Verizon coverage out there.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Bluebells
Bluebells

I am hoping to find wildflowers in bloom out there as well as spring migrants and there is supposed to be a large turkey population in the park. I have noticed quite a few flowers starting to appear in the pastures here in Lamar.

Scissortail Flycatcher
Scissortail flycatcher

This flycatcher was caught doing his thing along the fence line of the pasture on 12th Street.

Turkey Vulture landing
Turkey Vulture

Not just another pretty face!

Great blue heron
Great blue heron

This great blue heron was just passing through

Roseate spoonbills feeding
Roseate spoonbills

as was this roseate spoonbill. In addition to the whooping cranes, there is a large variety of birds using the pastures and the pond within as a roosting and/or feeding resource.

Long billed curlew
Long billed curlew
Long billed curlew
Long billed curlew

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Long billed curlew feeding in the shallows within the state park.

A gathering of whoopers
A gathering of whoopers

Not a great photo, but it is rather unusual to see this many whoopers peacefully hunting together, usually they tend to stick to pairs or a family unit of three and aggressively chase other whoopers away. Today, these guys were actually kind of boring to observe as there never were any flare-ups amongst them.

Whooping crane in flight
Whooping crane in flight 
Whooping crane
Sharing a pasture

I kind of liked the dark background this grazing cow provided for the whooper.

Whooping crane family flying in
Whooping crane family flying in
Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 19, 2014 Goose Island, Texas

Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes

A Very Frustrating Morning

I ventured out to the pastures in Lamar a little later than usual this morning since there was a pretty heavy cloud cover and not much light to work with. There were three whoopers in the lower portion of the pasture when I arrived and soon after three more flew in and joined them, unfortunately, they were just a little to far off for any great shots, and somewhat to my surprise, there was no interaction between the two groups even though they were in very close proximity to one another, no territorial disputes.

Long Billed Curlew
Long Billed Curlew

Long billed curlew
Long billed curlew

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

As I was watching the cranes, I noticed a long billed curlew hunting in the field, quite near the fence along the road, so I got my tripod out and set up by the fence to wait for him to hopefully approach. I got a few decent shots as he approached quite close to me, including the one above where I think he has captured a crab, although he is in a pasture more than 60 yards from the bay. About the time I was taking these shots, a young couple and their little girl stopped, and seeing me set up next to the fence and probably assuming I was taking shots of the far off whoopers, they hopped out of their car and raced over to where I was set up and wanted to ask questions about the cranes and ” how big were they when seen through my camera and large lens “. I’m sure they had no idea I was shooting the curlew only 30 feet in front of me that they scared off as they approached, and the cranes were so far off, they weren’t affected.

It is frustrating when you set up and wait 10 or 15 minutes for an animal or bird to hopefully come your way, only to have someone else come along and scare them off just as they get within range, but these people were just naturally curious about what I was seeing and they never even saw the small curlew, this was just innocent curiosity and they were very nice folks. I actually lowered the tripod so the little girl could get a look at the distant whoopers, they thanked me and were soon on their way.

Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes

 

Whooping cranes
Whooping cranes

After they left, I noticed that the 6 cranes were grouping up and slowly walking towards the fence along 12th Street, so I proceeded over to 12th, parked, and walked out to the fence and set up behind one of the telephone poles as the whoopers very slowly continued their approach. I got off a few shots as they eventually came almost close enough for some decent shots. By the time I took the 2 shots above, I had patiently waited 45 minutes for their approach, partially shielded by the utility pole in front of me and by the fact that I stayed absolutely still for all that time, not that easy on us old folks. Thankfully, for some reason, there was almost nobody down here this morning and only one vehicle went by in the 45 minutes I waited for these guys to approach, I couldn’t believe my luck!.

But, of course, it wasn’t to be. The one vehicle that went by stopped at the big tree lot and down the road toward me came an older gentleman with some pretty serious Canon equipment slung over his shoulder, with his wife not far behind. At first, seeing his gear made me think he would be professional enough, or courteous enough, to not rush through the open field to the fence to get his shots, since any serious photographer would know that would certainly scare the cranes off.

Man with camera
You really should ( probably do! ) know better!

Of course, that is exactly what he did and, sure enough, the cranes instantly turned around and retreated 100 yards or so back the way they came, so my 45 minute wait was for nothing. The sad part of this was that if he had just stayed in the road, he would have been closer to the birds than he was after he approached and scared them off. You half expect someone with a cell phone to do this, charge your subject and scare them off so they can get a closer shot, but usually serious photographers will be knowledgeable enough, and courteous enough, to not ruin another’s chances by doing this, this idiot I believe was simply rude and inconsiderate, not ignorant. Maybe he was all three? In any case, very frustrating to me, since you only have an opportunity for these birds to approach that close once in a blue moon.

Oh well, the light wasn’t that great anyhow, so maybe I wouldn’t have gotten anything anyway, but I guess I will never know. I am ashamed to admit that I did yell over to him how much I appreciated his scaring the cranes off, and he could see me with my camera pointed towards him, so he instantly turned away. In fact, when I left the scene and drove by him as he walked back to his vehicle, he again turned completely around so as not to be identified, kind of acknowledging that he knew exactly what he was doing in ruining the shot for a fellow photographer, what a jerk!

So I headed back to the campground and drove along the bay to see if I could locate the scissortail flycatchers of two days ago, and lo and behold, there they were once again on the north side of the park road between the two campsite sections. I stopped the car, grabbed the tripod, and as I walked across the road and set up, along came a young couple with a cast net obviously looking for a place to cast for some bait fish, so they stepped right in front of me where  I had set up and proceeded straight out into the marsh grass where the flycatchers were, needless to say, scaring them off. With about 200 yards where they could have chosen to head to the water’s edge, why would you jump out directly in front of a photographer obviously trying to photograph something? Why wouldn’t you walk just a little farther down the road?

A suitable ending to a very frustrating morning!

Two mystery plovers, I think?
Two mystery plovers, I think?

As I was getting out of my car back at my campsite, these little guys were on the top of the seawall only 20 ‘ away. If anyone can ID them I would appreciate the help. I think they are some sort of plover probably half way between winter and breeding plumage so I just can’t tell what they may be.