The waxing gibbous moon (I love Google) was out this afternoon and I watched as the wispy clouds drifted in front of it. Of course the beautiful puffy cumulous clouds were in the west not the east where the moon was so I had to make do with wispy.
The little hermit thrush, who seems to have taken up permanent residence in my yard, spends much of its time perched on the back edge of my fountain. Although the bird remained perched on a low branch a few days ago so I could photograph it, it has since become camera shy and whenever I walk outside, it flies to the leafy camouflage of the shrubbery. I set the camera outside about 19 feet away from the edge of the fountain where the bird sits. I decided to experiment with using the remote from inside the house and discovered that the infrared remote triggers the camera through the window. First hurdle accomplished. Then, I prefocused on the spot on the fountain where the bird sits. But, getting the eye in perfect focus without being there to fine tune the focus was a guessing game. I succeeded on just a few of the shots but two of these were, to me at least, the most interesting: the first, of the bird drinking and the second, of the bird looking directly at the camera as it swallowed the drink. These shots aren’t cropped. The shadow of the pergola across the middle of the fountain is a bit distracting but I was glad the bird was in the light when I took the shots. I used the D7100 and the 80-400mm lens with the 1.4X teleconverter. Focal Length 550mm, ISO 500, F8. The shutter speed varied slightly (I was set to Aperture Priority) and one shot was taken at 1/250 and the other at 1/200.
They’re a sure sign that spring is just around the corner: fruit tree blossoms. My neighbor’s ornamental pear was always the first fruit tree to bloom here. But, last year, he cut it down. It was planted close to the fence line so that half of its branches (and blossoms) were in my yard and I enjoyed the beauty of the spring flowers and the shade from the tree in summer. Sunday afternoon as I looked around my yard, I noticed some familiar white blossoms. The invasive roots from the ornamental pear had produced some small trees in my yard and a few of the branches sported flowers. I don’t know if I will keep the randomly growing trees but I was certainly happy that it has been resurrected for its spring show.
It was very windy out so I clipped one of the clusters and brought it inside, out of the wind. I used my D800 and my macro lens.
Focal Length 105mm; ISO 250; f/22; 5 seconds
I struggled with macro shots of a tiny flower, none of which turned out to my liking so I scrapped the idea and decided to take some more photos tomorrow. I poured myself a glass of wine and decided that before I started cooking dinner, I would snack on a slice of delicious Parmesan Herb Ciabatta bread that my local Raley’s Supermarket bakes. Filled with whole cloves of roasted garlic and bits of sun dried tomatoes, it is one of those simple pleasures of life. Hey, “simple pleasures” is a Flickr challenge topic. Once again, my Flickr group has come to the rescue for a subject for In Focus Daily. I put away the macro lens and set up the D800 with my favorite lens, the 24-70mm. I set the loaf with a couple of slices on a bread board and used Bobo’s granite window seat and a piece of black mat board for the background. It was starting to get dark out but I wanted to use natural light so I took a very long exposure. I focused once on the loaf and once on the middle slice, then, blended the two shots in Photoshop so most of the photograph is in focus.
Focal Length 70mm, ISO 125, f/22, 8 Sec. and 10 Sec.shutter speeds.
While kayaking on the lagoon near Luna Lodge, we encountered a troop of white-faced capuchin monkeys feeding on flowers in a tree. We were told that the nectar in the flowers would disappear by late morning so the monkeys had to feed while the nectar remained in the flowers. Our kayaks, held still by the water plants, made for a perfect viewing platform. The monkeys looked at us curiously on occasion, then returned to voraciously feed. The white-faced capuchins are familiar to us as organ grinder monkeys.
Shortly after I photographed the hermit thrush, the bushtits descended to the fountain for an enthusiastic bath. My camera was set to Aperture priority and I didn’t think to raise the ISO from 200 to a higher setting to produce a higher shutter speed to stop the action. But, in the end, I like the blurred result which really shows their enthusiasm for the fountain. And, the severe rainstorm we had just before I left for Texas dislodged whatever was blocking the bubble and now it’s back to normal so the birds seem really happy to splash in it.
I noticed an unfamiliar bird with a darkly spotted breast sitting on the edge of the fountain and thought it looked thrush-like. When a robin appeared, just after the new bird flew off, I thought for a second it might be a baby robin but it’s too soon for robins (well, maybe not with the warm weather we’re having) but then I realized that the new bird was much smaller than a robin. When I eliminated some species of sparrow that also have spotted breasts, I decided it must be one of two thrushes, either the Swainson’s thrush which, according to my bird books appears here only in summer, or the hermit thrush which winters here. Oh, my God! Rereading these words, I realize I really AM becoming a birder!
When the bird returned to a perch near the fountain, I took my new tripod and ball head outside, but not too close. Then I attached the D7100 and the 80-400 lens. The bird didn’t leave so I decided to add the 1.4X teleconverter while standing on the patio in full view of the bird. He stayed so I took a few more shots before he flew off. With the photographs, I confirmed that it is a hermit thrush, a bird I’ve never before seen. Hmmmm. I may have to start a “life list” after all!
Here is the hermit thrush, shaking off the excess water from his bath in the nearby fountain. I cropped these shots. If I’d moved closer, I would not have had to crop but if I’d moved closer, I probably wouldn’t have had the bird to photograph.
After reviewing these shots of some small (4 inches) red-legged honeycreepers, the males in brilliant blue mating plumage, I couldn’t help thinking of that old Bobby Vinton song. The brightly colored males seem to have been rejected by one of the pale green females. I took these shots on our first full day of shooting in Costa Rica. When we set up our tripods on a path on the Luna Lodge grounds and aimed our cameras, these birds, hiding deep in the bushes, seemed very ordinary looking and, because they were backlit as well, their bright colors didn’t show at all. We used Better Beamers which have Fresnel lenses that attach to the speed light and magnify the flash which brings out the colors of the birds. Wow! When I chimped my first shot, I was blown away by what appeared on the camera’s LCD screen.
In the final shot, the three males are still alone, and still in search of a female. Their bright colors didn’t seem to impress the lone female.
This year, the beach at Port A was not quite as interesting as it has been in past years. There were no seashells to examine. There was almost no seaweed washed ashore. The birds were scarce. There was hardly even any trash. On my last walk on the beach Monday morning, Susan, Jordy, and I walked all the way to the pier and back and my Fitbit recorded over 4 miles which was a record for Jordy. He was adopted only a few months ago from an elderly person who could not exercise him so he was not able to walk far. Each day of my visit when Susan and I walked him on the beach, he gained strength and stamina and now seems to be able to enjoy and benefit from a lengthy walk despite his age and aching hips.
I spent my last morning trying to capture birds in flight, trying to capture gesture, trying to get the right composition without cropping. These were my best efforts from the morning. None are cropped.
On my last full day in Port A, we visited the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The Texas drought has taken its toll on the wildlife habitats here and large portions of the refuge are closed to visitors. The only creatures we saw were the gators who were basking in the alligator viewing area near the visitor center. Susan and I walked within a couple of feet of one, snoozing at the edge of the water but I was nervous about being so close and when he opened an eye, I quickly retreated, using my long lens to capture some up close and personal shots of a few of these scaly creatures. I think their “smiley” faces are a ruse!
Susan and Jordy walked on the beach Saturday morning searching for shells, sea glass, or any other interesting thing the surf washed ashore. The temperatures were mild, the sky was sunny, the beach was unusually crowded with weekend visitors but the shore birds were scarce and I found only a few sanderlings and willets and the few I saw showed very little in the way of interesting gestures to photograph.
Susan and I went to the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port A to find flocks of Roseate Spoonbills, some Ibis, and a few other shore birds clustered mere feet away from two of the site’s resident alligators who were lurking in the mud. One of the gators moved and all of the spoonbills flew off, only to return minutes later. The gators must have been sated because the birds were complacent with what I would think would be their predators lurking in the shadows. I got a chance to use my new tripod and ball head for the first time and I was very pleased with how steady they kept my camera and lens.
We spent the afternoon on the King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas. King Ranch is a huge (825,000 acre) ranch that was established in 1853 and has morphed from just a cattle ranch into a huge agribusiness. They also give wildlife tours and we hoped to see javelinas (we did), alligators (we did), bob cats (we didn’t) and lots of birds and deer (we also did). I saw two birds I’d never seen before, a cardinal and a green jay. Both were colorful and I managed to get a few decent shots at feeding stations on the ranch.
Despite the gory look of the hook and bloody wound on the mouth of this piggy perch, this fish lived to fight (off predators) another day. Susan removed the hook seconds after I took the shot and returned him to the shallow waters where we fished on Wednesday. I had my fish eye lens and we thought it would be quite funny to take a fish eye shot of a fish eye so we did.
When I reviewed my pix from our outing yesterday I noticed a photograph of an egret that didn’t look like the great egret I knew. Our boat was anchored in a cut off the Lydia Ann Channel west of San José Island and while Susan and Chris fished, I aimed my lens at the birds nearby. I had never seen a great egret with a blue eye and lore and a pink and black beak. We were excited that perhaps we’d “discovered” a new species but a little Google research (I love Google) revealed it to be a white morph of a Reddish Egret. We saw no other similar morphs but I did photograph one Reddish Egret. The good thing is I actually managed to get the one of the morph in focus.
For comparison, I have included a common Reddish Egret (dancing in front of an osprey) and a common Great Egret.