It’s New Year’s Eve. It’s the end of the year, the last day of 2017. It’s been a great year for me and I’ve had some incredible and unforgettable photography experiences this year. I continue to learn and grow and look forward to many more wonderful experiences in 2018 with my photography friends.
I took this photograph of a Great Blue Heron, or GBH as these huge birds are commonly referred to by many of my photography friends, at Clear Lake a couple of days ago. It is considered a “butt shot,” an undesirable view of a bird. I’ve long known that photographs of birds flying away from the camera (“butt shots”) are not great photographs. They are considered rude by some and frankly they do not draw the viewer into the shot because the bird is flying away.
As my photography changes, so do my standards for photography. I once thought any photograph that was in focus was good. Not true. I am becoming more critical of my subjects and more aware of what makes or breaks a photograph. I’m posting this photograph because it’s the end of the year, the end of the bird, and I hope, the end of my taking any more “butt shots.”
On Friday, I accompanied my friend Barbara to her family’s cabin at Clear Lake, a place I haven’t visited in more than 50 years. We sat on the deck in what was left of the afternoon sunlight and ate our lunch, enjoying the sounds of jays and woodpeckers and watching flotillas of buffleheads and coots. A great egret and a great blue heron flew by and I saw a non-breeding spotted plover, a bird I’d seen in full breeding plumage in Churchill, Canada six months ago. A fisherman startled the flotillas of birds that we were watching and they flew off temporarily, but the view remained serene and beautiful.
Somehow, I can’t get enough of the Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese at Bosque del Apache. This Sandhill Crane looks like he’s on a mission, and telling anyone who’ll listen. This is a shot from our last morning there.
I’ve always called Bobo my living Christmas ornament because she has all the colors traditionally displayed on a Christmas tree. Although it’s a couple of days past Christmas, I think there’s still room for some holiday color.
While reviewing some of the Snow Geese photographs I took in Bosque del Apache, I noted that when the beak of a Snow Goose was parted slightly, usually while they were contributing to the cacophony during the morning blast off, the edges of the beak appeared serrated…almost like rows of teeth. I know that birds don’t have teeth but in this photograph of a Snow Goose, both the bottom and top edges of the beak are lined with small black points. The individual points are actually called tomium (pl., tomia). This unique characteristic to some birds’ beaks is for the purpose of cutting. And, for Snow Geese, its purpose is for cutting grass. This goose was heading to the farm fields to feed, presumably on grass or corn and putting those tomia to good use.
I photographed this pair of Sandhill Cranes on our last morning in Bosque del Apache. They were heading into the morning light to fly to the farm fields to feed.
My fountain isn’t working as it should and the bubble that seems to attract the birds to it flattens out after just a couple of hours. I have to keep my eye on it so I can fill it when it goes flat but I don’t always get to it when it needs to be filled. When I looked out Christmas Eve morning, I noticed a Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the fountain and the Bushtits were congregating. The fountain was flat but the birds were eager so instead of filling it, I grabbed my Nikon D500 with the 300mm lens and the 1.4 X teleconverter and walked outside to sit near the fountain. I had to sit for several minutes before any of the birds ventured back down to the fountain. My patience paid off though. The little male Ruby-crowned Kinglet returned, warily, to the fountain. The sound of my shutter frightened him away as did every subsequent trigger of it for a few minutes. Then, he seemed to acclimate and finished his bath with great abandon. I know it’s a male because only the males have the ruby crown. It doesn’t show in this photograph but as he bathed and contorted his body, I got little glimpses of the red feathers on the top of his head. In this shot, he seems to implore me to fill the fountain so his bubble will return. My birds don’t ask for much. I guess I’d better refill the fountain.
Although I’ve been home a week, I’ve had so much to do that I have had no time to indulge in my passion. I’ve had fleeting glimpses of Ruby Crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Bushtits, and Anna’s Hummingbirds all bathing in my fountain but I’ve barely had time to look through binoculars for positive identification let alone had the time to set up my camera to take decent photographs. Without the daily photography excursions I’m used to, I’m kind of going nuts, which brings me to today’s post.
I’m heading to Santa Rosa to visit my brother on Christmas Day. We don’t exchange gifts but I can’t go empty-handed. I decided the perfect thing would be a batch of Rosemary Maple-glazed Nuts. When I visited Vermont in October, I of course came home with lots of maple syrup. The jug-shaped bottles even caused my luggage to get a closer inspection from TSA. When I arrived home, one of the TSA “We’ve been rummaging in your luggage” notices was tucked inside. Because I knew I shouldn’t have pancakes and maple syrup every day like I did in Vermont, I knew I needed to find a good way to use the maple syrup. I wanted nuts with sweet-savory-spicy flavors so I combed the Internet and found a delicious recipe. It has a little kick of cayenne for interest. The nuts were a hit at my Thanksgiving crab feast and the friends I’ve given them to have difficulty sharing with anyone; I even took a double batch with me to Bosque del Apache so that my photography buddies could have a snack after the morning explosion of Snow Geese. Those nuts lasted only two days.
As I look at this image, I can smell the savory aroma of the rosemary and the buttery sweetness of the maple syrup. Oh, wait. I can smell them because they’re still warm and out on a rack cooling just a few feet away from where I type. I think my brother will go nuts for my nuts. Everybody else seems to.
With rows of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes as a backdrop, a pair of Sandhill Cranes takes off from the Train Pond at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on our last morning there. By the time I took this photograph, most of the geese had blasted off so the blanket of white I was hoping for as a background wasn’t there.