At the Orlando Wetlands Park in Orlando, Florida American White Pelicans form small flotillas and maneuver around the shallow waters in a kind of scrum, forcing small schools of fish together so that the pelicans can use their massive, flexible beaks to scoop up the fish and whatever else has accumulated beneath them. We witnessed this behavior over and over during our visit in February of this year.
What is it that makes some birds sound like cats? My Red-lored Amazon parrot says what many people interpret as “meow” but I think she is actually saying, “well.” But, perhaps after twenty years of believing she’s saying, “well,” I could be wrong. There is another bird that makes a “meow” sound, too. It is a Gray Cat Bird. I saw them and heard their distinctive “meows” in South Texas and in Ohio at Magee Marsh. Hmmmm. Maybe Bobo is saying “meow” after all.
After listening to Moose Peterson’s Podcast #135 I took up the Self-Assignment challenge he describes in that podcast, one he had years ago in photography school:
Each day for a week, take a new photo of a salt and pepper shaker, with no two photos alike except that each photo must include the same salt and pepper shaker.
I thought this was a great way to challenge myself to improve my photography, and, as he put it in his podcast, to compete against myself, not others. I used three different lenses (105mm f/1.4; 105mm f/2.8 Micro, and 70-200 f/4); manual mode so I could completely control all aspects of exposure; a tripod because the shutter speeds were slow, ranging from 1/30 second to 4 seconds; and except for the first and last shots, one or more flashes. I had a great time planning and executing each shot but the challenge forced me to stretch well outside my comfort zone. The challenge helped me better understand placement of external light sources to achieve the effect I sought. It forced me to figure out what it takes to create certain optical illusions. It illustrated the need to think “outside the box” so that the photographs would be unique and perhaps provocative. For all but one of the photographs, I had to create a “studio” setup instead of using a natural setting and natural lighting as I normally do.
Here, then, is my take on “A week in the life of Salt ‘n’ Pepa:”
Day 1 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 )
Day 2 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm f/1.4, SB 5000×2 )
Day 3 (Nikon D850, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro, SB 5000)
South Texas is home to lots of beautiful and colorful birds. This is a young male Bullock’s Oriole. Mature adult males are orange. Females are also yellow but they lack the black patch under the beak. Its colors make a striking contrast to the whitish leaves of the plant it perches on. I am not sure what this plant is. My searchs of native shrubs and trees in South Texas came up empty.
This juvenile Crested Caracara extends its talons to grasp onto a dead branch as it comes in for a landing in South Texas a couple of weeks ago. Juveniles lack the bright orange coloring on their faces and legs that adults have, so this bird looks rather drab by comparison. Menacing, but drab.
At Magee Marsh, the bright and colorful Yellow Warblers were easiest to spot in the busy brush surrounding the boardwalk and I was most successful photographing these tiny birds. This is a male Yellow Warbler that I photographed on our last morning at Magee Marsh. It was one of the last photographs I took before we packed up and left for the airport on Saturday.
Black Vultures are very similar to the Turkey Vultures that I’m used to seeing where I live but without the red skin on their faces. The gray skin makes them somehow less repulsive than Turkey Vultures. This Black Vulture just landed near our blind in South Texas. The vultures compete with Crested Caracaras for carrion and road kill.
One of the distinguising features at the blinds at the Santa Clara Ranch in South Texas is that each blind has a watering hole. The area is so dry and parched that water is a prime draw for all of the wildlife in the area. Mammals like Eastern Cottontails, Thirteen-lined Squirrels, Coyotes, and Javelinas come to bathe and drink and of course, local birds are drawn to the water feature as well. This male Golden-fronted Woodpecker, a bird that lives in Texas and south of the border, spent quite a bit of time slaking his thirst at the water hole. Every other time I saw this bird, he was in a tree, usually hammering on a tree trunk, so watching him drink was quite interesting. A storm was coming in so the wind was ruffling his feathers.