Who are we? We are our stories.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tropical Kingbird

Last evening in Long Island Village - from our deck at 707 East Clam.  

Lift-off for 1410 Oakwood first thing tomorrow morning.
- G.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Yellow-breasted Chat!

We waited for the fog to clear a little and arrived at Laguna Vista Nature Trail at about 8:00 this morning. There was no one else there and we went went directly to Blind 3.  Lorna brought grapefruit which was getting a little old.  Many birds seem to love citrus and she stuck them on bare twigs.

After trying for some years I finally got a couple of decent photographs of a Yellow-breasted Chat. Chats are theoretically Warblers, but they are twice as large, don't not have similar songs, etc. For my money they aren't Warblers, but I don't get a vote. Whatever, they are striking birds. 

There were other birds - Long-billed Thrashers, Olive Sparrows, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, and a first-of-year Gray Catbird. Only the Catbirds and Chats migrate and only the Catbird might make it to southern Minnesota. 


A good morning - Gunnar

Friday, March 20, 2020

Laguna Vista

Due to the virus the county and state birding spots have closed down to some degree, so this morning we went to a city park a few miles up Highway 100 in the small town of Laguna Vista. Normally there are few people there, just a jogger or two, but today we found a few friends and acquaintances already there. No hugs or handshakes.

Earlier this season there were photos posted of a Yellow-breasted Chat taken there. I was hopeful. They are not terribly rare, but they make their living working in dense brush and are a damned hard bird to photograph. I have taken a few pictures of Chats, but never better than I.D. photos. We did get three fleeting glimpses today, but I never even got off a shot. Lorna neither and she is far quicker than I am. 

But Olive Sparrows and Long-billed Thrashers are beautiful ... and a Hooded Oriole isn't exactly a "dirt bird". They are really beautiful, on the far eastern edge of their range. We also saw Mockers of course and a couple of Green Jays. I usually don't bother taking photos of Green Jays any more, but they are literally on the eastern edge of their range here - no reports of Green Jays ever on South Padre a few miles east.

 Starting to get warmer - 80F today here on coast, 10 degrees hotter up river. Forecast for +10 degrees next week.

Reporting weather and suffering from heat, so you don't have to.  - Gunnar 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Last Day At South Padre WBC

I took these at the World Birding Center this morning. This afternoon it was closed indefinitely.

Goodbye to boardwalk friends and staff for now.

Corona free so far.  - Gunnar

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Field Camera Kit

Let's be up front about it, compared to "real" photographers, my equipment ain't for shit. The Nikon D5600 is less than $600 and the Nikon 200-500mm lens is less than $1,300. Both less if you shop around for good used deals. The lens is marvelous - heavy, clumsy, with some optic limitations, but simply marvelous for the price. Yes, I envy my mentor, Brian Plath, who buys and sells cameras and lens like ... well, he does it lot. But frankly it shows in his photos. He continually humbles me. This posting is a lot for him, because he has helped with advice and he appreciates a good Rube Goldberg hack.

Arthritis? Simply age? Whatever, I hate weight on my neck. This is my field set up - camera and binoculars (or a second smaller butterfly/birds-in-bushes camera) both hung off a diagonal strap on my off-hand (left) shoulder.
Aside: My "smaller" camera is a Nikon D5500, same layout as the D5600, with a Nikon 18-300mm lens. If I had to have a single lens it would probably be the 18-300mm. 

The strap also has a lens brush, and an extra battery and SIM card.

The lens has a removaable ring for mounting to a tripod, but if I mount that to the strap the camera/lens hangs awkward and bangs my hip.  So I have a couple of layers of fabric tape at the center of gravity and (now it gets extremely technical) a D-ring and a hose clamp. The metal ring replaces a couple of zip-ties, and for a while a piece of wire I picked up off the street.

The binoculars are Swarovski 8 x 42 CLs. I had larger bins, but just how much money can a half blind birder justify in binoculars when he can only use 1/2 of them? They are attached with Swaro loop connectors from B&H. They were designed for Swarovski ELs and required a some filing to reduce their thickness so they would engage with CL swivel pin. The file cost more than the loop connectors. That little loop doohickey was a few dollars from Amazon. Had to buy pair.

As my late father said, "It only cost a few pennies more to go first class".

- Gunnar

Foggy SPI Morning

We were out bright and early. Actually it was pea-soup and early.
"A misty moisty morning when cloudy was the weather".

We saw a couple of Clapper Rails, but the fog was thick enough that any photos would have just faded into gray mist. As the morning lightened, the photos were more acceptable - not tack sharp, the lighting was dim but interesting and I got my first Least Bittern of the year.

And that Little Blue Heron still looks like a ghost - like the ghost of egrets past. 

Cooper's Hawk
Little Blue Heron (first year)
Black-crowned Night-heron
Least Bittern

"And how do you do and how do you do and how do you do again? "

- Gunnar

Friday, March 13, 2020

Heron/Egret Eyes and Motorcycles

Our friends from Nelson, B.C. have understandably cancelled our trip to Arizona. We have also. (Maybe not?)

Life is in flux. Unraveling. Wheels off the cart. Things gone amuck. 

I went for a long solitary bird walk this morning. The path seems a little clearer now. So I took photos of bird eyes and glimpses of a Sora. When life gives you get a chance to take a Sora photo you have to take it.

This is a first year Little Blue Heron. He isn't even a little blue. But he will be next year. Herons and Egrets are pretty straight-forward I.D.s. They are not like gulls or sparrows, but there are a number of white species. There are Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Common Egrets, White Morph Reddish Egrets and first year Little Blue Herons. All white, but different bill and leg color, size and carriage. After you have seen a few you can I.D. them at 100 yards. Using one eye. 

As I finished downloading the above photos, Charlie McPherson texted from Padre Island Brewing. We went to join him. (duh) After we finished an IPA and split a piece of keylime, we went out back to look over Markus Haggenmiller's "new" 1966 BMW. Sweet. Purrs like a kitten. A very large k├Ątzchen.

How long have I known Mark? I knew him when he had hair and I had two eyes.
- Gunnar