Chasing Feathers: The Best of 2015 Birding (Part 1)

“Birds first, photos second.” ~ Shannon

I wear both the binocular and a heavy camera/lens on my body like some people wear jewelry or scarves. It’s always the bird I want, and I fear I’ll never get tired of seeing them or learning about what they do. The photograph is secondary, like a little trinket to put up on a shelf that I can look at often, only my collection never have to be dusted. Memory of a thing is better anyway. (But photo date-stamps never hurt.)

The big lens has been crucial to bird education, and (thankfully) I now know how to use it ‘M’ manual second-nature. It not only helps with field ID and confirmation later (with field guides, collaboration in the event of a rare species), but it also delivers a little dopamine hit for every single bird I shoot.

Some people Facebook, blog or Tweet, others spend time in the kitchen baking or crafting. Sports? Nah. TV or YouTube? Almost never. I bird. I much prefer to spend free time with birdies (and people who like birdies) outside in nature or — at the least — inside looking out into nature. I am a hopeless outside girl.

This is a 25-photo collection of my best portrait efforts for 2015 as it pertains to those birds we went out to get. Most of my subjects were either too far away, moving too fast, or the lighting was bad. If I had the time to post-process — using software to manipulate the RAW images created by the camera — I might have more to share. For the time-being, JPG’s processed by Canon is what you get.

Birders and non-birders alike, enjoy this re-cap of 2015. It was almost better than last year (as a total), but in many ways it was way better than last year; experience in the field rewarded us often. Comparisons aside, we are hopelessly hooked to all things with feathers and will be repeating this citizen science project — highlighted with digital photography — again next year.

Mute Swan and Ring-necked Duck

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Driving by a small detention pond on the way back from our New Year celebration out of town, we spotted something big and white off in the distance. We dropped the kids and the luggage at home rushed back out with the camera and field lenses to see if it was what we though it was.

The bird was still there, a lone Mute Swan, not a regular for our area.

Mute Swan
Ring-necked Duck (Male)

American Bittern

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American Bittern

Gray Jay and American Dipper

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Sometimes it’s good to get away for a birding vacation without the kids to see those birds we would never get to see where we live back home.

Gray Jay

American Dipper

Scissortail Flycatcher

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Scissortail Flycatcher

Black Skimmer

These birds are amazing fisherman. They drag their lower mandibles along the surface of the water as they fly until it ‘hits’ something — quickly shutting their bill on its catch. It’s the first time I was able to witness this ‘skimming’ process first hand.

Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer

Scarlet Tanager

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Scarlet Tanager

Green Heron, Purple Gallinule, And Snowy Egret

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Brazos Bend State Park will continue to be one of our family’s favorite birding, hiking, and nature spots. I get the feeling many of the birds and wildlife are used to people walking around with camera’s on their faces!

Green Heron
Purple Gallinule
Cattle Egret

American Avocet

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American Avocet

Reddish Egret

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Last year, we never did get to see this beauty. This year, he was everywhere we were along the coast, and many times I was given quite the show for my camera. He has replaced the Great Blue Heron as my favorite egret/heron species, and I look forward to shooting him more next year.

Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret

Purple Martins

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Too far away for better close-up shots, this massive flock coming in for roost will have to do. It was our family’s absolute favorite birding excursion of the year.

Purple Martins

Eastern Screech-Owl

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Eastern Screech Owl

Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

Black-necked Stilt

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Black-necked Stilt

Osprey

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Raptors are some of the most difficult birds to shoot since the exposure and focus can change while they’re in flight — which they almost always are. Post-processing is a necessary skill for cropping, sharpening and lightening, which is something I still do not have time to do. Maybe next year.

Osprey

Loggerhead Shrike

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Loggerhead Shrike

Egyptian Goose

Just before we broke for the winter holidays, a friend texted early in the morning to let me know that there were Egyptian Geese on top of his house. Knowing I was a birder and photographer, he invited me to come over and shoot them.

I don’t think I even bothered to brush my hair or teeth as I rushed out the door. It was Bird #252 for the year. And a Lifer ta boot!

Egyptian Goose

Backyard Feathers: The Best of 2015 Birding (Part 2)…tomorrow!

Bird List — 2015

10 thoughts on “Chasing Feathers: The Best of 2015 Birding (Part 1)

    1. Thank you so much, Jet. It was an awesome year for birds. Hard to pick favorites! I, for one, will be coming back to this post often to reminisce my birdie adventures for 2015. And 2016 is already off to a great start. Happy New Year, Jet!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great Pics Shannon. Birding is quite enjoyable and taking pictures of them is something I enjoy as well. Brazos Bend is really a spectacular state park that happens to be near both of us. By the way, I still have hummingbirds here at our house so there must be some that do not migrate. I have never noticed this before but I was outside and I heard them then I saw them.

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    1. Hummingbirds? Yes!! For the last couple of years we keep feeders out in the winter because they WILL stay when given food and shelter (you may have missed an earlier post on this subject, complete with hummer photos http://wp.me/p28k6D-27j).

      Mix up small amounts of sugar-water and place the feeders where you can observe from a favorite sitting spot or kitchen work space. You can even have a go at trying to photograph those little rascals. They are zippy fast! Cheers, Sonya. I wish you and your family a superb 2016 — particularly as it applies to loved ones, nature and (of course) birdies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Year before last we had more than this year. I have put out feeders every year for about the last 5 years or so. I have managed to photograph them by putting my camera on a tripod and then moving away and using the wireless trigger to shoot. I find this way they turn out much better than the hand held ones.

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