Monday, December 31, 2007

Bulletin #24 - 2007 review of the year

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
December 31, 2007

Bulletin #24 – 2007 in review

Hello friends,

As 2007 winds down, I look back on the progress I have made in my photography this year. I am still a novice, having taken up this hobby only 2 years ago. However, with the internet resources available, I have learned a lot about nature photography, much faster than I could have ever learned on my own. Also, like any other endeavor – practice makes you better. I have taken thousands of pictures in 2 years and spent lots of time in the field.

I also want to express my thanks to all of you who choose to receive these bulletins. I try to capture the beauty in the natural world. I hope that you get some pleasure from the pictures and I also will try to educate by pointing out the features of the bird that allow for field identification.

There are several people who deserve special thanks.

First, the Alexanders and Amunys, whom I met at LaFitte’s Cove in Galveston, during spring migration. They asked if I would send them some of the bird photos I was taking that day. This was the beginning of the Bulletins idea. It has grown, so that now I have about 40 people across the USA, Canada and Ireland receiving them.

Jay and Bill are 2 other photographers. We met at Anahuac NWR one Saturday in the summer and spent the day shooting together and have swapped photos since. We have only managed to get together once since as we are all too busy with our day jobs. Thanks for your encouragement and critiques.

Special thanks to the superb guides I used this year who found lots of birds for me and were very patient, as I tried to get the right picture. I highly recommend them all.
· Rick Fournier in Monterey California. His email is
· Paul Bithorn in Miami, Florida. His email is
· Roy Rodriguez in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. His email is

The person who has helped me the most is Susan Billetdeaux. Susan is the webmaster of the Houston Audubon Society web site. She has critiqued my photos for almost 2 years, since I began submitting them for possible inclusion in the HAS bird gallery. It is an honor to have more than 30 photos in the gallery and to be included in the company of excellent photographers such as Alan Murphy, Wayne Nicholas and Joe Kennedy.

For anyone who might be interested in what equipment I use, web sites for information etc, I have put together a 2 page sheet in MS Word that I would be happy to send along. Please email me if you would like it.

I have now seen 1293 world species of birds with 28 lifers in 2007, the best year since I went outside the USA in 1997. Of these, 11 I found myself and the other 17 were with the guides listed above. I have photos of 350+ species, almost double the number I had at the beginning of 2007.

So for a summary of 2007, I’ll present my 10 favorite bird photos, my best butterfly and dragonfly photos and a non-wildlife photo. Some of these have been in previous bulletins, and some are shown for the first time. But, they all are special to me.

There are 3 reasons a photo might be special for me. The first is that rare time when a photo may transcend the snapshot and become a work of art. As these are all shot in the field and not staged, it doesn’t happen often. Usually I only appreciate it when I see it on the replay in camera or on the computer. Here are 3 that come close to ‘birds as art’ as Arthur Morris describes.

The Wandering Tattler in non-breeding plumage is a handsome gray bird with yellow legs. But what makes the photo special for me, is dark blue Pacific Ocean background.

The Vermilion Flycatcher is the most beautiful flycatcher in the ABA area. I photographed this male in the Rio Grande valley of Texas in October. This is a simple uncluttered photo with only 3 colors.

The third is this Burrowing Owl who spent last winter near Galveston. He became quite tame and approachable as many birders went to see him. I caught him here after an all day rain. He was sitting up in the sun to try and dry out. The background complements his big yellow eyes.

The second reason a photo is special for me is just a beautiful bird or a rare bird that I discovered and was just excited to find the bird. The next 5 photos are in this category.

This juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper was a life bird for me. I found him poking around the washed up kelp on Carmel River beach in California. What was unusual was that this bird is a rarity in California, but common in Texas. Yet I had never seen it in 17 years in Texas.

Spring brings millions of songbirds through Texas on their way north to their breeding grounds. Many are very colorful – warblers, tanagers, orioles and finches. My favorite photo from this spring was this Indigo Bunting in a mulberry tree. He is as blue on the underside as on top!

Hummingbirds are a family of birds that I love. This fledgling Allen’s Hummingbird in California was still showing some downy feathers.

This Buff-bellied Hummingbird is famous, as he is on the Houston Audubon Society web site.

I was photographing some swallows perched on a low wire in Carmel, when the pair on Tree Swallows mated. This mating lasted only about 10 seconds, but because I was already on target, I captured the moment. I have never seen any other passerines mating before or since.

The third reason a photograph is special is when the bird has allowed me to approach very closely. It is wonderful to gain the trust of a wild animal like this and to be allowed within its comfort zone.

I photographed this Common Loon (aka Great Northern Diver in Europe) 2 weeks ago at the Texas City dike. This large 32” bird was always a childhood favorite of mine growing up in Canada. Its haunting call at night can never be forgotten. Anyway, this bird was close to shore and allowed me to approach to within 20 feet. Thus the eye color and pupil was seen, as well as individual water droplets on his back. Normally, loons are seen at great distances of 40 – 50 yards or more.

This Hermit Thrush was a winter resident of my yard last year. It was the first time I had seen this bird in Texas. He came to the bird bath every morning between 7:30 and 8:00 am. Then he would join the cardinals and doves on the ground under the feeders. I took many photos of him over several months, but this one had him right outside the kitchen window at eye level. I went outside and gradually moved to within 15 feet which is the closest I can use with the 500mm lens. He is also a famous HAS gallery bird.

I started taking photos of butterflies and dragonflies when the birding slowed down during the summer months. This was a whole new challenge to capture these tiny creatures ‘on film’.

This is a Gulf Fritillary on a passion vine flower. Thanks to Chris LaChance for IDing the flower for me.

The best dragonfly photo was the female Four-spotted Pennant. It was the only photo I got that showed all 3 pairs of legs holding onto the perch. It was a very windy day in Galveston when I took the photo.

However, the photograph this year that I liked the best, and received the most comments from observers was my Carmel Cross. It is sunrise at Carmel River beach. When people exclaim ‘You took this?’ or ‘It sends chills up my spine!’, I know that I have created something special. It is also the photograph that I get asked the most for prints.

I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy Birding,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2007 David McDonald

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