Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bulletin #62 – 2008 in review

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
December 31, 2008

Bulletin #62 – 2008 in review

Hello friends,

2008 has been an exciting year for me in the field of photography. I have had the first show of my bird photos at the Houston Arboretum and 3 of the prints were selected to be included in their fundraising auction last April.

At the suggestion of the webmaster for the Houston Audubon Society, I got a Pbase website. I post the photos from the bulletins as well as other bird photos that I describe on Texbirds. This web site has generated over 80,000 hits this year! The power of the Internet is astounding. This web site provides daily totals of hits, and my maximum was over 5000 last July after I posted the photos from the South Padre Island pelagic trip that I went on.

Thanks to all of you who receive my reports and photos. I receive several comments after each bulletin is emailed and I appreciate that you take the time to comment.

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
· Darrell Vollert in Chappell Hill, TX. His email is
· Matt Brown in Patagonia AZ. His email is

I have now seen 1328 world species of birds with 35 lifers in 2008. I have photos of 460 species, an increase of just over 100 in 2008. It required 3 California trips, trips to Arizona, Austin Texas and the Rio Grande valley of Texas and 2 pelagic (offshore) seabird trips as well as many local excursions. There are another 200 or so birds to photograph just in the USA and Canada, but they will require trips further afield. I will be busy in 2009 and hopefully will have many more photos to send along.

So for a summary of 2008, I’ll present my 10 favorite bird photos, and some others. 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 several 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. They all have uncluttered backgrounds that would detract from the subject.

The first is a male Wood Duck. This was taken in Hermann Park in downtown Houston. This city park has a large pond that attracts wintering ducks. Because of the people around constantly, one can get close to the birds and get good photos.

The second is another photo from the park, the Ring-necked Duck.

The last is a Western Grebe. This bird was photographed at Moss Landing harbor in California. This elegant looking black and white bird with a bright red eye against the dark blue makes it interesting for me.

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 photos are in this category.

The famous endangered Spotted Owl is one of those rare birds that it is a pleasure to find and be able to photograph. Matt Brown, my guide in SE AZ had found where a pair of these birds were roosting in the mountains and we hiked up to the location. The birds were perhaps 50-60 feet away and filled the picture. I had to turn the camera vertically for this photo to get the whole bird in the frame. This was a life bird.

The next is a Blackburnian Warbler. The male of this species with his orange, black and white coloration is one of my favorite warblers. They are relatively uncommon in spring migration here compared to other warbler species. This was my third spring to attempt to get a good close-up and I succeeded at High Island TX. This photo was chosen to be on the cover of Houston Audubon Society 2008 annual report.

I came across this majestic Sandhill Crane in Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. He was perhaps 50 feet away when I saw him from the car. I stopped and got my camera out. Instead of flying off, he just started walking casually away from me, allowing the opportunity for this photo.

This Great Crested Flycatcher was photographed at High Island TX during spring migration. I like these interesting photos with some action such as eating a berry or bug. This bird had just plucked a large red mulberry to eat, when I saw him.

Next is another flycatcher. The Black Phoebe is a western USA bird that is another favorite of mine. It is simply elegant with its black and white coloration. I found this bird along the shore at Monterey California. He was darting of this perch to catch bugs. He was 15’ away at eye level, the ideal height for a ‘professional’ wildlife photo.

The Least Bittern is the smallest and most secretive of all the heron family of birds in the USA. They nest in Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge outside of Houston, but even then are hard to see in the dense reeds, unless they venture to the edge of the vegetation. This bird was one of my targets birds last summer, so I spent 3 days at the refuge waiting and hoping. Finally I was rewarded when this bird actually flew up to the top of the reeds about 15 feet from me and allowed multiple pictures. This is my favorite. He is a beautiful bird, but even most birders have not seen him this well.

The last bird is the Nashville Warbler. This bird is quite uncommon on the Upper Texas coast, but is seen more commonly during fall migration. I had a poor photo from 2007, and was hoping to improve on it in 2008. During my trip to the Sierra Mountains in northern California, I spent about 2 hours trying to get a close-up photo of this bird without success. Then during fall migration, while having supper on our screened porch, I saw a pair of them land in the bird bath. I got my photo, and was rewarded when this photo was featured on the Houston Audubon Society web site as bird of the week.

Another nature photo that I liked from 2008 were these hibernating Monarch Butterflies in Pacific Grove CA.

The 2nd is this head on photo of a Virginia Opossum. I like his pink nose and Mickey Mouse like black ears.

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

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy Birding,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2008 David McDonald

No comments: