Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bulletin #99 – 2009 in review

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
January 4, 2010

Bulletin #99 – 2009 in review

Hello friends,

2009 has been another exciting year for me. I also gave my first talk on photography, which as someone who has been doing photography seriously for only 4 years, I find amazing.

At the suggestion of the webmaster for the Houston Audubon Society, I started a blog, in which I post these bulletins online. Thus they are available on Google and other search engines. I have a gadget on the site with a map showing where the hits are coming from. I have received hits from 46 countries in my first year. On the Pbase photo web site, I had 128,000 hits in 2009 or about 300/day.

The obvious ones are the usual countries you would associate with birders (USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and most of western Europe). I have also received hits from Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, which with a growing middle class, also not surprising. But how about Turkey, Cyprus, Namibia, Ghana, Kenya, Iran, Iraq (?US serviceman), and Croatia?

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. I have tried to add new items such as a book review in Bulletin #96 and a quiz in the same issue. If you have any suggestions that would make these bulletins more interesting to you, please let me know.

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.

· Melody Kehl in Tucson, Arizona. Her email is here
Her web site is here.
· Darrell Vollert in Chappell Hill, TX. His email is here.
His web site is here.
· Matt Brown in Patagonia, Arizona. His email is here.
His web site is here.
· Rick Greenspun in Sarasota, Florida. His email is here.
His web site is here.

I have now seen 1370 world species of birds with 42 lifers in 2009. I have photos of 531 species, an increase of almost 80 species in 2009. It required 2 trips to Arizona, and 1 each to Florida, Maine, the Rio Grande valley of Texas, and west Texas and Big Bend National Park, as well as many local excursions. There are another 150 or so birds to photograph just in the USA and Canada, but they will require trips further afield. I will be busy in 2010 , and have several trips planned already to look for and photograph those remaining target birds.

So for a summary of 2009, I’ll present my 10 favorite bird photos of the year, 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.

Owls have become a favorite subject of mine due to their flat faces and thus mammalian looking eyes that look directly at you (I call them Mona Lisa eyes). I first discovered this with a Burrowing Owl in Texas 2 years ago.

On the Rio Grande Valley trip, I went to San Miguelito Ranch where Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls nest and can be easily seen. Contact owner Leticia Tijerina by email or phone 956-369-3118 to arrange a visit.

Also at the ranch, I photographed this sleeping Barn Owl. He appears to be leaning against a post.

Spring migration along the upper Texas coast produced some great warbler photos. It is so hard to catch these small hyperactive birds for any photo, but to find them on a bare branch with a nice uncluttered background is very uncommon and takes a lot of time and patience.

Here is a Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorus) with his striped head.

The next is a Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica). He also posed out on a bare branch.

Another reason a photo would be special for me is the rarity of the bird and the time I spent to find and photo it. The next 3 fall into this category.

On the trip to the Rio Grande Valley in February 2009, there were several Mexican strays that had been present at various refuges. Each of these birds were the only bird of their species in the USA at the time. The first was a Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae) at Estero Llano Grande State Park. I went with a park guide and we found the bird and I got several photos. Here is the best.

The other bird took almost a full day of walking around Frontera Audubon Sanctuary in Weslaco. Finally at dusk, the local guide came out and found the bird for us. Here is the female Crimson-collared Grosbeak (Rhodothraupis celaeno).

The Colima Warbler (Vermivora crissalis) is only present in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park in west Texas. To see the bird requires a strenuous 8 hour hike to about 7200 feet from base at 5400 feet on a 12 mile trail. We saw about a dozen birds, but they stayed pretty well hidden in the leafy trees. Finally I got a good photo with the last bird of the day. I won't have to drag the camera around the trail again.

I like all birds of course, but some bird families are special for me. One of these is the hummingbirds. These beautiful living jewels can be quite pugnacious in defending their territory or feeder. I still have 3 coming to my feeder, a Buff-bellied, a male Ruby-throated and a female Black-chinned. The Buff-bellied has taken up residence in the wilted hibiscus off the patio, and he seems to have driven off the smaller male Rufous that had been there. I haven't seen the Rufous in about 6 days.

So here are some of my favorite hummingbird photos of 2009.
Click on the link to see the photos. The first 2 were in my yard recently and the rest in Arizona in June.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, White-eared Hummingbird, Berylline Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Broad-billed Hummingbird.

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

David McDonald

photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

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