Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bulletin 248 - Best of 10 years #11 - others

This is my final episode in the series as I looked back at my first 10 years of bird and nature photography. Obviously birds are my passion, but I will also shoot other subjects that interest me. Each photo brings back a pleasant memory as I can recall exactly where I was when I took the photo and usually at least the year, if not the month I took it.

Most of these will be mammals, but they are few and far between to see while out in the daytime looking for birds. Squirrels and deer are about the only subjects that one can reliably find.

First is a newborn Northern Raccoon. Normally, raccoons live in hollow trees and a mother will have her babies there. Well this mother had her babies on a pile of reeds at Anahuac NWR. Fortunately for us observers, it was right below a boardwalk. This was on 4/1/2006 in my first 4 months of photography and I had gone to Anahuac for spring migration. I was hoping that I would watch the babies grow over the next few weeks, but of course by next weekend she had moved them to a hidden location. This is one of the 2 most memorable photos of that first year. 

Northern Raccoon - newborn
And here is mother holding one of the babies close to her. The tenderness of the maternal instinct of all animals is innate and a joy to behold.

Northern Raccoon - mother and baby
Striped Skunks are very common, but nocturnal. I have only seen one in the 10 years. It was Jan 2, 2010 as I was leaving Anahuac NWR in the late afternoon. I saw this skunk walking along the shoulder of the road. I turned around and drove past him in the direction he was walking. I wanted a memorable photo so I sat on the grass to get to his eye level. When I looked at the photos, I realized that he didn't have any white stripes down his back, just the white crown on his head. I posted 2 of the photos with the caption 'Striped Skunk without stripes!'. The first had his nose sniffing the ground, but in this one, I think he caught my scent and was looking around. This photo has had 4250 'hits' , the most of any of the 4000 photos on my pbase web site. It was also honored by being selected for the 50th anniversary of Anahuac NWR book in 2104.

Striped Skunk - without stripes

A trip to Alaska with the Texas Ornithology Society in the summer of 2010 produced several notable large mammal photos. The first is a Humpback Whale, while we were on a pelagic trip. We got close enough that when he breached, I was able to clearly see the barnacles on his lower jaw.

Humpback Whale
Also on that pelagic trip we encountered a Black Bear on a cliff who was looking for eggs in seabird nests among a field of flowers. I had seen this species a few times before, but this is the only one I have photographed.

Black Bear
This is the only Grizzly Bear I have ever seen and he came walking right past the van we were in. This picture was taken from inside the vehicle, when he was about 100 feet away.

Grizzly Bear
The members of the dog family are seldom seen, except for coyotes which I have photographed a couple of times. I have never seen any wolf. I have seen a Red Fox 3 times and photographed twice. This one on the Alaska trip is my best 'dog' photo.

Red Fox
Pronghorns are related to deer and antelope, but are in a separate family of their own. I have only seen them 3 times. On a trip to Big Bend National Park in April 2009, we had a pair quite close to the road. They have very colorful rufous and white markings and the pink flowers add a bit of art to the picture.

My trips to the tropics have produced a couple of favorite photos. In Panama in Feb 2014, we had a troop of Mantled Howler Monkeys stop right above the car. We watched and photographed them for about 20 minutes. I call this one 'Chilling Out'.

Mantled Howler Monkey
Chilling Out
Well if dogs are hard to find, seeing cats in the wild (outside of Africa) is almost a lost cause. I have only seen 2 species. I saw a bobcat 3 times in my life and got a distant photo once. So this Puma (aka Cougar, Mountain Lion) on my Costa Rica trip at Easter 2015 was the most amazing wildlife experience ever. To have this big cat just lying in the woods 60 feet away was unreal. We watched him for 20 minutes along with many other lucky people who happened to be at La Selva that day.

La Selva, Costa Rica

Monarch Butterflies are known for their incredible migration. Pacific Grove outside Monterey, California hosts a colony of hibernating monarchs from west of the Rockies. All the ones east of the mountains go to Mexico for the winter. I took several photos of the skeins of monarchs in February 2008. Some of these butterflies have tags on them to measure their travels. This is my second most viewed photo, after the skunk above, with 1800 hits.

Monarch Butterfly hibernation
Pacific Grove, CA
I am not good with flowers as I don't photograph them often. However, beginners luck on the same day as the raccoon newborn produced my favorite flower photo and the other favorite from the first year. Imagine, the 2 best photos from a whole year were just several hours apart. What are the odds of that? This is apparently a False Indigo, as best as I can tell. It was also selected for the Anahuac book in a full page spread.

False Indigo
The last is the only non-nature photo that I consider a favorite. Carmel, CA is a favorite vacation spot and there is a small wetland at the Carmel River mouth and beach where I would frequently go birding. One morning in 2007, there was not much happening bird wise, so I looked up towards the sun rising over the trees and saw this cross on a hill. I thought it would be neat to have the yellow sun with bright blue sky behind the cross. I had to position the tripod several times and of course, looking straight at the sun wasn't a great idea. So I would move the camera slightly and quickly take a glance. I snapped several photos. When I got back to the hotel and looked at the photos, it was extremely overexposed, but, the error is amazing and several friends have asked for copies to hang in their homes.

Carmel Cross

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2016 David McDonald

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