Posts Tagged ‘birds’

The Butterfly

One morning, Hannah led me to a butterfly floating in the cat’s water bowl. “Can we save it?” she asked. “I want to keep it for a pet.” Doubtful as to a successful outcome, I replied, “We’ll see.”

I scooped up the butterfly with a slotted spoon, careful not to to touch it’s water-saturated wings. We watched it for some time, until Hannah’s sharp, four-year-old eyes detected an almost imperceptible quiver of it’s body. “See, it’s alive!” she proclaimed. It trembled again, and I cautiously agreed, “Yes, but I don’t know if it will ever fly again.”

Hannah held the spoon close to her t-shirt. With drooping, useless wings, the butterfly crawled from the spoon, and clung weakly to her shirt. “I’m going to take care of my pet butterfly,” she stated confidently. Throughout the morning, I checked on the pair. “Oh, it’s watching television with me!” Hannah exclaimed. Later, I observed the butterfly, now with properly folded wings, as Hannah read a book, and dressed and swaddled her dolls. The butterfly was well-behaved during lunch.

In the early afternoon, Hannah called out, “Mom, my butterfly wants to fly!” Sure enough, the butterfly, still clinging to her shirt, was methodically pumping it’s wings up and down in a flying motion. I explained that it would be difficult to keep alive in the house, and it needed to be outdoors so that it could find some lunch.

In the front yard, Hannah offered a finger to her pet. It perched there for a several minutes, continuing to try out its wings. Finally, it took off, and began a rather wobbly ascent. We waved, and called out blessings as it flew ever-higher. “Have a good life!” “We love you!” “You’re a special butterfly!”

While still in the midst of bidding good-bye to the winged beauty, I detected a fast-flying mockingbird out of the corner of my right eye. In a matter of seconds, the mockingbird gobbled the butterfly for lunch.

Hannah and I turned to face each other in disbelief. Her upturned face also held a question for me: “How does one respond to a situation like this?” Quickly, I realized that I had been handed an opportunity to teach a life-truth.

As we watched the mockingbird fly to a nearby tree, I explained that God has a plan and a purpose for everything. Long ago, He planned that all living creatures would need to eat lunch, and that the mockingbird needed to eat. We discussed that although it didn’t seem fair that our cat ate beautiful cardinals, and that our dog ate the cute toads in the backyard, God still had a plan, and it was a good plan.

We thanked God that He feeds mockingbirds and people. As we walked back into the house, Hannah and I rejoiced that a butterfly had made itself at home on her shirt for an entire morning.


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Cardinalis cardinalis

Texas Hill Country resident, Howard Cheek, recently won The Nature Conservancy’s third annual photo contest. His winning photo of a female cardinal making a water-hole landing in his backyard was one of 14,000 entries from around the world. Capturing Mrs. Cardinal descending for a drink was the result of patience, planning, and considerable skill on the part of the photographer.

View this outstanding photo of a female cardinal here, (may take several seconds to load), or wait for the Nature Conservancy’s 2010 calendar which will feature the photograph.

Reading the description of the incredible process involved to take such a remarkable photo helped me understand why my bird photographs fall mostly into the below average category. ūüôā

Very poor picture taken through the glass back door of Mr. Cardinal.  He visits my patio daily, and is such a delight.

Very poor picture taken through the glass door of Mr. Cardinal. He visits my patio daily, and is such a delight.

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While rummaging in our picture files recently, I found my second grade class picture. Standing at the back of the class is my teacher, Madge Stephenson, who nicknamed me “Angel Blue Eyes.” I am on the far right side, third row from the rear.

An Internet search revealed Madge Stephenson’s obituary. She was born on Christmas eve, 1920, and grew up on a farm in Eddy, Texas. She attended Texas College for Women in Denton, Texas, and received a Masters Degree in Education. During World War II, ¬†she served four years as a Medical Laboratory Technician. After an honorable discharge, she began a new career as a elementary school teacher in Corpus Christi, and taught for 32 years. Ms. Stephenson died in 2001, in Temple, Texas.

It was interesting to read that she had served in World War II.¬† Ms. Stephenson established clear boundaries for classroom behavior. One girl, in response to Ms. Stephenson’s firmness, vomited outside the classroom door every morning for weeks.¬† Mom witnessed the vomiting, and heard talk of some parents who were dissatisfied with Ms. Stephenson’s firm demeanor.¬† Mom checked with me to see if I had a problem with my teacher.¬†¬† I was “Angel Blue Eyes,” and had no problems whatsoever.

Stapled to the bulletin board are posters of backyard birds.  I recall studying those pictures, and feeling proud that I could  identify all the birds.

Montclair Elementary School, 1964-65 001
Wow, I count 32 second graders.  I remember most of their names.

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Haliaeetus leucocephalus x 2

These remarkable pictures and commentary arrived via email. Various Internet sites have identified the professional photographer as Gary Wheeler of Lake Tapps, Washington, and the “duck” as an American Coot.

Thanks, Mr. Wheeler, for the incredible story-telling photographs!

“I was walking along the shore of Lake Tapps on Monday, and noticed a big commotion a little more than 1/4-mile away (as measured later by Google Earth). I saw a Bald Eagle circling and repeatedly diving on what I thought must be a school of fish. Soon he was joined by another Eagle and they began to fight each other for the prey. Territorial Eagle fights do happen, but I’ve never seen one, nor have I seen any good photos…

Naturally, I grabbed my camera. The action was so furious and far away that it was hard to see if I was getting any good photos. So I just snapped lots pics and hoped for the best. I didn’t quite realize what I was watching, until I got home and looked at the pics on my computer. It turned out I had photographed a three-way life & death struggle between two mature Bald Eagles fighting over one very frightened duck! The Eagles fought each other for several minutes while trying to get that duck! It was like WWIII in the air!

All these pics were taken hand-held with my Panasonic FZ-28 at 18X zoom which is 486mm. All pics were taken on Intelligent Automatic which is just point-and-shoot. I had previously selected okay up to ISO=400 and it was a bright day, which is as good way to force the shutter speed to 1/500 sec. to 1/1000 sec. for all the shots even though the camera performed everything automatically.

Most of the images were cropped to a small fraction of their original size which effectively multiplies that Optical Focal Length of 486mm by the ratio of: original image width √∑ cropped image width. The action was over 1/4-mile away, and I ended up with effective Focal Lengths of well over 1,000mm for half the pics shown here, so they are not up to my normal standards of image quality. Nevertheless, they are exciting and tell quite a story…

Enjoy, Gary

pic12The fellow sitting on the tailgate of his pickup truck never realized the show he was missing. (620 mm effective Focal Length)

pic21The little duck watches as the Eagle speeds straight at him at about 40 mph. (760 mm effective Focal Length)

pic32With perfect timing, the duck always dove and escaped with as mighty splash! Then he’d pop to the surface as soon as the Eagle flew past. This was repeated over and over for several minutes. I worried the poor duck would tire and that would be the end of him. (1,040 mm effective Focal Length)

pic43A second Eagle joins the attack! The duck kept diving “just in time”, so the Eagles began to dive into the water after him! (1,150 mm effective Focal Length)

pic5After several minutes the Eagles got frustrated and began to attack each other. They soon began to dive vertically, level out, and attack head-on in a good old-fashioned game of high-speed “Chicken”. Sometimes they banked away from each other at the last possible second. Other times they’d climb vertically and tear into each other while falling back toward the water. (The duck catches his breath at the right side of this picture.) (900 mm effective Focal Length)

pic6A terrible miscalculation! The luckiest shot of my life catches this 100 mph head-on collision between two Bald Eagles. (1,320 mm effective Focal Length)

pic7One Eagle stayed aloft and flew away, but the other lies motionless in a crumpled heap. The lucky duck survived to live another day. (486 mm effective Focal Length)

pic8It’s sad to watch an Eagle drown. He wiggled, flapped and struggled mostly underwater. He finally got his head above water and with great difficulty managed to get airborne. To my astonishment, he flew straight toward me, and it was the most wretched and unstable bird flight I’ve ever seen! (620 mm effective Focal Length)

pic9 The bedraggled Eagle circled me once – then lit atop a nearby fir tree. He had a six-foot wingspread and looked mighty angry. I was concerned that I might be his next target, but he was so exhausted he just stared at me. Then I wondered if he would topple to the ground. As he tried to dry his feathers, it seemed to me that this beleaguered Eagle symbolized America in its current trials. (1,200 mm effective Focal Length)

pic10My half-hour wait was rewarded with this marvelous sight. He flew away, almost good as new. May America recover as well. (1,400 mm effective Focal Length)”

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Charadrius vociferus

Walking across the parking lot to church the last few Sundays has been a noisy experience. Dozens of killdeer repeatedly cried out kill-DEEE as we walked near the fields that are their nesting habitat.

The first killdeer I ever saw was in Corpus Christi when I was about seven years old. I was concerned about the bird that for several days had hobbled a few yards in front of me, dragging its wing as if wounded, until Dad explained that the bird was pretending to be injured in order to lead me away from its nest. I searched for the nest but never found it, not understanding how well the eggs would blend into the surroundings.

I took these pictures in Austin last year, and was practically on top of the nest before I spied the eggs.

Four eggs camouflaged in a stoney scrape.

I was quick about inspecting these beautiful eggs because the parents put on such a show. They did it all: pretended to have crippled wings, loudly called kill-DEEE, and generally ran around frantically.


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I cannot help but smile a happy smile when I see the picture of these Eastern bluebirds. Aunt Margaret photographed the pair at her house last March. They were waiting at the window to be fed when she arrived home from church, one rare snowy Sunday.

Aunt Margaret and Uncle Bob fed bluebirds at their farm for years. They were surprised, however, when the happy birds showed up and hung around their city residence. My theory is that the country bluebirds told their city cousins how to train these two humans to provide a mealworm feast each and every day. Aunt Margaret says that a container of 5000 mealworms from Grubco.com will feed bluebird vistors, several Carolina wrens, and a mockingbird or two for three to four months.

Dad observed that Hugo is “overrun with birds,” while my Katy neighborhood is bird deprived (with the exception of pine warblers). He is keeping an eye on my offerings of black oil sunflower seeds, and mealworms from his bedroom window, and reports that nary a bird has stopped by. That’s ok. I’ll just keep smiling at this bluebird picture until their suburban cousins discover my backyard.

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Goin’ on a Truck Ride

Now here is a bird story that you gotta love. . .¬† Hannah’s Grandpa Mac sent this story to her, and¬† we want to share this tale of friendship.

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