East Texas Naturalist Blog

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Pelicans have arrived on Lake O' the Pines!

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All of them, dreary photos, really, except when you consider the subject matter and that this means we wll soon be seeing these massive birds overhead.  They will be on the "big" lake and in the creeks and channels. On sunny days and against a blue sky, they will create one of the most impressive sights you will ever see.  They will commingle with Double-crested Cormorants, herding fish together, all the while looking like great big pillows.  I am so happy that they are back!

This morning, as I made a pass through Lakeside before the sun came up, I did a double-take toward Hurricane Creek bridge.  I had to get my binoculars to confirm that what I first thought might be a small white boat was actually four American White Pelicans!  A little later overhead, I saw the familiar spiral pattern as a huge pod of pelicans circled overhead.  This is the earilest I have ever seen them on Lake O' the Pines.  This is not to say that they haven't arrived this early, but it does seem that every year I spot them earlier than the previous year. 

Great news, this, because they will be on the lake and at Caddo through this winter and close to April. When you stop to think about it, we get to enjoy them nearly half the year, and their arrival always signals the ascent into fall temperatures and turning leaves.  Winter won't be too far behind, but I believe that the sight of these beautiful birds floating on the chilly waters will make it easier to endure any inconvenient trade-offs that Mother Nature might bring. Keep your eyes peeled and get your cameras ready for some fantasic photo opportunities!  

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Eaglet Update - It's Getting to be That Time Again!

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I came across this photo the other day of an immature from about this time last year, spreading its wings and soaring over Lake O' the Pines.  

They've been here all along, but as cool, crisp temperatures arrive, we will be getting out on the lake more, and as all biridng activity picks up, there will be opportunities for more sightings.  Up close and personal sightings - not just the quick fly-bys of late.  

As I was crossing Alley Creek one day last week, seemingly out of nowhere a mature eagle flew from one side of the bridge to the other; I pulled over and watched as he circled the upper end.  In Lakeside Park another day, there was a huge Bald Eagle sitting in the once flourishing - but now very dead after the high water - pine tree at the end of the point by the Opsrey tower.  When the tree was alive and healthy, this was a favorite lookout for many birds, but most notably for eagles.  For years I would look there first, but it seemed like as the needles died, only the woodpeckers cared to frequent the branches.  I had gotten out of the habit of checking this tree, and this just goes to show that if you keep your eyes open, you never know what you'll see or where you'll see it.  Wow, and isn't that all just part of the beauty of nature? 

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Eaglet Update - Elusive Sightings

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The Bald Eagle population, including immatures, is definitely active on Lake O' the Pines as we near fall.  We haven't been able to get shots from the water this past rainy month because of the obvious, including those  random outbursts that we've had almost daily. I can attest that there is activity because every time I've had a chance to go on foot to Lakeside Park, Alley Creek, or Hurricane Creek during this time, I've spotted at least one eagle.  From land, they are typically more evasive, so I have lots and lots of hurried shots as they navigate themselves to a place on the lake where I am not.   

One misty morning last week, I got a very distant photo of an immature eagle fishing in Hurricane Creek from Lakeside. They have a way of flying when hunting that is unmistakable.  It was too far away to be a decent image, but it did my heart good to see those massive wings beat above the water, circle, then go down for that split-second grab. Get ready. We have a lot to look forward to this fall around Lake O' the Pines.  

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Who Do I Bill For My Self-imposed Photo Assignments?

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I have decided to create some self-imposed photo assignments for myself.  The whole reason for it is that we learn better when we are pushed a bit. Right now when I go take photos, I am an equal opportunity photographer. My aim may to see what birds are out or to look for butterflies. I likely start out with my telephoto in my hands. However, as I amble about, I may see bees around a nice flower and so my aim changes. I put on my Micro lens and may pull out my flash for fill light. Then I may see a delicate mushroom pushing through the moist earth. Then, I am down on my hands and knees or, sometimes, flat on my stomach to make the shot. When I walk a little further, I may crest a hill and there is a beautiful view of the lake and the piney woods behind it. So, then I am slipping on my wide angle and digging out my polarizer filter. I adjust to whatever the situation may require. So, is that a bad way to go taking pictures? Not at all. I love doing that and it is why I burden myself down with so many pieces of equipment on my walks.

These days, I am most likely to be walking with my 200-500 mm lens mounted on my main camera. Often, I have it mounted on my tripod and carry it over my shoulder. There are times, though when birds (or other subjects) are active and I may need to make some fast shots. Then I will have my camera in my hands and the tripod on a shoulder sling. In my holster is my second camera and it will usually have the 105 mm Micro lens attached. I can quickly pull it out of the holster when needed. In another pouch, I may have my 18-300 mm zoom or my 14 mm wide angle. In my pockets, I will likely have my flash, a 1.4 tele-converter, a remote shutter release, some filters (polarizer, ND. . . ), memory cards, extra battery and a few cleaning supplies (brush, micro cloth).

That is my "normal" gear. It does vary depending on what I am thinking about photographing. For example, if I am purposely going to be doing macro, then I might add a ring light, knee pads, reflector/diffuser, etc. With this gear, I am ready for most situations. Whatever pops up, flies over, crawls by or magically appears, I am equipped to get a decent shot.

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Eaglet Update - Trying to Stay Cool over Lake O' the Pines

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Trudging in to the backside of Lakeside Park over the weekend, gear in tow. . . I hear the WHOOSH of a pair of very large wings.  Without a second to spare, I am able to grab my camera and get a shot of an immature Bald Eagle as it flies from the tree, sails over Brushy Creek, and crosses over the top of the dam.  High in the frame though it is, I was just lucky to get a focused image.  Can I be sure that it is one of the eaglets we watched as hatchlings to fledglings earlier this year?  No.  Do I believe that it probably is?  Yes!  

We were able to check the island where the nest is last week, and saw one of the parents hiding in the shade of the pine needles.  This insufferable heat is apparently hard on our feathered friends, too.  They are not any more likely than we are to be baking in the hot afternoon sun.  As we watched for a minute, I caught a glimpse of an immature eagle in the dense pine thicket.  As the heat lets up and we transition to fall and all the blessings that come with that marvelous time of year - cooler days being only one of them - I believe we will see our first-year eaglets, Liberty and Freedom, as they soar over this beautiful body of water we are so privileged to call home.  Bring it on.  

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