Michael's Rediscovery of Nature

Ramblings and observations of a former biologist and a lifelong naturalist, who has recently returned to his roots in east Texas. After a many years of working from coast to coast in an industry far removed from biology, it has been a pleasant change of geography, activity, and attitude. No stressful job decked out in a three piece suit. No city living. Instead there is a rediscovery of the woods, of something scurrying through the leaves, of the clear notes of a bird call, and of reliving the joy that I had when nature was a playground and a classroom.

NANPAMichael is an active member of the Cypress Basin Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist.  Originally from Newsome, Texas (Between Pittsburg and Winnsboro), educated in Dallas & Garland schools, then off to the University of Texas system where he received a degree in biology and worked as a biologist with the University of Texas system. After many years away from nature and biology, he recently relocated on the banks of Lake O' the Pines where he has been rediscovering the joys of nature. He is somewhat surprised that he has become a birder. Most of his interest in nature was centered around reptiles. Perhaps just like birds evolved from reptiles starting in the late Jurassic, he has begun his own evolution. During his formal education his interests in biology/nature grew to include community ecology and population studies, all with a binding of evolutionary processes. He liked birds, but they were secondary at best. All at once he finds them fascinating.

Going From "Nice picture" to OH! My gosh! That's beautiful!"

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For most of us self-taught photographers, there is a considerable learning curve as we begin to learn how to take "good" pictures. We normally progress a little at a time as we learn about exposure, light, composition, and increase our knowledge of behavior whether that be of people or animals, depending on our favored subject.  We progress to taking "good" pictures that others do occasionally admire. This often leads to a  plateau of competence. We continue taking "good" pictures and there is gradual, slight improvement as we learn more. But then, for some, there is a giant leap. All at once the pictures go for "good" to soaring to a whole new level. 

How fast we go through the process is highly variable with each individual and their circumstances. There are some who progress in a matter of a year or two; others take many years; and, of course, some never make the transition. 

Now, I do want to make something clear here. I am talking about self-taught photographers. Whether that means reading photography how-to books, watching YouTube videos, or just shooting and shooting pictures. There is a different curve for those who have more formal training. With formal photography education, there are certain steps that are taken and it naturally includes the factor that allows photographers to go to the next level of success.  Success being defined as taking exceptional photos. 

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Spring in the Lost and Found Box

Carolina Wren

Eastern Kingbird

Great Blue Heron

Brown-headed Cowbird

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker

Diamondback Watersnake

Northern Cardinal

We had a big storm blow through the Lake O' the Pines area last night. For a while, the winds were rather fierce accompanied by a drumming rain that brought a bit of hail and just ...
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Appreciating Spring Can't be Done on the Computer

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With the arrival of Spring, even after not much of a winter, my life changes. I am not crazy about being inside all the time anyway, but with Spring, it is all I can do to spend any time inside. After all, how many Springs do we have in our lifetimes? Maybe 70 good ones (taking away a few from when we are too young to appreciate them)? When you have a bunch of Springs behind you already, you sure don't want to miss any of the ones that are left.

It has been a busy Spring for me, but I have managed to get out and enjoy it. In keeping with that thought, I am not going to spend a great deal of time typing away here. Instead, let me share some of the photos that I have taken this Spring.

 American Robin

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Why Are My Red Squirrels Turning Black?

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As I am want to do, I recently moved my RV to a new site. This time it is on the banks of Lone Star Lake only ten miles or so from the spot on Lake O' the Pines where I had been for quite a while. 

This relatively short move revealed a lot of changes in the wildlife. Of course, at the old location, I was closer to some rather remote woods (a few hundred yards away in two directions). Here, it is more of a residential area. I knew there would be some differences with the wildlife that I was used to seeing and, indeed, there were some major changes.

In particular, there were far fewer birds, although it turned out that there are as many species, including some that I see here and didn't see there; and vice versa. The numbers are very different. Here, it is unusual to have more than ten birds at a time on my feeders (eight of them out right now) and before, that would be very few, dozens were more likely. 

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Rainy Winter Day But the Birds Didn't Care

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The weatherman was wrong again. It was supposed to be over 70 degrees and lots of sunshine for at least most of the day. Well, the sun was out for a bit but then the clouds blew in. We didn't get anywhere near 70 degrees. Luckily the birds didn't care.  

Kristi Thomas and I, accompanied by fellow naturalist, Mickie Moore, and nine other who were mostly members of the Tyler Audubon Group, hit Lake O' the Pines on a pontoon boat. While these birding trips are always geared towards finding as many species of birds as we can, some of us were more interested in the Bald Eagle's nest and what was going on there. Of course, all the other birding was always fun and this was an exceptional day. Not only did we see over 30 species, it seemed that many didn't mind posing for us. 

Here are some of the photographs that I took today. 

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