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 a former biologist and  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 relocated to 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.

I Saw the Greatest Nature Show Ever (And Not on TV)

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I have always been a big fan of nature shows on TV. My DVR records them daily. This morning I got to see the greatest nature show that I've ever seen. My DVR didn't record this one, but it is recorded where it will never be forgotten.

Many of my mornings start sitting in a comfortable chair about thirty feet from the edge of Lone Star Lake, my binoculars on my chest, a cup of coffee on the picnic table beside me, and my camera in my lap. It certainly was not an ideal morning for photography with cloudy, overcast skies but you can't choose the weather. 

This morning I was watching as a couple of Double-crested Cormorants flew by. Then the season's first American Coots showed up. The usual neighborhood birds were feeding on my feeders and calling from all around.

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Birding is HOT During the Summer - Is that a cliche?

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Summer is not really the most popular time for birding in East Texas. There are likely two reasons for that.

First and not surprisingly, East Texas summers are HOT. That definitely affects us birders. It really is not quite as much fun to get out in the woods when the temperature is in the 90's and the humidity close to the steam setting. 

The second factor is due to the birds themselves. By the time that the summer heat arrives, the Spring migrators have mostly gone further north, leaving just the local species - the ones that we are mostly used to seeing. Of course, they aren't crazy about the heat either.

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OH! OH! That's My Favorite! NO! That one! Favorite Photos - 2017

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I take thousands of photos each year - really. Out of that, there is a much smaller number that I end up keeping and an even smaller number that I post for others to see. 

Like last year, I went through all the pictures I took the previous year (2017) and picked out the ones that were my favorites.  That is harder than it sounds.  

Here are my favorites for last year. Please feel free to give feedback with a comment. 

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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

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Eastern Kingbird

Great Blue Heron

Brown-headed Cowbird

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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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