Photo Shoot Report: September 18th 2011 @ Mitchell Lake Audubon Center
Rain. Glorious Rain. We finally got some down here in south Texas on the days surrounding this trip to Mitchell Lake Audubon Center. Being still reasonably new to this part of Texas, I wasn’t sure what a little of that liquid sunshine would do to the prospects for odonates in the time period right after the storms.
So I went for a 2nd consecutive weekend down to Mitchell Lake Audubon Center so I had a firm grasp as to what it might mean given a baseline of visiting the previous weekend. And, well, it was a great day for birding 🙂
I took much of the same route that I had the previous week: Down the center road that separated the East and West Polders, Basins 1 and 2, and Basins 4 and 5 to the north end of Mitchell Lake. From there I turned right, walking a full circuit around Basin 4 and then walking back up the road to the parking spot. As I noted last time, Basin 2 and East Polder are dry. Basin 3 is mostly dry as well, but I didn’t know that until this particular trip. As such, the morning light was only going to be good facing the west–that dictated walking with the sun shining towards where the water was. You can get a better visual representation of my walk by visiting the center’s web site and at the bottom of the page clicking on Trail Maps.
Overall odonata numbers were down significantly from the weekend before. I’m not completely sure if it was a product of cooling temperatures and getting later into the season, an after effect of the storm(s), or a little of both. But species spread went from 11 to 6 – Variegated Meadowhawks, Common (Eastern) Pondhawks, Red-tailed Pennants, Common Green Darners, Four-spotted Pennants, and Roseate Skimmers. Overall numbers were down significantly as well.
What I didn’t see in dragonflies was made up by what I did see in birds. I added 3 birds to my birding life list. I saw a Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) on my way down to the parking spot. In Basin 4 I saw a Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus). And on the slow, pained walk to the car I saw an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) perched high on a tree. None of the life listers were images I’d consider keepers–just good enough for identification and not much more. But I did make a decent image or two of a Snowy Egret in spite of really difficult underbrush conditions.
Bird pond was worth just a quick walk–very few visible dragonflies making the rounds and the pond had nearly no birds in it whatsoever. Hopefully the recent rains have changed this.
All in all it was an okay day for shooting. The light was challenging with the clouds in the sky. The temperature started to get unbearable as the day dragged on, though admittedly wearing a long-sleeved shirt didn’t help. I was very happy to get back to the car to ice the foot a little bit before heading home.
About the images:
The male Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum) was a nice find, especially with a background that lent itself to disappearing into a somewhat creamy bokeh. The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) image was tough because of where the bird was. Normally they would be knee-deep into the shallows trying to catch their food, but with the water considerably deeper than what they’d like to deal with, yet plentiful food close to the surface, the bird improvised. The Variegated Meadowhawk was a pretty drastic crop to fit him in a square, but at that with very little wiggle room he measured at 1907 x 1907 to get him in wingtip to wingtip. The Snowy Egret was a pretty drastic crop as well. The one I was going to use was about 2600×2100, but in the 350 longest-side format that I use, I had to crop again so that he could be seen well. A 500mm under the tree would be a nice Christmas present 😉