Why birds?

When I began the process of purging my photo collection, essentially sweeping away the past to make room for the future, I started with birds, something you’ll see in this post and others to follow.

But why birds?

A male wood duck (Aix sponsa) molting into eclipse plumage (20080628_08107)

Good question.

I have a lot of bird pictures.  Yet that’s not really the answer to the question.

A complete albino rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia) walking into the grass (20080628_07967)

I think I began with birds since our avian friends offer a mix of challenge and ease that results in a veritable bounty of images.

Then again, perhaps I complicate matters when a simpler answer would more appropriately address the question.

A snowy egret (Egretta thula) with a small fish in its bill (20080614_06582)

While I could say it’s because I love birds almost as much as I love insects, even that would not provide the full truth of why I started with our avian friends.

A northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) perched in a treetop (20080518_05644)

It all boils down to this one fact: it’s winter.

A female brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) in the grass (20080426_04903)

Even here in North Texas, winter means an end to the bounty of arthropods and flora and reptiles and a great deal of nature’s many wonders.  Most trees are left stark and barren along with the vast majority of plants as they wither into their cocoons of hibernation or death; cold-blooded creatures fade with the passing seasons into a frigid slumber or the end of their generation; insects and arachnids shrink away beneath the blanket of the first killing freeze; and ultimately most of the beauty I so enjoy disappears under winter’s cloak.

Yet birds thrive, at least where I live, and their numbers and kinds explode as residents leave for warmer days and nights at the same time migrants arrive trying to escape colder temperatures to the north.

A scissor-tailed flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus) perched in a tree (20080426_04717)

So expunging historic photos of birds came naturally since, right now, I’m snapping a lot of bird pictures.

It’s no more complicated than that.  Besides, I have yet to go through the arthropods, plants, mammals and reptiles that comprise the remainder of my collection.  Rest assured they will have their time in the spotlight.

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[1] A male wood duck (Aix sponsa) who’s molting into eclipse plumage.  He wanted to know who and what I was, but his curiosity never won the battle it waged with his sense of self-preservation.  Instead, he followed me along the north shore of White Rock Lake, always staying near enough to keep an eye on me whilst simultaneously being distant enough to feel safe.

[2] A complete albino rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia).  I have seen partial albinism, incomplete albinism and imperfect albinism in rock doves (along with many other creatures), but this was the first time I ever saw complete albinism in this species.  It foraged and flocked with the dule, yet it stood out like a lone redwood tree in a hayfield.

[3] A snowy egret (Egretta thula) with a small fish in its bill.  This beautiful creature spent the morning wading in the shallows of Sunset Bay looking for something to eat.  I watched it miss more meals than I could count.  Just when I felt the poor thing would go hungry, it caught a small fish and enjoyed the fruit of its labor.

[4] A northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).  Perched in the top of a tree under which I stood unaware of its presence, this marvelous parent watched me intently as its offspring fledged a few steps away.  I absentmindedly moved toward the child, and it was then the dutiful guard made its presence known with a sweeping dive at my head coupled with the scream of a marauder moving in for the kill.  I snapped the photo as I moved away.

[5] A female brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater).  On a cloudy day and from quite a distance, I felt certain this was nothing more than a sparrow (albeit a large-than-normal sparrow).  Bad lighting can often hide the difference what is and what isn’t.  I walked away from that moment feeling she was something else entirely, something boring, so I was thrilled I took the photo as it brought into focus what I had really seen.

[6] A scissor-tailed flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus).  I watched this individual and one other as they performed their magical aerial ballet in the light of sunrise.  Catching insects in flight is neat enough on its own; doing so with that flowing, unbelievably long tail creates an altogether different image.

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