One thing I’m rather skilled at is taking bad photos in uncooperative weather. When last I visited the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, calling the weather uncooperative would be understating the matter. Dense fog, heavy and constant drizzle, occasional rain and breezy conditions offered an unrelenting world of challenges. That thick cloud cover kept it looking like dusk rather than day certainly didn’t help with my efforts to grab some respectable images. And the cool temperatures kept birds on the go or hidden from the elements.
Still, the trip wasn’t a complete failure. For every species I photographed, I saw several others who never got memorialized in digital form. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, including seeing whooping cranes for the first time in my life. Sometimes it’s more important to enjoy nature than it is to focus on taking pictures of it. That’s a belief this trip reminded me of with every passing minute.
Contrary atmosphere aside, I did capture some images of things I’ve not shown here before. So without further ramblings, here are the bad bird photos from Aransas.
Small and always on the go, swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana) were everywhere. From the freshwater marshes to the salt flats, they scampered about under cover and flitted quickly from here to there and back again. And from time to time one paused for only the briefest of moments.
But mostly what they were focused on was eating, which is precisely what I caught this swamp sparrow doing in a brackish slough near the Rail Trail.
The sound of meowing cats was heard all along the coast. A few times I even heard a cat fight. But there were no domestic felines to be seen. Instead, it was the call of the gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis). Anyone in catbird territory has probably looked for the lonely sounding kitten in the bushes only to see a gray bird fly away when approached. Hence their name.
The loud calls and large silhouettes of great kiskadees (Pitangus sulphuratus) followed me everywhere, from coastal flats to inland marshes. These tropical flycatchers overflowed the refuge.
They unfortunately made appearances only in the treetops. Otherwise they hurried around looking for something to eat, most of that time rushing through dense woodlands or heavy brush.
I discovered this least grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus) floating in a brackish pond where it hid amongst the reeds. Though I could get close to it, the only clear view I had was from the opposite side of the pond through a tiny window in the reed bed. I couldn’t complain, though, for it was a pleasant surprise to see one.
Living up to their name, common yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas) were ubiquitous. This female dashed in and out of brambles and thickets around the marshes. For every one of these birds I saw, I heard ten others.
And a male common yellowthroat. He perched in the reeds quite near the female above. I never doubted that he was checking me out, even if momentarily.
But no worries: not all the photos were bad. I have some rather nice images of other species, and I also have a collection of species as seen through the heavy fog along the coast (which made for some fascinating scenes).
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 I suspect that at least half the photos I took were followed immediately by having to wipe the lens clear of accumulated moisture. It took mere seconds to have a nice glaze of wet on the end lens element, from condensation to direct droplets of rain or drizzle blowing into the hood.
 Photography on cloudy days usually is a breath of fresh air for me. I love sunny days when taking pictures, no doubt, but cloudy days kill harsh shadows and help draw out color depth that sunshine normally washes away. However, one thing I always struggle with is taking photos of something against a cloudy sky (e.g., a bird in a treetop). The clouds produce a bright backdrop without directional light, hence you can’t move to reduce the glare. There’s a trick to this that I haven’t learned yet.