Tag Archives: pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

How typical

Back when I photographed a pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) with its crayfish breakfast, I said,

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that this bird species remains one of the most skittish animals one can encounter.  The moment these grebes think there’s a threat, they vanish beneath the water’s surface and swim for all they’re worth, eventually surfacing some distance in a random direction.

Like this:

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) preparing to dive (2009_11_21_040589)
A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) diving (2009_11_21_040590)
A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) after diving (2009_11_21_040591)

Because the camera was in burst mode, those photographs were taken in a single second.

I had come upon the bird on an overcast morning.  Walking along the water’s edge, the grebe surfaced—much to my surprise—and we both reacted, me by swinging the camera and snapping pictures, and the grebe by doing precisely what I expect them to do.

But something else I said in that grebe-and-crayfish post was this:

Pied-billed grebes over these past few years have grown predictable to me.  If they vanish underwater, I usually know where to run so I can be right where they pop up.  And I know they don’t like people, but what they dislike even more is moving people.  That means once they see you, the best option is to freeze and hope for the best.

So after the moment captured above, I rushed headlong until I reached the spot where I thought the bird would surface.  And lo:

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) swimming away (2009_11_21_040649)

Though not as near as I had hoped, at least it came up pretty much where I anticipated.  And of course, surfacing to find it hadn’t outfoxed me meant the bird quickly paddled away, always watching, but this time not diving.  Mainly because I didn’t move—and perhaps because diving hadn’t worked so well the first time.

A few of my favorite things #5

Birds in the water.  Beauty can be found in any environment, yes, but water has such dynamic personality.  And its ability to reflect that which resides above it makes it all the more majestic as a backdrop, an in situ mirror that adds more than a touch of real or abstract flavor.

Yet my fascination runs deeper than the water.  I believe it has something to do with creatures with wings who soar on the wind that in turn spend so much time in the water, so much so that evolution has granted them webbed feet, spatulate bills, long legs and liquid-straining pouches.  What a marvelous dichotomy…

Snowy egret (Egretta thula) wading in the shallows (2009_09_27_029522)

Snowy egret (Egretta thula)

American coot (Fulica americana) swimming by me (2010_03_06_050437)

American coot (Fulica americana)

Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) swimming away from me (2009_11_01_036416)

Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) swimming by me (2010_03_06_050489)

Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis)

American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) swimming toward me (2009_10_25_033970)

American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Male lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) floating in the water (2010_03_06_050444)

Lesser scaup (Aythya affinis)

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) wading into a creek (2009_09_05_028695)

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)

— — — — — — — — — —

On a related note: The only nesters at the rookery at present are great egrets (Ardea alba).  But the time is now for the multitude of other bird species to arrive at this marvel that rests in the heart of the city.  The second major species has already made an appearance: anhingas (a.k.a. water turkey or snakebird; Anhinga anhinga).  I can’t wait to share this magic with you.  What a spectacle, what a mystery, and what a gift!

Grebe grabbing some grub

I intended to post spiders today.  No, really I did.  I’ve quite a pile of arachnid photos I felt I should offer seeing as the weather finally appears intent on cooling off enough to send insects, arachnids, reptiles and other cold-unfriendly critters to the deepest recesses of memory—at least until the next warm day (which technically will be later this week, after it rains and maybe snows, but anyway…).  Despite my intentions, however, this morning’s walk at White Rock Lake gave me something I just have to share.

I walked along the creek that runs by my home.  It often provides a variety of wildlife.  As I neared Sunset Bay where the creek joins the confluence of Dixon Branch and other flows running to the lake, a splash of water caught my attention.  I paused to watch.  Warm temperatures meant it could be anything, from a snake to a turtle to a host of birds…or even some detritus falling from the surrounding trees.

Even in the weak light of early morning, I knew the moment a pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) surfaced that it had submerged long enough to capture breakfast in its beak.  And breakfast appeared to be a very large crayfish.

Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) holding a crayfish in its beak (2009_11_28_042150)

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that this bird species remains one of the most skittish animals one can encounter.  The moment these grebes think there’s a threat, they vanish beneath the water’s surface and swim for all they’re worth, eventually surfacing some distance in a random direction.  So I dared not flinch as I photographed this one.  It knew I stood on the bank and it seemed well aware of my proximity.  If I moved, even if I tried to crouch for better photos, the scene would unravel.  Hence I didn’t even move the camera to change settings; instead, I let the shutter fly.

Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) with a crayfish in its beak (2009_11_28_042162)

Pied-billed grebes over these past few years have grown predictable to me.  If they vanish underwater, I usually know where to run so I can be right where they pop up.  And I know they don’t like people, but what they dislike even more is moving people.  That means once they see you, the best option is to freeze and hope for the best.

Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) with a crayfish in its beak (2009_11_28_042170)

That approach worked just fine in this case.  I barely moved the camera as I followed the grebe along the creek.  When it paused to slay the mighty crayfish (meaning when it stopped to tear off the imposing claws), I might as well have been a tree swaying in the breeze.  Sure, the bird looked at me repeatedly to make sure I wasn’t making my move to steal its breakfast, yet I knew moving as little as possible would keep the scene right there in front of me.

Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) with a crayfish in its beak (2009_11_28_042180)

Much thrashing ensued as the bird did battle with the crustacean.  Each time I viewed the two in stark detail, the idea of that little bird eating that huge leviathan seemed laughable at best.  I’ve seen cormorants choke to death on fish too large to swallow.  Several times that vision ran through my head as I watched this childlike, fragile feathered creature as it worked to subdue breakfast.  And each time another claw came off or the crayfish was tossed around to knock it senseless, I realized what I had always viewed as an innocent bird really was a capable predator.

Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) with a crayfish in its beak (2009_11_28_042187)

With its threatening pincers removed and its body still (and maybe lifeless already), the crayfish hung unmoving as the grebe took a final hold on it and headed back toward the lake.  I followed.  Slowly.  And clumsily.  The wind remained quite gusty and the 400mm lens acted like a sail; that meant I had little chance of being surreptitious in my pursuit and observation.  Instead, mostly I swayed trying to keep the camera steady as I clicked away.

Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) with a crayfish in its beak (2009_11_28_042196)

Meanwhile, the grebe swam on with its prize held firmly in its bill.  Though I’ve seen them eat fish (whole), I haven’t a clue how they eat something with an exoskeleton, especially something as large as this specimen.  What I did know as they drifted off toward open water was that the grebe certainly had a hefty breakfast to enjoy this fine Saturday morning.

[I’ve not been able to identify the crayfish yet; it appears little research has been done on Texas crayfish (a.k.a. crawdads, crawfish, yabbies, mudbugs, etc.); though I can find a list of all known crayfish species in the state, I’ve yet to find a key that would allow for the identification of this particular individual; I’m still working on that]

All in a day’s walk – January 18, 2009

Sunday’s walk was punctuated with strong winds and bright sunshine.  As I’ve developed a great deal of respect for the wind and what it can do while I’m trying to take photographs, not the least of which is knock me on my butt, I tried to direct my walk toward those areas where gusty onslaughts would pose the least problems.

I headed out my front door and walked to the north shore of Sunset Bay to see if I could find my kestrel friend (which I did), and from there I wandered south to Garland Road, then west to the spillway and into the Old Fish Hatchery Nature Area.  Before I even reached Winfrey Point, however, I ran across some rather unique ducks.

A male bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) swimming away from shore (2009_01_18_004678)

Jenny once mentioned she walked at the lake and found herself in awe of the “baffleheads” swimming about near shore.

I corrected her on the name, and thereafter we both laughed uproariously in agreement that it probably wasn’t the ducks who were baffled.

I generally find buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) all along the eastern shore of the lake, and this time was no different.

As diving ducks go, they spend a great deal of time away from land where the water is deep enough for them to get below the surface and search for food, so getting close to one for a good photograph isn’t an opportunity that presents itself.

Add enough wind to create white caps that can hide in its troughs this small waterfowl and you can imagine the difficulty had with capturing an image.

An American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) skimming the water's surface as it lands (2009_01_18_004700)

No visit to White Rock Lake in winter can be complete without seeing the American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).

Watching this one ski in for a landing was a delight indeed.

Having flown from the spillway where a great many pelicans remained engaged in a cooperative hunt, this one came in with direct aim at a cormorant carrying a fish.

The pelican pursued the other bird for a brief time, but the cormorant won.

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) carrying a small fish in its beak (2009_01_18_004766)

Having escaped the much larger pelican who had set its sight on a free meal, this double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) scurried away from the gaping maws with a daring bit of fast swimming, after which it was left in peace to enjoy its catch.

While the fish might seem small, a cormorant seen earlier held a much bigger prize: a catfish at least three times as large as this one.

When it comes to how these birds eat, one thing is true: Nothing is too big or too small, especially in winter when more competition fills the lake with hungry mouths.

By the way: Although cormorants swim low in the water, this one is more than swimming low; it’s in a trough between high waves pushed across the lake by blustery winds.  You’d normally see at least part of its back and the whole of its neck.  Not this time, though.

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) swimming in rough waters (2009_01_18_004782)

Childlike, pied-billed grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are so small and delicate that I always think of them as juveniles tossed out into the wild to fend for themselves.

This one struggling to swim against the onslaught of wind and wave beckoned for help solely by its appearance.

Don’t you want to just swim out there and help it?  I know I did.

Photographing this species is one of the most difficult prospects imaginable.  At the first perceived threat, they dive underwater and swim for all they’re worth, often moving several yards/meters in a random direction.

When they dive, all I can do is watch the entire area in hopes of spotting it when it surfaces.  That’s assuming, I mean, that it surfaces within sight.  That’s not always the case.

A great egret (Ardea alba) standing on fallen bamboo at the water's edge (2009_01_18_004811)

Great egrets (Ardea alba).  Ubiquitous throughout the year along with a litany of other heron and egret species, these birds help define the essence of this lake.  I can’t recall a single walk along its shores that didn’t offer at least one encounter with this large, stunning avian creature.

Perched on a bamboo float drifting against the ground, this beautiful adult captivated me with its grace, its agility, its pure essence defined by majestic white plumage.

It tolerated so many humans who passed by unaware of its presence.  And a shame that was, too, for it remained there for quite some time, posing as it were, and anyone witnessing it from nearby was all the better for it.

At least until some nitwit let his dog chase the bird away.  That’s a travesty of this lake: Too many careless people with unattended canines, and I’ve seen more than a few of those free-running dogs kill more than a little of the wildlife that lives here.  Watching a mindless git pat his dog cheerfully as it holds a dead duck in its mouth is one of the more disgusting things you can ever see…

When I finally made it around the southern end of the lake to the Audubon park behind the spillway, I lost myself in dense woodlands and impassible marshes.  The Old Fish Hatchery Nature Area remains one of my favorite haunts at White Rock.  It provides year-round exposure to a plethora of nature’s marvels.  Here I’ve seen many species of owl, hawk, eagle, egret and heron, chickadee, warbler, thrasher, duck, goose and many other birds, not to mention opossums, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, two species of fox, snakes and turtles and lizards galore, and a litany of other denizens most would be surprised to find in the heart of DFW.  Yet here they are and here they live.

A tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) perched on a small limb while watching me (2009_01_18_004911)

The tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is a mouthy little bird.

This one cried ad nauseam from dry marshlands as I circled on the trails and followed it through naked trees and evergreen shrubs.

Many times it became nothing more than a voice in the forest, a chattering life leading me from one footstep to the next.

It never lost sight of me, I suspect, as each time I found it again it was staring at me, yelling at me even.  How delightful!

Because it lives here throughout the year, I fear I might take it for granted more often than I think (like so many other species that become mundane and ordinary).  What a shame that is.  This bird is such a joy to watch and hear.

A northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) high in the treetops (2009_01_18_004934)

As woodpeckers go, the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) remains an enigma.

Less evident than the red-bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers yet still more obvious than the yellow-bellied sapsucker, this species seems easier to find at backyard feeders than within its natural habitat.

Well, perhaps it’s more visible at feeders than it is within its normal habitat given the density of trees within which I’ve always found it, not to mention its marvelous camouflage.  A back yard is an easier viewing platform than is a forest overflowing with ligneous, verdant obstacles.

I stalked this poor female like a hapless teenager circling the block where my latest love lives.  I’m not sure she made the distinction between that and a general nuisance.

An American robin (Turdus migratorius) perched on a tree limb while watching me (2009_01_18_005031)

What can be said about American robins (Turdus migratorius)?

They live here all the time, digging their way through yards looking for worms in the morning and flitting about trees and shrubs searching for fruit in the evening.

I scared up a handful of these birds when I stumbled—literally—and fell into a dry marsh replete with doves, robins, squirrels, flycatchers and sparrows.

They never saw it coming.  Neither did I, especially as I brushed myself off and tried to act as though I meant to be in the dirt at that very moment.

Not even I believed as much.

A red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and an unidentified turtle sunning themselves on a log (2009_01_18_005040)

Our winter has been anything but predictable.

Green anoles have come out of hibernation early to find insects scarce; some insects have arrived early to find the environment less than welcoming.

Some days are very warm; others are very cold.  Mostly it’s warm, and the lack of rain worries everyone.

One of the marshes offered a great deal of wildlife, but it also protected them with dense reeds and shrubs that offered only a small hole here or there through which I could see.

Nevertheless, a log near shore seemed almost busy with a red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) warming itself alongside an unidentified turtle.

I wondered about them, wondered about what the weather would give them, and wondered how they might survive this distressing and confusing deluge of this and that.

A male house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) perched on a limb while watching me (2009_01_18_005056)

Pushing my way through a thicket that had overgrown the trail, a menagerie of birds hailed my arrival with all manner of insults.

They didn’t like me forcing my way through the natural fence that protected them.

Yet even facing into the sun, I recognized this house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) who perched on a branch and screamed at me from behind a cloak of blinding sunlight.

His mate, only a wee bit to my right, held her own from behind an impenetrable shield of branches I eventually turned away from.

Later, as I wound my way through trails that hardly seemed used in ages, I appreciated more and more the position the finches held.

My every effort focused on protecting my eyes and the camera lens from assault by the world’s bony fingers, yet the finches rested comfortably within those skeletal hands.

I left the nature area after wandering for hours, all the while never seeing the same trail twice.  I scampered back out into the bright sunshine and noisy city and returned the way I came, circling back around the south end of the lake toward home.

A male northern shoveler (Anas clypeata) swimming in rough water (2009_01_18_005064)

I marched along Garland Road with the lake sprawling out to the north with a host of waterfowl swimming in what looked like a large collection of flotsam.

Mixed in with the other birds was a handful of northern shovelers (Anas clypeata).

Although they hide quite well, this duck species can usually be found here in all but the hottest months.

Smaller than mallard ducks, they pass unnoticed for all but the careful observer.

I’m a careful observer.

They haunt the places where few go, skulk about in silence and shadow hoping no predator will notice.

I found this male swimming about with a few of his brothers and sisters.

Tired, my back aching from such a long walk, even I had to stop and take notice of this migrant.

A paddling of gadwalls (Anas strepera) swimming in rough waters (2009_01_18_005100)

The sun beating down on me, wind howling in my ears, my legs begging me to stop and let them rest, I stumbled along the edge of the lake many hours after I began my journey.

The flotilla of avians greeted my every step.

I noticed a paddling of gadwalls (Anas strepera) amongst the birds swimming and hunting.

Three males and two females all but escaped notice as they pretended to be detritus on the water, a bit of nondescript debris surfing the harsh waves.

The everyman of the duck world, these birds inspire me with their subdued colors.

A male ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) floating on rough water while a pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) preens behind him (2009_01_18_005109)

It goes without saying that almost every encounter I have with a ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is when it’s sleeping, usually large groups of them floating carefree with heads tucked beneath wings.

Finding this male swimming, his eyes open, excited me to no end.

That he and several others of his kind were so far away in rough water frustrated me to no end.

Thus is the curse of nature photography, I suppose.

And yet the other piece of the puzzle that enamored me of this moment is that another pied-billed grebe can be seen just behind the duck.

Oblivious to me since I was so far away and up high on a ridge overlooking the lake, for once the little critter didn’t vanish beneath the waves.

Instead, it just preened and floated along sans a care in the world.

A Forster's tern (Sterna forsteri) flying away (2009_01_18_005166)

When I finally made it back to Winfrey Point just south of Sunset Bay, I knew home was a few minutes away.

My feet had already started thanking me while my thirst had already started feeling quenched.

But as I walked through dry grass and listened to dry reeds play a woeful yet invigorating song as they danced in the breeze, I noticed a handful of birds flying back and forth along the shore.

I was facing south into the sun, yet even that didn’t stop me from recognizing the Forster’s terns (Sterna forsteri) hunting the shallows and occasionally skimming the water’s surface for a drink or plunging in to catch a small fish.

They spent most of the time cruising, though, passing me both coming and going as they repeatedly flew to and from territorial markers only they could see.

A female yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata) perched in the top of a tree (2009_01_18_005228)

I passed through Sunset Bay without stopping as the warm weather had beckoned crowds of people to the park.

Throngs jogged and rode bicycles, others picnicked, some meandered as though lost, a few walked dogs or pushed strollers, a handful jockeyed for positions along the shore where they could snap a few pictures, and many engaged in whatever activities would keep them from facing the tumultuous city hidden behind the enclosing woods.

Not wanting to be mobbed in the virtual chaos, I shoved off and let my feet carry me toward home by way of following a creek.

When a belted kingfisher flew by me at top speed, a blue-and-white blur recognized only by its call, I noticed a smaller bird as it landed in a tree nearby.

A female yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata), dressed in the myrtle form plumage, perched on a limb and watched the goings on with an almost sad indifference.

Projection notwithstanding, she sang a bit as I stood beneath her and watched, after which she went her way and I went mine.

I returned home by early afternoon and began the quest to do some chores, download and process the images from my walk, read a bit, and spend time with The Kids.

Oh, but wait!  You want to know about the encounter with “a creature rare in these parts that sent shivers down my spine for having seen it in the heart of Dallas“.

Let me tell you about that.

Near the beginning of my walk as I marched along the southeastern edge of the lake behind the arboretum, I noticed a large bird circling over the trees to the east.  The treeline was too near and too dense for me to see it clearly, but I could see it was large.

Probably a vulture, I thought given its size, yet the colors vexed me a tad.  With the bright sunny sky and where the sun was in relation to the bird and my viewing angle, I tossed off the issue as an optical illusion.

But I couldn’t take my eyes of the creature because its size and colors couldn’t be reconciled with any of the usual suspects, even if I considered the hues to be deceptive due to the sunshine and where I stood.

And something about the way it held its wings with the ends swept back a bit, not out straight like a hawk, eagle or vulture would do while soaring.

So I watched it as it circled nearer and nearer.  It seemed to be heading directly for my position, and I knew that would mean I’d have about three seconds to snap photos once it came out from behind the treeline.  After that, it would disappear into the bright sun.

Just as I realized my opportunity for a clear view would be extremely short, it finished its last arc and moved southwest.  Right over me.

An osprey (a.k.a. seahawk, fish hawk, or fish eagle; Pandion haliaetus) flying overhead (2009_01_18_004798)

I pressed the button as quickly as I could while the bird flew overhead.  The moment lasted a few seconds only, after which the massive creature vanished behind a curtain of bright light.

But I already knew what it was.

Ospreys (a.k.a. seahawk, fish hawk, or fish eagle; Pandion haliaetus) migrate through this area but don’t normally hang around long.  Seeing one is a momentous occasion since the lake is in the middle of Dallas proper.

An osprey (a.k.a. seahawk, fish hawk, or fish eagle; Pandion haliaetus) flying overhead (2009_01_18_004800)

Neither an eagle nor a hawk, ospreys fill a biological niche that no other creature fills.  It’s the only species in its family and genus, a bird of prey that inhabits all continents save Antarctica and that has no taxonomic siblings or cousins—only distant relatives.

An osprey (a.k.a. seahawk, fish hawk, or fish eagle; Pandion haliaetus) flying overhead (2009_01_18_004801)

This one had a wingspan of about two meters/six feet, so it was a fully grown adult.

After it disappeared in the sun’s brilliance, I had a new bounce in my step and an ear-to-ear grin on my face.  Others around me who looked up to see what I was photographing didn’t appear to realize what they had seen, or they just didn’t care.  Too bad.

Birds I never knew – Part 2

Staring into the sun trying to locate a distant voice.  Seeing a bit of shadow swimming through woodlands.  Driving along while trying to snap a photo of something resting atop a building.

Being prepared has little to do with successfully capturing an image when the subject and circumstances conspire against me.

I try, though.  Oh how I try…

Two male brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) perched on a makeshift bird feeder (20080414_03459)

Two male brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater).  An old deer stand at the family farm quickly transformed into a makeshift bird feeder.  The blue plastic tray hanging above the ground is filled each day with birdseed, and that beckons to a variety of winged beasts who visit from dawn to dusk—and probably well into the night.

A male belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) hiding in tree limbs (20080114_01128)

A male belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon).  His raucous cry had me searching high and low trying to find him.  Much to my dismay, he flitted from tree to tree as I ran along some distance away attempting to follow him.  Finally realizing I would never get close enough for a respectable photo, I took aim despite not being able to see if I was or was not focused on the right tree.

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) floating on the surface of White Rock Lake (20080405_02986)

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps).  Cunning little creatures, these grebes.  They disappear beneath the water’s surface if they perceive a threat.  When they return to the surface, they can be one to three meters/yards away from where they vanished.  I hurried along the shore of White Rock Lake trying to snap a photo of this critter as it continually dove out of sight only to pop up in random directions and distances from where I lost sight of it.

An American black vulture (a.k.a. black vulture; Coragyps atratus) perched atop a hospital (20080511_05173)

An American black vulture (a.k.a. black vulture; Coragyps atratus).  Driving home one afternoon, I spied this beautiful bird preening in the bright sunshine.  Attempting to navigate Dallas’s busy streets while holding a camera out the window to snap photos is not something I recommend for the faint of heart.  Oh, and this irony was not lost on me at that time or when I viewed these images later: the vulture was sitting atop a hospital.

A white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) perched in the treetops (IMG_20080105_00703)

A white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica).  During my first visit to the Audubon park near White Rock Lake’s spillway, I stood in a ravine with dense woodlands all around me as a spirited creek bubbled along on its journey to larger waterways.  In the dim light of predawn hours, I heard more than saw a bird land in the treetops quite a way from where I stood.  I snapped a few photos despite the distance and despite not knowing what kind of bird it was.

A male hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) clinging to the side of a tree trunk (IMG_20071230_00641)

A male hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus).  Its size and its beak differentiated this common animal from the downy woodpeckers that also inhabit the area.  The rat-tat-tat knocking in the treetops above me drew my attention as I walked home from the lake, and against the contrast of wintry limbs and bright sky I nearly gave up trying to capture an image so high up from such a disadvantaged position far below.

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