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The Galveston County Daily News: Outdoors

September 29, 2016

Outdoors

Monday 05/16/2016
Dance of a Tern

After a day of overcast skies the sun introduced some color with a watery sponge on nature's canvas primed in grey. Often, a bland sky can form nature's version of a studio white backdrop when we focus on a single object. A tern was fishing in Galveston's West Bay, circling around the same area, scooping up fish after fish. The lack of depth in the skies allowed for a study of the bird's wings and movements. This seabird has an intricate feather arrangement, almost translucent, which can give it similarities to drawings of angels. The tern flutters its wings in a vertical position to keep itself in one spot from which it then dives down to pick up a fishy snack. The tern lost contrast and substance to the human eye with the disappearance of daylight, until it blended into the skies like a fuzz of cotton.

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Tuesday 05/03/2016
Impressions of May

In the cool breeze of a sunny May morning local wildflower fields beckon. The songbirds are back from Central and South America, crisscrossing the air in brightest streaks of color like the red cardinals and tanagers. Below them flowers sway in the breeze, opening their petals to the sun, framed in the long thick green grass brought about by recent heavy rains. Exotic garden seedlings grow among shady crops of trees while the native flowers cluster together, attracting butterflies and bees. The colors make for a fantastic carpet which one's imagination may attribute to the machinations of industriously weaving elves. Far enough from traffic, the birds' chirping, clacking and singing to attract mates are the only distinct sounds one hears. Breathing the perfume of fresh grass, still wet, and feeling the breeze on our skin we know that summer is just around the corner but we have still a respite from the heat.

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Thursday 04/28/2016
High Water

Sunset on April 27 seemed much like an aquarelle painting on which the artist spilled too much water. High tide and the recent rainfalls have inundated big stretches of Galveston Bay's shorelines, making way for birds to find passage to new areas. The sky still seems drenched with humidity and the birds mere smudges against the saturated skies. Of late we have lived in a water world on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast, where the land we use is subject to the sea's goodwill, to be swallowed within days.

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Thursday 04/14/2016
The mysterious world of Smith Oaks

With Feather Fest in full swing all local birding spots are usually quite crowded. The Rookery at Smith Oaks on High Island is a favorite for ornithologists beyond Texas and even the US. The viewing platforms are quite crowded with spectators and photographers hailing from as far as Japan. Over the meeting point of waders, predominately great egrets, roseate spoonbills and snowy egrets, hovers a cacophony of avian and human languages and sounds. Alligators waiting for a dropped egg of the nesting birds hover on the water's surface. On this foggy, misty spring morning the sun is absent, but the contrasts of complimentary pinks and greens still offers enough for photographic interpretations.

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Wednesday 04/06/2016
Colors of Spring

Apart from calendar dates, subtropical spring is often hard to define. It arrives out of the last Northerner one morning and makes its presence known with a bright glittering light on the ocean. The sun warms, then burns. Fruit trees bud and blossom within a week, as if on time-lapse, then tropical flowers show off their beauty in a competition of saturation. Anoles sun themselves and attract mates with displays of their pink dewlaps. Nothing is sweet and soft in South Texas, even spring is passionate in its abundance of wildflowers and bloom; bigger and grander than up north, like a ballroom filled with creations of couture where wallflowers would easily be overlooked.

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Tuesday 03/29/2016
Spring Time in the South Texas Bayous

Like pastel Easter eggs the wildflowers pop out over fields across South Texas. At Brazos Bend State Park, white and yellow daisies sway in the warm mid-day breeze to the grunting barks of alligators. The reptiles' mating season will be in full swing in April but the males' grunts that sound like a revving motorcycle engine are already echoing across the swamps, picked up by the females who respond with a low-bellied growl. Moorhens squawk, on the run from the scaly reptiles, while the orange bills of whistling ducks flash among budding trees. They're building their nests in tree branches or on the ground, among the bald cypress trees, to be initiated soon. These birds are closer in relation to geese than ducks, and like swans, it is believed they breed for life.

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Thursday 03/03/2016
Photographing the Wind

March made an entrance with breezy mornings and churning waves in the evening. It feels refreshing to have the salty spray wash over one's face out on a jetty, and noticing how the water is warmer now. Gone is the icy chill of winter, and our lungs are cleansed by the gusts of warmer air. The winds will also carry our winter guests away. Sandhill cranes, as well as white pelican, are leaving day by day in flocks of hundreds. Using the camera to document motion on 2D images asks for long exposure or a panning of subjects. The slower the shutter speed, the more light we let in, the more movement is captured.

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Friday 02/26/2016
Windy Days

The last few days have given us cold, strong winds and a very low tide. The exposed sandbanks and sea-grass beds would normally attract shorebirds by the hundreds that like to feed on beached crustaceans. The wind however kept them restless, or completely away, and they stayed hunkered down in more sheltered areas. Gail-force winds can damage wings where it becomes difficult to fly. A solitary roseate spoonbill ventured into the wetlands off Sportsman Road on Galveston's west end, despite the wind ruffling its feathers, but soon took off. The sandhill cranes had to fight head-wind when approaching their overnight pastures and hovered like puppets in the air before touch-down.

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Thursday 02/18/2016
Another East Beach Morning

It feels like spring outdoors, despite the official first day being over a month away. But then, this is the Texas Gulf Coast. The sun is stronger, the light's angle has changed, the birds are chirping. The water, apparently, is 68 F, but it feels arctic early in the morning, when not prepared to go swimming. To get wet is a hazard of shore-bird photography. Much time is spent stretched out, propped on the elbows, the sand slowly sucked away under you, replaced by water. But as long as the camera stays dry, all is well. The white pelicans are still around, therefore it is not quite spring yet.

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Wednesday 02/10/2016
How Wild Are They?

It often seems as if the white pelicans wintering along the shores of the Upper Texas Gulf Coast are divided into two breeds. For one, there are the fairly tame, oversized ducks paddling among shrimp boats at Pier 19 in Galveston, preening their feathers on the breakers with not a care in the world. And then we have the flocks in the Bolivar Flats that take off the instant a beach-comber strolls within viewing distance. They are one and the same bird showing disparate behavior. The shrimp boats and fish markets feeding the birds with the waste-catch are a symptom of co-habitation of humans and wildlife. Some injured or ill birds survive because of the shrimper. They get to sit at stern, grabbing fish out of a trawler's net or wait for a returning boat sorting through its catch inside the harbor. The instinct that tells the pelican when it's exposed and vulnerable is not dampened by this close human interaction in port. Pelicans know they don't get fed at an open beach and thus their behavior will remain skittish away from the shrimp boats. Toward the end of February, the white pelican will move northward again in flocks of many hundred, leaving the brown pelican behind to eat their fill.

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Monday 02/01/2016
Tiny Ghosts

It probably was this winter's thickest coastal fog yet, swaddling Galveston Island this morning. Walking through it left a film of moisture on one's skin. The fascinating experience with fog is how it contorts objects and makes them seem far away, only to put them right in front of you a minute later. Distances and sizes are taken out of context and thus surprise the spectator. On East Beach, the skimmers seemed but a cloud of tiny ghosts in a far distance and only crystallized as distinct shape when almost upon them. The fog erases contrasts and blurs silhouettes, taking away depth of field, until the world is but a curtain of obstacles, all died into its cotton fabric.

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Tuesday 01/26/2016
Winter Stillness over the Bay

While the East Coast received a dumping of snow, winter on the Texas Gulf Coast took on different, subtler weather variations over the weekend. The stillness of Galveston Bay at sunset, combined with a low tide and a full moon, made for an empty sea-scape offering a silhouetted world. The quiet was shattered the very moment the sun set beyond the horizon, when the seagulls flew up, as if on cue, to change locations. At that moment a mirror is scattered and life escapes from beyond its now broken surface. It doesn't take long though, this concert of squawks and cries. As dusk moves its hand over Galveston Bay, like a mother touches the head of a child put to bed, the quiet returns. The colors dim and the world goes to sleep through the January night.

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Wednesday 01/20/2016
Watching the Weather

Around 8 am on January 20, weather watching over the Galveston Ship Channel was quite dramatic. A frontal approach of a layered system rolled over the bay like a curtain dropped inside a gigantic haunted manor. It was a shelf cloud that moved across a previously sunny morning, bringing precipitation and grey skies, spider-web look-alike nimbostratus clouds and a few cumulus to tower above the shelf, or, in my six year old sons words, "a party of ginormous snowmen."

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Tuesday 01/12/2016
Big Skies

The one thing that still fascinates me about Texas, a decade after moving to Galveston, is the vastness of our land and seascapes. At places the ocean and the sky are separated by only a thin stretch of horizon, such as the San Luis Pass bridge. The colors of dusk and dawn have ample room to create and play. One is never pressed for space on a Texas beach and each shoreline fisherman can stake their claim to catch dinner any day of the week. Maybe it is this seemingly infinite space that let the pioneer spirit take such deep roots Texas. If we take care of the land and the sea, they in turn take care of us, the guardians of is planet.

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Wednesday 01/06/2016
A new year's work

Starting the year with a new artistic mission I made my way along East Beach this morning, early. It being a cloudy day, I walked into the symphony of grays at the jetty, to where at this time of year flocks of hundreds of skimmers tend to congregate. Simplicity is what I'm currently looking for, a low depth of field that blends out the backdrop and lets one concentrate on the subject matter up front. The outcome is almost like an ink drawing, just blots on a white canvas. The canvas being Galveston, it will often be primed in aqua blues and watery shades. A winter's day serves us nature on a visually simplified platter. A lack of sunshine doesn't diminish nature's beauty.

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Friday 12/18/2015
Outdoors: Irene's favorite nature photos of 2015

Every year, throughout the seasons, the light changes over the upper Texas Gulf Coast. Its marshes, swamps, estuaries and shorelines are highlighted in an ever-changing way. Different visitors come and go, avian migrants, breeding reptiles and mammals, all living in harmony with their resources in this beautifully diverse, yet fragile eco-system of Galveston Bay. As the colors and skies change in hues, never to reoccur in the exact same way, we thrive as a human race and we grow, never to return to the past. In our connectivity to nature we are nurtured. May we always take responsibility in our role as planet earth's guardians.

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Wednesday 12/09/2015
Island in December

December is a candy store for nature photography along the upper Texas Gulf coast. Early mornings and later afternoons the light is flattering in pastels on the water and the fields, and in between, it never becomes too glaring or too humid and grey, but conserves that clean quality that makes for our clear December skies. Added to the light, the variety of subjects to watch and photograph is unequalled. Flocks of avocets populate in the lagoons of Bolivar and Galveston's east beach, white pelicans dry their feathers on the docks and cranes have made our coastal prairies their wintering home.

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Tuesday 12/01/2015
Dewdrop Art

Cold November mornings have a special kind of magic to show. Dewdrops have formed during the night along every grass and weed, along every silky thread of a spider-web, turning them into jeweled necklaces fit to drape a fairy queen's gown.

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Tuesday 11/24/2015
West End Horses

Humans have long associated horses with the archaic and basic, reaching back to simpler times when we lived off the land and its animals. Of course we picture Native Americans on top of tamed mustangs, animals brought from civilized Spain, no less, but the coastal tribes, such as the Karankawa, were not the brilliant horsemen the Comanches became. In the days of the great chief Noconah, Quanaha Parker's father, the Comanches came to Galveston on raids once a year, overpowering their enemy tribes from horseback. Horses exude power, cavalry has a higher prestige than infantry. The world is better conquered mounted on a steed. But apart from the appeal of taming a strong, powerful creature, a horse also stands for clairvoyance and comradeship. In Celtic mysticism horses carry their riders into the world of spirits. The bond between human and horse can be one of the strongest connections. Galveston Island's West End has a strong population of domestic horses, reminding us of the island's beginnings and giving us a sense timelessness.

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Thursday 11/05/2015
The Season of Cranes

The sandhill cranes start trickling in on Galveston Island during late October. By November, big groups of cranes have made the prairies on the west end their wintering home. These birds are not endangered like their cousin, the whooping crane. However, as they tend to breed and travel in flocks of many hundreds, a bulk risk is attached to them. It is estimated that 80% of cranes meet on the shores of the Platte River in Nebraska each year to mate. Water quality of the Platte is therefore always a concern. After Nebraska, the birds fly further south to places like Galveston and Bosque del Apache in New Mexico to rear their chicks. Cranes are fairly used to human contact. They prefer to feed on lawns or among cattle as the shorter grass makes uprooting worms easier.

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Friday 10/30/2015
Migratory Visitors Arriving by the Day

The days are few now, when the sun rises over the eastern horizon fairly late in the morning, before we set our clocks back on the weekend. It is a nice change, to have the golden light delayed, so not just the ones free to enjoy the sunrise on a regular basis can enjoy the softer hues in the morning skies before the bright glare of our coastal sun takes over once more. As the cool northerner has somewhat settled, the steadily increasing bird population along our beaches enjoyed the warmth of the sun on their feathered costumes this morning. The recent storm and high tide has created sand banks in front of the beach around the eastern part of Galveston and thus produced perfect grooming and resting ground for pelicans.

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Sunday 10/25/2015
Autumn Skies

Autumn skies over the coast change as much within an hour as summer skies within a month, or so it seems. Certainly, the last few days have shown us glorious sunshine and sweeping rains conducting a merry dance. Staying at the same spot on East Beach for an hour gave me four completely different light conditions, which makes photography very interesting. The flooding of the last two days combined with a very high tide have made the East Beach jetty disappear and changed the landscape. The road along East Beach lagoon has turned into a river. The fact that this road has recently been tarmacked as part of the process of turning East Beach lagoon into an accessible nature reserve, made it possible to still reach the jetty.

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Thursday 10/22/2015
October Morning

October might just be the month with the most brilliant light on the Texas Gulf Coast. It seems to keep its golden quality long after sunrise and throughout the afternoon. This autumnal light manages to turn even the most random and ugly into little pieces of art, such as the layers of rust on a shrimping boat, a coiled rope, a seagull snatching a fish, only to spread and bounce on the water and the birds in flight. Walking by the dockside I was pleased to see the first few white pelicans having arrived for the cooler season as well.

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Thursday 09/24/2015
Roseate Spoonbills

This summer roseate spoonbills have been conspicuously absent from Galveston Island.  It could be a result of two colder than usual winters in a row, followed by heavy rain falls, both of which can be detrimental to an embryonic chick. It is possible that there were fewer hatchlings this year, or that the spoonbills, that migrate locally between food sources, have not found enough crustaceans to keep them fed on the island this year. It is the nicer to see them at unexpected places, such as the open beach, when they prefer sheltered ponds. Two of these more exotic looking local waders stood and wandered around the beach shortly after sunrise, adding a nice pastel pink touch to the morning's palette. 

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Wednesday 09/16/2015
East Beach Lagoon

East Beach Lagoon can be a theater of silhouettes early in the morning, when fishing takes place among humans and birds. When the incoming tide rushes over the flat sandy beach, it brings along the crabs and crustaceans as well as small bait fish. The reddish herons dance around the beach, looking for prey, a bit more agile than their human counterparts. The beaches are populated by big flocks of terns. Once in a while a few take off to return with a beak full of food. From north to south the skies are of a gradually decreasing brightness, golds turn silver and the ground ranges from metallic copper to an aluminum blue.

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Tuesday 09/08/2015
Labor Day Sunsets

Labor Day weekend is past us and yet, on the island, it is still summer. This is the season when the Gulf Coast clocks take on a different time from the rest of the nation. The children are back in school, but the locals still go to the beach, grill in their backyards and wear flip flops anywhere it is possible. The last days of summer may last well into October, with the sunsets seemingly lingering forever in azure blue skies that only slowly get darker, taking their time at dusk, lasting just a little bit longer.

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Thursday 08/27/2015
The Great Blue Heron of East End Lagoon

He sits on the pole warning swimmers of strong currents most mornings. He knows the fishermen who frequent this patch along the ship channel just as he does, and is therefore the one Great Blue Heron fairly unfazed when approached. Unfazed for a notoriously skittish bird that is. After almost two months absence from Galveston, I was glad to find him perched on his usual observation post as I once more prowled the shoreline with my camera. This bird is distinguishable by a raw patch on his right wing. Hopefully, he'll stay around for a while longer.

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Wednesday 06/24/2015
Macro Photography

Doing macro photography is opening a window to a world not seen with the naked eye. Macro photography takes patience, but the outcome is a revelation of something fascinating. To create a shot showing the details in an insect's compound eyes, the color composition of its armor, detail of a flower, or the nuances in the texture of an amphibian's skin is just one more way to spend the hot days of summer in nature photography, when the local birds seem to have vanished into shady abodes. To take a decent photo of this tiny fly took me thirty tries of hand-held aperture and focus adjustment. But looking at the outcome, I may swat at it a little more respectfully next time it buzzes around my head in the yard.

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Tuesday 06/16/2015
Elemental Power

Despite our combined horrific memories of Ike, there is excitement in the air with an upcoming storm. It is not voyeurism that has us glued to the news, guiltily wishing for the storm to move away from us, and yet, to provide us with just the right amount of natural drama. We all know how terrible floods can be. And we all hope that no one will come to harm in this storm or sustain any damages to their property. But with the apprehension comes a sense of feeling alive. The pressure changes, the tide rises, the waves splash over the Seawall under rolling clouds, and we feel vulnerable, exposed. That is a very healthy sensation.

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Wednesday 06/10/2015
Bird Silhouettes

The GAF in birding stands for General Appearance in Flight. To identify the birds crossing over the bay area in the time of sunset, it is helpful to note the shape of wings, neck and tail as colors tend to fade. Indeed, sunsets are a big show of silhouettes when the birds change feeding grounds before dark. Often, the waders choose an island to spend the night to find safety from predators. The pelicans line up in great formations of up to a hundred individuals while the herons remain solitary in their search for a perch to sleep.

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Wednesday 06/03/2015
Red Sunsets and a Strawberry Moon

It is June, the days last long into the evening and the sun along the Texas Gulf Coast seems bigger than ever when setting over the horizon.  Last night the moon seemed a reflection of the sun as one set in the west and the other rose in the east.  At the end of the day, the sun dragged along a velvet red curtain, fit to drape daylight's stage at the end of a performance. The moon was bathed in the same red hue as it rose over the Gulf waters. Strawberry moon, as named by the Algonquin tribes, is a time to gather the red berries. It's the beginning of the season of plenty.

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Wednesday 05/27/2015
Big Turtle Release

This morning at 8 am, Stewart Beach saw the release of about 50 sea-turtles by National Marine Fisheries Service. Most of them were Kemp's Ridleys that had arrived in Galveston last winter from New England. After repeated cold fronts caused the water temperatures to drop in the Cape Cod area, many turtles got stunned and beached. They were rescued and distributed to centers that would be able to help them recuperate, such as the NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, here in Galveston, supported by various other institutions such as the Houston Zoo and Moody Gardens. The heavy downpours from earlier in the morning stopped just in time for the release to become a well-attended spectacle. NOAA staff and Houston Zoo employees showed the turtles to a captivated audience and answered questions. The released turtles quickly made for the warm waves and disappeared in the Gulf of Mexico to the jeers of the watchers.

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Wednesday 05/20/2015
Overcoming Photographer's Block

We know of writer's block, or any barrier that shuts down the creative flow in a person. It happens to photographers too. Even nature photographers. This is the time of year when the good light makes itself scarce. The skies get hazy, a boring dull grey or dirty blue, even if the weather is, in fact, nice. The heat acts like a dimmer. The humidity hits the 100% mark along the Gulf Coast more often than not, and is responsible for a lack in contrast. And the birds make themselves scarce, to escape the heat. Sometimes this is enough to dim my inspirational sources as well. Luckily, the camera is a fun-house with so many different activities, it can always bring new entertainment.

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Wednesday 05/13/2015
If Walls could Talk

They are part of downtown Galveston, those ruined houses with falling shutters, blind window eyes and mildew spotted "No Trespassing" signs nailed to a piece of hardwood covering a door. They could be seen as romantic relics of people long since moved away, remnants of a past indulging in whimsies such as turrets and neo gothic designs. Often, they are victims of a family that can't afford to renovate what was passed on to them, the formerly priced home of a people unable to maintain or destroy. No matter what the reason behind these architectural relics' existence, they are part of a story woven through Galveston's decades, waiting for fate to call them back to life or then into complete destruction.

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Wednesday 04/29/2015
Riding the Wind

The gulls are nesting. The flocks of birds on the beaches rimming the Ship Channel were astounding in their numbers this morning. Laughing gulls darkened the sky when rising in their hundreds riding the winds, and the pelicans built a Manhattan-esque skyline against the sunlight.  A beach parking pass for Galveston costs $25 a year. An investment that is well worth it to avoid the hassle of individual payments. It is also an investment made in keeping our beaches clean. I commend the people busy picking up the plastic dumped by the currents on our island's shorelines each morning. We need to keep the island clean for a better nesting and feeding zone. The benefits are reaped in the most direct way by watching the spectacles the wind orchestrates over Galveston with the avian puppets.

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Wednesday 04/22/2015
Busy times at Laffite's Cove

With the avian spring visitors taking advantage of any tree crop along the Gulf Coast to rest, mate and feed, Laffite's Cove has become well known for local birders as a hot-spot to find and observe singing birds this time of year.  The nature preserve is governed by a non-profit organisation and offers wheel-chair accessible walk-ways with benches to watch the flurried traffic. An intricate irrigation system provides the birds with water to drink and take showers. Some drips are even placed on elevated tables to keep the birds safe from snakes, but all are cleverly disguised to give it a most natural feel.  The small wooden crop also hosts a large squirrel population, snakes, opossum, raccoon and armadillos. The surrounding ponds are a haven for wading birds and the occasional nutria can be spotted as well.

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Thursday 04/16/2015
Peacock's Spring Ball

The Galveston peacocks have once been brought in to adorn the County Club lawns but have long since become wild. They thrive on the West End, often times fed by private individuals. Even though the species hails from India originally, the amount of peafowl Galveston hosts is small enough where they won't bother the local ecosystem. They do, however, throw a birder off, when their long-necked, exotic silhouette pops up between trees. The best place to watch peacocks is on the road adjacent to the County Club's eastern border.

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Thursday 04/09/2015
Spring in the Swamps

With Feather Fest taking off, visiting ornithologists aim their lenses toward tree branches and tidal lagoons to capture one of the many migratory birds that populate the Gulf Coast this time of year. April primes nature's canvas with pastel backdrops of wildflowers where not just birds receive a playful setting but also one of the local reptiles, the alligator. From Anahuac to Brazoria and Brazos Bend their scaly bodies capture the welcome sun to warm their blood. The grunting noises echoing across the swamps is the alligator's own "mating call".

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Wednesday 04/01/2015
Spring Beach

With that switch between winter and summer happening in a few fleeting days of spring, those early morning beaches are a treat more than ever. Warm enough where the wind is but a caress but still fairly empty, it's the perfect time to walk or cycle, enjoying the great expanse of water and air.

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Thursday 03/26/2015
For the love of Birds

Recently I had a friend ask me, (someone who spends his days photographing the big cats of Africa no less), what on earth I photograph in regards of wildlife on a flat sand-barrier island like Galveston. The obvious answer is birds. Especially now during spring migration. But he knew by all my appreciation for avian habitants of planet earth, I was no ornithologist. The truth is, birds inspire regardless of your knowledge of them. Their antics range from the cartoonish to the most graceful. Once seeking them out, you become a spectator to an uninterrupted play of acrobats wearing feathered costumes. And the photographic opportunities are indeed endless.

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Tuesday 03/17/2015
High Time for High Island

It's the time of year again when wading birds flock to the small island in Claybottom Pond in Smith Oaks sanctuary at High Island. The area is a magnet for egrets, heron, roseate spoonbills and plenty of other species as they seek a mate in order to nest and raise chicks. Apart from the alligators lurking beneath the nesting sites, the island is a safe place for the birds. It is well worth to get up and catch that early morning light to watch the heron's fabled mating dance, as they try to attract a mate and spread their plumes in a gauzy fan. Smith Oaks is under the care of the Houston Audubon Society and may well be one of the best places on the continent to watch the birds' springtime antics.

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Thursday 03/12/2015
Grey in Grey

There weren't many signs of spring along the Galveston beaches these last few days. It's much like a symphony in grey. Even the birds seem plumed with grey. At least the willets are when stoically bracing the rain and wind along the West End beaches. But there is a calm, a serenity in the hues of a beach in bad weather.  Galveston may have draped a drab old winter coat on its shoulders. Or it may simply sleep in a little, before the hassle and bustle of Spring Break. Upon closer inspection, the grey may even be a palette of colors ranging from silver to metals infused with soft traces of cobalt and emerald.

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Wednesday 03/04/2015
Change your Perspective

There is one advice I will give time and again to people asking me about photography; Approach your subject on eye level. I'm not saying this is a rule to use all the time, as especially in portraits of children a view from right above can be fun too. But when it comes to birds, we tend to overlook them, bored by our regular car seat view which gives us this 45% angle making all birds look quite similar. Sneaking up on flocks of seabirds on the beach, I drop to their level, literally. That means I get dirty and often soaked but it also means I see them from an angle that opens up their world in much more than a photographic sense. At times, I even dig the camera into the sand to achieve eye level. The range of possibilities in depth of field will increase higher than the ensuing amount of laundry. The chance to get a clear image of shore-birds in flight doubles with a firm grip on the ground, elbows digging in deep.

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Thursday 02/26/2015
Co-habituation

The word "co-habituation" has become a fashionable term to describe conservation-minded developments of human habitats and industrial areas. It is irony that the natural state of sharing a planet has become such ill-balanced in favor of humans and their needs, that the very existence of wildlife within our claimed areas needs a title.

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Friday 02/20/2015
The White Pelican Assembly

On another foggy February morning at dawn, I was once more engulfed by the thick, wadded mist. This time, however, there were white pelicans everywhere. Despite the limited visibility, I counted 800 birds at one point. I tried to get closer for some photos, but was surprised by the incoming tide and ended up wading back to higher ground in hip-deep water. These pelicans are migratory. As I had never seen so many individuals flock together in my decade of living on Galveston Island, I suppose these birds are about to start their journey north.

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Tuesday 02/10/2015
Flocking About

With the setting sun flocks of birds crisscross the skies above the prairies and wetlands of Galveston's West End in order to switch pastures for the night. Often, the birds like higher ground at night, or then inundated grasslands where they are safe from lurking predators such as coyote or bobcat. The formations marbling the pastel skies at dusk are part of the coastal cycle of day and night. The various croaks and caws mark the passage of time like a sun-dial clock.

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Thursday 02/05/2015
Snow Geese in Anahuac

On this cloudy February morning visitors to Anahuac NWR in Chambers County could witness a flock of Snow Geese landing in the coastal marshes in a great concert of honks. The Snow Geese population of North America exceeds 5 million and is considered healthy. The spectacle of the geese visiting the wetlands along the Intra Coastal Waterway is a highlight in migratory bird watching. The hues of the wintery marshes make for a nice palette of earthy pastel from which the white geese and the brownish juveniles stand out.

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Tuesday 01/27/2015
The Mysterious World of Fog

The thick coastal fog that comes with many January mornings has the ability to transform the island into a foreign planet, cloaking the world until one could imagine to be the only human being around. The fog distorts shapes and gives them lives of their own and changes sounds until it is hard to pinpoint their origin. Taking a long hike along East Beach Lagoon the birds materialized like statues packed in thick tufts of cotton and the egret soaring with a croak could be a gargoyle loose from a medieval cathedral.

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Friday 01/16/2015
Return of the Skimmers

The recent rain has brought the flocks of skimmers and other shorebirds that make rest on Galveston and the Bolivar Flats this time of year. The red-billed skimmers tend to soar and land in flocks of hundreds, creating meandering clouds in the skies. The white pelicans sit like marbled statues on the lagoon, less skittish to passers-by.

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Friday 12/12/2014
Holiday magic in the wetlands

The cool December air sends the birds out into the open to seek the warmth of the sun and thus mid-morning sees as busy a traffic of pink-, white- and grey-winged birds as on an airport hub over the holidays.The Cranes' croaking mixes with the chattering of Spoonbills as they flick water droplets around as brilliant as Christmas ornaments when taking off. I don't know if I prefer the clear blue skies only winter can produce or the misty, foggy mornings also typical for the season.

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