On Dunniteowl’s Pond
I love watching birds. Always have. The different sizes and types of birds are pretty astonishing when you get right down to it. I never cared if it was the flitting from the tiny, leaf covered branch to branch of a lark, titmouse or a wren. It didn’t matter if I was staring at waves of blackbirds on the grassy playgrounds of the school behind my house when I was a kid, or if it’s watching vultures, hawks, and the occasional eagle soaring overhead; or if it’s the faint and distant giant-pigeon sized coo cawing of Sandhill Cranes. They all instill in me a sense of amazement, wonder and joy.
One of the prime inducements to living out in the sticks is the isolation from the things of Man. Not out of some nihilistic hatred of my fellow bipedal predator-prey beings. Instead, it’s the desire to be able to wake up in the morning and, while having my morning coffee brew, I can slip quietly outside, dressed in camouflage, with my camera sheathed in a camo-wrapped cardboard box to reduce it’s large, black blob outline, and walk through the woods, vines, grasses and weeds of my property and snap photos of wildlife and vegetation.
I have a pond. When we bought the property, it wasn’t holding water – even three or four days after heavy rains, it would already be nothing more than a shallow, muddy expanse of buffalo grass, blood weeds, thistle, dandelions and other native wildflower species. I tended it naturally, stomping down grass and weeds into the dirt over time, packing down the detritus of vegetation with just walking over it repeatedly. It took a little over a year of steady tramping, but it finally started to hold water. Now I have a pretty healthy pond.
Over time I have had the pleasure to get some really nice photos of different birds, small animals, flowers, frogs, snakes, spiders (and their webs) and the occasional wandering cow. So today’s presentation for you is not about my point of view, it’s about sharing the camera’s views of what I see when I snap a photo. So, without further fanfare, please take a moment to fix yourself a sandwich, a glass or mug of a favored beverage and poke through what’s shaking “On Dunniteowl’s Pond.”
The day begins and it’s just finished raining. The morning opens up with fog across the pond and surrounding environs. Perfect for catching the best glimpses of the smaller flowers and spider webs, highlighted like Christmas decorations, by beads of water and the morning sun glimmering, sparkling and shimmering over and through the water drops left from the rain.
As the sun rises, the fog burns away and the fullness of the pond is revealed. Once a dry, sometimes muddy depression, the pond has become a haven for all manner of insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and the occasional mammalian visitor. Though most creatures in the wild are wary, being properly outfitted for low visibility allows me to get pretty close to my subjects – and I have to get close – otherwise, even my close-ups are far away with my little Sony Cybershot DSC-H55 digital point and shoot camera.
Sneaking up on flowers is easy, but as Spring goes into high gear here in Central Texas, combined with heavier than usual rains (which still hasn’t officially ended our drought) the flowers are popping up like mad in a veritable cornucopia of color. Framing a photo that can truly capture the amazing and incredible wonder of vast fields covered in native wildflowers is not something I think can do proper justice to the view. That said, I present to you a smattering of color, framing and composition of nature’s own creativity, perfected over millions of years of evolutionary pressure to survive, thrive and have sex. All those stamens and pistils, they just make you want to go out and – buy a bouquet.
Approaching the pond is easy for me, I’ve carefully set up trails and blinds across the “hill side” of my pond, where I can get right up to the water’s edge unseen. From my hidden vantage points in several places, I have been fortunate enough to spot all sorts of birds, bugs and bumpy things.
As the day progresses, even on the water, life must take a siesta, with about the only things moving around being turtles, dragonflies, frogs and snakes, all using the water to keep themselves cool while they hunt. Here is a general sampling of the varied creatures that have made a home On Dunniteowl’s Pond…
Along with the animals who live directly by the life giving waters of the pond, there are also all the other nearby inhabitants who benefit indirectly from the abundance of the waters, which seep into the ground, evaporate into the air and provide a bounty from the water to feed them. The ducks, teals and grebes stay throughout most of the summer as long as there’s still water enough to swim in. The turtles, frogs, dragonflies, flowers, spiders, mosquitoes, butterflies all stick around as long as there’s water enough to grow from, swim in, or lay eggs into for the completion of their breeding and life cycles. If the pond dries up, the turtles and frogs will bury themselves under the mud, hibernating up to eight months under the dried up mud – until it rains again and refills the pond with water.
Until then, I enjoy the pond as the creatures that come to it use it to sustain themselves. In this early part of the Spring, there is one more bird that I have especially enjoyed seeing: the Great Blue Heron. Of all the birds I have photographed, the Great Blue Heron is easily the most difficult bird for me to capture in camera – with perhaps the exception of the Pileated Woodpecker, whom I have yet to manage a decent photo. I leave you and bid you adieu with a final collection of one of the most magnificent and dinosaur-like birds of the world to enjoy…
Thanks for viewing and I hope you found it enjoyable.
All photos by "dunniteowl" Christopher S. Dunn, copyright 2011 and 2012