I’d like to open with this shot of a Canada Goose flying above the surface of Scott’s Creek in Portsmouth, VA. Talk about a species that is an awesome photo target. To me, this is a quintessential fall photo. Canada Geese are considered “harbingers of the changing seasons.” This is also a quintessential goose photo. Canada Geese seem to favor flying just above waterways. Notice that the bird is banking and about to change direction.
All God’s Critters
Keeping with the theme that all God’s critters (including European Starlings) have a place in the choir, here are 2 birds that are busy practicing. First is a Carolina Wren.
Next is a Double-crested Cormorant.
You might be able to tell which is the soprano and which is the baritone. In any event, here’s a 3rd—also a baritone—heading for home after practice. It was getting late.
A New Axiom
It’s interesting. Whenever I write about European Starlings, House Sparrows, or even Canada Geese in a favorable way (handsome, objects of study, accessible photo targets, gateways to learning, spiritual messengers, a child’s first bird), it’s a little like writing about politics or religion. Some folks get rankled. It makes me wonder whether or not we should replace “civilized people never discuss politics or religion” with “civilized people never discuss politics, religion, or starlings or their ilk.”
Did you notice the cormorant’s webbed toes in the second photo (or were you more focused on its sizeable gape)? Here’s a close-up from another photo (but in harsh late-morning light). I generally avoid shooting in light like this and vastly prefer the golden hour light of early morning/early evening.
The toes—all 4 webbed, making them look and function like big flippers—enable these birds to be powerful and remarkably agile underwater swimmers. They’re especially fun to watch as they go after fish beneath the surface. They’re also fun to watch as they display interesting behaviors above the surface
or nonchalantly swim across the surface.
It’s interesting that Brown Pelicans, also water birds—albeit larger and more coastal ones—have the same kind of toe arrangement and webbing. They’re strong swimmers, too, but they do most of their foraging by plunge-diving from the air, not swimming beneath the surface. They also forage while sitting on the surface.
This young bird is heading toward a piling. Pelicans and cormorants also share a fondness for pilings.
Several readers commented on the Fish Crow close-up in “All God’s Critters.” Here’s another photo of the same bird. I took both during the 2020 breeding season, and both are Elizabeth River Park (a Chesapeake, VA city park) photos. For that matter, all the other photos, except the one of the goose, are city park photos. Don’t neglect those city parks! Here, the crow, which looks like it had gotten into a can of Zinsser primer, appears to be looking for nesting material. It was unsuccessful in its attempt, but boy did it try.
And This Just In
I hope the folks at Rust-Oleum, makers of Zinsser primer, appreciate the backlink!
This a disclaimer. WordPress.com hosts this blog, and I’m a big fan. But for some reason the images I upload here are softer than my originals. This is a problem I’m working with WordPress to resolve. All the same, I hope you enjoy the photos. I take great pride in them and in sharing them with you.
Since publishing “All God’s Critters,” I’ve received some interesting comments but also some touching stories about European Starlings. One of the stories, the moral of which is “don’t disrespect starlings,” blew me away. I’ll share that and some of the rest with you in the next blog, so please stay tuned.
Quip, Question, Quote
I try to steer clear of charged issues here (with the exception of casting European Starlings in a favorable light). This is a bird blog, after all. But I need to touch on one. We just lost Charley Pride, the first African American to make it big in country music. The singer also played in the Negro Leagues, professional baseball leagues for African-American ballplayers. And he was a baritone.
He said the following in a 1992 interview with the Dallas Morning News. “They used to ask me how it feels to be the ‘first colored country singer,’ Then it was ‘first Negro country singer;’ then ‘first black country singer.’ Now I’m the ‘first African American country singer.’ That’s about the only thing that’s changed. This country is so race-conscious, so ate-up with colors and pigments. I call it ‘skin hangups’ — it’s a disease.” With those words and with that response, Mr. Pride hit one out of the park.
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