Power To The — Birds!

Header Image: Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gull

Admit it. You like to watch birds. Some of you may even feed them and give them water. I personally know about people who provide homes for birds. If you like to watch birds, and I know you do, it is very likely you use a pair of binoculars in order to see them more clearly. Do you perhaps also own a piece of equipment known as a spotting scope? From using these specialty types of “optics”, it is a natural and short leap to picking up a camera, you know, so you can record that pretty bird to show a friend. Then you see that fellow on the lake shore with a VERY BIG camera and lens. You then find yourself one evening all alone. Just you and your computer and — the internet. It wouldn’t hurt to just look at some of those VERY BIG cameras and lenses. Would it?

At this time, we shall not discuss the dark side of bird-watching. I mean, who would want to become involved in keeping a list of all the birds one sees in a day. Or a year. Seriously? Why, some have been known to treat this relaxing past time as a SPORT! No. We won’t go there today.

Birds. When we were children it was fun to see a bird bathing in the sprinkler or a puddle. Grandma would show us the wren’s nest on the porch with those pretty eggs and we would be amazed when baby birds appeared. Then, we forgot about birds. School, chores, sports, cars, boys, girls – life happened and we were too busy. University, jobs, love, a family of our own.

We tried to teach our own children about the important things in life. Birds migrated back into our routine. Now. This is the time many of us became “bird watchers”. Teaching others what we love is the true path to learning about ourselves.

Part of our learning about bird watching and, therefore, important for teaching others, is where to go and look for birds. Instinctively, we go to “nature”. Forest, field, shore. That’s where the birds are! At some point we have an epiphany and realize birds are all around us! At home, at work, on the drive to and from a job as well as at all those “natural” places. They may be different birds, but they are there to be seen.

So it was, on a Thursday about mid-morning, that I parked beside our city’s largest power plant. It is an imposing structure with metal walls, exterior framework crisscrossing like some chaotic puzzle, tall light poles, wiring leading outward in every direction, the constant whine of huge turbines – you know, habitat.

Water around the plant remains a bit warmer than the rest of the lake and that attracts fish and other aquatic life. Things that eat fish are therefore attracted to the plant, too. Some of those things are birds.

A few of them are shown below. (Whew! You probably thought you’d never get here, didn’t you?)

It was a chilly and breezy day. This Green Heron found a nice spot out of the wind.

A canal adjacent to the plant’s exterior wall is an excellent place for a wading bird to grab brunch.

Snowy Egret

Tricolored Heron

Little Blue Heron

Weedy patches around the building harbor plenty of insects for a flock of hungry Cattle Egret to hunt.

All of that framework provides places for many birds to hide and nest. Among them is the Eurasian Collared Dove.

A Palm Warbler won’t let a fence impede his bug stalking.

Duckweed and algae provide cover for a multitude of life forms. The curiously curved bill of the Glossy Ibis is a perfect tool for probing beyond the green carpet.

What would an urban location be without pigeons? (Cleaner?) Call ’em Pigeons, Feral Pigeons, Rock Dove, Rock Pigs or the current taxonomically favored “Rock Pigeon”, these birds really are attractive. These almost appear to be musical notes on a scale.

Birds are special creatures. They provide us joy with their diverse appearance. Their songs let us know they are near even if they aren’t visible. We are amazed at their ability to fly. Engage in bird watching at whatever level suits you. Most of all, share your passion!

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

36 Comments on “Power To The — Birds!

  1. Great posts Wally, you have a fine eye for the light. Don’t let anyone trick you into the stupid debate of birder vs wildlife photographer, it’s for the weak minded as both aspects require equal love and expertise on those thingies with wingies. Someone commented above, but I cannot even count the number of times I’ve birded at waste treatment facilities, rural power substations, alleys and algae filled backwater ponds/swamps and the like, the birds who prefer those habitats can be surprisingly beautiful and colorful (as you captured). Now back to checking off all the birds from this year’s Texas trip!


    • Thank you for some very nice comments!

      Wildlife thrives in some very diverse locations, so we try to look everywhere. SWMBO sometimes raises an eyebrow at the stinky spots, but appreciates some of the results.

      Sounds like your Lone Star State journey was fun and productive!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always enjoy your writing and wit but this one was well…extremely enjoyable. Insert insects where you have writ birds and that’s me all over…along with a few other things. I’ll photograph birds when they insist but it’s not my passion as they are for you. But I have experienced the morphing from casual observer of nature to zealot.

    Two very common birds that have beauty enough to overcome their less desirable traits are our various pidges and starlings with a lovely iridescent appearance.

    Whole lotta nice pictures, Wally! That green heron is a great example of critters using whatever they need to for refuge from the elements.


    • Your really nice comments are very much appreciated, Steve!

      I’m headed in the other direction as far as photographic passion is concerned. Hoping to concentrate more on insects, flora and (gulp) landscape images. Several decades of focusing on birds is turning out to be a tough habit to break. Will be planning trips this spring without taking the long lens. Withdrawal symptoms have already begun.

      The Green Heron “sheltering in place” is one of my favorite images.


      • I’m fond enough of birds but can’t afford a Canon cannon so settle for big ones like herons and the occasional little one that carelessly comes too close.


  3. I think I read in the past somewhere that shrimp like the warm waters by power plants too. Some of the places I go to find birds are by culverts. Loop road, for instance, has very dense foliage along the dirt road making it hard to spot the birds you can hear echoes of in the depths. But at certain distances you come to a little bump in the road where the culverts are allowing water to flow between each side. There it opens up into a pool of water lined with interesting ferns or cypress and making a nice spot for birds and photographers alike. So sometimes it is temperature, depth, or just a man made pool to drop in on.

    Love your snowy egrets!! Those gulls on the banner picture are so cute chatting away and looking around.

    I don’t have the biggest lens…300mm on a small sensor camera is the biggest I get. But, I gravitate toward places where that is enough for me. Even just the 300mm on the large sensor camera is generally fine as well.


    • You are so right, Judy.

      Birds find the habitat that is right for them at any given time. Sometimes it’s where we can get a good view of them, much of the time – not so much!


  4. Wonderful visit to this habitat! I always wondered what it was about water treatment plants that appealed to birds – never thought of the temperature of the water. Perfect!


    • It’s a great spot for birds any time but they really gather there during the winter.
      You just never know where those feathered critters will show up!


  5. I can relate to many of the steps involved in becoming a birder, minus the VERY BIG camera (at least so far). I’m particularly impressed (and very envious) with the collection of herons and egrets at this location, as most of them would be true rarities here. It’s remarkable where one can find birds when one looks.


    • We all may take many routes through life and still arrive at the same destination. The important thing is to enjoy the journey.

      I’m still looking at those VERY BIG cameras, but not as often as I used to. Just enjoying looking at the birds!


    • That plant at Apollo Beach was my favorite spot about a hundred years ago. Would load up the boat with Sheepshead and Speckled Trout.

      Birding can be good around there.


  6. What a rich and seemingly unlikely habitat. For years the spotting scope was my constant companion and I so enjoyed the rich views. Now it is sitting, abandoned. When I see a bird the decision is whether to reach for the binoculars or the camera. Unless the subject is buried behind the branches, it is the camera. To think I used to hate photographers because they trailed behind and held up the bird walks.


    • Thank you, Ken.

      I was of the exact same frame of mind when I began “birding”. Doggone camera guys slowing us all down!

      Now, here I sit with a new big lens trying to answer the age-old question of whether I will go forward as a birder or a photographer?

      Take good care. Spring is not all that far away.


  7. As soon as I read ‘power plant,’ I thought about the warmer water. Many human fishermen gravitate to a nearby power plant in winter for precisely that reason. It makes perfect sense that avian fishers would, too. Moving water also makes a difference. Your first two photos of the Snowy Egret resemble photos I took of a Snowy at a culvert recently. There, it was the water flow that was the obvious attraction.

    As for the photos generally? I love the one of the Rock Pigeons on the wires. You’re right that it has the feel of a musical score — and that reminds me that the first, tentative cooing from the doves has begun. I don’t hear it often, but they’re getting ready to tune up.

    Your last bit of advice — “Engage in bird watching at whatever level suits you” — reminded me of an experience I had years ago at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. A group of kids who looked to be 4th-6th grade were out on the boardwalk, just seeing what they could see. Then, a group of birders arrived, complete with binoculars, spotting scopes, lenses as long as your arm, tripods, and such. The kids took it all in, and then one asked the ranger who was with them, “What are they doing?” The ranger said, “They’re birders. They’re here to look at the birds, too.” The kid took another look and said, “Guess you have to be rich to be a birder.” Thank goodness the ranger did his own double-take, and sat the kids down for a little discussion of what’s really needed for birding: eyes, ears, and a willingness to pay attention!


    • When there is a cold front moving through Florida it’s hard to find a spot to fish around the power plants. Doesn’t matter if you’re a human, bird or extraterrestrial!

      The musical reference almost had me linking to an “alternate genre” song called “I Like Birds”, by that ever-popular group, The Eels. I fear some of the lyrics are not age-appropriate. (As in, anyone over 60 might be offended.)

      You have been warned:

      A gaggle of birders in full technical regalia can be pretty intimidating, no matter what age group is exposed to them. And if one of them spots something rare, just get outta the way – quick!

      Good on that ranger for telling the kids what they really need.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve left 60 in the dust, but I wasn’t offended. As a matter of fact, I checked out the lyrics, to be sure I hadn’t missed something. Nope. Not offensive. That said, I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this person/group. I ended up reading this entire bio, and its fascinating stuff.

        One thing I read in a variety of places is that “I Like Birds” was dedicated to his mother, who was a great bird lover. Some scoffed at the idea, but I noticed something on the bio page I linked. If you look at the menu on the left, at the top, there’s a bird that prances back and forth. I’d bet anything that’s a tribute to his mother.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I first started with photography and only later added birds as interesting, beautiful, and often difficult subjects. Nature is truly a gift and bird watching is a great way to enjoy it – as you so wonderfully illustrate.


    • Thank you, Ed.

      I was the opposite. Began bird watching early, acquired a camera when stationed in Germany but only took travel photos. Eventually combined nature, birds, travel and photography and, et voilà ! A monster was created.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved this post and your fun sense of humor! We can always find new and better ways to spend money…oh I mean take better photos! hahaha! I love the Green Heron tucked away out of the wind. You really do take amazing photos! Enjoy your week!


    • Thank you, Diane!

      If we can’t have fun we need to find something else to do!

      One more cold front and hopefully we can turn our thoughts to Spring!


  10. It takes talent to to photograph birds in an industrial landscape and come up with attractive results, Wally, and you’re exhibiting such talent by the bucketful in this post! A super selection of birds too.

    Things continue to improve here. Hoping that all is well with you both there. Stay safe – – – – Richard


    • If you have not worked as a public relations consultant during your lifetime, you may have missed your calling, Richard!

      Your comments are so flattering you made my bowl of fresh strawberries blush.

      That is good news on improvement!

      We are both very well and are achieving our goal of spending more days outdoors than in.


    • Your first sentence is exactly the way we feel, EC!

      Gini and I hope you are “weathering” the summer without too much discomfort. We have cool breezes this morning and will try to send some your way.


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