The Current Bird Journal is always here. All Contents Copyright 2015 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. Cameras Used Ethics out-of-date Feedback page Bird Rescue Advice from Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Herons Egrets Herons or Egrets? Books & Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Bird Rouses Courtship Displays Duck Love Birding Galveston 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Lake Coyotes 800e Journal G5 Journal JRCompton.com Links My resumé Contact Me DallasArtsRevue Bird Banding Info So you want to use one of my photographs in your work? How to Photograph Birds Bird-annotated map of the SW Med School Rookery Even I use Site Search to find anything, but that gets art-related finds, too, because it includes DallasArtsRevue, my other website. Entry dates are when I posted, not necessarily when I shot them.
214 photographs so far this month, with just enough text
to keep the pictures from bumping into each other.
There's still water flowing down the middle of it,
but the Upper & Middle Spillway is Now much Dryer
July 29 2015
I'd been watching the two crows for awhile. I guess they might be a pair, but don't know that. It's not really a beach, just looks like one. What it really is, is the floor of the Upper Spillway, where now only a stream somewhere in the middle flows from the dam, down and around Egret Island, pools and falls over the Lower Spillways Steps, then makes an abrupt left turn to join this particular White Rock Creek eastward out through the Municipal Golf Course and out, under I-30.
They kept doing odd things, so after awhile of watching, I started photographing them, too.
The one on the left is looking up. Until I figured that out, it just didn't look right.
Sometimes I really wished I knew what they were doing or at least what they were saying to each other.
I usually don't photograph Great Blue Herons without their heads showing.
But since it was descending on the far side of the Spillway, and I was already intrigued by its style, I just kept clicking.
Touch down in a bit of breeze.
Peeps are generally Shore Birds or, as Richard Crossley (His all-photographic The Crossley ID Guide - Eastern Birds edition) calls them, "Walking Waterbirds," since most birds, given the chance, would rather hang out on the shore.
These are sharp enough I could probably identify them.
Of course, they're not really much closer. More like they are sharp enough I could enlarge them more.
Somewhere along The Spillway.
Snowy Egrets are such amazing little creatures.
I think I prefer photographing Killdeer in flight. I have gobs more pix of them just standing around the Spillway spaces. It's nice when any birds holds still long enough to photograph it, but watching Killdeer walk, run, bob or stretch is the more fascinating observation. Them just standing there is deadly boring.
I'm all for fisherpersons getting to catch their daily protein, but they tend to leave a lot of dangerous, sharp and pokey metal in the water where birds get ensnared with it. Their illegal presence there also keeps birds away from places birds have every right not to find humans. I know that wall looks almost vertical, but it's really not. It is possible to walk down there, though probably not safely. I keep wishing bird scat was slippery — not that I want fishers to fall — that water is nasty! Just I'd rather they do their fishing elsewhere, so birds can do it there. I've never called the cops on them, because I don't have a cell phone, but I strongly urge others to.
Surely, the cops — if they do anything at all — would stand around waiting for the errant fisher-persons to appear at the top of the slant. Not sure that makes for any kind of efficiency. There's signs in English and Spanish all around the Spillway saying it's illegal to be down there, but as long as those silly rules are not enforced, there'll be more and more people down there. There's a reason birds like fishing down there. I believe I've seen more people down there more often lately than during all the eleven years I've been padding this beat.
The balustrade or rail or fence or whatever it should be called — that keeps bicyclists, humans and kids in strollers from plummeting into White Rock Creek below the Walking Bridge it protects, directly parallel to the car bridge on Garland Road at Winstead. I was startled to look up and see these guys just barely far enough to focus my telephoto lens on.
Starting off at the pier at sunset Bay
July 28 2015
Not sure where they got those colors, but I sure didn't put them there. Kinda wish I could do that, actually. My challenge with this image was getting the female on the right light enough.
And all the way to the other side. I guess 510mm will do that for me. Same lens as usual, just a 1.7 telextender for a change, 'cause I thought I'd need it later at The Spillway.
I'm kinda liking this subdid array of colors and tones. Kinda wisht I could keep it going.
But I'm not at all sure it's always that same bird. Maybe they take turns. Next time we'll start off at The Spillway, which is where I'd planned to go anyway until I drove by and it was all dark.
It's hard to believe, in this heat, that there will be an autumn, a winter and a spring — all of which in Dallas as in most of Texas, is really just one big long, temperate season. We don't really have winter unless it snows and the snow stays on the ground a week or so, and autumn and spring are so similar that it's hard to give them much notice. The big difference between autumn and spring is that spring lasts longer. At the U of D back 55 years ago, we times autumn, and it lasted 17 seconds.
Back At the Upper Spillway Again
July 27 2015
If I knew who these guys were, I'd tell you.
I even have a book called The Shorebird Guide, and I've paged through it for several years, either at about this time of year, or when we drive down the South Texas Coast. Then, after identifying the same birds a couple dozen times in succession, I begin to learn who they all are.
Then I get out of practice again, and am hopelessly lost again.
Then for awhile, I'm just confused.
That blue must have something to do with the color of the sky.
Or else I woulda thought they were all the same.
I remember laughing quietly at a person who professed to be a semi-pro birder who didn't want to get into all the different kinds of ducks. Me, I like duck, and am interested enough to track them down. But Little Walking Shorebirds drive me crazy, because we only see them in the between seasons, and they're never around long enough for me to get used to them.
I'm betting it's a sandpiper.
Most of them with their heads showing this time.
The Saturday Night Special
July 26 2015
One of those times when beautify was so much all around us that I didn't even notice till much later that nearly all of these photographs included some birds. I carefully lined us up to capture those two gooses about middle across this image.
We ate dinner at one of our favorite places, then drove around the lake, eventually stopping for ice cream.
We both made photographs all along the way. Sometimes when The Slider was still moving. Usually after I stopped.
I'm pretty sure this is where, until a couple weeks ago, I photographed Scissor-tailed Flycatchers middle-to-late spring and into the middle of summer. This is off into the sunset portion of our sky.
And this isn't. As often here, there's no way I could identify all these birds.
I'm shooting, as I often do, across the one-way circle drive past The Winfrey Building.
And down through the trees at the sports fields, down …
… And up.
This looks familiar, but I don't remember from where.
Bigger Birds in Sunset Bay &
Smaller ones on the Upper Spillway
July 25 2015
I was doing alright in sunset Bay when someone told me about seeing a Green Heron on the Spillway, so after I shot some of these, I went there. This swan is eating green slime from the bottom of this very shallow water.
The birds there were altogether too familiar, but Sunset Bay was lovely. A soft breeze seemed cool, and there were plenty of birds willing to come close — and one alluring Snowy Egret who would not.
Plenty of action on the water and over the water, but there was no Green Heron when I got to the Lower Spillway, so I went back up to the Upper Spillway.
Complete with some spots, which only Breeding Adult Spotted Sandpipers have — making early-season identifications very difficult for me, but this one was easy.
I dearly wish I'd brought my telextender today, to bring thee and all the other birds I found to photograph up there so much closer.
Killdeer upper right. No real idea middle left, and Kala King says the lower middle one is a Least Sandpiper. But so nice of three species to pose together. Maybe four. I have no idea what the light brown bump is left of the Killdeer.
Or perhaps I should state, the Sandpiper Unsub. With as distinctive a wing pattern as this, one might assume it'd be easy. I bet it is easy for some birders, but not this one. I can always tell whether someone who sends me pictures of an unsub has ever read this journal. They assume, because I write words under my bird pictures, that I'm a bird expert. I hope to live long enough to have that happen, but I am not an expert. Pretty good photographer, maybe. But I am not an expert, and I'm even less good at identifying birds.
Killdeer are often gorgeous flying. This one probably is most of the time, although in this photo, it looks a little ungainly, but in my other two photos, it looked even worse.
A little less telephoto than the next shot down, this shows a bit more of the scene.
I was on this side of the Upper Spillway, and these were all on the far side, so them sharp is some kind of photographic miracle. Shouldn't be difficult to name that species, with that many flight images this sharp. When I get around to it. Hmm. Might be Least Sandpipers.
Snowy Egret on the left side. Most of the rest are peeps. Probably the same bunch I've been photographing.
I'm guessing a Least Sandpiper. Sure wish they wouldn't name them diminutively. Makes me feel like one of the few peeps I can identify aren't really worth the trouble. The other peep I can generally I.D is the Killdeer.
But whether this and the other one above it are the same is beyond my identifying skills. I love photographing peeps. Aiding them, however, is usually beyond my identifying skills.
I always get a little excited when I adequately capture peeps flying, because most of the bird I.D books show them wings up and wings down, to make identification all that much easier. But I think these are two different species. So I'll just leave them and their identifications up in the air.
I'm going back to the Spillway Saturday, with a telextender to make of my 300mm lens a 500mm. Maybe that way, I can render these often tiny birds a little bigger.
Mallards and Wood Ducks in the late evening at Sunset Bay
July 24 2015
All these images were shot in the late evening up on Sunset Beach. I was using my Panasonic Lumix G5, so any attempt at stopping even the slowest action would have been useless, but if they held still and I held the camera still, some nice shots resulted.
Some of these were shot as I walked into the ducks queue with Anna's eight-year-old grand-daughter Alice, slowly and ever-so-carefully through the mobs of ducks waiting for Charles to come feed them, which he was not able to do this time. His job was keeping him busy into the night. At eight o'clock, I think I remember, they all left, hungry
Ben sometimes wishes he hadn't saved this Muscovy Duck, who seems to have become something of a bully. Not enough he's bigger than almost anybody else off or on Sunset Beach, he seems to need to need to show everyone often.
I love their beautiful summer eclipse
I believe this is a female Wood Duck. The upper bird is a female Mallard. I wouldn't dare guess how old either is.
I was hoping the Crossley ID Guide - Eastern Birds would show and tell me the exact age and sex of this, and some of the other Wood Ducks in today's journal entry. But though I know they are diverse and confusing, I don't know which this is. I'd at lest guess Javelle.
Note the distinctive differences in beak colors and where the various stripes are on the head. Otherwise, the body colors, configuration and stripes are remarkably similar from the image above and this one.
Especially beautiful in the late, setting sun.
The one in back is certainly an adult. I suspect the one in front is younger, maybe even one of this spring/summer's batch.
I've Just Been Busy or Hurting But Mostly Busy
July 20 2015
I strongly identify with this pigeon. It might be hurt, but mostly it's resting. I've been busy. I'm going to be busy. I'm tired and cleaning my house and some other house stuff I've procrastinated just about enough, but it needs doing, and I do what I can, but now I need some professionals, and that'll keep me busy for awhile. I do go out birding almost every day, but I haven't been finding much.
I don't think it looks like that when I'm not photographing it, but when I am it looks like a constellation of moving stars splashing down the Lower Steps at the Spillway. You know, kinda like this.
I want to go birding instead of all this cleaning and fixing stuff, and I will soon, but right now I've just been busy or hurting, but mostly busy.
The Southwestern Medical School Rookery on a Hot Sunday Morning
July 20 2015
Soon after I shot these images at the Southwestern Medical School's Rookery, I crashed for eight more hours, then I got up, worked up these images, and only now am I remembering that after I got these shots, both of the cameras I brought quit focusing, which is a distinct drawback. It was already plenty hot.
See also my bird-annotated guide to the SW Med Center Rookery.
I usually prefer to photograph birds on the ground or in trees. Unusually for me, I photographed birds flying today. I probably needed the practice.
And oddly enough, they look a little different than most of my flying-bird photos. I like that, but I can't explain the differences, except these seem more informal …
These definitely (?) are downy young Cattle Egrets, and even on this slightly less-enlarged image, we can see, if we look more carefully, that the tips of their beaks are not black. I probably should add these shots to the Baby portion of my Egrets page, since this earlier stage is sorely missing.
They're orange-tipped. I'd never noticed that before. Neither, to my careful study, has Sibley. What's up? Did pre-flight Cattle Egrets only recently acquire orange beak tips?
As usual, there were lots of adult Great Egrets.
I first saw this scene through my 300mm lens, and I assumed incorrectly that it showed a female parental Anhinga at the top, with several downy young scattered about a nest. Because of my pre- misconception, I kept thinking of them as a family. And that is the basic mis-assumption that led to a trail of errors I won't repeat, because it's stupid, wrong and very confusing.
I now see that the upper, still-alive Anhinga and the lower one falling out of the nest with its head turned back up are or were downy young Anhingas. Because I didn't understand what I saw way up there and in my overexposed photograph of it, I mistakenly asked the participants in Dallas Audubon's free online forum, Bird Chat why the top bird that I thought was an adult female was almost all tan and why her jaw was so misshapen.
You can read Bird Chat any time, but you have to register to post, all free. Very nice bunch of people, and welcoming to amateurs. I am, but you don't have to be a Dallas Audubon member.
On Bird Chat, Kala King pointed out that the top bird was another "one of the babies, [and] their jaws do look like that, and it looks like the one hanging out of the nest may be dead or dying." That, finally, made visual sense, and was probably what Anna had tried to get through my original misconceptions when I asked her earlier.
I have since read [Andale, Andale …] that another, perhaps related, but healthy, young Anhinga was found on the ground there and taken to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation. Young birds often walk around on the grounds both inside and outside their Do-Not-Treaspass perimeter, and I wonder if that was really a "rescue" or a birdnapping. Some people tend to be overzealous about rescuing birds and animals who should be left alone, where their parents can find them. This site may be helpful in determining if a bird or animal really needs rescuing.
Wildife Rescue dot com gives us, "Important Reminders," like "It's always best to leave what you may think is an "orphaned" [bird or] animal alone, unless it is in obvious distress or in an unsafe location. Quite often, its parents are close by and reluctant to return, because you are there. Watch for their return from a safe distance … Generally, if no parent returns within one to two hours, you should call Wildlife Rescue or begin preparing your protective container."
Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation in Hutchins, Texas just south of Dallas at (972) 225-4000 will explain some of your options. That's where most Dallas rescues go to rehabilitate, although if you take your bird to a vet to then expect to have it taken to Rogers, it may take valuable hours or days to get there. It's a nice drive. Do it yourself. They used to want $50 per rescued bird, and that seems eminently fair.
We almost always see, especially on hot summer days, birds who didn't make it. I usually don't get involved in saving 'baby birds' whose parents have pushed them out of the nest, or whose siblings do that, since it's all part of Nature's oft-confusing Plan.
Birds lay too many eggs on purpose to try to beat the odds, and too many young emerge from those eggs, then most of them die before they're fledged. Injured birds anywhere else are deserving of human help, if they can get it. I've helped Anna catch and deliver several injured and/or near-death birds to Rogers Wildlife. Last time we visited the rookery — before the heat of summer set in — we were amazed to see no dead baby birds. But we knew it couldn't last.
I was going to just crop it to the flying Great Egret heading for the building, then I noticed all those GEs on the tops of the trees at the rookery so close to SW Medical School in this view from the top of the parking garage across the street.
Thanks to my mediocre far vision, I assumed I was photographing yet another Great Egret flying. Note, these two shots are different magnifications from the same image. Nice to have a lens that resolves that well, even if the upper version shows a little too much contrast at the bird's edges.
And this isn't even the whole frame, but we can now see where this bird was flying — over Stemmons Expressway and off toward the Trinity River, we assume.
It used to be so magical at the rookery to have so very many big white — and black — birds flying nearly all the time. Lately, I usually concentrate on the birds doing rookery stuff, building nests, tending their young, etc.
I love going to the top of the free-parking high-rise parking garage across the street from the basketball court, where I try to photograph birds flying from a level a little closer to their own. I didn't notice the silly raptor sounds coming from inside that building this time, just the pattern of darks and lights and colors of its open-to-the-elements architecture. I guess I liked the abstractness of this scene after photographing all those bird details.
Pretty Landscapes, a few birds, Early Sun &
A Treasured Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
July 19 2015
Still my favorite place to be in the known world. Lately, in early mornings and later evenings, and sometimes in the head of the middle of day, there's a cool breeze that rifles across those flood-damaged slats.
Holding still long enough for me to photograph it.
Nice color and texture on the lake but close in.
Photographed from that pier across the bay.
Them being the Parks Department. We're astonished they're letting it go / be wild out in the middle behind Stone Tables, where now, often, we see wild birds.
Driving back, that sun blotted out my windshield, so I kept having to wash and wiper it, just to see.
I've been attending a place where I've seen Yellow-crowned Night-Herons raising one or two young in summers past in the early mornings for the sole reason to find one and photograph it. Now I hope I can find it and or its sibling hunting in those early mornings. Till the two shots that preceded this one — see bird, click shot; walk twenty paces closer, click another shot; walk another good distance, and click another shot.
Unfortunately, this time, I shot the three images, each better than the last, but at that last exposure, I looked down on my arm where a mosquito was about to sink into me, and I picked it off, flung it away, looked up and the YCNH was gone. I looked for fifteen more minutes..
July 18 2015
All the way down Garland Road toward the lake today, I kept asking the Universe, "Green Heron, Green Heron, Green Heron." It was their kind of weather, humanly unbearably hot and sweaty. "Then I caught myself driving to one of those places I've already gone to four or five, maybe more times this week, and wondered why I thought this time it would be different, castigating myself for keeping going to the same places, but I settled into the drive.
And when I arrived, looked around in a couple places, and saw this bird, where I'd never seen a Green Heron before. Near there, yes, and high in the trees around and over there comparatively often — three or four times in the last ten years, but never right there, so close to the ground, so close to the water, so very close to me.
I started shooting at 3:19 PM, when, hurting from my third fall in three weeks (one bathtub slip and two unexplained outright, no idea why, falls), I was hobbling slow. I hadn't figured it out yet, but I was also sliding down the scale to a dizzying Low Blood Sugar sequence that rendered this diabetic stoned empty stupid and freaked out. But because I usually only see a Green Heron this up-close and personal maybe once a year or two or three — if that — I stayed photographing while the medical situation nose-dived.
My behavior seemed extreme — even to me — till I spoke with a birding friend who has experienced "both a touch of heat exhaustion and come close to frostbite on their fingers because they were excited about something they were photographing and did not want to stop." Like that — intense.
Usually, birders say the best time to find birds is early in the morning or later in the evening, but I have found, over the last decade-plus since I've been doing this journal (and all those pages of photos are still there), that my late-to-bed and late-to-rise cycle works fine, and the birds accommodate me and my hours. And those mosquitoes and other itchy bump-raising insects don't like it then.
When I finally got to the 'place' where I began worrying for my sanity and balance, I walked over to The Slider, hoped the bird would still be there when I got back, gobbled down five glucose disks that I keep handy, quickly chewed and swallowed them. Then walked me and my camera back, and the Green Heron was still there. Still photogenic and darned near posing.
I've seen Great Blue Herons — Green Herons' much larger cousins — adopt this pose, where they seem to be drying their wings or cooling down in general, but this is my first for a Green Heron, and I kinda wished I could have photographed it from the front, from whence it tends to look like the guru's knees are splayed.
Compared to other, more common herons (including all our local egrets) at the lake, this species is much smaller — about the size of a middle-sized Great-tailed Grackle, our most populous species. Which is to say, of all those grackles, some are larger than the Green Heron, and some are smaller, and unless we are paying strict attention, we might confuse a Green Heron with any number of other common, smallish dark birds. Especially someone as inept at field-identifying birds as I am. But it had that heron look about it, and once I got it in focus, it seemed much larger than 18 inches long with a wingspan of about 26 inches.
About halfway through this shoot, I saw a very similar-looking and sized heron fly in just up the coast from where I stood. It swooped up into one of those big trees. I was curious about it, but not curious enough to leave my post. A bird in direct view is better than another one that might still be in a tree not that far away.
And, of course, Green Herons are not green, although they seem like they are sometimes, but usually not in sunlight. In sunlight, they seem brown-to-reddish, with mostly dark gray to black wings, with a little iridescent blue along the tops, with white with stripey brown fronts.
This one didn't move around as much as others I've seen hunting over the years in other places at the lake. There were a lot of ducks and grackles and sparrows around it, and a few of the grackles seemed interested in a fight. But like most Green Herons I've known, it did change shapes quickly and often. I tried to include photos of at least every pose and position and shape.
Especially when they stretch up their necks and raise their heads to see what's over the near horizon.
Seems like almost every time I clicked the shutter, it had assumed another shape or pose. Luckily, in most of the places I've seen Green Herons, they tend to blend right into the landscape. Here, this one seemed to stand out. Probably because I was paying it such intense attention.
On a piece of tree lying down, where it caught several bite-sized fish and went on about its business of preening and cleaning and shape-shifting …
… our little Green Heron camouflaged itself as pieces of a tree — and blended right in. There was a couple in the park bench just up the hill from where I was. I wonder if they had any idea what I was photographing. I wanted to tell them about this amazing little bird. But I was too busy photographing it.
In my semi- to full hypoglycemic glaze, I shot 568 shots, including the many near-duplicates of which you will not see here. I just kept shooting and shooting and shooting. You also won't see the really out-of-focus fuzzy shots, which is why I keep shooting and shooting this comparatively rarer bird species when I get a chance to be this close. I don't think I've ever been this amazingly close to a Green Heron before.
Whenever possible, I photographed minorly "significant moments" like these.
The rest of the time, I just followed this little bird around wherever it went, and I learned on the shutter button.
I stayed in the deep shadow of a low-branched tree, never more than about 40 feet from it — and often close enough to fill my full frame Nikon with its tiny little body, and I don't think it ever figured out I was up there taking its pictures. I walked slowly and carefully, and I did not move when it had its eyes pointed at me, although one time I almost lost my balance, and walked quickly backwards up the uneven-surfaced hill trying to get my center of balance back above my feet, hoping, hoping, hoping I would not fall again, because I still hurt from the last two. Eventually, I got my gravity back where it belonged, and I just stood there thanking the gods and goddesses I didn't sprawl backwards — usually I fall forwards.
I tried it the other way, but I just lost track of where I and it was, down this page. These shots were eventually re-arranged in my usual 'strict chronological order,' because that's the only way they made sense to me.
Well, Landing. All my other attempts at photographing it flying on its usually short hops from here to there and back again were nasty dark blurs that rendered the Green Heron as a ugly and uneven, dark silhouette.
I figured it was going fishing from this mount.
But instead, it kept shape-shifting and went bathing instead.
Splashing lots of water as it did — because feathers are much more difficult to thoroughly wet, than skin is.
And get that wet stuff everywhere up into its feathers.
We can barely tell who it is, it got so wet so fast.
This almost looks scary. I love this photograph of this little monster of the shallows. I made my last shot at 4:39 PM, when I'd looked away from the heron, looked back, and it was gone. So, one hour and twenty minutes of steady shooting one of the more elusive birds on my lists. Wow! Thanks, Universe.
Although I have heard and read that there are far fewer Green Herons now than ever before, when I looked up its current Conservation Status, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology link fixed Green Heron page reports it as of "Least Concern."
Chasing Fast-Flying Swallows on Boy Scout hill,
Odds and Ends & some Great Blue Heron Portraits
July 16 2015
Feeling a little less painful than I have been — without big honking painkillers today, I stopped halfway down Boy Scout Hill too look around, since I hadn't been there in awhile. I kept seeing various species of swallows swooping by and all around, close and far, no doubt chasing bugs, above and down in the tall weeds all around me. I got out, walked carefully into the nearest shade with the Nikon and 300 telephoto with a doubler, which I hadn't used in weeks.
At least I thought it was, now, since the next shot was taken less than a second later, I am thinking they are both the same bird. Not a great shot, but it's in focus and stopped in action, even if it does have its right eye partially closed..
These three shots are the only ones of 85 that I shot today, me spinning around trying to keep swallows in my viewfinder long enough to click and have them be in focus. I'm surprised there are that many, but I'm most amazed at this one, which, mind you is a small piece of a much larger frame, but still with sparkle in her eye.
Hide Your Belongings.
I'm thinking Barn Swallows, but they could be more than one species.
All or very likely mostly Purple Martins. I guess.
And this is my best shot yet of it. Love those three red leaves lower right among the trees/bushes/whatever.
I have seen as many as five Great Blue Herons in Sunset Bay at one time, but any Great Blue Heron in Sunset Bay is automatically "The Bay Gray," so is this one, itches or not.
I very carefully cropped out the over-bright turtle, just right-bottom of this scene. I love that errant gray feather above and behind its neck/shoulders, and I'm glad I waited for a nice profile with flyaway feathers.
So I cropped in for a tight head-and-shoulders.
Lots of Brown-headed Cowbirds these hot days at the lake.
Thistles, E. Kingbird, Mallards, Wood Ducks, One Great
Egret, Some Swallows & The Point of Winfrey Round
July 14 2015
I saw one Grackle flying and no other birds on Winfrey Meadow this warm afternoon. I kinda didn't think there'd be any Scissor-tails in weather this hot, but I looked carefully, and all I found were these thistles.
The wire takes electricity or phone or something up Winfrey Hill from Emerald Isle Drive to the Winfrey Building, and I must photograph hundreds of birds every year on it. When photographing birds, it pays to look up.
According to the tragically (to me, at least) out-of-print Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, Mallards dabble "in shallows for plant seeds, also eats insects, aquatic invertebrates, larval amphibians and fish eggs." But I don't really know which of those, these ladies are snorking just under the water off my favorite boat ramp. I kept hoping some of the screeching Monk Parakeets in the nearby trees would come join the party, but I knew they would not, at least until the ducks left.
In the same place. I like that his green head feathers seem to be coming back — or going away. Same with his white neck ring.
Maybe. I don't think there's any such classification among Wood Ducks as First-summer, but I'm pretty sure that's who those two ducks on the right are. The one on the left has red eyes, so it's probably an adult, but he looks entirely too small.
Under the new wood bridge over the lagoon behind The Old Boathouse is this grassy, floating island that moves with wavelike motion as the water that mostly supports it, does too. I keep thinking it will float away, and it very well might.
I was paying too much attention to my walking — so as not to fall again — and not nearly enough on how I might frighten the egret, and I must have got too close, even though I could still more than fit the whole of it in the frame with a telephoto lens, and I know many other people had more noisily transversed that bridge faster and more noisily …
A friend introduced me to a small crowd at the Bath House Cultural Center a few weeks ago as a "Birding Expert," which caused me to blush, since I know better, but it did sound sweet. Maybe in another ten or so years …
He'd been taking a splash bath, so he probably wanted to get rid of some of that trapped water.
When it did this, I was pleased I'd had the foresight to photograph the pic just above.
And I was startled and surprised to see my third shot in this series caught him at almost the bottom of his dive.
Splashing lots of water around.
I used to call this a "Victory Flap," although now I know it's done to rid oneself of water among the feathers — or just because it feels good to flap.
Nice, for a change, to be this close to a Great Egret. I didn't scare it this time. It was just heading out.
It threw me for awhile that this familiar building was turned around, but the baseball fields really are over there, and I don't know what building that is off to the right, probably across Garland Road, and I'm still odded out that 'they' call Winfrey Point a point, when it's bluntly and strictly rounded.
WRL's Both Too Wild and Not Nearly Wild Enough on weekends
July 13 2015
I usually try to skip weekends at the lake, because there's too many people. I appreciate that all those people visit and use our lake, I just don't want to have to interface with them. I love it when almost nobody goes there. Because, for one reason, there's lots more birds there then. But there were way plenty people there Sunday afternoon, and I still found some birds. So I guess I'm really thankful that The Parks Department sometimes let some of the places go wild.
No fisherpersons on the pier near the new WRL boat house. I guess they like it better — or can more easily get away — when there's fewer people at the lake.
I really couldn't see what they were cooking, but I liked the smoke, am and long have been drawn by it.
It looked organized, and every once in awhile, they all queued up to talk about it, but I liked it when the sworded, even if it was very stylized. Nobody was out there trying to kill anybody with their wooden swords.
They'd practice every move then the students would execute what they'd learned.
There were a lot more than four people going over it, and far more than two paddling under it. I guess I just got lucky here.
I was cringing most of the time I watched this boating melee. Glad they were doing it here, just north of the Mock Walk Bridge, instead of all over the lake. At least they weren't mucking up Sunset Bay, where amateur boating idiots sometimes get thrills from chasing all the birds away, even if it is against federal law. Bet renters never tell their clients about that.
And all the more happy I knew where were secret creeks that hardly anybody ever visited.
A Mockingbird Texican Standoff & Other Birds
July 11 2015
I did get out a couple times, but since I hurt from yet another fall, and I don't want to do another one, I mostly stayed in the car today, but I brought my new Olympus Micro FourThirds camera, must be to get mad at and take my mind off, although sometimes it did good, even when I couldn't.
I've seen young Mockingbirds mock fighting with each other many years ago — I'll try to run those pix down and link that exciting event here — but this time it seemed like an action that might precede such a mock Mock fight. This odd dance that I noticed between two Northern Mockingbird seemed more like a challenge to a fight, although while I watched and slowly followed them down the hill in The Slider, they never even got particularly close.
They just looked menacingly at each other, like any moment they would break into a mutual attack. I'm calling it a "Texican Standoff," and this is the first time I've ever noticed one. And this is my favorite pic of this bunch. I think I managed to capture both of them ever so slightly up in the air.
I didn't like the sound of Mexican Standoff, and these guys weren't in Mexico, so I called it Texican. But it's still a standoff, which Wikipedia defines as "A Mexican standoff is a confrontation between two or more parties in which neither party can proceed nor retreat without being exposed to danger. As a result, all participants need to maintain the strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it."
I found this, whatever bit of plant life it may be, just after I saw the Mockingbird Standoff.
Every little bit helps. According to my out-of-print Lone Pine Birds of Texas, a Northern Mockingbird "gleans vegetation and forages on the ground for beetles, ants, wasps and grasshoppers; also eats berries and wild fruit; visits feeders for suet and raisins."
What I like about this pic is the cowbird's odd, dark, little tongue.
Looks like she's giving somebody what for, but I don't remember any fracas. I just liked her shadow self standing over their with her beak open. I spent maybe eight minutes on the pier, mostly because I missed it, although there was a woman on a cell phone talking all the time, and then I left, feeling just a little off, but not off-balance.
Wish I could do this, but then again, maybe not quite yet.
Except I'm just not sure which birds these are. Then it was Kala King to the rescue again. She says she has these guys all over her yard, so she's very familiar with Juvenile European Starlings. Visit KapturedbyKala.com.
Pretty little and Bigger Birds at my favorite boat ramp
July 10 2015
It is rousing, but except for that black bib barely showing through all those 'ruffled' feathers — and that pink-orange beak — it didn't seem likely till Kala King told me she's got a yard full of baby House Sparrows that look just like this one and its many siblings. Thanks, Kala.
And who else would have that black bib?
Note the little bit of purple it seems to think might be food. It should know.
Pretty, pretty, pretty little thing I first thought was dust bathing, but no dust clouds, so I guess it was just lying down, like I've only seen a few bird species lie down before — Great Egrets and something I don't remember.
With that same pink nose and black on the bib. And the one on the left has a little floweret of food.
I took a lot of shots of this one bathing and thinking about bathing and just standing out there, but this was by far the best. rakish - adjective; "having or displaying a dashing, jaunty, or slightly disreputable quality or appearance."
Or something entirely else. Note that looooong tail/wing feather.
The third one is near the left edge down toward the bottom, on that branch.
Although when I first saw it, before I figured its size, I thought it might be a cuckoo. I guess maybe I am sometimes.
Not so much that I was interested in yet another white duck, just I was testing my new E-M1 and dialing the exposure as I stared through the EVF that gives me every idea just how the final version will look like, texture, color, tones, exposure, etc. Unlike my Nikon that only shows me an optical view of what I'd see without it, and I'm supposed to trust that it will render it perfectly, which it hardly ever does, so I gotta experiment with mirrorless cameras that I can adjust all the time I'm looking through it, if I could just figure out where to put my fingers and do what with them.
And I thought about his head shaking, and I quit right about then. But this didn't turn out terrible at all. Mayhaps I should have kept at it.
Mallards, Mallards and a Snowy Egret
July 8 2015
She was rolling her eye, but that mostly looked crazed, so I waited till she stopped. I know she looks like a male, but I believe whomever told me that ducks with curly tails are always males, so I'm sticking to that. But yeah, I agree, she looks like a male, kinda.
Not jumping very far or very elegantly. Just jumping. I would much rather photograph it fishing, even if I've photographed them fishing many times. One more wouldn't hurt.
I hadn't caught the Sunset Bay Snowy Egret close in awhile. As it flew by me on the pier, I clicked and clicked. One of those clicks netted this. Worth the time.
I know he looks like he's taking off, but trust me, he's landing.
I did not at first, but now I'm really appreciating the look of their summer molt. Look at all those delicate designs, colors and filigree feathers.
I've read that most ducks are Mallard Hybrids, but this pair looks especially mallardish, especially the male in the back.
A new Place I've been Watching & some
Odds & Ends As I recover from a fall
July 7 2015
I watch for new places at the lake, and I've been monitoring this one and two, what might be, temporary streams that didn't used to but now run through parts of the land mass at the lake. This looks like he's bathing in a mountain stream strewn with rocks, doesn't it? The rocks are real, but it's not in any mountains.
A week or so after I started noticing this new water feature along DeGoyler Drive (See my bird-annotated map of White Rock Lake.), I started seeing birds enjoying it.
Now, I pause The Slider each time I drive towards Winfrey Point, where this rocky stream is close to the hill that goes up Winfrey. I've only been walking the last few days after my last fall. I thought I'd broken or seriously bent some ribs, but Doctor Croll tells me it's only a contusion, which I haven't yet googled. So lately I'm walking some and doing without pain meds most of the time. But what is this place that has captured my imagination lately.
It's the bottom-of-the-hill, side of water (and God knows what else?) runoff from the Rides Carnival called The Children's Garden at The Arboretum's fun park. It took birds awhile to warm to the new place, but it seems to have been designed for them. But then we used to go to the so-called Drying Beds in Arlington, where Fort Worth's "solid wastes" were piped, and the birds loved that place, too. I'd love to hear the results of an independent test taken from the concrete-bottomed shallow end of this very short creek that goes under the path, where the recumbent biker's flying down, through the reed garden you shall see shortly, and, one presumes, out into the lake.
This part looks lush, and is probably even mor attractive to birds, but I can park at the top of the Lawther Drive end of it (behind us in this image) and bead down on even the tiniest birds in the rocky creek, without scaring the birds away, which I did repeatedly when I shot these pix on two different occasions. I promised them I wouldn't do that again, and have since got the Brown-headed Cowbird and the Dove.
I've also seen and photographed (but not quite so successfully) Red-winged Blackbirds and their cousins the Great-tailed Grackles down there.
Probably after sighting a bug.
I'm still amazed we still have Scissortails this late into summer.
At least none of the flags have toppled over into the dirt like often happens here.
Looks kinda ungainly, but trust me, it were elegant, purely.
I imagine it got turned over in the blast of water that's been tearing down the spillways off and on for weeks and weeks. It's interesting to see his under designs and way too late to even want to turn it over.
Not at all sure where this is.
This is on the far side (if you drive up Lawther from Garland Road, as I did) of the Winfrey Building, then down that still two-way street to the bottom of the hill toward Sunset Bay, where the Baseball Fields are along the street up to Barbec's and back onto Garland Road.
Over the Winfrey Building Parking Lot overlooking Sunset Bay.
Early, then later into the sunset: of scissortails,
Mockingbirds & so many Purple Martins
July 4 2015
I keep putting these guys up, because a year from now, when I click the Last Year button at the top of the page that will be the main page then, I'll want to know if Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were still around last year, which might mean they still could be then.
But Trees aren't really their natural habitat.
Nice enough for a mid afternoon drive, but that's not all, folks.
To get at all the betweens among all those feathers, sometimes a bird has to fluff them out into a full or partial rouse [a whole page of birds rousing], so it can get to everything that needs fixing, cleaning or put back into place.
The dark ones are males. The gray ones are females. They're all called Purple, and in bright sunlight, you can sometimes see that and some other iridescent colors in the males.
As long as they're close to a hundred or so other purple martins, they don't care.
This is Anna and I driving down DeGoyler Drive with the camera pointed west later that evening before fireworks.
Lovely, even if most of the color action is going on on the far side of the hill.
When we got near the top of Winfrey, Anna pointed me at hundreds of tiny specks flying from east (right) to west. I hoped my little Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds camera would resolve them, so we could see them, and it did. I held it very still and focused carefully on the top of the hill, because I knew the G-5 could never recognize all those moving specks as something worth focusing on. I have to assume they are Purple Martins, because that's who does this at this time of every year.
Outtakes from Late last and Early this Month
July 2 2015
In the theatre, there are many ways to move the scenery in and out. When some contrivance moves it instead of closing the curtains (if any), then opening them again sometime later onto a new scene, it's sometimes called "Deus Ex Machina," meaning machine of god. Nature here provides such a machina in the form of a Nutria, basically, a big rat.
Female Mallards, I think, but am not sure and haven't the time to find it right now.
The are all shots I'd consider odd lots. Never quite sure what to do with them, but I like them and want to show them here.
This shot is not really good enough to show here.
But this one is plenty good to show here.
White duck more interested in food underwater than above.
And I am, as often, leaning left.
Someday I am going to fill a whole page of photos of Great-tailed Grackles flying.
Away from something, but I don't remember what.
Such pretty birds.
I shot this for an ongoing project, but it doesn't pertain to that project except by proximity, so it's here instead.
And, of course, they always should be.
Their survival technique is not always appreciated by birders, but this one is gorgeous.
I'm always amazed when my Nikon catches birds that aren't that far away in good focus.
With police ribbon cautioning people from attempting to sit there.
I still, when I see a Great Blue Heron, look in as many directions as I can, then turn around in the middle of the road and park there with my cam out the window hoping to get a shot of it just a few seconds before when all of it was visible before he got into the tall weeds at the edge.
I pulled up just as he was paddling out. I never saw his face. I wonder if he knows that raw sewage feeds our lovely lake.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2015 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.
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