88 photos so far this month. The current Bird Journal is always here Cameras Used Ethics Feedback My Other Bird Pages: Herons Egrets Heron or Egrets Links & Bird Books Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Behaviors Banding Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JR's resumé Contact Dallas Bird Resources: Dallas Bird Chat Bird Rescue Info You want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Birding Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & Spillway & the Med School Rookery & Village Creek Drying Beds December's Best Pix: Parakeets Splashing Great Egret Barrelling In Bobcat by Kelley Murphy Female Belted Kingfisher White-tailed Kite Sandhill Cranes in Flight Please do not share these images on Pinterest, Tumblr or other image sharing sites.
Cottonwood Park in Richardson for Light & Color
Shot Friday January 20, Posted January 21
Nearly every time we visit Cottonwood Park, the first bird we see is a Cormorant.
in Cottonwood Creek in Richardson, where Kala King recommended we go, we went, and glad we did. Anna & me, on the day before our Twelth Anniversary.
This guy and his family were just outside where I could focus with my 300mm lens. I took the 1.7 Telextender off before we got out, so all these are about as sharp as my big lens can make them. Today's photos weren't all this sharp, but most were. Kinda fun to use all the lens is capable of. I didn't want to deal with a tripod, either. I wouldn't call all these shots "hand-held" since I parked the cam & lens against any tree or knee I could, but I'd taken a hi-stress vita B, so it worked out pretty well, overall.
After 500mm for so many months, this seems pretty wide-angle a shot.
She may not be quite as beautiful as the male below, but she's really lovely with all that cinnamon.
I was sitting in the grass several yards up a really steep hill looking down — any time you can see the tops of heads and bodies, you can pretty much tell the photo was taken looking down at the subject — and there was plenty of light shining down on the birds, so I got mostly great exposures.
With a Northern Shoveler in the upper left corner.
Kinda wish I hadn't overexposed those white feathers, but still — not bad.
Being able to get this close with the full resolution of my 300 made these exquisite exposures possible.
I had more than half-decided not to involve gulls in this story, but this one was being just so vociferous, I just had to capture it.
With its beak just entering the water, which is how they get what's delicious to them our of it.
Took a while to decide what species this is. Then, finally, I saw that major-big beak and I just had to conclude, "Snorker" — what I usually call Northern Shovelers.
The whites, again, are overexposed, but everything else looks just right.
Kinda reminded me of Red Phalaropes doing pretty much the same thing the first time we saw them at Mitchell Lake in South San Antonio some years back.
Both the topside of the bird and of the water reflect the blue of the sky. Equals black. I think maybe this bird and the next one day are about the same age, if not the same sex.
The 2nd Edition of The Sibley Guide to Birds calls both these birds "adult fall." I prefer "autumn," and I note that the time span Sibley notes is September – November, and, of course, it is a couple months after that span, but these are the correct patterns, and I don't think I ever remember seeing quite this same mix of textures and colors before. But I can't find my unsigned first Sibley's to see if it's in there, too.
I remember a small child with its voice raised about as high as the child could manage, urging the Canada Gooses to go away. They, of course, did not.
Or maybe it's something else entirely, but with a bustle like that, it reminds me more of a Muscovy than any other living creature.
I drove past this nightmare of late afternoon when the sun was low patterns past the Young Home for Old Folks. Then I turned around and photographed it. I've been documenting glowing DayGlo fences for many decades — long since past the need to keep everything straight.
Early This Aft on the East Side of White Rock Lake,
Then Posted Later Tonight
When I started photographing him — well before he started flapping — I didn't know what he was about to do, but I knew he was about to do something, just not what. So I got a couple pix of him just standing there, then one wing, then the other wing, started flapping. Or I would never have got him doing this. Photographed from The Slider along DeGolyer Drive. Usually, by the time I see a duck flapping, it's too late, and I just watch.
I saw two small flocks of Ruddy Ducks mostly along the far end of DeGolyer Drive before it becomes Winfrey Point Drive at that last parking lot. Nice to see them again. I also saw a Pied-billed Grebe very close to shore there, but the car behind me insisted on getting me out of the way along the one-lane traffic, so I missed it, but I've got them many, many times before.
When I photographed this floating lump in western Sunset Bay, I really had no idea what it was. Gradually, I came to understand it was what we generally call "a log," even if it's not really a log. It's a bunch of sticks wrapped — or warped — together and more or less tethered to the shallow bottom by something.
Studies in black and white. I was going to post a pic of some pelicans and say something like, "American White Pelicans aren't really white," then go on about how to photograph them so they aren't solid white, because they aren't solid white. Even their solid white parts aren't solid white, because in a decent shot of an American White Pelican, it pretty much has to be a tad darker than bright white, so we can see the details.
Pelicans flap more leisurely, so it's not so difficult to catch them at it.
I'm being careful here not to state which kind of scaup. They're either Lesser, which are our usual variety at Sunset Bay, or Greater, of which I have no memory of ever photographing at Sunset Bay. (In my 30s – 60s, I used to be able to remember all sorts of things. Now in my 70s, not so much.) Usually, we get four or six male scaups (pronounced "skops"). Today there were 17 in the shallow water off the Pier at Sunset Bay.
Unfortunately, my telephoto is too telephoto to show the whole gang of them, besides, we got detail here, and they're all kinda a blur in the group pix.
If I were to assume — which I really don't want to do, because I usually assume wrongly — which variety of Scaup it was, I'd say Lesser. These look like Lesser Scaups to me. But then all scaups look like lesser to me. But I want them to be Greater Scaups, because I haven't seen Greater Scaups much, if ever.
Kala King says they are our usual Lesser Scaups. The main difference as noted in the link she sent me is that Greaters are noticeably larger with little or no gray patterning on their sides, just white. Lesser's dark bibs don't go back as far, and their heads are mor pointed on the back. Sorry not to make this link a permanent link, but so many bird links I've posted in the last ten-plus years have gone bad, it lowers my Search Engine acceptability, and I have to go back and throw all the bad ones out: https://www.utahbirds.org/featarts/Scaup.htm will only be clickable till the end of this month.
But the differences between Lesser and Greater Scaups are subtle. And I haven't got the hang of differentiating them yet. Unfortunately, UTA Birds does not show females. How very strange.
More Birds from Our Galveston Trip
photographed the first week of January
& posted January 16, 2017
This may be the best photograph I've ever taken of a Loggerhead Shrike, which I can now identify on sight. Odd, because there are still so very many other birds I haven't the faintest idea who are — often even rather too common ones.
But are they Great-tailed Grackles like we have around North Texas or Common Grackles like they sometimes have on Galveston Island and points south? Looks to me like these are some great tails, but they don't look altogether like Great-tail Grackles. Part of that may be because I lightened them too much, so we could see some detail in their bodies — and I've never seen breast feathers stick out like the closer one's do.
I took one shot with the ships in focus and this one, and I like this one so very much better. Sorry there's no birds on the No Parking posts.
One of the birds I always love capturing down there — The Reddish Egret. Rather too far, but I have often captured great, much closer-up pix of them, so some Galveston visits must, it seems, be accomplished without getting close-ups of this often skittish bird.
They're everywhere. They're everywhere. We have many of them also. Wonderful, feisty birds who are willing to go up against almost any other species.
Driving through the Galveston Island State Park finding new birds every few minutes was a real treat.
I think I remember these two images were of two separate Meadowlarks.
Too far away, but nice.
I know they appear gray in the gray daylight, but these are indeed Brown Pelicans.
There's almost always gobs of Brown Pelicans in Galveston, but it was two days till we finally saw some. These, I think, are in Galveston Bay, which is on the opposite side of Galveston Island from the Gulf of Mexico, which is itself a part of the Atlantic Ocean.
We didn't get near enough opportunities to photograph Brown Pelicans up close.
So when I saw this one, I zoomed in on it, paid plenty of attention to focusing in, and clicked away till it went out of sight.
Grackles & Monk Parakeets Splashing — & a Squirrel
Photographed January 10 & Posted January 14, 2017
Wasn't at all sure about these photographs, but over a busy week this last, they grew and grew on me. Hope they do on you, too.
I guess the water helped.
I'm assuming the parakeets are doing the splashing in this shot, although that dark tail in the back right might be a friendly grackle who has flung all this water.
I didn't see the squirrel at first, either. Then, I couldn't not see it.
Then everybody but the Squirrel got into the splashing act.
Then when the birds really got into the splattering, the squirrel split.
Egrets Galore in The Old Boathouse Lagoon @ White Rock Lake
Photographed January 10 & Posted January 11, 2017
We started with a lot of Great Egrets and just one photographer, although at least one other later joined me on the bridge, from which all today's photographs were made. I'd visited Sunset Bay, Cormorant Bay, all the rest of the west side, all the way down to The Old Boat House Area, before I found anything worth photographing, and that just kept getting better as I branched up and over to follow all the Black-crowned Night-Herons up into the trees on the other side every once in a while.
I had even spent a few minutes without a tripod on the pier at Sunset Bay without finding much worth photographing. I liked being there, and it was pleasant. But it was this stop that made all that moving around worth while.
Long-time reader Jennifer Luderman asked if "the beautiful dancing egrets" were "Part of their courtship display," and I had to think about that, but later answered, "I think when that many Great Egrets gather anywhere this time of the year, it has to be."
I liked this image first time I saw it, then I started dithering. Eventually, I decided it was just wrong, lopsided, not with the program, not unified, not in the spirit of this story. But it is real, and now, after all these days, I like it. Back in the bad old days when I made prints for for juried art shows, it used to take me a year or two to figure out which were my best shots to enter.
I guess I missed my annual dotage on the Great Egret "dances" at all the usual places by skipping out to San Antonio and Galveston that week, but I needed a vacation, and that was where Anna and I decided to go. And it was mostly lovely to be there and there. Plus it gave our noses & throats time to breathe instead of sneezing all the time while we took lots of pictures of birds we normally don't get to see.
I didn't think so yesterday, when I couldn't find anything all around the lake that got me excited, but today it took its sweet time, but I found a two bunches of birds worth following for awhile.
Watching birds fly is always magic, and seeing all those feathers doing actions most of us still do not understand, even when they are displayed in stop-action photography is, too.
A whole other landing here, some couple dozen frames later.
So we have this, a Ring-billed Gull-flavored transition device.
Then I started following variously aged Black-crowned Night-Herons across the lagoon and up, up into the tall trees on the many-treed hill that used to hold up the railroad, but it now — except for the ongoing upgrades in the noisy Upper Middle Class neighborhood on the far side of the trees — is a good deal quieter.
Once upon a time it was also was where many Yellow-crowned Night-Herons more or less coexisted with the Black-crowned Night-Herons shown here, but we have fewer Yellow-crowns almost every year, even though there are still rather obvious nesting sites, where the much less social Yellow-crowns hatch many new birds every year. But I only saw black-crowns this day.
I can still pan along with a bird as it flies up into the upper branches of the trees on the other side of the lagoon, but I'd need a tripod to hold the camera still enough to photograph them. But there's lots of them up there, and I've carried my light-weight tripod to the bridge and environs many time, and I expect I will again soon.
If this looks like an intentional series, you are giving me way too much credit. Each time a bird headed up into the tall trees surrounding the Old Boat House Lagoon, I'd try to follow it up and keep the frames in focus, which is a lot easier than it sounds. Sometimes it worked.
I like this series, because the juvenile Black-crown on the left seems to be holding its place, while the adult makes progress into the taller trees behind.
And, thanks to my angle of sight, they kept getting apparently closer, even if the adult is significantly enough behind the tyke to throw said juvenile into less than optimal focus.
Then a flying juvenile replaces the flying adult. I don't think I've ever before done as successful a series way up in the trees on the hill on the other side of the Old Boat House Lagoon, where the trains used to chug and clang.
I'll get back to Galveston, and maybe even San Antonio, this or next week.
Out of Galveston & Up + Down The Eight-Mile Road
Photographed January 5 & Posted January 9, 2017
Last time we saw Sandhill Cranes, we were closer, so their songs were much louder, but we'll take what we can get.
I'm always amazed when anything as far away as these birds turns up in focus, although the more I look, the less focused they seem.
But these shots were thrilling. We've seen Whooping Cranes much farther away at Lake Ray Hubbard and didn't hear them sing at all, but it was still a thrill.
I kept up with them, but by then they were too small to show here.
Along 8 mile & Sportsman Roads
This Red-tail was high and I was low, most likely just outside The Slider and shooting straight up into this complicated, mechanical scene. Many of today's birds were extremely wind-blown. So were us humans.
The smaller one in front is an adult nonbreeding Ruddy Turnstone. The larger one may be a Willet. I'm going to have to stare at my bird books awhile to decide, and there's just so many other things I'd rather do..
I did not find this exact configuration of smooth gray areas and mottled gray collar and cap in my bird ID books, but I'm pretty sure the big one is a Ring-billed Gull. We see a lot of those at White Rock Lake — thousands are currently gathered daily on the Upper Spillway just under the dam, briefly very visible from Garland Road past there. These were photographed right on the shore along the peninsula at the top of the 8-mile Road past where it intersects Sportsman Road.
… but I'm just not familiar enough with this species to recognize its more awkward stances. But comparing it to a known Tri, down the page a bit, I see the same colors in more or less the same configurations.
I wasn't ready to photograph the sudden intrusion of White Ibises a long distance out in the wet and soggy field, and just about to disappear in the tall grass, so this is the second best I got. White Ibises, I should probably note, rook in the SW Med School Rookery right here in Dallas. I've seen as many as 80-something fly right over the campus.
Not sure where the other one was, but I'm pretty sure it was much farther away.
There's just so many of this species both here — they mob Sunset Bay and other places around White Rock Lake — and around Galveston that I tend to ignore them most of the time.
Flying over the rocks on Eight-Mile Road after its corner with Sportsman Road.
Compare this shot with the one several clicks up, and even I can see a strong resemblance between the two, perhaps ages, of this bird — especially in their squared-off little heads and looooong beaks.
This is one of the few Ibis shots I got of the whole bird, and it was alone.
From the neck up.
Staring at me. I should note that it was cold, very cold that day, and every other day we were in Galveston. And much colder at night, but not nearly as cold as it was in Dallas.
This might be a first-winter adult BCNH, because of those brown-ish feathers on its very adultish crown. Or maybe up-closish, all the adults look like this. I was, however, not up close, and this is an enlargement of one portion of a much wider tele shot.
We usually see Roseate Spoonbills on our visits often, but this trip we only saw them in the large field that's becoming a wildlife reserve across from the big and little houses on Sportsman Road. I love the large white Colonial style building shimmering in the background.
Best focus and detail in the bunch of spoonbill shots.
I'm pretty sure this is the best Belted Kingfisher shot I've ever made, and I've been practicing for years and years at Sunset Bay on White Rock Lake. Kingfishers are among the few birds whose females are the more colorful.
I keep being amazed at the variety of birds in this one drive-through area along Sportsman Drive on the edge of Galveston Bay. And 8-Mile Road offers many other hidden wonders.
Walking in the boggy field on the other side of Sportsman Road from the houses.
In the field at the corner of 8 Mile Road and Sportsman Drive.
At least thus far unknown to me. Duh… Savannah Sparrow?
Every time I've been in Galveston, the 8-Mile Road has provided the greatest diversity and photographic excitement, and this trip up — and down — it and Sportsman Road was no exception.
And with such a nice background.
Anna's shot of the Osprey in flight was much sharper than mine, so it's here instead.
In that same, very large field across from the houses directly on the shore along. A wild variety of birds kept appearing an disappearing on both sides of Sportsman Road.
My long-time favorite bird, upon whom I can almost always depend to be around somewhere close looking different.
In an entirely other direction, I've just spent more than an hour hearing, watching video and seeing the pix by a favorite photo web guy, Ming Thien as he talks his way through a shoot on assignment, I think, for himself, in Cuba. I find it fascinating to watch really good photographers talking their way through a live-action shoot. It's the way I think, but I usually don't talk out loud — or have a video guy shooting my every move. Wish I could have watched something like this when I was just starting as a photographer, to learn how pro photographs thoughts and sights.
Even If You Can't Really See Much of the Omelet,
This is One of My Favorite Moments of our Trip.
We drove down to San Antonio to visit my mother, then over to Galveston, where we'd never been to in winter before. We'd expected a complimentary breakfast at the rather dreadful Hilton Hotel where we were staying across the street from the ocean. They'd promised it the day before, then they opted out, saying they only happened when at least half the hotel's rooms were let. But we'd eaten some pretty good breakfasts at some pretty mediocre ho- and mo-tels before and had higher expectations than were met.
Our first night on the 6th floor was shattered when the heater refused to heat, and the door and windows and even the heater itself leaked cold, cold air, so they moved us to the 4th floor. After we'd started selecting food items the next morning, someone wanted to seat us and take our orders, and told us breakfast would be $15, which we weren't willing to pay for mostly cold food, so we headed on down the road and eventually stopped at the iHop. I saw what I thought was a medium-sized omelet that might be big enough.
When it arrived on our table, it was humongous. We hadn't been to an iHop for decades, and decided it might be at least that long before we returned, so I got a doggie box and wondered what to do with the 3/4 I didn't eat, when we arrived at East beach. On a whim, I got my giant omelet out, put it down on the sand and leisurely walked back to ample telephoto distance, not noticing the melee going on for it. When I finally turned around, the omelet was gone.
I assumed surely it would take much longer for any interested birds to gather and taste. Wrong again, J R. I really would have liked to photo more of the gull melee. Scramble II above, shows the most parts of my omelet series.
Here's Some of Kelley Murphy's Recent Pix While I
Sort Out My Winter in San Antonio & Galveston Pix
Yes, a Bobcat at Sunset Bay. And hardly the first or only. They don't attack people — unless people attack them, and they're seen every once in awhile — along with coyotes. Says the photographer, "Yesterday morning after it stopped raining I decided to walk down to SB and before I even made it to the lake. BOOM a Bobcat!"
Nice pic, Kelley.
According to Wikipedia, ”Though the bobcat prefers rabbits and hares, it hunts insects, chickens, geese and other birds, small rodents and deer. Prey selection depends on location and habitat, season and abundance. Like most cats, the bobcat is territorial and largely solitary, although with some overlap in home ranges. It uses several methods to mark its territorial boundaries, including claw marks and deposits of urine or feces. The bobcat breeds from winter into spring and has a gestation period of about two months.”
Wish I could show you this photo way huge. It's amazingly detailed.
Pelicans hop with both feet together to get up to flying speed. This pelican has just hopped, left the tell-tale splatter just behind its tail and may make two or four more hops as it gets more air in its wings.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2017 & before 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 the best of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online — see links at top and bottom of every Bird Journal page. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. A total of 52 years.