I am still not a bird I.D expert, but I'm working at it and getting better. The Current Bird Journal is always here. Cameras Used Ethics Feedback My Other Bird Pages: Herons Egrets Heron or Egret? 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 Area Bird Resources: Dallas Bird Chat Bird Rescue Info Want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Birding Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & Med School Rookery & Village Creek Drying Beds August's Best Pix so far: Visiting Pair of Chiloe Wigeons, Great Blue Heron in Morning Gold, Sky Full of Peeps, Great, Leaping Egret, Snowy Egret in Grainy Blue, Great Blue Heron Splash Landing, Great Egret with A Great Blue Heron Stabbing a Fish, beautiful unsub hawk, Great Egret Flying Over, Juvenile Little Blue Heron, an interesting bit of sky, Green Heron Blending In, 3 Juvenile Anhingas in a nest…. Email me. 201 photos so far this month & on my other job, I'm an art critic.
I Needed to Go Back to the Spillway
Photographed early August 26, Posted Early August 28
I didn't get the exposure quality I wanted the day before yesterday, so I had to throw away dozens of images, and I came back mid-morning Friday to make these. This time, almost every time I clicked another photo into being, I checked the exposure by shading the LCD or putting it into my shadow and greatly enlarging the image, which action I have set up on the big button in the middle.
But the light on these birds on this island I call Rock Island and birds flying and birds up on the Spillway and birds almost everywhere else or from other angles or from other points of view is different. Clearly the star of this one is that Great Egret in the almost exact middle, where the focus point usually falls in my viewfinder.
263 shots today — 17 in this journal entry, and that's a success rate of 6.5%, which is probably better than usual. I made a lot of mistakes yesterday from not paying enough attention to what I was doing. I did much better today. There are still many unidentified birds in today's entry, but I will get to them when I'm finished cleaning my house.
Note the feathers on the leading edge of its wings that are all aflutter, carefully disrupting forward speed, so it can slow to land. Sometimes, in action shots, I manage to crop off certain appendages. Here it's two toes and a toenail.
We have two varieties of cormorants. The more common species in the so-called Double-crested Cormorants, but this is of the Neotropic Cormorant variety. The name for the Double-crested Cormorants comes from two longish feather configurations that look more like eyebrows than crowns, but that's what they call them, and no one can see them except during mating season, which this is past.
I didn't photo any breeding corms this year, but I have plenty often in the past to know whereof I type. But I know next to nothing about the word Neotropic. I do know their heads are shaped differently, and for a long time I misjudged that configuration responsible for the "double-crested" part. .
All cormorants sink deep into the water better, because they don't spread lanolin on their wings to keep them dry when they swim, which is why we so often see them out there somewhere drying their wings. This bird looks like it has just glanced up to see me looking down at it, but it is a serious crop of a long telephoto shot.
I often see feathers floating or lying in a heap or alone on the grass. Heaps of feathers usually means the recent demise of something smaller and less aggressive than whatever killed it. But I don't think I've ever seen a feather floating in front of a tree or bush like this. In another, less well-exposed shot of it, the strands of spider webs or something like that shows around it, but it is not obvious that is what is holding it up.
I know it's a flight feather from one or both of the feather books I keep almost buying, but I already have so many books I've never read, including ones about birds, it seems silly. But, as ever, I am curious. This evening, after dinner with Anna and Tyke, I paged slowly through her copy of the audubon encyclopedia of birds or some such title, and I will watch for it at Half Price Books, because I learned many interesting facts from it in the half hour or so I gave it this evening..
Snowy egrets puff out all the feathers that will puff out when they want to impress another bird. I'm not sure who would win in this circumstance, but they did not do battle. They just huffed and puffed awhile, then went on about the business of catching fish.
I spent a lot of time photographing peeps this morning. I used to not know much about identifying ducks. Now I can usually I.D almost any duck, but I still know too little about identifying peeps, among many other birds families. And Kala tells me, "[Ken Nanney told her the peeps] are molting into their winter plumage. That means there will be a huge variety in coloration even among the same species right now". Makes it very confusing. So I'd rather spend the time taking more photos than getting these letter perfect right now.
I am somewhat familiar with Killdeer, and photographing them flying has almost always been a positive experience even when I misfocused them entirely. They're so much more colorful and beautiful than when they just stand there … And of course I do not know who is between them.
… or walking away. Like these birds.
I knew better than to call the slimy-looking green stuff curving down from the right to just under the turtle "seaweed," since we're nowhere near the ocean.
It might be possible that the little birds in the foreground at the bottom of this image are just baby or juvenile versions of the much larger bird in the upper middle, but it doesn't seem likely.
My favorite bird in this photograph that is the same photograph that all three of these images from here down is the one on the left. I think it's also the sharpest one in the flock. Note the significant differences among these three birds.
The confusion of pattern here only gets worse when I include the whole area of the photograph the next imate down is a crop from.
All three of these last three images were taken from one photograph. They just didn't look all that great all in their original pix. Cropping a larger groups makes the individual birds much larger here. So I pulled them apart.
The edge that marks the bottom end of The Upper Spillway. Somewhere not altogether close to these falls and off to the left is Egret Island.
It's so much easier when all the shorebirds I photograph on any particular day look exactly — or mostly — the same. Unfortunately, that's not happening today. That means I have to find all those different birds in all my I.D books to identify them here. I start with my Lone Pine Birds of Texas. Then when I find something in there, I look at it in Sibley's, because his paintings are very precise, but small. Then in The Shorebird Guide, because those images are plentiful and account for many of the variations, some in pretty good detail.
Or at least that was the plan. It was a great plan. It just didn't work well.
Kala identified this one as a Semipalmated Sandpiper that is molting. A lot of peeps are motling now, which means a change in appearance from the bright come-on colors needed for successful breeding to the duller, less noticeable tones needed to blend into their backgrounds and keep safe.
Looks big but the Least part of its name means small, so it may just look big. I saw a flock of peeps flying today, but I never quite caught focus up with it, so you won't see those images here. But I assumed that all the birds in a flock were of the same species, but in my The Shorebird Guide, which I have not yet paged carefully through long enough to crack the code of all today's peeps that look different from most of the others. I should, I suppose. So I can name them.
Before Kala. Long before Kala, someone else used to straighten me out when I misidentified birds, or didn't know enough to make a stab at it. That person was probably even better at identifying birds, but we eventually parted ways. Jennerfer L. named a birds a long time ago. She still reads this, but she doesn't I.D birds for this page. Ducks were exceedingly difficult for me to discern species for for a long time, but now that's a lot easier. I am eternally waiting for shorebirds to acquire that same status, but I obviously haven't waited and worked at it long enough yet.
Or applied myself properly. I've been accused of having that attitude all my life. It must be true.
Sometimes I call that fence The Winstead Fence, because it runs parallel to and not far from Winstead street, drive, avenue or whatever it is called. The parking lot by The Lower Spillway is also known as The Winstead Parking Lot. Usually the birds on it are pigeons, which I also like, but an egret, especially a Great (meaning large) Egret is très elegant, too. And somehow I managed that here by simply pointing and clicking. Nice when that happens.
This is one of three very recent — I always like to show very recent work — bird photographs I included in an entry to an area art competition I have been juried into nine times before. Here's hoping for the tenth. Of the other two, one that is called As The Crow Flies, from just a couple days ago — is just down this page, and the other, from late June is the second image down the June page, called Up in the Air and Going At It.
I'd heard a lot of Great Blue Herons and Egrets were gathering along the lower Spillway, so Weddy ayem, I went there and visited awhile. Not many GBHs at all, but there were a lot of egrets, Snowies, Greats but I didn't see any Cattle Egrets.
When I see an egret with splotches of dark blue on their body, I always wonder if they are big or little Little Blue Herons, and this one is definitely a big Great Egret, despite the splotches of unknown (to me) blue stains. That red on its lower beak point is fish blood where the heron stabbed the fish when it was swimming by, expecting to evade this big hungry bird.
I stared at this awhile till I noticed just the one leg and foot, which is a common way to rest the other one.
First-year Black-crowned Night-Heron in the water on the left with a more juvenile Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Flying Away on the right. Must be an optical delusion that the younger one looks bigger.
Mallards pointed up stream in the Upper Spillway blurred by a Great Egret fleeting over and by.
I really love the twice-abstracted graffiti on the lower parts of the far side of the Upper Spillway — and its absurd bright yellow attempted boxes painted over muted blues. The yellow stands out, while the blue tends to fade, so the City is calling attention here to where the vandalism once was. Too bad they don't have any tan paint that would blend in. But, like I say, I like the cover-up better than the original art. And the birds don't seem to mind..
Lotta Snowy Egrets chasing about the lower Middle Spillway today. Fun to watch. Fast to photograph.
Great Egret placid, stead and staying in place on the left, and the Snowy likewise being the Snowy — fast, active and splashing.
I almost didn't use this shot, because it makes this Snowy (black legs and orange feet and black beak with yellow lores) look mean. But then, pretty often, they are.
Crop way up, wings out but cupped.
Looks like the Snowy on the left is much smaller than the Snowy 'Gret on the right. Both have black legs and yellow feet, just we can't see the black portions of the right Snowy's legs, and we can only see some of the Snowy on the left's black legs.
Sometimes I only captured part of a chase, because they were too close for my 500mm equivalent lens, so I went for the details.
After my good walk up the Spillway, I drove over to Sunset Bay to see what I could find worth photographing …
… and there were several of these I heard high above the creek up from the Lagoon from Sunset Beach. So I posted myself at the metal picnic table there and waited, hoping to photograph the dark birds with the white-outlined wide-spread tails flying by quicker every time but this one than I could follow. A better shot to make a species identification seemed unlikely, but only after I posted this image did Kala King notify me that this time I had a real Eastern Kingbird on my page. Thank you so much once again, Kala King.
I even tried searching for a "bird with white-outlined tail feathers," because that image of them flying, back-lit by the sun, around the tops of those trees, had so enraptured me earlier. And Swallows have forked, not splayed tails. I shot about a dozen times, but mostly I got were the tree tops.
Visiting Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Again
Photographed August 22, Posted August 23
The photographs in today's journal entry are arranged in chronological order. There's at least one more GBH and several egrets and other birds so far out of focus, there's no way I could afford them. Before I eventually subdued the water color here, it was raving magenta. I like this sub did color so much better.
Two Snowy Egrets and a Great Egret with a line of Neotropic Cormorants.
The weather was mostly gray when we were there Monday morning. Gray enough there were fewer birds visible than any other time we'd been there — just 81.9 miles north of Dallas — nearly all the way on Central Expressway (US-75N), and traffic was very fast for my preferably slow Prius I call The Slider, but I still got well more than 63 mpg.
Hagerman occupies the all-Texas, southernmost extension of Lake Texoma, which straddles the Texas-Oklahoma border. If you use Google Maps, you can see all the alphabetical dirt/mud/gravel Pad streets on the west side that we explored at length, and I'd write more about that, but I rarely pay much attention to place or direction, and I was driving, so we just wandered in and out the Pads and wherever else we connected to.
For awhile, I called this a "Brown over White shorebird on the shore. But in my profusely-illustrated (mostly photographs) The Shorebird Guide, by Michael O'Brien, Richard Crossley and Kevin Karlson, it or something just like it is called a Spotted Sandpiper, even though it is not in breeding mode, so no spots.
This image breaks up badly up close, because it's not sharp in focus, so I'm giving us a bit of environment in this photograph. My best guess should be a Red-tailed, since they're everywhere; they're everywhere, but it looks more like a Red-shouldered Hawk, so I'm calling it that.
There were lots of flowers in lots of colors, but I was more interested in birds than flowers, although Anna Palmer's Facebook page will probably sport a bunch of the flower pix she shot.
— At least from this angle. Early in my last ten years of watching and photographing birds, it took an inordinately long time for me to figure out ducks. Which one was which name. Now, I know at least a dozen duck species immediately. Shorebirds still seem way more complicated. And since I don't live on the shore, it just seems unlikely I ever will, but as I acquire better I.D books and pay more attention, I'll probably do a better job of reporting who I was photographing.
I still figure if I can get them in focus, that ought to be enough. But it always feels better when I know the bird's name. I don't always, but soon as I laid eyes on the pic in my treasured Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas (page 158), I recognized this critter as an Upland Sandpiper. Sure hope that's what it really is.
I know most of these. Cormorant drying its wings on the left edge. It's a little out of focus behind the egrets, but that first little dark blob with its wings out is probably a cormorant. The fuzzy gray one a little left of the rippling metal thing is a Great Blue Heron of indeterminate age. The bright white ones are all Great Egrets. There's a bunch of totally out of focus birds on the next berm back that I have no iota of a notion who are.
This is still my favorite bird. A Great Blue Heron, whom I often refer to as GBHs.
See Oil & Gas Production at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. This may look like some sort of organized land and water arrangement, but much of Hagerman is a long series (lettered A through L) of Pad roads that go out into the lake to one or another of those pumpers, usually giving a pretty wide berth around each, then it's likely on to another of a series of isthmuses to other islands and more pumpers. The Google Map, even when greatly enlarged, shows nearly none of the details of those passageway.
Over the years I've seen a lot of amazing birds along those complicated and often frighteningly narrow roads out, around, and on over to the next body of land with another set of pumpers, then the narrowest-possible dirt or gravel road out to yet another one. I can usually turn The Slider around in the middle of almost any road, but I knew better than to try it on those, since they often curve down to the water's edge, hiding tons more shore- and other birds along their flora-filled edges.
I'm thinking this one is young, but it's already got its flat-bottomed cap and that occipital plume (that you can't really see much of here), but I really think it's those orange pants, dark gray-spotted pink epaulets and that long stripe of spotted feathers up the front of its neck that makes this bird look so jaunty. Or maybe its just its stance.
If you'll explore My Herons Page, you'll find a visual progression of GBHs from newly-hatched, to gangly "teenagers," to a mostly brown Juvenile Great Blue Heron that this one really looks a lot like, complete with pinkish epaulets on each shoulder. That must be why I consider the above pic to be of a juvenile Great Blue Heron.
Kala says it's a juvenile until the white stripe appears back over the top of its head.
Hagerman involves a wide variety of land forms, many serving the pumping of oil and gas. Red dirt is borrowed from across the border. I've twice lived in Oklahoma but only sometimes miss the rust-orange dirt.
So-far unidentified sandpiper in the shallows off wherever we were at that moment. Could be another Spotted Sandpiper, even if its beak and legs are different colors. People who are good at identifying birds might call this a Least. I would agree.
It's not at al uncommon for a GBH (Great Blue Heron) to be flying like this. It's almost normal. But it's been awhile since I'd captured a photo of it, so here's this one.
The isthmus in the middle with the birds on and around it doesn't have a red-dirt road, but one is visible on the right of the 'island' above it.
Mostly females. I must have been pretty desperate to be photographing RWBBs.
Too quick to focus. I saw the egret flying up my — though I wasn't looking through the camera — field of vision, and I clicked, and then I noticed I hadn't focused it. But I like it nonetheless. Not sure what it says, but I like the message.
Because we did not find birds just everywhere we visited, some places have more meaning than most others. Like many others places around Hagerman, this one had been dozens of feet underwater during the summer floods that had thwarted our earlier this year visit a couple months ago. But what we liked best about this particular place, was that there were an abundance of birds there. Usually there's lots of Green Herons, but in today's dull gray humidity, this was the only one we saw.
But there was another, much larger bird there with this little heron. It was blue with white places on its body. At first I thought it was probably a Little Blue Heron, but the more I thought about what I had actually seen, I think it might well have been a Tricolored Heron — might.
It looks a lot like the other unsub sandpiper a few clicks up this page. So, a Least Sandpiper.
No. Definitely not an E. King, but a flycatcher for sure. Kala King says it is an Eastern Phoebe, and I had considered that I.D before, but … oh, who knows why, I guess I couldn't find that this back view matched those of the Phoebe, for whom I could not find an adequate back view.
Even at this distance, we can see the stiff feathers around its beak that help it catch flying insects and steer them into its beak.
The squealing and squalling of pumping machines several times stopped us in our tracks as we tried to figure out what kind of a bird made those noises, only to come to the slow, gradual understanding that they were just those noisy machines that dot Hagerman's land and water.
I stared at these big white birds for long, slow seconds till it finally clicked just who they were. They usually don't show up in Dallas' White Rock Lake till mid-September or October, then they always leave by Tax Day, about six months later, but we've seen them in other parts of Texas — at John Bunker Sands Wetland Center near Seagoville and Mitchell Lake on the southern edge of San Antonio at other, more incongruous times of the year, and it just seemed so strange these would be there, somewhat north of here, already, but now I figure they must like Texas and tend to stay here most, if not all year long.
Probably because our winters are milder than along the great wide, arc from the left edge of British Columbia down to Utah and up to eastern Minnesota — all places where they are known to have been bred and hatched and banded.
So seeing these pelicans there seemed odd but I settled in with the notion, got the pelks in better focus, then started noticing all those much smaller gray and white and black forms that the area behind the pelicans was alive with, whom I could barely see, let along identify.
When I started working on this shot I realized these had to be terns. Didn't know which terns exactly, but terns they are. And I'll figure out just which ones soon, soon. All the markings are available in this one shot that excludes the pelicans. Probably Least Terns, could very possibly be Forster's Terns.
I followed them to the other side of this portion of the lake.
Then then they got too comparatively small and far in distance to worry about such things.
Audubon Osprey Cam Captures Incredible Eagle Attack
A Field Full of Swallows & Flycatchers Catching Flying Bugs
Photographed August 18, Posted August 19
Driving slowly — the better to see birds — down East Lawther Drive away from Sunset Bay proper and into the general direction of Buckner Drive, I noticed swarms of itty-bitty birds flying back and forth low over the grass. So I stopped and stuck the big cam out The Slider's driver side window and once again took up the practice of photographing fast, little birds flying back and forth over the meadow.
Of course, they're not actively engaged in passing, they just happen to be going in opposite directions at a place along their trajectories where both their positions coincide with my very narrow field of view. Not to even mention that these two happen to be in focus. That's always the miraculous part. Although it was easier to get and keep them in focus far away than it is when they are closer.
I am merely assuming that the bird on the right is also a Barn Swallow. It could be. It might not be. It's difficult to tell since it's so far out of focus, although it seems to have the right colors in the right places. But the one on the left, that very well could be an adult Male Barn Swallow, is, at least, in something akin to sharp focus, and that always helps. In general, male Barn Swallows show more color, like that orange bit on the sides of its backside.
The tree is standing comparatively still. The Barn Swallow is storming past like a Barn Stormer.
Those white places that look like spots are actually lined patches not unlike the underside of the tail feathers in the photograph below. Except the top-of-the-wing spots are much smaller, and there's only one area of them per side.
The sharpest photo of the day that also includes one of the least focused images that I can only assume is also a Barn Swallow. There were a lot of Barn Swallows out there this early afternoon.
They are not racing. They are just going the same direction. They are attempting to get more bugs, at which both species are very very good.
The Scissortail is probably a juvenile, but it is possible that it is a female.
Until I noticed how long the upper one's tail was, I couldn't fathom who these were. Then it clicked into place. I remember seeing Scissor-tailed Flycatchers this late in the season before, but not in this particular, fly-filled field.
Or it might be somebody else. I'm amazed I got it this close to focus.
Cool Birds on a Cool Day in the Middle of August
Photographed August 17, Posted August 18
Everybody kept calling it "a Chilean … , but they didn't know a Chilean what, so I looked in my National Geographic Complete Birds of the World, which, of course, did not include this bird. So I looked up "Chilean duck" on the Internet, and found several pretty good pages of information, including two places that would sell me a pair of these beautiful birds for $140 or $190. Which probably means this pair of ducks escaped from a farm somewhere, rather than that they flew up here from Chile. But ya' never know.
I should point out that I am probably the last — not hardly the first — local birder to photograph this bird, or the pair. I bet everybody else who photographs birds in Sunset Bay has already been there, done that. But I don't mind. I've been hearing about it/them for quite a while, so it's about time I finally caught up.
The shot above and this one also, were made using the on-camera flash, which leaves that telltale under-body shadow — and the rampant red-eye, when these birds usually have deep, glossy black eyes. It was, of course, photographed with my standard birding 300mm lens, but without the usual 1.7X telextender, so I'd get as much detail as possible in the fading light. A telextender doesn't just multiply the focal length, it also makes the lens darker — and a little blurrier.
I wonder sometimes, where I should go to photograph birds, but this time I knew. I didn't have any birds in mind, but it was relatively cool and relatively dark, so I knew I wanted to shoot up close and with the lens as bright as it could be. But I'd already decided to photograph the birds who gather in the evenings on Sunset Bay, and maybe I'll post some of my other shots from this evening later this week, month or oh, sometime …
When I first saw one, then both Chiloé Wigeons from the Pier at Sunset Bay, I thought about the various exotic birds who have visited Sunset Bay in the past: Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Egyptian Gooses, the recurring male Mandarin Duck and male Pintail Duck, our other species of Whistling Ducks, the large and later small flocks of Avocets, Black-necked Stilts and really, too many others to remember.
From Oiseaux-birds.com, I learned:
"The Chiloé wigeon (Anas sibilatrix), also known as the southern wigeon, is one of three extant species of wigeon in the genus Anas of the dabbling duck subfamily. This bird is indigenous to the southern part of South America, including the Chiloé Archipelago. In its native range, it is called the pato overo ("piebald duck") or pato real ("royal duck"), although the latter name also refers to the Muscovy in the wild. Its specific epithet, sibilatrix, means 'whistler,' referring to the bird's call."
And from efowl.com:
"The Chiloe Wigeon is a beautiful duck species endemic to southern South America that gets its name from the Chiloe Islands off the coast of Chile. The Chiloé Wigeon is usually found near freshwater lakes, lagoons, marshes, and slow flowing rivers throughout southern South America. Depending the availability of food and water, the Chiloé Wigeon is fairly migratory and is commonly found wintering in Southern Brazil.
Chiloe Wigeons are highly gregarious birds that … breed well in captivity. This duck species is monogamous and the males help rear the young — a not so common trait among many bird species. The females will usually lay between 5-10 cream colored eggs. In the wild the Chiloé Wigeon will usually feed on dry land, which comes easy to them because of their short bills; but they do dabble and find food in water from time to time.
The males and females of this particular duck breed are quite similar. Often the males are more brightly colored, but both have a semi-metallic green head with a gray bill. The breasts are barred black and white, and they have burnt orange plumage on their flanks. This is a very good-looking duck breed, and a great duck species to keep in captivity, though it can be quite talkative at times."
Can you tell which is the male and which the female? Yeah, me neither. Can you tell which one fled to jump back in the lake when either the pigeons or the other ducks got suddenly spooked and scrambled / ran / flew away? If I had to guess, I'd say that one might be the female or younger bird.
In the Rain from Sunset Bay to Dreyfuss Point
Cool Mid-day August 15 & Posted August 16
It was a lovely day. Temperatures in the middle eighties, and the sky was alternately gray then bright. I stayed in The Slider with just the window open for all these shots, because it was raining out there.
In a barbecue pit shot that wasn't worth posting, I saw them digging down under the grill and enjoying what they found down there. I've only been doing this for ten+ years now, and I'd never seen crows attacking the barbecue boxes before, but it could be something they do after each weekend.
Kinda wish my shutter speed were higher. I usually set it at 1/2500, but in low contrast, low light, the camera has different ideas, so here we get to see the flapping of wings, the flutter of raindrops off of them and the air trail that it leaves.
They were about twenty feet out into The Bay, so you can plainly see just how deep it isn't out there. I didn't see them catch anything, and not long later, they wandered off to the right.
None of the places I tried photographing the kid actors up in the tree worked. I got plenty of tree, but not enough of kids/actors to tell what they were doing up there. So I photographed the crew.
At least I think it's a Cattle Egret, because the two egrets out in the weeds were walking like an Egyptian, with that exaggerated head-forward, then head-back movement, I associate with Cattle Egrets. Before the breeding season, which is probably just over now, there's lots of bright orange areas on them, but after, we got nearly solid white, like Snowy and Great Egrets.
I was surprised to see Canada Gooses wander into the field along the left side as I drove from Stone Tables back to loiter long at Dreyfuss Point.
I hadn't seen a Canada goose in awhile.
So it was nice to hook back up.
I guess to achieve one of my intermediate dreams of capturing a Mockingbird flashing its white feathers in full-bore flight, this will do just fine.
This one's a little spottier and darker than the ones I'd seen already this season.
The rain didn't seem to daunt them much, like the other birds I watched today, they just did what needed doing despite it.
One wet, very wet, white bird in the continuing rain. I originally encountered the two egrets on my way out to Dreyfuss, and, of course, I found and photographed them again, going back. Likewise the crows.
Difficult to photograph that unique walk with a still camera, but this is the forward thrust portion of the classic Cattle Egret walk.
Photographed along The Spillway at White Rock Lake
Early Sunday August 14 & Posted that Afternoon
Every time I go to the same place, I see the same birds, so I decided to go someplace new this time. Driving near The Spillway, I deducted that would be a good-enough place. It already had a lovely sunrise.
Walking around the Lower Steps I spotted this Great Blue Heron in a picturesque spot.
Then, just when I settled in with the tripod, it jumped up and grabbed some air.
And flew up toward the middle spillway. Yes, I'm sure it's a Great Blue Heron, even if it looked darker down there, where the dark opposite wall reflects in its gray feathers, so this Great Blue Heron in this place in this angle of light, actually looks blue.
While looking down to see if anything worth photographing was down there, I saw these ducks heading in the same direction I was.
And I can never pass up a Great Egret scenic. That's the bottom of the Middle Spillway along the top, where the concrete gives way to dirt and water. And Egret Island on the left.
Ah! More peeps among the ducks on the lowest Upper Spillway. I kept finding them, then losing them.
Then I found a pair of peeps and …
… settled in with them awhile.
These birds are so tiny in the full view that far away, I could barely tell what they were up to, but they seemed to be up to something. Probably looking for food.
This was the last shot for awhile. I must have got disrupted with the possibility of some impossible bird, so I walked farther up the lookdown edge of the Upper Spillway.
Where I caught sight of this sky full of Peeps. I knew they were peeps, because I could hear them peeping. The black ones here are flying in their own shadows. The white ones have turned, so they are in direct, early morning sunlight.
So I followed them. Apparently I had already changed over from tiny-target focusing to a big-bunch focusing pattern, so focusing was easy.
As they swirled around and eventually …
… flew back toward the Upper Spillway ponds and began to lose altitude …
… flew into one last turn …
… kept coming down …
At which time they transformed from elegant flying birds into smaller, disrupted shapes. I assume they were more Spotted Sandpipers. There were sure a lot of them there that morning.
Shot behind The Bath House a Couple Weeks Ago,
Posted Late August 13
Took this one July 25 after some plays at The Bath House Cultural Center, whose back porch I was standing on, with my little Panasonic GX80 with the wide zoom. I thought the gooses looked great with the night sky and bright skyline behind. Click. Then I forgot about it, till now. Have been busy lately writing about art, on my other avocation. I've just about wrapped that up, and will be photographing birds early tomorrow, not sure where. I'm kinda bored with the wheres I usually photograph birds, but, basically, they're all I got without driving more than 1.8 miles (from Mapquest; Google Map refused to believe where I live.)
I've been thinking I should post fewer bird pix each entry, so pages load quicker, and this is as fewer as I could get.
Early in the dark, then I tried getting creative —
photographed early and posted late August 10
I didn't catch on that this was a great opportunity to try something a little different till later in this batch I shot early Weddy ayem, although this is really three different images merged together in Photoshop. As I hove into view of Sunset Bay this early morning and beheld all those egrets out there, I knew I had to take all of their picture, but I couldn't get far enough away to clude them all in. So I did the dirty work in Pshop later that early afternoon.
So, what I finally figured in how to present these shots and their disparate treatments — mild (like those above) to almost wild (on down today's Journal entry) — is chronological, as almost always, but chronologically by the order I prepared these images for this page. The Hidden Creek area is the massive treed area across Sunset Lagoon from Sunset Beach and the pier and all those other Sunset things.
There are several creeks that run left here to right into the darkness under and behind and off to the hidden right of our stalwart guardian above.
I did this while I was still stuck doing the same thing over and over again. It's a nice-enough pic, but nothing you haven't seen on these pages altogether too many times already before. Do something over and over again and one gradually might get to be able to do it pretty good or better. Then we splendor in our skills for awhile — generally a little too long a while — before we're willing to do the necessary non-normal sorts of skill sets some insist on calling experimenting.
Can't exactly call this experimentation. I saw the pigeons making yet another of their endless sequence of circles around the bay, then was surprised to see them gonna land on the logs, clickety-click. It was still early, and my ISO was still on low-light time at around 3200, where it mostly stayed till I left, rendering most everything I shot a little under in the exposure department and a little over in the graininess, low-contrast kinda out of focus realm we will discuss at greater length on down today's journal entry.
What we can see if we don't walk up it from past all the bridged creeks toward Stone Tables is trees. Then after exploring into the trees at a time when mosquitos are not ruling, eventually one can find the creeks in question. It's pretty back there, but it's not without its hazards and thick thickets. I've always envied paddlers who paddle up it, and I'm certain fisher-persons must walk in from the other side, because I've seen where they sometimes rest. There used to be a Chaise Lounge by the water side at one of those creeks (There's at least three creeks, although they are not altogether separate.), and that's where Anna and I conversed with Muscovies, when that breed was still fairly new to us.
If I had blurred these edges on purpose, I could have called it experimental. But even though the camera was set on hugely high ISO, it was still dark (despite the overexposed image just above) so wing feathers blurred, and I love the feeling that gives, so I wish I'd done it on purpose.
Wood ducks all around, all around, and the Black-crown is atop the perch near the center right. And that white thing coming out of the back of its head and standing nearly straight up his occipital plume.
Webbed feet are especially worthwhile to have when trekking through the muddy murk.
It hadn't really hit me full force that I could be doing some experimentation at this point, but there's something a little hinky with the compositional balance, and the focus on the heron is pretty good for the early dark. Remember, it's the order of me messing with today's images that's chronological today, not the images.
First, it's a Night-heron scene because we have, left to right in the mostly-focused foreground: a juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron; one adult Black-crowned Night-heron, another adult Black-crowned Night-heron and a strange object that looks like it has an orange bill, but it is in fact, not at bird at all. There's one more [up the page a bit] adult Black-crowned Night-heron in the de-focused miasmas behind the birds here and high in that tree on the right, at the edge of the Hidden Creek Area entrance to the Hidden Creeks.
When I first noticed this object it was bright and in stark focus at the far right of the image one click up. Blowing it up blew out the focus, contrast and most of the birdish recognizability, but it' still got its left arm akimbo, and I still greatly appreciate it.
This bird must have been fairly close, because it seems so sharply focused, but I haven't the foggiest notion where exactly it is.
Later in the season it will be the Pelican Logs (I dearly hope.) then, gradually, but inevitably, it will be come the home away from home for way far too many Double-crested Cormorants.
GBH (Great Blue Heron at far left), Great Egrets (big white birds) and the logs.
Without all those other birds. I looked at the image above this one for a long time figuring, and I finally decided it might be interesting to just have the leaping egret alone.
On a post very near to me. One of the posts that holds up the pier at Sunset Bay that I was standing on when I made a lot of today's shot. That close. And this was shot with that same ISO as all the rest, but because it's so much less enlarged, it looks normal, if darkish. I'm always amazed when birds — usually Red-winged Blackbirds of either sex, House Sparrows and Great-tailed Grackles join me on the pier, often only a few feet away. I can't always focus the lens that close, but it's nice being among birds, instead of just photographing them from great distances away.
That cart has been out there for years, but only lately have I chosen to photograph it. Nice of the duck to be in focus, also.
Following a bunch of birds with my camera mostly involves pointing-and-clicking. The composition that results from those several series of accidental existences are only composition when there's an image to be shown.
I especially like the ducks off on the right side, floating and chatting.
Kinda boring, I understand… But there's something about that one on the right that could become something …
I know it's not actually called grain when its in a digital image. Nope, there, we call it noise. I love that noise now and grain back when I used film for my first thirty years of being a photographer look and operate almost identically and for the same reasons. I actually have always liked grain, and now I do definitely appreciate visual and/or digital noise.
Even if there was no grain visible in a photographic print in the old Nineteenth & Twentieth Centuries, all photographic images were comprised exclusively of grain (little bits of silver halides that clumped together usually when we hoped they wouldn't), and I still like — on those occasions when I can gather together enough color and shape and contrast — to make images of that lovely stuff.
Or digitally noisy Mallard Hen flying over the out-of-focus hills and valleys of trees on the other side.
And a Snowy, who is an Egret Also.
I like the presence of the rowers without all the details.
It's nice sometimes when you — we — can get it, but it ain't always absolutely necessary, although that close Great Egret almost is in it. And if it is, it's the only thing here that is.
I don't think this was one of the component images in the merge at the top of today's study.
Standing on the Pier at Sunset Bay Photographing Birds
Posted early Wednesday, August 8
I stood for a little more than an hour on the pier at Sunset Bay, because I hadn't in a while, and I missed it. Before and around me unfurled a wonderful collection of birds and other animals doing interesting things. These images look strangely different, and I can't figure out why, but I'm willing to go with it for now.
Or taking a bath or watching to see how big a splatter of water it could create out there.
Then stand there for awhile as the water subsided.
Any time I see two Great Blue Herons together, I get excited. Three or more, and I'm ecstatic.
That shopping cart's been out there for years. Probably either brought into Sunset Bay by a human or two or shoved in via one of those big foods that visit now and then.
It seemed to take ages for the Great Egret (big white) and the Great Blue Heron (mostly gray) to get together out in Greater Sunset Bay. Then I watched as the Egret caught fish after fish, but the Great Blue Heron just didn't until this explosive splash, suddenly into the water, right where it had been watching. Different birds, different fishing styles.
I probably followed its flight, but I guess the pix in that serious were even worse than these, so I just gave up on it.
Kinda like the shopping cart only mostly different. A natural object. With lots of hiding and places to get under out of the sun. I haven't seen birds perching on it lately, but I still hope it's out far enough the City in all its wisdom doesn't deem it trash and needful of dis-integration. Nice to see it and nice to look at it.
Eric and Shirley over by the creek.
I assume it's wood, but I'm not willing to wade out in the foul water to find out. Several birds gave it the once-over while I stood watching. None seemed able to eat or do anything useful with it.
Last time I saw a Muscovy flying over Sunset Bay, it was huffing and puffing like a locomotive. This one was just flying. No great strain. Elegant. Fast. It was flying like birds fly.
Another Trip to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation — this time
with Muscovy Ducklings, then photographing the birds
in the big cages out back and we still beat traffic back.
Photographed & posted Monday, August 8
The Rogers staff told Anna while I was around the big cages photographing recovering birds that you can tell Muscovy Ducklings from other species by the orange tip on their beaks. Otherwise they look pretty much like Mallard and Wood Duck babies to us non-expert Bird IDers. I got to hold the box of them, trying to gyre it even, so they weren't either smushed back into the bottom wall or thrust forward. I could tell how they were faring when the box was closed by how loud they were peeping.
I don't mean to imply it had got loose or escaped its cage. It simply was not in a cage. At Rogers, many of the trustworthy birds are free to roam. It wouldn't tell me its malady, but I was pleased with the opportunity to get up close and almost personal with it. It's obviously been around other Black Vultures, because it has all those spots of scat on it that vultures deposit on each other to keep everybody a little cooler.
A little older, that is, than the box full we brought to Rogers that day.
And every time I pointed my camera in its direction, it had its beak in the water.
Darker probably means a little cooler, and it made for a much nicer background, besides rendering the hawk lower contrast and more colorful. Win-win. I thought maybe I had visited this one on my last visit to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation last month, but I didn't see it there. Which means I'll have to put in more time figuring out exactly which species it is.
I've really studied this image on many ocassions now, and I think it must be the most common hawk in Texas or the U.S., a Red-tailed Hawk, even if its shoulder is red, too.
Same deal with this young hawk. I'm running behind, because I worked on someone else's website today, after photographing birds from the pier at Sunset Bay this morning, going with Anna to Rogers and watching the Olympics into the night. And about six other things that kept cropping up. I'm tired but not yet cranky, so the quicker I get today's journal entry online the better. I'm sure there'll be errors I'll be able to better identify tomorrow.
After studying this image way too long — a couple weeks now — I'm thinking it's probably a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. But as I often note, I'm no expert. But its beak, lips, eye color and swirly dark on light feathers down its breast from its head and neck, is just so similar to the bird just above.
I love photographing Barn Swallows, especially when they are not rocketing around, changing directions in mid-air and rocketing off the opposite direction.
This was a couple weeks ago Monday when I last went along on a trip to take injured birds to Rogers. Anna said she'd seen this one twitch a couple times when she put it in the box, but after I first saw it, it never moved. I wondered if it was too cold in that air-conditioned car, and I really longed to give it the warm I have in my hands, but Anna said not to touch it. So it was DOA (dead on arrival) when we got to Rogers.
SW Med School Rookery Early in the Ayem
photographed Early and Posted Late August 5
I'm careful when I enter the grounds of the Southwestern Medical Center Rookery. I walk slowly, stopping to take pix every few steps of the way. Sometimes the various birds scattered around the tree-shaded area around the tall trees of the rookery scatter. Today, kinda early, they stayed in place and/or continued to do what they were already doing. I like that, so from time to time, I photographed them, too.
I used to photograph birds flying over the rookery all the time, but I haven't paid much attention to the many birds flying over in a long time. Too long, I decided this morning, and I had fun photographing them as they flew over. The only time I didn't photograph a bird was an adult White Ibis. I just watched and enjoyed, only thinking about my camera near the farthest portion of its trajectory.
It was lots of fun photographing birds flying over.
As usual, but not always, today's bird pix are arranged in the chronological order in which I photographed them, except, of course, there were a lot more in-between shots that were not worth parking on this page to show.
Or flying by, as the case may have been.
Photographing up into a dark Anhinga against a bright sky renders all those under parts just too dark.
The differences between a juvenile and an adult female Anhinga are too subtle for my full understanding yet, so this is just a guess.
I started off right in front of the Memorial. Clicking away like the amateur I am and have continued to be over the last ten years of the Amateur Birder's Journal juggernaut. See it, aim, focus it, click.
Left to right, tail-first adult Black-crowned Night-heron, Great Egret, adult Snowy Egret and another Snowy Egret. The area beyond the trees is the bright, treeless and thus shade-free area of Inwood Road, so it's rendered here as bright white, with just the hint of colors from motor vehicles speeding by. I was paying attention to the birds, didn't even notice the area beyond the trees.
I kept thinking of the birds who didn't flee from me this morning as "The Guys," though I have no way of knowing their gender assignments. I thought of them as friends who didn't rush away, just because I approached them slowly with a big camera dangling and long darks sticks of tripod floating on my shoulders. This photo is from near the end of a series of them in mock battle over something. I wasn't — and generally didn't — watch the stand-arounds closely enough to see what was going on, but flying away is common.
I assume those green and yellow blobs are leaves or branches out of focus between me and the bird. I wasn't sure who this bird was/is. I assume it's a juvenile Cattle Egret.
So all that info, the black splotches on its aft underside, and the dark edges of its flight feathers lead me to believe that's just what this is. Which is fortuitous, because this juvenile is just the age and bird I most hoped to see today. David Allen Sibley is the author and artist of my The Sibley Guide to Birds, which I stood in line awhile to get autographed "To J R Compton Good Birding!" signed "David Sibley."
Or just cousins or standers-by, one of whom has just jumped into flight. Hard to say who they all are. They don't look much like each other.
It looks kinda like it's looking down, but I suspect it's more likely to be looking out.
With the following colors left to right up its beak: dark gray, yellow, gray and pink and black and probably more yellow.
Still lots of Cattle Egrets in the mix.
Because I have not seen many Yellow-crowned Night-herons in this or other rookeries till this year, I thought I knew that they only nested singly, which I have only seen a few times, or in a YCNH-only rookery, of which I have only ever seen one — while it was being systematically reduced to nothing by a man who was probably sick of the way his yard stunk in late springs and summers. So, my knowledge base is hardly enough to hang on a 'usual' or 'always' conjecture, and there have been several YCNHs seen at the rookery this year.
And I still hope to see — and photograph — an adult Yellow-crowned Night-heron at the Rookery this year, but I'm not holding my breath.
Almost in silhouette. Orange feathers is the tip-off to breeding status.
I don't know what to think about that smear of leopard-like black spots on its neck, so I won't.
… thrashing through the trees above. I think this is the only one of maybe a dozen shots as I tried to get it in focus, and instead, I failed and failed to render it sharp. Parts of this one are almost sharp. I kept thinking it might have been going nest to nest up there for delicious lumps of nestlings.
Pink beak and dark green legs. So here's another assumption — which may be incorrect, but I have a feeling I may be getting better at identifying some few bird species — that it's another little, Little Blue Heron.
Next time — late Sunday or early Monday, more adult and baby Anhingas. Really, really nice of the Universe to let us have an abundance of Anhingas whose progress we can — comparatively — easily follow this year. Maybe we'll see many more of them at White Rock Lake this year and next. If that's so, it could mean up to two per year, instead of one every longer while.
Overlooked Images from
Last Month Posted August 4
These are images from last month when I was shooting several hundred shots a day and never quite had time to go back to find some of the more interesting pictures that didn't catch my eyes first time through.
Summer is the key here. "Cryptic" means camouflaged, as in they need their brilliant colors to attract a mate, but once that's over, it's a good thing if they can blend into the woodwork.
Luscious colors and deep tones. Lovely birds, these Wood Ducks. I usually go for the females, because the breeding males are so gaudy, but these nonbreeding males have their attractions also.
Nobody I know who draws pix or writes words for bird identification books of which I have more than a dozen, identifies the bird in the shadows at right bottom of this image as "first-summer" anything. But I think it might be appropriate here. Of course, I'm notoriously bad at identifying birds. It could be a kangaroo.
Juvenile night-heron in a tree overlooking the pond at the lowest end of The Spillway, not far from the Winsted Parking Lot.
Probably a Life's Lesson needing learning.
Long ago, this bird became imprinted by humans, so it could not be released after it was rehabilitated.
I saw it fly in. I attempted to get on the other side of this, one of a long line of lamps along either side of The Spillway. But it continued to elude me. Win some; lose some. I like this a lot more now than when I was looking for something really interesting for the daily shots. It's been stuck in my mind's eye for awhile.
One of those amazing bits of sky that suddenly appear and moments later dissipate into nothing up there. This was the only piece of sky that bright spirit inhabited. The rest was swaths of gray and black. I guess because we still only have that one local star.
A Green Heron on the Wood Duck Tree
Photographed last week & Posted today.
Just off Sunset Bay is this tree that if it gets much closer to land, one of the City's Habitat Destruction Machines will probably destroy it, because they don't like natural bird habitats close to shore. Or some silly excuse to destroy a perfectly good habitat a variety of birds use almost every day.
I'd been looking for a Green Heron for more than a week. I know where they hang out sometimes a bit of a walk from Sunset Bay, but I didn't see them there any of the times I'd looked. I keep getting confirmation from birder friends that they (up to two of them) are there sometimes, but until I sat on the park bench where Anne often feeds the birds up from Sunset Beach, then stared off into the space approximately where that tree is out in the water, I didn't get to see a Green Heron.
Then, quite suddenly, there it was. Right in front of me. Click.
I call it the Wood Duck Tree, because that's who I see using it when I get there by around 6:15 in the morning. Maybe other species have already used it by then, but it's dark before then, and I usually don't arrive in Sunset Bay that early. But I've seen other ducks and herons and Grackles and sparrows use it other times.
It's probable that what this bird is looking at so intently is food or food-like. Why else pay that rapt attention?
All these shots were taken from the exact same distance using the same lens. I've just gradually enlarged them, so it looks like we're getting closer.
When Green Herons hold still for awhile, they tend to look like they are blending into their environment. This telephoto view clearly separates fore- from back-grounds, but just looking out from that park bench, and a lot of it just kinda melds together. If I didn't know exactly where it was and what it was up to, I might not even see it. At this magnification, it's hard to miss, but many birds tend to disappear when they stop moving.
The first rule of bird-watching is to look for movement, not birds. It's a good rule. It works almost every time. Birds are designed to blend into wherever they decide to be, and it's easy to miss them, even when they're right in front of our eyes. But it's harder to disappear when they're focused in on with a longish telephoto, because the lens blurs the background.
I wasn't ready for it to turn around and jump into flight, so I did not manage to up the shutter speed and down the aperture, though I almost kept it in focus. Instead, I got something that looks a lot like this. I still like it, but it would have been several orders of better if it were sharp.
Also, right about here, I should again note that Green Herons aren't really green.
If you enjoy seeing Green Herons as much as I do, try the Year Ago link here or at the top the page to see all the Green Herons I photographed a year ago.
A Yellow-crown Night-heron, Anhingas,
Egrets, a Cardinal and Red Balls Floating
photographed and posted August 1
Juvenile Night-Heron in a tree. Birds of most species get downy feathers stuck to the ends of their beaks when they preen themselves.
Kala insists this is a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, not a Black-crowned as I first said. I based my i.d on the fact that, despite what it says in books, the North Central Texas Yellow Crowns I know of usually nest separately from other species, so I didn't expect a Yellow-crown at the rookery. And in the only rookery I have seen them in, there were no other species. Books say Yellow-crowns are generally slender, not stocky like Black-crowns; and their beaks are thick and dark; and I assumed I was right until I looked at Comparing Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons on OnTheWingPhotography, which I've been reading sometimes, because I've been wondering about sending out emails when I go away for awhile then come back. One look at that comparison, and I knew that, once again, I made a wrong identification, and this was a Yellow-crowned Nigh-Heron.
Kala says a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron has been seen lately at the rookery. Either this is it or its progeny.
Finally found the Anhinga nests this time out. It was hot when I got there, and it was still getting hotter when I left, but I was joyed to have finally found me some Anhinga nests. And Kala was right on about how difficult and iffy photographing them would be.
Wherever is an Anhinga nest, nearby there's an alert adult.
If they're all pretty much the same colors with the same amount and color(s) of downy feathers, they're probably about the same age — maybe only one or two days between hatchings, which may be a little quick, but perhaps necessary when conditions are good. That dark shape with light wing feathers to their right is the usually-present adult.
Kinda wished I'd asked more detailed questions to have learned that 'by' meant 'before,' so I hadn't wasted so much time before I found what is probably one of the several areas where active Anhinga nests are at the rookery. Kala said there are probably ten of them in the rookery now. That might lead to a surge in the local Anhinga population.
Note the slight differences in the white toward brown down on the larger chicks and the overall brown of the smallest one. I didn't really plan it, exactly, I just did it. I went one way till I found some Anhinga nests, took pix of them, then I walked slowly back past them — after first doing the same with what I think of as the Little Blue Heron area of the rookery. Except I didn't see any Little Blue Heron nests (again). Apparently, I shot this on my second pass at this nest. As often here, today's images are in strict chronological order.
Note the redness indicating very new wings that may or may not be of much use yet.
I'm guessing a young Great Egret from very near here.
Plenty of these in the rookery these days.
At first, it looked like a scrap of food. Actually, when I shot this image, all I saw was a Female Cardinal silhouette. I had to pry her out of the darkness for this photograph. And she was pretty far away in both photos, so this is a significant enlargement.
I remember having trouble identifying this cardinal, but I didn't figure out why till I got an email from Bird Watching magazine about their story that explains why cardinals and Blue Jays don't have crests about this time each year.
I should have said that when I first saw what was in her beak, I assumed it was some scrap of food. Then upon studying this shot that enlarged better, because the focus was better, I decided it looked more like a caterpillar, but there's probably any number of other food items it could be.
From the high-rise free parking garage with such a great view down onto the rookery and often close-up views of birds flying by toward the river.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2016 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, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.