Most Interesting Birds This Month: Parakeets Peeps Adult Breeding Franklin's Gull & Adult Breeding Ruddy Duck Black Vultures Pelican Fly In and By Adult Breeding Male Anhingas at the Rookery Red-winged Blackbird contortions Next
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posted late April 24 2014
Or close. The next shot was the two of them floating pretty much right there, and neither seemed miffed or bloodied, so it's difficult to discern if they crashed or just came close. Surely sometimes birds must crash into each other, though this is about as close to collision as I've seen.
He was way too intent on shooting him some fish. Certainly there's those swimming around out there. If the pelicans hadn't left, right on time, just before the Income Tax Deadline, they would have been fishing with far better accuracy and luck than this mighty hunter. I watched and photographed him for a long time, and I never once saw him shoot at anything.
Usually all it takes is one of the City Parks Department's Habitat Destruction Machines to clear the area of birds, more of whom hang out in Sunset Bay than anywhere in the lake. Some boaters seem to take it as a point of pride to clear the area of birds, but this guy apparently did it without even noticing they had been there, then they were gone. Oblivious.
Interesting boat, known for its stability. With a comfy sliding chair with a back. Yum. Interesting that it comes in "desert camo" like this one. May be the best choice, although wearing an orange shirt may thwart the camo. I want one, but I don't think it would fit in The Slider or carry two people, although I could probably handle 68 pounds.
I keep trying, and today I captured this bird getting away — which may be what Scissor-tails do best. I've only seen a few so far, but I've heard about others in the vicinity, and soon there'll be lots and lots of them. Then we'll know it's just about summer, I guess.
The one who didn't get away, and this shot shows most of its colors and all of its tail. A beautiful and well-balanced bird.
"Forages on the ground for seeds, rarely takes insects." Is what my now out-of-print Lone Pine Birds of Texas says. Another harbinger of summer, I think. They have a bad reputation for depositing their eggs in other birds' nests, but we all have our survival techniques.
Another unsub in the annals of J R's ignorance. Guess I needed reminding. There used to be people I could count upon naming the birds I can't, but I haven't heard from them lately. More's the pity. This one seems a juvenile, all feathery and puffy, but I just don't know.
It's a busy little place at The Big Hum lately. Monk Parakeets are setting up homesteads — after either the wind blew the previous one away — or the electric company dismantled it, and the dirt — often mud — road up from the road to the Pump House and the far shore from the Old Boat House and Lagoon — has been fenced off. I could still walk up there, but for this shot, I just drove up to the Big Hum itself (along the road from the Pump House to the neighborhood) and remained in the relative comfort of The Slider, which I angled just right to get this and many other, lesser shots.
Today is another scattershot presentation of all the birds I've found to photograph in the last couple days. There's always coots around, including all through the winter, although there's usually only a few then.
I love that without knowing who this is, you might never learn.
I have House Sparrows at home, but my trees are too thick to track them down and photograph them. At the lake, I can back off and focus in.
Actually, I didn't hear anything, just quickly clicked the shutter when I saw that beak open.
Beautiful and colorful little birds. They're about 7 inches long with wingspans of 15 inches. I used to practice photographing them flying, but they do that fast with sudden changes of direction and loop-de-loops so them standing on the gravel at Dreyfus Point is sooo much easier.
I wasn't sure I'd seen those markings before. Surely I must have. Just never noticed, I guess.
That's a description, not a definition. It is golden brown. It's species is a Mallard Hybrid. Most ducks are.
Like Mallards are the most common duck at White Rock, Ring-billeds are the most common gull.
I'd seen several already, so this is not my FOS (first of season), but it's my first good shot of the season. Better would be one in the air. I followed this one and its two or three close friends on Dreyfus today, but the only one I caught in focus was this one perched. Which challenge calls for a morning tour of Winfrey Point soon.
I usually call them snorkers, because they spend a good deal of their time snorking under water for food. According to my treasured, and now out-of-print, Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, this species "dabbles in shallow and often muddy water; strains out plant and animal matter, especially aquatic crustaceans, insect larvae and seeds; also takes small fish."
Like so many other ducks, this one looks enough like Mallards to confuse those who don't see their "shoveler" beaks. Same colors, just arranged differently. At Sunset Bay, Shovelers stay on the far side most of the time, and Mallards are everywhere. Toward summer — like about right now — they get a little braver. But of course, I'm shooting with a 12X lens, so they're not that close.
I've watched with fascination, the farm gooses gather after being fed on Sunset Beach, line up in some order of who's more important and less, and the leader leads them off to wherever they'll spend the night and bring them back the next day. But are these guys in such an order? I don't know. They all look alike to me.
Although the Moe hairdo seems very odd, it doesn't seem to match any of the other crow family members in the U.S. I found in my growing collection of bird I.D. books.
This is the pier next to the newer boat house — not to mention a floating boat house being planned to blot out our lake that already has two boat houses. This pier has been fenced off for a long time, but that has not stopped the fisher persons who like to fish there. It usually doesn't take much agitating to wake The Park Department up to do something they've been procrastinating. A couple calls usually does it. I was there, because there's often either a Great Egret or a Great Blue Heron, both intrepid fishers in their own right. Although the birds would probably rather the Park Department keep their fences up.
Sometimes it seems we'd go anywhere to see some birds. Trouble with this place was there weren't many birds, but gobs of people. We forgot it was Easter Sunday. I found this bird when I tromped through a place in the woods where there wasn't any path, just weeds that kept grabbing my legs and feet. This is one of the birds who are featured on the White Rock Lake bird signs near some piers and look-out places. I've only very rarely seen any there. This one's about to fly away. It caught my attention when it repeatedly flew down from this perch, to the creek water below to get something. It was too quick for me to figure out what.
There were four or five Muscovites who are large, friendly ducks we like and are sometimes pleasant company. This was the handsomest of those I could photograph. We also like them, because they are pretty weird looking.
My First Of Season Western Kingbird. We'll be seeing many of these at the lake soon. One of our more common flycatchers in spring.
With all those intricate pipes, I first thought it might be sculpture or at least art. Those pants nearly cinched the deal. But I think it's a fisherman. These non-bird pix are to give you an idea what the place looked like — if I can remember where it was we were. There were a lot of fisherpersons around the lake.
There were several kites going — and almost enough wind to keep them up. If I can, I usually photograph butterflies, so naturally I photographed this.
You can't tell from the barely wet pix I got of this large pond or tiny lake, but everything was gorgeous green, and behind me as I shot this fountain, was a small forest, that we did not find a trail into. The small forest was the incentive to drive that far north to see what we could see.
A Red-tailed Hawk kite is about as close as we got to any kind of larger bird.
Another almost-bird bird experience. Nice kite — especially from the other side, where you can see its markings better.
They did get it into the air and flying for awhile, but there just wasn't enough wind to keep it up there.
I didn't think there was any need of showing these people's faces. Mostly I just didn't want to show them. I was interested in the color and the way, in some cases, it seemed to reflect the people above.
I worried going in about ticks and biting bugs, but once I was well inside there, all I worried about was getting out without falling and breaking my head or foot.
Doesn't seem all that difficult to photograph peeps — little birds that go "peep" — which could be anything from the Sandpipers that these or some of these might be to Killdeer — against the clear blue Texas sky.
But photographing them in focus past trees has always been much more difficult. I think the only reason I could do it this time, is because my Nikon already had them in focus — it has a mysterious 'follow focus' ability that seems to have got better in more recent iterations of their cameras and lenses, but I usually just think of it as miraculous. As in, it's always a miracle if I can get tiny little birds in focus.
I cannot guarantee that all these peeps are the same species. In fact, I'd be surprised if they were. They were, however, all shot from the dam side of the upper spillway. I had no notion they were there. I was, as usual, after whatever I could find, and today I found these. A fellow birder said they were probably Sandpipers, but there are many varieties of those, and I don't remember which ones he said these or some of the others I shot that day were.
And these are peeps from the same shoot as the above peeps against trees, except these are slightly enlarged in Photoshop, which I use and have always used on all the images in the Bird Journal since June of 2006, when I began this endeavor. Anyway, these are the same birds as the birds two shots up that were flying past the same trees, only these are blown up more.
Again, this and the following four shots may be of the same or different birds.
Usually after one or two circles round the canyon area of the Upper Spillway, they'd land not far from where they started.
Kinda like pigeons that jump up and fly around — Sunset Bay is where I usually see those birds.
I read somewhere that pigeons are smart birds, but I know better than to believe everything I read.
I love it that peeps take flight every once in a while, because they're so much fun to follow, try to focus, and photograph.
When I first saw these guys, I assumed they were Laughing Gulls, because something down there was laughing a lot like Laughing Gulls do. I usually only see Laughing Gulls along the South Texas Coast, and I should have assumed they were not Laughing Bulls, but birders, especially amateur birders are always hoping for that miraculous finding. Miracles again.
I don't thing whatever is behind these Franklin's Gulls is another Franklin's Gull, but I'm not at all sure what it is is. It would have been helpful if I'd got it in focus, I suppose.
I have a whole book about how to tell one shorebird from another, and it includes sandpipers, but my mind blurs when I page through those pages, and I already paged through my brand new Sibley Guide to Birds Second Edition, and I could not tell who the peeps flying past things above in this journal entry were.
And I think the one waling behind the two standing gulls in front is also a Franklin's Gull. And it may be that its wings are the same color but that it's not in shadow. Maybe.
Laughing Gulls' eye-arcs are narrower white than Franklin's Gulls' broad white eye-arcs
I was driving past the Bent Bridge this side of Cormorant Bay when I saw Ruddy Ducks a lot closer than I'd found them yet this year. In fact, I had assumed, that since I hadn't seen them along Arboretum Drive over the last several weeks, that they'd gone. But there, visible just over the bent bridge were a flotilla of them. So I nosed The Slider into a residential street, and nearly ran down to the south end of the bridge and slowly approached them. It helped that I had the longish telephoto I usually carry and think in.
Not absolutely great focus here, but a fair delineation between male (left) and juvenile (right - no cheek swath) Ruddy Ducks.
Notice the color differences between this adult male Breeding Ruddy and the lighter colored one above and the red-splotchy one below? I don't think I'd seen them in their breeding colors before, and this one is vividly, bright, blazing red. And I love that he's trailing his usually upright tail behind him in the water, as is the one below.
That one male on the bottom right appears to this amateur to be changing into his red red breeding colors. The first one on the left and behind the male is a juvenile (because it has no dark swath across its cheek. The next one up from the male is, I think, a female, because it has that dark cheek swath, and I can't see the top Ruddy's cheeks.
Nonbreeding adult males look like females only without the cheek swath, so the bottom right one is a breeding adult and it looks like it's changing its colors toward red.
The two in the back middle are adult (pretty much have to be adults if they're) breeding male Ruddy Ducks. The rest are either females or juveniles.
I got to this one and assumed these were two female Ruddy Ducks from looking at the latest Sibley's, but looking at my old (copyright 2009_ Peterson Field Guide to Birds, I see that these are both female Ruddy Ducks, and now I have to go back and re-identify the duller Ruddies above.
Despite the fact that it's still cold some nights and rains a lot, it is spring in Texas, so a lot of birds are procreating, and Mallards are perhaps the most procreating birds out there, and male Mallards with procreate with almost any duck that looks even vaguely like himself.
So here come the Mallard babies.
I'm having a devil of a time dealing with programs I've been using for the last couple centuries after my hard drive crashed and took with it all the amazing little utilities that made this job so much easier. Now, suddenly, it's just so much more difficult. Eventually I'll get it straightened out, so when my finger goes over here and pushes, the right thing will happen, but right now, it doesn't / won't / can't possibly / is utterly impossible.
I don't remember Great Blue Herons looking this special. Must be breeding season.
April 17 2014
We got small birds today, starting with the Bluebirds I've seen flying from the ground up to littlest trees along the road out to Dryfus Point (Looks like whoever said they would rebuild the building there isn't going to, so I can't talk about Dreyfus Building) for years and years, but every time I got closer, I'd encounter disappearing birds, so I never saw their color.
So this time I just used the telephoto and took what I could get that way, and I got it. Very pretty bird. Thanks, Erin, who told me where they were.
Yum!. The next several shots are from our visit to Dogwood Canyon to see David Allen Sibley talk about his Bird Illustration Career. It was great, and I got shots of his drawings, which I'll show you later — along with a few more shots of various birds at Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation.
The container of sugar water apparently got bumped down on the other side by something heavier than a hummingbird Black-chinned Hummingbird, which weighs about 0.12 oz. or 3.3 grams. All the hummers I saw and photographed had the same issue., but I didn't see any try the hole on the other side.
My camera's shutterspeed goes up to 1/8,000 of a second, but the photographer didn't think of that, so he got blurred wings. Maybe next time.
And gets the same results. I shot these before we went out on the trail to find no birds. When we got back, there were no hummingbirds.
Unknown species, as usual for butterflies here.
As we were leaving, I saw these familiar looking birds flying toward Dallas. I bet they got there before we did.
April 13 2014
Sorry, I have been awfully busy, but I've been thinking a lot about Black Vultures, and I've been seeing and photographing them much more than usual lately. Then Anna told me that Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation had baby Black Vultures. We couldn't even see those, let alone photograph them. It's against the law, but Rogers showed us some Black Vulture and other incubating eggs, and we could hear the chick still in the egg making
I don't usually get this close, but I like being even closer, and Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation is the only place I can get right up to the bird, although there's usually wire fencing between us. Sometimes I can shoot through it, and sometimes I just cannot.
Turkey Vultures are okay, too. Just they don't seem as intelligent, or human-friendly. The Big difference is that the area of white under their wings extends almost to their bodies, and Black Vulture's only show on the 'fingers' of their wings. A little difference is the fact that Turkey Vultures have red heads, and Black Vulture heads are wrinkly gray. They eat pretty much the same things.
But this one gets lost in all that rectangular wire. Rogers used to have cages that were more easily photographed through, but now they have these nearly inpenetrable ones, that are probably more humane for their inhabitants.
I seem to have an affinity with Black Vultures. I like that. Nice of it to show me its claw.
Others are Canada Geese and we forget exactly what. We were mostly interested in the Black Vulture ones, and the one was getting ready to break out, making noise that Anna described as "coarse, heavy breathing." Kathy Rogers described it as "the same call an adult Vulture makes." Wikipedia says, "Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses.
There's a tiny pecked hold we can see here between her thumb and little finger. A crackish disruption in the color and texture, which, if the tiny vulture could be seen, we'd have to quit photographing it, although apparently Channel 4 came by sometime today and got video — of something. Turns out that was about an injured eagle someone found in their back yard and took to Rogers, and had nothing to do with our precious Black Vulture babies.
There's a darling photo of Mandy, who pecked her way out of this egg yesterday.
Among the cages behind the office at Rogers we saw several Black Vultures, with a couple more on top of some cages, like this elegant creature who is beautifully back-lighted.
This is not a quick capture of a bird flapping its wings. This bird held its wings out until I got my camera setup correctly, then it waited for me to focus. Very accommodating species.
The name vulture comes from Latin meaning one who tears.
Wiki also says, "Like all New World Vultures, the Black Vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis. It cools the blood vessels in the unfeathered tarsi and feet, and causes white uric acid to streak the legs."
And sometimes they get a little carried away and do more than just their legs and feet. We've seen Black Vultures that looked like they had large white spots. And did.
Made these shots about a week ago, already aware these guys won't be around much longer this year. Then I forgot about them. And when I checked them again, I wasn't sure they were all that good. Now I just love them, especially since the pelicans will be gone too soon. Etc...
Then I was worried because I hadn't framed them just right, I kept not getting the whole bird in the shot. Now that matters not a whit.
Goofy, yet elegant form.
Well, it is a 600mm lens, so it wasn't like right there, it was out a bit, but for that lens, a little too close to have the whole bird in every shot.
Kinda sad I still can't always tell them apart.
American Coots and Northern Shovelers a lot closer than they usually. Usually, the snorkers are all the way across the lagoon in Sunset Bay.
I stopped for this bird, because I always stop for Great Blue Herons, but this particular one had the city of Dallas behind it, but so far behind and above, that I couldn't show you all this detail and still get this much detail in this gorgeous bird. And the skyline looks kinda ragged from here, anyway. Here being down Yacht Club Row, where I seldom go, because I so seldom find any birds worth photographing down there. But sometimes when I get lucky, there's a Great Blue Heron close enough to show how beautiful they are.
These birds are a long way off, and they showed as barely a black speck on the frame when we were photographing the Medical Center Rookery from the top floor of the parking garage across the street — because that gives us such a nice look down onto the top of the trees in the rookery. Here, they are enlarged as much as I could without shattering pixels.
Since the trees around it don't change, this must be that same bird facing sideways. I had the camera resting on something solid, the lens focusing on the tiniest spot, and I kept shooting for a while, hoping to catch something I could use. This.
The trees changed, so this must be a different anhinga, but also a male breeding one, which we can tell by his graying crown, and it's a little closer — Anna found him in the top of a tree. We looked and looked for more, but I think we only saw maybe three anhinga this cool Saturday morning, and the other one was much farther away. Soon, there'll be more and some flying.
I thought he was about to fly, but he didn't.
We got lots of other pix of Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and even one Great Blue Heron, whom I have been told by more expert birders than I am don't go to rookeries, but there it was, as you might see next time, although they're plentiful locally.
And here's the full-frame version of that last shot, just to show how good a lens and camera this is. Our cormorant is almost dead center of the frame, just under the dark spot of tree and directly above the J R in my copyright notice toward the bottom of the image.
The first bird I noticed when I got on the pier this day was a red-wing going though a rapid-fire continuum of all kinds of physical contortions to do with it drying off after a bath (I think. I guess it's possible it'd got infested with ants or something.) This pose is the most neutral of them so I thought I would start with it, even if he did not.
The Nikon I use only shoots five frames per second, so that's about as fast as I left it running some of the time. Not all the clicks were of any value, but enough were to keep shooting. Trouble with waiting for him to get in a position that needed shooting before I shot was that by then he'd be in yet another pose, and I'd have missed that last really great one. Sometimes he paused as we all must. When he paused, I paused.
Almost like inside out.
I didn't even know they could do that.