I am NOT a bird I.D expert. Current Bird Journal is always here. Cameras Used Ethics Feedback Dallas Bird Chat Bird Rescue Info Other Pages: Herons Egrets Heron or Egret? Links & Bird Books Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Banding Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JR's resumé Contact Use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Birding Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & Med School Rookery & Village Creek Drying Beds July's Best Pix: Visiting Rogers Wildlife . Yellow-crowned Night-Heron . Snowy Egret Fight . Juvenile Red-shoulder Hawk . Kingbird nest . Black-drowned Night-Heron (BCNH) eating egret nestling . White Ibis nest with Kits . Juvenile Cooper's Hawk . Western Kingbird Chasing Bugs . BCNH Fishing . 171 photos so far this month.
Black-bellied Whistling Duck Flyovers
Photographed July 24 & Posted July 27
I'd just mentioned to Anna P a few days previous that I didn't remember ever hearing Whistling Ducks whistle, but she said I had, and now I vaguely remember that, but this sighting — and hearing — only days after that conversation was much more memorable, although I had the devil of a time getting them in focus or exposed correctly. Basically, I just wanted to watch them and hear them all whistling again.
Shooting into the bright sky always bedevils underwing exposures, although their beautiful pink feet nearly glowed with translucent light. I used to think there my Nikon should know when I tip the lens up, to slightly overexpose, because what else but birds flying over could I possibly be shooting? And those are so terribly often underexposed…
I'd change my exposure each time they flew over but the next time they flew over they'd managed to be in a different light, so I never caught my exposure up to where they were then against the blue sky. Sometimes it's really difficult to decide whether to just watch or keep taking bad pix.
I'm really amazed how sharp the top right one is, and how blurry the were the other two. Can't win sometimes. Of course, they were each at different distances, and the closer they are, the more different those distances are. Then, as if all that wasn't enough to keep struggling against, their wing colors began to lie to me.
Here, as below, their really bright, white wing-feathers, show instead as light blue, which they are and were not. They really are white in all my I.D books. I can only assume the blue sky above was interferring with my colors — again.
Rather than change the color, I left it in. And here, they are only very slightly blueish. I don't remember anything but struggling to get them in focus.
After this long shot, they did not come back. I assume they were looking for a good place to spend the night — or the rest of the afternoon. I would have loved to photograph them up closer. They or others of their species have spent time in Sunset Bay in the past. But not this time.
I needed something a little different. So I took my littler camera — the Pany GX8 — this time. I've been wanting a longer zoom either for it or the Nikon, and I needed to see if I liked using the GX8 for birds well enough, and turns out I didn't much. But it was a good enough excuse to maybe get something different.
Enlarging the little bird shows less well than making a much larger bird smaller, so this looks good, and the sandpiper doesn't — quite.
This is not the sort of photograph I make with the Nikon. Not sure the differences, but I do like the quieter, gentler, a little more muted tones. The fence is upside-down, because it is reflected down into the pool from the top of the slant.
I like the subtle tonalities and relaxed colors. Nothing strident. It just is. Great Blue Herons are, indeed, gray.
This is not unlike a Nikon shot, although I knew, just by looking through the camera, exactly what the exposure was. My Nikon fools me that way, because all I can see through it is what it really looks like out there already. The Pany lets me prejudge the contrast, tones and exposure.
This might have been done with either camera. With the Pany, I can push it a little to keep the exposure from taking over. With the Nikon, it's always the luck of the draw. I can't be the first to wish Nikon would build a full-frame mirrorless camera, so I could see exactly how the world out there is rendered. But the Big N is doing badly financially, and though such a camera could help, if they delivered a great product, first time out, they usually do not.
I assume that's its other foot up on the left. If I'd shot from the other side, I might know why.
One preening, the other staring into the water and waiting for a fish — or just staring.
The Pany shows shutter speeds, too, but I wasn't used to seeing that or paying that much attention, so I let it go a little slow when this bird spread its wings to flap. I like that right wing, but I was hoping for great detail all the way across and in the middle, too.
A Nikon shot with the baubles of water spilling delicately down the left side; its yellow feet showing; and tones near perfect, without letting its eye go completely dark.
I'd have to guess with the exposure on the Nikon — or try several. Here, I knew exactly how it would render. Subtly.
Some of today's shots are indistinguishable from Nikon shots. Some are obvious. The Nikon kit is about eight pounds, which seems a lot when I'm holding the Pany (two pounds even, with the tele), but in most cases, I prefer the big N's results. But these really look good here.
Mallard hens on the left-most edge.
I liked the tree leaning almost into the creek — and the little pile of colorful trash near the left edge's middle. Nice of the egrets and Wood Ducks to show up, too.
Don't think I'd ever seen inside those doors so clearly. I could barely see the stacks of boats when I first aimed it, but they came in clear and sharp when I opened up the exposure a little.
The instructor was in the power boat to the left. I was at my favorite boat ramp hoping for interesting birds, but her voice and all the ruckus, made it difficult to think. Luckily, after fifty years of it, composition is almost built-in automatic. It's the camera and lenses I'm worried about now.
Too Early in Greater Sunset Bay, then Back Later
photoed July 22 & posted July 25
Got there at 6:03 ayem, early for me, but the birds were up and at 'em. The park is supposedly closed till 6 AM, but there was human as well as animal and bird life aplenty. I was seeking Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and it wasn't more than a minute before I found one, then two. I thought I'd got them together, but I can't find the shot. This image is illuminated by The Slider's headlights. The actual ISO did not register, but the next few shots were at 6400. I suspect the cam does not record higher than that. It's a little grainy, but hardly surprising.
I think the yellow clouds near the top are tree leaves, well out of focus as I shoot out toward the inner logs. There's a time in each summer when egrets begin to resettle out there at night, but they are generally gone by morning's second and third light, when many more people filter into the area. For most, birds they can't see simply aren't there. I'd noticed them earlier these last few weeks and hoped to photograph a massive presence, but it wasn't there. Yet.
I call the area that slants down to the lake just north of the wet woods surrounding the pier at Sunset Bay "Sunset Beach." It's where Charles spreads grain corn for the gooses, and any other bird who shows up there, to eat. It's also where, dozens of times a day, dozens of people and their kids spread nasty old White Bread across the dirt, whether the birds eat it or not.
I know where they were all night. It's where they go almost every night, but I think they deserve their privacy. It's the same ISO as previously, above. I'll tell you when that changes.
West, mostly. I've lightened the image, so we can see what's going on in Sunset Bay and across the lake — not much, really.
I shot this out of my usual curiosity. Could I capture that much moving in near dark. Guess so.
I assume the dark markings on its neck is mud, but it does look greenish.
They spent plenty of time at that table. Wherever humans go, they leave food and other items of interest to the ever-inquisitive crows.
I try to stay out of their way as much as I can. I want and maybe even need the shot, but once I've seen them, I let them go about their business, because I dearly want to have propagating Yellow-crowned Night-herons in or near-enough around Sunset Bay. Several years ago, I was able to photograph two very juvenile YCNHs grow up for the several weeks it takes them, and that was fabulous. Usually, there's only one juvenile who survives that long, if that.
A lot of biting going on, although that's hard to see here, of course, and chasing and retributions. Mostly it was [for me] a fun, continuing action to photograph.
Notice that the other goose get or bend out of their way, but it's no big deal. It happens, and it's best not to get more than the two chasers and/or biters involved. Mostly, it's an opportunity to see white bodies that show up so well in semi-darkness in action oddly mixed with gooses' generalized elegances.
I have been bitten by gooses, and it's no big deal. The first one is always a sudden surprise. So there's shock value, but gooses, I think, expect to get bit during an 'angry' chase.
The chase just keeps going on till the gooses forget what they were doing.
Or it just gets too crowded. When ducks chase or fight, it is very often the gooses who intervene. I've often seen them intervene in duck sex, which can seem to humans, and perhaps to gooses, to be too aggressively off-putting. Human females often throw rocks (never a good idea) or shriek sexist epithets when ducks have sex. A seemingly-specifically-appointed committee of gooses just goes out whereever it is, and breaks them up. Which is very strange, because gooses themselves seem to not have a clue about eggs and the proper care thereof.
The light's coming up, but it was nowhere near as bright as it seems here. iso3200 I'm a huge fan of Wood Ducks, and early is when they gather at Sunset Beach, when I'm usually asleep. This was special.
Charles has already been there and deposited little round pools of grain corn, which he has determined is probably the best thing to feed geese and ducks. White bread is almost certainly one of the worst. But I have watched group after group feeding white bread to whom they ignorantly consider "poor, hungry ducks," who are actually neither, all day long. I guess it feeds us idiot humans' need to feel needed.
I missed it flying in, and I just barely got it landing. iso1600
I usually don't photograph pigeons circling, because they probably circle the area at least fifty, maybe many, many more that times every day. And I just don't have that much interest in that particular action. But I saw this one, and I was recording what was going on, and this was, so click.
ISO 1400 A Heads-up display fulfils many egret needs. Yes, sometimes it's an invitation. And sometimes it's something else. Often it's a challenge. The trick is to watch and see what happens next.
Whatever it was this time, the first egret with its head up has just been joined by another Great Egret, who's also got its head up. So either it is meeting the challenge. Or something else. There's a great deal more information in The Terminology of Courtship, Nesting, Feeding and Maintenance in Herons by James A. Kushlan [And yes, egrets are herons]. He goes on and on, and I have not seen most of the actions and consequences he discusses, but it was the only site I could find that wasn't advertising a GPS unit's new heads-up display, whose sites apparently also use "birds" as a definer.
Often, a chase ensues.
This was the bird in front in the image above.
This, too, but the background changes toward the right, and I like that we sense a more serious transition. They then chased all around inner Sunset Bay and the lagoon and the trees beyond, unfortunately, since it was so dark on this side, and comparatively brighter over there, I too-seriously overexposed most of those images.
To keep the merry little Egret Chase going on and on. After this, the chasee lit out over the lake.
I captured part of the new crew(s) of Muscovy ducks swimming around their new, if brief, home. I'm sure by now the poachers have discovered this group of Muscovies.
Interesting to see the new ones before they are abducted by White Rock Lake's poachers — and later or sooner eaten. Sad we don't have a game warden of our own. At Rogers Wildlife last week, I photographed a white board with phone numbers for U.S. Fish and Wildlife (505) not a Texas number 246-7882; DFW Wildlife Coalition (972) 234-9453 (a local number) and Texas Parks and Wildlife (972) 226-9766 [also local].
If you see anyone abducting our precious Muscovies, call some of those numbers and describe the poachers. Get a vehicle license number, if you can. I'll try to remember to check the phone numbers out. I remember seeing a number for a local police person who had been a game warden who might help. I bet Charles has that number…
Almost didn't use this one, because of that duck, I think — I'm just not sure who that is behind it.
But it's not Owl Country this late in the season. Behind are those apartments that change names and owners every few decades.
Looks so different from across the pond, took me awhile to figure out where was where. I know that big, middle perch, even from the opposite view, but I'm not used to seeing Sunset Bay from the other side.
Last year we didn't have nearly enough logs for all the pelicans who initially visited to perch upon, so most of them went on to some other place. This September 15 through about April 15, we might have enough for hordes of them. About 70 is our modal average number. We birders hope so, because the American White Pelicans are wonderful fun to photograph flying and fighting and etc.
Always nice to stop with a nice long-shot.
About a Dozen Muscovy Ducks Dumped at Sunset Bay
on July 15 — photographed July 20 & posted late July 21
I kept hearing about eight or more new Muscovy Ducks left at Sunset Bay. Kala King said Charles (who feeds geese, ducks and other birds and animals who come to Sunset Beach) saw who dumped them. Other sources say the women who left them off asked whoever was there's permission, got it, then left them there. Some birders surmise that they came back later with more Muscovies, but I only counted eight at my visit Wednesday.
Kala pointed me to Ray Carr, who originally posted one photograph on Facebook while the original group was still together. When I looked for them to link here, I only saw that one, but I'd liked the other that sent me better. I've studied those photos, and contrary to some reports, they are not all juveniles. Some were quite large and show large what I am calling "bustles."
At first I said I hadn't seen them. What I should have said was that I hadn't noticed them. Adult Muscovy Ducks are hard to miss, but juveniles don't have multitudinous bright red warts on their beaks yet, so they look like ducks. And the mid-aged ones look like ducks with goose-like bustles.
Kala says this little one was not in the first-delivered new batch, so there may now be more than the original eight new Muscovies in and around Sunset Bay. I talked with Charles the night after I posted these, and he said the birds came from a park near Cedar Springs and the Tollway, where Muscovies had become a neighborhood nuisance, begging food, etc.
So it's possible, maybe even probable the women made more than one delivery, and there may well be some lonely Muscovies left there now.
All today's shots were taken around eight ayem, Wednesday, July 20 while little kids alternately chased the birds or threw rocks at them. As usual, I yelled at the kids to stop, and they did, and eventually their mothers took them away. I hadn't planned to photograph the new Muscovies; they were just who was there when I was. After freaking and running and flapping into the water when the kids attacked, and I watched instead of photographing, the Muscovies gradually came back up the hill.
My Lone Pine Birds of Texas lists them as an "Occasional Bird Species" in the Appendix: "Rare resident in Hidalgo, Starr and Zapata counties of the Lower Rio Grande Valley." (including the cities of McAllen, Edinburg, Mission and Pharr.) "Difficult to distinguish feral individuals from domestic stocks."
The Muscovies in Sibley's Guide to Birds don't look much like the ones at White Rock, although they all used to. The images of Muscovies are nearly identical in both books, but not to the Muscovies I've seen over the last decade at the lake..
The previous visitors from Mexico, which Sibley calls "their native range" — not Moscow as their name would imply or South America as I have often read — have been at the lake for at least the last decade I've been doing this journal. They used to all be more or less together in a lot of places, then they seemed to separate into color-specific groups like people do, and each color hung out at different places around the lake. Green ones along "The Big Thicket," white and black & white ones under the Mockingbird car bridge where fishermen sometimes gave them fish and other times the Muscovies stole them from the fishermen.
I don't remember where all the black ones settled — somewhere along the west shore, but they all seemed to disappear over the last year or so. I wondered if they were being poached and eaten, and now I strongly suspect they were. Like gooses who have been selectively bred over the decades, adult Muscovies are very large, with extended tail sections. And they are kinda stupid, having been trained by people in city and other parks to be too friendly for supposedly wild animals, so they are too-easily taken and eaten.
There's signs up around the lake, but there's no real enforcement of any of the lake's many rules. I think there should be phone numbers to call on those anti-poaching and other warning signs. But that would mean some already thinly-stretched game warden or police person would have to be on call.
I can tell that the above Muscovy is not fully grown, because its red warting does not yet cover the front of its face, as in the older Muscovies you will see below. Of course, if it's a female, it might not get that extensive warting. I watch and learn but don't know far more than I think I do.
This pic of three young Muscovies shows how slender they can be and how considerable they become at other ages, sexes or experiences.
Although from this low, side-view, this one does look positively sleek.
My computer dictionary defines "bustle" as "a pad or frame worn under a skirt and puffing it out behind." These bustles are more pad than frame. I wonder if they have something to do with laying eggs.
Anna and I once had long conversations with a Muscovy Family up the main Hidden Creek north across the lagoon from Sunset Bay. They seemed friendly. They weren't pushy and did not demand food. They were just there, and we were just there with them. That was a very pleasant encounter.
I don't recognize the first Muscovy drake below, but after the dark Muscovy (who might be the one in the second photograph below) who's been at Sunset Bay for the past few years got ensnared in fishing line and in dire danger of drowning, was rescued by Ben, since been reported as being "mean." But so have some of the domestic geese there. I must say he's never been mean at or with me, and I see him often.
This may well be one of the 'new' Muscovies, but they're all beginning to look alike, I've been staring at these for so long working them up for today's journal entry. It is, of course, a fully grown (!) adult (and we assume male) Muscovy.
Anna volunteers to deliver injured or sick birds to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation every Monday, if there are any birds brought to a White-Rock-area veterinarian, where rescue birds sometimes stay up to a full day without any attention whatsoever. Like all transport birds, these birds came with a note from whom found them:
"Baby Birds found on patio (back) … Nest on ground w/ them — looks like they fell out of a tree. Called Kathy Rogers — fed Science Diet cat food (canned) every several hours and brought to [the vet]."
Anna invited me to ride with her to Rogers Wildlife in Hutchins, south of Dallas, where I could photograph the birds she brings. These birds are those, and these photos were taken after we arrived there.
Guess I've never given the notion of the slight differences between White-wing and Mourning doves much thought. Whenever I think about doves, I hear the twang of a country-music singer singing about "on the wings of a snow white dove." Writ by Dolly Parton, but the voice I still hear is male. I don't remember ever seeing a snow white dove. Sibley shows the African Collared-Dove with all white but the gray tail, black eyes, beak and pink legs and feet.
According to the note left with this bird that identified it as a "baby Carolina Wren (bird), it was "caught by a neighbor's cat. just starting to fly. slight injury to wing? Thank you for all you do."
This note, labeled "7/17" also noted "2 baby birds; Mama bird injured; possibly dead. Took in birds for 24 hours."
I remember three women in the office with Kathy Rogers, when we delivered birds. This wren was in one of their hands within seconds. They had already seen the baby Carolina Wrens and pronounced them in good condition. Not sure how they did, but they knew.
Then one of them checked out the injured wing and put on a splint stabilizing it.
Three hands = at least two volunteers. I was amazed how fast and efficiently they worked. And I could only wonder what all else they knew about birds that I could never even guess.
While the Rogers Rehab crew dealt with the birds we brought in and others they already had, I watched and photographed the bird-in-hand action for awhile. Then knowing the rule forbidding visitors from wandering around the back of the office, I asked Kathy Rogers if "I could photograph back there," pointing to the many cages of birds being rehabilitated just out of sight from the front desk. She said yes. So I wandered among the remarkable bird variety currently under Rogers' tender care.
I almost always had to shoot through bars on cages. The trick is to get the camera and lens close to the bars. With enough distance between bars and bird, the bars almost disappear. But in those comparatively small cages, the birds were often too close, so we can still see those bright white bars in many of these pix.
I still struggled to get the birds in focus, sometimes pinching in the focus target to the smallest available square, often between bars, making them slightly fuzzy. I was not surprised to see this beautiful chicken; there's always a remarkable variety of domestic and wild birds recuperating at Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation.
I was startled to see a Roadrunner. But then, wherever they are, I usually am pleased and delighted, although I'd rather this one weren't damaged.
And here's that Green Heron I'd been wanting to photograph for the past couple weeks — especially at San Antonio's Mitchell Lake, where I saw at least a dozen, but only always flying low over the lake on the other side of trees with lots of branches, making focusing nearly impossible. Here, all I had to deal with was a few bars front and back. I'd much rather see them flitting free out over a lake.
It looks like it's got a bluish, maybe light green bandage on its right shoulder on our left. I didn't notice it while photographing, I was trying to decide which kind of kite it was.
I spoke gently and briefly to this bird, assuring it I knew its species well, and that Great Blue Herons were still my all-time favorite bird. But he kept abruptly bumping around, and somewhere between those long wings, beak and feet, it kept slumping and/or stumbling. Since it wasn't having my calming voice, I moved on to the next cage and the next.
Those beaks reminded me of Thrashers, but there were no matches there. Then I started thinking about cuckoos and the Yellow-billed one Anna photographed in a tree over the drive into The Drying Beds a couple years ago, and yes. These were Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Looked like the hyperactive one on the left had been through a wringer. I assumed that was an older, calmer parental unit on the right.
I have often seen Blue Jays clinging like this to the insides of outdoor cages at Rogers. Its blues are subtle here, but its head and shoulders were moving faster than my shutter.
Probably barn. It was moving faster than I could catch up with.
With what looks like a broken, abraded or slightly mangled beak. Makes it difficult to eat. I love its colorful dangle.
Of the seven too-slow shutter shots of this bird, six show its beak tips twisted apart, like this one. One, not anywhere near this focused, appears normal. I'm thinking smallish Cattle Egret, but that's just a guess from the orange at the edges of its moving wings. Kala King reports that this is indeed Kathy's 20-year-old Cattle Egret, who long ago imprinted upon humans, so it could not be released.
Once again, thanks for identifying assistance for a half dozen of these birds from Kala King, whose Kaptured by Kala site shows off her Nature photographic work.
I figure in another ten or twenty years I'll get better at identifying birds and know more of them on sight, but I didn't know who these were till Kala to the Rescue. Glad I at least got its eye and head sharp and the bars were dark, so this bird's light and medium browns show well and dimensionally. It's all accidental, of course. Point, focus, click. Then on to the next cage. A blur now, in my mind, but the memories down this page are clear.
From the color of its beak and eye, it could be either a Barred or Burrowing Owl, since I couldn't tell its size, but there's that owl fierceness staring back at me in mono vision. Lately I'm thinking it must be a Burrowing Owl.
I couldn't tell if that feathery orange was added by human or came with the bird. I liked it but wondered. Maybe it reminds someone what not to feed it …
Three of what Kala King, who knows more species on sight than anyone I know, calls these birds "Nighthawks — probably fledglings." Each of whom are taller than the one to its right. So maybe sibs. From their maps in Sibley's Guide, I'd say Common Nighthawks, who I haven't seen since a bunch of them took turns buzz-bombing me in my mother's swimming pool in the Lower Rio Grande Valley many years ago. I didn't know who they were then, either, but a local lecturer later identified my photo — I kept my camera in reach at the side of the pool.
There's a lot of bad info about Wildlife Rehabilitation online.
One seemingly good debunking site seems to be Wildlife Rehabilitation. Is It for You? Another has a Wildlife Critical Care Manual — The first twenty-four hours. That story was developed on paper and just reprinted with no links or other expected website features, though I found it informational, even if it was specifically written for avian rehabilitation in Pennsylvania.
The emphasis on "The first 24 hours" indicates that that time is often critical, so spending a day in a box without food, water, green or sky in a closed but not quiet room at a vet with dogs barking close is often dangerous. It would drive me over the edge. At least one of the birds we delivered this day had been at that vet for more than a full day without any kind of care, even water. Which is why I do not name that vet.
It's good of them to collect sick and injured birds, but they could do a lot better without much effort.
There's a linked database of avian rehab stories on Wildlife Rehabber.
My best advice is to always take injured or sick birds to Rogers, even if Rogers requests a $50 donation. They know what they are doing. You probably do not. And I may have a couple of clues, but Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation needs to continue.
Yes, the one on the right with a leg cast is biting the much smaller one, third from the left, with a surprised look on its face. David Allen Sibley describes juvenile Snowy Egrets as having bright green legs that usually show some black on forelegs. By now we all know that Snowy Egrets are feisty and often aggressive without any apparent reason. I'm not yet sure which species the little guy getting bit is.
Big advertising signs make great, large cage walls. I know better than to attempt precise species definitions here. One egret and four young herons. The one on the left is a juvenile Snowy Egret. Kala says the rest are all Yellow-crowned Night Herons. Kala also sent a link to a site that visually compares Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Nigh-Herons at a variety of ages.
I've been wanting to photo a Green Heron, so I was happy even out in the wild heat around the big cages out back.
Hegrets and Egrons again.
In a big, outdoor cage. I wish I'd spent more time with it, because I don't remember ever seeing a juvenile TV before. TVs rock! I often converse with Black Vultures in the front edges of Rogers' big cages, but we were in a hurry to beat traffic back to Dallas, so I only had a minute, maybe less with this fuzzy downy young TV.
Same bird, looking down through the wire mesh, which tends to soften hard lines on small heads.
The Harris Hawk is named after John James Audubon's "ornithological companion, financial supporter, and friend Edward Harris." According to my Lone Pine Birds of Texas, "Harris Hawks are highly sophisticated, social, cooperative feeders that use different hunting strategies for specific prey," often gathering many hawks together for a hunt.
Oh, and all of today's shots were made with my Panasonic Lumix GX8 with a 12–35mm zoom lens, that seems just about perfect for close-ups of birds and middle-shots of people and art.
Sunset Bay Birds — shot July 17 & posted July 19
I clicked the GBH at left twenty times Sunday morning, and this is the shot of it I liked best.
Kept seeing Wood Duck babies — with just a few babies left after there were a dozen or more. They're lucky to have 10% survive the summer.
Looks like this bird who'd chosen a hunting spot right next to the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron got what the heron had been hunting for. The tell-tail sign is its very recently ingested something is that lump on the way down its throat. I also remember that this egret, as it flew up the lagoon, croaked loudly. I don't know if it was taunting the littler bird or just needed to clear its throat.
Early morning sunlight is much redder than it is even a couple hours later in the day.
With a snoot of flowers in its face.
With eyelids down and beak into the comfort of the down around its wings.
Handsome farm critters.
Usually, they show in my photos of them as black on blue skies. For a change, I adjusted the aperture just right for vivid green.
The breed comes from South American, but somebody along one way or another thought they were from Moscow, so they named them after that city instead. The ones in the bird I.D books never look like this, but all the Muscovies I've seen in Texas look a lot like this, except some are green or blonde or something else.
All the Muscovies I've seen, mostly at White Rock Lake, are warty, and the males all have handsome, swept-back coifs.
But they're ungainly big. On the few times I've seen them fly, they sounded like locomotives huffing and puffing across fairly short distances.
It's those spots that are the dead give-away for their identification.
We all understand various animals and birds' need to stretch legs …
… or wings and arms.
Went to San Antonio, but I didn't find enough birds, so
I came back
photo this Yellow-crowned Night-Heron — photoed and posted July 17
We saw more than a dozen Green Herons at Mitchell Lake in San Antonio, but we never got a chance to focus on one, so I longed for Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake, so way too early this morning, I visited there with thoughts of sugar plum Yellow-crowned Night-Herons dancing in my mind's eye. But I had to give up entirely on the notion and start walking back to The Slider before I saw one. This one.
Still as a statue, slowly careful, but watching, ever watching. I didn't see it catch anything or even get close — although I saw it pawing at something unidentified on the ground, but I was careful not to watch it all the time it was in my vicinity. I didn't want to spook my first Yellow-crowned Night-heron of the season. But I was sure happy to see it.
We at White Rock Lake see a lot of Black-crowned Night-Herons, but darned few Yellow-crowns, which have lately been seen in people's yards but rarely at the lake. This one was patiently hunting close to the lake's edge.
Maybe in awhile I'll get to see a baby or two, another reflection of this adult. I hope. I hope. Thanks to Kala King for noticing what I had not. That i identified this bird repeatedly as a Black-crowned Night-Heron in captions, while calling it a Yellow-crowned in text. Something to do with a lack of sleep.
It probably helped that I got to Greater Sunset Bay around 6:30 ayem. When I got to the pier at Sunset Bay, I saw two, very separate Green Herons fly by in the near darkness, but I never caught back up with them. I keep hoping I will. Maybe I should stand instead at Sunset Beach around then.
The Great Egret towered over our little gray hero here, so it moved even less than normal. It looked like the Great Egret never even noticed the little heron, but the Yellow-crown sure paid attention to the much larger and whiter bird.
This was the second time I'd heard a Belted Kingfisher in that same area. First time — a week and a half ago, I convinced myself it was something else. This time, I got three blurry pix. Maybe next time I click to photographically stop it in its tracks.
I did gather a few pix of various other fairly ordinary birds last week at Mitchell Lake in San Antonio and other, much worse photos at Our Lady of the Lake rookery there, so I've added this terribly overexposed shot. Next time I'll show shots of the birds I did manage to photograph in San Antonio.
Whatever I Could Find — photographed and posted later July 11
I tried Sunset Bay first, but really not much bird action was happening there, although I got to stand on the pier at Sunset Bay in a fairly cool breeze for awhile. As I was leaving I talked to Eric, who said the juvenile Western Kingbirds had all flown the nest, so that's good news, and I can stop worrying about them. I assume I saw and photographed this Great Egret at Sunset Bay.
But I think these three were in one parking lot or another at Dreyfuss Point. It's a Great-tailed Grackle, probably a juvenile. It's all bunched-up like juvie Gracks tend.
The crime, as usual, was human.
The crows were just there to clean it up, but they were not always sure a car driving slowly by and giving them a wide berth wasn't going to run them over, so one of them flew.
Then I drove over to the Spillway, where there's generally some sort of birdly action, and there was. Plus, it's a good place to walk, and I did a bit of that, thoroughly paining my bashed-in knee and shins, but worth the trip, for these photographs. Coming back, I was on the walking bridge and couldn't get a solid focus on these two through the slats, so I had to hold very still and aim just right, and by then the fight was just about over. So this isn't exactly the edited down results, it is the only good shot I got. I love the vertical spew of water globules floating away.
This one is short-hop flying up to the top step on The Lower Steps.
And this one is walking up, except it's sliding down as it's walking up but making mostly upward and forward progress.
Over the pond that marks the middle between the Upper and the Lower Spillway, right where Egret Island starts. With a nice backdrop of trees and green.
Killdeer on the Middle Spillway, and the the upper ones are chasing after a disagreement, which took me a little time to figure out where all the peeping was coming from.
Don't remember why exactly, but there it is doing just that.
It's not really jumping over the dam. It is already over the dam and jumping. But, of course, it's not really jumping, it's probably landing. And I don't think any part of it is really in any kind of focus. I just like it as a notion.
The Best Sundays are kinda lazy
Posted July 11
Got to the lake way late today. Sailboats had taken over, and were the only ones flying. So I did what I could with the shots below. This was from an earlier shot I found before formatting a card. This is a little less than perfect, and that's probably why I didn't use it back when the Red-shoulders were practicing screaming around Sunset Bay, but hey, it's Sunday. A wing and a prayer.
I took the hawk shot several days ago. This sailboat was this afternoon.
He just looked so handsome, and him eyeballing me up in The Slider fit perfectly. Way overexposed, kinda like the hawk at the top of today's catch-up, but really quite nice.
I drove all the way around the lake today, mostly bringing up The Slider's MPG that'd dropped while I photographed birds from the car in the heat and kept the AC on too long. When I shot pix out the window today, I just turned everything off. Yeah, hot, but I've been working on raising the mileage all week and couldn't let it go back down again. I usually shoot Purple Martins along the wire behind the Winfrey Building or in the Baseball Field's lights down the hill from there. These were in the trees over Parrot Bay. See Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake for where that is, since it's my name for it, based on what other birders called it before I started photographing birds at the lake.
Western Kingbird Nest, Woodpecker & a Bluebird
Photographed July 7 & Posted July 10
I counted three. The nest is pretty obvious, once you've seen it, and I've been back and back as the nest grew, got populated, grew more and the tiny chicks grew larger, and I've photographed that same nest before. I just didn't want to give away another nest. So I waited. Eric told me that by Saturday — today, as I write this, the new birds would probably fly away, and I like that idea.
It's an amazing nest. Dense, comparatively large, almost overflowing. According to my Lone Pine Birds of Texas, their nesting is "usually on a horizontal branch against or near the trunk of a tree or on a human-built structure; cup nest is lined with hair, cotton and plant down; female incubates 3-4 heavily-mottled, white to pinkish eggs for 18-19 days." and " Habitat: Breeding: open country near ranch houses, towns, isolated groves and cottonwood-lined stream courses. In migration: almost any open habitat, including suburbs and roadsides."
Probably the main reason I'm not saying where this nest is, is because they use the same one every year. I've photographed it before, and I hope I will again, and it would be advantageous if some of you don't know where it is. Then, as now, there will always be an agitated parent or two flying around saying angry things, like it just can't wait for us to vacate the area. This version of nest might remain for another week or so, as the wind and weather takes it apart, but I hope the birds will be gone by the time you read this.
Yes, that was a Western Kingbird earlier this month, who kept flying off the Prairie Grass/Wildflower Area sign [below]. My favorite Birds of Texas book calls W Kingbirds, "Feisty and argumentative for the most part." One of the parental units spent all the time I was there loudly reminding me I had no business that near its babies. "Like any kingbird, the Western Kingbird does not hesitate to take on perceived threats to its nest and young." Amen!
Well, in this one bright spot of sunlight, this woodpecker appears to have a reddish shoulder. In all my other (much worse) photos of it, it does not appear to have anything but a black shoulder, so that was probably all just an optical delusion. I get those a lot. Remarkably nice shot of that tree sprout. If the rest of the bird had been in that light, this image would have looked a lot better. A lot about photographing the elusive woodpeckers (all of them, so far) has been fraught with excuse after excuse. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
What I was looking for right there where this and the above birds were all photographed was this, which mighta looked better in shade. Can't pick their environments. Can only just sometimes get them in good enough focus to be able to identify them.
Wood Ducks, a Muscovy, Some Mallards in Differing Plumages,
Several Hawks that may all be the same species, Herons & Cormorants
Photographed July 7 & Posted July 8
I got to Sunset Beach at about 7. I keep attempting to get there at six, when the park supposedly opens, although many bicyclists and walkers and runners are there earlier than that. But thanks to my late-night ways, 7 is about as early as I can usually manage.
I'm pretty sure it's the same limb, just different ducks. Nice that the one on the left has its wings up, so we can see the fine detail beneath.
I'm sure the Bird Squad has a name for it by now — it's been around for at least a week, probably longer — but I don't believe in naming wild animals or birds. I figure they give themselves their own names, and since they don't share them with us humans, I don't attach names for them. The last Muscovy was mean, and few will miss him. We'll see about this one.
Kala King reports, " the usual mean Muscovy is still around, saw him Tuesday but have also seen the new whiter one, both males. Should be interesting if the two go at each other. They were hanging out with different groups on Tuesday. That white one was a mess Tuesday, rained earlier that morning and he had his white feathers covered in mud."
This is a male. "Whether the cryptic (camouflaged) eclipse plumage of ducks" says my Peterson Reference Guide, Molt in North American Birds by Steve N.G. Howell, "is an alternate or a supplemental plumage remains to be elucidated." My dictionary defines eclipse, as an ornithological term for "a phase during which the distinctive markings of a bird (especially a male duck) are obscured by molting of the breeding plumage."
The way it's getting up speed to fly, is more familiar to us as what is done by American Coots. We call that Coot action, "coot-scooting," although the correct term is skittering. I don't think I've ever seen a duck skitter before, although I wasn't thinking that much about it when I photographed it. "Oh, look, J R. Action. Go click. Click."
His head is still turning brown from its brilliant, iridescence green springtime / mating season plumage. His earlier-this-year clean body lines have been seriously interrupted by mottled brown spots and a filigree of fine white with brown spotted feathers. Even its usual dull orange bill has reverted to an even duller greenish-yellow-tan. As if I didn't already have enough issues with identifying birds, even some of the most common of them have changed their look lately.
The Mallard on the left has its nictitating eyelid covering its eye, but otherwise, this is standard-issue Eclipse Plumage. The Mallard Drake on the right has temporarily lost some of his springtime colors, but his body maintains something of its former clean lines. Along with white and light tan on the bottom flanks and that shimmering green head.
Neotropic Cormorants are far less populous around here than Double-crested Cormorants. But both come and go.
When we see them from below, I call it a "fly-over." When they're about at the same level, I call it a "fly-by." This is somewhere between, so I settled for 'over.'
I've seriously cut back on out-of-the-blue requests for me to identify other people's photographs of birds by noting at top left of every bird journal page, that "I am NOT a bird I.D expert." It still takes me a long time to identify a few of my own. Like today's of pairs of hawks who repeatedly flew over inner Sunset Bay (the wet part). I spent at least an hour pouring through my various bird I.D and other books today, and I'm still not convinced which species it/they is/are.
These first two images (just above and below) are, according to Kala King, Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawks: "It is the markings on the breast that kinda remind me of little hearts. Whereas the juvenile Cooper's hawks have breast markings that look like drips or tear drops. "
You may wonder why anybody so bad at identifying birds would choose this as a hobby, and I just don't have a good answer, except I'd rather be photographing birds than anything else. I do have another website encompassing six to eight hundred pages of art criticism, and I do still enjoy writing about art. But there's nothing like hauling my camera around in the early dawn light, finding something interesting and photographing it well enough to put on this page. I've been doing it for just a little more than ten years now, and I wouldn't trade my non-paid job photographing birds for anything."
Note the lighter light feather areas near the outer edges of its wings in this photo. You'll be seeing that same phenomenon a little way down this page.
I thought I had seriously overexposed this shot, so I was surprised how well it turned out. Great Blue Herons are still my all-time favorite birds, although it helps that there's lots of them right around here and all through Texas.
Sometimes it's nice to stand back and get a wide view of whatever is out there. Nicer that a few birds joined the party.
Birds tend to appear darker when the sun is behind them and not so much shining on the bird directly …
… so this hawk is probably not be as dark as it appears. See those brownish orange areas fairly glowing from the upper (in this shot, at least) end of its wings? Again according to Kala King, "There were three juvies and they all three are still hanging out at Sunset bay. The juvenile Cooper's Hawks (Accipiter cooperii) are not that old yet, but they should fledge soon. As of Tuesday, they were still in the nest. "
I assumed it were a Mallard Drake, but I'm just not sure. Its right wing is just trailing its body as the bird leaves the surface of the lake. Molt sometimes makes even common birds seem more exotic.
It just doesn't look a lot like a Mallard, but I think it is.
At least, I assume it is one of the dark hawks I'd seen earlier. They kept flying over and by, but this is the most dramatic shot I got of it, and I'm still kinda surprised I got this much detail. Sometimes it's a booger to extract tan detail from too-illuminated areas. Kala King says, "I cannot see Hawk #5 well enough, but my best guess would still be red-shouldered juvvy."
It almost looks like they were on the edge of the lake at sunset, but I left at about 9 ayem, so that's unlikely. These birds don't seem to be molting yet. Maybe they're still raising their brood.
Black-crowned Night-Heron Takes a Nestling at The Rookery
Photographed by Kala King & Posted Late July 6
What is being eaten here is probably an egret nestling, since there are more of those than any other species at the Medical Center Rookery, but it could be any heron, which includes all the egrets. I don't know whether BCNHs eat their own babies if they're hungry enough, but I've long known that they eat other birds' hatchlings.
Kala says, "I don't think the night heron was eating its own species because, like ibis, those new hatched chicks are dark, not white and this one was one of the white ones. So it's either Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy or Cattle Egret. Cattle Egrets are what has the most young ones right now." See Kala's website. Link fixed.
I have even heard experienced birders talk as if it was a BCNH (Black-crowned Night-Heron)'s job in a rookery. Murder is a word reserved for humans.
I have heard BCNHs called "scavengers," even if they did not collect it, as Kala said, "hurt or dead on the ground." I asked the Internet "What is it called, when a bird eats a bird," and I got a discussion of cannibalism and this page of Words About Birds that does include the word I sought. But like most sources, it skips defining the eating other birds part.
Kala just emailed me suggesting the word predating," which my Mac dictionary defines "(of an animal)" as an "act as a predator of; catch and eat (prey)," and that takes most of the emotion out of it, which is fair. Later she sent a link to a somewhat expanded definition of predation in The Free Dictionary.
In The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, David Allen Sibley says, "Predatory birds also take large numbers of small birds. Best known are hawks, falcons, and owls, but shrikes, herons, gulls, and skuas all prey upon other birds. Crows, jays, and grackles are also important predators, taking both eggs and young from nests." page 110 and "An unwelcome consequence of increased predator populations is that these species prey voraciously on eggs and nestlings, and their abundance now threatens some bird populations." page 116
It's not murder; it's Nature. It's not cannibalism, because the hatchling is probably of a different species.
… and that will be gone in a minute more — or less. Kala added, "I believe the heron used its nictitating membrane to protect its eyes from the chicks claws when it started swallowing."
White Ibises in Nests & Other Birds at the Med School Rookery
Photographed July 5 & Posted July 6
I went to the SW Med School Rookery especially to photograph these exact White Ibis juveniles that Kala King told me where were, and I actually found them right there. It has become my policy not to say in print exactly where any nests are, but there's plenty of Ibis nests at the Rookery these days. They are challenging to find, but not difficult.
Except for the ends of some of the branches in it, this photo of their nest is nearly complete. I've attempted to photograph them from various angles in various positions, although I kept changing positions, because I had to avoid various intervening branches, leaves, etc. This nest was nowhere close to the path around the rookery. And yes, I employed a good tripod, so I could capture as much detail and focus as I could.
My Lone Pine Birds of Texas says that both parents raise their young, so this and subsequent pix in today's bird journal may be different. I couldn't tell while I watched, because I was putting so much energy into getting them all in focus. You won't see the many times I did not accomplish that, but I kept at photographing this young family for nearly an hour.
Most of my choices from the several hundred (!) shots of this young White Ibis family involved getting at least two, preferably three, beaks in strong focus. But that was not always possible.
Often, when one kit was being fed, the others seemed to get get anxious and agitated. Everybody always wants it to be their turn.
I don't remember ever seeing juvenile White Ibises before. In my specialized pages for Herons and Egrets, I've gone to great lengths to get photographs of the various species' young at various levels from just-hatched to near adult. I still add new images from time to time. But I haven't needed a White Ibis page till just now.
Nice to get the parental unit more visible down under the leaves for a change.
My Sibley's Guide to Birds Second Edition shows juvenile, adult female and adult male Anhingas, and all have white on black feathers on their backs. This one does not. Why, I don't know. It does seem to have incipient white spots along its shoulders, but nothing like this in in Sibley's, my Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, The Crossley ID Guide - Eastern Birds, The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, the Second Edition of Florida Birds (nice colors) or my Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas.
There's just so much I don't know about identifying birds, which is why I collect field and I.D guides, but what's the deal? I assume this is either a juvenile or a female Anhinga. I got her/it flying, but only in dark silhouette.
And it may be a nest, just there's not much of it. That I can see.
If I could remember where this nest was, I might have been able to revisit it later to check out this family's newbies. But there's an awful lot of intervening trees, limbs, leaves, etc.
I wasn't looking specifically for any other birds, so I collected whatever I could find when I could. I love to visit the rookery in the spring. After awhile of fairly regular visits, I tend to drop off. Thanks to Kala King for reminding me what a busy place that continues to be. I hope to capture other intermediary steps in the lives of today's White Ibises.
But what it is is, escapes me. Kala says it is a juvenile Snowy Egret. That makes sense.
It is a hawk, and it was in the rookery. I was so focused on focusing this bird's eyes and face that I didn't notice till after I put this image on this page that it had caught something small, white and now mangled. I'd seen an ailing juvenile Egret earlier and had hoped there'd be something that could use it. Then I wondered what bird it was eating.
Egrets and others often push their less-likely-to-succeed chicks out of the nest. They generally lay more eggs than they can raise chicks
So I spent a good half hour looking at hawks in my various bird I.D books, and eventually found a near match on Audubon's online Guide to North American Birds, which was the only site I found with big-enough photos that my elderly eyes could actually see fine details in. It helped that Cooper's Hawks had black pupils in amber circles surrounded by black rings — and broad-striped black & white on the underside and gray and white on top. And Kala King confirmed my identification.
I may return to today's rookery shots for more images later, but these were the best. I got many many to choose from, and sometimes it takes more time to figure out what and who's going on.
First I saw this bird I assumed it were a Mockingbird, because they park themselves on signs more than any species I know. I was pretty far away, and I only identified it from these pictures much later. From the top of the hill, I could not see what it was chasing, but when it and the bugs it chased were in the same focus plane, I got both.
It was very active all the time I photographed it. I wasn't sure doing what until I got these images big, and it's not at altogether clear here. I wanted to just show the bird diving down, then I really wanted to include the grass & weeds below, then I thought these last two pix were too sign-y and not enough birdly, so here this is again — only bigger..
I think. It may be that it was chasing something else, and that dragonfly just happened to be there, pretty close to it. Since the bug is not sharp in focus, it probably was somewhat behind the bird, so he probably didn't see it, at all.
It usually perched atop the sign for long seconds between flights after something or another.
I'm still amazed I got even this close to getting that male Western Kingbird in focus so often.
It's either just taking off or just coming back up to land on top of the sign again. Though it rarely stayed there very long..
And more food was apparently abundant in those tall weed/wildflowers.
As usual, my lens & cam was tilted somewhat to the left. I straightened it out in most of these shots.
I'm amazed we can see bugs in this shot. It was way too far away for me to see them. Of course, following the fast-flying bird was about as much as I could accomplish in those fleeting moments.
My usual success rate is far below this series'. I'm amazed I got so many of these shots in focus.
I liked showing the wildflower/weeds in some pix, to show where the bird and bugs were. But they had to be flying pretty low to accomplish it.
In the end, it just few away and did not return to the sign. But these were plenty, thanks, Mr. Kingbird.
A Black-crowned Night-Heron Catching a Fish
Photographed & Posted July 3
I fell on the sidewalk Thursday ayem and had to cut short that mile walk and the next few days' activities, including working up this journal. But I usually take my sweet time transitioning to the next month. This morning I walked — without my cane — up the Spillway taking pictures, including these.
I knew it was after prey, but I couldn't see anything in the murky water, so I kept photographing it.
And was only a little surprised when it pulled out this fairly large fish, counterbalancing the sudden action with its partially out-folded wings.
And f I just kept shooting. The slight zooming you see is me enlarging the images more as it proceeded further into dealing with that fish.
Or something. I can't really claim I knew what was in its mind. Most of this sequence is rote habit — both for the photographer and for the bird. i.e., me pointing camera and holding down the shutter button, and the Black-crowned Nigh-Heron doing what it has to do to get what it's just caught down its throat where it'll do the most good for the bird.
This is how fishing happens with Night-Herons — Black Crown as here or Yellow Crowns, which have recently been sighted at the lake, although the particular details may change from time to time. And I doubt it's a whole lot different for the Greats — Blue Heron and Egret — and all the other herons.
I've been watching birds very carefully for a half-month more than ten years now, so sometimes I have more than an inkling of what's going on, but I'm still wrong pretty often.
Note that the fish is beginning to be aligned with the little heron's throat.
Especially as the fish begins to go down.
As in Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets, its throat enlarges to make room for the food about to go down.
Just a little ways up the Spillway, I saw something I wasn't at first sure what was. Gradually, I became certain it was a Canada Goose — possibly the only one left of the family of six or seven that we've seen often in the last couple of months.
While I was leaning my camera over the wrought-iron fence with it pointing nearly straight down, a guy on a bicycle came by, and asked, "Is that a raccoon?" No, I said, explaining what it really was, how many there used to be.
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.