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December Highlights: Really good shot of a male American Kestrel Flying Off the Line, J R's City Sign Rant, Classic Pelican Mandible Stretch, Great-tailed Grackle Drying After Bath, Forster's Tern Stooping and Diving, Pelican healing, Bufflehead ducks How to Photograph Birds by J R Compton
IF YOU SEE DOZENS OF EGRETS GATHERED, PLEASE EMAIL ME WHERE
Oh, and I added some pix to Driving
on a Stormy Evening below.
Another too-dark day When My camera usually wouldn't focus
Shot December 18 but uploaded the 19th
This pic almost makes it look like daylight, but there was no visible sun, and the day just got darker and darker, so my teleXtended 600mm view often did not focus, would not focus. So I took pix of thing that held still most of the time. Two of the three shots I made of flying birds were rendered as out-of-focus blurs, so I discarded them. The other 12 pix I shot today turned out more or less adequate. Nothing really exciting, but good enough. I usually shoot one or two hundred shots a day.
Far wasn't focusing. The issue is the teleXtender doubles the image size, which means what falls on the sensor is only as light as half or so of the projected image, so my 2X extender I used today halves the light, making my 300mm lens an f5.6, and if I stop it down some it's even darker, but it only closes down to that aperture when the mirror pops up and the shutter opens is several fractions of a second.
By 'usually wouldn't focus,' I mean it did not focus, so I did not push the shutter button. Only a couple times I pushed the shutter before it focused, even though it probably never would, and I might still be out there waiting.
My camera is newer, so it focuses down to f8, but when it's dark, I can't shoot at f8, because it (out there) is too dark. And I couldn't take the extender off, because it requires special caps on either end, and I don't carry those around with me, because I tend to lose things. Which is why I only ever carry one camera with its one lens at a time.
I was gonna take off the teleXtender, but I forgot. This is the same shot as above only significantly enlarged, so it is pretty — but not perfectly — in focus. I like the un-enlarged image, because it shows this years autumnal colors and a little bit of local landscape. Smaller is better, because we don't notice right away that it's not really critically sharp.
Nicer autumn colors on the far shore of Dreyfuss Point. The gulls seems to be in sharp focus, and the corms not so much. But I like that almost all of them have their wings out drying, which means they've been diving underwater for food, and they're willing to just stand there till their wings dry, because they're less hungry for awhile. I'm not at all sure what the gulls are up to.
I may not have even seen the corm when I shot this pretty standard shot of a pelican on a cold day. I wish I'd given the corm a little more space, but I was lackadaisical, because I didn't expect much when my camera usually wouldn't even focus.
So-called Indian Runner ducks' legs are attached farther back on their bodies than Call Ducks, so when they stand up and walk — or run — it's more like they're standing on their hind legs a little like us — or Indians, supposedly. There's an thrice-overlong and obnoxious YouTube video that features the voice of an obnoxious rooster (but never shows him) explains the walking differences plainly. I would like to have seen the rooster, although he would probably also have been overexposed. Wikipedia shows and tells the rest.
This is fairly near the City's obnoxious new sign that pussy-foots around the subject of feeding wild birds with human food. The usual suspects are all lined up in anticipation. No ducks this time, because they come later when they can get much healthier food.
I hardly even noticed the mass of cormorants that are usally out on the logs today. Must not have been masses of them.
Cormorants in Cormorant Bay and
Shooting in the Rain and Gray
December 18 2014
Too cold and way too wet to paint my house today, although I think we got a lot done last week and early this, and I'm pretty sure I know what color to paint the front. Good to have had sunshine for that. This day was excessively gray with smatters and sometimes full-fledged raining, but I got a few pix of Cormorant Bay, which has suddenly had a population explosion lately, then I drove around to Sunset Bay, where most of the cormorants had gone from, and I shot there till it got too dark to focus.
I'm secretly hoping the corms will well up in Cormorant Bay [See map]
Last time I checked Cormorant Bay, there were only scattered cormorants there. Weddy there were at least three times as many cormorants as the last time I checked.
This shot is transitional between Cormorant Bay and Sunset Bay. Mocks are everywhere. It is, after all, our — and a bunch of other states' — state bird.
Why do the gooses cross the road? To stop traffic. And if there is no traffic? They still dawdle ever so slowly.
Coots racing up the hill to a car hoping the car's occupants will feed them, but they did not.
Same hill, same motivation. Same results this time.
Since bread is not something most coots ever see, I cannot imagine it's good for them, but like us and candy and all that other junk humans love, they gather, watch intently for each throw of a wad of bread too big for a coot to eat.
This action is not particularly near the new sign [See below.], but if the City were serious about stopping humans from feeding birds, they'd outlaw it. Everywhere we went in California were signs about it being illegal there, and sure enough, nobody was feeding the birds.
Gulls steal food from coots, but coots never share even with each other, so it's hard to tell who's the bad guys here.
If it's this dark next time I shoot, I'll pull off the extender to leave me at a mere 300mm and it'll focus unto the dark of night. That telextender sure slows focusing down in low light.
Photographed December 14 — posted the 16th and 17th
New pix start here, although they're interspersed with ones I put up yester.
Watching and attempting to photograph these big white birds flying in — and out — of Sunset Bay has become one of my great joys.
And I'm hardly alone in that predilection. This day there was only one other photographer, but sometimes there's a pier-load of us grinning wildly behind our cameras every time we notice yet another American White Pelican materializing out beyond "the logs," then following it or them in, while hoping all the way that they'll keep on getting closer till it/they fill our photo frames.
They often fly in with their American White Pelican buddies, but sometimes, along comes another sort of invited and accepted guest flyer.
I've seen various species do fly-alongs, and even though pelicans seem to mostly move away when cormorants occupy an area then mob back in when they're gone again, pelicans and cormorants seem to have no particular enmity. Besides, they're both coming from the same place and flying toward the same area, good old Sunset Bay. Note the pelican's fully extended wings.
The cormorant did not, however, stay with the pelican.
If you watch the lake like I do, often visiting more than just once on a day, mostly ignoring the weather, except to note it here. But rain or shine, there'll be cormorants and pelicans and gulls — who also like fish — in one of those great fishing flotillas.
I don't remember showing a photograph here before that so obviously showed an American White Pelican's primary feathers so prominently.
As usual, my camera hands — and my view — were leaning left. Here, it adds to the angular in-air drama.
Note the autumnal colors in and beyond the far side reeds.
The pelican flying fast bearing right at us. Note the comparative lengths of its wings.
One of the aspects of pelicans I find fascinating is the way they sometimes "reach out" with the "fingers" of their wings (called primaries). Usually that reach is both left and right symmetrical, but here it seems this pelican's right (far) wing stretches out longer than its left (near) wing. Indicating remarkably precise abilities that we can see anytime a pelican banks or flies or lands.
These two pelicans and the two in the next two pictures down are not the same birds, but the sequence seems to tell a brief story.
This is my favorite of the pix from this day. I have also seen pelicans flying together with their primary feathers brushing each others as they flew along very nearly together.
They flew across the lake together, then went their separate ways once they got into Sunset Bay.
Not exactly sure how I managed to miss posting these 'new' pix. My choo-choo of thought must have got derailed. They were all already worked up and ready to go, but they've been sitting in the Dec-14 folder (directory for PCers), then I forgot about them a couple days.
Wonder how many others I've forgot in the last eight and a half years. Note how "short" this pelicans wings seem, compared to almost any other flying pelican pic on this page.
All the number I can discern on this American White Pelican's silver bracelet is "025."
The chase involves a male Mallard chasing a female Mallard, so he probably had sexual intentions.
Driving Around on a Stormy Evening
December 8 2014 Retro
Me photographing and photographing around this hallowed and repurposed building as Anna drove. In several different ways this place started me doing this journal (or, if you must, "blog"). I used to hang around the inside that always felt dangerous, photographing abstractions of boats and birds and raw sunlight splattering on the water then against the interior walls, in and through the windows and doors on both sides of the boat house.
With a view of somewhere else else.
I have no idea where this was or where we were. Luckily, Anna was driving. It's hard to tell where the picture, which includes darkness, begins or ends, but at least this is real.
Light sources or temporary light sources tend to arc forward or back when the car hits bumps or my hands shake.
I had more fun with this one. There's just one light down the middle of the road. It was multiplied by my shaking hands as we drove down the street. Everything you see is real, although the really dark parts have been surgically lightened or dark to light inverted, and the colorful junk in the middle has been left as it was in the long, slow exposure, except I softened the edges so we can't see exactly where I blocked them off.
On this journal, I usually work hard to render what I see and photograph as realistically as I can. But in the scheme of things, this scene really is not all that important, so I played with it. It felt good. The tree shapes beyond, which I had to suck out of the darkness, are real.
The first four images above are photographically realistic. I messed with this one to my heart's content. The next one down's back to reality as we sometimes think we know it.
All these were photographed during a storm on December 8 2014.
watching a White Bird Fly and Land at White Rock Lake
December 14 2014
I also shot a bunch of the other white bird pictures today, but I thought you deserved a little break from pelicans all the time every day. The next shot down was just a few seconds later. The one-footed splash-down must have been to kill a little air speed. Oh, and, thick as its upper throat area is, it probably just swallowed a fish or two.
And I haven't forgot that I promised one or two (really, I'm not sure which) bird species from Anna's and my visit to Cottonwood Park Saturday, but this bird and all those pelicans doing pelican-like and pelican-unlike actions were actually shot on Sunday December 14, although I may skip the lake for a couple days while I decide what color of orange I want to paint the lower frontal portions of my house, and figure out how to do that full color spectrum across the front and side of my house. From which job I only steal about twenty minutes a day at the lake these days.
That species or two involves inter-related species that look a lot alike and act alike and down their in the trough of water that flows through (or just sits thee) in Cottonwood Park will require some careful scrutiny in several Bird I.D books for me to figure out the differences and the sames, and I just can't hold a train of thought that long till my house is up to full color, including painting some of that grey, gray, gray asbestos siding I've been so worried about.
Visiting Cottonwood Park in Plano
December 13 2014
Anna and I visited Cottonwood Park once again, and in addition to the same exact species we saw last time we went there, there were a few surprises, including one or two species I'll add next time. Okay, it's raining, can't paint or sand or scrape, so I'll write some captions I left blank yester when I was also worn plumb out. We have "snorkers," what I call Northern Shovelers, at White Rock, I haven't seen them this close or in so much gorgeous sunlight for a long time.
Near as I can figure, these are Canada Geese, because, mostly, they don't have white rings under their black necks, although all Cackling Geese don't have those, just most. The species were split somewhere along the line.
This one I know for sure, although Muscovies come in a wide — and sometimes wild — variety of shapes and color patterns, some few of which you'll see below.
Because there were so many ducks and geese at Cottonwood Park, it was fairly easy if I was willing to attempt my legendary patience to let them line up in just the right light and go click.
I may have seen just a few wigeons at White Rock. So this was a marvelous opportunity. Anna got us some joyous, beautiful sunlight, so we could see individual feathers and all those glorious colors.
And, of course, a pair, but just a little farther away.
I assume this is related to a Muscovy, because it has that long, wide extension in the back, and that same [See the next image down] black and white lower body (when they're swimming) pattern. Just no warts or solid areas of white.
We had dozens of Muscovies at White Rock for at least a half decade, and I noticed that the different colors of them would establish daytime viewing locations at different parts of the lake. Green ones by the yacht clubs, black ones and white ones and black & white ones elsewhere. Nice to see such a variety in this urban residential neighborhood.
I'm sure they were originally bred for meat, thus the large bundle in back.
None of these Muscovies look much like the images in most bird I.D books, which are rather conservative compared to the wild looks of the real things.
Classic beauty — and willing to mate with pretty much any duck species. It is said that most other duck species sprang from these guys.
Especially, I think, including this very strangely beautiful variety. I understand that Easter Ducky farms go out of their ways to create strange — and sometimes beautiful — hybrids. Then somebody buys them, and they keep them forever, until all that duck's proclivities begin to show, then the human "owners" dump them off at the nearest nature-like water hole.
Back to Canada — often mistakenly called Canadian — Gooses or Cackling Gooses. Ah, here it is. Once again, my treasured but now out of print, Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas to the rescue.
"The Canada Goose was split into two species in 2004. The smaller, Arctic-breeding subspecies has been renamed the Cackling Goose, whereas the large subspecies that breeds mainly in the central states and Canada is still known as the Canada Goose. … Birders face an interesting challenge as they search through various homogenous and mixed flocks seeking to distinguish the various subspecies."
And we won't even go into the two subspecies of Cackling Gooses in Texas. "Both subspecies often travel with flocks of Canada Geese but generally split up into flocks of their own type on the wintering grounds." I didn't find where that wintering ground might be, but Birds of Texas does say, "Does not nest in Texas."
Another difference is that Cackling Geese have shorter necks and beaks. But I'd need one of each to see the diff. And those might be at Cottonwood Park, but getting them to line up would be a long, strange trip. At first I just assumed they were Canadas, now I suspect they are Cacklings…
As a nature-lover, I know these guys as industrious animals. As a movie-watcher I misunderstand that they are cute and cuddly. And as a home-owner I know them by their rat-scratching and munching in my walls and attic.
Although it could be a Neotropic Cormorant, too, but I kinda don't think so.
Got there too late, Too Dark, so I did this
December 12 2014
Alex and I have been working on my house — scraping, cleaning, de-mildewing, priming, painting and trying to figure out if I really have to replace the abated asbestos siding with fiber concrete siding. So far just painting the wood left is winning. Too many decisions for a ditherer who's been working way harder than in a long, long time. So I stayed away from the lake this long today, didn't get there till dark was past threatening, and on the way to snuff out the lights.
Just left of the lie-down pelicans' reflection is that Northern Pintail I've been following with fascination lately. Most of the rest are mallards. To my way of looking through The Blunderbuss, they were just dark blobs out there with bigger white ones in the middle. Ducks of various species gather like this most evenings for when Charles feeds his geese the best of what ducks and gooses eat.
They all seemed to be getting ready to do the evening's fly-out. Resting or preening or whatever, but alert, awake, they can hardly wait. I waited hoping once again, I'd catch them at it, but once again, mostly I didn't catch them hopping on out of here, but I did get … well, scroll on.
This is probably already a little brighter than it actually was out there.
That magenta is taking over the world, but the exposure is just about right. Oh, and all this is hand-held at 600mm = 300mm x my 2x telextender. This is brighter than it actually was, because it was past dark out there. But three of us photographers were merrily clicking away.
I've been working on my How to Photograph Birds illustrated story and I was adding the part where I suggest fledgling photographers try stuff even if they don't know what might happen or they don't even know if it will work. I kept thinking about that as I clicked away at nearly invisible black birds in the past blackness past twilight.
This is the closest yet to the actual lighting out on the lake then, but yeah, this too, is probably a little brighter than reality was. I even like the tilt.
Somebody with a megaphone and he's still yelling at student rowers, apparently doesn't know or doesn't care that his voice — and whatever he might be saying — can be heard all over the lake and all sides. There's that egret pair to keep this legit here.
They were waiting to leave and go off somewhere mysterious to me. All their beaks pointed in close to the same direction is a tip-off that something's up. When every beak points in the same direction — well, I don't really know. Every time I've got them staked out, they manage to hop across the water and fly away before I'm really very aware they're doing that.
This is still way brighter than reality. But two birds in enough focus we instantly know which species they are, even if they're a little dark.
I keep trying to adjust the magenta out of existence, and I really thought this one was gonna be blue. Well kinda a little, like a bluish magenta maybe.
This is closer to the the lamp high over the pier, so it's brighter. Or else I slightly overexposed it.
This is farther, so it isn't quite right, exposure wise. Eventually, we three birdographers realized that we probably could still take photographs, but seeing the birds we were trying to take photographs of was getting impossibler.
American White Pelicans & Lake Gulls & A Kestrel in Flight
December 11 2014
Until the day I shot these — two days ago — I never gave much thought to the notion of American White Pelicans interacting with Ring-billed Gulls. These were all photographed that couple days ago.
But everywhere I looked that busy but nearly cormorant-less day, some pelican was ignoring some gull. I'm sure this pelican never even noticed throwing that gull off the log while the pelican flapped its wings.
Or something like that.
This gull seemed nonplused by all the pelican action.
So, not much intraspecies interaction there.
Jumps off the wire. Kestrels are reported to be seriously dwindling in population, which matches my experience with them. I believe this is only the second time I've photographed a kestrel this year.
Then briefly flies along with it.
playing with my little camera with its Tele Zoom
December 9 2014
I wasn't even to the end of the pier when I caught these American White Pelicans flying into Sunset Bay. A little late to carefully compose or get out of the way of that browning reed. But notice all those cormorants. They were gone for two days, but they're back with a vengeance.
There's even a growing mob of them in the trees, where there's that one Great Egret, but none — so far — on the Sunset Beach side of the bay.
Beautiful birds, these cormorants, and I've got the fuzzy one really sharp.
To reconoiter means to make a military observation. I don't think these elegant birds are in the army now, just that they're looking around to see what they can see and where the fishes are and where they might want to settle.
I'm still toying with my little camera. This time with its biggest lens, a 100-300mm zoom, which projects an image with the same angle of view as a 200-600mm lens on my Nikon. First zoom I've used in months. Though it's a lot slower (to operate as well as having a smaller maximum aperture) than The Blunderbuss, the Nikon & 300mm lens I usually photograph birds with, it's also significantly lighter. But it focuses a lot slower, too. I forget these things when I don't use it for months and months.
I also noticed the zoom is anything but quick. It was an interesting experiment, but most of the time using it today, I longed to have my Nikon. Except when looking through the electronic viewfinder and seeing the exact exposure light values and being able to adjust them even while a bird was flying over or landing. Learn and live.
It's called "tone merge" when something like this pelicans white head merges into the bright gray — very nearly white — background. The trick is to get the whites white without blending into something in front of or behind the subject. It doesn't help that while the wings and body are mostly in focus, the head isn't quite.
If everybody holds still, however, it looks pretty good. Before clicking the shutter, I subtly adjusted the EV (Exposure Value) down slightly, so we can see individual feathers, white on white, although the Pany cam seems to be adding a tad of red, which looks just a little too pink. I've noticed that in several of today's pix. There's probably somewhere in the menus I can zero that out.
Not exactly into the sunset on this low contrast, kinda dismal day. I had plenty of time with this shot. I made certain focus had caught up with them, and this is enlarged somewhat from a larger frame, so it's not as sharp. Tomorrow, it's back to The Blunderbuss.
Another Small Camera, Wide-angle Day at Sunset Bay
December 9 2014
We saw Pelican Dreams at the Angelica this afternoon, then had to go back to the lake to catch up with the real pelicans in our lives at Sunset Bay. Again I didn't want to haul The Blunderbuss, but I had the Pany G5, so why not. Maybe this time make more use of that wide angle. Good flick, I learned a lot about pelicans, even saw some captured with a big net.
Just the sort of photograph that cannot be taken with a telephoto lens, like I usually haul around with. Pretty good detail, too.
And what they're usually doing, pretty much no-matter-what.
That's what I often call 'the lagoon' behind it and it's last hop splash before it took off. I didn't know it was going to happen like I rarely know it is going to happen. Just suddenly several two-footed hops across the water and it's airborne. I was really surprised I got this much of it.
Pronounced "skop," this one male has been around Sunset about a week, but mostly he hides I don't know where. Today, he swam by the pier, and I asked him to come back, only a lot closer, and he did.
Probably out most amazing sight was that for the second day in a row, nearly all the cormorants [just below] were gone from outer Sunset Bay
Bunch of Birds mostly in focus
December 8 2014
Fifteen final selection photographs today, and I still have a half dozen or so from a couple days ago before my telextender started screaming and focusing slowly or not at all.
Actually, this bird is somewhat less in focus that it may appear. I think. But I sure do like all those wing feathers helping this American White Pelican make another perfect landing.
Been awhile since I did one of these pelican mandible stretch series. I kind miss them, and I have often attempted another one since the last good one probably last year some time. I was just sitting there on that low, concrete culvert thingy just a couple feet from the edge of the lake at Sunset Beach. Staring off at the pelicans with the camera already up and ready. And this happened, and I wondered if it'd be a classic Mandible Stretch Series or just peter out somewhere in the middle.
So far, so good. Perfect form. Never know in what sequence these things will unfold.
And, because I focused in rather carefully while the initial lower mandible "lip inversion" pose was still in effect, they're all sharp. Remarkably sharp, considering …
And I had a great line for under this shot, but I was watching NCIS: Los Angeles, and I lost my train of thought. Darn it. Wow, this one really is in focus.
Actually, I went to the lake twice today. First time's when the 1.7X TeleXtender started screaming like metal scrunching on metal and quit focusing. When I got it home, I took that off, and tried just the lens on the same camera. It worked like a dream. Smooth, Fast. Focusing sharp almost immediately. Near perfect, except then it was just a 300mm lens, which really isn't long enough to get this close to a bird that was rock'n and roll'n around the inner of Sunset Bay.
Or something more exotic like:
Great-tailed Grackles are amazing creatures.
They are contemporary art and they have been for a buncha million years.
Sculpture in motion.
And I wish I could show you video of some of the dance moves I saw several grackles exhibit today. Twitching everything they got.
It's beautiful. It's amazing. It's our very own Grackles doing what they gotta do to get dry after bathing in White Rock Lake.
The two on this side are a female (left) and a male (right).
And J R's got a rant for it.
The Park Department waited years to put this sign back up. Last time they had one up, they put it well off the beaten track and almost exactly where Charles had been feeding the gooses and every bird body else. Now this one finally shows again where he does that now, which is also where quite a few people sometimes, but almost always Charles, too, gather to sit and talk and listen and think about birds and gooses. Parents with kids. The Bird Squad. Nice police persons. You, me, and anybody else who wants to.
Apparently that first sign disappeared into the lake, where it slowly rotted and putrefied, which seems a perfectly logical thing to do with a sign this insipid. (I thought The City had seen their idiocy and removed it.) Now the new sign is where Charles purposely feeds unwild birds the most nutritious food (Anna asked, and Charles replied, "I feed them corn and/or cracked corn. Although the geese like cracked corn and also wheat bread.") he can buy for them — and whatever other birds show up.
Some people feed birds whatever junk they have, at what I call Sunset Beach, close to where Charles feeds birds, but most of the bad bird food is fed from the pier, where there is no sign prohibiting it — and where many people and their kids and grandmas and pas and everybody else with access to week-old white bread, doughnuts, glazed cakes and cookies (all of which I have seen fed to "the birds" there, or left around on the ground to rot).
That pier is my favorite place in the known universe, and I love Sunset Bay for its avian diversity, which I believe, is at least partially caused by Charles feeding his gooses and the world's other birds there, although I still believe wild birds should learn to depend upon their own foraging.
The Dallas Park and Recreation Department does not plant their stupid sign that can't even state clearly in a simple declarative sentence, DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS, they gotta slobber it up with the goofy, "No thanks, we just ate." Like any of the persons who throw pancakes or fig newtons, hot dogs (all observed there) or whatever else, out into the lake or on the ground near it, expecting the coots and ducks and swan and gooses and pelicans and gulls and whomever else to come running for their delicious human treats that are generally dreadful things to feed to wild birds or tame humans.
Nope. That's okay with the City. They're not prohibiting that behavior. They're not trying to stop the people poisoning everybody's birds. The Park Dept's signs are specifically located to stop feeding healthy foodstuffs to tame birds at the lake.
I am still opposed to feeding wild birds anything, and I don't have a feeder, although I might, because try as I might, I have never found any solid, meaningful information that feeding birds actually causes them harm. I wanted to find the truth. And the truth seems to be that it's all benign, and that kids who 'feed the birds' are introduced to liking birds. And that's a good thing.
I have fed tame and farm birds; I've even held them in my arms like pets. I like the feeling. I even like being nibbled on by gooses.
I've never seen a coot or duck or etc. floating feet up in the lake from eating too much white bread, cookies or cupcakes, although as quickly as they have to gobble it down before the bad old gulls take it away from them, it seems likely.
So here's this sign that just appeared Monday December 8 2014, and I have to wonder how long it will last.
SHARE THE LAKE?
Of course, if they really wanted us to stop feeding the birds, they'd make it illegal. Amazing how a stiff fine can teach the unteachable.
Photographing Incoming Pelicans with My Panasonic G5
December 7 2014
Keep promising myself I'd bring my little camera instead of the Nikon Blunderbuss. There's a pic somewhere that shows the main differences, except that the Nikon's faster and better and heavier. That's the reason I took my Panasonic Lumix G5 to the lake today.
The main reason I kept thinking about bringing the little squirt is that it offers a wider perspective, especially with the 12 – 35mm lens that I pretty much haven't removed from the front of it since I bought it sometime last year, as you can see in the image above. Eventually, we find the pelican hurtling in. Already we see all those cormorants that are no longer staying what I have been calling Cormorant Bay, up close to Mockingbird Lane over the north end of White Rock Lake.
These American White Pelicans looked like they were going to steam into the bay, then they turned around and headed west awhile, all while gaining altitude. Eventually they disappeared into the clouds. I don't know where they went, but it was fun watching.
I should have been holding the Panasonic up against my face, so I could have seen through the EVF (electronic viewfinder) instead of the LCD, but I'm just so used to doing it that way. Only problem was it was so dark, I could only see vague shadows and something bright white at the bottom. Yet the camera focused very well indeed.
I have a 100-300mm zoom lens for the Pany. I'm thinking I should bring it and that camera and see what I can do. I miss photographing pelicans coming back from fishing.
It's very unusual to have this many cormorants in Sunset Bay. Very. Usually there's pelicans out where now seems the ominous presence of cormorants. I keep wondering if the residents near Cormorant Bay have put something in or on the trees on the north side of that bay to thwart the presence of cormorants, or is this a natural progression? Last year, I noticed a lot more cormorants in the trees around Sunset Bay than ever before. Cormorant Bay is still a great place to photograph cormorants in flight, but I was amazed how many fewer corms are there now.
And one PortaLet Gray day. Kinda cold. Maybe just about perfect pelican weather. They were probably coming in from one of those mixed-species fishing parties.
Fishing Party and Some Young Cormorants
December 5, 2014
Driving down Arborectum Drive I noticed a lot of fishing activity out in the middle of the lake. By the time I got The Slider legally parked and me down to the shore, they were closer to the other side. At least that way, more birds can be in the picture. They're fishing and scrambling to find the next new bunch of fish before everybody else does.
Maybe a minute later, several pelicans had had enough and were rising up off the field of fishing.
And on their way back to Sunset Bay/home.
Where once have been long logs full of pelicans now are long logs full of cormorants, and sure enough the ones that used to mob Cormorant Bay (See my Bird Sightings Annotated Map of White Rock Lake) don't anymore. They seem content out in and surrounding Sunset Bay. I like cormorants close enough to photograph individually, but I don't know about as many as Sunset Bay has now, and I kept wondering if The City or the homeowners around Cormorant Bay have been thwarting their least favorite bird species with some chemical or something.
Not every one of the several thousands of Cormorants that used to wholly inhabit Cormorant Bay (why I called it that) but it looks like most of them. I think the pelicans would be safer farther out on the logs, and they're not afraid of cormorants. We've seen them occupy the same logs in pretty much the same manner sometimes, but usually they separate themselves. I wonder whether we'll have as many pelicans stay in Sunset Bay in future if the Cormorant infestation continues.
Forster's tern — or Terns — fishing in Sunset Bay
The main difference between our usual Ring-billed Gulls and the Forster's Tern is the way they dive. Forster's do an erratic-looking, sudden fold-their-body and drop, dive, and Ring-billed Gulls just tip forward and slide down. I hoped to catch the terns at that today, when I noticed them flying around and dropping suddenly, but because singe-lens reflex cameras can't show the instant of exposure (because it's showing it to the sensor then), I was never sure I had captured the stoop itself. But this is that magic moment when it's not flying along any more. It's either about to drop or already falling.
This is pretty obvious, but It took me a long time to figure out what today's top photo even was of, it looks so ungainly. I looked through all the items in Sibley's Guide to Birds for one with red near its head, only much later realizing those were its little red feet, and its head was under its body, looking in the direction it was dropping. In the photo above this one, its light gray head is at the lower left of the white portion of the bird hurtling downward.
Even getting a simple, more or less straightforward shot of these sleek, fast and drop on-a-dime birds was a challenge I wondered if I was going to accomplish. Here, it's flying along, carefully watching the water well below it for the telltale signs of fishes flashing in the gray water on a gray day.
For awhile after I posted about half of these images — and immediately after reading about it in my now out-of-print Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, I wondered it I'd got it confused with a Common Tern, since they look nearly identical until they break out in their fall breeding plumages. Then I looked at their maps, and Forster's, which I'd successfully identified in years previous, are all over central and east Texas, and Commons are not.
Probably because it is here engaged in rather predictable flight, this is the sharpest shot I got of a Forster's today.
I think that which is below the tern is a wake, but I'm not certain.
And if it is a wake, I don't know who created it or why. I do not remember making this photograph.
My Birds of Texas calls this species "uncommon to common migrant in most of Texas; common resident along the coast; locally common winter resident on inland reservoirs. I have seen them almost every one of the eight years I've been doing this bird journal, most often in Cormorant Bay, so it was especially nice to see it at work in Sunset Bay today, gray as it was.
More from Birds of Texas: "Hovers above the water and plunge-dives for small fish and aquatic invertebrates; catches flying insects and snatches prey from the water's surface." And "does not nest in Texas." All these shots of terns carrying food indicate its hunting ability was superb and successful, although when I shot these, all I could see was the bird.
I'm pretty sure it's a fish that's wiggling. What I'm much less certain about is that sky. I don't remember it being blue or even bluish in the half hour or so I was there. I wore my Elmer Fudd had, because it was cold, and I kept wishing there'd be some sort of color in the sky, and I never noticed any.
Because the sky was generally white or gray, as is the Forster's, I'd be panning along with it heading in one direction or another, and suddenly it would merge with the sky, and I couldn't follow it any more. Here, its beak seems a little orangish, but when it achieves breeding plumage, that beak will be orange with a black tip, and its Lone Ranger-style mask will become a black cap from the back of its neck to just above its beak.
If the sky had been much brighter, the tern would have disappeared.
But it was a Ring-billed Gull.
Ring-billed Gulls are much easier to follow and focus, because they tend to continue to go in the direction they already were without suddenly dropping out of the sky into a straight-down dive like Forster's Terns do.
Dreyfuss Point, where the Dreyfuss building used to stand till it burned to the ground while the Fire Department repeatedly found its way to Winfrey Point, is just north of Sunset Bay and often appears in the backgrounds of birdshots from Sunset Bay.
I Was Thinking Pelicans After KERA's Think said they didn't
Know If We Had Wildlife Rehabilitation Around Here.
photos shot and posted December 3
"A hydrofoil is a lifting surface, or foil, which operates in water" says the Wikipedia page that has a pic of the powerboat with a hydrofoil. This is a different sort of airboat with a somewhat more malleable hydrofoil formed by this pelican's two flat feet on the very surface of the lagoon at Sunset Bay. Instead of twin engines, this bird has those powerful wings, some of the longest in the avian world.
It's a little like power-surfing, but with each down-directed wing flap, the bird hops a little. It's a mode of travel we see occasionally in Sunset Bay, as a pelican needs to cross some water but doesn't want to use all the energy it would take to actually fly that close. Pelicans also hop both-feet together across the water to get airborne, but this pelican wasn't hopping that fast.
American White Pelicans were very much on my mind today, because I'd been listening to KERA FM 90.1's so-called Think show that was interviewing a filmmaker (They mostly interview authors, musicians and filmmakers.) making a movie about brown pelicans, who said, and the interviewer repeated, that they didn't think we had a Wildlife Rehabilitation facility in Dallas — even though we have one of the best.
I hastily emailed in (I'm a terrible public speaker unless I'm just answering questions) that we have a terrific facility in Hutchings, just south of Dallas, called Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, where I often visit and photograph their rehabilitating birds. Do a Google In-Site Search for Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation to see our many visits there over the eight years (so far) of this bird journal.
Interviewer Chris Boyd ignored my several emailed corrections, but Charles Fussel, who feeds the gooses and everybody else every day at Sunset Beach, called in to tell them about our close-to-shore pelican population, and although he didn't mention Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, he did an excellent job.
The interviewee also mentioned that American White Pelicans sometimes form semi-circles of birds to cooperatively catch fish. She did not mention that usually that action takes place in double or triple-files of pelicans chasing fish in front of them across the water. She didn't mention toward shallower water, but that's what they do.
These dozen or so fishing (probably because they were hungry) pelicans were swimming in and out of other pelicans and other species around and around in the inner portions of the very busy Sunset Bay. Note the AWP at lower left with its beak held wide, trying to scoop up fish, and the one at front middle, angling its head and beak to do the same.
That something worth swallowing has been caught. Without that look up and tilt back, whatever they're catching isn't necessarily food.
They spend long minutes sometimes fishing up a buoyant, clear plastic bottle of water or like this bird, messing with an intriguing coke can. But if they're really hungry, they eventually go back to trying to catch fish, four pounds or so of which they need to survive each day.
I was surprised how bold the coots were as I walked from the pier to Sunset Beach. They'd walked up en masse to where some grain corn still was, then only sauntered back to the water, even though a photographer with a big, scary — to them, at least — telephoto lens was within a couple feet of them some of the time. Of course, as a serious birder, I practice walking among coots, who are about the most nervous birds I know.
I usually am so fascinated by Great-tailed Grackles flying that I don't even remember to raise my camera, but this time, I followed this guy till I knew I had it in focus and shot, not really ironically juxtaposing him against that orange beaked and foreheaded goose behind.
I think Chris Boyd of KERA's Think should interview Kathy Rogers of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation. If you think so, too, you should suggest it to her at email@example.com
Gun-shot Pelican Getting Better and Buffleheads in A Little Action
The day after the day after the pelican was injured, Kelley says, "What a "coincidence", Ben said it turns out there was a man arrested on Saturday in the woods over by the dog park who had a scoped rifle!" There's a story, complete with rap sheet and mug shot on Save Boy Scout Hill's Facebook page Anna sent me.
I sure hope, if he shot a pelican, he will be found guilty of the federal offense of "interfering with shorebirds, so lots of people will find out it's illegal, and they won't be scaring pelicans and other shorebirds with their idiot selves or kayaks — and trying to murder them.
See the top of November's Bird Journal for a much bloodier image of this same pelican a day earlier.
Hardly looks at all injured here, but it was.
The injured pelican is the second one from the right. We can just barely see discolorations on his neck now.
Love those big emerald green eyes.
Nice to have a female to contrast the male colors with. Nice, too, that we see slightly deferring colors in the far right male and the two in the middle. Most of those colors are iridescent some would say aren't really "there," but they show in bright sunlight. Nice, also, to have that bright sunlight. And while I'm being thankful to this bunch I just noticed as I was driving south on West Lawther (that mostly clings the shoreline on the west side of the lake), were as close as this. Not bad at all.
And a little more detail of the guys.
The male in the middle is a little quicker, but if all three were lined up with the one on the far right first, the one on the left second and the one in the middle last, it would be a near-perfect A, B and C step for a Bufflehead diving.
And the one in the middle leaving only a vortex trough, and we get to watch the tails of the other two splashing down.
All text and photographs Copyright 2014 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to the writer or photographer.
I am an amateur. I've only been birding since 2006 — most of my birding anywhere is documented in this Bird Journal, and indexed on the Index page. Lately I've been indexing the better or more interesting images for that month on the top of each new page.
I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.
counter stays with monthly content.