The Current Bird Journal is always here. All Contents Copyright 2015 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. Cameras Used Ethics out-of-date Feedback page Bird Rescue Advice Herons Egrets Herons or Egrets? Books & Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Bird Rouses Courtship Displays Duck Love Birding Galveston 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds & the 1st Bald Eagle Coyotes 800e Journal G5 Journal JRCompton.com Links resume Contact Me DallasArtsRevue Bird Banding Info So you want to use one of my photographs in your work? How to Photograph Birds Bird-annotated map of the SW Med School Rookery Even I use Site Search to find anything, but that gets art-related finds, because it includes DallasArtsRevue.
March's Best Pix: Katy's sick! Patches mating with Katy Parakeets in the Big Hum Bridge Dancing Robins Beautiful Kestrel Dashing Grebe Blue Jay in the Rain Snow objects Bird footprints in the snow Ben's Hawk Gulls Too Dark & Too Light Mystery birds skittering
The best Katy Swanupdates are on Rogers Wildlife Rehab's Fb page, although the story below might help.
Great Great Horned Owl live cam at landingsbirdcam.com/
Another Day at the Lake
March 23 something 2015
Maybe even closer now.
Still Just Egrets at the Med School Rookery
March 23 2015
Finding just the right stick for a nest to grow one's progeny in is both a symbolic and realistic needful act. I want to make more of it than it really is.
I watched this bird flex her breeding plumes, then flex her legs up and down, swan her head way up and back, then begin to preen upside down. Wasn't a lot of action going on at the rookery today, but beauty was abundant.
Does seem a little redundant to say these birds are adult breeding, but who else would be in a rookery this early in the season.
I assume one of them is a male and the other is female. The one on the right seems larger. If so, that one's likely to be the male. Maybe. If so, it's the first time I've seen two adult egrets together and had any idea which was the male and which the female.
The usual signs that an egret is an adult in breeding form is the green lores (area around the eyes) and the long and flowing nuptial plumes that humans lusted after for hats and other decorations that nearly put the egrets into the status of extinct. Luckily, they are not.
FOS Meadowlark and Barn Swallows, Faraway Pelicans
And a Frame-filling Longshot of the Spillway
March 21 2015
I saw a bird at too far a distance to make out its details (bad eyes; good lens). At first all I saw were what I thought were bedraggled or damaged tail feathers but it didn't seem injured just had these odd (to me), tail feathers, white on either side. Eventually I spied the yellow throat. There was a short flock of them. I saw about a half-dozen flying inches over the wildflower meadow toward DeGoyler. All my flying shots were blurs, because I couldn't track them at that speed from the rain-safety of The Slider.
FOS = First Of Season (for me)
Fun seeing them, but every shot is almost identical to this. I kept asking it to turn full-body profile or all the way around, but this is what I got. A tripod might have helped, but me outside The Slider would have frightened it away — and got me wetter. I'd get better detail if it was ten or twenty feet closer, but it had its safety distance and held it till it and its buddies flew off south.
We've seen them at the Dry Beds when they let vehicles in, but not at White Rock before, but they can't be rare, because I photographed some today.
I get it that they've Barn Swallows, but what's with all the white? Is that normal? It doesn't show in my Lone Pine or Sibley book variations, so I didn't know till I asked on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat forum, where fellow forum-member Blaine Carnes responded:
"The white feathers are extremely bleached juvenile feathers. Barn Swallows usually go through their entire molt over several months on their wintering grounds in South America (and it's amazing how ragged they can get down there). I've never seen them still finishing up by the time they get back here (or never noticed it).
Given how pale-bellied these two are and the relative shortness of their tails, it looks like they're both female. In quite a few other birds, young females are often the last individuals to finish molting, so it would seem that it's the same in Barn Swallows.
This is very interesting. Thanks for posting it."
I have never seen that much fluffy white on a Barn Swallow, and I've spent hours photographing them flitting back and forth from one bridge or shoreline or another since 2006 when I started serious birding with this journal. They must have on their winter coats.
All three of this pix are of the same two birds. I shot dozens more, and I shouldn't do that, because there's so many to choose from that are so similar, but they only flashed their white fluff and other feathers in differing ways some of the time, so I'm happy to have them. But the weather was dark gray wet, and there was only a couple angles I could shoot from where I wouldn't get soaked. But these shots are brighter than they were when I was looking up from too far below to always get their heads in the pic. So I sorted through dozens to select these.
I was going for the pelicans, and I didn't use a telextender, so I got kinda a wide angle here for a 6x telephoto lens. I was going to just crop down to the pelks, a few corms and maybe a gull or two, then I saw that black dotted line across the upper right portion of lake here, so I had to include that. And that house behind, must be some serious partiers. They have more porches than any house I've ever seen. Then there's a fisherperson getting a whole lot wetter than I was in the picture 'under' the silver car. Etc. etc.
And I keep being amazed how well this lens renders objects that are almost too far away to see. Those silly telextender rob up to about thirty-something percent of the sharpness, and I'm just not willing to give that up most of the time. What I really have to endeavor to do is get a whole helluva lot closer. Especially difficult to do when there's a cold, wet lake in the picture. The pelicans are American White. The corms are probably Double-crested, but the gull might be a Franklin's (or something that doesn't look anything like one, and the two 'gulls' bobbing in the middle are probably plastic floaters of some sort.
I drove around through the parking lot at the bottom of the spillway, thought I saw a bird in the wet branches up the hill, did a long, slow 360, came back, saw no bird there and what I thought was one wasn't, then I got a little enraptured by the full view of the sloshing spillway, so I got out with my 'weatherproof' lens and camera, shot a series of exposures, because I didn't want to stick around out there in the very cold wet long enough to chimp the LCD till I got the right exposure, and hurried me back to the Slider and drove away to the warm dry safety of home.
A Hunting Kestrel, Robins, A High-Power Motor,
A Grebe, Pelicans, Pigeons, Sparrow & a GBH
March 19 2015
I didn't see what, but I was amazed I got him charging after it. It's always iffy photographing moving kestrels.
I wanted to say it was watching me, but since it couldn't eat me, I doubt I'd be of much interest.
I've done better at this, but the wings are flapping, so I guess it's not too surprising they look like they're moving, while the bird itself is captured in plenty of detail that's also moving.
And I was watching it.
White Rock has a rule about no boats with motors more powerful than 10.5 horsepower, so I was watching the back end of this craft, and I'd bet that motor is remarkably more powerful than the rule. But the front end has a seal proclaiming the Texas Water Development Board, so maybe this woman was up to some good, but it seems there are more exceptions to the rule than inclusions in it, and I wonder if anybody ever gets a ticket for having an excess of horsepower. But then I wonder a lot.
And it's probably the same one I photographed just a couple days ago, also off the edge of DeGoyler Drive.
And I assume that's an American Coot under and beyond the flying pelican.
Looks like smoke across the lake.
Well, I thought insect, but counted seven legs.
I assumed I could bring it back to a bright bird between here and there, but it would not lighten, so it's just a bird.
Such pretty birds. I love the male (left)'s dark, Aztec-looking markings and both of their iridescent necks. I think I remember she got away.
It looks like it's flying headlong into a brushy tree, but it is actually flying up a creek out there in Hidden Creeks Woods somewhere between Sunset Bay and Dreyfuss Point. Only GBH I've photographed in too long a time, but I didn't get the camera ready till it was almost gone.
I know better than to call it a nose.
I keep Finding Birds in Danger
And I Don't Like it At All.
March 17 2015
We were standing on Sunset Beach talking about cameras and lenses, when I noticed a duck flying by dragging a rope. I point it to Ben and he starts thinking about a way to rescue it, but there's an evening crowd of kids and parents, and I'd already yelled at one kid to stop chasing the birds, all making it difficult to sneak up on the female mallard dragging the rope.
I don't know where they left it for her to find, but somebody tied that rope and left it out. Maybe he was trying to catch a duck. Who knows. But this healthy female Mallard found it, and got herself caught up in it. She kept trying to back out of it, but it was already caught up in her breast and wing feathers. It'd only take a gentle person like Ben a few seconds to free her, but she wouldn't understand a human grabbing her or stepping on her rope, and she'd fight claws and feet.
Eventually we gave up for a while, because every time Ben got a chance to sneak up, a crowd would form or the duck wouldn't settle. At least three times, she flew off up the hill or into the lake. Even then, kids chasing ducks or adults got in our way.
It's an interesting phenomenon, but it wasn't working. When Ben sloshed through the shallows a week or so ago to free a Muscovy Drake who'd got hooks in him tying head to body, it'd almost given up hope of another breath, when Ben picked it up, pushed hoot through and out, then put it back. This might be a little more complicated, not counting the crowd gathering to "feed the ducks" and watch whatever was happening.
When I left, Ben had gone to get something out of his car that might help, but the duck was still wild and woolly flying and walking and trying to feed itself and get rid of the rope and …
Catching this duck should be comparatively easy away from human crowds, and there's no real damage to her yet, so no need for a Rogers Rhabilitation. All someone has to do is catch her and lift the rope off her.
Katy is better, buu Rogers Wildlife Rehab is facing Closure
March 14-16 2015
Here's the story so far:
Kelley, Anna and I were worried when I noticed this lump in Katy's throat this morning at Sunset Bay, but she's been taken to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation near Hutchins, Texas just south of Dallas. That happened, because Kelley called Kathy Rogers, who called Fireman & Photographer Matt Leatherwood, and he captured Katy on land with a net and took her to Rogers. Meanwhile, Anna and Charles went back to the lake to check on Katy, couldn't find her, then discovered Matt had taken her to Rogers.
Kelley told me "Kathy said Lady K is now on antibiotics and a feeding tube to keep her alive, and that she is very sick but Kathy is not sure what is wrong yet." Kathy Rogers said the lump in her neck is actually her neck bone as she can't hold her head up." But I don't think that is true. See new below and the paragraphs below it for more likely details. Kathy also said to tell everyone you know that if they are truly concerned, they should send donations immediately for her care.
The fund, called "Go Fund Me," will pay for Katy's care. Be sure to note that the donation is for "Katy the Swan" in the Rogers Donation form Comments Box.
First we heard, " 'Katy' is alive and her bill is cool. Yesterday it was on fire. Looks like she ate and drank. I'm gonna get her in for an x-ray asap," said Kathy Rogers of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Monday Morning, March 16. That was Monday morning. As I write this, it's Monday night late, and word comes from Kelley, that "Kathy Rogers she said Lady K is not doing well at all, her exact words were she is dying and she needs an endoscope long enough to get down into her to get whatever is in her out — as soon as possible.
"Most likely it's some kind of plastic maybe a plastic bag. They did an X-ray today, but nothing showed up, because plastic doesn't show up on x-rays. She also said she has called every vet she knows and none of them have an endoscope long enough nor do they know about birds so they aren't willing to help." Then Kelley said, "Time is ticking on Lady K's life so if someone has any ideas or knows someone that can help immediately please contact them now!!!!"
Meanwhile, Kathy Rogers' amazing Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation is facing closure for financial reasons. See the WFAA story.
The Mute Swan medical info I found online, including Swan Fishing Hook Injuries and Diseases in the Mute Swan from The Swan Sanctuary in Middlesex, England apparently was of no value. I contacted them via email, explaining the situation so far, and Mel, their Vets Assistant replied: "Have looked at photos of swan with swollen throat. Was she I an area where there was fishing?" She was. He continued, "A common occurrence here is the swan swallows the fishing hook and line and the the fisherman yanks it. And then when the swan eats the food, [it] spills out under the skin causing a swelling. It's an operation we do frequently. We would normally X-ray to see if there is a hook, and then our vet would operate, clean out the food and suture the oesophagus. If you need a more detailed description of what she does I can get her to email you."
I contacted Kathy Rogers via telephone, left her their email, then contacted her more directly to make sure. But Katy's not doing well, and she may be near her end.
Monday evening, Kelley was at Sunset Bay and Charles was talking on the phone with a bird surgeon in Denton who was going to work on Katy Tuesday. I wish I could have conveyed the Swan Sanctuary in Middlesex, England's experience with just this sort of neck bulge, but whoever's in charge is convinced it's a plastic bag of bread she swallowed, although one earstwhile friend of Katy at Sunset Beach insisted Katy knew better and would never do that. We might never know, unless the surgeon is talkative, and few are unless they succeed. Let's hope he/she succeeds.
THE Katy BOTTOM LINE
Tuesday Evening March 17: "Fever is down a bit, holding her head up looking around, eyes look bright, holding down and passing food and water. Veterinarian consultation recommendation is to maintain current protocol as long as improvement continues. No invasive procedures recommended with her current condition. And there's an article on The Lakewood Advocate.
Wednesday March 18: Rogers posted to their Facebook page today that Lady K is doing much better. Her fever is down, and they posted a couple of new pics as well, and she looks like herself all bright-eyed like she is ready to come home!! I called Kathy to thank her for her help, and she said Lady K will have to stay there until she is eating on her own, as she is still being fed with a feeding tube, but she sounds very positive about her condition, although she still is not sure what caused all of this. Regardless it's great news!! :) — sent by Kelley Murphy.
One Barred Owl — STRIX VARIA
Photographed & Posted March 15
Maybe it's blinking; maybe its eyes are at half mast. I don't know. I do know I had avoided photographing this owl, even though I'd photographed Barred Owls right there in the past. Problem was almost all the Barred Owl pictures I've seen have been, like this one, shot almost straight up a tree with the owl looking down. If you can find an owl, this is likely the first image you'll make. It's easy. It doesn't take much time or effort. It's a natural-enough pose, I just wanted something a little different. So I waited and was treated to a little bit of a Barred Owl "Who cooks for you," symphony. That's the humanification of their usual call.
Its backside is almost as interesting as his front, especially if it turns its head and watches you photograph it from back there.
It's even better with two eyes staring down at me. At us.
This side view makes it look much more massive than any of the other views.
I want to say 'sudden flight,' but I could tell it was squirming a bit, so intending to do something; I just didn't know when. It had been call-and-response-ing with another owl on the other side of the road in 'Who cooks for you' owlish, and I think it's likely this one was trying to get closer to that one. So it flew over there. By this time, I was down the mud slope closer to the road, so I got it coming toward me, even if it was going away.
The main problem with photographing anything directly overhead is that I have to bend over backward to follow it; there's a limited bendability involved; and I was near it rather quickly, though still clicking along. Its smallish yellow beak seems sharp here. As does its outer right wing and parts of its tail. The rest is blurring significantly. I'd show you the shot before this, but it's mostly blurred.
So I stood upright again and twisted, still following it throw trees, but luckily this shot doesn't involve too many intervening branches — a great many others did, but most of those were of it perched.
Like most of my serial image sets, this one is presented in strict chronological order.
Parakeets In The Big Hum, Wood Ducks in Detail,
Bridge Dancing, Shovelers, Egrets & Affection
March 16 2015
I call the Lawther Drive Substation "The Big Hum," because it does. I go there, because it's the easiest place at the lake to find and photograph parakeets.
Always before, even with this lens, I've shown pix here of these big, industrial energy structures from afar. This time, we got details, which allows the birds there to be comparatively larger. Welcome to their community.
I won't go into how Oncor messes with their nests by tearing them down when they get that destructive notion. Otherwise, the sometimes huge and complex nests / tunnels / warrens would grow and grow till they cover all the electrical parts.
Flocks of 'keets fly in and out and all that over and over again. They also fly over most parts of the lake, both sides, top and bottom.
I wanted to find some Wood Ducks up close, so today, standing on the bridge over the Old Boathouse Lagoon I found this pair. They're interesting-looking (both of them) from far, but their details get more and more fascinating as we get closer.
The overall shapes are very similar, but the details — God is in the details.
And these are colorful yet fascinating humans doing what appears to be an elaborate and colorful dance all the way across the bridge. If they had been birds, this might have been a long series of courtship behaviors, but what I think they were doing was exercise. It seemed a complicated sequence of poses, stretches and lifts, but I was busy photographing birds, and I really didn't pay them much attention. Till they were on the far end of the bridge. I shot twice then went back to the birds.
I walked nearly back to Lawther along the lagoon and on the far side of the weeds was this big-beaked pair of ducks. It'd been a while since I'd seen Shovelers, but I recognized them immediately. Beautiful, both of them.
I drove up West Lawther and found these guys just short of the bend around to Parrot Bay (mistakenly named for the parakeets that fly over it). There were coots and ducks, too. But only three egrets, and not many fishes in the creek.
Inter species Fishing, a Crow in Detail, A Blue Jay
in the Rain, Some Starlings & Two Grackles
March 15 2015
I keep seeing these from great distances. Eventually, I'll see another one up close, in person, and in great detail, but meanwhile I've been seeing lots of other birds that way.
There's no real point to Winfrey. It's just a gorgeous plunk of land with a walk around the outside, lake side, some paths to get you back to where you started, and habitat for many wonderful and colorful birds soon, soon, soon.
I saw some crows, tried several times without notable success to photograph them, eventually found myself just down the hill from the retirement home and Barbec's where was this beautiful bird, so I photographed it for awhile, even as the rains kept falling.
I used to do all my shooting with The Blunderbuss (combination camera and lens), which almost always included a tele-converter, either 2X or 1.7X. Lately I've been trying, using just the 300mm lens. I'm liking its definition greatly. Gobs of details.
This may have been photographed rather too slowly for as much action as that crow's wings were experiencing, so even though I captured details, they are still largely in motion. The length of the raindrop streaks is a dead giveaway.
I still have not shot my definitive shot of either the Blue Jay or the Cardinal, but these get that endeavor closer than ever before.
Perhaps he is protecting his tail feathers by putting his body between the falling rain and those feathers. I don't really know. It just seems awkward here, now, though I did not notice it while I was shooting, since he was but a dot in the focus-area middle of my digital frame.
I don't think they either enjoy or appreciate getting their photographs taken. Neither do I, so I understand the need to flee.
Eventually, he flew away.
About this time, every year, I take a photograph of one of these really quite beautiful birds — especially during this time of year — just standing there or eating something that grows up from the ground.
It's possible they were just looking up at something, but around this time and later — we usually call it spring — there will be two activities this display, even in the rain, often leads to. Those are producing another generation and fighting for that privilege. Grackles will be seen in courtship displays wherein the males puff up to two or three times their normal size in attempt to attract a mate, and then there's the part we usually don't see, bird sex.
Robins, Wood Ducks, Gooses & a Squirrel
March 14 2015
My FOS (first-of-season) robin whose only resemblance I can still see from the notion of robin I've carried in my mind all these decades is the red breast, but this must be the same bird I saw in Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, Alabama etc. growing up.
I guess I never paid them much attention till I had t get them in focus. Or me in focus.
One of my earliest bird photos for this journal that been going since June 2006 was a female Wood Duck in much this same position.
I assume these comprise that same Wood Duck pair I keep photographing. I'm looking forward to seeing at least a dozen ducklings in a few short months. But by then there'll be several pairs of Wood Ducks in Sunset Bay.
Gooses lower their long necks when they feel the need to be aggressive. I sometimes duck or squat down and level my camera & lens to keep them from attacking or biting me.
Been a long time since I walked down this path. I used to see and photograph many small birds in the woods off to the left here, between Celebration Grove and Poppy Drive.
With whom I carried on a brief conversation.
Not Exactly Following a Kestrel
March 13 2015
I first saw him on a wire but not my usual Kestrel wire on Winfrey. Just as I honed in, it was gone. I found it a couple seconds later blurring toward the ground, where I got two quick clicks. This is the second. I'm amazed I got him, in focus and so elegant. I missed him several other times and didn't expect to find him again because Kestrel photo ops don't usually last.
This is actually my first photo of him today — right after shooting kids feeding gooses — although I really liked the flying picture so much better. This is a huge enlargement of a tiny part [my best guess about 1/180th] of a full frame of a landscape with one tiny bird in the middle.
It's him on a wire looking for food. According to my favorite bird book, the I think now out-of-print Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, this "common migrant and winter resident statewide" who can be found in "virtually any open or semi-wooded habitat" … "swoops from a perch or hovers overhead [and] eats primarily insects and small vertebrates."
Another shot I never expected to turn out, like the in-betweens mostly didn't. I guess about here I should say I have a new camera, and these are the first shots on it. But I haven't got a cute name for it yet. The Blunderbuss is at the shop for what is probably an extended and expensive stay.
Except for that first one, all today's shots are in my usual compulso-obsessive chronological order, and are in the first 50 exposures made on my new, yet to be nicknamed cam, which has to be amazing good to pull most of these off. Although the next one is down to operator error from setting a slow speed to overexpose dark crows in a tree. I kept shooting in the missing numbers but kept seeing this bird heading off somewhere, then I'd go and look around.
Like most of the other missing numbers, this is a little blurry, but at least we can see where the bird is — that feathery brown thing with wings just above dead center.
After shooting some crows who would not focus, I found the kestrel again on a downhill slope, watching. Give yourself a gold star if you can see the classic signs of over-enlargement. Eyes are a little blurry, but that sharp bright outline almost gives it away. Still, not bad considering it came from this:
So not half bad. I'm proud of my new cam, and I expect to get better at it.
Meandering Around on the Next Day
March 11 & 12 2015
I mostly visited Stone Tables, The Dreyfuss Club and Sunset Bay this time. I'll add more of today's shots tomorrow. I kept finding more species on this less cold and much less windy day. I love the neon orange plastic fencing around this building, so I keep going back to photograph it and its progress.
"They" have been working on it for what seems like months. Maybe it'll be finished by summer. This table and it's 'chairs' are new and newly designed. The other tables and chairs are not as neat, but they have more character. .
I may be getting better at photographing birds both near and far with my Panasonic Lumix G5, for all its quirks.
These fishing-pole holder-uppers keep getting more complex.
As usual, I attempted to shoot everybody I could find.
The black, white, gray and orange of it.
Pretty Patches. I've got a new pic of his paramour, too. She's just below.
The area on both sides of the walk up to the pier at Sunset Bay has been several inches deep for quite a while now. Coots and ducks and gooses all seem to enjoy it better wet than dry.
A particularly fritzy and spiky rouse.
This pretty pigeon got my attention, but it took a while to capture it in all its spotted detail. More pix tomorrow.
She was there, I had to photograph her.
I tracked these guys for many long minutes walking down what I've finally decided to call DeGoyler Drive — instead what I sporadically have been calling it — Arborectum Drive. I lost faith in the Arboretum many years ago, when people kept insisting I accompany them there. But I especially lost interest when that organization attempted to annex the hill up to Winfrey Point for use as a parking lot.
Now, if I can remember it, I expect to call that lovely drive — We really can't see the metal "trees" the Arboretum chopped down real trees to erect behind the fence of trees and ivy along the border with White Rock Lake Park. Before that plot of land and its buildings became known by other names, it was the DeGoyler Estate, so calling East Lawther up (one-way northward) the east side of the lake — "DeGolyer Drive," because it makes traditional historical sense, since the 44-acre estate, once called "Rancho Encinal" was built for geophysicist and Texas Instruments' founder Everett Lee DeGolyer and his wife Nell in 1939. Encinal means Oak Grove.
The Bonaparte's Gulls were fascinating with their sudden stalls, falls and miraculous recoveries and exquisite form, and capturing them looking more or less normal was a real trick — and treat.
I haven't seen all the ducks in the world, and the female Wood Ducks would give them a run for their money, but I'm thinking these sleek, black & white (with lots of colors showing in the black during sunlight) may be among our most beautiful ducks.
On a dull, cloudy day.
I have been practising, and spending a lot of time thinking about using the Panasonic Lumix G5, but this time out, I had better luck and more skill using the 100-300mm lens (same angle of view and enlarging power as a 200-600mm lens on a Nikon but not nearly the resolution, than I've been having with the much smaller and lighter zoom.
Some images would give serious competition to the Nikkor.
Like this exquisite shot of the lush-colored and distinctly sharply-rendered Pied-billed Grebe.
Of course, they're not dancing, but I just love this view of Sunset Bay somewhere south of the pier but well before Winfrey Point.
Posted March 9
Their names, Katy and Patches, were given to more or less domestic birds by humans, and neither answers to them. Patches was left off at Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake. I don't know the names given to the two other gooses on the right. As experienced birders would say, "Not enough information."
We're not exactly sure where Katy came from, although it is generally assumed here, that she was left off by someone who found owning a swan not as fun or cheap as they had hoped. That is the official birders' stance. When I photographed a pair of Trumpeter Swans in Montana some years ago, they were assumed to be wild. Here the same birds would be assumed to not be. When Anna and I saw another Mute Swan at Hagerman, we assumed it was. I don't make the rules, but I sorta understand them..
Katy is named after a police woman who sometimes visits The Bird Squad, an informal group who meet on temperate evening just up the hill from Sunset Beach along the bottom of Sunset Bay. Whoever shows up is The Bird Squad.
Patches is named for his zigzag patchwork of dark feathers in his wings usually folded over his back. Gray gooses sometimes fly dozens of feet, maybe longer. I have seen domestic white gooses run across the water as if they were going to fly, but I've never seen them get airborne. Although I have several times photographed Katy in full flight.
She probably weighs about 22 pounds. Patches is significantly smaller. Katy tends to hang out with the gooses, and the species are related, so it's still anthropomorphism to say that Katy sometimes seems to want to be a goose, but the idea is not as far-fetched as we might have assumed.
I knew Katy had been seen and at least twice photographed — once with Patches, and I'd hoped to show those photos here, but I was not given the pix as promised, so eventually I had to give up. Until today. According to Facebook's Wilbur Goose page by Annette Campbell Abbot, Patches has long hung out with a goose called Annie, who has been photographed "swimming alongside when Katy and Peaches do their thing." Annie wasn't close today. When I asked, Annette told me Patches was a "a hybrid ... African / Chinese."
Though I was really too far away for the camera I've been experimenting with this week — behind the former restaurant building on the hill overlooking Sunset Bay as I thought I was leaving, when I saw them, I shot anyway, holding the little camera and lens as steady as I could out the window of The Slider. I had no idea what was going on till I'd been shooting awhile.
I know a little about paralleling — in both humans and birds — as either or both a conscious or unconscious part of courtship. We assume the same poses and/or attitudes as the one we desire, and I have seen the more extreme examples of mating behaviors Nature and other TV programs provide. But I really didn't know what these two, fairly different species might consider appropriate mutual courtship routines, although that may be what this series is all about.
So I kept shooting. Sometimes pegging focus, often not. This is what Katy did immediately before what begins the next image down. Yesterday, I watched her with her head this far under the unusually clear water as she groped for food near the muddy bottom under the pier at Sunset Bay..
Patches climbs on. Note that this sex act is very dissimilar to ducks' and gooses' rather more violent sexual acts, in that the male does not push the female's head under water (an unlikely event anyway given Katy's long neck). So this rather gentle sex was unlikely to be considered rape or a murderous attack by much of anybody watching. Amateur birders often are aghast at the "rape" they report when they see ducks mate.
Patches climbs on from the side while Katy holds still.
Gradually — this is not a fast clicking camera; for every exposure, I had to manually click the shutter — Patches got into position.
Then he did the deed.
Then got off of Katy.
Then he did this while Katy did that. Yes his head is upside down in this shot. These sure seem like post-coital displays.
As does this distinctly parallel pose if you can disregard the immense size differential.
And especially this. I don't think they are touching beaks here, but from my higher-up viewpoint, it looks like they were.
And maybe even this.
After this, they separated without further recognizable flaps or forms. Since no eggs that we know of have come from any of Katy's previous matings, it may be doubtful there will be progeny from this one, either. But we'll keep watching.
White Rock Lake gooses sometimes lay eggs, but they seem never to have learned how eggs should be taken care of, so after sitting nests awhile, parental gooses just wander off, leaving their eggs to other hungry critters. Although Charles, who feeds the gooses and other birds, has found goose eggs and even successfully incubated one of three a year or so ago.
When I asked the internet about gooses mating with swans, I learned there are swooses, who sometimes survive many years — and that gooses generally mate for life. Swans are also widely acknowledged to mate for life, although there is much debunking of such "mating for life" theories for both birds and people. More interesting swan facts.
Still Experimenting with My Lesser Camera & Lens
Turns out the closer I got to the birds I photographed, the better. Especially with the telephoto lens, which kinda negates is main benefit. One of many things I'm learning about my little camera that I almost always use for other purposes.
Either a Mallard progeny or a bird designed to either look or taste just like this one. Handsome duck, and this close, I got pretty fair detail.
I love watching the Scaups at Sunset Bay, and I probably always or very nearly always photograph them whenever I have the opportunity. This is a particularly good rendition of his just-barely off-white whitewalls. Practice makes perfect, and I seem to be getting better with the toy and its telephoto. Sure is lighter than The Blunderbuss, but I miss the Nikon. But I'm still willing to experiment with the Panasonic.
Kelly and I kept hoping the pelicans would fly all the way into the lagoon off Sunset Beach, but they stopped, instead, out near the outer logs.
There is a species called Black Duck, which is actually mostly very dark, but those barely enter the northeast corner of Texas. These and several siblings were left off at the lake 2-3 years ago in summer. Then, they looked black. Gradually, they developed male Mallard-like green heads, and more auburn body and wing feathers with some blue accents. They started out six, I think, and they almost always stayed together. There may only be these two left. Most birds never make it to old age.
Ben Sandifer rescued this duck from fishing lures that got attached to, first, its beak, then, probably when the it attempted to pull that one out with its foot, its foot became attached, also. When Ben saw it struggling against the two barbed devices so much it was having extreme difficulty breathing or controlling its movements, he walked out through the filthy (He says his shoes still stink these many days later.) and very cold (it was snowing.) water and pushed the hooks through the duck's foot, so he wouldn't rip flesh pulling it out, then detached the other barb from the Muscovy's beak, so the bird, now breathing much easier, still swims around inner Sunset Bay. Bravo, Ben.
I'm a little tired of photographing these people, their odd sport, and their proclivity to row through flocks of floating birds, but I was fascinated by this elegant silhouetted shape edged in bits of blue.
Just as I left the pier, Kelly pointed me at this Great Egret that was then in slightly wooded both sides of the pier entrance, but there were too many intervening verticals of plant life to get decent focus through them, so I got this after it exited that very wet area.
And these gooses were lying on the lawn just north of the building that was once Sunset Inn, a restaurant right on Sunset Bay.
Remember me telling that Wood Ducks had been seen in the flood ponds around Stone Tables? Today, I saw just this one pair. I took dozens of pix, pretty far from where I was sitting comfortably in The Slider, and this is the best. Helpful that they were close. Note how clear are her markings and colorful his.
Three Lake Visits In One Day
None of my visits were early. Except sometime in early to middle spring when my internal clock starts ticking slower to let me get to sleep earlier again, and the pups are spending time in some of my favorite birding sites, I rarely go to the lake early, because I work late into nights most of the time. As I write this and post these pix, it is 3:29 a.m., counting the one-hour spring forward net, losing us another hour.
Along East Lawther from Garland Road to Winfrey Point, much of which I transversed walking and carrying just that one little camera and its one, still pretty light lens. It's not nearly as good as The Blunderbuss, but it's what I'm using these days.
It's a decent lens that equivalent to the one I usually haul around, except it's much lighter and thereby much more difficult to hold still. This, I think, concludes my results from today's first lake visit. I started taking pix at about 2:30 p.m.
Second trip, I started shooting at about 4 p.m.. Lotta gulls scattered the way they separate out across the lake.
And the several usual discrete flotillas of Ruddy Ducks scattered along my second-favorite walk at the lake.
Sometimes the quality of my Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm (double that in equivalence from Micro Four-Thirds to my Nikon's full frame) surprises me. Other times, it's about what I've come to expect. My Nikon glass is significantly better.
I didn't figure it out right away. I just saw birds flying that needed their pictures taken, so I did.
Then, many, many more birds raced across the lake in front of me.
Only a few of which did I manage to keep in focus while panning and hoping.
I watched him fly by, chasing all the Ruddy and other ducks whose habitats he managed to drive through. Then he headed south toward Garland Road, and the last time I saw, he circled near The Old Boathouse well across the lake. On a pleasure cruise, which involved him cruising through all the floating birds he could drive through. I think it is illegal to do that, but I don't think anybody would or could stop him.
And some pelicans, ducks and other birds. This begins my third visit, just before 6 p.m. This time I was shooting with a 24-70mm equivalent zoom. What I thought of as much wider, even too much wider for bird pix, but I wanted to try it, and I surprised me with the quality. It is a better lens than the telephoto, and it's the one I use almost every day.
She'd scoop up corn grain with her beak like everybody else, then lift her head, form this distinctive swallowing posture, and gulp it down.
Not Many birds but Several cool Snow Objects
Great from behind.
Unassuming little person looking up.
I couldn't figure out what it was supposed to look like, but I admire its spunk, getting that height in a tree.
Amid trees, brush and litter. Not, I think, made by humans. It just drifted there.
Who kinda looks crow-ish.
Yeah, I know. Not much in the bird department. Alas, the cam I praised last time failed me over and again. Then it froze, and it wasn't even freezing. Thanks goodness for the Killdeer.
And not mine.
New, Old Camera while my old, new
Camera gets fixed or replaced
Photographed from Winfrey Point Circle, which like the other roads around the lake today were largely not populated with cars and trucks. Yeah! Snow days.
I don't remember from whence I shot this. Probably from the Winfrey Building's parking lot.
Instead of The Blunderbuss, all of today's and likely tomorrow's and maybe on for awhile's shots were/are/will be taken with my Panasonic Lumix G5 micro four-thirds camera, whose sensor is significantly smaller than that on The Blunderbuss (a Nikon full-frame camera). I've been wanting to use it and thinking about using it for at least the last month or so, but now that The Blunderbuss's lens mounting pin (that enables easy removing of lenses) is malfunctioning, I pretty much have to.
I don't have a full-frame, auto-focus, wide-angle lens for my usual camera, so this shot would be difficult with it. With the G5, however, I just switch lenses, click and maybe even switch lenses back to the telephoto zoom again. Among other features, the G5 shows the scene in the electronic form into which it will be rendered, meaning I can usually see the exact exposure tonalities I should expect in the final image — the light balance, tonality, contrast, etc. With my big Nikon, I can only see the optical framing of what the lens sees without the exposure, color, white-balance, shutter-speed variations. So, it seems like it would be a great camera to use for birds, but it's really not, and I had a booger of a time following flying birds today, but I'll probably get better as I use it more.
The G5 is my normal people camera, however, and last weekend I shot more than 500 pictures of people with it. It's also my standard art camera, and I've used it or its Panasonic precursors for nearly all the images on my other website, DallasArtsRevue.
Kinda precarious out on the pier today. I was careful. Where usually are grasses and plants and trees on either side, today were full of water and the water was often occupied by birds.
I guess they were too cold to be scared.
I'm completely out of practice following a flying bird, even one as large as the American White Pelican, in from out and moving fast, with my Panasonic Lumix G5 (the G6 is the current model, and I'm sure the G7 will follow soon. In my experience, these things only last a couple to three years. This one already has several significant issues. But when it finally dies or even more features die, I'll probably get an Olympus EM1 or 2 instead. The G5 is considered an advanced amateur camera.
I got a couple other shots of this pelican, but they're blurry and not nearly as good as this, and with The Blunderbuss, all that has become easy and normal.
Seagulls, if there is any such thing, hang out in and around the sea — or ocean. Gulls are just about everywhere I've been aware of birds. There are many many fewer Ring-billed Gulls at White Rock Lake lately, and I don't mind that a bit. Most birds come and go on a fairly regular basis.
I'm still having trouble seeing the EVF (electronic viewfinder) image here, so there's something not-quite-there about these shots. I miss the Nikon.
The G5's sensor is half the size of the APS-C sensor, which is itself half the size of the full frame Nikon, which makes their cameras smaller and lighter. It may be that I'm just not used to dealing with that small and light a camera.
But it still captured very nearly the quality of The Blunderbuss, sometimes.
They're not pals. The coot just happened to be there while I was photographing the Mute Swan known as Katy, and I really like the comparison of white and black, big and little, positive and negative spaces.
Ben's Hawk, Coots & Ducks & Gulls
Perched right where Ben pointed him out to me last time I photographed that handsome bird. I looked up, saw it immediately, backed The Slider a little down the hill, sidled over to the wrong-way side and photographed this bird out my driver's side window as it looked about.
Left, then right, then …
Still glued onto whatever it was watching, the hawk jumped into flight, banking nearly vertically and sped off down the hill. The main drawback to photographing from a car is that if the bird flies to the other side and off down the hill over some fields, there's no way to watch and/or photograph it doing that. Oh, well, this was a pretty darned good view, and I would never have got it if I had not driven up to the tree, cutting off my view of everything else on the extended landscape.
Or a tributary of Dixon Branch, actually. I'd heard Wood Ducks had been floating in the little valleys — now ponds and lakes of their own — over behind Stone Tables. I looked. Lots of Mallards, but no Woodies.
We were in San Antonio to attend my sickly father, who's only 101 years old now, having in one generation, bested his father's lifetime by 40 years.
Mom, Anna and I went up the mountain of trash hoping to see and photograph the Turkey and/or Black Vultures we saw circling high above, but when we hove into close view all we saw were trucks, little trucks and great big huge trucks dumping trash up there, where they were growing a mountain out of trash. We were very surprised nobody stopped us or wanted to talk, like they did in eastern Irving when we tried the same stunt there.
Irving let us up, but we had to prove we were us. The San Antonio Waste Management Mountain had already grown much larger, but we didn't see the vultures.
For the first time in a long, long, too-long time, I saw nary a single Ring-billed Gull at White Rock yesterday or today.
Low-contrast, waning light, fog, mist, Some Birds & Rower Noise
I got back from visiting my ailing father late Tuesday afternoon. It was already getting dark, and we drove through fog and rain all day, visibility nearly zero. When I got this scene, I was only hoping to get enough of Dreyfuss rendered about white — nearly pure white. I've been trying for a years now, to capture the hops that precede a pelican take-off. Like 35 north to Dallas, this scene was somewhere between all white and mostly dark. I never saw the pelican. I was waiting for the headlights to get in just the right position, and about all I could see was the foggy, misty white surrounding just about everything out there.
I assumed the skitterers were coots, but they have white undercarriages, so I asked Bird Chat, the Dallas Audubon bird forum, and there, Ben said they were Ring-necked Ducks. Wish I'd known that then, so I could have photographed them more carefully. Se la vie.
There was mist here, too, but not enough to distract anybody.
There really isn't a point to Winfrey, even this haze-obscured jut is mostly just rounded. Especially so in this near-surface condensation under a sky obscured by bright stuff that's more water than air.
I think this is off Sunset Bay toward the lagoon.
Because everything in sight was mostly white, the camera turned everything into dark, especially the bright. So it's confusing seeing it here like this, where I can easily see the differences among different birds.
Although, except for the light, this may closely approximate, what really was there.
Ben and I were talking about where else we've seen Buffleheads this and previous seasons, and we agreed never inside Sunset Bay proper. But that may be that in cool, heavy, wet fog, we mostly stay away from the pier in Sunset Bay, thus missing our chances. Clearly the birds are not bothered as much about it as we were, and they were in it.
So when they got this close, we were amazed. Click-click.
Again, I followed them down clicking all the way, but I still never expected this shot to turn out.
But they did.
Neighbors on the far side have reported being upset by a certain loud-cursing caller, we could plainly hear him bellowing, and someone had seen the caller and the rowing crew plough through several floating flocks of Ruddy Ducks on the west side, but nothing stops the rowers' noisy, cursing caller. We were glad he didn't lead them all through "our" bunch of birds in Sunset Bay.
All text and photographs Copyright 2015 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 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.
counter stays with monthly content.