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Too absorbed by Pelicans, I almost
didn't see this bird it was so close.
September 29 2014
I was absorbed into trying to see the ten American White Pelicans well out on the far logs, when I suddenly realized there was a tall, slender bird standing on the left-most post on the pier at Sunset Bay. It was so close I could barely get it all in the frame. I pulled back a few steps and photographed it again. I wanted to believe it's a Red-tailed or Red-shouldered Hawk, but with those feather pants, I thought it looked more like a falcon, but it doesn't match any of those species with its horizontally-striped tail and vertically-streaked breast and everything else we see here.
I repeatedly passed up the notion that it might be a Cooper's Hawk, because Sibley's paintings of them showed them much less slender, more robust. And black, not golden brown, but in the end, after I'd asked for help on Bird Chat, I'd settled on my belated identification. Certainly the closest I've ever been to a Cooper's Hawk.
My! What a handsome bird.
I asked the birders on Audubon Dallas' Bird Chat. I remember five years ago asking them about what turned out to be my first (and the first-ever photo of a Bald Eagle at White Rock Lake, but I had a much lousier lens then, and it was far and blurry-ish, and this is so amazing close and sharp. The Bird-Chatters five years ago thought I was joking when I submitted those earlier Bald Eagle pix, but I really didn't know what bird that was, so I knew right away what the one I and a bunch of other photographers saw and photographed on September 16thy.
This was still too close. I've added a horizontal gray strip to the top of this picture, and thought I might have to add to the top curve of its head — although I haven't the artistic talent to draw much of anything — so I was pleased that I wouldn't have to draw head or feathers, and it looks just fine without adding any white or brown at the top.
I don't think I scared it. It was more like it didn't want to share space with a human, and I understand. I really do. He stayed a few seconds.
I'm hoping the info in this picture will help someone better at identifying birds than I am — which probably includes most birders — tell me who this is. I'm pretty amazed my camera automatically focused on the closest edge of it as it flew away, and I'm so sorry I disturbed its brief stay on the pier..
Then I photographed the pelicans, which seemed much less exciting after that close encounter.
Later, after dinner, I came back to catch a lovely sunset.
I was kinda hoping the pelicans would come as close to the pier as this Wood Duck did. I'd heard from Ben that they had in recent evenings, but if they were fishing, I couldn't see them, and they were not close enough to use my on-camera flash.
I'm working on a website for someone else, and I'll be too involved in that to spend much time at White Rock in these exciting — to some of us — times, so I'm just going to leave these shots up till I finish that project.
Back to the Pelicans and their mandible stretching
One of the more distinctively pelicano actions American White Pelicans do is to stretch their very flexible lower mandibles. I've been hoping to catch one at it ever since the first one arrived earlier this month. Today, I finally caught one in the act. But it's not just a one-step situation, and the steps are not always followed in the same sequence.
They constantly preen, because they need all their feathers to do their individual jobs when they're flying or swimming. Same with mandibles, upon which white pelicans depend to dredge up fish and to drain the water that usually comes with the fish, four pounds of which each pelican must eat every day.
We can't quite discern what exactly is going on in this picture. What is happening is the bird is flapping its upper and lower mandibles, although this far into that action, it's begun to slow the flapping and almost seems to be drying it out/ easing off on the action. If I were a little quicker, I would have captured the part where they lower mandible goes all soft and flappy, but here it's stiffening up again.
Here, as in Mandible Stretch 2 above, this pelican is inverting its lower mandible over its upper chest. Keeping that part of its beak is extremely important when fishing — as these pelicans do, cooperatively by driving schools of fish into the shallows, where they scoop them up and swallow them whole.
I'd been thinking about an alternative shooting position ever since one of the six photographers on the pier at Sunset Bay mentioned that he'd tried an alternative shooting position for the eagle September 16, but he'd learned that the distance was very nearly the same in both the places he'd tried. So far this year, the pelicans have settled on a log somewhat short of where the eagle spent its time.
Today, I tried an alternative photographing position from which to photograph the pelicans, and I believe it is substantially closer — by about 15 - 20%, according to my rough calculations. I got a lot more details in these shots than the ones above. Worth the trek, as much as I love being on the pier.. But I do hope the pelicans decide to settle somewhat closer than this, although with a decent tripod (not my present one), I can get plenty good shots from the new place.
Compare this, shot from the pier, to the shot above, and you'll see it has more detail. Plus there's a dramatic shift in background imagery. From the pier, we see houses across the lake. From the new, soggy place, we can see Dreyfuss Point. Note: I change the relative sizes of the birds in my images according to differing compositions. Yes, this one's apparently larger, but the shot above is closer with more detail.
The American Coot population in Sunset Bay has about doubled in the last week. We had three, and yesterday's count included six. There'll be a lot more coming in the next few weeks until the inner bay will be teeming with them, and I've already seen — but not photographed, because I'm not a big fan of Ring-billed Gulls. But they're coming. I saw three earlier this week, and thousands more will follow.
Some Birds in Various Places around the lake
Almost straight down in the Upper Creek of the Middle Spillway. I watched it a long time, but I never saw it catch anything, for all that sneaking.
Down below in the Middle Spillway.
Over the Upper Spillway.
Off Woodpile Road past the Garbaretum. My First Of Season, but somebody else saw some in the other direction, around Dreyfuss, a couple days ago, and I looked there, but didn't find them. So I looked where I usually see them around this time of the year, and there one was, a little too far off for a high-res shot, but this will do for now.
In Sunset Lagoon.
Just off Sunset Beach.
Other two pelicans were either swimming around or I was wrong about them.
66 Egrets, 4 bluewing teal, 3 pelicans, a Pair of Kingfishers, 1 Black-crowned Night Heron, 1 Osprey, 1 spotted sandpiper, 1 wood duck, 1 killdeer and a buncha Photographers still hoping for an eagle
I got up way too early, so I et breakfast and scurried down to the lake with experimentation on my mind. It was totally dark when I first arrived and went back for my tripod. This GBH is who I saw first after the pelican silhouettes much farther out.
24 images today means I can unlax tomorrow.
I must have had the tripod tilted slightly to the left when I shot the five or six shots that comprise this pano early this morning when the ISO was low and panning anything with my cheap, crappy tripod renders to much out of focus. I just wanted to show just how many egrets — both Greats and Snowies — are staying on the farthest logs these nights.
Having awakened, they get on their way for breakfast.
Spreading out to each individual's chosen hunting ground, although a little more than a dozen settled in Sunset Bay to do that.
I did a much better one of these shots than this one recently, but this ent bad for as dark as it was this early morning. And being in an experimental mood made it all just fine.
Kala King sent me a shot she'd made at the Lower Steps a couple days ago of an Osprey, and man, oh, man, was I jealous. But it was still dark when I shot these while talking with Kelley Murphy, and it was so dark, neither of us had any idea what it was. Nice thing about underexposure is that we can usually save back the important bits, whereas with overexposure, they're usually gone forever.
So I lightened it enough for you to see, even if I didn't.
When I photographed it, it looked black against a dark gray sky every time. So these are a minor miracle.
Finally, we can see its sideburns and begin to identify somewhat larger than the average bear, brown and white bird. There only rare times when I wish I had a powerful flash. After spending several hours on the previous Osprey shots, I wished that several times. But I'd hate to have to carry that thing around, so probably I won't.
The experimentation continued into the dark, cool morning.
My other shot was a blur. This one looks sharp enough to identify it, at least.
By the time the Kingfishers — yes, plural, we got both members of a pair out hunting before us. Us this time being several photographers, some of whom I had never met before. They were gathered there, because they'd heard about the eagle, who did not honor us with an encore performance, but she will, I'm sure.
He's not really going to downtown that's visible west from Sunset Bay, but he's so small, and it's so big, why not say that.
There were dozens and dozens of Woodies yesterday and most of the days before. But they are shy, and that many boisterous photographers could easily have scared them off today.
But we kept seeing Kingfishers, pausing one place or another across in front of us. Great shot, huh? Now look at the next shot down for the full, wide, telephoto view of this exact bird in this exact moment.
This frame is here to show you just how good the Nikon D800E with the lens I got and the extender that holds those two entities apart, is. Other photogs on the pier this morning were laughing at the possibilities, but I have faith in my camera, because I've tried it before.
I did two of these in rapid succession. This is the better shot of my friend(s) killdeer.
Those wings made identifying this guy a little easier, although my Peterson's doesn't show under-wings, but Sibley Second Edition does. Rather dramatic landing, this.
Unlike most species, the female Kingfisher has slightly more color. So that red belt below the dark red-brown one is significant. In all my other shots of her, she has her crown up.
And the same Kingfisher with her crop up. Almost looks like a different bird. As usual, all of today's images are in the usual, same chronological order that I shot them in. There's a male Belted Kingfisher well below on this page.
After we'd find one or the other of the pair, then lose it, then find it or them again for about a half hour, they flew away, with the female leading the male.
I assume from the same flock I saw the other day.
It were fun, but by the end of it, my legs hurt. I need a better tripod and a comfy chair for next time I do that.
Stuff in Sunset Bay, Including three pelicans
I was out on the lake twice today, early in the morning and fairly late in the evening.
Many egrets had gathered there this morning, and most of them were still there when I came back after dinner.
I tried to catch it when it was dancing on its tippy toes and turning around on dimes and in the midst of flying and running and finding and looking for food, but instead of all that, I got this.
This is much later in the day. This, as you can probably read, is Goosey, who belongs to Charles. Goosey is known far and wide for his taste in scarfs.
The egrets were thick this morning and thick this evening, but not all of them spent all day there.
Focus may not be all there in this, but I liked the dynamic of it, and the sunset colors.
And, of course, egrets aren't normally blue, and they didn't look blue when I took this photograph, but at that level of available darkness I was lucky to get any color at all, so I accepted what the exposure gods gave me. Love, love, love that central Great Egret caught in mid-flap.
When the exposure was right, there was too much white, so I left it back to too much dark, but I love the balancing act. That egret bobbed this far down, nearly all the way back, and several differing angles in the middles.
Katy, the mute swan, & a Flock of Teal Fly over Sunset Bay
And oh, yeah, there was a pelican out there a little closer than the eagle had been. Kelley told me yesterday that there were two of them yesterday morning, and she told me about some other birds I would have been joyed to see this morning, but I got a late start, so I didn't get to Sunset Bay till about forty minutes after I'd wanted to.
While I was focusing way out there, I saw something else flying by. Katy, the Mute Swan, whom I have seen fly before, but never managed as many or as half-way decent shots as I did this morning. At first, I almost didn't recognize her, she was so elegant in flight.
But first, she flew much farther away, out into the Bay, and I thought I'd lost her. But she seemed to be enjoying flying, and she looped around out there, then came back toward along this side of Winfrey Point, then turned in slightly toward me on the pier.
Gear and flaps down, she makes her final (only) approach. I'd got my hopes up she'd come a lot closer to Inner Sunset Bay, but she apparently wasn't interested.
Noticeably big feet ready to catch some water to slow her down, wings cups to catch air for the same purpose.
My camera/lens was giving me a little focus problem earlier, but it seemed to work okay during her landing.
So maybe it was the photographer. I know he was tired.
A little misfocus here, but she's down, and I've now witnessed the longest flight I've ever seen her in.
I have seen one or two in the bay before, but I think never this many, even realizing "this many" is just seven.
I don't think they are Blue-winged Teal, but they might be Green-wings or Cinnamon Teal. I just don't know. I just thought they were a bunch of ducks, and only later snapped that they weren't our usual varieties.
A lot of people seem to really really like Blue-winged Teal.
Too bad I couldn't get them to fly a little closer.
To Dangerfield, Texas to get a little respect
Went with three women and Field Trip Leader and Master Birder Ron Baughman east to Dangerfield State Park for what had been described at the recent, Owl meeting of the Dallas Audubon chapter as a Hawk Watch event there, and I was excited about seeing hundreds of hawks. Except, I couldn't see most of them. They were too far away, and against the unclouded blue sky, so they were doubly invisible to my old eyes that can barely see any details at 150 yards away, unless someone pointed my nose directly at wherever those specs were very high above us. A really knowledgeable and friendly guy from Dangerfield did that for me for one high-flying hawk, but I quickly lost interest in finding more than Black or Turkey Vulture up there.
Ron said this was the first juvenile Red-headed he'd seen without any red on it.
Usually, I arrange images in a bird journal entry chronologically. Not this time. I think this should have been the first image. I don't remember taking it, but I remember wondering what those lush black and white birds were flying around the treetops when we were signing up for the visit at the gate. When Ron told me they were Blue Jays, I didn't believe him, although he knows a lot more than I do about identifications, but I have jays in my yard, and they never look lush or black and white.
Because vultures are looking for carrion, they fly much lower than migrating hawks, so they were much easier to photograph, but I've done that many times before.
This is the one hawk I saw Saturday afternoon — a little too high to render in decent detail. But it's one hawk, and I went on a hawk watch, never imagining I would just actually see one.
So I wandered around the park in the heat…
…finding closer but littler birds of great interest to me. For awhile I thought I might not have seen a Red-headed Woodpecker before, but I did a site search (link on the top rightish of every Bird Journal page) and found dozens of previous mentions, so not hardly. I don't keep a life list. Somehow that's always seemed a wrong way to approach it. For me.
I'm just as happy when I make a good photo of yet another Great-tailed Grackle as I am when I see something I haven't seen hundreds of times before. In some ways, I was more thrilled on the 16th of this month than I was when I saw my first eagle here. It helped that my latest photos were substantially better, but I just don't think birding is just about seeing new speices.
I assume that wormy yellow thing is hanging by a gossamer thread of its own making. Love the way this beautiful bird is clamped to that pole, with its tail clasped firmly to its edge as it hammered away at the soft top of the pole.
Not far away were families swimming in an area just into the lake behind the concession stand. It looked inviting, except I prefer water that birds haven't been scatting in.
I'd brought my little camera, because I so often forget to, and taking pix with the Blunderbuss means I have to back off a couple football fields away to get someone in the frame.
And as usual, I also documented architectural and other visual oddities available. If this were instead in DallasArtsRevue, it'd be art.
I never looked through one of these on our trip, but maybe I might have been able to see the hawks flying high over us with one. Maybe not.
One of those architectural details I spoke of above. I was wandering around the park, because I was utterly useless at seeing specks in the sky, and if I couldn't see them, I couldn't photograph them.
So I wandered around and found some other little birds…
…whom I now realize are not my specialty, because I can so rarely see them, unless they're close — and visibly moving. This little bird we saw on our walk around the lake. I remember several people talking about seeing a White-eyed Vireo, but I don't know if this is it or not. It doesn't look like the WEV in my bird books, but what do I know?
Then we went on a hike short of half-way around the lake and back, then Ron dove us home. Overall, a fun event I'm glad I attended, even if I couldn't watch very many hawks. Now, Kelley tells me there's a pelican back in Sunset Bay, so I'll go over there on a Sunday afternoon, even if I know better...
Life Goes On without Eagles, But a Great Blue Heron's Gotta Find Food
Two sets of photographs of Great Blue Herons in today's journal entry. One involves one flying across Sunset Bay that I shot between photographing the eagle below.
It has flown low over the bay and now rounds past Dreyfuss Point proper and is passing the big tree just in from there.
Here we see the trash cans just below the stone-walled-in mound of Dreyfuss Point that the heron is flying along the coast of.
And now we see it climbing up toward. Well, gaining altitude.
When I first saw this GBH Thursday September 18, which is probably but not definitely different from the previous GBH, it was standing in the middle of the pond at the official entrance to White Rock Lake Park at Lawther under the old trestle that no longer has trains, at Williamson Road. It is very busily and intently fishing. The GBH flying fishes at Sunset Bay. This one is fishing up the lagoon by the Old Wood Boathouse.
Then quite suddenly, its head shoots out and down under the surface of the water, splashing toward a fish that we will probably not even see.
Now it's either eating that fish or digging around down there for it.
Now, if it had actually caught that fish, its throat would swell to take it down. But its throat is not swelled, so it missed the fish.
And now it begins the hunt once again.
No Pelicans, but there was a Bald Eagle in Sunset Bay
Jennifer Luderman called me on August 7, saying there was a Bald Eagle in Sunset Bay, and as I did this morning, I dressed quickly and whipped The Slider there as quickly as I could without attracting police attentions. But it was gone by the time I got there that time. This time, when Anna Palmer called me from the pier at Sunset Bay, I was quicker, and the eagle was much farther out on the farthest log in the outer bay. I wished I'd brought my tripod down from the car but started clicking right away, just in case.
Gradually, as I focused in on it and could see I needed to wait till it turned away from face out across the lake, I got more and better shots. But even my backs-of-its-head images this time were better than any from my first encounter with a Bald Eagle not so far away on Winfrey Point, January 27, 2009. I was the first to photograph a Bald Eagle at White Rock Lake, if for only 14 seconds, but somebody else got a decent shot of it on a cell phone since, but these are way better than that only-ever, other Bald Eagle sighting nearly six years ago.
Would loved to have caught it catching a meal, but it was done with that, and back to where it'd been seen since Jennifer called. I'm so pleased to have seen and photographed it (maybe again). What a lovely gift from the Universe. And to have got this close to focus hand-holding my 510mm, 7+ pound lens, is spectacular. I posted this photo a couple days later, but it's probably the last good one I can add.
The six photographers on the pier at Sunset Bay, which is still my favorite place in the known universe, that morning were: Kayla King, Robert Bunch, Anna _____ and Anna Palmer and me — and I suspect others. Please remind me if you were there, too. it was a good time.
Pelican Gone; I photographed the usual suspects
Almost every goose in Sunset Bay — and most of the rest of the lake — are domestic gooses of the sort that farmers raise for food. And I suspect that when one or two or more disappear, they are taken for food. There are wild gooses of these species all over America, but most of them don't get fed regularly, twice a day. Hence the barnyard reference.
But they're also big, goofy birds with distinct personalities. There's probably a name for each and every one of the up to 70 white or brown gooses who arrive from elsewhere at the lake every morning and leave Sunset Bay each evening. Lining up in precise order and swimming off.
I don't think I'm ever seen one of the white gooses actually fly more than running across the water and jumping. I have seen the Graylags fly but not very far.
They fight fairly often. I think nearly all birds do. Which is what goose sex looks an awful lot like. There's usually more than two gooses involved in it. This particular frame is one in a much longer sequence, only a few frames of which show them calm. But this only looks calm. It is a stop-action moment in a continuing process.
A process that very often involves a male goose pushing with its beak into a female goose to get her under the water, so he can mount her. It often appears as if he is trying to kill her, but he's not. Neither is his friend who helps when he can to keep her down long enough to get inseminated. After that, everybody disbands, some flap their wings in victory or leave the area.
Quite some time after this unique flock flew over the bay, Ben told me about it, and the discussion cemented the notion that, since I wasn't finding the pelican, I'd be sure to post this pic tonight. I noticed the white duck when they flew over, but otherwise, I might have forgot it and dismissed the pic as just another bunch of ducks coming into Sunset Bay for the evening feeding.
Not as good flying Grackle pix as earlier this month.
All the time I was in Sunset Bay this evening, this Snowy Egret — usually a very active bird — stood there on that log.
Hoping for Pelicans, but surprised by GBH Action
Much darker than yesterday early this morning when I met Kelley on the pier at Sunset Bay, both of us hoping the pelk would swim — or fly — in a little closer. I figured it might if it were hungry, though it's probably pretty tired of flying, since it only just arrived (we assume) from up north somewhere — anywhere from British Columbia, Utah, Idaho across the northern U.S. to Minnesota, although I saw some at Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area just a few weeks ago. We make all sorts of assumptions about birds, but we're just guessing in the wind. Or like early this morning in this morning's pictures below, the mist.
I've since replaced that really lousy American White Pelican (AWP) pic with this much nicer one taken in sunlight, of which there wasn't much available nine hours earlier this ayem. I'd hoped to catch it in some recognizable pelican behavior, like the full lower mandible stretch in all its predictable steps, but this was as close as I got. Several photographers filed out onto the pier today without getting anything as poetic, although our first pelican of the season seemed happy enough to pose out on the much-closer-than-this-morning's log.
Here, #1 looks healthy and maybe even happy. But as gregarious as these birds are, it'll probably be relieved when the rest of its flock joins us.
But there was only that one pelican, and lots of other birds in the glory that is Sunset Bay.
Way too far for me to see clearly, but I thought it looked like a bird, so I photographed it, so I could blow up that image to see what it was.
I'd say this one was about half the distance as between me and the juvenile, whom could well be this one's progeny. Adults usually just hang at some distance from their juveniles. Just in case. I have seen BCNHs fight, and they do it fiercely.
Now, we're getting into a little more nebulous territory. These guys were even farther away than the juvenile Black-crown. On a clear day, I might have got away with photographing them that far, but with all that wet slop between us, not much chance of that here. Still, I so very rarely see more than one Great Blue Heron at a time in the same place and circumstance, I thought I'd give these shots a go.
Even if they're pretty nasty with focus, detail. Heads-up displays often mean a challenge to battle. Here, however, I think it's more likely something else, but I don't really know what.
Or at least, still near each other. It probably would have helped significantly, if I could see better at distance.
Green Heron Up Close in Sunset Bay
Not the closest I've ever been to a Green Heron but remarkably close for this usually timid species. I was amazed when Kelley pointed it out as flying west from up the lagoon, when it turned toward us instead of flying away. Didn't get the first couple shots of it flying, but I got a good 'un of it landing.
Wings settling from flapping, 'knees' bent in absorbing the energy from flying and landing, and crest bending down.
Or maybe that's the way that long neck always looks. I see so few of them — there's far fewer Green Herons than there once were, nobody's quite sure why, yet — and see the few I do see so seldom, that it's marvelous to have one land this close to two humans standing on the shore of Sunset Bay.
Her head's lower, and it seems like the throat is thicker, but I'm beginning to believe that's just my imagination.
Then the throat disappears almost entirely, and he turns to give me a full side view of beak and bird. Except then it looked like a whole other bird. Green Herons are 15-22 inches long with a wingspan of about 26 inches. Sometimes they look tiny, and other times they seem huge.
And I was amazed I got it, motion-stopped and in sharp-enough focus. I didn't think I had, because single lens reflex cameras hide the fraction of the second the mirror pops up and the shutter opens and closes, then the mirror flaps down again, so we never exactly see what happens in the milliseconds during the actual exposure. I didn't see it, and I quickly chimped the LCD to see if I'd got it, and I had! I sometimes impress myself.
A rouse is when a bird shakes its whole body and all the feathers on it. I have a whole page of rouses of all sorts of species, including a much better Green Heron rouse, but this was more impressive, because she was so close.
I think they do these full-body stretches when something's either out of place — some feather somewhere — or they just feel like it. I've tried it a couple times, and my feathers hardly even move, but I think I got the gist of it.
Its feathers are still plootched out a little, but it looks composed and — well — ready to fly away. I wasn't ready for the fly-away part and instead of focus, I got three receding blurs of bluish brownish Green Heron flying back up the lagoon. Oh, and calling this distance 'close' is a little silly, except comparatively. I am shooting a 510mm telephoto lens here, but it's not like just a few feet away.
Later, well after I'd posted today's journal entry above, I heard from Kelley again, and she'd seen the First-of-the-Season pelican in Sunset Bay Saturday evening and sent this pic.
Too Dark in the Morning in Greater Sunset Bay
September 12 2014
It was pretty dark this early morning when I got to Sunset Bay. Not much happening at the Pier, but Kelley told me about a Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron over by the creek, and I found this guy looking for food.
While I was stalking it, looking for a nice big tree I could both hide behind, so my movements wouldn't bother the bird, and so I could use the tree as a tripod in absencia, it didn't do much. I think it's tired of posing for photographers, and I don't blame it.
I kept changing the ISO, so I kept not getting the exposure right, and I didn't help it in PP (post production), so this wasn't ideal shooting, and what I did with it later wasn't ideal, either.
When the City mows the grounds they mow everything in sight, hardly even pausing when they mow creeks or rivers or oceans. Their machines — that I call 'Habitat Destruction Machines" can roll and mow or mulch or utterly destroy almost anything. The City is wise in not trying to eradicate wild animals and birds at the lake, but it would be difficult to tell the difference between that high-minded attitude and their proclivity to kill every plant species in sight. I'm sure moving just before spring is not what the folks who bestow the highfalutin' Wild Meadow nomenclature on the stands of whatever can grow there they call Wildlife Meadows, but only a few bird-friendly species manage to eke out a so-called living when just before spring, some idiot Habitat Destruction Machine mows them down to near the ground.
This is probably the once-ambulatory amphibian's own darned fault for hazarding a trip across the automobile trail from Garland Road to Winfrey Point without looking both way before crossing that narrow drive.
Probably one of the many varieties of domestic ducks has been preening. This feather is a little worse for wear, so it got jettisoned. When there's a lot of feathers in different sizes, shapes and down content in one place, it's likely to mean a much larger animal got hold of a bird and shook it apart, then ate it. I see those fairly often when I'm walking at the lake or looking for birds. This is a flight feather, and it doesn't look much good for that anymore, so its owner jettisoned it. If it was in better shape, I might have picked it up and stuck it in my hair for good luck, but if it had been in that good luck, the bird would probably have kept it.
I like the times when Ring-billed Gulls stay away better than when they're here. I can appreciate them when they're not everywhere here, especially teaching humans how to feed them and what neat tricks they'll do to get white bread, even though by now, even they know it's not healthy for them. So, Warning! Will Rogers, Warning, Warning. They're coming back.
White Rock Lake
September 11 2014
Nicest thing about this morning, besides the birds, was a lovely, stirring, cool breeze I chased all around Winfrey Point and up over the hill and back to Sunset Bay in. I saw this very happy bee in this lovely pink flower just as I stepped onto the pier today, and with that breeze, I was about as happy as that bee.
I woulda liked a little more sharpness here, but this is good enough just fine.
And today, I saw exactly one Forster's Tern, and last week over Lake Ray Hubbard I saw another. Odd, halting, pause in the middle of the sky, then dive down to almost the water, where it seemed to decide, oh, well, I coulda done it, if only I was ready. Then it did not.
Pause, relax somewhat, look down, then fly down there and catch something.
Always nice to have a mansion in a pic.
Not that long ago, male Mallards were Ruddy unto crimson on the breasts and pretty much normal elsewhere. Now they're losing their green and whatever colors their cheeks were until it seems like last week.
This is kinda artsy, but I was really too close with the blunderbuss and too far away if I'd brought my little Panasonic, which I had not, because the blunderbuss is already way too heavy, uncomfortable and difficult to manage, albeit amazing of quality.
September 10 2014
Keep thinking it's just way too late in the season for fresh young Mallards, and then I see more. Those guys are busy all the time. Handsome crew, too.
Love the way their fronts show in a little water.
Between Houston and Dallas
September 7 2014
In a creek-fed pond off to the right side of the road between some trees. The bird at bottom middle looks a lot like a Juvenile Ibis, except its beak seems straight, and it looks somewhat like a Tricolored Ibis, except there no third color — no blue. So what is it? I don't know.
I didn't take my Nikon Blunderbuss on this trip. I took, instead, my much smaller, lighter, and less bird-worthy Panasonic camera and lenses, and sometimes it worked out pretty well — See the other pics from that trip here — and sometimes not so well.
Two Adults and a full dozen Juvenile White Ibises.
If it were black, not brown, I'd be sure it was a Yellow-legs, but it sure looks brown to me, so I just don't know. As is often the case here.
Gorgeous Great Blue Heron in Old Boathouse Lagoon
September 3 2014
What I missed was when this heron and a Great Egret — big gray and big blazing white — flew into the lagoon together bickering, hoarsely complaining and batting at each other, all of which I missed, because I was trying to zoom into a pretty juvenile Wood Duck, but it would never have worked anyway. When I did get a pic of the egret, I was too close, and I only got about a third of it.
I stood on the bridge with the cam and lens lying on the top rail, very carefully photographing this one bird, and the GBH kept "skating" closer.
I call it "skating" when a heron or egret strides so carefully across a low-water area, striding like an Olympian skater, then pausing in between each stride as if it were sliding across glass.
I don't know if it finally noticed me looking down on it, or if it finally concluded that there were no fish here, but it turned around and jumped into the air …
Then landed just a little back. Looking gorgeous.
It's a young Red-eared Slider, except it's quite a way up that slant tree, but hanging on.
One of my long-time dreams came true today
September 2 2014
One of my photographic dreams for the last nine years has been to photograph a Great-tailed Grackle flying. That's what finally happened in this series, so I guess I'm going to have to come up with some more Birding dreams.
But that's not what it looked like in the beginning of this shoot. I think these guys were at Free Advice Point, but I'm not really sure, because today, I drove all the way around White Rock Lake looking for birds worth photographing, and as many of you probably know, sometimes I'll take anything.
I don't put down grackles, even if most people don't appreciate them at all. I think they can be beautiful and often are.
Airborne! A few feathers raised or extended or curved, each accomplishing a different task. I suspect humans did not develop flight, because it's so darned complicated and our little brains just couldn't handle things like being able to move any feather all over their bodies at any time. Can you imagine moving all they hairs on your body?
But birds have been flying for millions of years, and they seem to learn it easily and quickly. I've been trying to do it for decades, and I'm not any closer now than I was when I started. I can't even glide well.
And birds do it with some elegant grace.
male Belted Kingfisher in Sunset Bay
I heard it; I saw it; and I even managed to photograph her recognizably and in focus three times. I'm amazed. The position of his wings flapping makes this pic look a little strange, but he was flying fast and making a lot of noise chattering.
If I'd enlarged this image much more, it wouldn't have looked so detailed. I saw neither pelt nor plume of a female, but I'm sure she's out there somewhere.
Of course, any shot of a Kingfisher is a longshot. And though I followed him in and out and around the farther reaches of Sunset Bay, I never expected to have anything remotely these good. Nice to surprise myself sometimes.
Last time I saw a GBH riding this low in the water, it was doing something strange and nearly ritualistic, but this one was just fishing.
Hardly surprising considering my office resembles a loony bin, but I've managed to misplace my wonderful, little, color-coded insect book again, so this bug will have to go unidentified for awhile.
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.
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