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The Current Bird Journal is always here. Best Pix This Month: Bald Eagle in Sunset Bay Green Heron rouse & shoulder flick Yellow-crown Night-Heron in early dark Forster's Tern Gorgeous GBH Female Belted Kingfisher All Contents Copyright 2014 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. Cameras Used Ethics Feedback Bird Rescue Advice Herons Egrets Herons vs Egrets Books & Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch 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
Trinity River Audubon Center Director Benjamin Jones presents Owls Among Us at the Thursday, September 18 Audubon meeting at The Point(at the top of the hill) at CC Young Retirement Center, 4847 West Lawther Drive, Dallas TX 75214. The meeting begins with social time at 6:30, a 15-minute business meeting at 7, and Jones' talk at 7:15. Free.
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 it 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 the other side of the lake, I got more and better shots. But even my backs-of-its-head shots 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 at somebody got a decent shot of it on a cell phone since, but these are way better than my 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 several times 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, were: Kayla King, Robert Bunch, Ben Sanford, Anna _____ and Anna Palmer and me — and I suspect others. Please remind me if you were there, too. it was a good time.
My bird photo luck has turned slightly since the eagle, but I've been hesitant to add more on top here, because so many people have visited this page, and it seems silly to waste eagle-hunters' time wading through a long series of a low flight of an Great Blue Heron (which I also shot on Eagle morning) or too-frar pix of a juvenile Little Blue Heron at the Spillway (ditto). Maybe I'll have something even better in a couple days…
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.
Female 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 her wings flapping makes this pic look a little strange, but she 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 male, but I'm sure he's out there somewhere.
Of course, any shot of a Kingfisher is a longshot. And though I followed her 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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