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Tests the Day After my TeleXtender Quit
July 30 2014
My 2X Telextender sounds like it's bit the dust and needs to either be fixed or replaced. Not sure which — lots of metal against metal scraping and screaming going on in that hollow metal and glass tube. Nikon is notorious for not fixing lenses and auxiliary optics sent to it — in my experience and many others’. And I already know if I send it to either their LA or Melville, New York repair facilities, they won't know where it is, whether it's been repaired, if I've already paid them or not, or what they think might be wrong with it, till I get it back, which is also something they won't be able to figure out. And they may or may not fix it, although they will definitely get the money they would have charged if they had.
Today's shots are all bare lens, sans telextender. I just wanted to see what I'd get without the 2x doubler. But they are somewhat to greatly enlarged, because I wanted to see the resulting sharpness in the size of images I usually use in this bird journal.
That ailing 2x teleXtneder is reported — by Nasim Mansurov, one of only about a half dozen online photo columnists I'd trust [Others include Thom Hogan, Ming Thein, Roger Cicala and Bjørn Rørseltt] — to rob 26% of its outstanding sharpness image quality, but it also doubles its effective focal length. That extender and the 300mm telephoto lens, I used for almost all the images you've seen on this journal for the past few years, thus became a 600mm lens.
I've managed to get two dragonflies in focus before, but rendering four of the random-direction fliers in one shot amazes me, but then I only saw three of them.
The next bump down in Nikon's trio of telextenders is a 1.7x, which would raise the effective focal length (EFL) of my 300mm telephoto to 510mm, which is not all that terribly much less than the 600mm I've got used to, while it robs 17% of the Sharpness, 9% less than my screaming doubler does. That screeching 2x also considerably slowed down autofocus, which the 1.7x probably won't. The one, other Nikon extender is the 1.4x that creates only a 5% Sharpness Loss and increases EFL to 420mm.
I knew all that but was willing to put up with the slow focus in lousy light — in near-dark it sometimes flat refuses to focus — to have that long a tele. It is interesting to see these images with no Sharpness Loss — including the Male House Sparrow on top of today's journal entry, the four Dragonflies, this Great Blue Heron and the following images of Wood Ducks.
Comforting how sharp they can be — all else being equal, and of course it never is.
There is no official, 1st summer classification for Wood Ducks. I did not want to list the ones I photographed today as Adult Nonbreeding, which classification begs too many questions. They're just barely beyond being juveniles, of course they're nonbreeding. I got used to typing 1st summer (not ever supposed to capitalize any of our four seasons, except in titles.) for Little Blue Herons [below]. It seems a more sensible age classification than nonbreeding, because real adults are sometimes nonbreeding, although I don't yet understand how much of a choice that is.
I especially wanted to feature individuals of this year's crop of nearly-adult Wood Ducks, because they were swimming close to Sunset Beach, where I very slowly and carefully crept past some children to stand inches from the water, so I could fill as much of the frame as possible with my 300mm lens. And I am impressed with the results. Of course, I lost even more sharpness by reducing their size to use them here. But still, not bad at all.
At this age, both sexes still have more or less neutral gender and the overall look of females — mostly brown, with just the right amount of colored feathers and face detail. Females get those thin yellow, thick white and partial black circles around their eyes, and males get the beginnings of clown-color beaks and faces.
Below these no-extender shots are all 2x doubled images, which are sometimes remarkable [note Eastern Kingbird at some distance and up in a tree] below. I usually shoot at f8 to 11 at 1/2000th of a second, with ISO ranging from 200 to 3,200.
Cool Green Morning at Valley Creek Park
July 29 2014
Sometimes, when readers email, suggesting a visit to their, local birding place, we go and try it out.
Tommy Fisher lives in Mesquite and, according to his email, has "a park just down the street that I go to at least 4 to 5 times a week … and have been frequenting the park for some fourteen years. In the last ten days or so, I have seen a White Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill. This is the first time I have seen either of these birds in all that time."
Then he asked if I "see those species at White Rock or was it somewhat rare? I enjoy your Birders Journal and thought you would be as knowledgable as anyone about White Rock."
I have seen various Ibis at White Rock over the last 8 years I've been doing this journal, but only rarely, and I don't think I've ever seen a Spoonbill there, although Anna and I saw dozens of them and hundreds of Ibis at Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area earlier this month. See that extended story and its 73 photographs below on this page.
So I drove and Anna navigated us out to Mesquite this morning and hoped for Ibis or Spoonbills but came up with other birds instead, and a very pleasant, bird-walking visit, where we saw all these guys. The Canada Goose flock was a total surprise.
It looked like they were scouting for an area to settle into for awhile, but as beautiful as Valley Creek Park is, they chose to keep flying, maybe because no one was sitting at a bench feeding white bread to any birds who gathered. Canada Geese have earned a bad reputation for dominating such areas. Up close, these birds look a lot bigger, and they tend to take their half out of the middle.
I call these "green-wing" Mallards here, because as they flew over that lovely, cool, green, green park, the park reflected in their underwings. If they flew over something overall gray, they wouldn't still have the green, and those areas under their wings would appear to be their usual white.
But the green kinda makes them distinctive.
As we walked, Fisher told us of watching various birds raise families in the park. When you go one place over and over, like I do at White Rock and he does there, you learn more from watching birds live than from books about it later.
Our conversations wandered all over as we saw what he sees near daily.
We didn't see any Spoonbill, but two neighbors Fisher knew, when they stopped to chat, mentioned seeing a big, pink bird there recently, and that had to have been the Spoonbill, which Fisher had only seen that one time. I'd love to have found a Spoonbill in The Greater Dallas Area, but I thought it more likely we'd see an Ibis, and that would have been very nice, too.
But just being in a lovely new to us park, was great.
I overexposed this guy. It was red, and I was keen to catch it before it flew away, but I never got its tones dark enough. Here it looks kinda like a devil with a pitchfork, instead of the mostly benign dragonfly it is.
When I took this near the end of our good morning walk, I never even noticed the parking area beyond. I only saw the familiar white against all that green.
Don't know if they were cold or just huddling for the community of their own brothers and sisters, but they were distinctly separate from the much larger parental unit nearby.
Small bird in a tall, thin tree.
I don't even remember taking this photograph, and I definitely do not remember any of this litter at the water's edge, although there was a discussion about litter. But I was hearing strange, metal-against-metal straining inside my lens, and it seriously distracted me for awhile out there. I thought it might be the telextender and I hoped it was not the lens, because that doubler holds between the camera that tends to hold its ground when situations of torque stress occur between camera and the lens that sometimes rolls or twists.
Sure enough, when I dismantled the setup when I got home, there were no stress noises with just the lens and camera. I've been wanting to try a shorter extender that wouldn't 'steal' as much light as my 2X, which will probably go off to Nikon for some fixing. Nikon extenders come in 1.4x — one stop loss, 1.7x — 1.5 stops of light loss (because extenders enlarge the image projected by the lens, and most of the light in that image is no longer projected onto the sensor, but instead "lost," and a 2X like my whining puppy, that looses two full stops.
Warm Evening on the Upper Spillway
This is a Black-crowned Night-Heron, despite the actual color in the blue sky overhead reflecting off its black parts here in this open (to the sky) shade.
Someone recently complained to me that they couldn't take photographs of the spillway like mine, because they couldn't get down there, although there are often people down there fishing, illegally along the slanted concrete down to water level. That may be because they mistook these sorts of viewpoints as me looking sideways at these birds, but if you can see the tops of their heads, as you clearly can here, you know I'm a good deal higher than the birds, just that a longish telephoto makes it appear that I've photographed them from the side.
Again, this bird is black. Really black. Black as a crow, but it appears in this sunset-illumed image to be brown-red with dark blue spots.
As photographed from the upper spillway end, with only a little sunlight around its head and legs from the back, which renders the only an inch-or-so water surface the color of the sky, blue.
Probably one of those same Transitional Little Blue Herons we encountered earlier this month [on this page, below], only with more black/blue showing now.
I kept expecting it to fly up these middle-sized 'steps' up to the next level of water sluicing down the spillway, but it walked up, patient, meek, step by step in the rushing water.
White with blue/black splotches.
The upper-most spillway is comparatively smooth in its descent from the dam itself down to the Middle Spillway, where nature seems to have designed the Middle Steps, as in the juvenile Little Blue Heron two clicks up from here. Then, as the water from over the dam flows over raw stone and broken concrete, there is that tree-dense island that water flows on both sides of.
At the bottom, there's a pool where various herons and egrets and cormorants and ducks swim and float in comes together in time to flow over the Lower Spillway Steps, that are overlooked by The Walking Bridge and slightly further south, the Garland Road vehicle bridge, under which the water flows and goes east past an upper-middle class neighborhood and a couple more bridges and one falls in the Tennison Municipal Golf Course and off to I-30 and parts east.
Glimmering in the low, evening sun.
Cool Morning in Sunset Bay
I'm finding it more important to write photographs instead of lots of words. Thursday morning was cool, pleasant. The day before I'd gone out mid-afternoon, and that was crazy. I found a few birds, but my images were boring, so I didn't post. And I fully realize I've photographed these same birds hundreds, maybe thousands of times.
Further up the lagoon at Sunset Bay.
In a bramble of dead, red evergreen branches — somebody's old Christmas tree?
Flying past. Are those wings really blue?
Our aloof neighborhood Anhinga still out too far, but not as far out as the daily rowing teams.
They have been known to live as long as 23 years, so I don't know if this is the same GBH I've seen in years past, usually well out into Sunset Bay proper, which is why I sometimes call it "the Bay Gray," but I always feel rewarded when I see one. Once, and only once, I saw two GBHs in Sunset Bay, and I swear they were cavorting. Some of our most interesting moments with a Great Blue Heron were when I photographed one with an American Eel — subduing it by slamming it on a concrete road, then taking out into the swamp at The Fort Worth Drying Beds to ingest it whole.
See also my Herons of White Rock Lake page for all ages of Great Blue and other herons.
Anna sent me this link to an amateur video of an enterprising GBH. Gopher-eating Great Blue Heron
These ducks prowl back and forth, up and down the bay almost every morning, their heads in the water as likely as not, eating whatever ducks eat. They are thorough.
Northern Mockingbirds's most natural habitat seems to be on top of signs. This may be the first time I've photographed one on a Lock, Hide and whatever sign.
Snowy Egret Speed Fishing in Sunset Bay
July 22 2014
It were hot and way too humid even at 6:30 this ayem. I'd call it a four-hanky sweat. And no breeze. It was still at least cool mornings last time I photographed birds way the end of last week. Still, lots happening, especially this feisty and fast little Snowy Egret, whom I followed a long time today, never quite catching it in the same pose twice as it worked its way back and forth across Inner Sunset Bay.
I think this is the first Anhinga I've ever seen at White Rock Lake. Way far out, and I still had to blow the image way up, but it's in focus, so hey, why not? Had one other outlier today. A Black-crowned Night-Heron, which is a fairly unusual treat at Sunset Bay, was on a log over by the mouth of the biggest of the Hidden Creeks Area.
Couldn't help but notice this guy sitting calmly under a big tree, watching out for somebody to come along.
Birds Swing from The Cornell Lab has a goofy title, but if you like bird songs, you'll find this video short and sweet.
All About Feathers
July 18 2014
If I watch carefully, there's never any knowing ahead what will happen with birds. I visit this place often, because it's something I can just drive up to and point the camera/lens out the window and shoot. Usually, I have to wait a minute or so before any birds come. Sometimes — often — no birds come, and The Slider and I slide off to the next bird place. Today, I may have waited a minute and a half when these guys, then a lot of their friends and neighbors, arrived on the scene.
I could understand them using incoming waves to bathe. I've seen several species do that there. I can only imagine the jumps — short flights if you will — almost vertical take-off and landing (VTOL). Grand fun to watch from a safe distance. Safe-feeling for them. I think I have nothing to fear from sparrows. I think they were having a blast. But I was only watching.
I can't tell what's what here. Tail folded and pointing down, no doubt. Wings on either side, check. But where's the head? And do I really see a vestigial beak facing left? I do not know. But if I could fly, I might like to try it.
At first I assumed they were all House Sparrows, because I recognized some of them as that. Now, I'm not so sure. I looked their images up in Sibley's and all these birds are not perfect matches for variously aged House Sparrows, so I'm settling back to just call them sparrows, and hope at least that much is correct. If you know, please tell me.
They didn't all jump. Some stood and splashed, and others watched and waited. Sometimes a group backed up tail-to tail and and only one of them splashed. I remember a family reunion just like that.
Maybe they were taking turns. Maybe they weren't paying much attention, and when the notion struck them, they jumped. Looks like fun to me. Another instance of birds having fun. I've seen American White Pelicans Playing Catch, why not sparrows surf-jumping?
Some headed into the incoming surf. Some just stood there. Some seemed to be watching other jumpers.
An important few jumped.
I tend to identify with the ones who jumped.
Me next. Me next. I just gotta try it.
Notice the extremely shallow depth of field — distance front to back of sharp focus. Maybe three inches, centered on the bird, but visible in the pebbly, sand and concrete ramp. That depth of field may account for some of my failure to keep all the flying birds sharp.
The Spillway During & After Rain
July 17 2014
Two Black-crowned Night-Herons, one of which is slidin' along with the current.
Getting up and getting on with fishing in the madly sluicing rainstorm current.
Essentially, the Spillway is where the water goes after it tops the dam. The whole thing's a big slant down the The Lower Spillway Steps, where it makes a sharp left turn, then continues out one of the many creeks in Dallas called White Rock Creek. This particular White Rock Creek either speeds — like today — or drips — as usual — off toward I-30, but birds through Samuel Park Golf Course and Park.
There were way more Great Egrets, and far fewer Black-crowned Night-Herons, although today, I was more interested in these guys, and eager, since they were more colorful and around in even smaller numbers, to capture some Little Blue Herons doing what Little Blue Herons do, too.
I remember, when going click in this moment, wondering if I'd manage to render this Little Blue Heron as a blur or the sharply-etched blob of dark blue body and maroon neck. A little of each, I guess, but it's often to render much detail in such a low-contrast situation with gray clouds overhead and nearly no hint of sunlight.
After the water splooshes through the slots in the dam where all the water goes, it slides down the Upper Spillway, then as it nears the trees under that big slant, it turns to rocks and falls of water splattering. Then it falls down the falls and heads for the island whose name I can never remember, and only after it goes through or around those trees, does it gather itself together again to make that sharp left turn and crash down The Lower Steps and out onto White Rock Creek.
The Upper Spillway is mostly flattish but slanted down to the left from this, Garland Road side that used to be its own small park with its own small parking lot that probably was helpful in flushing it all (both park and parking lot) past the retaining walls and down the creek. So we can't park there anymore, but we can still stand at the edge of the spillway and look down into that amazing fast spillway spilling water down the spillway.
It's actually called 1st spring, but it ain't spring no more, so I'm calling it a First summer Little Blue Heron. Shown here with who may actually be its own adult parental unit.
Staying comparatively safe in the much slower eddies of water at the edge of the Upper Spillway.
Of course, it's not really a fishing party. More likely, it's just who showed up at this part of the spillway that was far enough away from the photographers overlooking the sluicing water to render these as a group. There were lots of overlapping groups. I chose this one, because it had that one Little Blue Heron, whom I am a little more partial to than the Great Egrets on the left or the Snowy Egret on the right.
Around White Rock Lake
July 16 2014
One of those days when wandering around netted a big bunch of little colorful birds. Wood Ducks galore at and around The Old Boathouse.
Where Wood Ducks go to grow up.
Grasshoppers galore now in the weeds in the water down the creek.
I liked the inverted V wake he left.
I think it must be where the Wood Ducks go to live happily.
The floating wharf is opposite the Old Boat House and under the pier that The City may never get around to fixing, even if fisher persons love it and catch many fish thee, and birds of assorted ilk like being there.
Along the road that soothes me on the way to Winfrey Point.
On the wire over Winfrey Point.
Just west of the pier at Sunset Bay. Having an ear ache makes it extremely difficult to discern where that electronic-like peeping is coming from, and whence it came was nearly right below me.
In Sunset Bay. Text from YouTube: "They pant, like dogs which releases heat through evaporation of moisture along the bird's mouth, throat and lungs. Large birds like kites and hawks soar to high elevations where the air is cooler. Birds with lighter plumage will face those light-colored feathers towards the sun to reflect heat away from their bodies. They splash around in the water to cool themselves. Ruffling their feathers allows cool breezes to cool off the skin. On very hot days birds rest under some shade during the day and restrict their activities to the cooler hours. Beaks also help in regulating the body temperature."
More about birds keeping cool in the hot from Global Animal and Audubon magazine.
Off Sunset Beach.
on the New Old Wood Bridge.
Along the side of the Arboretum.
Floating down some creek.
I actually took this last week, then it got lost in the Richland Creek melee.
Looking up facts about Wood Ducks today, I learned that they, too, sometimes deposit their eggs in other Wood Duck nests, for someone else to raise. Though I doubt that ongoing activity will seriously damage the reputations of Wood Ducks like it has of Cowbirds.
I don't remember hearing what she was saying, but my hearing has been suffering lately.
When we can't see what they're doing, they're probably eating.
I saw at least five of these as I drove along the arboretum this morning.
Nice to see members of the latest batches of Wood Ducks "out on their own."
The book I used to confirm my identification spoke of rosy-colored feathers under her chin, just like this.
I should know this one, but I do not. I was intrigued by its mysterious wing display. Its head was inside preening.
It was nearly at my feet, so this is all of it I could get, but she's in focus.
Guy on the pier today who had just told me that he'd seen the "Little Blue" [Heron] who had been there earlier fly off awhile ago, asked me what bird this was. I telephotoed out and told him it was a Mallard. He told me he'd never seen a Mallard with a head stripe. I guess I didn't specify that it was a female. So he did not believe me, but that's just who she is. And I later learned from fellow photog Kayla that the bird that she'd identified as a "Little Blue" there was actually a Tricolored Heron. I noticed when I looked this one up in my Smithsonian Handbook's Birds of Texas, that this one looks almost identical to the small image on their Mallard page.
Probably my greatest failure as a birder is identifying birds, but even I know a Mallard when I see one. And as much as I like the looks of female Wood Ducks, that reddish breast on Mallard hens lately sure is prtty.
The guy also seemed to disapprove of my answer to his question, what bird was I looking for? I told him it didn't matter that much to me. I was in the mood to photograph anything I could find. I didn't tell him I'd had an excruciating ear ache the last several days and was probably reeking of garlic I'd been eating to forestall the infection.
I saw several birds whom I thought were scuffling, but now I better understand that their parental unit was teaching them how to be birds. This is the first shot I managed to actually get in focus. Note its tiny wings.
My lousy far vision kept me from identifying these birds from watching them, but with a nice, long telephoto lens, I could at least see enough to focus, although like the image above, these are tiny portions of the full frame.
I'm pretty sure I've never noticed Kingbird juveniles before, and what a lovely family gathering atop of not-so nearby branch. This shot differs only slightly from that last one, but here the juvenile on the left has turned slightly, so we can see its face a little better, while the other one has turned farther away.
Anna and I had seen a young couple posting these a week or more ago, and seeing it again reminded me that I hadn't posted it, so here it is.
It wasn't hot today, but it had been being Dallas' usual summer weather, and it would probably continue awhile longer, so I though I should check out where I usually find Green Herons, just in case. I saw a familiar flutter of red and blue feathers, aimed the Blunderbuss in that general direction and clicked several times in several direction, netting this shot, my FOS (first of Season) Green Heron. Only I didn't know it at the time, because I shot several places, because I can't see that far that easily or in that much detail. Later, when looking carefully through today's shots, I recognized it immediately. But I wish I had (or could have) earlier, because I would like to have photographed it awhile. But it was just too far away and too small.
My lovely, not even newish anymore camera makes it possible, especially in bright sunlight, to blow tiny portions of tiny frames way large, like this.
Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area
73 photographs taken July 9, and the last ones posted July 14, 2014
It's simple, birds cross the road, so bird photographers in cars will notice them.
For a long time this was the first shot in this story, but I think the one of the Great Egrets looks more like an into picture. I can't explain it; it just does..
Anna and I were surprised to see American White Pelicans at Richland Creek WMA near Athens, Texas this early, cool breezy morning. They usually don't show up at White Rock Lake till mid September or more likely, mid-October. And they're gone from there by Tax Day, although we've seen them at John Bunker Sands several months before we usually see them at White Rock. Now we know at least some of them are wandering around the area mid-summer and maybe even earlier. I could easily understand why they might like Richland Creek.
I keep calling the wide swaths of marshland "swamp," although that doesn't begin to describe the amazing diversity and wildly extended varieties of wetlands at Richland Creek. Rich land, indeed. And though we saw trees in the distance, we did not visit them close-up, and sooner or later, I just gotta.
I brought my little camera with its wider angled lenses, but I only shot a spare few times with it. I always think about landscape much later, after telephotoing in on bird after bird this cool, breezy morning that gradually turned into a hot, fetid swamp.
Got lots of pictures of big birds flying rapidly away, as if they'd never seen an automobile before, especially a comparatively quiet one colored the same as they were. At our previous favorite car-drive-around birding place, The Fort Worth Drying Beds — before teenagers started using the much less extensive grid system than Richland Creek's, and Fort Worth closed it to cars altogether, most of the birds were intimately familiar with cars crawling around between the pans of water and/or dry mud or dirt.
They'd look up. The more nervous would fly away, but mostly cars didn't bother them that much. Here at Richland, however, birds fled over and over and over again. Almost enough to give us a complex. Even when we were running on pure battery, birds fled in singles and doubles and flocks. Mostly a good thing for them. Not so much for us in The Slider. I don't think we ever saw another birder all the time we were there, although we did encounter four or five working truck there.
Cormorants didn't seem phased by cars — or at least The Slider — any, whatsoever. I drove exceedingly slowly toward them, hoping they'd take the hint, and eventually they did. Clearly, it was their road, not ours. As it should be.
Not sure why David Allen Siblery calls Little Blue Herons who are transitioning from white to dark (black, blue, deep purple, whatever) "First spring" little blues, when it's clearly summer before many of these LBHs start turning splotchy all over, and now seems to be high season for Little Blue Heron transition. We used to call them "transitional," and that term made a lot more calendric sense. Perhaps LBHs in other parts of the country are well behind Texas ones.
I saw some birds almost hidden in the tall grass, took their pix on the off-chance that they were something important, and it turned out they were. My far vision sucks, and I'm usually too busy dealing with photographic details like composition and exposure to also deal with whom it is out there and in my frame. I do notice focus, but the big picture usually has to wait till I get it up on my screen late that night. It is 2:15 AM Monday July 14 as I just worked this final version of this shot and it them on this page. The first version that included more birds and less intelligent detail was done the night of out morning trip to Richland Creek.
As I've noted before or after this text and image insertion, Sibley 'talks' about 1st spring LBHs, but since this is no longer spring in the Northern Hemisphere and especially in northeastern Texas, I've changed the appellation in the caption of the Snowy and the nearly all blue Little Blue Heron.
See larger and more detailed images of 1st spring Little Blue Herons below on this page.
Unfortunately, this RWBB is facing the other direction, so all we can see of its beak is the slight silhouette. But those bright red epaulets are raised off the yellow off the black, and pretty good detail out there considering how far away it was. It was noticeable.
The promise of Wood Storks and various hoped-for Ibises is largely what drew us south this very early morning after neither of us got near enough sleep last night. Those and the possibility of a Roseate Spoonbill sighting or two.
They're not exactly beautiful, but there is a classic elegance to them.
We tried to sample as many areas at the WMA as we could. But it is immense, covering 14,238 acres, mostly in Freestone county but also slightly north into Navarro county in Texas. I'm sure we missed plenty, although there will be more to explore next time. A PDF of the map is available at this webpage. I've seen it referred to as "near Athens, Texas" but my favorite description is "south of highway 287, just east of Hogpen Slough in the Richland Chambers Reservoir southeast of Corsicana, Texas," where it averages 40 inches of rain a year.
Great Form, but imperfect focus.
Counting Only the ones who are flying, these are top left, juvenile White Ibis; bottom left, Adult White Ibis; bottom right, slightly younger juvenile White Ibis (no white stripe on its back yet).
Continuing the flight of the White Ibis Family across the wetland.
This is looking a little abstract and expressionist, and that trend continues in the next image.
This image was of a very real occurrence. It just looks abstracted, maybe a little like an abstract painting — the soft, fluffy white birds and their feathers against the very real, cool blues and greens of the wetlands at Richland Creek.
But we really did not know where or how to find it. But we were very busy exploring, so eventually we came upon it. Neither us nor The Slider was geared for off-road experiences, so we stayed on concrete surfaces, which skirted the rookery area but left it in rather plain sight, so we freely photographed it from a small afar, very much like we do at the more legally posted Southwestern Medical School Rookery in Dallas.
But this is just our first pass at the Rookery. We'll be back.
During their May and June breeding season, and, according to my Lone Pine Birds of Texas, "Bachelor parties of hopeful males are commonly seen preening, soaring in circles or performing graceful acrobatics."
I'm growing to appreciate landscapes rendered with long telephoto lenses.
It was a picture very like this one that had me wanting my littler camera out and ready. I wanted to show where the dam was in relation to all the other landscape, but this does it not bad at all and from afar. Let's call this Landscape With Birds.
The white feathers on their backs begin to appear in December.
In the wetlands that go on forever and a half.
My Macintosh System is going so painfully slow, I just can't type what I want anymore. The end of the world is nigh.
Juvenile Wood Storks have feathers on their heads and necks, but adults do not.
We only saw a spare few small birds close enough to photograph. But we are generally big-bird people. The first half dozen shots of this guy were way too dark. So dark I couldn't figure out who it was until it raised its wings to fly and flee.
Cattle Egrets are called that because they often follow grazing animals with hooves.
Probably flying to or from the rookery for food or nest sticks.
The first half dozen shots of this guy were way too dark. So dark I couldn't figure out who it was…
…until it raised its wings to fly or flee. until it raised its wings to fly or flee.
Then I was amazed to see two of my favorite night-herons in a row. After careful scrutiny, I believe this is a Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, although I saw no adult Yellow-crowns.
I'm still amazed to see pelicans in the middle of summer. Such a lovely and familiar scene, though I rarely see them this far away.
First time we went by it, the Richland Creek WMA Rookery seemed just too far away, and it didn't occur to me till much later, that I was letting my telephoto lens focus on the front sticks there, so everything looks even farther away.
I can't get away from the feeling that this spoonbill was smiling at me.
The trees at Richland Creek were bounteous with flowering birds.
I followed her for a long time, because I couldn't see her well behind all those plants, but what I did see led me to believe I might be following a small heron or bittern, but it's none of those, it's a Great-tailed Grackle, and I was misled by the distance and scale. It's another case of my distance vision getting in the way.
Not much solid land to follow cattle around, but there's a rookery close, where Cattle Egrets figure prominently.
Black Vultures along the side of one of the many crisscrossing stone, gravel and dirt roads. This is one series of phtos I remember vividly.
I wasn't ready for them to move this fast, and I scrambled to keep up. I'm still amazed I caught them in this much action. I was clicking away without being any kind of sure I was getting anything but blurs. I've long felt a kinship with Black Vultures. Kathy Rogers of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation told me they are very intelligent, and I told her I'd had many long, winding conversations with them., and they always looked like they were interested and didn't interrupt.
Black Vultures rely on their keen eyesight to find food, because their sense of smell is much less developed than that of Turkey Vultures, with whom they sometimes hunt, because TVs can smell where they're going, and Black Vultures cannot.
The Ibis are: One Juvenile and Two Adults. The big gray bird is a Great Blue Heron.
My Lone Pine Birds of Texas that is so sadly now out of print says about White Ibises, "Breeding is heavily dependent on the rainy season of May and June when freshwater pools form, a necessity for feeding salt-sensitive young."
Great form. Gorgeous landscape. We could almost feel the color.
They're just standing there now, but the adult behind them is going at something to eat. The juveniles may learn something.
Watching over from above or in a hurry to get there.
My treasured and now out-of-print Lone Pine Edition of Birds of Texas says, "The Wood Stork was once a breeding species in Texas, but all of the current birds appear as postbreeding dispersets, mainly juvenile, probably from eastern Mexico."
That book also notes that Wood Storks are considered an "indicator species," and monitoring one or more indicator species allows scientists to judge the overall state of an ecosystem without untangling its intricate details." Among the detailed information at the bottom of that page, it describes Wood Storks' feeding method: "sweeps partly open bill back and forth in shallow water while wading," which sounds a lot like the big pink bird on the page before that, the Roseate Spoonbill [below].
I am amazed at so very many bird-photographing possibilities in one giant place. We have to go back and back. Eventually, I'll find one place to stay for several hours and see what happens. I always wanted to do that at the Fort Worth Drying Beds, but just never had the time.
Birds grow on trees.
At first it didn't look like her heart or body was into it, but its voice surely was. All we could hear was this rather normal stilt flying around and making a lot of noise. Gradually, it dawned on me that I'd seen — and heard — that behavior before‚ last month near Rockport, Texas on the South Texas Coast. That stilt was was much more practiced. This one seemed to need some coaching.
After flying around and over several times, this stilt returned to the mound above us for one final stab at the Broken Wing Routine, and the behavior began to make visual sense.
Then it was off to ply its trade elsewhere.
Not sure about that folklore about storks delivering babies, and I know babies may not be able to focus on details at their tender ages, or notice that the deliverer is so much more different than others of its own close family, but surely moms would notice.
Not that everybody's favorite bird, the Roseate Spoonbills are much lovelier.
Except those amazingly distinctive colors.
And a bunch of big white birds and litter white birds with orange feathers, who are known as Cattle Egrets.
I didn't want to wade through the weeds without my 25% DEET, but I would like to have discovered if Spoonbills were actually rooking there, or just passing through. Likely the latter.
With white and vivid pink reflections splattering in the water.
Unfortunately, this was the only TV we saw. Turkey Vultures rock!
Fierce-looking and small.
Notice ow it's adapting to the verticality of its perch. Holding on.
They stand around looking like their conversations must be fascinating.
Black Vultures always seem to intelligent. I think they must be.
I kept hoping — and half expecting — to see a Reddish Egret. That would have fit right in.
Magnificent-looking, big and bold Cattle Egret.
One of the few small birds we got close enough to photograph. Though we saw flocks flying to and fro. But who is this?
Why do they do it in the road?
Coming, going or just got there. A brief encounter.
Birds On the White Rock Lake Spillway
July 6 2014
These, oddly enough, are in chronological order. Once again, today's plan was to find Little Blue Herons, and this time I struck the jackpot. There were more adult LBHs yesterday morning, but today I also found Juvenile and First Spring Little Blue Herons. Juvenile LBHs are not blue, as you can plainly see. They're white, with pinkish lores and greenish legs and feet. According to the books. Ours, here, today, were exactly these colors.
Left to right: Great Egret (called great, because it's bigger, not necessarily better); Snowy Egret (because it's white, and yeah, I know, that other one is, too.), Killdeer peeking out behind the shoulder of another Snowy Egret (who's even whiter) and our hero of the moment, an adult Little Blue Heron.
Compared to Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons are kind and gentle and superb at catching fish quickly. Snowy Egrets are feisty and combative. This is their combat style, and it's extremely difficult to stick to my plan to only photograph Little Blue Herons (far left in this photograph), when Snowies are going at their peculiar sort of mock battle (upper far right).
Sometimes Snowies do it on the ground, but isn't it just so much more spectacular when they carry out their mock battles — never any blood or even torn feathers — in the air. But Snowies aren't the only egrets who do this. Great Egrets do, too. And it's even more spectacular, because — well, they're bigger.
It's an intriguing feeling to row by the edge of the lake that drops precipitously off, down onto wet concrete.
I got to the Spillway just at 7:30 today, so the light was brighter than yesterday morning, and my exposures and focus was usually right on. But I may have to come back next week earlier, so I can study the Little Blue Herons, who had mostly gone by 7:30 today. I had expected them to spread out over the lake since I first saw them here a couple weeks ago, but I have only seen them this year at the Spillway.
This is about as action as my Juvenile Little Blue Herons got this morning. June to April is when Sibley — as in The Sibley Guide to Birds — classifies juvenile Little Blue Herons. First spring Little Blue Herons are classified as what they look like from April to June, so they'll be losing their white parts by the end of this month, by which time they'll be all blue, red or maroon, depending upon what sort of light you view them in or under. They don't start out white, like I previously suspected. I got a pic of them just past egg stage last month in San Antonio, and they start out as in this one's next stage, white with splotches of blue/black — and very fluffy, which is why they are then called "Downy Young."
Then they're white for a while, and gradually start developing dark edges then splotches like this, and eventually they turn all dark blue.
And yes, I am aware, it is no longer spring.
I wanted to get it from several different angles.
I always think of Mallards as small, but compared to 1st Summer LBHs, they are huge. This LBH has caught a fish.
With a handy duck to round out the triangular composition. Note the bit of black/blue on the Juvenile LBH's (farthest from the camera, at the top of this image) tail (actually its wing tips) and around its folded down wings. Those are the main giveaways that this is a Little Blue Heron and not an egret, but those notes are subtle, and I assumed it was an egret when I clicked this picture, because my attention was on the actively splotched bird, not the one prancing around the background.
These two images are from the same original photograph shot over the dam from somewhere far back. The Standup Rower looks like he is, but he is not really that tall, and his shins are not longer than anything else.
There's a large-winged bird near the far left and one of those big, colorful floating balls on the far right, and that guy standing on a Stand Up Paddle Board somewhere in the middle. This image would have to be hugely larger to figure out what everything here is, but it is the other side of the lake. I didn't squeeze it, it got squeezed optically by the extreme telephoto and the landscape — maybe the air hovering over the water…. The red ball is round — not oblong tall; the paddle boarder is normally proportioned, though tall; and the Yacht Club building (behind the totally out of focus bird standing at the top of the dark dam) is wide and not so tall.
And I am intrigued by that high meadow to the right. Might that be Winfrey Point?
I didn't promise myself not to photograph anybody other than egrets, so this was a safe bet.
And this front bird is the bird I really wanted great pix of yesterday.
On the Spillway Early
This is from the same earl spillway as in the journal entry below, because it was the same day. It's a duck on this side, and a not quite fully grown Black-crowned Night-Heron on the other side.
It doesn't really look like any BCNHs in any of the books, bet because there were always a couple adult Black-crowned Night-Herons nearby, I can only assume that's who this is.
Resting one leg while standing on the other, an adult BCNH stands and stares.
Black-crowned Night-Heron flies by.
Sometimes Great Egrets jump into the air and mock battle, too. But without a lot of other Little Blue Herons to contend with, they don't.
On the Spillway Early
I started off too early with too-limited auto-ISO, and these do not seem to be in chronological or much of any other order. My prime targets were anybody but Great Egrets, which are too easy to see and photograph. I needed a challenge. Snowies are pretty universal, so they don't really count unless they're doing something interesting.
Little Blue Herons are much more challenging to find and photograph. There's not as many of them, and it's difficult to photo them, because they're smaller and darker. Still, Little Blue Herons were my prime target for this early morning's exploration. I've been meaning to get up about when I got up this ayem for a week or so.
Due to an injury, I've been taking pain pills, which put me to sleep, which is considerably more worthwhile than hurting.
I tried to only photograph Great Egrets when they were doing something interesting, which they spend a lot of time doing.
But Black-crowned Night-Herons were prime candidates on this morning's shoot. And That juvenile at the bottom right here, was invited, too.
This great is showing great form. The Snowy Egret is just there.
Lovely form by the Black-crowned Night Heron adult.
And there the BCNH (Black-crowned Night-Heron) is sharp and in the foreground. The Little Blue Heron is less sharp but in the big middle. And the last one is another Great Egret.
Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron
I was just going to put up eight pix today, but then I started getting into it, so I'll show a least sixteen. Not a problem, I shot hundreds (actually, almost six hundred images)
It's difficult to discern the differences between a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron and an juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, but since I saw no adult Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and at least a half dozen Black-crowned Night-Herons, I assume this is a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron — with one feather out of place.
With one of the big steps near the top gushing water in the background.
With what looks to be a female Mallard.
Which, today at least, seems to be reflecting back the light blue sky.
I think I have at least this many more bird pix from this morning's shoot.
And I hope to shoot more tomorrow morning, though I'll go a little later, so there'll be more light, and I'll set my auto-ISO to let the film speed increase way past ISO 800, to maybe ISO 3200. I might even lug a tripod, so I'll be able to enlarge the pix more magnifications, so they'll be bigger on this page.
Last time I photographed Little Blue Herons at the Spillway, I assumed I'd be seeing more of them around the lake, but I did not. So I'll just photograph them wherever I find them.
Along the Spillway Late on a Cloudy Day
June 20 2014
Nope, I didn't get the date wrong. I shot these images on June 20, way last month, along The Spillway — upper and lower, after I'd shot other photos in Sunset Bay, and I was going to put these up the next day, except I forgot all about them, from photographing something else somewhere else, and since these fit among this week's Spillway photos, I'll fold them into about where I put Black-crowned Night-Herons after they've been up here for a day or so.
Let's set the stage a little. There's usually a lot going in, on and along the Upper and Lower Spillway — from the dam down the spillway, through the island of trees the flood flows around and through, down t where the Walking Bridge parallels the Garland Road driving bridge, and the water takes a left turn to flow through land bordered by Samuel Boulevard and I-30 East. Lots of species competing for food. Or none at all.
I've been hunting there for eight years, and I missed my high perch while The City filled that trough with cement a few years ago, after rain got down under the ground between what had been considered retaining walls, until it didn't retain anything anymore. And almost every chance I get since then — except in winter when the Upper is clogged with Ring-billed Gulls. I do that mob maybe once, then leave it alone till the herons (including egrets) come back.
Always nice to look down on the next generation. I'm either hanging on the iron fence leaning my camera out pointing down into the spillway proper or shooting through the struts on the running bridge over the Lower Steps, where every time anybody takes a step, the whole bridge jogs me queasy and makes photographing impossible till everybody walking, jogging or biking clears the bridge.
On the Upper Spillway.
Sibley doesn't note most species' sexes, unless they're obvious. These are more subtle than, say, ducks or smaller species like Cardinals. If just two are out hunting, are they probably a pair, or just two of something, friends not parents? Till I know better, these are just two BCNHs hunting together.
Long, lean and staring intently into the water beyond its beak.
Where it had just arrived. I didn't get focus till it had.
I'm often startled to see Great Egrets or Great Blue Herons in trees, but BCNHs there seems obvious.
Hunting along the lower Upper Spillway, whose steps are jagged and uneven, with sudden drop-offs like just past where these two are standing and hoping to catch something to eat. Perfect for flying up or down them, when stepping isn't enough.
Keeps it warm or cool or whatever it needs to feel just then. A comfort.
Just standing there looking intently at the water and whatever lurks underneath …
Which allows plenty of time to do a shoulders-up portrait.
From where I'm standing, probably along the iron fence along the new sidewalks up the north side of Garland Road slanting past the lake and The Spillway, I'm looking almost straight down on the bird, but I can still see an nearly side view of it in the green water beneath it as it preens and cleans its wing feathers.
A Great Egret rouses on the Lower Steps as seen from the jiggling Walking Bridge that runs parallel to Garland Road.
Then while I'm imagining that it's going to stand there awhile, it suddenly jumps into a short flight up the steps.
Looks like a Red-eared Slider. The white streaks are egret and other species' scat adhering to gravity's dicta. Since most herons, including all egrets, swallow their prey whole, there's high bone content, so lots of calcium in there, which can often be seen as splattered down the slant of concrete around the Lower Steps and the part of the Spillway that changes the direction of the water sluicing through it.
Fireworks Across the Lake
July 4th, 2014
Fair Park, Lakewood Country Club and Downtown Fireworks
This year we set up cameras and selves on the mound at Dreyfuss Point to watch fireworks across the lake, mostly to avoid the madhouse parking lot slow traffic at Fair Park, where it's fun to be right next to all those explosive lights.
The Glowing Family Behind Us
It seemed a little crowded at Dreyfuss, but nothing like Fair Park, and afterwards, we just got in the car and drove away, no traffic at all.
Waving A Glowstick Earlier
We were surprised how cool and pleasantly breezy it was on Independence Day night.
On the High Wire over Winfrey Point
I think they're smiling. Looks like they're happy, too — all thirty or forty of them from whom I chose these as the happiest of all. It's good to have happy birds, huh?
Nice of them not to line all up and look the same on Independence Day. Could not have asked for a better bunch of birds today. The ones with white fronts are juveniles. Spotted fronts are first summer males. Those with dingy gray-brown fronts are adult females, and none — according to Sibley are yellow-ish or brown like these, they are gray. Maybe they're just glowing, because they're so happy.
This sort of sequence is nearly impossible to plan ahead. It either happens or it doesn't. Usually, it does not. This time, it did. The big trick is to get the bird to fly toward the photographer, not away.
I'd seen it on that blump of log as I drove 'round the bend as I drove into Sunset Bay proper. I stopped, because I wanted to photograph it there. The reason escapes me now, but I'm glad I did.
My expectations were that it would stand there awhile. So much for expectations, and I prefer it this way, anyway.
And follow it down.
Air brakes and great form.
Flying along minding its own business just a little behind your.
I thought I was finished so I gathered up my stuff, stuffed it in The Slider and drove around Sunset Loop, past the building that used to be Sunset Restaurant, and as I was about to turn right, back through the park to Buckner, I saw my egret, and drove over to photograph down the street that not only nobody ever drives the one way that it was, now no longer has any one-way signs, so there aren't any, and I was happy to drive the way I wanted, so I could hang out the driver's side window and photograph the Sunset Bay Egret one last time today.
All Around the Lake
I often check out this tree down the slope toward the lake from Winfrey Parking Lot. In winter, it often has Kestrels and Red-tailed Hawks. In this version I could see that one bird whose tail sticks out of that one knothole, though there may well be another House Sparrow in this shot. It took me awhile to notice all these little brown birds flying and flapping and walking up and down this tree.
My first visit today was my soothing ride down past the arboretum and up onto Winfrey Point, then down the road, take a look at Sunset Bay, then drive down Garland Road, turn left onto Buckner, drive up past the hospital and down Poppy Lane to Greater Sunset Bay. Then to the Spillway and The Old Boathouse, where I could feel the heat at every step, and I kept thinking about Green Herons, whom I often see there when it's that hot. I used the "Last Year" link at the top leftish of this page and learned I'd seen one there just past mid July last year, so I'll keep my eyes open.
Cowbirds get a bad rap because of their adaptation to their environment full of other birds more than willing to raise the largest bird in their nest, even if it was snuck into another species' nest by a cowbird. It might be a cosmic lesson. Cowbirds grow bigger, faster, and the poor other species bird who can't tell the difference, feeds it, and lets her same species chicks die. Just one of the grisly details that make the bird world spin..
Not exactly a face a mother could love.
I love looking at and photographing female Wood Ducks, though their beauty is subtle.
I thought I'd seen a GBH (Great Blue Heron) as I drove down the hill past the Spillway. Then when I walked up to the Lower Steps I didn't see it till the electric last moment, when we saw each other, and it did not fly away, maybe because I withdrew immediately and put as much distance between it and me on the grass overlooking the steps. I was amazed it didn't fly away.
Then waltz up to the dam, hoping for Little Blues but finding none. Just cormorants — they're still here? — Great Egrets and …
Snowy Egrets and Ducks, along with the Great Egrets.
Greats are much bigger, and Snowy Egrets are much smaller. There are other differences, but you can't see them.
Duck hunting whatever ducks eat.
Very pretty ducks.
Very young, looks like a female Wood Duck under the bridge at The Old Boat House.