83 photos so far in October This month's best pix Cameras Used Ethics Feedback My Special Bird Pages — many include eggs, just-hatched, fledgling and/or juveniles: Herons Egrets Heron vs Egrets Links & Bird Books Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Bird Rouses Courtship Behaviors Banding Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JR's resumé Contact Dallas Bird Resources:Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat Bird Rescue Info You want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Bird Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & The SWMC Rookery & Village Creek Drying Beds Please do not share these fully copyrighted images on Pinterest, Tumblr or other image-sharing sites!
Just Happened to Catch 54 Pelicans & Innumerable Cormorants
Line Fishing in the Bay Today — photographed & posted October 16
American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants fishing west of the pier at Sunset Bay but nearer to Winfrey Point.
Packed in close, the line turns and heads toward me, as I'm still shooting from the Pier at Sunset Bay.
As I came upon the land part of the pier, a woman going the other way told me that a big bunch of pelicans and Anhingas — she meant Cormorants — were chasing fish into Winfrey Point. I shot my first few shots without my tripod, then I went back for it and walked west of the pier and set up and hoped they'd get closer — and they did.
Notice just right of the bottom middle of this bird mass, where several pelicans and a couple of cormorants are taking special interest in fish apparently just under the surface.
At some point in today's shoot I picked up my tripod and headed west along the shore toward Winfrey Point — well, either that, or I enlarged particularly well-focused images so we could see some noteworthy details in the mass of birds fishing in the bay today. If you can't see a pelican's head, it's probably underwater groping for a fish.
Most of the time, the cormorants fished right in with the pelicans, but on the last few circles and straights, the cormorants who had had their fill, separated from the pack and headed back to Sunset Bay proper.
Most of the time, pelicans just swim along with the pack. When they see — or think they see — a fish that was made just for them, they take to flight to get there first.
I just thought this shot was interesting because it shows a cormorant dragging its tail to reduce landing speed just before its feet touch the water to skid to a stop.
I suspect it's nothing of the sort. Just two birds flapping their wings very similarly. I got three shots, of which this is the best exposure and composition, and in each shot, they seem to be mirroring each other.
At the end of all that working to catch fish, many of the pelicans retired to the lagoon area east of the pier to flap water all over themselves.
Whole Lotta splashing going on.
The Morning Shoot Didn't Register, So I Went Back at Night
photographed & posted October 14, 2017
I went to Sunset Bay early-ish this morning and thought I got some decent shots. I checked exposure on shot pix several times, but when I got home, there were not memory cards in the camera. So I did my business all afternoon and thought I was going to do more the evening, but that evaporated, so I drove to Sunset Bay again just as the big yellow sun was going down.
There were a lot of Egrets scattered around the bay. I like the raggedy look of its feathers in this late evening shot.
This could actually be the same bird in the same few moments.
But this one looks later in the evening.
I photograph birds chasing each other whenever I get the chance. As usual, only one of them is in good focus.
I looked up that word: "a trail of condensed water from an aircraft or rocket at high altitude, seen as a white streak against the sky." Then it noted its origin. "1940s abbreviation of condensation trail."
In general, pelicans are at rest. But these guys were slowly waking up for their evening flight.
Remarkably lucid shot of an American White Pelican in Flight. It's at least somewhat overexposed, but I didn't want it to be any darker, although I may yet change my mind.
Earlier when I thought I was getting all those pictures that weren't there, the half dozen photogs on the pier kept wishing we could see — and photograph — pelicans in flight. It's much easier in late evening. I got there at 6:48 PM, and I left just after 7:10 PM. I shot 195 frames. These, as usual, were the best of the bunch.
Exposure, as almost always, was guesswork. I started at iso 800, then pretty quickly raised it to 3200, which seemed just about right for the rest of the shoot.
I'd seen three of them fly by the pier at Sunset Bay earlier this week, but I was just getting out of my car. So this was my first real chance at seeing and photographing them fly and fly and fly.
Ben told me the Canada Gooses were coming in. My elderly eyes don't see far that well, and far, in the evening (it was a little darker than it looks here.) is nigh onto improbable, but I kept looking where he was describing, and soon I saw very out of focus brown bumps in the distance, just motion when they were against the dark other side. Then they got closer, and the camera started focusing, and I got these.
They look so skinny in the air.
And they just look so elegant.
And here, they don't even look fat. But walking around on the ground, which I did not photograph them doing, they are ponderous.
More and more pelicans kept leaving all the time I was there. I'd counted 54 early that day when I was shooting on empty, and there were still 54 of them when I counted as the sun disappeared behind the far horizon.
Soon there was only one. Then it was gone, too..
Spending Some Time with The Pelicans
photographed & posted October 9, 2017
I've been needing to for awhile, so this afternoon I parked myself on the pier at Sunset Bay and photographed me some pelicans. Didn't really count them today, but the day before, I counted 52. If it's like it usually is, soon soon it'll be several hundred pelicans all at once, then in a few hours or a few days, most of them will fly off somewhere else, and about 70 of them will stay till just before Tax Day.
I kinda thought I was just killing time, but I managed to get pelicans in some rather usual pelican poses and forms.
And some others I've never seen before.
But That Might Be Its Foot on the upper right portion of its body…
The larger area of red is considered to be approximately where its ear would be, if it had one.
Identification Updates on the next two pix:
Northern Shovelers have large spatula-like beaks. But who's that with a red head and smallish, dark bill? It does not resemble a Redhead or Ruddy Duck or a Canvasback or Green-winged Teal, all of whom have red heads. I suppose that one on the left could well be a Cinnamon Teal. That looks about right, but with them I am not familiar. Yet.
Kala King who often helps me identify unsub [Unsub is a word I purloined from The X-Files, meaning unidentified subject.] birds here, says, "and I agree, that last little one sure does look like a Cinnamon Teal just starting to change from its eclipse plumage to its red look. I saw that glint of red, too."
And I'm just not sure about the one on the right above, mostly behind the Shoveler.
L to R: Adult autumn Northern Shoveler in eclipse plumage (as is the third one from the left) and the smaller one at the end of the line behind the pelican is a Blue-winged Teal, whom I am sure I have photographed before, but this may be the first time I've identified it correctly — thanks again to Kala King. Thank you, Kala, who adds, "The blue wing teal have the white at the base of the bill on the face."
But the American White Pelican is still an AWP with its head underwater.. And number two in the brown parade sure looks like a Teal without the white at the base of the bill.
Or something to play with.
Remember, it's only inches deep way out there. So the end of its beak could well be scraping on the bottom.
Actually, this shot was taken 59 seconds after the next one down, but since it may not even be the same bird, I like the story these two shots slightly misrepresent.
Preening its wet feathers with its pliable lower mandible. Kinda like smoothing our shoulder or some awry piece of clothing with our chin.
We Walked Just at Two Miles.
photographed October 7 & posted October 8 2017
I'd been walking a mile pretty often in my neighborhood in the mornings when it's cool, so when she asked me to walk with her starting at The Spillway I was more dubious of finding a parking space than me walking. She got one after only once around the lot when a truck left. Turned out her plan was for two miles, the first of which was easy, but I had to stop and rest for the second mile. Finding a parking slot just took waiting maybe five minutes driving around the lot. Once on our way up the backside path to the top of the dam, she saw this bird, and we got up pretty close before it flew away.
It's been awhile since I photographed the Monk Parakeets, so I took the opportunity. I've always especially enjoyed catching them flying, because getting them moseying through the grass is usually easy, although less revealing.
This male Mallard doesn't seem to be in molt.
But this one is.
So's this one.
Walking along the top of the dam toward T&P Hill, I looked out approximately where I'd once seen and photographed a Red-shouldered Hawk nest, and saw, instead, what I perceived as some sort of an optical illusion shimmering on the far, over-tree horizon. I had to photograph it to convince myself it was really there. Here it doesn't shimmer much, so I guess it was. Although now, I think I see a bird with wings reaching for air under the tree on the left … but later, I decided that's just an optical delusion.
I've walked over there often before I latched onto Sunset Bay so much I sometimes feel guilty for going there so often, but I hadn't seen anyone else back here till this opportuned itself. I keep remembering a renta-cop insisting I couldn't be there with a camera, because I could be a terrorist out to bust the dam. Like terrorists hadn't yet discovered Google Maps …
This ever-so-difficult-to-identify bird is one of our own — and nearly everybody else's in The South — 's State Bird.
I think I know where I was when I photographed this, but apparently I didn't take any other halfway decent shots there. I think it was photographed from the Old Boathouse's no-longer new bridge, but if I'd been paying more attention, I would have upped the shutter speed, but by then it would have disappeared into the trees on the other side of the lagoon.
Which is just where we went next: I still sometimes am able to photograph these guys flying, but this one was obviously tired of flying.
The Kingfisher Pair Flying Together & One Juvenile Anhinga
photographed & posted October 5 2017
The most difficult challenge concerning photographing a pair (or flock) of birds is to capture them close together. The closer together they are, the larger their images will be on these pages, where I almost always limit myself to images up to and including those that are 888 pixels wide (on my elderly iMac. On your DOS machines, they're smaller to the tune of the ratio of 88:72 dpi. Or something like that. Most of you are on Windows machines, even if Apple is way bigger a company, and I flat don't understand how to compute that disparity.
The only order these photographs of the Sunset Bay Kingfisher pair is how close together they were when I clicked the shutter while wagging my telephoto lens following them flying all over outer Sunset Bay trying to keep my smallish focus spot on top of them. I had no idea they were going to suddenly burst into the air chasing each other — or cavorting — all up, down, round and round. Or I would have set the focus for everywhere in the frame. After I posted this one, I went back and sharpened the two birds. That sometimes helps.
The distance between them that really matters is horizontal. The up-down distance has less sway the farther they are apart. And, of course, I know I could cut them each out and paste them on a plain blue sky and pretend I have a magic camera that always keeps everything in focus, but those never look real. These do, because these are real. No fakery.
And certainly less that perfect…
I originally planned to just show a few of these shots — primarily the ones well above, in which the birds appear larger.
Another distance that gets in my and your ways is that from the front-most portion of the front bird to all the important parts of the back bird. I usually manage to focus on just one, leaving the other one to either get caught up in the "depth of field" — or not. Unlike the camera I've been lusting after, I can't really see actual image depth on my current dSLR, but even if I could, I probably couldn't see much at that speed anyway. So that disparity or lack thereof is simply up to yours, mine and the camera's depths of field.
Okay, enough of that. They were flying all over the place. I have one other photo of one in a tree over by the shore across the bay on Dreyfuss somewhere, but all I could see when I shot it was one bright dot of blue and white, and all you could see of the bird if I worked that image up, is that one blob of light. So I won't.
Anna and I were especially keen on photographing the juvenile Anhinga. I really wanted to catch it flying into Sunset Bay. But we didn't arrive early enough for that — if, indeed, that is what even happened. We both really do want to see the young Anhinga fly. I'm sure someone has seen it fly lately, but I don't know who. There's a lot of us wantin' to.
photographed the last days of last month & the first days of this.
Then posted the evening of October 2.
Yes, that is the same Anhinga, who was deemed not to need rescuing awhile back. We've been seeing a lot of it mid-mornings, although lately, the American White Pelicans have all but taken over that particular log — as we shall see again shortly.
Very familiar-looking bird, but I was surprised to see blue feathers.
I could barely see it out there in Sunset Bay, but Kelly could, and after some careful instructions, I saw it, too. To make finding it more difficult, it would disappear underwater for long periods, then when it came up, it looked more like a stick out there than a bird. Except, of course, that its pointed little tail followed it around until the bird got up on the water..
When I was very careful and get the focus spot right on the target, and more of its tail feathers got above water, we could see details — like that little fish it's holding that it must have caught below. But it spent a long time underwater finding and/or catching it. Mine is not a zoom lens, but sometimes I have to enlarge the image in post.
Took me awhile to figure out that this slender necked bird is the same Anhinga as the one in the second pic down, only this one is very wet, so its neck appears skinny until it dries out, at which time its neck appears fluffed out. I've seen adult and juvenile Anhingas at The Southwestern Medical School Rookery, but never for long enough to get used to seeing them. So this was my first opportunity to get used to seeing the same one, and track its progress.
This seems to be another of our young Anhinga's favorite snags. It is the one of the ones I photographed it on the day of its planned rescue, back when I thought it absurd that it could have got to the top of it by sidling up to the top. I mistakenly assumed it would have to fly to get up there. But now, more than ever, I assume it must be flying.
This day, I saw it walk slowly up this turtle-balasted snag, usually one step sideways or the other, stopping to turn its center of balance all the way around several times. I believe that turtle is a Red-Eared Slider, after which I named my yellow-nosed Prius.
I wanted to wait till its head reappeared from behind that abstraction of wings and body feathers, but though I waited and waited, all I ever saw of its head were those few slender threads of silver seen here between its shoulders.
Closer birds show in much greater detail. Or maybe I sometimes just get the vibrations in control.
I probably should have waited for the Egret to assume a stronger pose. Sometimes I seem to have almost infinite patience. Sometimes I don't have any at all.
Obviously I didn't plan these last two shots. Let alone arrange for them to be together.
Those are Juvenile Double-crested Cormorants on a Snag with Great-winged Grackles flying behind.
Most of the males are getting their green back.
Surely the most populous species in Sunset Bay.
On the way to this common AWP pose.
Note the wrapped look of its malleable lower mandible. See a bunch of other pix of what pelicans do with their beaks. Don't you just love its pointy little head? I do.
I got this one in focus, but the subsequent shots with it stretching its beak high up and flat out were all out of focus. Pelicans invert their very flexible lower mandible down over their chest often, and sooner or later, I'll catch one at it again — and again.
We'd been hearing it rattling around in the area on the other side of the lagoon, but I didn't see it till it flew out over the middle of the bay, where it hovered, then it hovered again maybe 40 feet west of there. Reading my Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas just now, I learned that "Belted Kingfishers breed locally in northern Texas." Although I was rather aware that they nest and raise young in the Med School Rookery at Inwood between Harry Hines Boulevard & Stemmons Freeway, I was surprised authors Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy chose to mention only to mention North Texas.
Look at all those feathers, where once hung scraggly, barely-there spaces between.
But when the pelican rose to assume its territory …
The comparatively tiny Anhinga gave the pelican as much 'what for' as it had …
Then it seemed to be thrust off its log and out over the water by the force of the pelican's flapping.
It quickly found another snag, although it still steamed. I've been photographing Anhingas for about a decade — and I was the official first to photograph an Anhinga at White Rock Lake, but I don't think I've ever seen one with its beak open before. Today, it happened at least twice, if you don't count it holding that fish in its beak [above].
I guess my main point in today's journal entry is that there's still a wide — and sometimes wild — variety of birds in Sunset Bay almost every day.
The best thing about the Year Ago link is clicking it early in the month to see what birds last September's change of season brought us and where to look for them this year.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2017 & before by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and the best of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online — see the links at top and bottom of every Bird Journal page. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. 53 years.
389 by end March; 1242 end April; 2327 end May; 3431 early July; 4217 end July; 4965 end August; 5720 end Sept; 6464 end Oct-16; 7200 end Nov.; 8012 end Dec; 8566 end Jan 17; 9145 end Feb; 9755 end March 17; 10390 End of April 17; 11077 end May 17. Then I lost the hit counter or it didn't count hits anymore. So I gave up on knowing numbers of hits, and I'm happier for it.