Most Interesting Birds This Month: It's Black Vulture Season Pelican Fly In and By Adult Breeding Male Anhingas at the Rookery Red-winged Blackbird contortions
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posted April 13 2014
Sorry, I have been awfully busy, but I've been thinking a lot about Black Vultures, and I've been seeing and photographing them much more than usual lately. Then Anna told me that Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation had baby Black Vultures. We couldn't even see those, let alone photograph them. It's against the law, but Rogers showed us some Black Vulture and other incubating eggs, and we could hear the chick still in the egg making
I don't usually get this close, but I like being even closer, and Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation is the only place I can get right up to the bird, although there's usually wire fencing between us. Sometimes I can shoot through it, and sometimes I just cannot.
Turkey Vultures are okay, too. Just they don't seem as intelligent, or human-friendly. The Big difference is that the area of white under their wings extends almost to their bodies, and Black Vulture's only show on the 'fingers' of their wings. A little difference is the fact that Turkey Vultures have red heads, and Black Vulture heads are wrinkly gray. They eat pretty much the same things.
But this one gets lost in all that rectangular wire. Rogers used to have cages that were more easily photographed through, but now they have these nearly inpenetrable ones, that are probably more humane for their inhabitants.
I seem to have an affinity with Black Vultures. I like that. Nice of it to show me its claw.
Others are Canada Geese and we forget exactly what. We were mostly interested in the Black Vulture ones, and the one was getting ready to break out, making noise that Anna described as "coarse, heavy breathing." Kathy Rogers described it as "the same call an adult Vulture makes." Wikipedia says, "Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses.
There's a tiny pecked hold we can see here between her thumb and little finger. A crackish disruption in the color and texture, which, if the tiny vulture could be seen, we'd have to quit photographing it, although apparently Channel 4 came by sometime today and got video — of something. Turns out that was about an injured eagle someone found in their back yard and took to Rogers, and had nothing to do with our precious Black Vulture babies.
There's a darling photo of Mandy, who pecked her way out of this egg yesterday.
Among the cages behind the office at Rogers we saw several Black Vultures, with a couple more on top of some cages, like this elegant creature who is beautifully back-lighted.
This is not a quick capture of a bird flapping its wings. This bird held its wings out until I got my camera setup correctly, then it waited for me to focus. Very accommodating species.
The name vulture comes from Latin meaning one who tears.
Wiki also says, "Like all New World Vultures, the Black Vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis. It cools the blood vessels in the unfeathered tarsi and feet, and causes white uric acid to streak the legs."
And sometimes they get a little carried away and do more than just their legs and feet. We've seen Black Vultures that looked like they had large white spots. And did.
Made these shots about a week ago, already aware these guys won't be around much longer this year. Then I forgot about them. And when I checked them again, I wasn't sure they were all that good. Now I just love them, especially since the pelicans will be gone too soon. Etc...
Then I was worried because I hadn't framed them just right, I kept not getting the whole bird in the shot. Now that matters not a whit.
Goofy, yet elegant form.
Well, it is a 600mm lens, so it wasn't like right there, it was out a bit, but for that lens, a little too close to have the whole bird in every shot.
Kinda sad I still can't always tell them apart.
American Coots and Northern Shovelers a lot closer than they usually. Usually, the snorkers are all the way across the lagoon in Sunset Bay.
I stopped for this bird, because I always stop for Great Blue Herons, but this particular one had the city of Dallas behind it, but so far behind and above, that I couldn't show you all this detail and still get this much detail in this gorgeous bird. And the skyline looks kinda ragged from here, anyway. Here being down Yacht Club Row, where I seldom go, because I so seldom find any birds worth photographing down there. But sometimes when I get lucky, there's a Great Blue Heron close enough to show how beautiful they are.
These birds are a long way off, and they showed as barely a black speck on the frame when we were photographing the Medical Center Rookery from the top floor of the parking garage across the street — because that gives us such a nice look down onto the top of the trees in the rookery. Here, they are enlarged as much as I could without shattering pixels.
Since the trees around it don't change, this must be that same bird facing sideways. I had the camera resting on something solid, the lens focusing on the tiniest spot, and I kept shooting for a while, hoping to catch something I could use. This.
The trees changed, so this must be a different anhinga, but also a male breeding one, which we can tell by his graying crown, and it's a little closer — Anna found him in the top of a tree. We looked and looked for more, but I think we only saw maybe three anhinga this cool Saturday morning, and the other one was much farther away. Soon, there'll be more and some flying.
I thought he was about to fly, but he didn't.
We got lots of other pix of Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and even one Great Blue Heron, whom I have been told by more expert birders than I am don't go to rookeries, but there it was, as you might see next time, although they're plentiful locally.
And here's the full-frame version of that last shot, just to show how good a lens and camera this is. Our cormorant is almost dead center of the frame, just under the dark spot of tree and directly above the J R in my copyright notice toward the bottom of the image.
The first bird I noticed when I got on the pier this day was a red-wing going though a rapid-fire continuum of all kinds of physical contortions to do with it drying off after a bath (I think. I guess it's possible it'd got infested with ants or something.) This pose is the most neutral of them so I thought I would start with it, even if he did not.
The Nikon I use only shoots five frames per second, so that's about as fast as I left it running some of the time. Not all the clicks were of any value, but enough were to keep shooting. Trouble with waiting for him to get in a position that needed shooting before I shot was that by then he'd be in yet another pose, and I'd have missed that last really great one. Sometimes he paused as we all must. When he paused, I paused.
Almost like inside out.
I didn't even know they could do that.