April 30 2007
Great Blue Heron Swoop with Beak Open
Remember the Great Blue
Heron - like bird I could not identify in the wrong meadow two
I believe this be the same bird. Obviously a Great Blue Heron. Breeding adult.
Who else would look quite like this? The ones in the books don't have black
legs, but this one appears to. In the books its butt is gray. This's butt
Gear Down Landing Approach with Turtle
Not sure where it lives, but we've seen a single, usually
solitary Great Blue Heron out there often over the last couple years. I've
recently learned that a lot of birds don't live here, just fish here.
I suspect that's this's modus operandi. I'm glad he
does that much in sight, although it'd be nicer if his fishing log were a
Our GBH Standing on a Log with a Turtle
Note the color of its butt. White in shade. Grayish here.
Bright white in the sunlight.
A handsome bird with lots of distinctive markings. If he'd pose a little
closer, we could show it off a bit more. Maybe some bleak unpopulated weekday,
he'll come in for a quick portrait.
Black-bellied Whistling Duck Flying Form
I've seen this peculiar flying form before —
in my parents backyard in Texas' Lower Rio Grande Valley. I'd forgot it.
This whistler has just attempted to stand, balanced on a thin limb over the
water with its mate, who has better balance. It did not work, but the other
whistler's still there, its bright pink feet shining in the sunlight just
before the front of dark gray clouds floated over the lake.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks Standing
Gonna rain for a couple days, weather guys say.
Duck Sex Escapee
The one other, rather extended, event we witnessed today
was ducks doing it. Not altogether unusual. But today's antics were more
artistic. Maybe if it rains the next couple days, I'll run more. They're
mostly domestic ducks, but it was like performance
art. Very well composed
and the light fantastic.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Spread Eagle
Yesterday's must've been
the wrong meadow. The one at Dreyfuss today was vivid with Scissor-tailed
Flycatchers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern and Western Kingbirds, doves,
Mockingbirds and several species I neither recognized nor captured. Jillions
of bugs, too — hence all the flycatchers. I shot nearly five hundred
photographs for about 50 keepers and these stars.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Flying to
Catch Flies - horizontal
Was especially eager to capture scissor-tails in action.
But they're wary. A bunch of them in evidence today.
All some distance from wherever I was. Luckily that hill is crisscrossed
with bare paths. I was in the big middle of one meadow and nearly got dragged
away by all the bugs. I still itch. Happy hunting grounds for all
these amazing birds.
Twisting Into A Tree
I did not set about getting top, side and bottom
views of these amazing feathered friends, but idn't it nice that I managed
to? Heck, I was hoping against hope to get just one good
one flying. I probably photographed a dozen scissor-tails flitting
about, up and down the hill, leaning on standbys of them perched
on tall weeds, just in case.
Them in the air is
like color magic, tails balancing and directing, veils flowing like beta
splendora (Siamese Fighting Fish). This one is actually flying backward into
the tree to perch there out of my sight. Well, not exactly backwards.
More like VTO landing after horizontal flight, twisting into the tree.
I'm not acquainted with this species. I'm sure
I've seen them, but never before identified. Looked like brown cardinals,
which is what I called the file before I got out Alsop's Birds
of Texas to
help me I.D. His maps may not be as subtle as Sibley's, but it's sure nice
to see photographs of real birds instead of idealized drawings.
Eastern Kingbird Chirping
This one was in a tree. I'd shoot, take ten steps closer,
shoot again, ten more steps, ten more. Till I got much more than a blur,
but never as much detail as I would have liked.
Red-winged Blackbird Flying in Vivid Red & Black
Oh yeah, nearly forgot the Red-winged Blackbirds flying,
my annual ritual, though sometimes they're in focus
better. I really need a longer telephoto with faster focusing.
'Course, if the object is larger in the view, the potential for sharp is
higher. These are specs on much larger landscapes blown to
smithereens. I need to closer or more magnification.
Red-winged Blackbird in Glorious Red
& Black Over
a Yellow Landscape
Grackle Over Texas
Not exactly an uncommon bird, but so very uncommon to
capture one flying over in this detail. Someday I will get an angled
view as one slides down, that Great Tail slicing the air.
Till then, this will do nicely. This guy waited for me to get my camera
in position, then flew right up the hill over me. I like the visual comparison
with the top of yester's entry.
Unsub Flyover — now obviously a Great Blue Heron of
Standing in a overgrown
field up the hill up from Sunset near those apartments, where I'd gone
because I hadn't before and wanted to stand waist-high
in a meadow wild with flowers, thinking there'd be birds. Not. Only butterflies
I hoped to find a bird I hadn't before, nothing
in mind. Surely such a lush meadow pyrotechnic with color would
have birds. But not today. Then, in from the distance flew this. Single.
Right over me, maybe 50 feet up. I shot it, turreting back over till I was
leaning over backwards clicking.
Sidish of the Same Unsub
Still don't know who he be. Heronish overall, stripy
bib like a Great Blue, but nobody's I know underwing white except an
Anhinga. That can't be optical dilusion can it? But their faces
and butts aren't white. Watching
it, I thought Great Blue once removed, and now I'm thinking Great Blue's
second cousin. But GBHs are gray, not black or reddish, and their wingtips
Two whole pages of large heron illustrations in my Encyclopedia
of Birds and not one of their legs are black.
So I'm settling into the gentle discomfort of definitely not knowing.
Boring Photograph of Vivid Green Monk
The one other fun bird sighting today was my first
of Monk Parakeets on that side of the lake. Closer than I ever got on the
other side where they are usually.
Why Did the Churkey Cross The Road?
Don't know if it was
her moving so fast or because I couldn't help thinking "Why Did The Churkey
Cross the Road" while she was, but darned few of this series
are in focus. Some are furry blurs. Her haste
was fleeing from small children, and her being on the far
side of the road from the dark, low brushed and high treed creek bed where
she finds security.
Hardly expected to see her again. Was thinking just that
when I did. Before the mysterious road crossing, she stood still for many
portraits, this one of which, at least, is nearly sharp. We still don't know
who or what she is. I'm thinking either an escapee or somebody "let her out
at the lake."
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
When we last sighted the whistling
ducks on April 10, my photos did not capture their pink legs in all their
glory. This comes closer. They've grown more accustomed to being around humans,
did not freak when I sat on the cold, wet ground to get down to their level.
Notice the under area just aft its legs is black and white stripy.
Had not noticed that till one leaned over from that log into the bog below.
Very Much In Evidence
Remember the Wood Duck male I complained about not being
around yesterday? This is he not far from those photographs of his kids.
Looking even more rakish than he did March 30, when
I first photographed the happy couple. Today, his do was amazing. I didn't
get nearly close enough. But ain't he one handsome technicolor dude?
Furry Little Critters
We each wanted to pick up these furry little featherlumps
and fondle all that softness. We don't interfere like that. But the urge
was strong. It hadn't seemed likely when we set out for the lake on this
cloudy warm day that turned sudden chill, but our
bird luck was remarkably high, and most of them let us get near.
Ducks Over Tokyo
Another of those times when a short flock of ducks flapped
over low and inside, and neither I nor my camera had much time to focus but
we shot away nomatterwhat. A little dark, but love those bright whites on
these Mallards' tails.
We'll end today's foray with this probably domestic
duck who requested I take its portrait. Always ready to oblige.
Mrs. Wood Duck in Full Protection Mode
Her perceived enemies
were mostly other, larger ducks. Every bird that came within a yard of her
and her ducklings got hissed at something fierce, on land or in the
water. I've been looking forward to finding this young family ever since
March 30, when I photographed the
Mr. and Mrs together. Now he's nowhere in sight.
Mom Wood Duck and All Eleven Ducklings
I hardly expected 11 little ones, but duck families tend
to start large. Then they're lucky if they don't get eaten. Right now,
however, they're both precious and precocious. She doesn't feed them. They
feed themselves. Almost constantly. Amazing little critters exploring the
Water Beaded on Two Ducklings' Backs
Note the eye treatment. They have their mother's eyes.
Very distinctive. Wood Ducks through and through.
She Looks Less Vivid Than She Did March 30
But she was aware, paying lots of attention and ready to
lunge and hiss at anything that even might be a danger.
The Dryish Look, with a Few Water Droplets Still
Cute cute cute.
Grackle Flying Toward Me
About every fifteen years I go to the DeGoyler Estate. Not
sure why, exactly. Always too many people there. Pretty plants and plant
set-ups, I guess. Sure not for the birds. With that much money at hand, you'd
think they could attract a better class of birds. I saw grackles, ducks,
mockingbirds and sparrows.
Grackle In Tree Close
Gracks with their heads in the air like this are looking
for, not love exactly, but a mate. Lets the females know he's interested.
This guy was so interested he ruffled his feathers all up and held the beak
up position long enough for me to photograph.
Great-tailed Grackle with a Great Tail
Same position essentially, but he's rearranged his tail
feathers to show off each individual feather.
Vertical Tail Exhibition
Now he's still got his wings in flap-down position to his
sides, but the Great Tail they're named after is arranged vertically and
shoulder feathers are fritzed up. I've seen them glide long and straight
with their tails held thusly, so it's not just a show-off for mating season
arrangement, but part of both courting and flying repertoires.
Why They're Called Blue-winged Teals
Took awhile to find today's birds. Oh, they were right
there in front of me all the time I was at Sunset Bay today. But I didn't
notice the Teals, since they're a constant presence there lately. And I didn't
see the sandpiper till I wandered up the creek seeking more exotic species.
Female and Male Blue-winged Teal
I'd been hoping the teal would venture closer, so I could
get more detail. Today, I sat on an itchy log for about twenty minutes and
waited, watched and photographed. At first, they swam away. After I hadn't
moved appreciably for awhile, they swam toward me and back and forth laterally.
They were usually more social, with more teal than this, but this shot is
simple. A female and a male.
They also rocked forward on an invisible fulcrum and busied
their beaks below for awhile. Bobbing for bugs, I suppose. A parting shot
for today's coverage of the teals. I'll continue to watch them, maybe learn
something more of their behaviors. Of course, every shot of a bird is it
doing some behavior. Some more telling than others. I know zilch about teals
now. My knowledge will grow.
Mallard Flight A
Mallard Flight B
Mallard Flight C
Mallard Flight D
I already know a bit about Mallards. As I've mentioned
previously, when ducks fly by, I often go click-click-click just for fun.
That's how I got this series. My most successful duck landing series ever.
Spotted Sandpiper Again
My second-ever sighting of a Spotted Sandpiper happened
some time after I walked along the muddy shoreline at Sunset Bay and scared
this one — or one very like it — off toward Dreyfuss. I was looking out on
the water at considerably larger species. After I sat on the no-see-um insect-infested
log for awhile, it came back. This shot is it out about 25 feet into the
lake, standing on a log.
As we can both see, its legs could hardly be described
as "long." I guess the one I saw at the dam was moving so fast, I assumed
longer legs. This one seems puffier and more noticeably spotted, also.
Spotted Sandpiper Coming in for a Landing
I was especially keen to get a better shot of a spotty
sander flying, since my fist attempt was a tad soft. These are also soft
in the focus and detail department, but I like their impressionism as it
has dropped landing gear and slowed to approach speed.
Spotted Sandpiper Landing
Telling little details without getting all sharp-focus
Long-legged Shorebird - Spotted Sandpiper?
Didn't want to go to
Sunset again, and someone said
there were Cave Swallows and a Cliff Swallow flying at the dam Satty ayem,
so I went there instead. Not surprisingly, I didn't see any swallows. Only
— couple mockingbirds and coots. I was on top of the dam. It was on
Spotted Sandpiper Flying
kept running up and down trying to get close enough it wouldn't dissolve
into pixels. Those long legs moved it fast. Great beak, too. Wish I could
tell you what it is. I've looked and looked. Like a killdeer
without the stripes. Or something...
Ah! Here 'tis. Yeah. Pretty sure. A Spotted Sandpiper.
In breeding plumage. "Generally seen singly," says Nat'l
Two Eggs Eight Feet From An Incubating Female
Strange day. Full of
barely disguised anger and stupidity. We each encountered several instances
on our ways to the lake. I wanted to check on
the goose warming her eggs. But when we got there, two eggs were about eight
feet away, though I'm pretty sure she was sitting on one or more others.
Two Eggs Apart - One Appears Cracked
The goose clan had gathered about twenty
feet distant. I counted 13. Counting her, one less than all of them. We thought
because humans had usurped their usual gathering places. Lots of humans around.
Why we usually don't go on Sundays. I'd forgot.
The Committee - The Brown Goose standing is checking
on the Egg-Sitter
The goose with the eggs stayed on the ground as The Committee
gathered. I call them that because they do things together. They
seem organized, almost a moral force. When I saw a very aggressive
duck sex attack near where the gooses hang out several weeks ago,
The Committee intervened. Broke it up. Sent the ducks packing.
Egg Inspector with Security
Goose sex can be just as violent. So violent it's
sometimes shocking. Like what we saw today. Watching birds do sex, it's
very difficult not to get morally indignant, not to anthropomorphize. Only
a few spectators watched the goings on this far. More gathered as the scene
got more violent. Little kids kept asking parents what was happening. Some
explained very well. We photographed, wondering what
First the big white goose males tested the eggs. We heard
cracking when he stood on one. Then the brown female wrapped her foot around
it very gently. Testing, we guessed, for something. Warmth? Viability? Who
knows. She did not put her weight on it.
He Climbed On Top of Her
Meanwhile, the younger male mounted the
egg sitter and had repeated sex with her.
She stayed on the ground.
Did not attempt to escape. Hardly moved, except when he moved her. Any human
emotions I ascribe to these birds is my attempt to understand. I know it's
sex. And I know that at least one and sometimes several ganders set up the
situation and watched over all through it. The egg-sitter already seemed
exhausted, and I wondered whether she'd had food the several days
she'd been there. She seemed an easy target.
Between Acts, He Stood on Her
At the climax of one act, scrunched up on top of her,
he fell off sideways. Other times he'd get up and stand on her. She didn't
move. He stood on her a long time. Then he'd go at it again. About a half
dozen times. The Committee kept watch. The other brown stood there awhile,
then walked over where the two eggs were.
Is She Dead?
After he finally stopped, she did not move.
We both wondered aloud, "Is she dead?" After many minutes, she
moved a little. Very little. It was difficult not to see this as punishment
for abandoning the eggs. Which the other female had begun making a nest for,
moving dirt. leaves and sticks into a tight circle her sitting circumference.
Young and Old Gooses Stand Over Her
I don't know this behavior, with both males' heads up.
What's going on? I kept moving around, hoping to get a clear shot of them,
without all the brambles that had been stacked up around her. Meanwhile,
the other female sat on the two eggs.
The Older Male Sits Next to Her
While the sated younger male still stood over her,
the older male nestled down, close enough to give her warmth. I don't know
why, but it looked like compassion. See that egg-shaped object just to the
left of her tail on the ground? I got a slightly better shot earlier.
Is That an Egg?
Though a somewhat less dignified view. This is as close
a I got to photographing his organ. It's right there
in that vortex of goose down. I'm pretty sure the object on the ground below,
and slightly to the right, is an egg. An egg that was right there under her
The New Egg-sitter Pants
I thought I'd seen a tongue quiver when I heard a goose
hiss yesterday. Then I talked myself out of the notion. This, however,
is a goose tongue. Here the substitute egg sitter I assume exhausted from
her efforts at building a nest, pants. She continued for a several minutes,
eventually nesting in and sitting the rest of the eggs. Nothing else happened
for a long time, so we left.
[Next day Anna told me she'd checked on the egg-sitters,
and they were both okay and still sitting on their respective eggs.]
Great Egret Periscoping
First bird I saw at
the even darker, less moist but windier and much colder lake today
was an elegant Great Egret with its finery draping down its back. White on
white. Mostly it was scrunched down waiting for a fish to come by. Then it
sensed, heard or saw something off to the right, and I watched it up periscope
precipitously, nearly straightening out that long S-curve neck.
Brown Goose Tending Eggs
I saw — and photographed, of course — this
goose yesterday, but it looked like it was just sitting there. Out in the
bramble of bushes and sticks and mud. Thick, gooey, sloppy mud.
Today, I could see several large eggs protruding. Charles said they go up
Hidden Creek to do their laying, but she's being rather obvious about it,
out in plain sight.
Now I think on it, I remember a brown goose — we
looked it up once and this variety was called "African Brown." Since
then I've heard other names — waddling around with its fin hanging
low beneath. Looking a lot like a goose gonna lay an egg. I sure hope we
get to see some goslings.
Canadian Goose at Dreyfuss Point
I hadn't seen our Canadian Geese in well more than a month.
So it was comforting to see this one again, intently munching something at
the far edge of the greenery down to the lake from where The Dreyfuss Club
used to stand.
Juvenile Double-crested Cormorant Coming in for a Landing
I've heard there's a different variety of cormorant
at Sunset Bay lately. This isn't it. This is the usual cormorant — our
sometimes stinky winter visitors, the Double Crested Cormorant. The Neotropic
Cormorant she says somebody sighted there is much the same, except its beak
configuration is different.
This was the only corm I saw as I drove all the
way around the lake today. It was on a bending bough out into this end of
Sunset Bay. Soon as it saw me, it escaped toward me. So this is
as close as we got. It landed and swam toward the point — away from
me. I was hoping for a close-up of its face for eventual comparisons.
If I find a Neotrop I'll show the differences here. If
I can get close enough.
Speedy Little Bird
So there I was standing out on a point in the frigid blowing
wind, and there were all these speedy little birds flitting by like jet planes,
flying low and only rarely getting this close — or this close to focus; they're
much faster than I and my camera are. I suppose I could try to identify it.
Fast Little Bird with Brown Wings and Dark Tail -
But wouldn't it be better if I just got some very identifiable
photographs? I'm in this for the photographs, not the life's list.
Although mayhaps I should pay a little attention to such a list someday...
Fast Little Bird with Brown Wings, Dark Tail and white underside. I looked
at the books. My best guess is a juvenile Tree Swallow.
In focus! And
fast. Maybe a tad slower since it's a juvenile. Maybe just a tad slower
enough to photograph.
Reader Emily Howard identifies this one as a Vaux's Swift.
I'm told — and I've noticed that — the gulls have gone.
Except I still see some from time to time. This one flew close enough for
some photographs. I've looked at the books, and I just don't know. I am pretty
sure it's a gull. But it looks a lot like a lot of different gulls. A first
winter something or an adult so and so. Yup.
Same Gull A Little Further
Pretty wings. Almost no tail. White fuselage. Longish beak
with dark at the end.
And Long Slender Wings
Blue-wing Teal Pair
I keep saying it. Sunset Bay has the widest spectrum of
avian biodiversity than anywhere else at White Rock Lake. Sometimes it feels
like cheating to keep coming back to Sunset. Today was moist, gray, dark
and suffused with the scent of wild onion. Lots of different species, most
of the more interesting of them out somewhat from the shore.
Three of Five Wood Ducks Males
I was watching male Wood Ducks swimming along. Then, suddenly,
sploosh! where the duck was then is a big splash.
Dived Wood Duck Splash
I didn't get that one going down or coming up, but I paid
better attention, and watched with wonder when the next Wood Duck came up
And flew away.
Grackle — More or Less Normal
My bird luck continues.
Acceptable, I guess, if I can have high bird days like the whistlers and
churkey but they were gone by the next day's
visit [although someone saw them.] Today
I watched, not for the first time, grackles. They seemed to be involved in
some inscrutable courting behavior I've noticed lately but have been unable
to adequately capture. Got 'em this time.
No heads or beaks in the air. Just ruffling and
scrunching. Both male and female look fierce, assuming somewhat extreme,
symbolic positions. His wings are arched, his beak open wide. Her tail
is up. Her wings out and back. Her beak open and angled up. The male walks
in front of the female. He reminds us of the puffed up
and fierced-out pigeon from last month.
The Male Walks In Front of the Female (barely visible
The male maintains a posture that looks both
large and fierce, walking the grackle goose step past the female.
Female Relaxes Slightly - Male Relaxes Slightly
Once he's past, both birds begin to relax slightly. Her
tail is still up and wings out, but her beak is closed and head no longer
tilted up as far. His wings drop slightly. His tail still touches the ground.
Male Lowers Wings Slightly but Still Prances
Her tail is still up, her closed beak tilted upward. He's
relaxed some but still has his wings out and tail spread and low.
Grackle Puff Ruffle
Moments later the male, with his wings relaxed down and
his tail no longer spread, puffs up, his feathers ruffle and stick out
at odd angles.
Then begins to relax.
There is no contact between the birds. He continues to
strut slightly, but she seems to be paying no attention.
The Mallard Rush
As I write this, April 11 is the day before yesterday.
Not much bird happened. One photograph made any sense, and it didn't make
any sense, at all. When we first looked up to see this, whatever this is,
we assumed it was more violent duck sex. Splashy chasing going on. Then we
noticed they were all males. One guy was it. Everybody else was engaged in
Anna had seen male Mallards face-to-face fighting with
beaks. Would a made a nice photo. She surmised that's how the duck with a
broken beak might have happened.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
Today's prize is a matching
set of Black-belliied Whistling Ducks. I knew they were special soon as
I saw them. Pink legs nearly glowing, they seemed to be quivering. That
was their wings, which stayed in motion most of the time I followed them
across the people side of Sunset Bay. Beautiful ducks.
Matching orange beaks
and, well, you can see as well as I can. They were aloof but didn't fly away,
kept walking in the opposite direction as I tried to fill my frame with
theirs. My mother shot pictures of a pair in The Valley last summer
— with a brood of the most beautiful little striped
seen. I assume they're traveling through because I photographed
them 500 miles south of here. Nice of them to visit.
Female House Sparrow
The place was literally hopping with birds today,
upping my flagging average again. I went to Sunset hoping for color.
Brown and tan are definitely colors. The OC side of me is thinking
female Red-winged Blackbird on this one. What's left of the rest of me doesn't
care, but then I got this.
Female House Sparrow with Grub
Which seems to be kin, if not the same bird. With
a scrumptious very green grub. Yum! Then again, the hallmark markings
on a redwing are breast stripes, and this breast is stripeless. At least
I think I know a grub when I see one.
Blue Jay Flapping At The Moment of Take-off with
a chunk of yellow grain — probably corn — in its beak.
been watching a lone Blue Jay there the last week or so. He's way too wary
to get close. Yet. But I got a couple today that weren't near good
enough and this that's fantastical, in a blurry, out of focus, too-bright,
uncomposed manner. At least it's energetic. You have to misplace that first
name. There's nearly no blue here, and that's
what I love most on this bird —
I remember in 1971 when the then-new falling-over City
Hall was under construction, being touch-and-go buzz-bombed by by a
succession of irate Blue Jays after I dared to photograph nests full of
jaylings there. What's not to love about such aggressive birds.
Nanoseconds after this, after that wing
flapped down, he was gone. This is the decisive moment Cartier Bresson photographed
about. I like it for the excitement. Otherwise it's less than perfect is
several important directions. I suspect I'll see him again soon. Maybe next
time I'll catch his more classic form.
Didn't know what this was till I got it home. Seemed brown,
so I thought maybe hawk, but none of the local birds were disturbed. It circled
out from the Hidden Creek area between Sunset and Dreyfuss, then arced back
into the woody creek where it disappeared. I watched for it time to
time, but it stayed missing.
The Long Fingers of a TV
When I got the image on my monitor, I finally recognized
my old friend the Turkey Vulture. I've been seeing them in that aerial vicinity
for several weeks. Nice critters to have around. The frequency I see
dead birds in Sunset proper I assume somone's running dogs against them,
though it could be bicycles, I suppose. Gotta keep the carrion population
down. Turkey-headed vultures to the rescue.
Speaking of Turkey-headed Critters - The Churkey
Trudging uphill I discovered this turkey-headed
chicken eating no-seeums in the cool moist dirt around and under deep
shade bushes. I still have a few issues with domestic ducks in my wild bird
lake. Last thing I expected was a wild chicken. Sibley illustrates game birds
— partridge, peafowl, chachalaca, quail, pheasant and even some wild
turkeys. Alsop adds Prairie Chickens. But nothing quite like this.
The closest I've found in a wild bird book — wild
bird authors may not want to associate with chickens
— is a Brush Turkey in The Encyclopedia of Birds (nice, big
illustrations, worldwide birds). Which author Dr. Richard Schoddle says,
"live in rain-forest scrubs. They have huge feet to scrape up litter
for their nest mounds."
Wild Churkey Hen
This specimen has a similar turkey vulture head, medium-honker-sized
yellow beak and huge feet. Alectura lathami, Brush Turkeys' latin
name, means big feet. This guys's got 'em, too but not much more of the Brush
Turkey. I don't think they're the same.
This one has a great tall tail
up in all 15 of my mostly slow-shutter shots (He stayed in
the dark deep shadows till I got bored and walked away thinking I had plenty.)
and a subtle cacophony of beautiful neck and body feathers. Strangely beautiful
bird (but then I like TVs and Muscovies). I hope he's not an escapee from
a neighbor's backyard.
[According to Breeds
of Chicken, it has a tail like the Australorp or La Fleche and the
naked upper neck of a Turken. After looking at that many chickens (many
listings were not illustrated), I'd venture it's not a chicken, but it is probably
a hen. The best turkey pages are on the ALBC
Heritage Turkey Census. Many illustrations presented as links, not
one long list. Shows both fantail toms and lower presstail hens. I'm nearly
convinced it is a turkey not sure which. It tends toward the wild look — Meleagris
Duck With A Doo - A Crested Rouen, Besty
mallards, since most domestic duck breeds started with mallards."
And, oh, how could I almost forget this lovely creature.
Speaking of domestic birds. This may be a cross. I've long admired her (Is
it a her?) lovely feather pillbox. And isn't this a lavish portrait of my
fine feathered friend's finery.
Male Purple Martin in Flight
Thought I could get better
photos of Purple Martins if I concentrated
on their closer arcs and followed through panning all the way out,
up, down, around and back. I especially enjoyed them turning,
banking hard, then sliding down like the steep track on a rollercoaster —
fast. I could barely follow their far arcs. Their relative speed closer was
too much. These shots — some of my better pans — look close but aren't.
The least I could do was to expose more correctly. Watching,
they looked dark. The blue fleeting but noticeable. Maybe not as bright as
here. But till I see one standing still, I won't know for sure.
Another Successful Pan
out some Martin houses along the ridge overlooking
The Bath House about a month ago. Though many birds were present, none
there were martins, which I understand is a common problem with those houses.
Cedar Waxwing Flocklette
I also saw at least one Barn Swallow, Grackles of course
and Coots. Plus a flock of birds I followed in from some distance. I noticed
them because of the remarkable random compression going on within the flight.
I've lightened the some, but these birds appear dark because of the bright
sky behind them
White-winged Blue Thing — Purple Martin
Easter Sunday so uncomfortably
cold folk weren't packed or stacked at the lake. Plenty of them,
but not in the way. Parking was to be had and, stalwart picnickers aside,
so were birds. I'd hoped to get
a better shot of the visiting Tree Swallows, but this isn't he.
Slightly Better Detail — Not Much Focus
This was plenty fast. What attracted me. Swift
like swifts or swallows, also apparently after bugs. Turning and gyring in
unmathematical figures out over the lagoon. No 8s or circles, very unpredictable.
Long graceful arcing curves abruptly interrupted by upturns sometimes almost
straight up. I'd lose telephoto sight when they changed directions. Probably
darker than looks here. Lighter rings around dark eyes?
Gray beak. Blue all over except the outer and trailing wing and tail feathers,
grayish toward the tips.
Nope, a Purple
Spring brings new birds every
day or oftener. Hard to keep up.
I've long hoped to see a bluebird at White Rock. This a blue bird, not
bluebird. Not many of them in the books. According to my Sibley, Purple
Martins aren't purple and real bluebirds aren't this dark a blue. So somewhere
Part of being a rank amateur with what someone passing
serious lens you got there" is
that I still love photographing birds more than identifying them. But something
there is that needs the I.Ds. I'd switched to The Sibley Guide to Birds for
its multiplicity of views and better distribution maps. But I've yet to track
down either of these real birds in any of my books.
Dark Ring-necked Thing — female Purple
Since I actually got it in focus, it must have been moving
slower than the blue. It has a lighter underside, darkish brownish nearly
colorless everything else, except a lighter ring around its neck, like a
Barn Swallows this could actually be one of, if it weren't so dark.
are not only swift, they are Swallows, and Sibley's drawings don't do them
justice. Part of why I like the photos in Alsop's Birds
of Texas, though that tome doesn't
any more approximate these guys than Sibley. Arghhhh!]
She probably lives around here.
Also along Boat House Lagoon today were a Killdeer
I managed to blur every shot of, a Red-winged Blackbird that flew
by in intermittant red splendor less than a dozen feet out that I was so
visually smit with I didn't think to raise my camera.
Tree Swallow passing through
Cool today. Snow expected
tonight or in the morning. Anna drove, first through Sunset Bay where we
saw pigeons doing the drop-tail, neck-puff bop;
the usual abundance of cootus ubiquitous; and
ducks. Neither of us wanted to get out in that whipping wind, but when we
looped around to Dreyfuss I stood in the chill while little birds
I thought I'd surely find in my bird books — look
like yesterday's swallowers of barns, except the colors are different — they
fly at least as fast — whipped over the water.
One Two-tone Blue Unsub + One Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow Flying Up the Dam
Visited the Fitchery
again today and once again saw no birds. Heard dozens but all I
glimpsed were fickering feathers in leafy branches. I did not hear
screeches of hawks or barks
of owls but lots else. I've been studying
bird calls with a DVD called Birds, Birds, Birds - An Indoor Birdwatching
Field Trip by John Feith and have enjoyed listening and watching. Focus
doesn't enter their video vocabulary, but the stills are illustrative and
mostly beautiful, although most of the birds don't live around here. Trouble
is I pay more attention to and remember better the visual.
Except, of course, I can't seem to place a simple
Swallows Cavorting Along the Dam
There I was not seeing birds in the Fitchery
and wondering whether I could photograph the tops of the trees,
where I imagined all the birds must be, from the top of the dam. I climbed
it, huffing and puffing
and looked out at birdless treetops. With a nice breeze. I had seen birdlettes
skimming across those tree tops earlier and was curious about
photographing them without the trees.
So I did, but my golly whiz
are they fast. My first shots were the onlies approximating focus.
After I got into it, all I got were blurs.
Mom and 12 Ducklings
Counted two pairs of Northern Shovelers and two pairs
of Blue-wing Teal at Sunset, coots of course, sundry ducks, grackles galore,
15 gooses now, and a big brown unsub with a large fan tail. But my best discovery
was this mother duck and her even dozen ducklings out for a swim.
They're the first duck family I've seen this spring. And
these little ducklings, while fairly adept at swimming, weren't enthusiastic
about climbing onto even the slightest rise of soft mud. Not saying this
was their first outing, but close.
The only one who actually got up on its legs and walked,
or made the attempt, was not very good at it. Yet. It stumbled and kept its
body close to the ground while trying to make food of anything that protruded.
The rest didn't even watch.
Black-throated House Sparrow
I really wanted this to be a Black-throated oh, something.
And it has a black throat, sure enough. But none of the images I found on
the Internet searching for "black-throated" look anything like
it. I don't have time to track it down right now (it's a quarter to
six, and I've been up all night writing,
and I need sleep, but I desperately want to get this page up. So I can sleep
for a couple days, then do my taxes.
[Oh drat! I'm thinking its bib is eerily reminiscent of
a House Sparrow. I knew it would be fiendishly common. I bet it's
a House Sparrow. It is. It is. Alsop's Birds of Texas agrees — er... confirms. Not
identical markings to those photos, of course, but awe fully close. Now I
Big-tailed Brown Bird in Bramble of Branches
I mentioned a Big, Brown bird with a Big Tail. This is
it. I saw it in the bramble of branches in one of the trees on the greenest
part of the knollish grass in front of the building at Sunset Bay. If I spent
a couple hours looking it up in my I.D books, I'll probably find it. Probably.
Great-tailed Grackles showing off their great tails.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Air Dancing Off the High Wire
The big difference was
today's scissor-tail made the jump from flying to and from tree branches
to doing his act — jumping up, flip-flop flying back and forth, up and down,
with a little spin somersaulting for punctuation — on a telephone wire, and
for an even bigger change, close to the photographer.
So we have a better semblance of focus. Keeping him in
the viewfinder was the big trick. It'd begun misting by then, so I didn't
want to get outside. Close as he was, it would probably have scared him away.
Cars are less than perfect photographic platforms, turned sidewise panning
up and down and side to side, hurts. The photog.
So I did the best I could, and was happy with these. I
will get closer and focuser, in near time.
Lock & Hide Mockingbird
The one other treat this morning was a mockingbird
alighting on a sign top even closer and regaling us with a long version
repertoire of calls and tweets. It was way too close to photograph flying
away, when it finally did that.
But marvelous close while it was there and singing. More
than amusing to watch the fluffy feathers at his chin ruffle and throb with
the notes reverberating. Then it flew away.
Egret in Tree Ready to Fly
Today was our first visit
to the Rookery at Southwestern Medical Center. We were
impressed. We saw
several that excited us and a few we'd never seen before. We were thrilled.
Egret With Branch for Nest
What we saw most of was Great Egrets engaged
in flying back and forth, nesting, walking and flying through the near and
far woods and sky. They industriously gathering sticks for their nests.
Many with smallish twigs, some with sticks and a very few with monster
Great Egret with Monster Branch
fly back to the edge of the woods. And drop. At first, we thought that must
be an accident. But it happened too often. Later, we saw the egret assigned
to gathering duty, venturing out from the woods to where the sticks were
dropped. We didn't figure out the scheme until later, or I
might have got photos of the sorter sorting, maybe even breaking them off
Red-tailed Fleeg (Flying Egret)
I've seen the reddish plume coloration before but never
This unflattering view gives us a glimpse of
the plumery available. The egret on the
left is engaged in an Egret Ruffle, a particularly energetic display wherein
it simultaneously twists, shakes and stretches nearly everything it has.
The bird on the right is simply dangling its finery while it preens.
Great Egret Nesting — Note Green Lores
The business of a rookery — besides keeping vast
acres of our inner city green and gorgeous — is breeding birds.
We saw many nests, but only a few were photographable through the thick vegetation.
We'll learn more on future visits. But these are the highest lights of today's
We also saw a very few Anhingas, which we'd never
heard of before, maybe seen paging through the books, but we didn't
recognize it, only surmised it was what we thought we remembered seeing in
books. We were surprised, unsure, had to look them up, only got a few photos,
Although we saw two at once once, and one flew
over us twice, but we still haven't seen or learned enough details. Like
I say, we'll be back.
Little Blue Heron.
We thought this was a Reddish Egret when it and its buddies
soared high and low over the rookery. But I'm not convinced. According to
my own Herons vs.
Egrets — How to tell them apart, that's what I thought it was then.
Its beak is blue.
Six Little Blues Flying
We saw as many as 9 at a time flying far and close, making
the great circle around and over the rookery. We were delighted.
Little Blue Herons Separated Only by Altitude
They seemed to have fun flying up there, and we were happy