April 30 2008
Last time I got a baby Mockingbird this good (below, not this fuzzy shot, but I was so happy to finally get it full side view), someone got "inspired" by my photo of it, copied it exactly in another medium, won a prize, then confessed — part of why I'm a little paranoid lately.
I'm struggling with how to remind the "innocents" out there that using images they find on the internet is not fair, honest or legal. So many people tell me how they've copied my photographs for their own purposes, sometimes commercial, I worry. Not just about them, but about the ones who don't feel need to confess.
Look at all the fuzz. Cute little critter with its beak shut, standing upright, hardly any motion. With the barest hint of expectation. Looking up. Maybe in the direction of the parental unit off hunting for food.
This little critter was parked about three feet into the grass along side of the road up to Winfrey from DeGoyler. And I pulled my car within a few feet of it. At first, before it stood, I thought it might be injured and was wondering what to do. Cup it in my hands and deposit it back into its nest? There was a tree not far, a little one, but I didn't see a nest. But then I was leaning my lens out the window, and getting out might have scared it away. I'd never been this close before. An opportunity for detail. Note the line of straight black hairs along its chin. That close.
I've often seen adult Northern Mockingbirds stop suddenly whatever they were doing, fling up their wings, then catch something. Always before, I thought they were scaring up something alive and capable of rising in fear right into the beak of the waiting mock. That's close to what bird book authors have written. Now with this series I'm reconsidering the possibilities of this odd behavior.
Maybe it's simpler than that. More complex, too. Maybe it's part of their childhood (chickhood?) memory. From when they were about this age. They'd go through this little ritual, flapping their cute little wings. leave them up a bit, then stretch their necks out and gape open their big hinged mouths. Signaling the parental unit, "Please sir (or Mom), may I have some more?".
Took a long time to get this shot. It'd just be sitting there holding my camera and long lens very still, so long I'd begin thinking there was something wrong. Then, while emitting a high-pitched whistle / electronic beep / tone, it would open the beak, but not for more than a half second. A signal perhaps. I saw the progression at least a dozen times. Only caught it maybe three. Kept thinking I should just hold the shutter button down till it did it again. But then I'd have to sort through all those shots.
The parent, meanwhile, would be flying up and down the grassy strip along the road trying, then catching something.
Eventually, the parental delivery unit would arrive with something while the chick held beak open and head up in full reception mode. The next two shots are an actual series, but getting these feeding and fed birds to stand at the proper angles was difficult. But the progression was the same every time.
Chick holds still (sorta), wings rising while parent fixes aim ...
Thrusts the morsel down ...
And delivers it down the chick's throat.
After having been fed several times, the food seems to have an effect on the chick, who gets up and hops off toward the line of tall wildflowers (In my yard they'd be weeds; in that official meadow, they're wildflowers.) and doing the wings-raised display several times. Notably without either catching food (not ready for that yet. Parents bring food.) or having it delivered. I caught it twice. This shot has better focus and exposure.
So Northern Mockingbirds' wings-up behaviors may be a catch-all behavior like the word "aloha" that has a variety of meanings. This one might even be a little victory or joy for having got fed.
More Zoo Pix
More pix from our recent trip to the Dallas Zoo (here, here and here, all below on this page) while it's still April. I may, eventually, pile those three entries into another, separate page, but probably not. I do know that of the two zoos we attended this lovely North Central Texas April, it's Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (on this page below: here and here) I more want to go back to anytime soon.
Wikipedia says this Andean Condor is "found in the Andes mountains and adjacent Pacific coasts of western South America, and it is the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere. The sign at the zoo says it has a 10-foot wingspan, and that "condors hatched here at the Dallas Zoo have been released in Venezuela and Columbia."
And that "The head and neck are nearly featherless, and are a dull red color, which may flush and therefore change color in response to the bird's emotional state. In the male, there is a wattle on the neck and a large, dark red comb or caruncle on the crown of the head. Unlike most birds of prey, the male is larger than the female." The Peregrine Fund adds that it has an 11-foot wingspan," almost as much as an American White Pelican.
In addition to other photos below, the BBC says these wingless birds, also known as Jackass Penguins, call resembles a donkey's bray," which we noticed a couple times while we watched them stand and swim.
I do not know this one's name, just that I managed to photograph it through a nylon-looking gridded cloth over their aviary, and we can only see a little burst of light lower central. There's a very similar bird on the bottom of page 192 of my Encyclopedia of Birds called a Superb Starling. A quick check of eight sites shows some similar and some dissimilar images and color configurations. Great name, though.
Without a proper name to go on, I can't cite site specifics on this odd bird, but it greatly resembles the California Quail in my $7.99 bargain bin book, Encyclopedia of Birds (It's not really encyclopedic, it shows many, not all, birds). I remember being absolutely thrilled about when I discovered it, then new, at the Lakewood Public Library. Great little book. Seems like lots of bird books end up on bargain piles in bigger bookstores.
It looks much less similar to the pix I found on the web, however. Leading me to believe it's a second or third cousin instead. However, the ident is confirmed on VectorSite's bird page.
According to the Honolulu Zoo (I love saying that.) these birds are from Eastern tropical Africa's dry grasslands and scrub plains and it "uses is powerful beak and claws to scratch and dig for seeds, roots, tubers, grubs, and will catch rodents, small reptiles, and crawling insects."
Wikipedia adds that "Vulturine Guineafowl is a gregarious species, forming flocks outside the breeding season typically of about 25 birds. This species' food is seeds and small invertebrates. This guineafowl is terrestrial, and will run rather than fly when alarmed. Despite the open habitat, it tends to keep to cover, and roosts in trees. It makes loud chink-chink-chink-chink-chink calls."
Siyabona Africa says "Rollers get their name from their impressive courtship flight, a fast, shallow dive from considerable elevation with a rolling or fast rocking motion, accompanied by loud raucous calls." They say their average size is 14.5 inches, and I wonder if that includes their long tail.
Safaris-Botswana states, "The lilac breasted roller is a very common resident to large parts of southern African regions including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and parts of South Africa. It is the only roller with a lilac throat and breast and a blue belly."
Instead of me quoting yet another net site's info on Africa's smallest raptor, there are seven, short, sometimes shaky and often soundless, videos on the Internet Bird Collection that are visually informative. A few videos even let us hear them, too. The sign at the zoo showed their range as southern and eastern Africa and their size as 7-8 inches.
Kenya Birds says, "Pygmy Falcons are fairly common birds which can found in the same areas as the White-headed Buffalo Weaver, whose unoccupied nests they use for breeding. Normally seen singly or in pairs, these diminutive birds of prey can be seen perching on exposed branches from which they fly down and take small reptiles or large insects. With a length of only 20cm these really are "pygmy" falcons"
This could actually be a Blue-napped Mousebird, and though it little resembles most of the pics I found on the net, it looks a lot like the pic on the Blue-napped Mousebird sign at the zoo. Maybe. Nobody mentions that long, split tail.
This looks little like any of the pictures I saw on the web of a bird by that name. I think I only have a very few decent zoo bird pics left, and I'm not sure they're worth using. I'll see.
There were two distinct areas for the light pink and near flaming orange flamingoes at the zoo. The light pinks were closer and easier to photograph, just on the other side of a fence. The orangier ones were down in and around a pond with other birds including a terribly exotic (not!) Cattle egret, some Brown Pelicans and various others.
More zoo birds below.
Sometimes I almost appear to know what I'm doing and trying to accomplish. Other times there's no doubt about it — I'm not only lost, I am gesticulating wildly in the wilderness. I saw some dark birds fly I thought were Red-winged Blackbirds fly into a bush at the far end of the Walking Bridge at the Old Boat House. Excited and with hardly any other thoughts in my head, I ran over and tried to see what was going on. Mostly this.
A lot of hustling and bustling. Apparently both male and female Red-winged Blackbirds involved. Females exited the interior from moment to moment to fly around or over, maybe do some squawking then they'd go back inside bustle some. Males bounced from side to side in there, but did not come out far enough to identify themselves. Sometimes, as above, I could see the males' red and yellow epaulets flashing around in there.
More often, the females would emerge, flap around a bit, squawk some, then plunge back into the darkness of the bush with the males. I have no idea what was going on in there. The bush was on the far side of the mushy part of the lagoon, and I didn't want to go wading through the muck or frighten them all away.
And females thrashing about the exterior. Fascinating. Just wish I knew what was going on in there. Although, as I keep saying, it is spring, and it was males and females in there together, and those guys and gals, especially, usually do not.
I've seen Wood Duck moms barking at a dads and grackles fighting flying low. Pretty much over the old same thing.
After a while of bashing and crashing in the bushes, the male Red-winged Blackbirds flew away.
At least I knew what these guys were up to. Classic poses. The egret making a living fishing up the lagoon. The turtle keeping warm. It would probably also like to catch something to eat.
After catching something, our egret friend jumped into the air, but he didn't file a flight plan, so I didn't know to where or how far, I just started shooting, hoping the cam was set right enough. Which it seems to be above, but not below, milliseconds later. So it depended oon how it held its wing when the shutter went off. Fanned out wings look great.
Wings stretched all the way out in direct sunlight don't retain any feather detail, but since the area of over-bright is narrow, it's okay.
With its wings cupped and ready to land, it looks great. Lots of definition and we can see individual feathers. All this showing of finery for a trip of probably no more than fifteen feet. Just a hop, skip or flight-assisted jump.
Today's next species are Barn Swallows, which were flitting about under, around and over the walking bridge. Very fast. Took a long time and lots of shots of open water before I caught it in my field of focus.
Eventually several times, though my average continued to be low. A couple times I even got them close enough to identify them.
As if I didn't already know who these speed demons were.
Maybe next time I'll just choose one insignificant shot to pile all my warnings on, just to keep them in the small minds of turkeys who steal, then feel obligated to tell me all about how they did it.
Hawks video on the Dallas Morning News site.
Gradually, I've figured out that the quick, emphatic, monosyllabic "twit!" calling and answering across the large, low picnic area inside the border of trees edging Cormorant Bay, not quite to the swamp bridge toward Thistledown Road let alone around the point out, around and toward the Dog Park were male and female Northern Cardinals making sure the other gender knew where they were. Finding their muted reds and ambers among the rich, abundant greens and browns, usually high in those big old trees was a major challenge. I shot and shot and shot to net these.
Theirs is a nervous dance as the females flit from branch to branch and back, adopting all sort of postures and putting most of what they got into those brief but intense twits. I suspect the males were moving, too, but I couldn't track them down or up.
Long as I've been at this birding, seems like I'd know more birds than I do. I saw this tiny yellow bird in the branches along and just off the swamp bridge. Lucky I've gathered as many illustrated field guides and bird picture books as I have. Someone wrote recently wanting me to recommend them a good bird book.
My method is to happen upon them, usually starting at the bargain bins. I choose as I recommend others choose, by looking at a lot of them and picking the one that grabs my attention. I selected my precious Lone Pine Birds of Texas, which I bought at McAllen's Quinta Mazatlan because I liked its heft, clean design, simple typography and largish colored drawings. It's not wonderfully replete with diverse information as the Sibley volumes, but I liked it soon as I saw it and its rounded corners.
I tracked the yellow unsub above, photographing it so small and far away it pixelates in the only shot of it that approaches focus. And if it's not a Goldfinch I have no idea what it is. I can't find it in any of my books looking like it does above.
At first when I saw gulls flying over I didn't give it a second thought. Upon third and fourth thoughts, however, I remembered that our usual gulls, of the Ring-billed variety, had left the building. So I tuned in a little more attention, opened up the aperture, so I'd get more than just them traveling along in their own dark shadows and got this fairly good identifying image of a Laughing Gull, one of either a dozen or so that circled back over the edge of the lake at Bent Bridge or of a couple dozen that'd just happened by when I was on the bridge beginning my Sunday afternoon walk wondering what I'd photograph today.
More from Rogers Rehab
Some of the fence grids around cages at Rogers were too fine to push a finger through. Not this one. I stuck mine in, hoping (yes, hoping) it would bite. I've been bit by ducks and gooses with no pain, hardly any notice, except surprise the first time. When this vulture bit the tip of the finger I proffered, it hurt but I was careful he didn't get enough to draw blood. This bird has strong jaws. Fierce. Of course a Black Vulture needs a strong beak to pull flesh from a carcass — why I only let it beak the tip.
Wingspan just short of five feet wide, slightly smaller than their red-faced cousins, the Turkey Vultures. Chicken wire or heavier squares or even double layers of more than one grid design, all made photographing difficult. I kept hoping for an openable valve or slot I could stick my lens up against, but there weren't any, so like that other zoo, I had to learn more about shooting through wire.
I only this last winter finally saw one of these exotic-looking raptors, so was sorry that one was there, but then again, glad he made it there. Mixed feelings. Like most species at Rogers, this is the closest I've ever got to one of these.
I don't know my owls well yet. Have only encountered a precious few, and several of those were already dead when I discovered them. My best guess for this is it might be a Burrowing Owl. It was very dark in the top of the big cage where this bird looked down at me from. That and the issue of the bars on all these cages kept me from actually seeing this image till I got it home on my monitor. Even then it took messing with in Photoshop before I separated owl from darkness. Can't tell if I shot its beak strange or that's what was injured.
Barn owls are perhaps the most easily identified. That black-edged white mask is a giveaway. Never knew at Rogers whether a peculiar-looking face scrunch was injury or just the way a Barn Owl does it when it wants to sleep.
Looking down on this hawk makes it seem smaller. I think this is probably a Harris Hawk. It was limping obviously, although that clump of sponge attached to the bottom of its left foot made it possible for it to move around and even adopt an alternate perching style. Glued to its foot?
This wan owl looks like my friend in the Fitchery from March 07. We wandered the grounds but the people who were working were busy and no one was so unbusy as to tell us these birds' issues. I am so curious about all that I'm seriously considering volunteering. I could probably help them more in the P R department as writer, editor, photographer, webguy or some such, but I'd much rather learn more about the birds up close and birdinal, so maybe volunteering to clean our cages would let me learn more. I'm sure they need cage cleaners and not yet another volunteer who wants to start at the top.
This Barred Owl looks neither happy nor healthy.
Another close encounter with a bird I've only seen from afar — both at the Southwestern Medical School rookery and out at The Heard Museum grounds. There's distracting grids in front of all these birds, just sometimes I managed to get it not to show. Other times, I couldn't help it.
Juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons have short necks and are generally brown. Despite the visual distractions of that glowing red heat lamp rendering some of them brownish, and the bright white grid glaring across the middle, I think I can I.D these herons with those long necks, as Yellow-crowned Night Herons.
I don't know who this one is, at all. I've paged and repaged my books. Distinctive, flayed out, partially webbed feet and vertically striped longish neck for a duck, which it doesn't really look all that much like. But those are webbish feet that must be for swimming, and who else does that but water birds?
We watched this Double-crested Cormorant sitting back on its backside more like I or you might that I'd ever seen a corm do before, so that must be part of its issue. It's left foot is much larger than its right, too. I'd like to get to know the injured birds, to expand my personal knowledge base of them all.
After awhile looking at this bird and its partial buddies, the hardware wire grid goes away, but the feeling I've seen it on postage stamps and posters designed by Pablo Picasso in the 50s (when he was considered a Communist and thus not as valuable as he got later) does not disappear.
Every time Anna saw a new bird or a new bird behavior she'd call to me to come look. I often depend on her keen vision, but I stayed busy with my own visions, so by the time she saw one of the several Pea Cocks actually fan its tail and quiver its feathers, I had unfortunately tuned her out. I would love to have seen and photographed the full peacock fan. She had a camera in her purse but a baby in a stroller too, so she didn't photo it either.
I wouldn't be surprised if we went back to Rogers again this spring. Probably a couple other good reasons to go visiting there, too. I suspect their bird variety changes often, and I'd like to get closer to their turkeys or anything else feathered and convalescing.
Maybe next time we'll go without 19-month-old Alice June, who was a charm all through the trip, and maybe we'll stay longer and won't get rained out. I suspect these colorful guys are semi-permanent hangers-on.
April 25 at Rogers Wildlife Rehab
Visited Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation (map) this afternoon, just before rain washed us away. A flock of bright white egrets blurred in the dark clouds overhead led us there, where we followed Great Blues all around the grounds. This one seemed to be able to raise its occipital feathers, when another GBH landed near, on top of a cage/shack where they'd chose a slightly aerial place to nest. Was our first, but not our last visit there, where we checked in at the office/clinic, and a woman was eager to show us a box of baby birds, including a tiny, long-beaked Great Blue Heron.
This was mid-yawn. Note its bare, arm-like wing with elbow and wrist and long, pointed tongue, fuzzy gray head and long, nearly black beak. I parked my right hand on the near corner edge of the plastic box, so my index finger could pet the top of its tiny head to my heart's content, without exerting pressure. I'd never even seen a least Great Blue Heron before, and I'm still in awe. The other babies in the box included starlings, blue jays and others, some very small. That's Anna's finger to show just how small these critters are.
Check out Rogers' Tips for Rescuing Birds.
A minor display within seconds of the two landing up there. A little dance before they settled into the nest. One of the tricks of getting along with people is to purposely parallel their posture and arms and legs and head. When someone does that automatically, it's s sign we are sympatico. Same with birds. I assume they are male and female, but it's only my guess that the left one is he, and the right a she.
Maybe a half dozen adult Great Blues wandered freely around the Rogers grounds between and on top of the variously wired gridded cages. They didn't want to be crowded, and they only flew or walked quietly away when I got less than a yard from them, could almost reach out and touch. Like they were not shy, just private. Note the more normal occipital feathers position, swept back, not flared up. But much more interesting wing low-and-wide, common among cormorants, but I'd only ever seen one GBH do this before. That one was out on the logs in Sunset Bay — this bird is more like squatting in its nest.
Should also pay attention to the thickness of its upper neck/throat though it wasn't swallowing anything I could see. It was hot and humid before the rainstorm, and the several GBHs on that roof were still with cheeks vibrating to keep cool. The widened throat may be part of that.
Amazing treat to be so incredibly close that they filled my dSLR's big 10.2 megapixel frame with so much detail. Worthy of note here are its variations of blues, grays, blacks, tans and brown colors and that brilliant rust epaulet and lower mandible.
Lots more Rogers pictures coming, including owls, hawks and other raptors, peacocks, egrets, an anhinga, some Black Vultures (though no turkeys; you suppose people don't think they're worth rescuing?) so close up I let one bite the end of my finger (Goose beaks are much weaker!) through the cage, pigeons, doves, a Caracara and more on that box of babies soon.
And sometime after those, there's more zoo pictures I rediscovered late last week.
Today I followed a male Northern Cardinal a long time and took several dozen blurry, too-far-away photograph. Several female Red-winged Blackbirds had nearly as many shots, but they were mostly in focus and nice. We'll see those later. For now, one of my favorite flyers — well, them and pelicans, herons of several stripes and colors, and — oh, I'm sure there are others. But eegs are so very fine in the air.
Especially, just after I'd set my camera to underexpose 1/3 stop in today's cloudy dull light. I thought I had set it lower, which is why there is no detail in the wings, but everything else is close to perfect. If I'd been conscious, I would have set the Exposure Index higher than 250, too.
Then I would have missed the blur in the background. And no, I didn't adjust its neck in Photoshop, but don't they look great all angular? Sometimes, the Universe shines on, even when there's not that much light out.
My panning is usually much less good than this. It's so rare that panning along, I manage to get sharp focus on anything. Here I got the all important eyes, neck and beak. Feet ain't bad, either. Not usually, but sometimes I amaze myself.
Less sharp here. More light. Same EI.
The Spotted Sandpiper shows off its spots to let all the other Spotted Sandpipers they're ready to breed.
Remember me promising photos of grackles flying? Well, I wasn't utterly convinced this is a grackle, but that's who I mostly shot today flying, and except for that brown head, who else would carry that much wing and tail feathers? Not sure, though, what he's looking up at in the middle of flight. Strange photograph.
I was too busy photographing a fairly fast, dark bird to notice what was happening at each flap at five shots a second. Besides, with a dSLR, what I actually see is never what I am shooting.
When an exposure happens, a mirror (the "reflex" part; the "single-lens" portion is an elaborate joke), flaps up, blinding me for so small a fraction of a second, I don't notice it. Except I never see what I'm shooting, so there's always those little surprises. Who expects a bird flying along to look up?
Same bird shape, same long bill (not pelican or egret long, but longer than a cowbird, at least), same wide flat tail, same claws barely visible tight under its chest, same overabundance of feathers, so it must have been a grackle all along.
Did I mention an abundance of feathers? That's the one way I eventually figure out they're grackles, but I know I still haven't got the magic in-flight grack pix I was hoping for. Nice begining, though.
Hardly expected to be photographing Scissor-tail Flycatchers again so soon, but I saw three males on the wire down what I want to call Mockingbird Lane down the back slope from Winfrey to the road up to Barbec's. I know there's another, much longer street in Dallas called that, but I wonder if it has anywhere near as many mockingbirds per square whatever as here. Except for that big, fat, way too sharp wire cutting through the big middle of it, this is close to the shot that began yesterdays journal. Only in sharp focus at a different angle.
Last time I shot cowbirds (or maybe the time before that), I thought I really needed to shoot one in a frame that's a little more visually interesting. This probably qualifies.
And if that one doesn't qualify, then surely this one does.
Uh, would anybody be opposed to me just posting the current month at a time, dispense entirely with all those past pages that just sit thee waiting for some clunk to come along and be "inspired" to rip me off more of my photos?
Today's third birds are peeps again. Ever so likely to be the same peeps I always photograph near the dam. Flying around, too and fro, no particular place to go, just all that energy needing to drive them round and round back and forth, up and down, even if humans, who can't even fly, might never figure out why.
And where is it that they're going to every time they fright up into flight?
Yeah, I remember the sandpiper part. What I always get wrong is which one, so I won't hazard a guess today. I haven't put all the pages back online I took down couple days ago when I flipped out (or I'd link you there) — before my email client disappeared nearly every email I'd got or sent in the last month or so (except the really nice letters I've been getting from regular readers.
Thanks, gang, I really appreciate hearing from you. I put those valuables in another folder.), then the client (program) died and refused to receive email, at all. Then it wouldn't send any. Now it won't do either, and I'm using a whole new program. Toad-runner meanwhile dropped my call transfer after I waited (waded) through their tech support for about thirty minutes. Been that kind of day, so I went off and shot me some birds.
Goose helps guard Rowlett school crossing is the headline on a Dallas Morning News video about a goose, very much like the geese we know well at Sunset Bay. A helpful goose. Who'd a thunk it?
No, it's not a way to dissuade the readers who ignore my copyright notices to use and abuse my images for their screen savers, projects, business and school presentations. Nope, it's the best I could do today to capture the annual spring fling for scissor-tails, wherein they fly up, down and all around, sometimes nearly turning inside-out to change directions suddenly.
All in the service of showing off their flying prowess, strength and beauty to potential mates, one of whom was perched on a lower wire when this was going on.
This is our barnstorming aerobat in a quieter moment. Notice that wonderful, long, forked tail. Not showing off its pink-orange wing pits or beige under its tail, but looking generally handsome anyway.
Nice and sharp, though, when he doesn't jump so far off the wire. Rare, for me at least, to get him from the back — to see the tops of his wings.
Here we can see the rosy pink wing pits, yellow-tan undercoating and long tail trailing behind as it flies by another much less colorful bird.
And milliseconds later, wings stretched up, landing gear's fully retracted, tails wider and airspeed is up, up and away.
I think this is a turnaround or just after, when the sizztail has topped out going up and is already working its way down. Like I say, seeming to turn itself inside out on quick turns.
No again. Not a brown thrasher or a cactus wren or any other bird with biggish, brownish stripes on its breast. A thrasher would be up in a tree somewhere singing everybody's songs. Cactus Wrens hang out in Arizona, not Texas. Nope. Nope. This is Mrs. Red-winged Blackbird right down at water level among some weeds.
Don't usually get to see their tiny little webbed feet like this. Mom's coasting with feet curling her float forward while all her little ones — well all but one — paddle forward, one webbed foot at a time.
Earlier, we saw Mom swimming alone with Dad and some uncles, and we looked for the kids. Then mom got out of the pool and waddled up the shoreline with her white tail feathers dragging as if she were injured. That's when I snapped, that the kids were back behind us by then. We looked. Sure enough, they were hid in weeds and a little inlet into and under the edge of land. Busy click-clicking when she turned around, suddenly cured of her limping waddle, jumped in the water and led her tiny troop away.
Last Week at the Zoo
Almost forgot I had more zoo pix in all the hubbub of re (or de) organizing of this suite of Journal pages. This one may be my fave of this new group. He was a booger to shoot, but I finally got him good with this shot that shows all the facial ornaments just right and still gets its big, sharp claws. Amazing colorful being.
According to Wikipedia, King Bultures live in tropical lowland forests from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. But the pics on that page don't quite look like this one. The adult on the Honolulu Zoo (I like the rhythm of that name.) looks closer but without the protrusions. It seems more informative and maybe even correct. I may actually have seen the Honolulu Zoo when I was about five years old, a mere 59 years ago. Their chicks are fuzzy and white with a truly weird looking orange and black head.
This Brown Pelican was in the big pool area with a lot of Pink Flamingos. My American White Pelicans have all flown back to the Northwestern United States and Canada, alas! So it was a little sweet getting to see a Brown again (Last time was in California many years ago when I shared a sandwich with one.) There's a great picture of a Brown Pelican having dived into shallow water, puffed-out beak first, ready to scoop fish in the Encyclopedia of Birds (Mine cost $7.99 in the bargain bin at a bookstore). American Whites don't do that.
These two flamingos are fighting. I haven't been watching them long enough to know what they're fighting about, but the usual reasons are mates, food and territory. Note all the bands on all the birds, perhaps so they could find their ways back to the zoo.
As I keep saying, it is spring, so it's probably about territory, food or sex. There's just a few more zoo shots, so I'll save those for later. Today I finished another opus I started yester. Tomorrow, I'll be back at the lake looking for more local, and likely less colorful birds.
More zoo birds below.
WARNING: So many people have told me how they are ripping off my photographs, refusing to pay for them or even send me their copies of my work, that I have removed all my bird images here, except those on the pages linked above, and I'm wondering whether I should go weekly.
Which probably means they'll steal these. I am exploring other ways to show my bird pictures without exposing them to thieves. I don't want to, but I might have to stop doing this altogether. If you read these pages and enjoy my photographs, now would be a good time to tell me what this journal does for you.
My sincere apologies to readers who like to explore past journals. I did, too. Maybe it was just too tempting with so many photos in one place.
We know it's an art bird, because that's what it's perched on. A big red piece of sculpture. Sorry I don't know whose work it is. But then I'm not sure I know what bird it is either. Usually I know one of those. I thought of it as much bigger, but it sure looks like a starling. European, Asian or whatever. I thought it was bigger than a starling, and what's with the fluffy ruff around its neck?
Today, I was determined to get some grackles flying, like I've talked about here so often. A reader wrote the other day that someone had told her about amazing black birds who flew with their tails turned vertical. We both immediately knew they were talking about grackles, probably our own Great-tail variety, whose tail verticality is but one of many flying tricks.
So I met Anna and Alice June at Sunset Bay where I knew there'd be lots of grackles and I photographed them for more than an hour. Obviously I thought it would be easy. I did get a few shots, and I'll add those tomorrow or next day. I'm busy this weekend with some big art walk stuff. This will have to be a quicky. But colorful.
Meanwhile, these are what I got good enough shots of today. An oriole from the looks of it. We'll see when I check the bird books later. Now the pictures, later the identifications. What else around here but an oriole would have such a vivid orange breast?
Soon as I shot that first shot, it flitted up into a tree, where all I could see or photo was a brilliant orange butt. From the tail, it might be a Bullock's Oriole. They migrate through here sometimes. Spring may be one of those times.
Gradually, slowly, as it flitted branch to branch, it exposed itself slightly here, a tad more there. Here I can see the bump of head, finally. Took a lot of looking straight up into a lot of leaves to find him. Makes me dizzy. Sibley's shows me it's a male. Trick to catch him before he flitts again.
This shot more of its head and some beak. Yup. Distinctive wing and tail pattern. Bullock's Oriole, I think, probably. My first.
Was very unsure when I shot these two, presumably one male and one female. They were flying around, into and with each other, racing along near shore till they saw me, then shot perpendicular out over the lake toward Dreyfuss. Long orange beak with black tip, white eyebrow and white eye shadow, a fluffy feathered look under striped wings.
I didn't think it was a Sandpiper, so I looked very carefully at those pictures, because I'm so often wrong about this species, and that's exactly what they seem to be. Darn and double darn. Someday I want to photo another kind of shorebird here, something a little more exotic, perhaps with a long curved beak and longer legs, but I guess I've grown comfy with spotties.
Cavorting is exactly what they were doing. Which the insipid dictionary that came with my iBook defines as to "jump or dance around excitedly" or more informally to "apply oneself enthusiastically to sexual or disreputable pursuits." With a pair having this much fun flying circles around each other, that must be what they're up to.
This cormorant had two wings of course, just it didn't flap its right one when I saw it flap the other big and beautiful, and it didn't hold it out to dry all that time before I saw it dive into and under the water to soak them thoroughly again. Youngish, looks like, remarkably close, they usually stay well outside my easy shooting range, harly ever get close enough to fill my frame. Usually on the logs out in the big middle of Sunset Bay. This a lot closer. Here we see feather details usually lost in dark blackness in more adult Double-crested Cormorants. It swam away, flapped that one wing again, doubt it could fly.
Standing on the bridge over the lagoon, hoping for a Green Heron, I saw this, whom I hadn't seen or photographed in a while. I must have missed her courting days not so long ago, because within seconds ...
These swam into view. Eight is on the small end of the scale for ducklings, so some predation may already have occurred. Or the dad got hungry. He was very obvious on a log up the creek with some other ducks.
When I was growing up, a woman with eight kids was considered a little askance. Or a saint. I've counted fourteen ducklings trailing after a duck mom before. Eight is probably enough. Love mom's blue and white wings off her back.
Just up the lagoon, I saw this egret fishing — or frogging. We could both hear the low bass call and response of two frogs — bullfrogs? — making their presence known to each other and everybody else around. One very near the eeg, another not far from me on shore.
Gradually, slowly, very careful and quietly, the egret honed in on the repeating sound, crept ever closer to the surface, crooked, then uncoiled its neck and nailed something. I shot, but could not see what it got. It did, however, swallow, thickening its throat area and I could almost see it go kerplunk down the tubes.
Seconds later, it jumped into the air heading for another search & eat site closer to the bridge. Note the remarkably green lores — the area around her eyes, indicating a breeding adult. Very vivid green. We should make a visit to the rookery, which is several steps up from a zoo. Lots of birds, mostly big white ones, but no cages, except the prohibition to keep us out of the thick — and stink — of the woods there.
S' been a long time since I've photographed egrets flying. My first several shots showed only partial bird, once it got flapping good though, I got it centered.
Now, back to the zoo:
Looking through a bird book about a week ago, I saw one of these and wondered out loud if I'd ever see one in duckon. There were a bunch among the flamingoes (more of them later) at the zoo Weddy. Lotta people on the online photo forums photo birds in zoos, and it always seemed unfair to shoot them caged, but now I see the alure. Where else to find a Harpy Eagle or a matched set of Rhinoceros Hornbills? And they are Dallas birds. They may not want to, but they live here.
Also were three, I think, Bald Eagles looking anything but majestic hovering near the fence at the bottom of the cage, small, unimportant and downright unpatriotic. Anna remembers: "There was a male and female bald eagle and an egg. She kept trying to cover it with material on the ground." I remember now that he wasn't much help, just stood there. This shot is he. The female was larger.
Was also this very exotic Harpy Eagle. A strange looking bird of prey. Handsome in a bizarre fashion. Fierce in its own way. According to Answers.com, it "Rarely, if ever, soars, unlike typical eagles. Thought to be largely sedentary but suggestion that the population in southern Atlantic forests may be migratory." Hangs out in "lowland tropical forest, mostly up to about 2,950 feet (900 m).
Occurs in uninterrupted forest, but will nest where the high-grade trees have been logged to hunt through forest remnants intermixed with pasture ... preys on large, difficult vertebrates including howler, cpuchin and saki monekeys, sloths, oppossums, porcupines and anteaters. Also reptiles, such as snakes and iguanas, and ground mammals, such as agoutis, domestic pigs and young deer. Bird prey include curassows, macaws and seriemas. Hunts from a perch at the forest edge or clearing, at rivers and beside salt licks."
But it might have said something loud and sharp. I just don't have much of an audio memory. But I'll remember this critter with the feather on the left.
Room for two more hornbills in separate cages for some reason not explained, they still stayed together, like mirror images either side the metal grid. Love the ferrocious horn and nearly matching upper beak, and their cute off-white mittens. Both cages were large with stronger than average grid fences, them parked in the back middle corners, so they could be together.
Again according to Answers.com, "[They] live in captivity up to 35 years.
Like most other hornbills, the male has orange or red eyes, and the female has whitish eyes. This bird has a mainly white beak and casque (the tip of the casque curves upward strikingly), but there are orange places here and there. It has white underparts, especially to the tail. This bird lives in the Malay peninsula, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo.
For the Dayak people [in the southern and western interior of the island of Borneo], the Rhinoceros Hornbill represents their war god, Singalang Burong. It is the state bird of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.
More zoo birds below.
April 16, too
Again. These birds were at the zoo but not in the zoo. I saw them as we were leaving, walking toward the DART station. They were just within the fence. What I first saw was this male grackle doing his mating attraction behavior moves that I have photographed before. On semi-automatic, I shot the behavior, which is always more important and interesting than birds just standing there.
What I'd never seen before was her very receptive reaction. Her part of the dance. My first shot lacked focus, but we can tell what's going on. She is doing anything but just standing there. Her part of the willing dance.
Unlike with a Point & Shoot, with a dSLR I never know what I got, so I shot again, knowing I'd never seen nor photographed this part of their elaborate dance before. She's gyrating and wing-waving and moving pretty fast, and the second shot is essentially the same as the first, except the first is better, so it's not here. Fascinating dance. Probably I should put grackles' whole, elaborate dance together on some future grackle page, but this'll do for now.
Zoo Day today. Three hours of all kinds of animals. I shot 650 pictures. Concentrating our efforts on birds. Not all of which I'll be able to identify — big surprise, I know — but fascinating critters. The pen-goonies were among my favorite stops. Not shy at all, athletic.
Didn't find out till later, too busy to read all the signage — that because they're from Africa, they don't need to be air-conditioned, so they can be right there over the Plexiglas fence that surrounds them and their pool. Kinda wish I could have shot over the Plex, but I got some nice enough shots of them further back in their booth.
These are among the very best shots from today. There are a few ways I might be able to identify some of them, and I will over the coming weeks.
I rarely use flash for birds. Primarily because I don't really know how. Took more than a year to figure out how to set the flash on my new (two years ago) camera. This shot shows this is set pretty well. I've always liked natural light better, but sometimes there is hardly any of that. Then I pop up my flash and fire away, but not very often. Big giveaway here is that big nose and body shadow.
Anna surprised us both by remembering this guy's name.
This was shot in the Bird Grassland, I think that place was called, where there were no I.Ds. Through glass, which was dirty on both sides, but compared to hardware wire, easy to shoot through, so I could concentrate on composition and focus and bird position and attitude.
It's another flash shot, though I had to look at the other, much darker, shots in the series to know. The little glint in its eye is perhaps the biggest sign. The inevitable shadow must be behind and below the bird and out of sight. From what I know about flash — I got a spiffy other flash that I've only used a couple of times ever. Had hoped to get around to shooting herons in the dark, but I haven't got there. Yet.
Shooting through wire is a whole other issue. The trick is to get the camera close to the wire or plastic mesh and far from the bird. If the bird is close to the fence, the camera catches the fence, not the bird. If you get the mesh close to the bird, the mesh is very sharp and the bird hardly at all. Shooting through such a meshy fence is crazy with a flash, which will reflect from the fence, not the bird. This is not a flash shot.
With the mesh close to the camera and far from the bird, there's a scattering of light. That scattering softens the image or the grid, here a diamond-shape, shows in the picture. Like this. This bird is one of the few I know (carefully read the placard, for a change), and I have a couple of other shots of this strange-looking bird, some of them pretty spectacular. Those come later.
This is just the beginning of The Amateur Birder's Journal coverage of our trip to the zoo. I have gobs more good shots, and I'll fold them in one way or another, over the next few weeks. I'm sorry I can't identify them all. In the dark building where I shot this guy, behind dirty glass, there were few identifications and little light, but I still got some focus and a little bird-ality — birds don't have person-ality.
This is as close as I've got to flycatchers, who can be a wary bunch. It's spring and getting warmer — despite nearly freezing last night — so I wasn't surprised they were on in the trees along the path around Winfrey Point. They seem to prefer tall, darker green ones with lots of leaves. Making it difficult for me to photograph them. I was attracted by their flip-flop sky dancing they do off the tops of those trees.
When I got close enough to the birds, however, I couldn't see them flying, although I'm sure I will over the coming weeks.
Unlike in this photo, they're usually gorgeous when they're flying against the sun. This one has some sort of white material on its head. I watched it in the tree, go out of its way to get it on its head, eventually, it had it in its beak. I don't know what it was up to, but the white thing did not seem to get in its way. Only mine. The white strand you see winding through the tree is probably fishing line.
Those tails are long and elegant, unless one photographs up it. Notice the whiskers, both short and long, around its beak. Those are the fly-catching parts. Like the cowcatcher on an old locomotive. See more scissor-tail shots from previous years from April and May and September and October of last year. Which means they're here in the off seasons, spring and autumn. Or at least visible then, willing to pose for photographs.
Actually, I don't think it was so much of a chase as a game. Tag, maybe. Although I have photographed out-and-out red-wing chases before. I don't usually think like a bird, but these guys looked like they were playing. I know the guy on the left is a Red-winged Blackbird. I'm less sure who those others are.
Sometimes while running (very like a shorebird) around around on the ground, they stop suddenly, and raise their wings, like this, for a second or two (usually too fast for me, but I got this one this time), then go off about their business. Bird book conjecture leads me to believe pro birders seem to think it scares bugs.
If I were a bug, I'd be scared, but I don't understand how a scared bug would be easier to catch. And it's likely I won't find out. I did not see this mockingbird catch this bug, although I'd been watching it for about ten minutes. I did see it digging its beak into the ground at one point well before this. The bird did not seem willing to give up the hunt just because it'd already got one.
We parked in the Hum — electrical substation that literally hums up the hill from the Old Pump House — where the Monk Parakeets live and play and keep building and rebuilding their nests. Sometimes the wind blows the branches of their intricately-fitted branches that comprise it. Sometimes the electric company does it, though signs all around the facility says they are coexisting.
I watched at least a half dozen parakeets deliver more branches and watched as two of them carefully gnawed their longer branches into sticks just the right length.
More busy little bees today. Barn Swallows whipping back and forth in long uneven loops, sometimes it seems they must turn themselves inside-out in the middle of the air changing directions. Way usually so fast I couldn't keep up. I trashed a lot of empty frames today, only got a lucky few in view or in focus.
Barn Swallow from the under side.
Two of about seven Barn Swallows flying up, down, in and out, careening over, back and through up into the air.
Or low off the lagoon's surface. These guys were flying amazing fast.
Near and far.
I did not see this bird's colors when it and pals whooshed through the trees a little distance. All I saw was bird motion. When I got this image on the monitor, I was amazed. An Eastern Bluebird flying right by me, and though I didn't see it, I did manage to photograph it. That's several sorts of amazing. Maybe I should just shut my eyes and shoot. That's close to what I did that other time I must have been tuned in to the cosmos.
What it is is a breeding adult Pie-billed Grebe. Last time we saw one, it didn't have that beak stripe. [Then I said something stupid about it being all grown up now, which it hasn't, and that the stripes was advertising its willingness to mate, however:
I have a metal block about identifying this overwhelmingly common and often-hated European Starling. I used to know someone named Sperling. This shot shows their busy lines of spots against their dark body.
When we first saw this guy, I told Anna it might be a Kingbird — with my usual equivocations. When I looked it up, I thought it was a Western, and when I saw that it definitely was not, I just went through the book, page by page. I found it on the backwards go-through, right next to the Western. It's an Eastern Kingbird, and someday I hope to be able to tell them apart when I see them, not after paging for twenty minutes. Handsome bird.
And flying away.
Duck day today. Not much else shakin'. Lots of ducks coming and going.
One's body was mostly white. I thought albino Mallard, but every time I excited like that, reality slaps me upside the head, and it's a high molt of something. I liked that I got it taking off, in focus, and exposed right.
Tried several times to photograph the Monk Parakeets, but they just kept escaping.
Hadn't got this close to a Northern Shoveler in awhile. Hardly ever get the beak this good. Nice purple in the afternoon sun, too.
The Ruddy Ducks usually hang out in bunches considerably further out than this one, so I took advantage and got some closer up than usual shots. Nice to see it's tail so bright.
Can even see its eye here. So dark on top, that's unusual. Its bill is not blue, more grayish. They're blue in bird books.
Only the barest hint of eyes here, but a friendly flap.
Only in photographs have these Ruddy Ducks ever appeared anything but brownish. And they're almost always at some distance out from shore. Don't know what that one, close one was up to. But nice of it to show itself, so I could finally get a closer shot.
It was not an egret kind of day. We saw one on our evening walk from the Bath House down the shore to Yacht Club Row in Little Thin-let (Some who aren't paying attention call it Big Thicket) and back up along the hilltop past the residences. We saw one egret, and this isn't it. I shot this one over The Spillway on my way home after I saw a bunch of eegs there. There were also various colors of herons. By then though it was getting dark and very windy. Hard to hold still with shutter speeds that slow, so I just let it go, see what I got. This.
I'll be back for them later, when there's more light. This doesn't show detail or focus, but flying is magic, and more today shows some of that.
It was a Red-winged Blackbird day. I even shot some doing the usual gracking sharp — but not close. What I kept getting, and loved getting, was male redwings flying somewhere close. Hardly ever in focus, but you get the idea a little better than the egret atop today's entry.
In this shot, its epaulets are where and doing what I'd expect for a Redwinged Blackbird perched.
Tthis one swooping toward me like a jet off an aircraft carrier, is more what I'd expect of a RWBB in the air. Epaulets up front, much larger than when sedately perched or even gracking, flashing their yellow-edged red riots, so any female in sight (literally) will pay attention.
See how big the red gets in flight? The game now, this week, today, is for the biggest, most colorful and healthy males to plant seeds in all the best females to strengthen the species. It's spring.
This shot is because it's pretty. Two doves, moments ago in the tree, spatting in all that green serenity.
Lots of mockingbirds flashing their wings today. Flying from place to place.
Or up and down flop all around in the big middle of the air.
And this? As the caption notes, I was focusing in, from what I could see at some distance down and away, I was thinking starlings — a so-called European (though they call it Asian) Starling. Then I get it up on my monitor, and I see plainly that it is not. It's the neighborhood's new noisemaker. With more songs and more variety than a mockingbird. And louder, too.
I don't know what it's doing with its beak or why it's not looking down at me with a big smile and glinty bright eyes. It is a Brown Thrasher. We'd heard it singing from the green thick of several trees. Unusually diverse for a mockingbird, so I was telling Anna about Thrashers and their repertoires, all the while wondering whether I'd got it right this time. Then this bird shows up.
Female RWBBs have breast stripes, but they're little. I think this one's just perched and looking around. Just an odd angle, shooting up into it.
Odd that today's bird species are engaged in such opposite behaviors. I saw grackles doing the old Beak-up Behavior, so I was ready when fights broke out. Had the camera set correctly, was careful and quick about it. This is the first in several years I've actually caught them in the act.
I should note that most Beak-up Behaviors result in the birds moving away from each other. Some few of them in noisy defiance. But darned few in claw-to-claw warfare. However, there are times when one or the other is in a fowl mood anyway, and it sometimes gets dangerous. One of these guys had already chased several ducks off his hallowed grounds. I wasn't quick enough to capture that, but I got this, and I'm plenty amazed. Moments later, the fuss was over and no sign of aggression remained.
This is two other grackles upping their bills as warning / preamble.
Today's other story involves three Easter ducklings apparently released earlier that evening. Soon as Annette, one of the Sunset Bay birding regulars, told me about them, I wanted to photograph them. Then I wanted to see them in sunlight. Then I really wanted to touch and hold them. I got to do all three.
Too cute for comfort. Independent. Whenever the three got together, they bee lined it toward the lake. But they were walled off from that abrupt ending by caring humans who had other plans. More walling kept the little critters from hungry gooses and one very interested Muscovy that I was surprised to hear called "very aggressive." Muscovies have always been very pleasant in my company. Of course, I'm bigger than they are. More than a morsel.
All three had been imprinted by humans, and though they sometimes struggled when we held them, they were mostly pretty calm about it, especially when we supported them and their cute little webbed feet. One thing I noticed — and it surprised me — was that the nostril holes set back on their beaks were not connected with tissue. Holding these little birds' beaks crosswise to the light, I could see through and out the other one.
The story was that two girls brought them to Sunset Bay, gathered into a blessing ceremony, then released the birds they'd got for Easter, a whole two weeks and one day before, "into the wild" of Sunset Bay. Where, of course, little known to their releasors, coyotes, dogs, wildcats, bigger birds and stupid humans often lurk. If the Bird Squad hadn't been there to protect the fuzzies, they'd have been dinner already.
When I met the fuzzies, they were on the back seat floor of my informer's car and were warmly protected by the women who were already wondering what they were going to do with the little wonders. So I guess their releasers' prayers worked. They were protected. But White Rock Lake is a lousy place to let tiny, defenseless human-imprinted critters that don't know squat about predation, loose into.
Found myself in Forp Woof with time on my hands on a beautiful, cool, sunny day, so I headed for the only park I know about over there. I saw three Turkey Vultures hovering over it from the freeway. A park called Trinity, after the river that runs through it. Something there is that loves a good-sized water feature in a City park. Lots of pigeons, some mockingbirds, and this one egret.
Far on the other side, too far, in fact, to even see, till I got the image big on the monitor. What it's walking on is the far, slanted down to the river, side of elderly, rust-stained concrete.
And two starlings. Nice patterning. About six Tukey Vultures circled and doe-see-doed high overhead as I got back on the highway.
We drove all the way around the lake today looking for interesting birds. What we kept seeing were these black & white Muscovies. Very handsome, considering. Pretty, contrasting wings, right red eyebrows and black knobs and beak tip. This one was playing in the surf, bathing then flapping dry its wings.
Little different view of a big, different Muscovy Drake. Note the translucent webbing.
Nearby where we saw more than a dozen Black & White Muscovies was a dead one. No apparent webbing, but nice to see Muscovy feet up close, though we were sorry to see it dead.
Remember yester's mysterious, headless, big black bird with dark feet? We revisited him today, and after watching all the bugs doing their dada duty with the carcass, I looked around and found his decapitated head. Of course I had to photograph it.
Also nearby were two quite different nests. This one a very neat execution with carefully cropped branches.
This one a lot messier, with that thrown-together look, about the same height off the ground.
We kept noticing that it looked like grackles had greater tails this time of the year, or maybe they were showing off. This is what's called a heads-up display. Quoting The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, "the bill-up display [is] a sign of aggression in which the bird sleeks down its plumage and points its bill up while facing another bird. Often the recipient of the display will return a bill-up display to the first bird. This warning display is often given in foraging situations when one bird comes too close to another."
I've often seen Bill-ups lead to fights among grackles, especially in spring. Egrets do much the same thing. With them, a chase often ensues, sometimes followed by mating, or what looks like it must be.
This time, me paying more than usual attention, I missed the pre-flight crouch but snagged a pretty good, artsy even, grackle take-off.
And we found some Brown-headed Cowbirds along Lawther in the Big Thicket area, which I thought should be called the Little Thicket, and, since we could see houses and Buckner Boulevard through it, Anna suggested "Big Thinnet." Today's exposure was better, but they really weren't doing anything visually interesting, except gathering closer together. My word play of the day came while I was bouncing words around about how common coots are, "Kutankhamen."
Hadda trudge lightly out a boggy peninsula hoping every step didn't plunge me into the muck, yet only came out with little mud clumps stuck to the bottom of my shoes. Shot lots. Only got this one good. Kinda like it. Caught it at the peak of its grack. Beak widest. Him establishing dominance over this little territory with his squawks. I didn't see any females in the vicinity. Or at least I.D them.
Although these could be they. Female Red-wings tend to travel together, often without males. I see a little brown color in these now, but when they flew me over they were pure silhouette. Several times sitting in one or other of the two remaining parking lots on Parrot Bay today — moving Blue, hoping for more birds, not so much just sitting there enjoying the breeze — I panned along with one flock or another, out the window, across and over, up through my sunroof — a smallish, randomly compressed flurry of wings.
Even got a lovely shot of a male flying away after I photographed it still. Would have been more interesting if it were in focus or shot at higher shutter speed, but look at those red epaulets nearly separate from its otherwise black wings.
While in the vicinity, I discovered a middle-sized black bird with patterned black feet near the base of a large tree. It was in a red, fruit bag when I discovered it, and had to dump it out to try to identify it. I shot the body but it's just a amorphous lump of black feathers. Didn't seem to have a head, and I was loathe (can you imagine?) to unfold its wings, but I did photograph its feet. Reminded me of coots' feet. Maybe they all turn black when they're dead. But coot feet are lobed, and these don't seem to be.
Not much to go on.
On our way to Ikea today, Anna sighted this beautiful bird in a pond behind a church. Of course, we turned around, came back, photographed and talked to it. It didn't say much. It was alone, and we felt for its singularity. Such a pretty bird.
We didn't know it at the time, but Wikipedia and other sites have elucidated me since, this is the swan aggression / territorial protection pose, wings partially up, looking large and (that word again) formidable.
And gorgeous. Neck bent back, beak resting on its long, yellowed neck. Ready to strike, I suppose. As it swam around, propelled by large gray feet, it kept making tight circles in the dark pond, as if it were on a mechanical underwater track.
Its wings are not at rest. Related to gooses, it reminds me of the Muscovies I'd been photographing lately (See the top of March 08 and down the page some) and near the bottom of this page. Immense, elongated fuselage and lumpoid facial forms. But even bigger.
After we'd been talking to it for awhile, telling it how beautiful it is, the swan slightly relaxed its aggressive form.
Till at the end of our visit, Anna leaned her hand down toward it — I wanted to touch it, but knew better — as if to feed it. Up rose its head and down slightly relaxed its wings. Later, in the Ikea parking lot, I saw a much smaller white bird with a long, flowing tail, but we were way too tired to track it down.
Not April 1
I know, it's not really April 1 yet. Maybe then this now is my April 1 joke early. It's also an experiment, so the joke's on me. I reset my Nikon according to instructions I found online in a context I really liked. I'm figuring out I'll probably have to rack back some of the adjustments, but then there's a lot to like about them, too.
The colors seem intense, which is what I was after. But it's a shock to see them. At the same time, they seem so real. Also, one of those adjustments I made must have affected contrast or sharpness or some twist of the two and maybe some other effect. Usually, I contrast up images. Today I didn't. Today, they're off the chart contrastwise without me adjusting anything. I don't know quite what to think. So I'm not. Yet.
This is the grackle in question in its normal just standing there position here for comparison with the next shot.
You can tell when a grackle crouches down like this that it's about to spring into the air. Ideally, I'd have another shot next in line, showing a grackle flying. And I shot such a shot, but it's too awful to put here. I did see some pretty gorgeous grackle flying today. I keep promising myself I'll just shoot grackles flying one day. Then I don't and don't and don't again.
Another African Brown goose hissed at me today. This one just kept its beak in its feathers.
First I thought grackles. Too small. Maybe starlings. Nope, too dark. No lines and patterns. And those reddish brown heads. Ahhhh. Cowbirds. Brown-headed Cowbirds. Hadn't seen any of those for awhile. I'm hoping next time I see them, I'll expose them better. Maybe pick out one and follow it till it does something visually more interesting than foraging in the grass.
Female Brown-headed Cowbirds are light brown over all. Brown-headed Cowbirds are probably best known for laying their eggs in any of more than 220 other species' nests. In more than 150 of those species, the other birds successfully raise those chicks, according to the Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas.
One of grackles' special sounds happens when they seem to convulse themselves — filling their lungs, crouching down and pushing the sound out. I call it grackling, because grackles are specially good at it. Noisy about it. I followed this RWBB for several minutes. It obviously did not wish to be photographed. Every time I got a clear shot through all those branches and twigs, it'd make one more grack, then flit higher into the tree and behind more branches.
Duck. Hard to believe sometimes that Muscovy Ducks really are ducks. Big birds of large caliber. Not slender, but there is a certain elongation of shape going on here.
And even there are moments when big, ole' Muscovies actually look dramatic, almost handsome.
text and photographs copyright 2008 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from the writer or photographer.
Thanks always to Anna.