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April 2016

The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton

If you assume I am a bird I.D expert, you will be disappointed red diamond The Current Bird Journal is always here  Cameras Used  Ethics  Feedback red diamond Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat forum  Bird Rescue Info red diamond Herons  Egrets  Herons or Egrets?  Books & Links  Pelican Beak Weirdness  Pelks Playing Catch  Rouses  Courtship Displays  Birding Galveston 2015  & 2013  The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds & the 1st  Bald Eagles here  Banding Info red diamond Coyotes  800e Journal  G5 Journal red diamond JRCompton.com: Links  resumé  Contact  DallasArtsRevue red diamond So you want to use my photos to make your project look better, but you don't want to pay me or give me credit?  Bird-annotated map of the Med School Rookery  Now I'm posting pictures with the date I post them. Bird Places: The Village Creek Drying Beds

123 photographs so far this month 

Three Owl Photos from Charles Holekamp
posted April 29 2016

Charles Holekamp - Owls  -  Photograph Copyright 2016 Charles Holekamp   All Rights Reserved.

Owlet on Green Surface

I'm just back from a trip to San Antonio to visit family and photograph birds — and to Galveston to relax and photograph birds. In my accumulated email I found these three charming photographs of very young owlets.

Photograph Copyright 2016 Charles Holekamp   All Rights Reserved.

Owlet in Gloved Hand

In the email, Charles Holekamp said, "Found this fellow on the ground just out my back door with two others who flew away. A storm was moving in, and the winds had suddenly picked up, probably knocking the babies out of the tree overhead. I let this one go after I it dried off."

The first photo above is a better photo, but this one shows us just how tiny these critters are.

Charles Holekamp - Two Wet Owls -Photograph Copyright 2016 Charles Holekamp/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Two Wet Owlets in the Garden

If anyone else wants to send in pictures of wild birds, please send me the largest version you have of the best three shots. I like to start with a megabyte or more, so the images will look their best. Please do not apply any sharpening. Thanks, Charles. Great find, and great that you let them go. Their parents probably missed them.

Any guesses out there as to which species these are?

 

 

Two Barred Owlets, 1 Adult, a Tufted Titmouse
& a Pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers
posted April 22 2016

Second-hatched Owlet Watches the World - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.  

Second-hatched Owlet Watches the World from High Up its Nesting Tree

Just as I sat into my car this morning, a female Cardinal flew right at me and landed on the hood. That got my attention. Then she flew around and landed on the right rear-view mirror, then got between the mirror and the passenger-side window. I'd love to have invited her in, but she was shy, and rolling down the window would have scared her off, so we had our conversation with me in and her out. The only cam I had had the usual tele on it, so I couldn't take her pic — and she was only a couple feet away. I kinda figured the day would continue to be bird lucky, and it was.

Take a good look at its face, above.

second-hatched Barred Owlet Looks Up - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Second-hatched Barred Owlet Looks Up

It wasn't very demonstrative, mostly just stood there looking, then this, with its beak open, was about as emotional at it got.

Second-hatched owlet turns around and flaps -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

2nd Hatched Owlet Turns Around and
Flaps Right Wing Outside the Tree

Not much room inside, so it did its flapping outside.

Then Spreads Both Wings Out There -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Then Spreads Both Wings Out There

Not enough room inside for wing-flapping, especially with its sibling in there scrunching around.

Another Small Face Appears - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Another Small Face Appears at the Window

The only differences I can see are that this one has a darker mustache extending out under its eyes from about the bridge of its beak. That and spots on its front and top are a little darker. But this one certainly has more of a sense of adventure.

And Soon It's Out on the Side of the Tree its Nest Is In

Not sure what it thought it was going to do out there, but it was out there before the photo mob appeared below. We worried aloud for it, but it seemed determined to get out and up. Good thing it's got sharp claws to hang on with, and unfortunately, its wings aren't good for much yet.

Now What? - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Now What?

The adventuresome older sibling is out there with mostly up on its mind, but it seemed willing to hang here for a bit while it figured out the plan.

Parent Owl Watches Over From Up High - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

And The Parent Barred Owl Flies In to Watch Over

Almost as soon as Mr. Adventure came out of the hole and started walking up the tree, a parental unit flew from off to the left, to the top of the tree the two kits were in and on. Not exactly sure what she could do up there, except give the tyke something to go up the trunk toward. But she stayed up there all the time we waited for something to happen down below.

Owlet's Desperate and Can only go up - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Now It's Getting a Little Desperate

Or it seemed to be. It went up a while, then it got caught in the leafy branch that appears to be just below it, but it actually is in its way.

Tufted Titmous in a Treen off to the Owlet's Left - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Tufted Titmouse in a Tree Nearby

And I am briefly distracted by a Tufted Titmouse who flits around the tree to the climbing tree's left. But it only stays a few seconds and was off again, so it's back to the adventuresome owlet. But the same bird came back again the next day.

Owlet Trapped There for Awhile - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Owlet Trapped There for Awhile

For what seemed a long time, it couldn't seem to even turn around up there, its wings and everything else caught in the branches and leaves, some of which it finally chewed off to be able to stand up.

If It Could Only Fly - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

If It Could Only Fly

If it could fly, escape would be easy, but getting its wings in the right position is only half the battle. Learning how to flap them for power and use its innate guidance system, which Mom will be teaching it soon, would help.

 Eventually It Stood Up - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Eventually, It Stood Upright Up There

Right about then I started getting body signals that my blood sugar was dipping low, so I left the tyke in its predicament and hope it's not still out there a little more terrified every time it tries to turn around or go higher. 

 

 

Then the Next Afternoon

First-hatched-owlet - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.  

First-hatched Owlet Made it to the Top

I was — and still am — way worried about the first-hatched Barred Owlet — the adventuresome one. So by Thursday afternoon, it had climbed up to about where its parental unit had been watching down on it the day before. It looked tired and defeated, but that's this human's take on what a bird feels, so very likely far afield from the facts. We do that.

Way Higher But Still Not Safe - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Way Higher But Still Not Safe

Very challenging to take a photograph of something with its beleaguered head in the shade and its tail in bright sunlight. Kinda interesting to be able to see its eyelids — and pretty lashes. 

I still don't know what it's going to do up there. Best thing I can imagine is a parent moving it, but I don't know how that could happen, either. Maybe just jump?

I convinced myself that the tyke was probably safe enough for the moment, though I have no idea what it's going to do. I assume its parental units are still feeding it, but it never did look happy, although I'm not sure how a mere human could tell. I suspect its first flying lesson, rarely an elegant affair, is in its near future.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Flying Over Wildflower Area Sign -c pry

My First of Season Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Flying Over this Sign

I checked out at least one other quiet nest and Sunset Bay, nothing there, either. Then drove up DeGoyler Drive to Winfrey Hill from Garland Road and slowed past the big wildflower area there that's just barely popping with a very few bright yellow bits but no birds moving. Then this up out of there, that was hopping with a pair of birds with long tails and lots of color.

Scissortailed_Flycatcher_about_to_land - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher About to Land on the Sign Again and Again

They — a male and a female — kept shooting sorties up onto then upper off the sign — I assume catching flies. I've been watching for these and all the other birds that eventually occupy the weed gardens till late summer for the last several weeks. The rain may have inconvenienced many critters, including humans, but it seems to have been doing its job on the grass, weeds, flowers and birds.

Female Scissortailed Flycatcher Preening on Sign - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Female Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Preening on that Same Sign

I wasn't particularly close to this sign and its visitors in The Slider on Emerald Isle Drive, with the cam / lens tight between the roll-up window and the top of the driver's side window to hold it stiller than a tripod. I was, as often, really surprised to have captured this shot this well. I don't think I've ever got this close up into a flycatcher's business.

 

 

Great Egrets Chasing on the Far Side of The Spillway
posted April 21 2016

 Great Egret Chase on the Far Side of the Spillway - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Chase on the Far Side of the Spillway

I really did not expect to have the opportunity to photograph Great Egrets chasing today. I figured I needed to walk, so I walked down, then back up the Garland Road side of The Spillway. Nothing much on the way down — maybe three Great Egrets doing not much in the ponds at the bottom of the Middle Spillway or high in the trees on the far side but not much else — till I discovered these guys getting active as I was on my way back up.

Great Egret Chase - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Chase

And the chase was on. This is not all just one chase. They kept happening any time two Great Egrets (GE) were in proximity. I photographed other stuff in between, but these were the most fun birdography I've had for awhile.

Great Egret Chase - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Chase Around the Middle Spillway

No egrets were hurt in any of these chases.  

Great Egret Chase - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Chase

These are fairly small crops from a full-frame (24mm x 35mm) image. If they'd been closer, the focus would be more amazing, but I was happy with these. Very happy.  

Great Egret Chase - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Over the Choppy Mid-Spillway Water
 

Great Egret over the crashing water -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret About to Land in the Thrashing Water
 

Great Egret Over the Spillway - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Just Over the Edge of the Middle Spillway —

— about where the water falls from the last major chunk of concrete then splits and goes around both sides of Egret Island. Eventually, on the bottom (Winstead Street side), the water flows back together before it sluices over The Lower Steps, only since the rains we keep having, it doesn't even slow down for the steps these days.

Great Egret Chase - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Chase

This was the only time I saw the egrets chasing out over the Spillway today, but I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of these symbolic fighting and chasing behaviors.

Great Egret Chase - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Chase

Great fun photographing. I hope I'm closer to them next time, so I can capture more detail, although here we can see that the chaser has just swallowed something, and that something has not gone down its throat yet.

Little Girl with Tiara & Ruffles - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Little Girl with Tiara and Purple Ruffles

A photographer behind the tree on the right was photographing her. I tried to include both of them, but this is really the best shot of the bunch. She was standing up higher, but this is her following the photographer's direction and slowly lowering herself into the grass overlooking the lake.

Intent Little Boy with Water Bottles - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Intent Little Boy with Water Bottles

He never once looked up from his game. I was attracted by the humanness of the little kid, and the translucent bottles. I only noticed his chair much later.

Back Steps at the Winfrey Building - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Back Steps at The Winfrey Building

  

  

Katy, The Mute Swan, Is Missing
posted April 20 2016

Katy Swimming - photo by Kelley Murphy90

Katy Swimming

Everybody's favorite and the only swan in Sunset Bay is missing. And since Kelley Murphy, who is probably closer to Katy than anybody, brought this to my attention, I asked her for some of her fave Katy pictures to put here. If you know where Katy is or what she's up to, please email me at the e-address on my Contact Page.

Katy Preening - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Katy Swimming

Swans can be ornery and some say they're mean, but when she was at the lake, she was almost always very well behaved.

Katy Flying - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Katy Flying

We think she may have escaped one of those people who think having a swan in a domestic situation would just be the coolest thing. Or maybe one of those people had her then brought her to the lake. We just don't know where she came from or why she chose here. But she's been missing for about a week now, and we started worrying about her awhile ago.

Katy Flapping Her Wings - photo by Kelley Murphy

Katy Flapping Her Wings

But Kelley and I and many other Katy fans already miss her a lot, and we'd really like to know that she's safe.

 

 

Red-shouldered Hawks & Barred Owls
in and around their nests
posted April 19 2016

 Red-shouldered Hawks on Nest - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved. 86

Both Red-shouldered Hawk on Nest

Here, as with the owls below in today's journal entry, the farther I got away, the better my pictures were, if they were at all. Shooting nearly straight up at birds tends to distort them. Female at left sat the nest, while male got food for her. I watched him getting food very close to the nest, and if I'd been prepared, I might have photographed him doing it. Instead, I watched in amazement, his deft hunting.

Red-shouldered Hawk on Nest

Once again, according to my Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, "Nesting: in any of various trees, pair builds a bulky nest of sticks and twigs or reuses an old nest; female incubates 2-4 darkly blotched bluish white eggs for about 33 days."

High-up Owl Staring Down - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

High-up Barred Owl Staring Down

Not far away, a Barred Owl stares down at me.

Barred Owl with Scorpion -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Barred Owl with Recently-deceased Food

Looks like a scorpion or something similar. If I can I.D birds, I'm doing amazing well. Their food is usually much more difficult for me to recognize. This one was taken before several photographers began running from tree to tree below the owls, which I thing was frightening the birds. This was before the other photographers arrived in Owl Country.

Not Sharp But Owl in Flight - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Not In Focus But it is an Owl in Flight

One of the varieties of owl pix I dearly hoped to accomplish this late afternoon had been owls in flight. I had several opportunities, but I just wasn't quick enough. This is as close as I got today.

Owl Pair Together -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Owl Pair Together

Quoting my Birds of Texas tone again, about the Barred Owl's nesting, "In a natural tree cavity, broken treetop or abandoned stick nest; very little material added; female incubates 2-3 white eggs for 28-33 days while male supplies food." I think the main reason the owls were doing this, was because they'd been terrorized by photographers running around in the area below their nest and wherever they flew to in Owl Country. I was over there for a few minutes, but it just felt wrong, so I went back across the street, and realized I could get much better owl photos from back there.

Barred Owl Pair Together - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Owl Pair Together

Including me, there were only three photographers, but the other two were on the ground very close to the tree with the owl nest, and I'm pretty sure the female, whom I assume is the one on the left, was sitting the nest. Mostly I wasn't over there, because I'd figured out that I get much better better pix from across the street and then some. I know one photog had a 50:1 zoom and the other's might have been a bigger honker than mine.

I think the owls may plan ahead, so they miss the Easter Crowds, which might really frighten them. On holidays, there's lots of running and active physical games and people running around, and barbecue smoke and… and… and. I'm making it my policy not to bother the owls by standing right under their nest or perches.

 

 

Female Hooded Merganser & Eight Downy Young in a Dark Swamp
and Northern Shovelers Closer & Closer Into Sunset Bay
posted April 17 2016

Mama Hooded Merganser and Eight Downy Young in a dark swamp by Kala King79

Mama Hooded Merganser and Eight Downy Young in a Dark Swamp

I think I understand where Kala King shot this, but I haven't found the time to go exploring. Unfortunately, it wasn't anywhere near Sunset Bay, and not really at the lake. Kala says, "It was very dark in there, and I had to crouch under shrubs to get to the edge of the water to get them. Plus somehow I had done something to mess up the settings on my camera. I reset everything later that day, and it works better. They were only good enough to document a rare sighting. Still, I had never seen Mergansers before so was thrilling to hear and see them. Not a call I'd ever heard before."

I couldn't find the distress-like call Kala mentioned to me, but I did find a new mother with her downy kits diving from a Wood Duck box online.

Two Males of a Flock of Thirty or So Male Northern Shovelers - cpry  

Two Males of a Flock of Thirty Or So Male Northern Shovelers

Another species of consistent visitors to Sunset Bay lately are the Northern Shovelers, whom I have not seen close enough to people to get the White Bread Feeders to feed them. I hope that condition of shyness on the parts of the Northern Shovelers lasts. But ya never know. They may not feed it to their children, but the White Bread Feeders happily feed that crap to birds in the guise of helping the poor little birdies.

Female Northern Shoveler Flapping - cpry

Female Northern Shoveler Flapping while Male Shoveler Watches the Photographer

I love Northern Shovelers for their brilliant colors and their very long beaks.

Female Northern Shoveler Flaps Back - cpry

Female Northern Shoveler Flaps Back

Check out that shoveling beak on her.

 

 

Canada Gooses Keep Coming Back for More
& People Keep Giving It to Them
posted very early April 16 2016

 Canada Goose with wet neck and head - cpry

Canada Goose with Wet Neck and Head

Wet from sticking it down in the water for food. According to my new copy of the Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, Canada Gooses "graze on new sprouts, aquatic vegetation, grass and roots, tips up for aquatic roots and tubers," which is probably what this goose was down to.

Maybe Young Canada Goose - cpry

Maybe Young Canada Goose

I really don't have much to go on. It seemed immature is about all I can say.

Head and Shoulders Canada Goose - cpry

Head and Shoulders Canada Goose

These gooses. This family of Canada gooses seems to have become regular visitors at Sunset Bay. How can we blame them. Thirty or more people every day find their usefulness in this world by feeding wild animals we all know would be better off if they learned to feed themselves.

Full Frame Canada Goose - cpry

Comparatively Svelte Canada Goose — But If We Keep Feeding Them, They won't Stay Svelte for Long

Unfortunately, because of their gathering girth, Canada gooses for all their elegance and/or beauty, tend to become annoying pests as they take over areas where once thrived many species living happily ever after together. This has happened in many parks in driving distance of right here. But probably the only thing that might ever stop people from "feeding the ducks," gooses and whomever else, would be laws prohibiting feeding wild animals and birds. And we all know that ain't gonna happen, because people love to feel needed for feeding the ducks, coots, gooses, etc. x

  

  

House Sparrow Sex at a Martin House,
Flowers Wild, Branch Delivery
and One Purple Martin —
posted late April 13 2016

She and He - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.  71

She and He House Sparrows on Martin House Perches

I only very rarely go bird photographing with just one species in mind. Not this time, either. But whom I found in abundance at those Martin Houses I watched that man who lives across the street from some of the houses clean out and prepare a couple months ago said he most wanted House Sparrows to stay away. So, of course, that's who lives there in the most abundance and most of the time.

House Sparrow Sex -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

House Sparrow Sex

So there I was pointing my camera up at them on their front porch, and quite suddenly, he mounts her and has quick sex. I was glad I'd captured it, thinking it wouldn't happen again soon.

He's Landing; Not Dancing -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

He's Just Landing; Not Dancing

After flying back to his perch, it really looks like he's doing a little joy dance. But it is not any dance. He's just landing there for a very brief respite.

House Sparrow Sex -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

House Sparrow Sex

I counted seventeen times they had sex, and after awhile I quit counting. Mount, flap around a bit, then dismount and either fly off or just back over to his perch. She didn't seem all that enthused. Then again and again and again.

He Flies Away — Briefly

Fly off for brief respite.

House Sparrow Sex - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

House Sparrow Sex

Then come back and do it again.

House Sparrow Jump -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

House Sparrow Jump

I clicked pix each time for awhile, but after awhile it just got boring, so I'm just showing you all the more energetic moments.

House Sparrow Sex -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

House Sparrow Sex

Note how little her position changes through all this.

M House Sparrow Hanging On -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Male House Sparrow Hanging On

I think she's who brought the branch, but I'm not sure.  

Her Holding Treelet -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Her Holding Treelet

Branches are generally for building a nest. Nice of that guy for providing a house. Wonder how many House Sparrows actually living in houses.

First Purple Martin on a House I've seen this year - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

First Purple Martin I've Seen on a Purple Martin House This Year

These houses were designed for Purple Martins, but generally, here, at least, more House Sparrows inhabit them than Purple Martins. This is a different house that the one above — not the paper clasps.

Yellow Flowers Wild - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Yellow Flowers Wild

I used to have a poster that named all of Texas' wildflowers, but I don't have it any more.

Purple Flowers Wild - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Purple Flowers Wild

Those were yellow; These are purple.

  

  

Cattle Egrets and Cattle Egrets,
A Turtle and One Crow Twice
posted April 12 2016

Cattle Egrets and Coots at the Spillway - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.  

Adult Breeding Cattle Egrets and Some Coots

I know Cattle Egrets visit White Rock Lake from time to time, because I've seen and photographed them there. But not often and not very many of them at once. Although there are seasons — think in the thick of summer, when one or maybe two of them can be found in the field just south of Northwest Highway north of the lake. There are other interesting birds there, too — Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Kestrel, but rarely and only sometimes, so I keep visiting. Besides, it's a nice place to drive by.

Yesterday (as I write this on a Monday, I saw some Adult Breeding Cattle Egrets at the upper Spillway. Most egrets that I know only get deeply-hued lores with some orange-ish plumes here and there. Cattle Egrets get into it a little more colorfully, as you can see. You can also see how small they are compared with other egrets, who mostly tower over the diminutive coots.

Of course, if you really want to see Cattle Egrets find you some rural cows or a field where they've been. It's not for nothing they're called that.

Cattle Egret Having Caught Something Small and Black - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Cattle Egret Having Caught Something Comparatively Large and Black

Today, I saw three adult breeding Cattle Egrets hunting in the park that used to be the dog park, at Winstead and White Rock Road just up from the big parking lot just up Winstead from Garland Road. It's across from Tokalon Park. And I've now seen crows and cattle egrets methodically combing the area for something I couldn't quite see, but may have been the same bugs before, although I never managed to photograph exactly what the crows were eating there, and this is as close as I've got to photographing what the Cattle Egrets were catching today.

Cattle Egrets Scanning the Lawn for food - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Three Cattle Egrets Scanning the Lawns for Something to Eat

I'd describe their combing as methodical, although sometimes one or the other or the other other of them would just wander off entirely. But most of the time all three were either together or within sight of each other. And they seemed ambitious about it.

Adult Breeding Cattle Egret Hunters -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Adult Breeding Cattle Egret Bug Hunters

I remember seeing that one black, I sure did think it was a bug, three images up, as the cattleeeg caught it, then managed to get it down its throat. It acted like a bug that did not wish to be swallowed, so I'm pretty sure it was a bug. It was active, but the egret was hungry.

Up-standing Cattle Egret -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Up-standing Cattle Egret

I've repetitively identified these (only) three Cattle Egrets as adults and breeding-ready. I guess I can just call them Cattle Egrets now, although sometimes I like to shorten even that to call them "cattle-eegs."

Cattle Egret Coming This Way - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Cattle Egret Ambling This Way

I didn't see the behavior today, at all, and at the time, I didn't even notice it, but often, uh... usually, Cattle Egrets walk like an Egyptian with that exaggerated head bobbing fore and aft at each successive step. But none of these eegs did that today, and now I"m wondering why? Do you suppose it has something to do with their breeding age and plumage?

Breeding Adult Cattleeg Pauses - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Cattleeg Pauses

To look for something to eat, I assume. Ah! I knew I should have consulted my Lone Pine Birds of Texas., where it simply explains: "Feeding: picks grasshoppers and other invertebrates from fields; often associated with livestock; also stalks anole lizards in yards." According to Wild Texas, "Often mistaken for chameleons, the green anole is a tree-dwelling lizard that is native to the southeastern United States and Caribbean islands. Green anoles are also found in warm climates throughout North and South America." Took me awhile to see the anole for the grass in the photo on that page.

Red-eared Slider -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Red-eared Slider Sunning Itself

I named my car after this turtle species, because The Slider slides, and because I've had other cars named after turtles, and I liked the idea. I used to deepen my voice into an exaggerated basso profundo radio voice and say, "Tortuga, The White Rhino" after I'd named that old, square, Volvo station wagon that already had 100,000 miles on it when I bought it from one of the guys where they created the Wishbone (& Barney) videos. Great Car. Saved my life. Nothing like the 50-60 MPG I get from The Slider, but a great car. Some American Indian tribes use turtles as symbols for traveling and home, and I lived in The Tortuga a couple times. I have slept in The Slider, but I never lived there.

American Crow in Barbec's Parking Lot - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

American Crow in Barbec's Parking Lot

Crows are always a challenge to expose correctly. This time, through some sort of white magic, I got it almost perfectly — against a white curb, even. I love the tiny feathers white right under its chin. Do birds have chins?

That Same American Crow Landing on top of Barbec's -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

That Same American Crow Landing on Top of Barbec's

I've been reading a couple of books about how intelligent and tool-using and remembering corvids are. Crows are corvids. I had to ask the internet who else, and I found a Wikipedia advert that says, "Corvidae is a cosmopolitan family of Oscine passerine birds that contains the rows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs and nutcrackers." But there's a total of 120 species, so we won't list them all here.

 

 

Heron with Stick, Swallow Hasn't Swallowed, Grackles
Fighting, Gooses Fussing, Coots Scooting, and
posted April 11 2016

 GBH Playing with a Stick - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved. 48

Great Blue Heron Dealing with a Stick

Several of us were photographing this GBH "playing" with sticks, but sticks are important to Great Blue Herons, so maybe it was practicing. They use them, as do many birds, to make nests, although it's pretty late in the season for Great Blue Herons to be finding sticks for nests, since they — who usually keep quite separate from their heron cousins — probably have kits by now, and if they didn't already have nests, it might be too late. I have little clue, and I haven't been back to the only Great Blue nests I know of, across the swamp at the Fort Worth Wastewater Treatment Plant, a.k.a., The Village Creek Drying Beds.

Barn Swallow with Something to Eat - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Barn Swallow with Something to Eat?

Looks more like a tissue than bread or anything else a Barn Swallow might eat. Again, according to my Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, this species "catches flying insects on the wing." Which pretty much accounts for what looks to us mere humans as erratic flying, because we can't see the bugs, we can only see the birds chasing them. Which usually makes them very difficult to photograph, but I was lucky, because this one had its beak busy. Only now am I wondering if maybe something's stuck to its beak. Hardly matters, because catching one to rescue it would be near impossible.

Male Grackles Fighting near the Ground - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Male Great-tailed Grackles Fighting Just a Little Off the Ground

Being that low to the ground makes them easier to focus on. They were also fighting in the air, but I couldn't get anything but blurs, because my poor camera could not catch focus up with them in the air.

Male Grackles Fighting - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Elegant Ballet — Male Great-tailed Grackles Fighting

So I'm really thankful for these two shots, though they were not in a row. But I'm always amazed when I capture anything this good and this well, uh, composed. It was mostly dumb luck, although I was really trying to get some focus. They're probably fighting over a female or the right to choose first or something like that. It is spring, and I've seen lots of grackles fighting that I never could have got this close to.

Gooses Up To Something - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Gooses Seem to Be Up to Something

But I could not tell what. It might have been sex. Or a fight or somebody just got pissed. No telling with gooses, although warlike behavior is the exception, not the rule. Although they fight fairly often.

Somebody's Pissed - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Yep, Somebody's Pissed

No telling why, but this is the start of a chase that petered out quickly, but while it was happening, looked a lot like life or death.

Coot Scootin' 1 - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Coot Scootin 1

When American Coots are about, I'm always on the lookout for some serious coot-scootin', more officially called skittering, which is what this coot is doing rather spectacularly — running across the water.

Skittering Coot - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Coot Scootin 2

This might be the exact same coot. I don't know. The lighting on these two is sorta similar.

Coot Scootin' 4 - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Coot Scooting 4

But the lighting here is a lot darker, which really helps to render coot beaks, which are bright, blazing white. I got a little coot snoot detail here, but not much.

Coot Scootin' 3 -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Coot Scooting  3

This very probably is the same coot.

 

 

Red-winged Blackbirds Chasing Around
posted April 9 2016

 The Chase - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

The Chase

I started calling this series of photographs "The Chase," but as I made the JPEGs for today's journal entry, I realized it's just a pair of Great-tailed Grackles flying along. Something I've always wanted to do but rarely got the chance to. This wasn't planned. It just happened. The dark gray spot above and behind the female is probably a bug. The black Rorschach below them is their reflections in the rippling water.

The Chase 2 - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

The Chase 2

The first one was seriously underexposed so badly there was no way I could suck light into their darknesses. I did not adjust the exposure as they were flying along. They flew in and out of light patches. I know I was standing on the pier at Sunset Bay photographing whatever came along. And I know that there are bright and dark patches all around.

The Chase 3 - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

The Chase Three

I think they are flying lower. I suspect their plan was to land somewhere. I was just clicking along at whatever happened. It wasn't till much later that I finally realized that I'd finally got a series of photos of Grackles flying. With no idea that's what I was doing. Apparently, the make never did shut his beak.

The Chase Four - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

The Chase Four

This was the last shot, because I could no longer keep up with them. I know I had the cam / lens on a tripod, so that may have been the limiting factor. I don't remember thinking about it. I was just photographing birds. Interesting that I'm photographing black birds, and they're flying past a very white goose, yet because I was already underexposing the Grackles, I managed to render the white bird graying, so we can see detail there, too.

 

 

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons & Their Nest
posted April 8 2016

 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron up to a branch - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron on a branch near its Nest

I've long wondered where the few Yellow-crowned Night-Herons adults and juveniles I see around the lake are hatched. Today, Kala King told me about a nest right over a place I've often stopped at. Where I found this. Notice it's got a stick for its nest.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Swoops Up - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Swoops Up the Tree

Now it's carrying that stick up toward the nest.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron tending the nest -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Tending the Nest

Then it places the stick in just the right place.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Flapping Wings and Staring Down -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Flapping Wings and Staring Down

At least I think it was flapping. It might have been stretching — or even rousing. When it went into action, I just leaned on the button and tried to stop at just the right time. But ya never know when it's enough, till it's too much. And it may well have been staring down into space, but I was down there, so I assume it was looking at me.

Me Looking up at the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Me Looking Up at the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Handsome bird showing off its Yellow Crown, among other things.

CNH Nest - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron Nest

All the time I was photographing the nest and what I thought was the only Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in sight, I assumed it was the only one up there. But now I think I see another heron up their, in the nest.

 YCNH in Nest - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in Nest

Let's take a closer look. Yes, it is. I guess it's a little too early for eggs or downy young Yellow-crowns, but it's the other of the pair of them. I thought I could see its right eye, but I don't think that's what it is. It's just luck that the bird is in this good focus. I wish I'd underexposed a little, so we could see detail in its crown.

Resting & Preening But Watching the Nest -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Resting or Preening But Watching the Nest

At least I think it's watching its nest. It's right over there, and it did not stray its sight line while I tried to get this sharp.

 

 

Those Martin Houses Overlooking the Lake
and Artists & A Mockingbird Art Critic
posted April 6 2016

Guy Out in Field Maintaining His Martin Houses - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved. 26

Guy Out in Field Overlooking the Lake Maintaining His Martin Houses

I was driving along looking for birds to photograph last month when I saw this guy working with the Martin Houses and since I had the little camera with me, I walked over to see what he was doing.

Clean Out and Put Back Together -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Cleaning Out the Martin House

He was thoroughly cleaning and maintaining the houses by taking them apart, cleaning every surface, and putting them back together. He was hoping many Martins would nest there when they came again this year. The one thing he did not want to happen was to have it instead used by House Sparrows.

Pushing The Marin Houses Up - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

And Putting Them Back Up

Then he put them back up where the Martins can get to them. I promised myself I'd remember his name for when I finally used the pictures, but of course, I did not manage to do that. I'm terrible with names. I tell people I have both face and name blindness. Always have, I guess I always will. If I see you often, I remember both. But if we don't manage that, I forget. My apologies.

One House Sparrow on Martin House - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.  

One House Sparrow on a Martin House

So naturally who shows up is/are House Sparrows, who love Martin Houses — with new nesting material showing through the middle door. Just exactly what the guy who maintains the Purple Martins houses overlooking the lake did not want. These were taken this week.

What's Going On Upstairs? - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

What's Going On Upstairs?

They can't see through the floor, so sometimes they must wonder what's going on up there.

House Sparrows with Living Portrait of Grandpa -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

House Sparrows on and in the Martin House

I really like this one for the living portrait of Grandpa, Uncle or whoever in the door on the right. I shot the maintenance pix awhile back, was going to wait for our annual infestation of Purple Martins, who haven[t come yet, but we got House Sparrows a plenty…

 Mockingbird Art Critic - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Mockingbird Art Critic

I tend to agree with its assessment of this particular sculpture in the flowery circle behind/in front of the Bath House Cultural Center.

Plein Air Painting Lesson -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Plein Air Painting Lesson Overlooking the Lake

There were a few birds in the vicinity, but far fewer than when Frances Bagley and Tom Orr's White Rock Lake Water Theatre's many more perches were available directly behind the Bath House. It was removed by local demand of "neighbors" who could not possibly see the Water Theater from their homes.

My full and truly fair and balanced story, called "Fighting Words — Should the White Rock Lake Water Theatre Be Destroyed?" — about all that controversy is on my other site, DallasArtsRevue.com. The neighbors won, and the piece was removed, so many fewer birds attend that area behind the Bath House anymore.

 

 

Birds All Around White Rock Lake
posted April 3 2016

pigeon flap - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Pigeons Flapping Away Just After Bathing

It's so easy to frighten a pigeon, I have no idea what did it this time for these birds, but look at them scatter!

 Pigeon Jump - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Same Thing Only These Pigeons Weren't in the Wet

They were just thinking about getting wet, so they were close to the water when they got spooked. I didn't do it. I was sneaking carefully up on them, a few inches at a time.

Killdeer Closeup - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Killdeer Close-up

No great shakes as a photograph, it just marks the first time I've got this close to a Killdeer this winter or spring, and there've been many of them much less afraid of people than often. I don't even know about usually.

Female Mallard Landing - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Female Mallard Landing

Me practicing as usual, and because it was this close, not doing all that well at stopping it; much is still blurring. An action shot, if you will. Note the color of her wing feathers is blue. That distinguishes her from, say, Northern Shovelers, whose hens have green, and other very similar-looking ducks.

Coots Fleeing Down the Hill - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Coots Fleeing Down the Hill to Sunset Beach

Coots are probably much easier to spook than pigeons. They may be the grande champions. I believe one of The City's habitat destruction machines, noisy, yes, but pretty normal for this close to where the habitat destruction machines spend their nights, just past the dry side of Sunset Bay and up the hill into that place where all the machines gather every night.

Male Shoveler Extending His Head - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Male Northern Shoveler Extending His Head Up

The female Northern Shoveler right next to him can probably see this action, but she's not reacting just yet. I assume it means, "Howdy, Ma'am, let's hang out awhile." Or something of that ilk.

Vivid Northern Shoveler Close In - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Vivid Northern Shoveler Close In to Shore

The normally shy Shovelers usually hang out on the far side of the lagoon. And even from that distance, if humans act like they might be interested, they often disappear into the jungle thatch over there. This one was a few inches off shore. It must be spring, although whatever else might have them changing their usual patterns and showing off such brilliant colors, I cannot yet fathom. I don't remember them being this vividly beautiful, although I rarely see them this close.

Female Mallard Preening - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Female Mallard Preening

She's got major sections of feathers dropped, so she can more easily reach them to spread that lanolin, so she won't sink in the swim.

Northern Shoveler Pair Close - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Northern Shoveler Pair Close In

I must have closed down the aperture greater than f8, where I usually leave it for daylight birding, because both of them are comparatively sharp, and that's difficult to achieve this close. But it's a treat, not a test.

Coots with Shoveler -Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Coots with Shoveler Pair

They're all hunkered down. It was probably cold, when coots kinda ball up with their feathers doing the insulation thing.

Male and Female Wood Ducks - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Male and Female Wood Ducks

This is somewhere else at the lake. A place, in fact, where more Wood Ducks mate and have dozens of kits than even Sunset Bay.

Northern Shoveler - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Another Northern Shoveler Close-up

With lots of detail, a different angle (more from upper) and darker water (probably also because of my elevation), it's probably pretty much the same water as the other side of the lake, over Sunset Bay way.

Let Sleeping Swans Stand - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Let Sleeping Swans Stand

I'm unfamiliar with her being here instead of Sunset Bay, but I've seen and photographed her flying more lately than I can remember, so she may now be a frequent visitor of over here.

Female and Male Canvasback Ducks - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Female and Male Canvasback Ducks

And this here is a whole different here than any of today's other heres. Here, the birds are way far out, and my elevation is low, although slightly higher than theirs.

Blue-winged Teal Landing Among Coots - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Male Blue-winged Teal About to Land Among Coots

I think this is back at Sunset Bay, and I'm only just now realizing that today's pictures are not in Chronological order. Egad! 

Blue-winged Teal Showing Blue Wings while Landing - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Male Blue-winged Teal Showing Blues and Green of Wings While Landing

I really liked it the way it was small with all those coots gathered round it, but I kept wanting much more detail, so I blew this one up a lot more. This close, it'd be a shame not to see all this detail. Besides this lighter version is probably more accurate.

Blue-winged Teal and Female Northern Shoveler - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

Male and Female Blue-winged Teal with Female Northern Shoveler

Many female ducks look similar, but one look at the beak on her and with those green wing feathers, and we just gotta know it's a Shoveler.

American Coots and a Snorker - Photograph Copyright 2016 JRCompton.com/birds   All Rights Reserved.

American Coots with a Northern Shoveler

In close.

 

 

 

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Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2016 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. 30

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