Trinity River Audubon Center
August 30 Again
We did a bunch of walking, but not much birding, because we didn't see much of birds. Two White Ibises on the top of one of the taller trees were the first birds I saw there.
This is exactly what happened when I tried to get closer to shoot up into the Ibis on the top of the tree.
But this is what happened shortly after that. Normally, I avoid frightening birds into the air. Used to be a bit of sport to get egrets into the air, where they are always more beautiful. Then it became that I didn't mind when they or Great Blue Herons did that. Now I so carefully avoid the process, that I miss them flying unless they happen by or over.
So very happy I did not miss this exotic skyshow, though it took the Rocket Launcher to bring it up to size. Amazing what a military-sized 500mm lens can still do.
Of course, it helps greatly to have a magnificent — funny I never really considered Ibises to be all that elegant before — model to photograph. And have them do something they do so well. Fly.
Even if they end up flying away.
I kept imagining a great flock of White Ibises resting on a meadow just over the next rise. But we rose and couple rises and never saw a white feather.
Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation
I knew we were going to Dallas Audubon's Trinity Center, so I brought my Nikon and the Rocket Launcher. I didn't know then that we'd also end up at Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation, because why not, and it was close, so I didn't bring my Canon S5 IS with its smallish 10X zoom lens, whose tiny lens fits through the grid of many of the cages there.
If you can't see any bars or grids in front of the birds in these photographs, it's because I used the little pocket camera I recently bought. It was the only camera I brought, so even if you do see bars or wire, it's the camera I used at Rogers today.
I keep thinking it's really not a very good camera — and reviews of it all agree. But I like it, because it, the Canon SD780 IS — all 3.4 x 2.1 x .7 inches of it fits easily into any of my pockets, so I often carry it.
Like today, it was there when I needed it, for all its flaws.
This and the next images are somewhat stressed for having had to shoot through the wire grids on their cages. The trick is to get the right distance between camera/lens and grid and subject.
These last two probably employed the wrong distances, but the hawk is nonetheless rendered nearly beautifully. It's just the background that's messed up.
And here, the lens was inserted between the wires of that grid we see between hawk and peacock, so everything looks normal.
Luscious colors, odd little extended cap, a compression of tonalities and feathers and patterns, all bunched together. Lovely bird that. It might have been nice to include its legs and feet, but then the compression would be gone and all that extra space added in the picture, which really doesn't need it.
My littlest camera doesn't provide the high-resolution or small details my Nikons dSLRs do, but for this (low-resolution) web-based medium, it ain't bad, unless I need the telephoto end of its miniscule 3x zoom range. Or need to stop fast action or shoot in low light or ... I keep getting enquiries about what photo equipment I use to shoot birds, as if that really mattered somehow. I wrote about it awhile ago, so I don't need to repeat it here, but I haven't included this itty-bitty new camera in the written-about equipment mix yet.
Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Heron juveniles look similar with slightly differing colors of eyes. Kinda like these two birds. The two species' wing and body patterns are also slightly different. Yellow-crowneds have lines on the bottoms of their wings against their bodies, and Black-crowneds have little triangular-shaped white bits, like these birds.
Notice the largish difference between this front heron's breast patterns and the ones in the images above. I guess I should know which one this is. One of those two, for sure. I'm guessing Yellow-crown, because of its gray, not yellow, bill and red, not yellowish, eyes.
I know this bird well. Not the exact bird, but the species. Black Vulture. See them often at White Rock and other places. Saw one of them earlier today at the new Trinity River Audubon Center. It flew high over the hill before we climbed it, rested, then descended and went off to the parking lot. It was too far to render very well, even with the Rocket Launcher. That's pretty far.
I stood outside this guy's cage and talked with it for many minutes. It didn't say much, but neither did it retreat. It stayed right at the outside edge of its cage, inches close, speaking softly. Possibly because it has become imprinted on humans, and I'm a member of the club. Some of the birds at Rogers never become rehabilitated because they learn to like and trust humans too much. Wild birds know better.
They didn't all or always stay at the top of the cages, but they tended to stay up there while I watched. Anhingas are the one species I've never got up close or personal with. For me, at least, and I suspect for most people, they remain elusive. I've spent a lot of time with egrets and other herons, even with cormorants. But Anhingas are outside all my circles. Nor were they easy to photograph today.
I've been wanting — deep needing — to photograph pelicans lately. Thought I saw one at the lake last week. When I turned around and came back just a few minutes later, it was gone. They came back in early September last year. Usually they show up mid-October, then stay six months till Tax Day. September 10 in 2008. Any minute now in 2009.
But these are there now, and have been awhile. Much less afraid of humans. Though not fearless. Some moved out of my way immediately. Others were less concerned. This one may have been sleeping when I began photographing to finally get this. I don't know any of their issues why they were at Rogers, but I told them that their buddies were expected any day now.
I never considered pelicans playful. But this one definitely was. Pecking at Anna's shoe long enough for several shots. One finally in focus and with some vague concept of composition.
I feel like an old friend of the family's with Little Blue Herons. I've never seen one of its eggs or pups, but I've seen them offer the betrothal branch, then build a nest with it. Seen very juvenile LBHs and mostly white "teen" Little Blues, turn spotty blue and have spent long minutes photographing adult LBHs often. Watching them, studying them, enjoying their company in the Rogers office as when I see them in the wild, though I'd never seen one with a hemostat before.
I spent serious time with Bart, the Barred Owl I discovered and repeatedly rediscovered in the Fitchery a spring ago at White Rock Lake. Though Bart never once just stood there watching in relative darkness like this one in the far end of this wood cage did today.
I don't know this heron's name. I tend to forget the names humans give birds and I wonder about the names they give each other. But I know this is another bird at Rogers that will never be released back into the wild. It's got arthritis so bad it sometimes falls just walking across its cage. Especially sad to see it there, because in parts of the year, Great Blue Herons wander around like they own the place.
They make their big nests on top of Black Vulture cages, lay their eggs there and raise young. Rogers when the Great Blue Herons wander the grounds is an amazing place. But then it's an amazing place often.
Village Creek Drying Beds
I keep getting so involved in photographing the birds in the beds I forget to shoot the beds, but today there was a mist, and of course I had to photograph that, even with the Rocket Launcher, so here it is. Not that this is particularly representative of one of our favorite places for photographing birds in the North Central Texas Areas. But this part of it, at least, looks a lot like this, sometimes.
Mostly we go there for the diverse variety of birds who rest and recreate there. Some common birds, some exotics, most of the time.
We saw Black-necked Stilts in San Antonio, then on the Gulf Coast. Seeing them this close to home is still sorta startling, but pleasant.
Watching them fly is magical.
I'm not up for identifying the shorebirds in the bottom corner, but am quietly amazed that the stilts' reflections seem to have got separated somehow from their stilts.
Back to the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.
This shot gets a little closer to why I've been wanting to again photograph the back ends of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flying away. It has to do with with the pink feet and legs, brown bodies with white on their wings surrounded by black. Pattern and color that are beautiful, even if they are on ducks.
Almost like pigeons jumping into the air every few minutes, the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, in largish flocks would jump into the air and flock around the various beds, swooping as dark silhouette, suddenly turn into the light and swoop away again.
I'm not exactly sure who these ducks are. When I shot this photograph, I was not aware that the majority of them had their ends in the air while their beaks scarfed up bugs and stuff under the water.
Maybe they're Mallards. Maybe they're somebody else.
It's always a delight to find Green Herons, and today we found several of the tiny birds, scattered around the various pans out there.
I tend to call these drying beds Arlington, because that's where they seem to be, but all the signs on the front gate say Fort Worth.
Watching these guys today, we were startled to see one run. I don't think we've ever seen a Green Heron in a hurry before.
Their size is always disconcerting. They look so much bigger in most of my photographs that they really are. Peterson lists them as 17-18-inches long.
Great Blue Herons, by direct comparison, as the Green Heron in the foreground (throwing off our size comparisons) here flies by in a hurry, are 45 - 47-inches long. I had carefully focused on the Great Blue, was very surprised when the Green flashed by, and startled that I was able to capture them together, if only briefly.
Not exactly occupying the same space under the same circumstance. But close. I remember jerking the camera/lens a little when I realized what I was getting, but I didn't let go.
Clicking away at 5 frames per second, I just held the button down. They're almost both in focus.
I saw this one later, as we drove slowly down toward the gate. The swamp along the entrance drive, before we climbed up to where we shot the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, where we can survey all of the drying beds, was greatly receded The drought has hit the area hard, although more water comes into the drying beds from pipes under each pan. Not exactly sure where that water comes from, but sometimes it stinks.
Today, it seemed, the variety at the beds was greater than it usually is. We were delighted by the diversity.
The Snowy stood on that same, impossible perch, it's long neck jutting out and down, picking at little bugs — there were clouds of gnats around many of the pans. Must have been good.
The white one's a Great Egret. I knew the dark one when I shot this, but now I don't remember. I still don't, but I like the contrast.
Something else we saw in San Antonio, and now here, is a Glossy Ibis. Another surprise. There were lots of bird watchers and bird-photographers out there today. One couple were looking off in the direction of this bird, talking about a White Ibis, discussing its red face. But neither Anna nor I could see any such bird.
One of my dear friends, Little Blue Herons, who may be who joined the Great Egret to fly across the pan, the third photo up.
I should know these guys. But I'm breaking out my Sibley's to check. Groan... Peterson's bigger pictures maybe. Getting nowhere. My precious Lone Pine Birds of Texas at least only lists Texas Birds, but nope there, too. I'll come back tomorrow or the next day.... Better than any of those was, ask Anna.
Definitely swallows. But which ones? Anna says they're Barn Swallows.
Barn or Cliff or Cave, because they're faces are reddish. Barn Swallows every one.
As we drive up to the top of the hill coming in or up there to go down toward the front gate, we often pause to photograph a Kingbird. That's what we thought we were doing here. Except these are flycatchers. Hmmm.
Not sure what age or which gender, but Scissor-tail's not an off-the-wall choice.
Not for the first time, I wanted to identify this as something other than a Grackle when we first saw it. It isn't. Or rather, it is. A grackle. Female variety. Great tail. Love the flyaway look.
And we couldn't remember ever seeing Red-winged Blackbirds on a wire before. And there were lots more of them doing that there.
Juvenile Mockingbird edging up the tree limb.
To where the parental unit stands, looking away. The answer to all that peeping's obvious. No.
I haven't even seen a hawk for a long time, but I wasn't thinking about that when I saw this one. I was just inordinately proud for having seen it in the woods beyond the outermost road around the pans. The Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America didn't help me identify it. Probably not the book's fault. Jerry Liguori's Hawks From Every Angle — striped tail like that could be a Cooper's Hawk, Northern Harrier — not very likely, I thought, but that book didn't help much, either.
I began to worry it'd be yet another Red-tailed Hawk. But not likely with a striped tail, although it's head looked red. Next, Sibley's Guide to Birds, which helped enough to stop looking at books. It's either a Cooper's or ... It's a Cooper's. I hope.
Anna agrees. Can't do much better than that. Guess I made it too red.
White Rock Lake
When I am provided with a plethora of lemons, I try to make lemonade. Least I think that's what I was up to this morning. Been swimming laps at the Y pool these last few days, and by early ayem, when I usually chase birds, I'm too pooped to pop. Today was the first time I've felt like moving that early.
If you squint just right, you can see its head and beak on the right of its body in the image above, well within the span of its great gray wing blurs, with gray dark feet trailing behind.
And it was cloudy. Used to be a setting on cameras for "Cloudy Bright," that adjusted colors for no direct sun. This morning's undirect sun was more Cloudy Dark, and it was really too dark to photograph at the ISOs (sensor sensitivities) I was using, but I didn't want to raise the ISO, because that would have introduced visual noise. Which would have been the least of my problems.
This one's flying left, so that's the side its heads are on. I wiggled this one enough during the eighth-of-a-second exposure that this long blur's got at least two heads.
So instead, I got blurs. Major blurs so bad we can hardly tell what bird I've photographed. This time it's more obvious which way it's flying, at least, maybe.
If I'd had the ISO set high — much higher — I might have got much more interesting shots. This bird — perhaps I should say, "these birds" flew closer to me than in a long time, but because I was shooting at ISO 200, left over from last time I shot in bright, blazing sunlight, I got instead blurs of a dark gray bird in a dark green world.
Next time I'll set Automatic ISO that changes according to the light available, and that'll probably screw up, too. But for today, I hope you'll enjoy my lemonade. Note the apparent grimace on this bird's face. It's just markings, but it reflects the photographer's issues with these shots.
These shots are taking up backward in time to where I first spotted these Great Blues. There were two, although I think I only got shots of one. They saw me standing on the shore and split almost as elegantly as they'd arrived.
So seldom I see two Great Blue Herons I'm really sorry I didn't get shots of both of them, but at this rate, they couldn't have been much good shots, so it's just kinda so-what?
Slightly more light with a significantly brighter bird makes for almost credible photography as this, the Sunset Snowy, descends into its favorite hunting and fishing grounds.
This white bird is a colorful character with its puffs of feathers and orange and black beaks and feet and legs. But it is descending down into a gray-brown world this morning.
Gear down and in position to grab that limb.
Eventually, slowly, gradually, the sun made its presence known and seen. Colors came back, and egrets looked white on a green and red and blue world again.
Blue needed gas, and hoving into the station, I saw a big bird on a wire directly over the intersection at the light on Winslow. At first I thought it might be a hawk, one of which I haven't seen or photographed in too long a time. But what it was was a full-grown grackle with a great tail as big as it was, directing traffic. Or something.
South Padre Island
It is August 26 as I write this and have only just readied all these pictures for today's entry, but the images themselves were shot on our oddly ill-timed family reunion vacation on South Padre Island the first week or so of this month.
I've been picking one or two birds each time I do this, and today's selections — I'd already decided it was finally about time I broke out the Tricolored Heron shots — were decided on this picture, which was the first one I worked up for today's journal entry.
I felt really special the first time a bird landed on the rail of the boardwalk that winds through the South Padre Island Convention Center birdery, but after awhile I realized that they considered this whole thing theirs, and they'd go wherever they darned well pleased, whether there were humans present or not. Especially non-threatening humans like me.
And these fences made fairly decent perches for the birds who lived there. I was surprised to see Black-bellied Whistling Ducks paling around with Tricolored Herons, but they seemed to do that here, and after awhile, it, too, seemed normal.
We have Tricolored Herons at the Medical Center Rookery, and have had for several years, but to photograph them, there's always way too many trees intervening. Here, right on the edge of the ocean, there were no trees, except in the yard around the convention center itself.
We have a few, fairly rare visits by Whistling Ducks at White Rock Lake, but they don't usually gather in numbers there, although Anna saw a lot of them at the Village Creek Drying Beds recently. There at South Padre, they seemed to own the place.
If female peacocks are Pea Hens, shouldn't male Moorhens be Moor Cocks? The naming of birds seems serendipitous at best, but this beautiful guy is a Moorhen, and it's as close as I've got to one, so far.
That sounds redundant. Female Moorhen. But here she is hunting in one of the man-made bogs there in this little Bird Disneyland by The Gulf.
Not unlike their cousins the coots, Moorhens have big gallunking feet. Not lobed like coots, but proportionately huge for their little bodies. Like snowshoes, big feet are handy (footy?) for not sinking into the mud flats Moorhens often tread (although that doesn't seem to be working one pic up). There's probably some other uses for those big clodhoppers, too.
Moorchicks? Was startled to see Dad fly over and visit with these tiny, mostly black chicks on an island in the bog. My first-ever sighting of a moor chick.
The one on the left seemed to be significantly more mature than the one on the right. The left one's already got head feathers, while the one on the right is still mostly bald.
Blowing it up this big made it even fuzzier, but notice its cute little bald, red, head and gray eyelids.
No more Moorhens, but there's still plenty Tricolored Herons, since they didn't seem shy and were happy enough to stay in range of the Rocket Launcher nearly all the time we stayed out on the boardwalk. Some few times we got close enough for nearly formal portraits.
But there was always a Tricolor parent watching from near-enough by, but they did not interfere with their youngsters' progress in socializing, catching food and just watching. Just in case. I'm baffled by the white bundle behind it. Bird? Plastic bag?
Compare this Teen Tri with its parent just above. Notice the comparative colors of necks, under- and over-sides, eyes, beaks and feet. The parent's neck is stretched up; the kid's is folded down.
I wanted to throw this into today's mix, so I could show another heron-like bird that I photographed there but still am not sure what is, although it does have certain characteristics of the herons, of which categorization egrets are one of.
Not sure why, except it sounds dramatic, I'm calling it the Notorious Unsub. It sure looks heron-like, like a Green or something similar. Too brown for a Little Blue, but that long beak with black at the end, and brown stripes along the back sides and — hard to tell in this back-lighted near profile, but probably — dark feet and legs.
Obnoxiously overexposed above in another shot, so we could see the details: dark legs and feet, distinct white and dark stripes up the sides under its wings, orange beak, less sure about black at the end of its beak now, biggish feet. I'm hoping Jason will know just what it is. When I first saw it, I wanted it to be a Bittern of some sort, but it doesn't seem to match their pix in bird books.
Huh! Sometime after I wrote the above, while I was loading today's images online, my fan blew my bird book one page back from Moorhens and coots to show vertically striped sides on some rails. And sure enough, it might well be one of those. All of them — Virginia Rail, King Rail and Clapper Rails — map through this territory, and my exposure of it was bad enough I just don't know.
My guess is it's a Gulf Coast Clapper Rail. If I'd exposed it better, we'd have a chance of knowing, but the real I.D differences are around their eyes and tones on the beak, both too dark here. It's just a guess.
Compared to this known Tricolor, the unsub's neck seems significantly shorter, but it's always seemed a little magic how herons can extend and retract those things.
Prancing like an Egyptian — or at least our idiot stereotype of an Egyptian dancing, a notion probably based on early movies of dancers bobbing their heads forward and back at each step like cattle egrets and juvenile Tricolored Herons.
What would an entry of Tricolored Herons be without a magnificent fly-by. I think the yellow reflected behind it is from the Convention Center, where people were lining up to see wrestling when we went inside to enjoy the air-conditioning. Actually, I thought there might be some sort of interpretive center about birds there. But no.
Another shot of the odd pairing showing "teenaged" Tricolored Herons hanging out with Whistling Ducks. The duck is a little closer in this shot, but they seem to be of a similar size, although not much else is.
As long as I've been photographing Whistling Ducks, I've loved their lush, rich coloration, two-tone brown over black with matching pink beaks, legs and feet and bright white spectacles around black eyes.
Like most birds, whistlers look a little strange while they're bending and twisting to get at all their feathers for serious preening.
When I've photographed them from behind flying up and away, their patterns and colors seem gorgeous. I caught on that they were flying past a little slow to catch them in any great detail here, but I kept at it.
Still, bold white on rich browns against a blue sky can be a sort of magnificent.
White Rock Lake
The best of today's shots are of flying egrets. I was in a mood to capture fleegs (flying egrets) today after a letter from a reader who wanted to know what equipment I use, as if that made some definitive difference. Some photographers decide that the reason they can't capture birds flying or some other feat is because they have the wrong lens or camera.
When almost always the real issue is that they haven't practiced enough. To really learn anything ya gotta try, fail, and learn from the failure. I fail often, learn some, and am even able to get better at this by applying some of what I keep learning by keeping screwing up.
Trouble is, the learning curve does not always just go up. It squiggles. I've shot thousands of birds flying, but there are times when I just can't get a more. Today's opening Great Egret (the one with the turtle), fled flying away when it seemed to decide it'd rather be somewhere other than where I was. I took it personally, but I understood.
Unfortunately for me, it chose to fly along the edge of the lake, just the other side of the tall weeds upon which the Habitat Destruction Machines usually ply their evil craft, and that screen remains (so I wonder what habitat is being destroyed now). It is very difficult to focus a camera with a long lens on a bird flying on the other side of an intermittent scrim of weed trees.
This Great Egret (orange beak with black feet and big) started flying out near the logs, which themselves used to be considerably closer to the Sunset Bay shore and never really got much closer than this, shot as almost always at the longest zoom on the Rocket Launcher (500mm).
When the Snowy Egret (with distinctively contrasting yellow lores and feet with black beak and legs) jumped to fly, I wasn't ready to photograph it flying, but I panned along with it, ever hoping to coincide my cross hairs on it as it flapped, but failing. This shot early in its flying tragectory was actually sharp, cause for minor celebration.
Most subsequent shots weren't, although I kept at it across the near shoreline to where the creek dumps into the lake and the ducks usually gather. Darned few ducks today. Only three coots and not much else at 9 0'clock, still cool and breezish, when I was there. This shot's wings are flapping a little smudgy, but its beak and feet are sharp.
Here, its attitude changes from flying toward the landing gear down position. Practice, practice, practice is the way to learn to photograph birds, flying or landing or standing still. I'm sure I've shot more than 500,000, maybe a million shots of birds in the three years of this blog. I don't show all most of them for lots of reasons.
Gear down, legs almost vertical, wing feathers significantly slowing airspeed.
Feet forward, toes stretched out to grab something on landing, head forward, wings nearly stopped. Wish I could show you the next step, but I didn't shoot it.
After it landed and the water around it calmed, it did a fluff — a lot like one of our own whole-body yawns, accomplishing some of the same purposes, stretching everything, controlling every feather, fluffing it all up and out, then down, back in the usual position. Snowy Egrets are known for their fluffy feathers on their heads and other places.
When it tucks that distinctively feathered head down to do some serious preening. Every time birds fly they learn about more feathers that need to be removed, stuck back in the right place, or something.
Always learning, always correcting.
Too hot. I got to the lake late again today, and this was the only bird I saw interesting enough to stop for on the west side. The day was hot. The bird was hot. I later asked the internet if birds sweat, knowing they did not, but I needed an answer how, not an abstract notion.
I'm simplifying it, but according to Keith McGuinness, School of Biological & Environmental Sciences, Northern Territory University in Darwin, Australia, birds do not have sweat glands, so they use other means to keep cool:
You can read all of McGuiness' words on his site at the link above.
This Great Blue Heron may be employing all three techniques; it's difficult to determine that it's making the blood in its feet flow faster, but it's definitely panting, being inactive and letting what breeze there is flow through its feathers.
Many of the logs have got waterlogged or flooded away or dried up. What's left are wild outcroppings of shopping carts. Work about as well.
By the time I got past submitting for jury duty — they didn't need me — and writing a major minor opus about art, it was hot at the lake. Very hot. Oppressive hot.
I'd already walked my walk in my neighborhood early when it was almost cool, the lake I captured on the slow run in Blue, my trusty rusty 1991 Honda Accord that is a heap of last order — full bull clunker, no doubt about it, but it still gets too many miles per gallon to count down the price of a new Prius.
If you know of a Corolla or a Civic from this century somebody wants to get rid of, I want to acquire one.
The new signs indicate location along the White Rock Trail, so when you call the cops on noisemaker or murderers or bicyclists, you can give exact locations.
I won't get technical with bird I.Ds today. I'm already sensing the impending visit of a hundred or so American White Pelicans, due mid next month, but there was nothing of any exotic sort in sight at 4 o'clock this afternoon. I was there out of duty, not expectation.
Jason Hogle says, "Ordinary Ducks — Two Whites and a Brown" shows three domestic breeds. The big white on in the middle is a Pekin duck. The other two I don't know, but that's not unusual with domestics since they breed readily and create all sorts of strange combinations.
It's a male House Sparrow. Not uncommon hereabouts. They're everywhere, man, they are everywhere, flitting about, even in the extreme heat of August afternoons.
It was that kind of day.
Jason Hogle's xenogere has been especially interesting lately.
Was startled and amazed to see a Little Blue Heron right on my usual trek down Arboretum Drive toward Winfrey Point. It was standing in a little leafless tree about halfway up the curve toward the point. Hundreds of people walked or rode by as I stood there photographing it. They probably wondered what I was shooting, when right there, only a few feet away, was one of the more elegant birds at White Rock Lake.
Little Blue Herons are not rare here. They're common but rarely seen, because there's so few of them, and they are naturally camouflaged, and it only become apparent (?) when they're in their natural habitat among the trees and shrub along the edge of our lake. Here atop a small tree on the edge of the lake between it and the walking path, Lawther Road and me standing against my car in the parallel parking lot along the road, they stand out — if anyone is looking. Most were not.
Standing there, with my Rocket Launcher trained on it, nearlyfilling my frame with color and detail, I was able to observe many Little Blue Heron traits and motions as walkers, runners and bikers streamed by. Even a few photographers strolled by, probably wondering what I was watching so carefully, not looking just a few feet away at this guy going through his motions.
This was shot at the distance I was from the LBH at first. Gradually, as I noticed it did not seem bothered by all the human traffic flowing by it on the path near the edge of the lake, I moved in till the next shot shows very near the full frame. Both are views through the Rocket Launcher zoomed to 500mm (a supposedly 35mm equivalence to a 750mm lens), so I didn't start out close, at all. But I moved closer and closer till I was pretty obvious to the bird — and to the humans strewing by.
Several times during the 21 minutes I watched and photographed this bird, it adopted this straight-neck stance. I don't know it well enough to know — or even guess — why, but it did not seem uncomfortable. I've watched LBHs many times before, though rarely for this long, and I've never seen the behavior before. I've probably even photographed this same bird before.
Since I was so close and had time and bright-enough daylight to balance my Nikon on its side while photographing this bird, I took the opportunity to very nearly fill the upright frame with it, thus getting as much detail as possible — more than I'd ever got before. Shot at a ISO of 320, not as low as I would have liked now, later, but not so high that it junked up the image with visual noise, which starts with the Nikon D300 at about ISO 400. As usual when I shoot vertically, I didn't get it quite straight, so I've adjusted the frame mechanically.
Another horizontal straight-necked stretch, dipped precipitously into a straight-necked bow, whose purpose escaped me, though it may have seen something worth getting down for. Shot from differing angles and in different positions, this same bird seems larger or smaller, but it did not grow significantly while I watched and photographed.
I really really wanted to get to photograph it flying, especially from as close as we were. But I no longer feel need enough to frighten birds into flight
I was following this young, handsome couple on the far side of the Old Boat House Lagoon Bridge. They weren't all that close, but they were reflected and cute and handsome and all that stuff, so I was more than happy to photograph them wherever they went.
Says Jason Hogle, "The young mallard and young wood duck hanging out are interesting. Both are gregarious species, so it's not unusual to see them with other birds. Still, I wonder why the two juveniles were hanging out together... It could be as simple as companionship while growing up (we all want to have friends!). Good catch!"
At least I think they're young. They seemed smallish, and their markings weren't entirely grown in. Gradually, they settled into the thick, weedy soft edge of the creek past the far side of the bridge.
Immersed in thinking duck thoughts, I was surprised to see a tiny Green Heron on the far side of the swamp past a clump of thick weeds. Step by slow, careful, step, it was after something I couldn't see. Probably under water.
There were plenty distractions all around. Flights of parakeets swooped overhead past poles and lines, and I always pause to click after them, but I usually am not as successful as today.
Looking at carefully prepared photographs of this scene, it's hard to tell how one could miss seeing this brightly colored red and black Green Heron in the tall weeds at the water's edge, but it was a chore just seeing it in there, let alone rendering it sharp. Squint into this scene, and you may see what I saw, except this bird was a much smaller portion of my total view of the far side of the swamp.
I'm thinking he's a he Wood Duck. His stripes are visible from the side but less obvious here — stripes without the colors yet. I don't think there's a resource online or anywhere else that just shows juveniles of birds (although I've thought of creating one), and of course, they change by the day, so it's difficult to tell exactly. We'll probably know by next month, since August/September is when everything changes on Wood Ducks, and I'll be watching closely, but I doubt I'll know which is which.
When the Green Heron all but froze in place sneaking up on its intended prey, my mind and patience wandered and I photographed anything in sight, including a flight of screaming parakeets I almost always miss either the focus or exposure of. But then sometimes little miracles happen.
I knew the little heron would take its sweet time sneaking up on whatever it was stealthing up to, so I wandered up and down the bridge photographing other, faster paced actions.
A juvenile grackle, drying off and getting all the feathers back into place.
A mother Wood Duck and her young family out for a stroll.
The little heron never did catch anything, though it may still be out there sneaking up on something.
I haven't done one of these in a long, long time. It just flew over. I shot at it, of course.
South Padre Island
Time travel is my favorite science fiction genre. We're doing a little of that for the next few days, weeks, whatever as we switch back and forth in time here, flipping from South Padre Island to Dallas' White Rock Lake exploring birds we saw on the island and birds I see mornings here in Dallas, Texas, USA.
Today's journal entry is about the Roseate Spoonbills at the Convention Center birdery between the center and what smelled like a waste management slog, the main road down the island and the ocean.
Which apparently is a colorful bird kind of place. Lots of gray and white gulls, of course, but an amazing array of more colorful birds, also. Like these Roseate — pronounced "rose ate" Spoonbills, which I'd only seen one other of so far in the just past three-year history of this journal some call a bird blog.
Despite the stink, which hung over some areas like a permanent storm-cloud, the place — nearly surrounded and crisscrossed with boardwalk — was literally crawling with exotic birds.
The spoonbills fit right in.
That's the Moorhen just in front of the big pink Spoonbill, with its red face and black body contrasting the white body and pink wings and tail of the spoonbill.
Notice the relatively large gulls here. The spoonbill is not nearly as large as I assumed.
Sibley does not mention this particular behavior in his story on Ibises and Spoonbills in The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, but this particular bird spent a lot of time out in the stinky mud flats with its wings up — way up.
Gorgeous pink flags in the swampy slog.
More South Padre Island birds below.
White Rock Lake
Today's little tale is of two egrets. One on its own island, a Great Egret. Hunting in the inimitable style of Great Egrets. Stand and watch and wait. Patience egret-afied
Then when it sees something, out goes that great, long neck, and down, down, down goes the head. Balancing this act, the wings go up and hold.
While its head goes deeper, almost disappearing.
Until it catches something.
Snowy Egrets' dance is different. They, too, can watch and wait, and that happens sometimes, too.
But Snowies are birds of action, fast, sometimes opposite, they get going one direction, then suddenly in the middle of that, turn 180 degrees and attack.
Characterized by poofy plumes, speed, agility and sudden changes of direction and attitude, they are amazing to watch.
Fun and funny, always amazing.
Time & space magicians on the hunt.
Who, in its infirmity, was not at all shy about showing itself..
South Padre Island
At least it's August 12 as I write this. The photographs were taken before that. In various places I might allude to. I've been on vacation, which was intruded upon by a visit to a hospital. I'm still not sure why or how, and I don't remember the parts leading up to that visit, so I'm adrift.
Jason Hogle: Berating' Gulls" are juvenile laughing gulls. Notice the tiny bit of red at the end of the beak; that's important along with the overall plumage pattern (especially around the head).
Maybe as a result of that confusion or maybe just because I like the idea of just doing ten photographs at a time, I'm presenting that many shots at a time till I catch up with most of the shots from the South Padre Island vacation that bracketed my hospital sojourn.
I did so much want to identify my own birds for this beach shoot. I thought the littler of these two jaunters must be remarkably identifiable, with gray legs, a gray to dark black beak and eyeglasses around its eye. To say nothing of that distinctive white swash on its wings and black tail.
I'm pretty sure the other is a Laughing Gull, but the more I look at pictures in my various field guides, the less I want to look at more.
Jason Hogle: "Jaunt on the Beach" is another juvenile laughing gull running alongside a willet. I think the white wash on the wing is a reflection.
I might have this one pegged. I hope so. But I rarely have any feeling of security about identifying birds. Which further confuses me when readers send me photos or descriptions wanting me to identify their birds, when I can barely I.D. my own.
I want them to be Sanderlings, so I won't have to keep looking for what they might really be. They scooted fast along the moving waters' edge, in and out with the shallow tides along the beach at one end or the other of South Padre, where my family reyooned for a long weekend.
Jason Hogle: "'White Bottomed Skitterers'" are indeed sanderlings.
I had hoped to get all these birds correctly identified before I posted this first page of the South Padre Island series, but that ain't gonna happen, though I'll spend at least an hour searching my books for these guys, till I've got them all tracked down.
Jason M. Hogle: "Flying Gull" is a laughing gull (looks like one heading into its second winter).
Gulls. Gobs of gulls on every sand bank and roof top. Gulls.
Jason: "Roof Full of Gulls" shows laughing gulls in two age ranges: some first summer and some second summer.
Gulls hanging out with Sanderlings. Gulls eating fried chicken bones.
Adult, Breeding Sanderling.
White Rock Lake
Sporadically busy in the Lagoon this morning. I was hoping for a Green Heron, and at least one happened by, though it stayed as far as possible across the lagoon all the time I was able to focus on it.
Two green herons swooped down the far side of the lagoon, and this one won the perch.
The other one flapped down the 'goon a ways, then disappeared into the green. I know it looks a lot like a Little Blue. They do. But Little Blue Herons' legs are bluish like their beaks. I watched this one and have really blurry pix of it settling over there, very Green Heronish.
After awhile, jockeying for a closer shot across the lagoon, I lost track of the Green Heron on the branches. So this could be either one, but it seemed to have been looking for me, circling overhead, back and forth behind and in front of those giant wires. Maybe it missed me.
Here shown in its natural habitat, among the fat wires over the lagoon.
Herons weren't the only exotica this morning. Lots of Wood Ducks are there all day most days.
Plenty of females Wood Ducks, though most of them keep their distance.
And keep extending it.
A youngish Black-crowned Night Heron joined the party, winging into the trees ...
... to stand and wait for food to show itself below.
Lots of busy swallows, as usual. These are Barn Swallows landing on the natural perch.
And there's nothing quite like the scream of Monk Parakeets in the early morning light.
I got another one of those big, time-consuming but remunerative projects going this week and maybe next, so there'll be a hiatus till mid August, then I'll be back with a vengeance.
Got to the lake late this morning, nearly noon. Well past cool, hot in the sun, and I'd forgot and wore a white T-shirt. There's a book called Birders Don't Wear White, which is silly, we do. But sometimes when we do, birds see us first and flee. Neither of these guys bothered. They were hungry. Perhaps something kept them from their hunt earlier.
I saw the Snowy Egret first, was following it with my usual, look around in down times routine, always just in case. And sure enough came up with the Little Blue Heron, as far on the other side of me as the Snowy was on the left. Herons in stereo. Never even imagined that.
Watched the Snowy try the wiggle-foot routine, shake its foot in the water to try to stir something up, sneak around, hunker down. Nothing seemed to work. The LBH, meanwhile, caught several chunks. A big juicy bug. A little fish. Both kept at their hunting well into the heat of day, but the LBH caught and continued to catch much more.
I'd hoped to contrast and compare their catching styles, but when only one of them was being successful, that'd be difficult.
The Snowy was nowhere near as quick as I'd seen them most often. Heated up. Slowed down.
Meanwhile, the Little Blue Heron was busy, finding food, creeping up.
Grabbing, thickening up neck and body.
Then snapping it down the broadened throat.
Try as it might, it seemed to get slower, more tired, hotter in the rising sun.
While the Little Blue caught its limit.
Always worth looking. I keep wondering what's with the tail dragging, long, thin tail feather in back. I think of it like one of those springy metal protrusions we used to put on car bumpers, so we could hear and feel the curb backing up.
When I left, they were both still at it. Too hot for me, even in my bright white Homeland Security T-shirt, showing a bunch of Indians on ponies. "Fighting Terrorism Since 1492."
The Medical Center Rookery
Anna's been helping out at the Medical Center Rookery, making new, educational signs with photos of the eight bird species that nest there along with information about each one. And helping the Heron & Egret Society there feed and water birds during our scorching summer. Here a young egret partakes of a goldfish easily captured from a plastic pond.
text and photographs copyright 2009 by J
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from the writer or photographer.
My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for less than three years,
although I've been photographing for 45 years.
Thanks always to Anna.