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White Rock Lake
August 31 2011
Great Blue White Orange Heron
I was pleased to see a Great Blue Heron skating this close to the pier at Sunset Bay. I'm thinking maybe a youngish one. I don't think it's the same one I used to call 'The Bay Gray,' although I doubt that will stop me in the future, because whichever one is stationed out there automatically becomes the Bay Gray., because it's a title, not a specific bird.
The Back of a Great Blue
So close that when it turned away from the photographer, there was still enough detail to make it worth my while.
Looks a lot like a black stick from here, but then I watched it catch several of these dripping dark objects, and it swallowed each one down quickly, so maybe it's not a stick, or it was overly engaging in fiber this day.
Neither bird is particularly in focus, because the pigeon startled me as much as the pigeon startled the Great Blue Heron, as it flew by with a friend.
My take on big birds hunkering down like this is that they are attempting to look smaller or less distinct to their pray. I've never been prey for a Great Blue Heron (Although I have often prayed for a Great Blue Heron), so I don't know how well it works.
GBH Down in the Trees
Niever sure what they are sneaking up upon, but it is.
A Mallard's Back
Not enough water to drip off a duck's back, and its eye is not nearly sharp enough to know what it's up to, exactly, but here it is doing it.
The last two years of owls by my favorite nature sculptor, Kathy Boortz.
Birds Either Dispersed or Gathering
I promised myself I'd keep doing this journal till I got better at writing, which is ever an iffy thing, anyway. So how would I know? Sometimes I'm better. Sometimes I just prattle. Sometimes I have an actual plan that I can or do fulfill. Usually I just shoot at whatever I find and hope something comes of it.
If that's what they are. I kinda think so, but I'm never sure. I may yet come back and crop off the bottom of this photo. Not sure it helps the other parts.
I watched this crow walking down the side of the road The Slider was hauling me the other way on. I stopped. I appreciate crows, and I love the way they turn bluish in the right light. I shot and shot and shot, and all it was doing was walking in kinda low light. This is the only shot I got in focus, and I was amazed about that one.
Likely a relation to a Mallard, but then most of them are. I took this picture, because I liked the composition of those logs and sticks and remnants of branches. It was a little far off, but the G2 enlarges magnificently. So why not.
And any semi-iridescent grackle is fair game.
This was shot the same day but at a different time. At this time I only had my semi-wide angle.
But at this other time, I had my trusty telephoto, first shooting from too far away.
Then later, from a little closer. And I'm beginning to wonder why it was that I was looking for black ducks in my various duck resources in books and online. But not only are they not all that black anymore, they're getting to be not that little, either. Look at the girth growing on that duck.
Muscovy Drake Sleeping in Bright Sunlight
As previously reported here, Muscovies have nearly nothing to do with Moscow. Just that, at one time, they were believed to be from there. Actually, the ducks are believed to have originated in South America, and some of those were eventually hauled off to Moscow, then re-exported to other places. People in those other places called them Muscovies, as in "from" Moscow, which they were, although not originally.
There's usually one picture of these in bird identification books, but there are actually many varieties. At White Rock Lake alone, there are at least four different variations, probably more, and each body color group tends to hang out with others with that same body color — white, black, brown and mixed — in separate places around the lake.
Juvenile Wood Duck
When this little guy saw me seeing it, it skedaddled around the corner, and I was lucky to have got it in focus.
More Juvenile Wood Ducks
These were in slightly less good focus, but this image shows a variety of breast colors and textures.
Probably the most popular single bird in all of this Journal's five-year history was another Crested Rouen named Six-Pack, whose elaborate kayak rescue Anna engineered in January 2008. Six-Pack looked a lot like this one, except its beak had got mangled from the fishing line it needed rescuing from, because its beak was thereby wired shut. I've slightly chopped this one's tail off (in the camera), and I don't remember the Six-Pack swimming with its feet tucked back up under its wings, but I believe one of my bird gurus told me the breed is similar to "Indian Runner" ducks, so it has its feet attached such that it walks and runs standing much more upright than most ducks, so it's not such odd placement here swimming along.
See also Crested Duck and Indian Runner on Wikipedia.
The Old Boat House Shapes
What later transitioned into the Amateur Birders Journal was originally called The White Rock Lake Journal, later The New White Rock Lake Journal, a fragment of which is still online. In that I showed everything I photographed, including lots of sunset shots, people and many abstracts. I have been throwing in weather shots for the past year or so, and today I have some semi-abstractions.
These are actual photographs. I haven't doctored them in any obvious way, though they have been enhanced, like many images here always have been, to show better color and exposure. Water is especially nice for this purpose, since it will happily distort obvious shapes, like these, which have something to do with the variety of boats in The Old Boat House.
Boat House Shapes — Knife
It's the bottom of one of those sleek boats that people row over White Rock Lake. Very sleek. Fast. If there had been ducks around — and there usually are — I would have photographed them, too. But there weren't today, so I didn't.
Garage Bird Kite
Or Kite, Bird, Garage. Hard to say which. Not at the lake, but it is, at least, something of a bird. A very colorful one, that is left / was left in somebody's garage, probably at one time flew, then got stuffed in the garage. I have often photographed real birds in that neighborhood, so it only seemed fair to include this one, too.
Some days are more abstract than others.
Black & White Families Living Together
The black ones are Double-crested Cormorants, and the white ones are American White Pelicans still very much out of season. Cormorant season is all year 'round, although come November and December, there will be a great many more cormorants than at any other time. Especially in the northwest corner of the lake, where Cormorant Bay is (See map.), there will be thousands of them. I used to call it Stinky Bird Season before I knew what species those black birds were who were turning the trees there nearly white with their pungent scat.
A Flock of Blue-winged Teal Circling the Lake
They flew all around Sunset Bay. Over and out and around and around and around. Eventually, they all flew away, but they were nice enough to make several passes over this photographer, so I could get them far away …
Blue-winged Teal Flyover
And up close. Last I saw them, they were flying off into the west. They must have been considering the area for a stopover.
Adult Female Mallard
That's probably her loosened feather, too. She's out there almost every day, just standing there looking pretty and colorful in the morning blue.
Male Great-tailed Grackle with its Great Tail
He very definitely saw me coming, but he stood his ground. I was careful and kept sneaking up, so I could fill my image frame with his magnificence.
Great-tailed Grackle with his Great Tail in the Wind
Slowly, over many frames, he raised his tail into the twirling wind, and …
… jumped into flight, and flew away. Beautiful birds, despite their black-rats-on-wings reputation.
Two of Five Summer Visitors
Canada Geese visit often, look like bandits with their face masks, don't cause any problems, then eventually disappear. Nice of them to visit, though.
Female Mallards Snorkeling
Mallards are always around. Mostly females visible today. They were snorkeling like mad something in the water, swarming in near and complete circles, mad for the stuff.
One arm out.
Stealth mode, all folded up into the lowest silhouette they manage, long beak straight forward. Something I suddenly realized this time out was all the rehabilitated pelicans have lost their fins that denoted them as breeding adults. Since they didn't get to go to the breeding grounds in southern Idaho (where our winter visitors mostly go to breed), because they were released a month after our usual contingent of pelicans flew north for the summer, I guess they didn't need them. Usually the fins are gone by the time they come back mid-September or mid-October, and we'll get to watch them again.
Ducks Round a Snowy
Showing relative size, I guess.
Wing Dryer and Watcher
The watcher is either a Snowy Egret or a Cattle Egret, which we've had a few of lately. The Wing Dryer is a cormorant.
Two White Birds
Looks Fierce with an egret trying to eat a stump.
Little Blue Silhouette hiding under a pier
Maybe because it's more of a challenge to find birds from noon to 2 or maybe because that's when I am normally up and getting out of the house. Plus, all the way around the lake this particular early afternoon, because I have been listening to a fascinating, art-related autiobook called The Art Thief, and didn't mind progressing several more chapters while I hunted the lake for birds.
Little Blue Heron Emerging from the Shadows
I'd been looping through each succeeding parking lot along The Big Thicket area south of the Mockingbird Bridges around the Yacht Clubs, hoping for somebody interesting hiding in the shadows when I saw the silhouette above. I wound The Slider slowly around the pier, knowing that if I didn't making any sudden movements or honk or something stupid, the bird would watch my motion impassively and go about its business.
Little Blue Heron walking along the shore
It did. I should note that the colors of it in the deep shade under the pier are accurate for Little Blue Herons in open shade, and this and the following images are accurate Little Blue Heron colors for one in bright sunlight. Yesterday's LBH was rendered rather too bright, because I wasn't being particularly bright that early in the morning, although sometimes they look like that, too.
Little Blue Rouse
Full Bull Little Blue Heron Rouse that may qualify this image for my page of bird rouses. I was delighted it decided to go through one of these as The Slider and I followed it along the shore. Amazing inward display of feathers. Everybody enjoys a good stretch, and since birds can move every feather on their bodies, sometimes they do, and it looks a lot like this.
Little Blue Heron De-rousing
Then it realigns all its feathers and gradually, the feathers look more and more normal.
Little Blue Heron Walks Away
And the sleek Little Blue Heron walks away.
Great Egret on the Edge
This bird had parked itself out on a chunk of wood well into the lake. I was about to photograph it, thinking it was gray not white. When it flew this far in, I decided why not and photographed it among the odd-shaped stumps there. Elegance in white against lumpy wood.
Another Egret Not Far Away
With an interesting-looking duck I'll have to look up. Okay, I looked it up, and I still don't know squat. It's a cute little duck. Vaguely familiar… The other one's a Great Egret.
Ahhh. A reader to the rescue. Sophia Christel tells me it is a female Wood Duck, and I think, I really should have known that. Female Wood Ducks may be the prettiest female ducks around. Thank goodness for readers who know birds. Sophia says she'll help with my unsubs — of which there are many. If anyone else knows birds I obviously do not, please do not hesitate to tell me. I'm a firm believer in credit, so I'll be happy to credit you who know more than I. And thank you, Sophia.
Great Blue Yachtsman
I discovered several differing-colored bottles today looking for this specific shape. This one, however, was a bona fide bird. A Great Blue Heron, probably my favorite bird. It usually travels alone — I've only seen more than one in one during breeding season. It's gorgeous, once you get up upon one. Colors that look subtle from this distance suddenly come alive when you've zoomed in.
Yachts Bird Sir
This is somewhat closer but still not close enough. We see odd object shapes in the boat anchored somewhat off shore. A patch of garden (?) and what looks like it might be a pyramid, though I'm not sure why it would be in a boat with a heron — or why a heron would be in a boat with it. This is a closer-in look, but most of the color of the Great Blue still escapes us.
Yeah, This Close
Now we begin to see the rust-orange epaulets and its sexy short shorts, the yellow in its beak, the white from somewhere mysterious underneath its wings, and that deep indigo tail. This one is standing on the lower steps well down the spillway where the water falls to its final level before escaping into one of the many White Rock Creeks, this one that then flows through the golf course toward I-30. Magnificent bird. Nice of it to hold still for our scrutiny. I took just a few shots, then slowly backed away and slunk back to my car.
Crow Reacts to Squirrel
I assume they were after the same food. The crow snuck its beak well into squirrel territory (within biting distance), when the squirrel and the crow both moved simultaneously. Then, just when I'd decided the crow was too smart to try that again …
The sharp-toothed one got again into position to the nosing-in crow and scared the big black, supposedly oh, so intelligent bird back up.
6:37 AM: Four Egrets, Four Pelicans, Two Racing Ducks
Met Anna at Sunset Bay this early morning, and we took pics of birds for awhile. This is a minute-by-minute account of the birds I saw and photographed. Lovely morning. Not really cool exactly, but not nasty hot or even all sweaty. Gobs of people were there.
We mostly ignored the people, except when some loud-talking bicyclers rounded Dreyfuss Point all the way on the other side of the bay. Sometimes we can hear them talking all the way across the lake. Broadcasting from Radio B I K E.
6:40 Ducks Into Flight
People were walking down the middle and all sides of the roads and mostly ignoring the paths, as often happens on race days. We ignored all that and concentrated on the birds, photographing what we saw from the pier. It was very nearly dark. Had to use the headlights driving in. Set my camera at ISO 1,600. Didn't think it likely I'd get anything good with this many birds moving, but I panned along, and it worked out very well.
6:42: Duck Flap
I saw this out of the corner of my eye, and apparently, I was still moving the camera (and especially the lens) when I pushed the shutter button, or I would only have got one image, not that extra bit very visible along this hapless duck's front.
6:43: Two Egrets and Six Pelicans In a Row
Of course, our usual justification for returning over and over and over again to Sunset Bay is the American White Pelicans that Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation 'released' there just after all our six-months-every-year pelicans flew off for southern Idaho, so they've been stranded down here every since. Some of them can actually fly, and others haven't much of a clue.
6:45 Six Pelicans in Morning Splendor
At first, there were eight. Now there are six. The other two either got eaten by something — plenty of dogs, coyotes and human varmints at the lake who prey on big beautiful white birds of various species.
6:47: Two Flights Over the Lake
Ducks probably. I was focusing (literally) on the birds in the middle, visible just over the trees. I did not even notice the ones near the top of the frame.
6:47: Cormorants without Pelicans
Felt obligated to show a pic without pelicans in it. Plenty of other species in Sunset Bay, which I perhaps too often call the most bird diverse place at the lake, and why I go there so often, especially when I hope to find birds to photograph.
6:48: Five or Six Pelicans, two Great Egrets and a Turtle
But I loves me my pelicans. Probably I appreciate big white birds better because they are so easy to see and focus on. Focus is a big thing with me.
6:51: Great Egret Flies Over a Cormorant Drying Its Wings
It's several sorts of miraculous for me to have focused so well on this Great Egret. Amazing really. I often complain that my Panasonic Lumix G2 does not like to focus on birds in flight. But here is a very distinctive version of one of those, and it appears to be pretty sharp.
6:51: Great Egret with Distant Building
Sharp enough to enlarge significantly.
6:54: The Race
Well, looks like some of the people at Dreyfuss are racing. I doubt the ducks were racing, just flying and swimming by. The one egret — must be a Great Egret to be that big that far away — is just standing there waiting for breakfast. A busy scene. By about here in our time at the lake this morning a guy with a guitar had joined us. I kept wishing he'd play actual tunes, but he apparently needed to plink and plunk. Nice, though.
6:55: Little Blue Heron Watching for Breakfast
I didn't see it fly in. Just I looked up, and there it was. We'd been talking about it. I've seen it come in as late as about 7:30, and had just told Anna it usually hunts around the peninsula. But that's partially underwater thanks to recent rains. So it suddenly appeared on a log, and we started photographing it, considering ourselves lucky to have seen it.
6:56: Waiting for Breakfast
Probably more like watching for breakfast. Apparently there are plenty of big and little fish out there in the shallow water in Sunset Bay. The trick is to find it, then catch it. Waiting is a big part of herons fishing.
6:57: Flocking Across the Sky
Looks like ducks. Too far and too silhouetted to recognize the exact brand.
6:58: Back to the LBH
Little Blue Herons are among my most favorite birds. I like the way they seem to be such different colors in differing light. Here this one appears to be be purple and maroon. Sometimes they look gray, often black. Sometimes they blend in perfectly with green plants. They're amazing, beautiful and perky. And among the very best fishers I've ever watched.
6:59: Pelicans in a Line, Again
Them being in a line, even with parts of an old — and very wet — shopping cart is a very good sign. It means they're working together to catch fish. When they first arrived, back in May (our winter visiting pelicans usually leave by Tax Day), they didn't seem to know how to do the sort of cooperative fishing they are known for. Apparently some of their number knew how, because they'd done some of it before they got injured or ill, and slowly, gradually, all eight of them were seen doing it in amazing synchronicity.
7:00: Female Mallards
By seven ayem, there's a blue sky and an
edge of light around the clouds reflected in the water.
Eagle Owl attacking camera. It's a slow-mo promo, but wow!
A Different Bird Shape
Escaping from my world of art for a few minutes, I ventured to a place named, according to a fading metal sign there, "Trammell Crow Lake at Trinity Park City of Dallas Park and Recreation 3700 Sylvan." I like the surreal landscape there and the view off into downtown, but much closer I saw a strange bird silhouette I slowly identified as a Tri-colored Heron in the wild.
Svelte Bird Shape
We see them in the dense thicket of the Medical Center Rookery not all that far from this little puddle park in the middle of the Trinity sloshway, where they just stare at us hoping we'll go away and quit pestering them with our long telephoto lenses. But to see them in a natural habitat, we'd normally have to drive down the Texas Gulf. This was much closer.
I got out of The Slider with my 200-600mm telephoto and walked slowly, quietly and carefully to capture this, more adventuresome and closer of a pair of them at the glorified pond, along with a bunch of Cattle and Great Egrets.
Notice the body shape differences and thickness of their respective neck and breast stripes. Probably why I called them two, instead of a pair.
First Tricolor I saw — and the rookery — I mistook for a Great Blue Heron, so I didn't get my shot on the list of first sightings, but since then we've visited the rookery just in hopes of finding and photographing a growing family, from eggs to fledgling young. This adult then, was a pleasant find.
Up Closer Tri
And thanks to the tele, here's a pretty close-up
detail of the Tri who ventured closer to me and a couple other guys who stopped
there on the way to somewhere else.
Landing Juvenile Little Blue Heron
It's not that I haven't been visiting the lake. I do that almost every day. Sometimes more than once a day. And it's not that I haven't been photographing birds. I probably do that on most of my lake visits. It's just that the bird pix I've been shooting are boring. Till today. Today was amazing. It was just as hot — I couldn't stand out there in my field for more than about twenty minutes. Just there were more and more interesting birds in Sunset Bay today.
Juvenile Great Blue Heron Jump
The big trouble with putting the best shot on the top of the day's journal, is that then they sometimes don't make chronological sense. Even by milliseconds. Of course, the GBH jumped up before it came down. But I really wanted the spread-winged juvie on the top of today's journal entry.
Panting Female Great-tailed Grackle
At least I think it's a grackle. I don't remember those dark stripes on their breasts, but the eyes sure look like grackle eyes. I hope somebody will tell me if I'm wrong again. I probably have more field guides and bird I.D books than most people, but I'm still lousy at identifying birds, which all makes it strange that people keep sending me blurry pictures of birds wanting me to identify them. Easy enough most of the time, but if it's uncommon or unknown by me, I explain how bad I am at this, and suggest a trip to the library.
Five of Eight (Are there still eight?) Pelicans
That's C C Young Retirement Community's new taller buildings in the background. I heard that For the Love of the Lake (pronounced full-lot-ull) opposed them building even taller that near the lake, but I'd love to be able to see the lake from some tall building. I think they were opposed to New York-style Central Park with tall buildings all around, all around. As if.
I really should know this one.
I probably should have put my ramble about being lousy at identifying birds under this pic instead. It sure looks familiar. I should know immediately who it is. I should.
Adult Little Blue Heron on the far end of The Peninsula
The body of land to the right and off into the lagoon from the pier at Sunset Bay comes and goes depending on recent rainfall. We haven't had any of that stuff for awhile now, so The Peninsula has grown exponentially. I keep seeing this (I assume) same Little Blue Heron hunting out there the last couple weeks. It must be finding food out there, or it wouldn't keep coming back, but it doesn't seem to appreciate the presence of a photographer. I have to sneak onto the pier to even capture it.
It's just possible that by the time I get all of today's myriad birds posted onto this page, I'll find a good pic of this one in one of my books. It landed very close to the pier upon which I was standing. But only for a scant few seconds.
Three of Five Visiting Canada Geese
They stay from a few hours to a few months. Never know how long they'll be visiting us. Was nice to see them out there on the far right side of The Peninsula today. I've grown fond of various Canada Geese over the years, so any visit by them at the lake or in the neighborhood near or far from the lake is fine by me.
Our Lone Resident Blue Goose
Often seen swimming near the shore with its wings up in what may be wing-drying, our resident Blue Goose seems to be a popular favorite.
Dark Ducks in Sunset Bay
If I were a duck with mostly very dark brown and some dark black feathers, I'd find me some shade like most of the Mallards I saw (but did not photograph, because I promised them I wouldn't if they'd let me stand in their shade to photo the pelicans and Great Blue Heron). But all the time I watched these guys, they stood out in the direct sunshine.
Dark Duck Details
I was surprised to not find these guys in my bird I.D books. Seems strange. They're obviously all of a feather. Nearly identical to each other, sure looks like a species to me. But, even though foreign birds visit the U.S. often, because they are "foreign," they don't get listed here. I'm guessing these are Mexican ducks, up because it gets hotter (for the most part) the souther we go.
Black Duck Addenda from Annette Abbott:
Charles says a lady from Sachse or somewhere in that area brought 28 young black ducks out and released them at Sunset Bay. Seems her ducks laid lots of eggs and they all hatched and she ended up with too many ducks. She has been coming out and checking on them and feeding them. She also gave Charles some food for them so he could care for them while she is out of town. Haven't looked at my domestic duck book yet to see what they are...may be Cayugas but they look more like a relative of the Blue Swedish duck. Blue Swedish ducks often have black offspring...there is at least one of these at Big Thicket.
Charles had to rescue one of the young black ducks last night. It was stuck in the mud and had worn itself out trying to get loose so Charles said he put on boots and waded in the muck and retrieved it. He said the duck was so exhausted it couldn't stand up so it is now recuperating in Charles' bathtub!!
Cormorant Drying One Wing
So, there's an amazing diversity of birds in Sunset Bay, even though it's hotter than blue blazes out there. Hot. Hot. HOT.
White Tail Dragonfly
This one also flew very close to be while I stood on the pier. Long enough to focus pretty good on it.
Fulvous Whistling Ducks at NorthPark
I'd never seen Fulvous Whistling Ducks in this area, although their maps show them spotted in Dallas, although I doubt that's based on them at NorthPark Shopping Center. Still, there they were, not moving much and certainly not flying — or for that matter, scatting. So either they're drugged or have had their wings clipped, or both.
Juvenile and Adult Red-eared Sliders
These critters can be found all around this area and many others. I hadn't brought my telephoto lens, so I had to make do with my more or less 'normal' lens and scoot in close, which I'm glad I did.
Little Blue Heron
I've been under the weather lately. About as far under it as I can dig. Too hot to think, let alone track birds off into some hinterland. But, dutifully, on August 1 I drove The Slider to Sunset Bay and looked around. At first all I saw was four white lumps out on the logs and heard a few little brown birds in the reeds.
I'd started to walk back to the car, but I turned around, came back most of the way out the pier. Then I saw this. I recognized it immediately. I did not recognize till I got the image up on my monitor that those feathers all around the Little Blue Heron were probably from some white bird that got eaten.
A few feathers probably means a bird has been preening feathers, but this many usually means it's all that bird's feathers that didn't get eaten outright.
Anna and I saw a coyote in the swamp just north of the lake this last week. They must be taking advantage — as if they weren't feeling the heat like everybody else has been — of the weather to eat more egrets. Sad but true, and ongoing in the history of life and death on the lake.
Little Blue Heron Flying toward the Other Side of the Lagoon
I wasn't quick enough to capture its jump into flight, but I caught it on its way.
Little Blue Heron Landing on the other side of the Peninsula
And touching down, in somewhat less focus. I followed it over there, hoping to get photos of it hunting and maybe finding something. An egret was over there, so there probably was something in the water worth hunting. But by the time I got over there, it was invisible.
text and photographs copyright 2011 by J
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from and payment to
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 three years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.