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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
All Contents © 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. DO NOT USE images without permission & payment.
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August 31 2006

Upside Down Mrs. Redwing - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mrs. Redwing Heads Up

Been watching reeds ever since we saw the Habitation Destruction Machine at work earlier this week. Photographing who lives there, finding out what they do there. And why there.

Not at all sure why Mrs. Redwing has her head upside down or what she's looking at that way. I shot her a dozen times before she twisted her head around like that, then she flew off. This is the only one in focus. Quizzical.

Reed Jungle - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

More bird species in the reeds — MystBirdMo #whatever

Looks like two different species, but I don't know either of them. Might be a female and male. I don't call me an amateur birder for nothing. I'm looking in the bird books, especially the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America for puffy little birds with light undersides, a stubby little beak, short tail and that cute little ascot on the right.

High Flyer A - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. 
High Flyer Blurred w Colors - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

High Flyers Could Even Be the Same Species
MystBirdMo #whatever + 1

I also shot grackles, knowing how desperate that has to be anywhere in Texas and, some high flyers making great, fast circles over our heads. I tried auto focus and manual focus and preset focus, and nothing really worked. Blurred maybe, but I like the colors that could make eventual I.D possible. Maybe.

Egret Scratching - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Scratching

Also, of course, I shot egrets. Always, of course, I shoot egrets. Always.

Anna loves watching them scratch, and I shot 40 or 50 (nice to have a camera that shoots 5 per second — until I have to sort through all those essentially similar photographs. I finally chose the one that showed the most toes). Whenever one flies me by, I shoot.

Egret Fly By - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Flying Particularly Close

August 30

One of those days I couldn't face waking up early. My usual sleep cycle is curving back toward up till 4, sleep till noon. Not there yet, but it's compressing the curve like a bow yet to let fly the arrow. I have to hang on to this early to bed, early to rise till after the Bird Walk September 9. Learning that sunrises are as beautiful as sunsets was amazing.

Early Morning Sunset - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Early Morning Sunset

Also amazing is that Anna, by calling the Park Department, has implemented something I've been grousing about for years. That people feed white bread to birds, who probably should be feeding themselves and eating better. The lady she's been talking with says they are working on signs. Wow.

Double wow that she's asked them to look into the work of the Habitation Destruction Machine, and they said they would.

August 29

Banded Kingfish - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

new species sighting. See below.
Belted Kingfisher

Getting cooler. Nice breeze. Today, we walked — actually walked. I kept thinking, "but no birds." A little desperate, I shot Red-winged Blackbirds flying by. A standby, except I got some okay shots, will get better. Then we saw Great Blue Herons fly over, also. Too far.

Large-bill Tern Flying - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
Large-bill Tern Flying - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Another New Species: Large-billed Tern? 

Then this, I first thought was a gull. Flying closer than the Great Blues, so there's detail. Then, I realized we hadn't seen gulls in months. Not a great loss, but maybe this was the first of their return. Not.

Redwing Black Bird Fly By - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Red-winged Black Bird

The only pictures that match "the gull" is the Large-billed Tern. A fellow photog on the dam yester said he was seeking Black Terns. Till then I had never considered terns.

Red-winged Blackbird & Green Heron  - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Red-winged Blackbird and Green Heron in reeds

I noticed The City had mowed weeds and reeds along the lake's edge, and that upset me, because my friends live and play and fish from there. Red-winged Blackbirds and Green Herons to mention a few.

Habitat-Destroying Machine - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Semi-automatic Habitat Destroyer

This is what does it. A long arm with a big mower blade in what looks like the under side of a mower. Is just that. So it can reach out into the lake and chop down habitat.

Who decides whose habitat gets destroyed when? As soon as the park's much-publicized "wild" meadows get juicy with biodiversity, they mow them down. Policy. Kill kill kill.

Egret Pretzel - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret Pretzel

After I'd napped the sleep I loose walking early to catch the cool, I realized the Large-billed Tern — if that's what it is — could be a refugee from the storms threatening the coast, and I might see others in more sun. Sure enough.

While photographing Pretzel-necked Eegs, I noticed a small blue bird winging near the Spillway Walking Bridge (I thought it was a Purple Martin or something we have a lot of), took the opportunity to hone in, and shot it flying fast and perched in a far tree by an over-bright white egret. Hoped the tree shot would be focused enough to I.D it later. It worked.

Banded Kingfisher - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Male Belted Kingfisher

Both are small crops of much larger photos. Paging through a bird book last week I asked the Universe for a Kingfisher, so here he was. I'd seen one in a branch six feet off a cliff into infinity from atop a Colorado mountain byway years ago, so this is my second Kingfisher. Next time may be closer and in better focus. Hope it doesn't take decades again.

August 28

Green Heron in the Spillway - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Green Heron Near Steps

First bird I saw at the spillway after yesterday's big rain was a tiny Green Heron, who alighted, looked around a few minutes, then flew down the creek toward I-30. We'd hoped to find lots of birds on the steps, since that's the only spillway area easily accessible by humans since the City's been not doing anything about the sunken parking lot after the retaining walls fell in the last big rain.

Black-crowned Variants - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

2 of 9 Black-crowned Night-Herons in the Spillway

We tried the dam side, but that's too far from the birds. Anna counted nine Black-crowned Night-Herons on the spillway itself, which might be a new record, then, one-by-one while we watched, they each flew away.

I'm eager to have fence-leaning access to the whole spill again, since it's the best and easiest perch for photographing birds when it's wet. Yesterday was dangerous dry. Today a lot of water and bunch of birds, but I had to shoot from far.

August 27

Big-Foot Coot - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Big-footed American Coot

American Coots have inordinately large, lobed feet, whose peculiar purpose I have not yet fathomed. I already liked them, for their gentle ways, oddly proportioned charcoal bodies, white beaks and red-eyed chicks.

But those feet are enormous and amazing, and I'll have to pay attention to see what they can do with those clod-hoppers that other birds cannot.

Dive Mode Coot - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Dive-Mode Coot gaining speed

Coots are divers and though I didn't count how long they stay under, they move fast under there, and I was unable to keep up with my telephoto (next time I'll watch more carefully).

White-tip Coot Wings - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

White-tipped Coot Wings

Their numbers are gaining but there's only a few Coots at Sunset Bay lately. Up to three pair. A grab shot of one flapping wings may help explain why. Only immature coots have white tipped feathers, so these are juveniles. Not sure where the adults are. But we'll have hundreds all around the lake by winter.

Immature Little Blue Heron - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Immature Little Blue Heron

Today's new bird was an immature Little Blue Heron, who looked like just another egret shot flying in to land at Sunset Bay (except it was exposed well and in focus). Until I processed these I still thought it an egret.

Immature Little Blue Heron - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Then the dark edge-feathers, pterodactylous head and lore-less face gave it away. An immature Snowy Egret has yellow lores (bill extension around the eyes) and all white feathers. Both are smallish with greenish legs and feet.

Little Black Cloud - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Little Black Cloud

Hours later, soon as I heard raindrops slapping my house, I drove back to the lake, where I saw this little black cloud form under the big gray ones over the lake. Soon the lake was white with rain and dark. The roads were socko. When both our houses cleared, Anna and I rode around the lake to see what we could see.

Slime - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Green Creek Slime

The biggest what was a wide, current-unstrung layer of green slime from the feeder creek north of Mockingbird bridges.

August 26

Was supposed to be a Coot kind of day, but all my coot pix were too slow. Slow shutter, blurry like out of focus. Amazing many oofs (out of focus) on one walk. Try harder next time out. The lake is awash with runners on Satty, so mayhaps Sunny. We saw twice as many coots today (4) as last time (2)...

Pigeon Dance - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pigeon Dance in their
Wide Circles of Confusion

Would never have thought this or any other day would be a Pigeon (and Dove) one, not to mention Gooses again. I'm not so low on either of the former to call them rats with wings, but my estimation of their IQs and value is not elevated.

One of my lesser sports is to photograph their fright-induced circlings nearly every morning I pass them by. Great, widening circles of barely contained fear, until it seems they forget why they flew, then land, only to do the whole thing again a couple minutes later.

On the Wings of a Snow White Dove

On the Wings of a Snow White Dove

When I saw the white one, a twangy voice singing an old C&W song echoed through my memory — "On the wings of a snow, white, dove, she sends her pure, sweet, love..."

Root-sucking Ducks - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved."

Root-sucking Ducks
Vibrating the Shoreline

Much bird behavior escapes me. What, do you suppose, attracts ducks so obsessively to suck and squirm it out from under the surface of dirt and mud and water that it looks like they might keel over from paroxysm?

One-foot Goose - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

One-foot Goose Dance

Why do gooses stand on one leg with the other stretched out behind, as if caught in the big middle of racing. Or why do they lean leftward as if in a leeward gale? Ah the sweet, idiosyncratic mysteries of geese.

Left-leaning Gooses - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Left-Leaning Gooses
Swaying to Long-wave Rhythms

August 24

Early Egrets, Cloud of - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Early Egret Cloud

T oo early. 6. Cooler, even a breeze. Plan was to photograph egrets out in the middle of Sunset Bay before they woke. Still camera, moving birds, white flapping blurs over white lumps sleeping in branches.

Hundreds when I shot this. Too dark to see what I was aiming at. Didn't realize till later dozens more eegs were left and right. Really great shot of bicylers flashing red dashes in the road behind goes on my New White Rock Lake Journal of bigger photos later this week.

It's illegal to be in the park between midnight and 6, but it's selectively enforced against romancers — who net fright tactics and a $300 fine — but not joggers. Check the small print on signs on Lawther near the boat house.

Eeg Flock Blur - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Eeg Flock Blur Wide

Got both blur and sleepers last week with bad exposure. Didn't work altogether today either, but I got the cloud of sleepers and separate bundle blurs as the flock flew off.

Eeeg Flock Blur - Tall - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Eeg Flock Blur — with late risers

We were about to abscond, when I thought to show Anna the nearby swamp, me dragging my 40-year-old tripod, which made the still cloud, intermittent dashes and this, possible.

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (dry)

Within seconds we noted two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons fishing on the very public edge of the hardly hidden creek, an adult and juvenile we snuck up close enough to to fill the frame.

The Heron Ruffle - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Juvie Yellow-crown Heron Ruffle

Note the Yellow-crowns' eyes aren't red, just circles around. We watched the juve fish, crouch down in heron/eeg stealth mode, then splat into the water, askew into the swamp like an empty bag of feathers floating head submerged, ungainly as a newbie to the craft. Got its fish, then dried out doing The Heron Ruffle.

Adult Yellow-crown - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Adult Yellow-crown

Earlier the two (mom or pop and kid?) fought in a quick flurry of feathers flying, rendered as blurs in my slow lens, but such a handsome pair, separate in their solitary fishing. Both caught no-see-ems, the juve "chewing" with throat pouched and undulating.

August 23

Big Bird No-Go - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Big Bird No-Go (Today's MystBirdMo)

Some days there's scads of birds to choose from. Not today. Today, one chose us. I always shoot the egrets that dot our shores, then inevitably fly away. Ducks, too. And other species as catch can. Some brands mean more than others. Today we walked hard, sweat buckets, then split.

Or tried to. This big bird didn't seem to want us to go just yet. He landed in its magnificence on the back of Anna's car while we were talking, walked across the trunk, then reluctantly flew off after I photographed it three times.

Grackle-ish nose, but no boat-tail tail. Light-colored head and spots here and there, head, breast and tail. But its size... It looked huge. I'm guessing between 18 inches and three feet high. Maybe that was just looking up at it from close. It seemed awfully big for a grack.

Mystery Bird of the Moment.

Okay, it has to be a grackle. The surprising landing, so close, such an unobvious place, misled me to think it was much larger. It's just another grackle. I've since photographed several with similar markings, featherations. Not the most populous birds at the lake, but one of them. Although I still subscribe to the Magic Grackle theory for this one's visitation upon us.)

Little Snowy Over a Big Duck - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Little Snowy Over a Big Duck

August 22

The one got away today was a hummingbird, and it got away fast. Maybe the first I've seen at the lake. Dark, bullet-shaped and about that speed. My view was maybe four tenths of a second, and I want to see it more, and of course, photo it, stop it in its tracks. It was among the thick reeds along Yacht Club Row on the east shore near Big Thicket, and then it was gone.

Little Hawk Again - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

That Little Hawk Again

Like Anna said, it was a day of Hs. We also saw that Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. Maybe it's easier now we've tuned into the Hawk Channel, but I thought it was a Mockingbird when I first saw it crashing through a tree.

But with that blunt, hooked nose, broad-striped tail and those penetrating eyes, no doubt it's the hawk. The size makes it a juvie, and we assume it's the one we've been watching as we continue our segmented circumnavigation of our favorite lake.

Duck Island - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Duck Island - lady mallards waiting in early light

We also saw lots of ducks, of course. They're ubiquitous. All swimming rapidly away from our every approach. I shot these guys from some distance, on an island under a pier.

Big-Nosed Duck - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Big-nosed Duck is not in my Golden Book of Birds

This big, orange-nosed duck was today's fave duck. I think it's new here, at least new to me. Brilliant orange bill looks normalish duckly from the quarter view above, but sidewise it's a real honker, long, heavy and nearly pointy. The markings may be like calico cats, different every time.

Cock of the Walk - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Cock of the Walk - a Great Egret on The Boardwalk

And a couple of egrets. Today's big fun was a Great Egret walking along the newish walk at the middle yacht club. I liked the abstraction of its chosen place and the fact that I got him in pretty good focus.

I walked parallel to the wary bird, along the shore, attempting to duplicate its big, long-toed feet and its peculiar gait of walking on wood slats. We were a sight to see, but the eeg did it better.

Muscovy Down - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Muscovy Down

The downer of today was finding the wasting carcass of a Muscovy Duck in one of the boat put-ins north of the sailing clubs. Too far gone to tell what got it, but I pulled some peculiarly dark green Muscovy feathers from its softing back. I identify with those guys. They've always been welcoming and pleasant to us.

Anna and I once spent a half hour talking quietly with a whole family of them up Hidden Lagoon in deeper Sunset. They didn't run like most ducks do. They just stood there and chatted quietly with us. That gentle attitude might have got this one killed.

August 20

Muscovy Drake - Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Muscovy Drake - That Face!

A Muscovy Duck kind of day of missed timing and jangly nerves, but on that day, along the way on my walk, I had a quiet little talk with the couple of Muscovies who sit waiting at the first switchback turn on Lawther after the Garland Bridge park entrance toward Winfrey Point.

The place needs a name, and I'm reworking a past proposed City map of the lake, putting my and the real names on places. This one might be Muscovy Point, but we can't forget the Duckfia, either.

The Muscovy Mrs. - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Muscovy Mrs.

When I slowed into direct view, the drake (guy duck) walked down to greet me. I'm theoretically opposed to feeding ducks bread (It should at least be Wheat Bread.), but I sure wished I'd had something to feed the guy. He wasn't pushy or greedy, just stood there waiting quietly, gently belying his size and apparent strength.

August 18

Green Heron on Bough - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Green Heron on Bough

Quacks and echoes of quacks greeted us a little earlier this morning than usual. A cool, crisp 85 degrees (It was 95 at ten last night, my AC laboring.), not much of a breeze and clouds (I counted 30 in one clump; at least four clumps across Sunset Bay) of egrets in the distance.

I'd hoped to photo hawks and crows, ended up photographing herons instead. Not likely I'd improve on my hawk karma from the last two days, anyway. Most of my crow shots were dark and fuzzy.

Fat Black Bee Enraptured - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Big Black Bee Enraptured

Three glimpses of that one juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, only once chased by an American Crow. More often perched near the tops of the same trees in mostly harmony. I figure yesterday was peace talks, acrimonious as they were. Today is life as it continues. An accord.

While hunting hawk, Anna watched a small striped bird she says is a Juvenile Downy Woodpecker and I got blurs of gray and brown herons — Great Blue, Little Blue, Yellow-crowned and Green Herons — flying around the point or directly overhead.

After long walking mostly under the same trees up and around Dreyfuss — bees but no dragonflies, we were about to depart when I got an inkling to pause nearby and was awarded two herons close and a bee even closer, all in a line into the swamp.

Gray Crown Early Morning Heron - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Gray-Crowned Early Morning Heron
Does it look OLD to you, too?

I accidentally startled a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron fishing — heard a splash and saw it flap up to a low tree. Minutes later a Green Heron alighted on a arched bough almost directly behind the Yellow-crown, who turned slowly. Waiting for good poses from both, fat black bees suckling flowers sucked my attention from up closer.

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August 17

Hawk Loses to Crow - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Juvenile Hawk Losing
Briefly to Crow Attack

I rarely return to the same place twice, but this morning I was keen to see the hawk again. I didn't get as much detail as yester, but this was more interesting. That's a big, lone American Crow on top.

Crow vs. Hawk - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Crow vs. Hawk

The underdog, though it flew away in good health seconds later, is the juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk from yesterday. Fred J Alsop III (in his Birds of Texas) says crows gang up on hawks and owls, attacking from above, driving them into trees or out of the neighborhood. Here it's one-upping a juvie Cooper's Hawk."

Thick Little Blue Heron Coming This Way - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. 

Mystery Bird Coming This Way

Big Brown Little Blue Flying - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Big, Brown Reddish Heron

I saw this Reddish Heron flying across the lake from Sunset Bay. The difficulty was figuring out just what it was when I first and second saw it. Two different birds. When it finally turned and flew left, it looked like it was assembled from parts in two different kits and someone forgot to paint it red.

Bety Baker tells me no Reddish Herons come this far from the shore, so this must be something else. Not, I think a Little Blue, which is the usual culprit. No telling...

New Dragonflies - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

New Dragonflies

Today I worked at it a little longer to get more new dragonflies in focus. Fun was to amble through hundreds of them down Dreyfuss' back walk where they hovered. Cool.

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August 16

Hawk Flying - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk (corrected January 2008) See note above.

Few birds in sight should have clued me the hawk Anna'd seen fly off before I arrived was still around. As often early, I was groggy. Some swifts tall in a tree, big black birds (Crows?) on the roof and yard at Dreyfuss Point, around the straight from the Bath House, as we continue our segmented walk around the lake, visiting places we haven't in awhile. Last I was there was spring, when egrets were tiptoing on the waves.

Hawk Standing in the Tree Top - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Hawk Standing on the Treetop

Then two noticeably large, hawk-like birds flew to the top of a neighboring tree, and one disappeared. Poof gone! The other stood for formal portraits then let me pan it stately across the sky to the east.

Coolish with a breeze at 7, but the weatherguys already say 106 degrees thisaft.

Bird book time again. Juvenile Cooper's Hawk is what they are. They eat frogs, snakes, lizards and small mammals. Could be related to the Red-shoulder we saw this spring north along the White Rock Creek Trail. In these shots the amber of the rising sun makes them redder and more golden.

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August 15

Grackle Gracking - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Grackle Gracking from the Reeds

Another too hot to do anything but drive-by birding day, and late, well into the heat. I musta got out for the grackle gracking in the reeds but did not stay long. 105 degrees is warm even for Dallas.

Bird Box Bird - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

I know I parked on Lawther, AC still gushing, to photo the little bird in the big numbered bird box. Both yaps open. That kinda day.

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August 14

Grackle Wingdown Flyby - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Close-order Great-tailed
Mr. Grackle Fly-by

Lotta dragonflies this very hot (104 degree) afternoon when I slipped by the lake after an appointment, hoping to find a photable bird without getting out of my car. Most any bird would do. But no such luck.

Preening Duckling - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Preening Duckling

Settled for the oven at Tilly's Point, where I tried for perfect exposure with preening ducklings dark in shadows against a bright shore (flash helped). Then aimed for the truly implausible — catching those newbie dragonflies mid-air (got instead focusless fuzzballs floating). Impossiblest of all, close flybys by Great-tailed Grackles, Mr. and Mrs.

Mrs. Grackle Flying By - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mrs. Grackle Flying By

Sometimes it's worth sweating the impossible. Dream the improbable dream ...

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August 13

Two Gooses Running - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Two of Nine Gooses Running

Actually walked today. More than a mile, where we usually don't along the long loop from Sunset Bay to Stone Tables. Walking's largely why I go to the lake, but sometimes we only watch and photo birds, sauntering from snap to snap.

Yester's grain man told us of 9 non Klingon gooses at Sunset which we'd seen but never much noticed, so when we arrived today there were the 9 crisscross marauding the grounds en masse, nothing chasing them, them chasing nothing, wild in the joy of gooseness.

Buncha Egrets and Ducks - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Buncha Egrets and Ducks

Lotsa egrets and ducks there, too, of course, and they cool in their detached elegance and ubiquitous there-ness, flapping and fishing and long-neck posing out wading in the water, but just sorta so-what in the face of a gang of big trundling gooses caught up in fast flapping motion, racing across the grass.

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August 12

Anna's Cloud - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

One Great Cloud in the Eastern Sky
It's been more than a 100 degrees all
week, and some rain could help.

Wadn't zackly sure I wanted to come back to the lake after my little encounter with the angry cop (plus getting burgled last week). Hid out home couple days, but when started rainin' Satty evenin' I wanted to drive around the lake some, maybe find some friendly birds.

African Brown Portrait - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Portrait of an African Brown Mushing Bread

Which is not exactly what we found, but I like these guys like old friends. Turns out the African Brown's last mate was stolen by some guy in a car, instead of getting killed by one (according to one of the guys who tosses grain for them and other birds 'round the lake every evening), but I imagine it ended up on someone's table.

The guy who stole him is worthy of getting shot or tortured. I hope he gets his.

China White Portrait - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Portrait of the China White
with a Mouthful of Bread

Lucky the other African Brown's found a China White, and it'd be nice to know which was the guy and which the lady of the pair, but they're a fine match. Both loud honkers and friendly in an aggressive sort of way. Every time we see them, we have a chat.

While we were there watching, photographing and conversing, the Brown seemed to choke a little, shaking his head and upper throat, scratching at it with his foot, jerking and swinging in mild desperation. We could tell something was caught in his throat.

If I could have helped him (?) I would have, but wouldn't know what or how. Can you imagine a goose Heimlich? The busybodies 'd probably call the cops again. Instead, I told it to try some bread, and eventually it did, and that seemed to help.

Two-headed Goose - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Two-headed Goose

I've always been defensive when these guys tilt their heads down and come in low for my bare legs, but I'm gonna let them at me, once, just to see if they bite (as some say) or don't (as others claim). I might do jeans and a little cardboard (since I don't know goalies), just in case. But it'll be an intriguing pursuit.

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August 10

Public Shower - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Revealing Public Shower

I 'm still shaking. Today's intense encounter was with a cop. He drove by where I was stopped on the No Parking side of the Boat House lot. Twice. One of the water fountains about a dozen feet away was leaking profusely and Great-tailed Grackles gathered to shower in the sparkling water, strongly backlit by early morning sun.

It was a beautiful setup. I'd just missed a big grack fluttering, flapping and splattering water every which way, because he was behind the post. I should have shot anyway. I'd backed the car up a few feet for a better view, had my camera in hand, ready, waiting.

Stand Back! - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
Stand Back!

I saw the police car drive by, then back up parallel mine. I opened the passenger window. The cop was very angry, demanded, "You have permission from those people you're photographing?" I thought about asking Mr. Grackle if he minded me shooting his public shower, quickly put that image out of my head.

"I wasn't photographing people," I told him politely. "I was shooting birds." The surly little cop didn't believe me. "I can show you." I lifted my camera, willing to play back images. "I'm waiting for the people to leave, so the birds will come back. I'm shooting them bathing in the dripping water. They splash all around." I pointed to the fountain.

"You may be doing just that," he said, not believing a word. "But if I get a call complaining about somebody harassing someone, I have to come."

Bird Drip Showering - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
Coming Clean

I tried to explain "the law" — that no one can have a legal expectation of privacy in a public place, but he cut me off at "the law."

"The law," he interrupted gruffly, "is that if someone complains, I have to investigate." Complaints rule. No assumption of innocence. No mercy. I was the bad guy, lurking in the shadows, even if I couldn't be more obvious, my car on the wrong side of the lot, big ugly camera in plain sight, windows open, top back, radio playing quietly.

He demanded I.D, checked it, made notes on a pad, gruffly warned me twice more about harassing people, insisting I might be doing what I said I was doing, but he would have to investigate, walked back to his squad car and drove off.

I tried to wait for more grackles to use the still dripping fountain. But I couldn't hold the camera still. I was shaking too violently. Still am.

Public Splatter - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Illegal Public Splatter

August 9

I added Partial Pages for Ducks (showing their violent "romance") and Red-winged Blackbirds today, but was too sleepy from partying with friends to walk. Anna said it was wicked humid even very early. No breeze.

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August 8

23 Egrets - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

23 Egrets, 2 ducks
and 1 Great Blue Heron

The biggest issue with taking 967 photographs (Great opportunity to watch and photo dozens of them at once) is sorting through them to find the eleven best for here. It also allows me to be very very picky, which may be a way of life. (I eventually kept 252.)

Four Egrets Grouped - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Four Egrets Grouped: Great Egret bracketed by two
Snowy Egrets with a Little Blue Heron lower left

What we found in Sunset Bay was a major egret fishing party. We'd never seen that many — Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets — in one place before. Anna counted 70, and we saw more flying up the creek to the recent rain-filled area around the pier.

Eeg Landing - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret Landing in the
Shallows Among Ducks

We also saw one Great Blue Heron on the far side of the creek, probably the one we've seen there often — and the usual array of ducks, who weren't altogether pleased at the egret intrusion. There was much raucous, scolding, quacking. But they're a loud bunch anyway.

Artsy Snowy Fly - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Artsy Snowy Fly

Ducks eat vegetation. Egrets catch fish. So no interspecies food fights. We also saw an American Coot couple we were pleased to see again and eager for more to return, so I can study them for a Coot Page (See Index). They're such an endearing little species with their mild manners, permanent stealth mode black, white nose and ungainly big knobby feet. The muddy shore crawls with them in winter and spring.

Grackle with Injured Claw - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Grackle with Injured Claw

We watched amazed as one female Wood Duck attacked another in the same insulting manner male ducks attack females during their violently aggressive mating (Think amphibious rape.), and a male Grackle with an injured claw which, as we watched, gathered a half dozen females.

Great Egret Fly By - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Great Egret Flies By

We do not tire of egrets, as many as we've seen and photographed — as often as we have seen them. Having this many fishin' and flyin' and fussin' so close we could almost touch the elegant creatures was fascinating, and we learned even more about them with so many individuals in easy sight.

Ire Up, Feathers Out - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Ire Up; Feathers Out
— That's MY Fish!

Egrets get along, even in very close proximity unless they're after the same fish. In that case, the bigger or more aggressive generally wins. When their ire goes up, so does their plumage and wings, making them seem larger and scarier. An angry egret is a formidable sight.

Two Snowy Egrets Flying Close Far Out Over the Lake - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Two Snowy Egrets Flying
Close Far Out Over the Lake

Luckily — I wasn't sure at first, but now I'm glad — I'd brought my best (oldest and sharpest), though not longest or fastest focusing, telephoto lens for the first in a long time. It's eight time faster (lets in more light) than my usual tele. Fly-bys and stand-closes were sometimes so near they filled the frame.

Eeg in Low Stealth Mode - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Low Stealth Mode — Uncoil that Neck and ...

Standing egrets are waiting. Stealth crouching egrets — like cats — their bodies low, necks coiled and beaks close to the surface — are finding food and very likely about to catch some.

Spring - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
Sprang - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

... Inspect Carefully, then Grab.
The horizontal stripes are reflections.

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August 6

Grinning Green Heron - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Grimacing Green Heron
(The grimacing teeth are markings.)
About 8 inches high.

What's got me most confused about Green Herons is the apparent relative size of the kids and adults. The first juvenile I saw seemed normal-sized for a heron (Yellow- or Black-crowned Night-Heron varieties, he says holding his hands about 2.5 feet apart), but the several we saw today and yester seem tiny. Sibley says about 7 ounces, and that seems plausible (holding my hands about 7 inches) for these but not the first.

I brought us back to the same reeds as yester today and found what I suspect was the same bird standing in the same aspect (legs switched). Then either 2 or 3 others down the coast to Winfrey Point. Definitely Green Herons, with all the classic identification points showing in today's brighter sun.

MysBirdMo #2 - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Fighting Eastern  Kingbirds

I saw MysBirdMo #2 from yesterday again, as expected. This time two of them fighting on top of a tree. Scolding each other about something. Acting all fierce and flappy. It was way too hot to be fussing like that. Since this seems the right forum, I'll ask for direct light next time I spot them. And focus.

V of Egrets - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Distant V of 27 Egrets

We also saw a long, distant V of egrets flying across the by-then bright morning sky.

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August 5

Hadn't been on Lawther from Garland Rd. to Winfrey Point since they fenced over the Spillway, and discovered wild plants lining the shore — an official attempt to keep the rest of the shore from washing away?

Eeg with Heron Shape - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Eeg in the Weeds

The City's tried rocks and walls to minus effect. The lake's lapping the paved path now. You suppose they've finally read eco books published this century? Or just haven't figured out how to mow it?

Heron Shape Revealed - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.  

Heron Shape— Compare with
Adult Green Heron (below) and
Juvenile Green Heron, (in July).

I tracked a shore-hopping Great Egret into the weeds, hardly sensing the dark shape in the reeds behind. When the eeg flew off, I honed in on the lump, slowly groking its heron shape and stance. Sun still behind the trees, I kept shooting into the low morning light, over exposing, even flashing the puffy dark shape with long nose, tall legs, and black & white striped ascot.

The major Mystery Bird of the Moment (MysBirdMo) has to be the Green Heron, which Sibley says, are "small, stocky and dark." For that, this qualifies. Of course it's not green, but neither are the red and blue "green" herons. So who is this rakish lump [I wondered till the next day, when I I.Ded it for certain as a Green Heron.]

Mysbirmo #2 - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mysbirmo Sat - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Today's MysBirdMo #2
Eastern Kingbird

I was even less successful focusing today's second mystery bird and barely able to keep its flying form in a much larger frame. Tired of paging mindlessly through the bird i.d books, I'm just sticking its pix here. I suspect I'll see it again. That's how it works. Maybe the sun will shine next sighting, I'll be alert, my lens will focus and pigs will fly.

MysBirdMo #3: The Pointy-Nosed Stripey Chest
is actually a Female Red-Winged Blackbird.

Another little bird up close and in focus. What it was when I shot it, I did not know. Rakish little varmint, though. Amazed when Anna I.Ded it as a female Red-winged Blackbird. I should have known.

The Duckfia Afloat - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The Duckfia Flotilla

We call these guys the Duckfia, because they gang up, block traffic and insist passers feed them. We've seen them stop up to four cars, whose drivers could not roll toward the mob. So they sat there till we shepherded the miscreants back into the grass.

Sitting Muscovy - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Sitting Muscovy

The pair of large Muscovy Ducks at Lawther's first full switchback are regulars, though I hadn't noticed the Domestic White Duck hidden beneath its dark feathers, like an alternate identity under a rubber Hollywood mask.

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August 4

Mockingbird on a Rail - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mockingbird on a Rail

I am slowly realizing that by concentrating on the bigger (easier to photograph and identify at distance) birds I am losing track of littler ones. When a Northern Mockingbirdflies or sings, I know it. But just sitting there on a branch or rail, and I'm lost. I had to check my bird books for this shot, even though I knew the several shots after were more failed attempts at capturing a Mockingbird in Flight.

Maybe not exactly handsome, but certainly cute. I like the biggish black beak and the subtle polka dot pants. Then the stripes when it flies or attempts to frighten or impress.

Pole Swallows - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pole Swallows

Another small bird the lake has by the thousands, if not millions, are what I'm calling (till I know better) Pole Swallows. I should know better. What I also don't know is why they gather on phone and electrical lines. Is it warm? Is there a buzz? I assume they are communal creatures, so they don't mind being that close, but what exactly are they accomplishing up there — except, of course, catching up on all the latest gossip.

Dove - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Juvenile Mourning Dove

Another plentiful bird I've ignored is the dove, Mourning or happy. The Valley had a lumpy looking variety that appeared naked, and I have pictures but never published them. I've seen these and the famed White Wing Doves (On the wings of a snow white dove...) at the lake and at (human) gathering place (shopping centers, downtown) for years. I've always classified them among the flying rat (pigeons) population.

Although I've dined on delicious dove, I've never eaten pigeons, and there can't be much difference, although I've heard the latter are mostly not worth the effort. Dove hunters are proud to shoot doves but as many as there are, nets might be more practical. This young one allowed us to get within whispering distance.

I like the cooing and that they squeak when they first flap their wings.

Notta Mock - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Not A Mock
The Eastern Kingbird - a flycatcher

I assumed this one was an adult Mockingbird, but he doesn't look anything like the pictures. Anna said it's an Eastern Kingbird, known to attack even hawks, crows and the ever-aggressive Blue Jays. Some chutzpah.

Eeeg Eye Down Reflection - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Eeg Eye Down

I took lots of lovely photographs of Great and Snowy Egrets today, also. And watched a Yellow-crowned Night Heronstand in the green weeds on the desiccating sand bar in Boat House Creek. When my shutter crashes frightened it into the woods, it flew to the top of the tallest vertical log in the neighborhood. In all that, I never once rendered it sharp.

Maybe I should concentrate on little birds for awhile. That should be challenging.

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I added [Partial] pages for Mockingbirds and Grackles
to the Birds of White Rock Lake today.

August 2

Dry Roots - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Dry Roots

I'd hoped to go up the dam-side path to shoot birds in the spillway. But no go. The City has that side fenced off like they've fenced off the Garland Avenue path, probably the best and easiest bird-watching perch on the lake, often with the most birds and best diversity. Big hunks of the supposed "retaining" walls fell on both sides during the 100-year flood last spring.

Steep Slope Signs - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Steep Slope Signs — not at the beginnings of the
dam's back side but way down in the middle. If
you didn't know where it was by then, you probably
fell down it already. But here's this sign leaning.

There's far fewer birds now there's so little water. The spillway creek that backed up into the Old Fish Hatchery is nearly empty as is the spillway. We saw The City spewing water down Ross Avenue near downtown today, but the drought continues at White Rock Lake.

Bowing Green Heron - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Adult Green Heron

Coming back from our dam walk, we found an opened gate and visited the woodsy side of the spillway, even walked down through the bottoms where there used to be an abundance of water. There we discovered two small Green Heron adults (the parents?). First we thought they might be Little Blue (heron) babies but the colors were all wrong. Nobody else has those yellow legs.

And yes, as you can see by the bird above that Green Herons are not, in any way, green. They are, in fact, shades of blues and reds. You have to wonder how they got that name.

Mockingbird Flying with Stripes Showing - Copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mockingbird Flying with
White Stripes Exposed

Plus I finally got a decent shot of a Mockingbirdflashing its white stripes in flight. Not sharp yet, but I keep panning every Mock I even get close to. As often, this shot is a small portion of a much bigger shot.

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August 1

Green & Sweeper - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Flexible Boom Sweeps Floating
Trash from Creek Water

Thought I'd try the old, little, light Sony F707 today and get to see each exposure before I shot it, maybe reduce my exposure error rate, take advantage of that zoom's wider apertures.

Vivid Yellow Flowers - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

I knew the name of this guy
a couple months ago.

But it's a whole other way of seeing I'm not used to anymore. The viewfinder is smaller, lower resolution and darker, with one shot every three or four seconds instead of five per. It's got half the megapixels but the colors are vivid.

Pretty Purple Flowers - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pretty Purple Flowers
with Fat Black Bees

I settled into Parrot Bay, long called that, because the parakeets fly across it when they're not in the big hum. Naturally, the City wants to call it something else, but I resist. Two egrets and a bunch of fat black bees on pretty blue flowers among the reeds along the edge.

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Index of Pages

 

 

All text and photographs
copyright 2006 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved.

No reproduction without
specific written permission.

since September 4 2006