DO NOT USE photos without permissionBird Rescue Advice:D7000 G2
Read these 3 before you ask me to I.D your birds: Heronss Egrets Herons v Egrets Feedback Rouses
White Rock Lake
A Murder of Crows — about how smart crows are — is an online episode of PBS's Nature.
Today, using my little Panasonic Lumix G2 to attempt to focus and see egrets in flight, I was much less successful than a couple days ago with my Nikon. Instead of 50% usable images, I got maybe 15%, not counting all the empty frames. No birds, just blurs of water.
With the Nikon camera and lens, I could see what was going on at all times. My pans might have lagged the birds' horizontal progress then, but this time I couldn't even see the birds. They look clear in these shots, but not in the electronic viewfinder (EVF), which was extremely confusing with lack of focus and overcharged contrast of water, birds and rocks.
The much brighter (f2.8 compared with the Panasonic's f5.6) Nikon tele lens focuses almost as quickly as I could think what I wanted in focus. The Panasonic rarely would focus on anything, so finding something to focus on in the miasmas, was difficult at best and impossible the rest of the time. This shot is almost in focus, but not quite.
The Nikon lens (Actually, Nikon's lenses are called Nikkors.) was only 300mm, since I'd removed the 2X extender, so it would focus fast. The Panasonic 100-300mm lens is a 200-600mm equivalence. So, unless I zoomed back to include more in the frame, which I am wired not to do. Fill the frame, I can still hear somebody shouting at me, probably from some book I read in the 1960s, this lens was longer, which means it framed smaller areas, which were much more difficult to figure out what it was pointing at.
So, obviously, what I need to use the Pany cam and lens, is more practice. A self-defeating prize, because the Nikon does all these things easier, quicker, albeit in a heavier, clunkier cam & lens. I'd much rather be able to see what I'm doing, so I'll probably stick with the Nikon stuff for birds. Until something available in a m43 or other mirrorless format does a heckuva lot better than this.
I like this shot even if it's got nothing to do with birds in flight, because it's a direct size comparison between the fierce little Snowy Egret and the giant Great Egret. I've been hoping for such an image, so I can put it on one of my Heron pages.
This is the only shot I made yesterday that was worth having
shot it. Same everything I've been complaining about.
I got my little, folding step-stool delivered this morning, and in full sunlight set out to photograph egrets flying around the Lower Steps at the end of The Spillway at White Rock Lake. Took the doubler off the Blunderbuss, so it would focus about as fast as I could think, stood up over the balustrade on the walking bridge overlooking those Lower Steps and was careful to mostly only photograph egrets flying directly under me or flying past.
Snowy Egrets tend to be fierce and will pick on anyone down there who's the same size or smaller. Compared with a Great Egret, however, they run, which is what this one is up to here.
I didn't stay long. It was plenty hot, and I wasn't used to slinging the big lens and big camera around like that. When one or other hand or arm hurt from all that heavy activity, I'd press it against the hot, dark red steel I was leaning on, and within seconds the pain would leave me, and I could keep shooting birds flying mostly under me.
I haven't had so much visual fun since we opened that art show I've been working on for the last year. And I'm going out next time with a different camera and a different lens I seriously doubt will give me the same 50% winners percentage, but I'm going to try anyway. I'm pretty sure the egrets will help me.
Classic side-view particularly easily available looking down into just such a unnatural (wholly man-made and recently updated with a gazillion tons of concrete) amphitheater.
Did get all sweaty standing in the hot sun, but there was a breeze and so many willing, big white birds with magnificent wings.
We won't do everything backwards this time, but I think this might be the best of today's bunch, and the one that preceded it wasn't, so it's next. Then we'll just go on as if nothing untoward ever happened. I had thought about capturing some bird or birds with all that blacked out (Why didn't they gray it out instead?) graffiti, but here, as I managed to accomplish that plan, I was only aware of the birds, which I had been panning along with since they were flying out of the woods at the top of the Spillway.
It's not terrible bad. It's just not as exciting or precise or nice as that first one.
I shot more flying egrets today than anytime in maybe the last year. I had the Blunderbuss set on stun at 900mm, so I probably should come back with a toolbox step-up and just the 300 (450 equivalent mm) so I can get more of them in focus, as many today were not.
In general, the plainer or simpler the background, and the longer I've been following one bird, the better were my chances of catching up with focus. I'm excited about going back for more, and I have just the toolbox step-up, and am eager to capture me some souls of flying egrets or Little Blue Herons or Great Blue Herons or whomever else flies by. I have a couple perches in mind, so if not tomorrow, maybe the next day.
Looking down from the overlook overlooking The Spillway, down toward the cement slants this side of The Lower Steps, where various birds sometimes gather. Here we have a Great Egret (the tall one), a Snowy Egret (the first short one, left to right), another Great Egret and possibly or probably another Snowy.
The one on the left has just arrived. The one on the right appears to be flying out to greet it. More than than would be pure surmise.
I've often seen them fluff up to indicate they're ready to fight or run some lower species off, but this looks as if their various mops just got caught in the wind.
I had tried several clicks worth to capture the bird flying into forever above this one just standing there staring at the fishing situation around the Lower Steps. I failed on every shot of the upper egret, but I like this one.
And I added one more shot of the other day's Green Heron, who semi roused sometime along that back-wards presented bunch of bird photos.
I'm never quite sure why the Blunderbuss chooses to render some birds in some situations as incredibly sharp and others not quite or not at all, but maybe it's got to do with lighting. This Little Blue is hanging out in pure shade. No strong shadows apparent, and it looks sharp enough to cut glass.
What I saw that made me stop at the lower steps of The Spillway was a flock of Great Egrets. Just as I walked to the bridge overlooking those lower steps, some intrepid young fisher person scared almost all of them away by illegally being down on the slanted concrete at the bottom of the trough water was gushing through, walking back and forth in the commission of fishing.
About then I noticed one Little Blue Heron near the opposite end of the steps, where the slough from the dam and spillway makes a left turn to go under the walking bridge I was standing on leaning against the hot but bearable redbrown superstructure, then under the dark-underneath car bridge that is Garland Road.
The little fish that did not get away. This Little Blue Heron was pulling little fishies out every time he put his beak in, and that was stead and sure and often. He'd discovered where the little fish gather, and he was pulling them out like magic. The only kind of fishing I've ever withstood decades ago with my father on Mirror Lake on the Continental Divide in Colorado. Fast fish catching can be wondrous.
When the Little Blue tired of fishing or more likely, of eating so many fishies, it let this hungry Snowy Egret in on the game, and the Snowy made it work just as fast, stoop, eat; stoop, eat; stoop, eat.
I've seen both birds looking and not finding, so it was a major treat to see them getting all they wanted on this hot, moist day.
No competition. The only worry would be letting the rushing
water have its way with it. Here the Snowy struggles slightly with balance, but
keeps right on fishing and eating.
I try to put the best pic on top of each journal entry. Even if it's out of sequential order. This leap, for example …
Happened after this lean, which in turn, occurred prior to
It slowly and somewhat stealthily sneaking up on something I couldn't see. And before that was …
This Green Heron full neck extension.
Which happened after this relaxed neck Green Heron pose. Which, well, you can probably tell by now, that we're going backwards into time. If I'd been a lot more careful when I first walked across the pier in Sunset Bay this afternoon, I might have got both these critters much closer and in greater detail. But I was clumsy and hot.
And before all that, and just after I spooked the Great Egret and its fishing buddy, the Green Heron, and before this little scene with the Green-eared Slider (after which species I named my current automobile) is when I spooked them, and I have no pictures of that, so this is the end of today's adventure, close to where I began it.
I want to add, however, that the conventional wisdom is that early mornings and later in the afternoon into evening are the best times to photograph birds, but I still believe that the hot middle of the day is just about as good a time as any. I've been working on that theory all this summer. It's dark in the evening, and I'm asleep in the mornings, so I didn't really have all that much choice, although I've wrecked my sleeping schedule for days by getting up early sometimes.
The right time to photograph birds is when you, me or anybody
has birds, camera, lens and the need or want.
Not quite in focus, but the one before is much less sharp.
I have seen them land elegantly, but this ain't one of those.
On solid concrete under a few inches of rushing water.
Wings almost folded down.
Just about then, a Great Egret comes flying along ready to land nearby.
Inches from toes-down.
Swing legs forward again.
Tiny splash. The judges won't count much off for that.
The sudden stopping sends feathers flopping.
I didn't wait for its flurry of flying feathers to calm down altogether, but its tail is still down and its wings are still a little up.
Such a beautiful bird.
A few minutes before I parked on a street of posh houses just up a hill from the lake, I'd promised myself to go to anywhere but Sunset Bay. Then I went to Sunset Bay and didn't even get out of my car it looked so desolate. Then I drove my renta-car (The Slider's in the shop.) homeward, noticed a lot of tall white and tall dark birds on the upper spillway.
So I parked there and walked to the dam, and there were Great and Snowy Egrets and a couple Great Blue Herons and one Black-crowned Night-Heron (so far) and several Little Blue Herons. I was in heaven. Not only was I close enough to photograph any one I wanted of a variety of fun species, they were flying in places (generally below me) I could probably get them in focus, AND I already knew who they were.
Plus, when I didn't think about it too much, I was able to get some artsy shots of birds I love photographing.
As I approached the dam, I figured I had maybe a half hour before the sun set, rendering it mostly too dark to photograph. But it turned out I had plenty of time, and my interest waned just as the sun was disappearing, which wasn't for awhile yet in these photographs.
While his pal stood guard.
I'd checked the day before, after the rain the night before,
and the place was too rushing with great thrusts of water, then forgot my promise
to myself to come back today. But I've made the lake on my way back from almost
everywhere I go, so I inevitably get to see what's going on out there, on my
Hardly expected anything exotic in Sunset Bay today, but you never know. I saw this little heron foraging in the grass and concrete down by shore just to the east of where Charles usually feeds the geese and ducks. Nobody else in sight on land nearby. A few dark ducks out in the water. Warmish out. I'm still not sure what, exactly this is.
I didn't know when I wrote this entry, but I've been thinking about it, and I think this is probably a young, juvenile Cattle Egret, which are — at that age — very difficult to discern from little Little Blue Herons.
I first assumed it was a little Little Blue Heron, but this one's beak seems curved, and its legs and feet are not gray. More like brownish with black shins. Juvenile Snowy Egrets have black on the fronts of their legs, and it walked with that exaggerated head-bobbing Cattle Egrets do. We do see Cattle Egrets in and around Sunset Bay, but usually they just fly over, and if it's a Snowy, it doesn't look like any of the Snowies in the I.D books.
Here, it (same one as before. There was only one white bird on shore at Sunset late this afternoon) looks like it does have gray legs, but it distinctly does not look like a juvenile Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron or even a Reddish Egret. Once again, I am in the not-at-all-peculiar position of not being quite sure. They say go with your first guess, and that's a little Little Blue Heron.
Of Sunset Bay from Dreyfuss Point, where there used to be the Dreyfus Building, that burned down when the fire department couldn't find it, so now places at the lake have signs with addresses and named streets on them.
It's nice to know that I know some birds at least.
Great Blue Heron on straw pallet hidden from view from the other side — I tried.
I recently got an email from a new reader, saying, and I quote:
As for the buddha aka pterodactyl pose (only in great blues?) there are at least four hypotheses I have seen:
- H1 Vitamin D formation — unlikely since birds put uropygial gland oil on feathers, allow the sun to convert pre vitamin D to active form, and then preen it off
- H2. To get rid of ectoparasites — don't think so since preening does a good job (in some birds dust baths)
- H3. Thermo-regulation
a. to cool convectively - my colleague Bill Dunson thinks not because they are often gular fluttering and this is a very efficient way to cool
b. to slow radiative heat gain by fluffing up feathers — if so they should be fluffing all feathers
- > H4. To dry off breast feathers after getting wet fishing — I have noted that all egrets and herons avoid getting their belly feathers wet at least while hunting but they might well get wet when they strike at a big prey and struggle with it
So I guess I have to change my opinion on this Great Blue
Heron position and claim that I just don't know. That shouldn't surprise anybody.
I took a lot of pictures last week, then I got awfully busy, now I'm laxing out a little, because next week is going to be dreadful busy as Terry Hays and I put together a major art exhibition at the Bath House Cultural Center. So I might forget to do this page again.
The two pelicans are not always in Sunset Bay, but when I see them I'm always pleased. I think it means that the pelican who was released by Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation last year has a companion. I don't know whether it just appeared out of nowhere, Rogers released another pelican, or something more mysterious.
Some birds and bird activities I only capture every few years. But young mockingbirds always seem to attract my attention. Maybe because there are just so many of them. At the lake and everywhere else.
It is believed that flashing their wings — purportedly to show off those gorgeous white stripes there — scares or attracts or draws bugs out of the ground. I don't know about that, but I've seen them flashing and I've even more often seen them practicing flashing. This is that juvenile practicing, I think.
AFter I got this and the doves, I started seriously seeking birds on posts. I thought surely I could find a grackle on a post. But I could not.
Normally, I don't photograph doves. They're just so common. But they are also beautiful.
It looks like a great blue grackle, but since there isn't a bird called that, it must instead just be a Great-tailed Grackle who looks blue in the light.
Hot female grackle hot-footing it across the mud.
Even when they're fluffed up.
A Great Egret standing on one of the logs out in Sunset Bay. This is the time of year when they gather out there for night time safety, often in numbers.
The old boathouse & lagoon at White Rock
August 10 2012
I saw a bunch of Monk Parakeets gathered in the shade around the restrooms overlooking The Old Boathouse, so I slowly drove The Slider around, so I could lean out the driver's window and photograph me some parakeet behavior, something I've been wanting to do for a long time. Close enough to show individual feathers.
It was great fun. There was a group of guys on the lower, boathouse part of the parking lot, but nobody to slow or stop me from turning around facing the wrong way and hang my big lens out the front window. Closest I've got to the 'keets in a long time. T
he last time I remember being here faced this way, a angry cop gave me a bad time for harassing some women I never saw. I was too busy photographing grackles playing in a leaking water fountain. But he wasn't having any of my excuses. That guy still scares me. But photographing parakeets up close and personal like this was too good a chance to pass up. Lake cops have been very nice over the last few years. No police person has hassled me then.
At first I was happy just to get shots of them eating grass. I've always wondered what they were doing in the grass. Now I know they were eating it.
Then while I stared through the big lens, I noticed they were not preening themselves but each other.
One roused up its feathers, to expose more of what needs to not be in there anymore. His pal was more than willing to help.
The puffed up parakeet lets the other 'keet in close to clean its neck.
Not exactly close to focus, but colorful with some action. Gradually, the parakeets all flew away, but meanwhile some of them needed more preening.
The one on the right bows low to expose its back.
Cooperative preening. It takes a village.
And another view of the same sort of action, as if to prove it was not a fluke.
Today was at least partially about finding and photographing almost invisible birds. This Tricolored Heron was the star of that show. I stood on the new wood bridge over the lagoon photographing the very visible eclipsed Wood Ducks below. Gradually, after focusing closely in on several others that I saw from the beginning, I began picking out movement in the weeds or among the muck.
This guy was the best bird at hiding I eventually honed in on. I had to eventually pull the Tricolor out of the background before I ever even got a hint of the movement among the gray dirt and gunk this bird was traveling ever so slowly around on. Even then I could hardly believe my eyes or lens. Squint looking at this shot and you'll get a hint of what I didn't see till it moved, and even then the lens had great trouble focusing in on it.
Reader Brenda Loveless says this is a Solitary Sandpiper. Thank you, Brenda.
As so often happens, I didn't get to see it in its glory till it swooped up to fly away. Revealing what should be an easy bird shape and pattern to identify, but of course, I'm having the devil of a time doing that. I've been looking through four different bird i.d books, and have not yet found this precise wiggly patterned tail. There is one with plain brown wing tops, however. And if all else fails — as it often does when I try to i.d an unsub — I'll use that term, even if that bird's tail is significantly different.
Two birds in The Crossley I.D. Guide show that brown tail down the middle of that wiggly tail pattern, the Solitary Sandpiper and the Long-billed Dowitcher, so it's one of those or another bird I didn't notice. Except, of course, that different books have differing versions of what the same birds' tails look like.
We've watched Tricolored Herons nesting at the Southwestern Medical Center rookery, and it is fascinating to think that maybe one of those juvies has taken residence at White Rock Lake, where I've recently photographed it at the Spillway, Sunset Bay and now here. And I've seen bright blazing white Great and other egrets and various shades of herons suddenly materialize from the background while I was watching or photographing something else, but it's still startling that such a colorful bird can hide so well in such plain sight.
Seems kinda late in the season to be starting a family, but ducks don't read no rules.
Two male eclipse Wood Ducks looking rather different in beak, head top, eye and back colors. This lower one is a juvenile.
According to my Mac's dictionary, eclipse is "the phase during which the distinctive markings of a bird (esp. a male duck) are obscured by molting of the breeding plumage" and molt is when "an animal sheds old feathers, hair, or skin, or an old shell, to make way for a new growth " or "a loss of plumage, skin, or hair, especially as a regular feature of an animal's life cycle."
Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas, USA
August 7 2012
On my first visit back to White Rock Lake, of course I went straight for Sunset Bay, which was hot and swampy, with the lake way down and the shore way out. Weather wise it was wet, with rain clouds overhead but no rain coming from them as they tantalizingly drifted over the lake. "The peninsula" has grown halfway across the bay toward past the "Hidden Creek" area. At first, I didn't see much going on. No solo White Pelican. No bevy of black ducks, no much of anything, except a bunch of nondescript brown ducks too far out to focus or photograph. Then, standing on the pier, I perceived the mud of the peninsula to be moving with tiny little peeps.
As I paid more attention, I saw more detail. And more activity. Those bird behaviors I so love to photograph.
Turned out the place was crawling, hopping, running, flying and fighting with peeps. Most notably Killdeer, which I largely ignored since I've photographed them and their behaviors so much and so often before. But much smaller and more difficult to identify — but Anna did — were Semipalmated Sandpipers, which rove all over the U.S. from southernmost Alaska across to eastern, not quite north-eastern-most Canada down to just past Tennessee and west to a line edging Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and eastern Montana. I.e., widespread in this 'eastern' portion of the U.S. and well up into our neighbor to the north.
I brought my doubled 300mm, and for the first time ever, my clunky tripod. I didn't want to hand-hold that chunk of heavy Nikon and all that lens in the 100+ degree heat — or have to hold it still enough to target focus on the same tiny bird place long enough to get them in sharp focus. Instead of bunches of blurs, I sometimes got sharply in-focus birds behaving, mostly normally, pecking food out of the mud and water, but I ignored those,
Almost the exact same pose as the image five shots up from here, except that "looking mean" ferocity look from the sandpiper on the left.
What got me excited was them fighting, running after each other, chasing, then battling on ground and in the air —
All of which was almost always preceded by them adopting this 'tilt" position, often, as here, accompanied by wings flapping and looking fierce.
I should point out that Semipalmated Sandpipers are very small — about six and-a-quarter inches long, with a wingspan up to 14 inches. I saw them flying, especially very close to the ground, but I was usually unable to capture them in any focus up there.
I still got lots of blurs., but when I paid closer attention, I managed to capture a some of them in more sharply-focused blurs. For awhile, when I was working up these images, I thought perhaps these were juveniles playing very much like I've seen juvie Mockingbirds, mock-fighting. But that bit of feather in the upper left one beak seems to indicate that it got it from the other bird.
It looks more like feather than food, which they might also be fighting about. I've often seen birds chasing, catching and fighting each other for food.
Some of these shots could be from a couple of the other states we transversed, but most are from those five. I spent long minutes photographing hummers in Indiana and hours in Kentucky, and I might be getting better, but I need more practice. I've even thought I might feed some here.
We had hoped to find birds everywhere we went, but it was so hot in the southeast this summer, we think many of the usual birds were hiding. We found hummers at Margie's house in Popcorn, Indiana and again at Jica and Bob's in Henderson, Kentucky.
Hummingbirds, hummingbirds and more hummingbirds.
I know this is in Bob & Jica's because I got to sit out on their little front porch trying desperately to get those little guys in sharp focus, for hours. Great fun. I think if I had another couple of days I could have done much better, but I was so tired of sitting out there in the heat, me slowly melting
I found this fluffy spotted bird on a plant growing out of the edge of a swampy lake off The Natchez Trace just as the rain started. It's part of a wildlife area near Jackson, Mississippi we'd hoped to explore, although it seemed more devoted to hunters than photographers. The rain greeted us at the gate, then eventually wetted us away.
Not sure where we were when I saw a sign pointing up a roughish road to "Serenity Point" or some such name. But all we found was homes and trees and a steep little road. I saw something flap across the road and land off to our left in dense foliage so dark I had a devil of a time getting anything in focus. I think it's a Merlin, but I'm not certain.
If that's what it really is.
Adult Hairy Woodpecker at the museum near Henderson, Kentucky, where Audubon lived for nine years. It took several long minutes of holding my heavy camera and heavy lens, witing for it to circle the feeder to the left, so I and the camera could see its whole head and beak. I had to employ that patience thing people keep telling me I must have to get shots of birds, but I finally got it.
Anna says this is a female
text and photographs copyright 2011 by J
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
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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.