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Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation in Wilmer, Texas
December 30 2011
Turned out to be a close-up kinda day at Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation today when Anna took grand-daughter Alice and me for a field trip. Peacocks were running wild all through the Rogers campus — as were Great Blue Herons, and several of both posed for me. Both species seem to have chosen to stay and prosper at this state's only widely-recognized wildlife rehabilitation center.
My bluejay photo karma's been weird for a long time. The last time I got this close to a blue jay was in 1970 or 71 when I was on assignment with the Dallas Times Herald to photograph some who were attacking people in front of the then-new bent City Hall. Several male jays shot touch-and-goes on my head, grabbing a bit of hair each time they landed and took off again immediately. Those jays were protecting their nests. This one was a lot more friendly, although I was careful not to get in pecking distance — one shot its beak through the wire mesh by about three inches, so I never got closer.
Several species of pea fowl and hens were found all around Rogers. I found this one sunning his self near a short stairway.
Two roadrunners ran the length of their portion of a much larger cage that also included dozens of doves. One of the runners proffered a feather to Anna at her and Alice's visit, but had no feathers for me. I suspect they are partial to females, since many of Rogers' volunteers are women. This one ran back and forth, back and forth, out to the sunlight and back into the shadows, far faster than I could focus or stop it in action, but it finally agreed to pose, holding still for just a few seconds then back to its race.
I have a shot of the goose sedately sitting in its tub causing nary a ripple, a shot that makes it utterly clear who is sitting there, if not what it is doing there. But I like this one so much better. Looks a little like a pussycat in a rainstorm.
These two shots have merit, but they were more or less lost in the miasmas of way-overexposed outside showing through the cage on the left, and the branch these hawks were standing on also had too much light, and I wasn't sure what to do. I don't like maul retouching, far prefer to present my exposures pretty much as the sun shone on them, but neither of these two had anything approaching even lighting.
In too many ways, these are mistakes, but in some other, more experimental ways, I really like them. For their swirl of activity, for their chiaroscuro lighting, for their vivid colors. So they're here as local color eXperiments. Hawks with red tails, gosh they must be Red-tailed Hawks.
At last, a bird I don't have to identify. I would, however, like to know who created it. I didn't see a signature.
Standing and staring. What owls do, even if they are recuperating in cages.
We like to pretend that it is peacocks' tail feathers that spread out so beautifully, but these are the real peacock tail feathers, and besides the fluffy tuft in the middle, they're not all that interesting, certainly not a spectrum of amazing color. According to Wikipedia, "The peacock tail ("train") is not the tail quill feathers but the highly elongated upper tail covert." shown here, upper right.
By now, you know I adore Great Blue Herons, and if they're just standing around in the yard, holding still for photographs, why not? Alice kept asking why this one was standing where it was, holding quite still, even as we passed nearby. We kept answering, because it wants to. But the real story Alice didn't know to ask about was that GBHs who had been rehabilitated at Rogers chose to stay on, nesting in tall trees in easy sight, and hanging out among the humans who helped them through their difficulties. Call them Rogers graduates, who just stayed on.
Another hawk in the same cage as the swirling birds above.
Regular readers are probably aware of my growing affection for Turkey and Black Vultures. I used to think their red heads were ugly, but this one's changed my mind. White blur at right is part of the cage wire I was attempting to shoot through. Almost every one of today's shots of birds in cages were actually photographed with the camera lens right up against the wire mesh you see often in these shots.
I've tried balancing two separate and different cameras on Rogers field trips previously, but for today, I brought my smaller, but slower Panasonic G2 and three lenses, a long telephoto zoom, a short zoom and a wide angle with a wide aperture that I never once today used. Because it focuses even slower than I do, I usually required a bird that held still, at least briefly. Like this one.
Who, moments later, assumed this position, which signals that it's about to do something else, and in this case, it flew the few feet to the outside edge of its cage, bounced off the wire mesh there, fell or flopped down some, then came back. At Rogers it is often difficult to discern the walking wounded from birds being once again startled that they can't just fly toward the light and get away.
I think I remember that this Great Blue Heron was standing on top of one of the cages, making this up the neck shot ever so much more likely.
Black-bellied Whistlers are common in this area, so naturally they're represented here, although Rogers takes birds from all over the state and region.
Happy New Year, ya'all.
White Rock Lake
Of 262 shots today, these are the best. I was careful not to go to Sunset Bay, because I always go there, and when I always go to the same place, I generally find the same birds, and I found some of those over here at the Spillway, too, of course, but I also found some other guys, for a change. Unfortunately, I can't for sure identify all of them. But that's hardly anything new for this journal.
For a long while this evening as I put all the puzzle pieces together, I assumed this little critter was a Spotted Sandpiper, mostly because every year at about this time, I find one of those, and I assume it's something else. I almost captioned this shot that, when I looked at the picture in the book one more time, and realized Spotted Sandpipers don't have "spectacles" around their eyes. And, now that I'm looking that close, this one's beak isn't the same, either.
I'm pretty certain all three of these shots are of the one and same bird, because at the lower steps I only saw this one small bird that I couldn't identify, not counting the one duck I also couldn't identify, but even I can tell the differences between a peep (of which I believe this is one) and a duck. But with me identifying birds, there's always doubt.
Well, I normally think of coots as small. But this guy is considerably smaller than a coot. So tiny might be a fair assumption of just how small.
Oh, heck, I don't know. I do know it's duck.
Way high, remember I'm using a 500mm telephoto zoom for these shots. I just happened to look up. Well, I try to remember to always look up when I'm bird photographing, but sometimes I get carried away with birds on the ground or in the water. Till I remember they fly, too.
Anna, who was on the other side of the lake, showing her granddaughter Alice the birds in Sunset Bay, saw these guys fly over way up high. I wasn't attempting to get away from photographing pelicans today, but in the back of the back of my mind, I assumed I would. Then there they were, looking down on me.
At least I think these are the same as that single duck a few images up.
At first I assumed these were more of the same bird I saw on the Lower Steps, but upon scrutiny, I don't see the spots, and the upper tone is not patterned the same, so these are at least one other variety of shorebirds, and the third one from the right looks like a whole nother species.
Shot from the dam, here's some pelicans swimming past that building and those houses on a far side of the lake. We can see little spots of gulls and only the barest hints of cormorants swimming along, but it, too, is the same fishing party I've been photographing for weeks now, but from a completely different perspective, and that is probably worth the trip. Besides, The Spillway is a longish, uphill walk I needed. And I didn't stop at the dam.
On my return trip, down past the spillway toward the Lower Steps, I saw these peeps somewhat closer on the Spillway proper.
I'd seen it, and photographed it, on the way up the hill, but those shots were partially overexposed, so I shot more on the way down. Any day with a Great Blue Heron is a day worth breathing and photographing.
I've been thinking about Great Egrets lately. It's just about the time to find them in great hordes totally involved in what I call Egret Dances. I usually start seeing those active gatherings right about New Year's and that's tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Day after tomorrow according to this date, tomorrow actually as I type this. Gotta remember to spell check.
If you can identify any of my unidentifiables today, I'd sure appreciate it.
Probably my most exciting few moments — something less than a minute — of the day was when the pelicans who had been holed up along the peninsula, got spooked enough to stage a mass escape along this side of the Hidden Creeks area. I wasted several overexposed exposures on the melee, but eventually I got the exposure right, even if the guys were at some distance by then. I thought they were a little more organized earlier in the escape, but those white birds turn nasty white when overexposed.
By this point, they're in disarray. But still amazing in several opposing contexts. No telling what spooked them. I saw one of the City's Habitat Destruction Machines do it convincingly one time. A couple of people with a couple of big dogs another time. Dimwad canoers have done it several times.
Just by putting in over near where they settle on the peninsula those turkeys have set every pelican in Sunset Bay in agitated escape, and the canoers don't even seem to recognize their action's reaction among the shorebirds there. Kinda like the woman who brought a big, black dog onto the pier this afternoon, then wondered why all the birds went away.
Some of the text I lost yesterday went on and on about how, when I get excited about photographing fast-moving birds, I tend to tilt the camera one way or the other, making everything crooked. I was excited here, barely able to compose but somewhat able to point the camera in the right direction and hope for focus. Eventually, they landed near the logs out in the middle of Sunset Bay and dawdled around there most of the rest of the time I was there.
This is a whole 'nother situation, but I forget all the details, except that this skid continues in the next shot…
… only this shot is too much darker than that last one. I had no chance to adjust the exposure during said skid. If the exposure could go from almost good to miserable this fast, perhaps you can see how far out of my league I am sometimes.
Until the lady with the dog arrived, the inner bay around the pier was mobbed with bird species. Pelicans were on the big log just a few feet off the pier, and lots of ducks and gooses and scaups and everybody else crowded the area. Great for photographers, of which there was also a variety.
Wonderfully close. Sometimes the light was a little difficult, shining right into my lens. And other times, when I could finagle a decent exposure , these sorts of shots were possible.
I have no idea why I shot this, but it might have something to do with the pelican standing at left of this shot. It's got to be the scrawniest American White Pelican I've ever photographed. Or the most oddly posed. Or the weirdest-looking pelican. Or something else unknown.
Grackles are great starers.
Now I think I'm remembering why I sometimes think I should just list photographs and not worry so much about filling the spaces in between with words.
I love what's going on with the light and slight shadows in this pelican's wings folded on top as usual but raised slightly, perhaps to let them dry after a bath or otherwise getting them wet.
Only two guys in the bay today. No females in sight, which is mostly normal.
Quick shot. Not really in focus or sharp,
Oh, blast. Never did that before. I've posted a page with little Xs running down today's date, and that could only mean that after writing a whole day's journal worth of words to go with the pictures, I didn't save all those words. I still got the pictures, and I just don't feel like filling in all the words again, so today you'll get just picture along with this ignorant intro. Some of you probably prefer it this way. At the moment, I do, too.
And I'd done a spell-check and everything.
Oh, well. It was drudge work, and it probably showed. Now it don't.
I needed the break, but I was expecting a quick vacation on the coast, and we were pretty well into it, but my asthma kicked in, and here I am photographing the same old birds in the same old place again. A place that I happen to love, of course. Which is better than coughing myself to death, which seemed likely there for awhile. A little decent doctoring, some good-enough medicines, and I'm coughing less, so today I went to White Rock. This lady was the first interesting bird I saw.
I see and photo her so often, we ought to be on a first-name basis by now. Maybe I should call her Myrtle. Sometimes I see her and her mate hunting together. I haven't come up with a name for him, yet. I and may not, since I don't entirely approve of humans naming animals or birds, unless we provide them with full room and board.
Then I saw and photographed these guys flying toward Sunset Bay from Arboretum Drive. Then I walked into Sunset Bay, because I really needed the exercise.
Moms and kids feeding the coots and ducks and whoever wins the fights that always starts. I guess bird-feeders don't notice that part. In California, signs were posted at obvious places where people would likely try to feed birds, telling them not to. I don't think it's healthy for the birds.
It's different feeding the gooses, because our whole tribe of white and gray gooses are essentially farm animals, fed daily with the best corn grain available for that purpose — and crackers, which some of them prefer, and wheat bread. But then many of those guys can't fly. But coots and ducks can go find their own food, and even in winter, probably ought to.
And the usual retinue of farm birds and wild birds.
Soon as I got out onto the pier in Sunset Bay, in came a whole bunch of my favorite big white & black birds, and this time I got to follow them in from some distance.
I try to come up poetic or at least prosaic captions, but here were a big bunch of gorgeous birds coming in low and fast.
A short scad of pelicans flying in in close formation, and I had the camera set to take one shot at a slow time, so I switched that on the camera, but they were still coming in way too fast for my slow Nikon D7000, so I missed a lot of it, especially up close.
Just ever so barely got this one all in the picture, though there was some leeway behind it that I cropped to match the nose-drop end.
And swept past me on the pier.
If I'd been a little more alert, and not coughing so much, I mighta set my cam a little differently. Or maybe not. I felt lucky, though it were a significant challenge. But I usually like it like that. Perfect exposure a few seconds ago, suddenly and without warning, turned into overexposure as the beautiful big birds flashed by me.
I guess I was too close, with my zoom zoomed in too far, so I was barely able to capture whole birds. And I've been thinking I needed a longer telephoto lens, although I guess I could stand farther back with a new lens.
Then it watered down. It seems wrong to call this "landing."
Today was about the earliest (10:30 ayem) I'd been to the lake in awhile. Does it look like what I felt was a sense of Something's-gonna-happen? I felt it down deep but I just stood there and stared, because I'd just photographed so many of them coming in so fast, I never expected another bunch to take off and fly off in the other direction (west).
But they did, and I struggled to zoom back to include more birds. Taking turns going off fishing, I guess.
Nice to know I can still capture pelicans sharp and in gorgeous flight, but I was hoping for something a little more exotic this week.
On the actual December 16, there was, for a while today, actual sunlight. But on the 15th, when I shot these, there wasn't. So it was dark and charcoal gray, kinda like these birds. Ducks, I think, whom I saw flying along the east coast of the lake. They look a little like Mergansers, I think in my mind that almost never is able to identify anything I can't get in focus. Like this and other very similar shots I made of these birds this day.
I thought they might be mergansers with those distinctive heads and beaks, but I'd never heard of such bird here at White Rock, so I waited for someone who knew more than I about these things to identify them. Jim Peterson certainly qualifies. He published my Bald Eagle photos on his site, and if I'd known about him when I finally twigged that I'd seen a Tricolored Heron at the Medical Center Rookery, I might have been cited as the first to see that bird in this area, but I only became aware of his site when he asked permission to use the eagle pic. Thanks, Jim for I.D confirmation.
Driving the Slider ever so slowly down Arboretum Drive, because I could see the usual fishing party, mob or whatever, not far off the coast, it was raining, and I didn't want to get out and get soaked. Luckily nearly nobody else was driving down the road, although of course, there were bicyclists driving the other way, ignoring the trail they had banded together all over Dallas to require the City to install, and a couple of bozo walkers also ignoring the trail, needing somehow to walk down the street. I honked.
Then got into another cozy spot for shooting out the wet window at birds feeding themselves.
And when they got their fill — four pounds of fish a day for pelicans — they'd take off from the crowd and head home. I tried to find out how many pounds of fish cormorants require, but learned instead that they have become a problem for coastal fish farms, about which I have mixed feelings.
Quite awhile later, from the top of Winfrey
Point, in the parking lot behind the Winfrey building, I saw other pelicans returning
from fishing, then this one flew by. It's fuzzy, because it was dark and far
away. I probably was, too.
Not particularly cold today (Wednesday). My long-sleeve flannel shirt and vest were plenty for the light cold, but there was wind enough to whip the Great Blue Heron's occipital plumes straight back, and it rained all the time I was at the lake today.
I don't know what it's marking, but it's shallow there, so maybe that's it. Except there are no red balls in Sunset Bay, and even out past the few logs still caught out there, it's only less than a foot deep. I often see long-legged shore birds walking around out there.
I didn't hear a single male Red-winged Blackbird screaming its territory today, but I saw hundreds, maybe thousands of them and their females thickening the reeds along the edge of the lake.
That far north on White Rock Lake, that bird is very likely a cormorant of the double-crested variety. The retirement center on the horizon was going to build a tower, and I had visions of standing on the top of it to photograph the lake, but FtLOtL (pronounced fut-L-Lott-L and stands for Friends of the Lake) insisted that they not, fearing that other people would also build tall towers and before long, our lake would be like Central Park in New Yawk City, wholly encircled by tall buildings. I asked the retirement home, and they said there was no place up there I could look out a window and photograph, but I'm sure that's not true.
I don't know if Mockingbirds or Grackles are our most common bird. I suspect the latter, but there's still gobs of Mocks around. I found this one of the street leading up the hill to Winfrey Point. There are also dozens of them on the hill down the other side from Winfrey toward Sunset Bay, where one can park and walk to Sunset, but you can't drive there. Well, you could, but not legally.
Out from Sunset, onto Loop 12 awhile, then back up to Mockingbird/Peavy, turn left at the bridge, stay in the far right lane, loop down into the part of Lawther that goes into The Big Thicket, where are all the yacht clubs and anchored boats, usually of the sailing variety.
High caliber birds as big as gooses, and when they fly, they sound like freight train engines huffing and puffing. That's a lot of weight to get off the ground. Some gooses cannot fly, but Muscovies can. This is the only Muscovy (historically misidentified, because people thought they came from Moscow, to which they had been exported from South America.
Interesting that the Muscovies identified in bird books all look pretty much the same, whereas in the wild — or even on pretty tame White Rock Lake — there are many color and pattern varieties. Most of whom have those odd warts around their eyes and beaks. And they tend to gather together according to what colors that individual bunch of them are.
Shot these a couple days ago, although the weather's about the same it's been for awhile now — gray and dark.
I know you've seen pix like these before, but you'll probably see more this like later, too. Because I love photographing American White Pelicans zoom in from outer space, suddenly materialize out past the logs in Sunset Bay, wait as my Nikon D7000 fails at first to focus the fast-moving bird, then finally gives up and goes ahead and focuses on it, as it continues to barrel in.
Then all I gotta to is hold my finger on the shutter button, keeping the goofy camera from going off somewhere and focusing on something else entirely, or nothing at all — and keeping the visible frame surrounding the whole pelican as it comes closer to the lake's surface, then finally splashes down.
Twisting the photographer's body all along the way, keeping it facing into the bird. Clickity-click clicking away, being ever mindful that it'll only give me maybe 12 shots in any rapid succession, then stop and have to think about it all — contemplating the universe for its own sweet time — then starting shooting again.
Till the bird slows its forward progress, and settles slowly into the lake.
Then I'm out the next day, and it's even darker and grayer, but I see something unusual, out from the coast road along Arboretum Drive, and I see that it's a female Bufflehead duck. Buffles are unusual enough. Of course, they're usually paired off with somebody somewhere, and this is one of the females venturing off without anybody else in sight but one coot, who dives with her, but pops right back up, while she stays down a minute or so, and the photographers wait.
A couple pix of the Buffle on top, and within a few seconds, she goes down again.
Splattering a wake of water droplets and a crease in the water as she goes. My treasured Lone Pine edition of The Birds of Texas says this species "cives for aquatic crustaceans, insects and other invertebrates; also eats seed of glasswort and other aquaitc plants.
Part of the fun of going back to the same place every day for months and months is that I get to watch the same characters grow up. I think this is one of the dark ducks — not the big-tail Muscovies, but the "black" ducks some woman left off at Sunset Bay last summer. The green head and neck and irridescent colors
Certainly similar to Mallards, but different, too.
Before our eyes.
This guy — and supposedly any duck with a curly tail like this is a male — I'm not sure about. Have to look him up in Sibley's Guide to Birds. Sib always has the best drawings of all the intermediate steps in ducks' lives. Or so I thought. I don't know if this one looked like this two weeks ago. Nope, he's not on the Mallard page. Hmm…… I read somewhere that Mallards are who creates the most hybids. This must be another one of them.
Here's one of the, I think, two muscovies that have been hanging around Sunset Bay. I don't have kids or grandkids, you suppose I'm overcompensating with these birds? Still fun watching them grow up, though.
This looks like a First Summer Red-winged Blackbird, except of course, it's not summer. It's officially autumn, so that can't be it. I'm pretty sure it's a Red-winged Blackbird. I'll check The Crossley Guide. It's got actual photographs of differing age and sex birds all on one page. Nope, it doesn't look like any of those, either. I worried that I might have brought too much of those colors in this photograph. But I'm pretty careful about that, and I didn't do anything like that to this next shot.
And it looks pretty much the same. So Sibley and Crossley are both a little behind the eight-ball on this one. Thank goodness for what we sometimes perceive as reality.
Not quite up on the surface of the water and skittering (running on the water), and in fact slowing down from some of that. Great water sculpture.
Lately, there's generally a Red-tailed Hawk
around pretty often. But they float by at a distance not able to be photographed
well. Red-tailed Hawks mostly eat rodents it sights by making arduous (not at
all lazy) circles in the sky. This one was flying over near the baseball field
at the bottom of Winfrey Way or whatever that street is now called.
Dark gray today. Not so cold. Almost pleasant. I stood on the pier at Sunset Bay and talked birding with Jennifer who reads this journal. Great fun. And we got a slow and sporadic landing of the pelicans show most of the time.
I should point out that these photographs are not of just one pair of pelicans materializing out across the lake. These are the best of about a half dozen flights back to Sunset.
But I've ordered them, so they look like one, long sequence.
I almost didn't notice how dark it was till I saw these photographs.
I have lots of excuses why this is not just one, long series of two pelicans flying in and past us on the pier. The best is that my Nikon simply would not focus much of the time, but my favorite excuse was that I never got a nice, long trajectory, because although I got to watch a few coming in from across the lake, most of them simply materialized at about just past the logs out in the middle of Sunset Bay.
They weren't there, because after awhile, we were watching very carefully. Then, poof! they were there and piling in low and at great speed.
Oddly, I didn't follow any of my passers
by to the usual splash, skid and coast in to the rest of "our" pelicans, which
number about 28 these days. Which I only assume includes the eight pelicans that
summered here this last year.
When I was a photographer with the Dallas Times Herald about a million years ago, our chief photographer, John Mazziotta would get all excited anytime we included a silhouette of the Dallas skyline in any of our news photographs. Probably because that miniscule skyline is always popular, it's a major cliché and it shows right where you are in this burg. So I'm aware it was back there, and I sometimes line things up to show it off well. Directing these guys, however, would have been a major chore. They were there. I photographed them there, and it was nice to have a skyline included.
Today's subject, part of my ongoing obsession with American White Pelicans filling their gullets every day — they require four pounds of fish each, and a fishing mob — what I used to call a fishing armada, although armadas have to do with getting armed and not anything to do with fishing except armadas usually include boats and ships, and fisherpersons sometimes use those devices.
There's probably a correct avian term for a bunch of different species of birds getting together to catch some fish, and I know there are mobs of crows, but no crows involved in today's fishing, except they may also have been in the same sky, but lately I've been calling these gatherings mobs, because — not to be confused with The Mafia — these are unruly, unruled and mostly anarchic, except they are all there together for a purpose. To feed themselves. Pelicans often engage in cooperative fishing, but not when they're in one of these mobs. It's every bird for itself.
Most of our gulls are, so that particular gull probably is also, a Ring-beaked Gull. Yeah, they'll eat pretty much anything you throw at them, but they really like fish, and I've seen a pair of gulls carrying a fish that's as big as both of them. So they're not just hanging around for the excitement.
If the pelicans missed the fish, the gull, who probably sees it as well if not better, would probably take its chance at it, but the pelicans are bigger and closer.
At this point it's difficult to discern if anybody got anything worth all that scurrying and fighting.
But milliseconds later, it's obvious that this one pelican got something worth tilting back and swallowing. It was the only actual swallow I saw all day, but cormorants usually take theirs underwater, and thus out of sight, and most often, with gulls, there's such a knot of them, it's impossible to see who got what. But this pelican swallowed something real and food.
Who arrives first has a pretty good chance of eating first, so to the fleet goes the victory. A lot of the time during today's fishing mob that wandered around the big middle of the lake from west side of Winfrey Point to the dam, they all just sat (swam) out there wondering who'd discover fishes and where they'd be and how close each individual pelicans, cormorant or gull would be. But when there was a flurry of finding and catching fish, everything got visually exciting in a hurry.
I love photographing American White Pelicans flying. I'll take them just flying into Sunset Bay anytime, but to get them engaged in purposeful flight, especially of a competitive nature, is all the more wonderful. In the air, they are amazing graceful and controlled.
I rarely knew where they were heading, and
it's fairly obvious that none of the other birds — cormorants or pelicans assuming
their usual, duh… now what? positions have any clues either — but this pelican
is hot on the trail of something worth chasing down and swallowing whole.
Despite all the talk about snow on the TV weather shows last night, it did not. Instead, by the time I got to the lake this afternoon, the sky was blue and sunshine strong. This kestrel was much more easily found than yesterday's, and I got a lot closer to in focus shots of actions I've photographed — I guess — often enough to start getting good at. They don't tell me when they're going to jump off the wire, dive down into the grass …
… and catches something food
to eat. I've shot at this scene many, many times over the last half dozen years,
but this is one of the spare few times I've captured it capturing food. It probably
would have been somewhat more exciting if it were a meat-eater to see it catch
something much bigger than a bug, but kestrels eat bugs, which are smaller and
maybe even faster than animals or other birds. They are certainly much more difficult
to photograph. I was right there struggling with the camera and big, honking
lens, and I'm amazed I got this shot.
I kept thinking this weather was perfect for a Kestrel, but where was it? I looked in the usual places, down the lake edge of the Winfrey parking lot, the Bath House end of Dreyfus, and along the ridge up, overlooking the Bath House. It wasn't till I thought to give the west side of the lake a good look for something new, that I finally found her upstairs at The Old Boat House area. In a tree near the children's playground. I was driving around the parking lot as usual, looking for something, anything, that resembled a bird. Saw a bump in a tree, turned The Slider around facing the wrong direction in the middle lot, so I wouldn't have to get out in the cold, cold wind.
Then I took a couple dozen shots to make sure I got some close to being in focus, even though she was really far away and even then, still small in the frame. Like this rather nice portrait. Her staring at me, staring through my camera back at her.
Then, while I was attempting another focus in, it swooped away, and I wondered whether I'd see it again.
Took awhile to find it, atop a skinnier tree, not far away, then with a good-sized bug. Nutritious. And I now realize that would probably have been enough for the day, But I had work to do at home, so I stayed at the lake longer and found and photographed lots more birds.
Kinda was hoping for snow today, but may be better luck for that tomorrow. It was cold. Froze last night — hey! this is supposed to be the tropics, now that Global Warming's taken over. Any kind of futzy weather, you know where I went. The lake.
There'd probably been more before we got there. But there were only five then. We wondered where all the others were. Later they were joined by the five more pelicans who had gone fishing but didn't catch anything.
These white dots are gulls.
This is the first time this season I've seen Pelicans join in on the big — up to a quarter mile long — fishing party out in the middle of the lake. But, like I said, they weren't catching anything, and after awhile I just gave up. It's so much more interesting and exciting when they keep finding fish. Makes for some great shots sometimes. But by the next time I circled around and back along Arboretum Drive, the pelicans had left the area, and gone back to Sunset Bay.
More opportunities not to get out of the car.
Takes about twenty shots for every one that appears here. They're fast — and busy, sticking their beaks down into the ground, obscuring it from view when I go click. They don't spend much time with their heads up, posing for photographs. I maybe oughtta just photograph them with their heads buried in the deep grass, where they find what they eat. According to the Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, they forage for "invertebrates, berries, seeds and human food waste."
He was a long way out, under not not enough light, so you can't see the deep blues and reds in the black area around his neck and cheek, but we can see his long tail dragging behind. Again according to my Birds of Texas, "during their winter stay in Texas, Buffleheads ride the waves, diving for mollusks, mostly snails."
Here, my F O S Bufflehead dives, — they stay down longer than a minute, and when they come up, it's often a long way from where they started. I didn't see him again, but I'm glad to have found him today. There'll be more along the northern and central west side of the lake as winter wears on.
Cormorant Bay [See my White Rock Lake map}
is on the upper west end of the lake .
Didn't find them where I expected them — on the Pelican Peninsula in Sunset Bay — but instead across Sunset Bay to the this-side edge of Dreyfus Point, which you shall see forthwith.
Well, actually, there's a bit of beak showing orange between and below those eyes, which, combined with the sudden shock of feathers pointing straight up, adds an odd comicality to this image shot from behind of an American White Pelican warming its beak among its fluffy wing feathers on a cold day.
Most of their big orange/pink beaks were stuffed under wing feathers folded up on their backs to keep the beaks warm in the cold wind today. Fluffed-up feathers keep bodies warmer, too.
Although, I think I've seen swimming pelicans with their beaks warming in their feathers. So this is not necessarily an either/or situation.
When I shot this, I assumed those big white blots on the far side were gooses, because the herd often hangs out over there. The Gooses were off to the right and left of this bunch, however.
Good thing I photographed the Pelican Peninsula day before yesterday, because it's not there today. Well, a spud of it — this one — is still above water, but the part that spanned the lagoon in Sunset Bay, is all underwater. Leaving the pelicans no place to rest on this side of the bay. Give it a couple days without rain — or snow, and they'll have the peninsula back.
I don't think the full forty are here. Several have split the crowd and were still swimming diagonally off to the right, possibly to do a little fishing. Maybe just because they don't enjoy a crowd.
I usually mostly ignore Cormorant Fishing Armadas, because I'd rather wait for the pelicans to join in, but I haven't seen that happen this winter yet. There are a few white dots scattered among the black lines of cormorants here, but no big white blots. Maybe they just have not invited any pelicans.
They're still in an elongated straight line from fishing in that same long, thin line that goes on and on.
I assume they were heading nearly to Mockingbird Bridge near the north most top of the lake. Specifically, to Cormorant Bay, where they sit in trees and scat a odoriferous splatting stench on the trees till they look like snow and on the ground below till it smells like a chemical factory. Doesn't seem to do the grass or trees any harm, however.
From Sunset Bay I saw big, white birds flying toward Dreyfus, so I drove over there.
I just love any opportunity to photograph pelicans flying, even far away and going farther.
A little too dark for bird action today. It had rained, was promising to do it again, but it didn't while I drove around Sunset and Dreyfus this afternoon. There was mist on the water farther out, as you shall see down the page a bit.
I've heard people complain that Sunset Bay was difficult to get to or find. I figure that's probably a good thing. Way too many people already know the way there. People with dogs unleashed. People who throw rocks at birds. People who think it's fun or funny to chase ducks or gooses or pelicans. Never cared much for those people, myself.
See my map of White Rock Lake for a fairly obvious way to get there, if you realize that Poppy Drive (by Doctor's Hospital) crosses North Buckner. Toward the lake on Poppy, past the hospital, right at the aprrtments, down the hill to the woods, left on that street (carefully avoiding the wlkers and bicyclists, who don't obey any rules), and that will wend you into Sunset Bay's capriciously unmarked one-way loop.
You might not be able to tell from today's first photo, but here it's fairly obvious that the now narrow (It got pretty wide during the summer.) peninsula is separate from shore. Last summer, the peninsula almost bridged from Sunset to Hidden Creek Forest. I still want to get the City Parks Department to bring a couple of their Habitat Destruction Machines and cut off the peninsula at this end, so it'd be an island.
It wouldn't alliterate as well, but Pelican Island might make those big white birds a little less susceptible to the coyotes who run wild at night during their winter mating season, although they're probably hungry all the time.
See my page on Sunset Bay Coyotes.
This is from Dreyfuss Point again. They were talking about somebody rebuilding the Dreyfuss Building after it got destroyed by a fire. The fire could have been stopped in plenty of time to save it, except the Fire Department couldn't find Dreyfuss and kept showing up at Winfrey instead, because they could find Winfrey, but had no idea how to get to Dreyfuss, so they didn't, and it burned down.
So now I call it Dreyfuss Point, even if it's just as rounded as Winfrey "Point." I understand that the Fire Department now knows how to find Dreyfuss, and those little signs that say WRT with some number after it, are all about the Fire Department and the police being able to find things at White Rock Lake now. But I guess the only way to prove it would be if they just have to, and I wouldn't put any money on that bet.
I was thinking about photographing a bird flying by, but it's difficult to get them to fly by in just the right place, and this duck was following a bunch of other ducks that I missed the opportunity to photograph sharp again the dull, misty background while I hoped a more interesting bird would fly through the scene. All in all, this duck was just fine. I think she's a female Mallard.
I've only recently been photographing Sunset Bay from Winfrey. I probably ought to back up a little up there and show where the Bath House and some other land- and water- marks are that you might recognize from somewhere deep in your past.
You can drive down the road to Sunset Bay, but you can't actually drive to Sunset Bay from the Road to Sunset Bay, because now that it's a parking lot, driving farther is blocked by a bright yellow fence. I remember being able to drive all around the lake when I was at the University of Dallas in Irving in 1962, and yes, of course, I probably drove a little fast sometimes. I still dream of the White Rock Grand Prix sometimes, but it would be ruinous of bird life there, and probably kill a few humans, too. So I don't want it to happen, it's just another one of my passing fancies.
Until the lake got dredged a few years ago
— maybe a decade … — the wide paved walking path around Winfrey
Point was a one-lane road very much like the one that goes from Garland Road
to Winfrey Point. I was sorry to not get to drive that drive anymore, but I bet
the birds like it better now. The road is not nearly as close as this truncated
telephoto shot makes it look.
Or watering, since it was landing on water. Step one: it materializes right in front of us. We were watching for just such an event, but we didn't see it coming in from far away. As they so often do, it just materialized suddenly a few seconds before it got nearly down the the water's surface, and we photographed it coming in those last few steps.
I still think our non-brown pelicans are ungainly on the ground, a lot awkward there, but even a few inches off the ground, they are amazing.
Having touched down those last few inches, it is now spending its forward motion into the water, raising sparks of suddenly skewered water, splashing in its wake. Wings out and cupped to slow it down even more.
Almost stopped, where it will quickly blend in with the other sleeping and resting and sunning pelicans along "the peninsula" in Sunset Bay.
Having got het up with such excitement, the photographer turns to an interesting gull sprawling in the air close in above Sunset Bay.
Still flying along, the gull assumes a whole 'nother form.
These are very probably our usual, major population, Ring-beaked Gulls. Below are Cormorants. On yester's trip, we kept seeing official signs prohibiting wadding on the beach at various lakes. Obviously somebody in charge of making official Texas lake signs cannot spell wading. So if you need to do any wadding, you're out of luck. These gulls, however, don't read signs, so they can wad all they want to.
… suddenly materializes from nearly nothing a few inches off the surface of the inner of Sunset Bay. Clickity-click.
Skids a bit with its big wings creating air resistance to enable it to translate its body from air speed to ground speed.
Falls, forward breast now down into the juice, as the skid-splash precedes the bird, and wings are mostly just aiming it now.. Then it goes behind some other pelicans and melds into the pelican pack.
I shot this last month, and never found just the right place to put it into this journal. Now I have.
Quinlan and Tawakoni and Environs
We drove to Lake Tawakoni way too early this morning, the first warm day in awhile, and the last un-rainy one for a couple days — supposedly. I never believe the weather guys, and I never pay enough attention to see if they're wrong this time, too. I like pretty much all birds, but I have a special affection for Black Vultures.
Nice thing about Killdeer is that they're more than happy to let you know where they are by keeping up a near-constant din of peeping. Why their kind of shorebirds are often called "peeps." The tick is tracking down that distinct call to one place, because their peeping tends to bounce all over the place. This one was up a bit of a hill, which it walked and ran dead center of all the time I watched it.
Seems like everywhere we go, far or near, we always come back with at least one photograph of a Great Blue Heron.
I thought I had lured a couple people who really know birds to help me with identifying further ones. But I haven't heard from them in awhile. Meadowlark or a cousin thereof?
We thought this might be a thrasher of some sort, but it doesn't look like any of the ones in the three books I've scanned so far. Noble little beast. Very distinctive brown pattern, Sibley doesn't even get close to. Yup, reader Jacob Grange is correct. It's an Eastern Meadolark.
It didn't smell anywhere near as stinky as the animal the hawks and the first Caracara we saw on the side of the road waiting their turn at that really stinkoid animal. But I mangled those shots, and I got this one real pretty. Even thought briefly about making a hat of it. Not that I'm adept at that sort of craft.
Today's first Caracara proved difficult to photograph. Not its fault, to be sure. Mine for being unfamiliar with my main camera and for not having the good sense to prep it before we set off.
I thought I knew what these were, but they turned out not to be. Not exactly wildlife, they were fenced in at a well-kept place.
Very distinctive-looking animals. Not exactly Texas' usual variety of Longhorns.
I was driving, and I saw a colorful bird on a wire high above us. Backed up to find this rather ordinary, albeit colorful, bird.
And, since I had the focus already, and though I didn't expect it to fly off, I managed to catch it when it flew.
Yeah, we pretty much kept seeing the same birds, as we explored new territory — and did not find all that many new birds, as we expected.
Looked like they were cozying up next to
each other to keep friendly.
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.