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White Rock Lake
December 31 2012
To leave here on the top of 2012, I've been saving some pix I shot earlier this week — on the one day the sun shined.
I just haven't got around to posting them, and since the year is about to end, I had better get cracking. I love photographing American White Pelicans flying, and my absolute favorite place to do that — especially in sunlight, but anytime really, is on the newly-renovated pier at Sunset Bay.
I can never plan sequences. It's just me taking the good shots out of a series. These are amazingly well lighted. This pelican seems to pop off the background and thus off this page. I like that about a photograph. I wish I could plan such a thing happening. But I always have to take what I can get — in focus, etc.
And yes, I shoot a lot of pictures. Only about a hundred and a half this time out, but sometimes several hundred, maybe a thousand or more, so it's hardly ever just a few to choose from. And all that takes up a lot of hard drive space. Eventually, I sift through a whole month or a whole year's worth and delete the ones I called my 1-star shots, and probably a lot of my 2-stars, too. But I keep my three stars, and usually use most or those. 4-stars are even better. Five stars are saved for shots I worked up and used on these pages.
That's why I rarely shoot RAW. Those files are several times larger. They offer more opportunities for changing things, but I love JPEGs, and RAW takes too much space. I so much prefer showing my photographs online than in prints. Sometimes, when I do make prints, I wish I'd shot that one in RAW, but it's too late by then, and I've learned to print JPEGs very well. It's true that it's easier to make JPEGs online look good, but I can still print a JPEG very large.
I'm always uneasy calling the sort of sudden drops in altitude this duck is perpetrating "a landing" when it will be into the lake. I have seen mallards 'land' on solid earth — and it is a precision maneuver, but mostly they land in water. Like pelicans, there's a bit of splash, then it almost always stops wherever that bird has planned to since it started looking down at possible sites as it fell in near complete control through the sky.
I've talked about "the ground effect" before. To wit, according to Wikipedia:
... Ground effect is the increased lift and decreased drag that an aircraft's wings generate when they are close to a fixed surface. When landing, ground effect can give the pilot the feeling that the aircraft is "floating." When taking off, ground effect may temporarily reduce the stall speed. The pilot can then fly level just above the runway while the aircraft accelerates in ground effect until a safe climb speed is reached.
And I love watching birds do this. So elegant and intelligent.
I never get all my photos in focus, but this bright day, I did much better than usual, using the same young camera, my Nikon D7000, which since my precious D300 has died inside again, is my best camera. And if I don't lean too heavily on the shutter button, it shoots plenty fast using JPEGs. It chokes on RAW, but so do my drives.
Much as I love photographing pelicans and other exotic creatures, plain old ducks often draw my attention. I'll shoot at anything that strikes my fancy, but this day — except for a few of the usual blurs and blobs, I almost felt like I was on fire. Got them sharp in focus and rendered nice color that may or may not have been there all along. I'm guessing this is a Muscovy/Mallard hybrid. Mallards are usually responsible for duck hybrids. And unlike many gooses, this bird can actually fly, although many Muscovies sound like freight trains huffing over any distance.
I love portraying ordinary birds as anything but, and I'm often charmed when adults tell their children that these are swans.
And I love photographing truly amazing birds as just what they are.
especially in the air.
American White Pelicans are eloquent and adaptable creatures. Note how long this one's wings appear to be, and how short the one just up from it's wings seem to be. Like high-tech air and space craft, they adjust such things and wingspans whenever they need to.
Flat out coasting or —
curled up in impossibly muscled flying contortions, but only for milliseconds —
or lined up along the logs out in the middle of Sunset Bay, where it's maybe two or three inches deep. Like one could almost walk out there, and I suspect enterprising coyotes do just that sometimes, which is why pelicans go somewhere else to sleep nights.
I snuck up carefully, not even scaring any coots, till I was about as close as I was likely to get to the water. Then it took awhile to find and follow one of the three or maybe four Pintail Ducks swimming just off from where Charles will feed them soon. Coots are skittish, but nothing like how skittish Pintail ducks are — or when there's just a few Wood Ducks. Look at all those patterns and stripes and tones. Aren't Northern Pintails gorgeous?
Black & White on a gray gray day. Cold but not awfully cold. I didn't know whether I was happier with or without my brown winter coat. We drove down Lawther past the arboretum and Anna sighted this bird just off shore. We stared and easily identified it as grebe but which one? I thought I hadn't seen one of these before, but I have seen Eared Grebes in very nearly the same place along that same shore in years past. I often see Pied-billed Grebes there, but Adult, breeding Eared Grebes are beautiful and exotic birds.
Most grebes are plain by comparison to those gorgeous birds, but this is a handsome bird nonetheless.
If you look carefully at his head, especially along the neck and shoulder area, although it extends along his forehead, also, there are strong stripes of deep red and blue. Unless there's brilliant sunlight, we usually don't get to see those colors, at all. Yesterday was sunny, but not today. Today was gray.
By the time we got near this tree we had been watching fill and empty of little dark birds, they'd all escaped into the nearby trees. Gradually we learned their skittishness was due to people walking the trail right by the tree. For a minute or so, they'd gradually flock to the tree, fill it up, eating something growing there, then a bicycler or walker or a group of runners in black street clothes would jog by, and the birds would again disperse. So I had to wait awhile and get the right distance to fill the frame of my non-zoom telephoto lens.
Pretty sure that was the near full moon glowing through the cloudy haze heading toward evening. A closer perch would have been easier to deal with. Better focus, more detail, that sort of thing. But it was far away and impossible to focus through all those branches. I should have brought a tripod, so I could have manually focused through the branches. The owl stayed there are long time, probably as interested in us as we were in it..
But though we saw it arrive, and we spent many minutes in startlement that we simply could not see wherever it was it landed, we assumed we'd missed it flying away while we moved over to where we thought we might be able to see it better. Well after Daniel and I had decided it must have silently flapped away while we were either moving or jawing, it flew away for real, ever so much more distinctly than it had arrived.
These shots are all from later, in another place Robert knew the owl pair frequented.
I promised myself I wouldn't get carried away with long, silly discussions of focus and apparent sharpness here, so I won't go into it, but this time, this owl — we saw two of them, so we assume it's near where there will be a nest, eggs and young later in the season — and it is my policy not to divulge locations of nests, because there are so many people bent on their destruction. But this is one of them, and I'll be looking for better shots as winter continues, which seems likely.
Quite a boon for a gray and very cold afternoon. I am so very weary of photographing the same birds over and over again.
At first, I assumed this mass of ducks floating so close together well out from the shore would be Ruddy Ducks, but I'd never seen Ruddies associate with their fellow ducks this closely, then I saw some floating much closer, saw their heads in the water, and their large bills when their heads weren't under, so I knew they were not Ruddies.
They look a lot like Mallards, but no mallard has that big and long a beak.
It is a wild goose, but when it arrived it had a tangle of fishing line around a wing, rendering it unable to fly away. So it stays. Pretty obviously not one of our overlarge domestic gooses, gray, white or brown. But it has slowly, very gradually, become one of the flock, though it usually remains apart from most of them.
I am utterly fascinated by American White Pelican Wings. I've seen them conform to so many different shapes and forms, it's amazing. I'm pretty sure this was one in a very quick succession of more normal looking stationary wing flaps, perhaps in perpetration of drying them after a slap-water bath, maybe just what I've probably too long considered a Victory Flap. But I don't remember ever having seen whatever this bird is doing with its wings before.
This bird's wings look soft, much more normal. Maybe like angel wings.
And this pelican islanding. Very close to touch-down in the water, it's got its semi-automatic wing-tip extensions going. Sometimes pelican wings look all white. Sometimes, they look like they have extensive black feathers, Compare these extended-length wings to the apparently much shorter wings of a bird from the previous journal entry just down this page, or even this next one just below. I'd like to see an accurate animation of them doing that. I know some jet fighter wings adjust mechanically, not unlike these guys do it organically.
See how its wings turn nearly 90 degrees from full glide mode to catch a lot of wind. Seconds later (above), it seemed to be going for maximum air speed with control, now it's slowing down and fast.
And now, with an almost imminent collision too close in sight, it slows maximally, showing us what looks like all of its wings, except they're significantly shorter than they were those few seconds previous.
I guess if birds can move every feather in their body to shake, rattle and rouse (See my full page of different birds rousing.), and little mid-flight wing length adjustment is nothing.
I'm guessing I'll always have a short-term backlog of images, but eventually, I go back through all my monthly files and delete stuff I'll never use or that could never be used, so I'll have more hard drive space to store new ones for however long it takes. This was shot from the parking lot behind the building atop Winfrey Point.
The ones I was saving for today were on the same topic as this started being. The topic it ended up being is landscapes from differing viewpoints. I've long promised myself to explore the dam, the the many tons of concrete it employs and comprises and the view from here of there.
There's a bit of a curb of concrete on the top of the dam, which is what we're seeing between the birds — gulls and cormorants — and the trees down in what I usually refer here to The Lower Spillway, where I often take pix of egrets, herons, cormorants and whoever else wanders through down there. I might eventually finish out the landscape portion of today's program with some night shots of this same area. Eventually being the keyword.
Unfortunately, I was still hoping to capture interesting birds doing interesting things when I was shooting those guys down there by the dam, so that's about all I got that time. Telephoto offers an intriguing viewpoint of landscape. This is one of those shots I shot before, and it's been hanging around for about a week till I finally used it. Ring-billed Gull waiting for some person to throw more bread up for it to attempt to catch over the pier at Sunset Bay. Which it probably did. The guy throwing bread was so pleased with himself every time the gulls caught the bread. Gulls are amazing birds, just not my favorite.
Another one of those experiments. My oldest — and quickly fading — dSLR (Nikon D300) and my oldest autofocus lens (1991), which is also my slowest auto focusing lens (Nikkor 180 f2.8). See what happens.
Stand on the pier in Sunset Bay till the warm weather turns cold and/or the pier is full of people — both. Click whatever flies or floats by.
This portion of our program was very successful and effective. Other portions not so much, really. Oddly enough, all of these were shot on December 15, 2012. Today, as I type this and as within a few minutes, I post here.
I'd like to keep this today's-shots-shot-today routine, but I shot too many shots today.
I probably won't use my unsuccessful failures (almost a thoroughly redunding dundancy) of which there were many, but there's enough other shots to show a few select images.
Most involve American White Pelicans. That must be a surprise, he said ironically.
Then another series even more sharply focused.
I thought this one was taking off. Except about as quckly as it got up.
It started coming down again (I feel that way myself sometimes.)
And then it was landing.
So it was difficult to discern whether it was all planned out ahead of time. Or if the lens made it happen.
All of today's images are not necessarily the same bird(s).
December 14 2012
These were actually shot this morning. Early for me. About the time most people get to work, I suppose, although when I worked regular hours, I rarely did rush hours. These guys engage in rushing hours as often as they are hungry and fish are to be found.
Once the fishing party is established, usually by the cormorants or gulls, everybody piles on and piles on.
Reaching for air to accelerate quickly may be easier for American White Pelicans, whose wingspans can be the largest of any bird in America except the Condor, and this bird hasn't extended its wings at the far ends yet, although it seems to have at the body end.
Note the pelican on the right, who is already almost inflated its beak, so it can fill it with more fish here, where everybody is trying to be the first to find fish.
Quite a spectacle with the water and sky above roiling with birds. What we can't see is the excitement of the fish trying to get away.
Apparently the black extensions (primaries) of pelican wings are useful for maneuvering quickly as well as turning broadly.
While I fiddled with my camera and its focus settings, the fishing party swooped farther, then closer.
They're excited, but at this moment, nobody seems to have found fresh fish.
Here, however, something is going on, and there's this sudden splash and rush.
Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake
December 13 2012
These are the shots that I haven't used the last couple weeks that I shot anyway.
Not much rhyme or reason to it, just what happened.
And I can't promise I won't bring you more bird photography I shot previously soon again.
I've got a mild little sequence of birds on the other side of the lake involved and rushing to get involved in one of my favorite bird activities.
But I might show what I actually shot that day or the day after I shot them first, just to keep it interesting.
To me, and I hope, to you, too.
Here's two bunches of black birds. Double-crested Cormorants out on the logs in Sunset Bay.
And Great-tailed Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds in the tree by the Old Boathouse, as shot from the new Boathouse Bridge.
Regular readers know I'm not a big fan of gulls. Well, there may be some gulls I like, but Ring-billed Gulls usually bore me silly, unless they're playing drop and pick-up games or evincing some intelligence or fun. These guys, I assume, have separated, so everybody will have their own little feeding territory, and they won't fight with each other over what they find in their own territory. But that's a human describing bird behavior, which probably, as usual in inter-species edification, goes awry, if it doesn't start out awry.
Nice of the water there to get all stripey. Make the gull look like it's flying fast, and it was.
These appear to be — and are — flying slowly. No idea what they're up to, but they're out there doing it.
Here we have three, as yet unidentified dabbling ducks. Ducks come in two basic styles. Them that dabble, like what these guys are doing to look for and find food. And them that dive. Diving is probably easier to understand. Diving ducks dive underwater till we can't see them anymore.
Both varieties come up for air every once in a while. Now, if we're paying any attention whatsoever, we notice these ducks have big beaks. The only American ducks I know of with beaks that big are Northern Shovelers. Since there's three of them hanging out together doing the same thing, we are permitted to assume all three are Northern Shovelers. Because these are mostly brown, we can also assume they're females, because males of this species have colors like mallards.
The reason I go to Sunset Bay so way-too often is so I can watch American White Pelicans do what they do. And the best of what they do is fly. I only managed to photograph in focus, etc. one pelican today, and by the time I got it in focus, it was splashing into the lake "landing."
Probably not the same bird, but ya never know.
One adult American White Pelican and one much smaller adult Double-crested Cormorant who happens to be squirting a small but strong stream of white cormorant scat down to the log they are sharing.
It's true. I get way too excited when I get the flotillas of Ruddy Ducks off the shore along the Arboretum. I shoot and shoot, and I still get these sort of nondescript images. Sad.
It's in there somewhere.
I usually overexpose those mostly white beaks and underexpose those very dark gray bodies.
What Pelicans do best is fly, soar, swoop, take-off and land. What pelicans do most often, is preen.
They do this above, around and before people with white bread who somehow believe they are nourishing them, but these gulls are gathering in a similarly active mob on the Hidden Creek side of the lagoon, without a human anywhere near them.
The main trouble with not shooting photographs of birds every day is that I forget to upload the ones I've already shot.
Didn't get to the lake today till about 5, so there was maybe an hour and a half left of light, but George was there and we talked and made photographs, and after he left, I just stood there waiting for something to happen. I usually don't, but this evening I thought it might be fun to see if I photograph ducks coming down out of the sky to land — usually into the lagoon east of the pier I stood on having wonderful time photographing birds.
So, for a while, I photographed every duck or pair of ducks I saw coming in from out over the lake. Not that it kept me busy all the time. I left well before Charles arrived to feed the gooses and thus the arrival of all the ducks who fly in from all over the lake. And I photographed a bunch of other things in between, which I'll probably post here soon.
But I had enough willing subjects. And of the comparatively few shots I made of them, only about five were not worth using, although some were a little blurry around the moving parts.
Some pairs seemed rather sedate.
And others were noticeably colorful.
I even captured some pigeons circling the inner bay — so
they'd know where they were. They were birds and flying, and it took me a couple
seconds to figure out who they were, and by then I was already photographing
them. It was a fun mini-project.
The Fort Worth Solid Wastes
Near Arlington's Legacy Park
December 4 2012
In my treasured Lone Pine edition of The Birds of Texas, one of the authors calls this bird "shy and secretive" in Texas, and when an intruder gets too close, it flushes from its hiding place to perform "a series of aerial zigzags" that are meant to confuse all of us predators. Because of those aerial hijinks, only a few experienced hunters could shoot one, and they became known as snipers.
Its long bill with a pointed tip that's flexible is useful for finding food underground. According to the Birds of Texas, it "proves soft substrates for soft-bodied invertebrates; also eats mollusks, crustaceans, spiders, small amphibians and some seeds."
I almost let us drive right by this big bird in a smallish tree. And I hoped it wouldn't be just another Red-tailed Hawk, and it sorta is not. It is a Red-tailed Hawk with a black beak. None of the other photos or drawings or paintings of Red-tailed Hawks show one with a black beak. But this one does.
This is either a Lesser or Greater Yellowlegs. The Greater has a longer, straighter bill. The Lesser's bill is slightly upturned.
The nice thing about going somewhere we don't go every day or even every week or month is that we get to see different birds, and that's a blessed change. The trouble with seeing different birds, is that they are much more difficult to identify than the same old ones.
In the left, and especially in the right foreground are 1st winter juveniles, then two adult males in the middle and one more near the top of the image.
Here is one adult male Northern Shoveler and a half dozen females.
I'm pretty sure these are two ducks, but which ducks I am not at all sure about. I thought I knew them when I photographed them, but after spending about thirty minutes looking at all the ducks in all of my bird I.D books, I still can't tell you.
The bigger one on the far right is probably an adult male Gadwall, and it stands to reason that behind him is a an adult female Gadwall. The tow on the left showing us their tail configurations might be Green-winged Teal.
The Thoses are far enough out of focus, there's no sense trying to track down. It is possible that the two on the left are related. But I don't know how or two whom? Anybody out there know. Do tell. My latest email address is always on my Contact Us page.
But it just might be.
White Rock Lake
December 3 2012
Had never thought about gulls doing this way of landing.
When I was a teenager, I used to dream about owning and driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe. Now, it's always odd to think about a gull-winged gull, but here one is.
Black and white and a little bit of orange against a light blue sky.
Grackles are gorgeous, noisy, scatty.
text and photographs copyright 2012 by J
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My favorite answer is, "I don't
am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for six years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.
Thanks always to Anna.
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