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Posted at least three times a week, but usually not on weekends
The Second Half of December 2013
The Current Journal is always Here All Contents Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. DO NOT USE photos without permission Photo Equipment Used Ethics Feedback Coyotes Bird Rescue Advice Name That Bird Herons Egrets Herons & Egrets Books and Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Displays 800e Journal G5 Journal Duck Love Birding Galveston 2nd Birds of the Lower Rio Grande Valley & the 1st 14 seconds of Bald Eagle This Month: Some History
Earlier December Birds
San Antonio - Texas Birds
We think we've seen this exact same bird on a previous visit, though we had not previously knowingly seen his lovely mate. He was quite a surprise with that crop that doesn't show up in any of my bird I.D books. When my Internet is working better (maybe later) I'll track down a link to our previous visit and sighting.
This, then as now, was our usual view of this bird. He'd stop long enough to tantalize us, then he'd fly away.
It was a gray, cold and rainy day that was actively being wet and we had rain spots wherever we were exposed to it. But all that dull really shined compared to our quick-flitting red and black friend here.
I couldn't and still cannot see its actual color. Too far away, but it seemed to be hanging out with our red friend, so I asummed they are related or will soon be, but Anna who initially called our red friend a Scarlet Tanager this time, too, insists it's not a Vermillion Falycatcher, at all, though she does not say what it is is.
This is an enlargement of the photo above.
This photo is kinda hard to read, but he's perched on the fence, aimed toward the telephone pole, while looking back at me over his right shoulder. Always nice to get them from various angles.
Sibley says they are six inches long with a wingspan of 10 inches and weigh 14.5 grams or 0.51 ounce.
And nobody visited the page while I was still under the impression this was a Scarlet Tanager, just like we thought that last one was, too. But they weren't.
We also drove out to Mitchell Lake, just south of San Antonio proper, but it wasn't open. We almost always visit Our Lady of the Lake's rookery, and I almost always feel guilty for parking in their church parking lot. Guess that's my ex-Catholic guilt showing. Even though it was wet and rainy, it was lovely walking along the long, river-like lake
When Even I Didn't
Want to Reload these PageS,
I Could Tell It Was Time for a Change
I chopped off the earlier part of this month's journal, and I'm returning to slightly smaller, faster-downloading pix. And even if my bloated, photography-laden text downloads fast, I am cutting back on that, too. I got carried away.
My apologies to readers.
If I get a really good shot, I might run it bigger, but I know most of you don't care what lens I use or whether it's been working well lately, you're here for the same reason I am. For the birds.
Smaller and faster-loading pictures and less off-topic chatter will help, but I've been posting way too many shots of the same old things. So I will edit more, talk less and just show you the best of each day's catch.
And I'm working on reducing all those links at the top of every Bird Journal page, so the first thing we see is photographs, not a mass of links.
Meanwhile, I'm taking a break from birds and photographing, so I can enjoy the holiday fun. See you after Christmas.
Thanks for visiting,
J R Compton
Winfrey Point and Sunset Bay in White Rock Lake
There's almost always some action on the high wires down the parking lot at Winfrey toward Sunset Bay. I couldn't tell who was standing on the wire, because I was trying to hold the cam/lens steady, but I recognized some of the birds flying past behind. They don't call that big, black bird a Great-tailed Grackle for nothing. The European Starling in the middle looks like what I'd expect, but the one on the right doesn't look like any I've found in either Sibley or Crossley, although I've seen them looking like that before, although usually closer and on the ground. But there it is.
I missed the first three or four flybys, then got this one semi-perfect. Surprised myself.
And somebody else flying. Looks like the middle starling is afraid it might get hit.
There were at least three times this many birds before a car swooped by, scaring most of them away. I guess the rest were hungrier.
With whose feet I have always been fascinated. Big honking feet that helps them run splashing on the water's surface.
maybe it's more like big toes and little feet, though it's hard to tell where the feet stop and those toes begin.
That very short log is a coveted perch for our winter visiting American White Pelicans, and I figured I'd get to see some swording beaks. So I began photographing.
Instead, I saw this. The interloper is jumping up, creating an amazing little whorl of water between its rising feet.
Much later, the notion passed quickly through my head that this mounting might have had something to do with pelican sex, which they usually do up north — somewhere between western Minnesota and along a line curving up the map in a west-north-westerly direction past southeastern Idaho toward — and probably past — Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The beak poking up by the interloper's head belongs to the bottom bird, while the thin sliver of beak visible below the raised wing more likely belongs to the upper bird.
But I was by this moment clicking pretty quickly at this abruptly startling circumstance — and I've carefully perused all the shots that would extend this series way too long, and there did not seem to be any point in the action where anything got inserted. I still think it was a territorial row: the bird on top wanted the bird on bottom's perching space, and was willing to stomp it if necessary. I thought surely it would win.
Notice the bottom pelican's left wing down on the log for balance.
Bottom bird's bringing up that left wing, thus splashing.
When this started, I was just standing on the pier, enjoying the day and the weather and the birds. I've stared at our winter visitors for hours and hours, but I have never seen anything like this fracas except from a great deal farther away. One day, when they were first arriving last October, I photographed them "dog-piling" (Sorry these are such huge pages, the really big ones load slow.) on the logs along the outer edge of the bay. That pelk-piling only looked a little like this, except I was too far to see it in much detail, but it looked a lot more disorganized than this.
It really looked pretty gentle as far as pelican poking sometimes goes.
Late December 19
I've long wondered where the pelicans and coots and all the other birds who hang out in inner Sunset Bay during the day go at night — well, I know the gooses hang out behind the Bath House, but tonight I decided to try some photographic espionage, even though it was dark. Much darker than it seems in most of these photographs, although the next one down gives us a bit of an idea just how dark it was. All pictures, as usual, were hand-held, although I notched the cam/lens into one of the piers on Sunset Pier, where, pointed in some directions, it fit very well. A tripod might have helped with some shots, but I was already very pleased with the depth of field I got.
Where there are few overhead lights and no car traffic, just a spot of — well, I'm not really sure. I didn't notice a moon, but there was some light in the sky, and not much up in the lagoon. When I looked at the monitor after shooting it, I didn't see anything but a splash in the dark.
I set the ISO on automatic up to where there are no numbers, and no numbers showed, so it probably maxed out around 25,600. Or so.
I was kinda surprised there were so few cormorants. They've been dominated the bay during the day lately.
Kinda a wonderful detail. I pulled it out of a frame very like the next one down — same characters, same angle, just a little different action. I was fascinated by the notion of making an abstract of a lot of pelicans very near to each other, which they do often. That didn't work out, but this did. I'm only sorry some other pelican's ankle or elbow showed up between this one's upper and lower mandibles. Otherwise, a happy accident of juxtaposition.
But ready for what? I don't know, because while I was there, they did not do it. But sometimes they hold back till the pesky humans are gone.
I'm fascinated by the various methods birds use to gain flight. I'm not saying Ring-billed Gulls like this only get into the air by hopping. But it's obviously one of the ways.
I've often rejected images in which eyes or faces are not plainly visible. But no other bird around here has long black legs with black feet, white pretty much everything else and a long orange beak. Besides this guy at just this angle, was so elegant. Beautiful.
This is certainly not the first female Red-winged Blackbird I've seen this season when RWBBs take over with thousands of them all around the lake. And it would have been nice to get her feet sharp, too. But hey, she is, like most RWBBs, gorgeous.
I think I thought this was yet another Great-tailed Grackle back there, because I couldn't see the epaulet through the camera, so I was surprised, when I saw this large on my monitor, to see the red and yellow wing colors. Nice, and its right foot is plenty sharp.
Molt, from Middle English moute and Old English verb based on the Latin mutare to change. Ducks loose old feathers, so they can grow new ones. Different birds, even in the same species, do that at different times.
I'm not sure, but I bet one of the more active members of the Bird Squad would know if this was one of the "black ducks" that were left off at the lake. They keep changing, and I've long-since lost track of which were which, because more ducks keep being left off. I hadn't thought of it till now, but this is a classic sort of chiaroscuro (literally, "light dark") portrait like Leonardo da Vinci, Vermeer, Velázquez, Caravaggio and those guys. Not that this is that good, just it reminds me of them. This shot makes the duck look mean, and there was a real live goose fight and some ducks biting each other, but I'm still working on those pix. We'll see…. Last week, I wore myself out writing about art. This week is just fun.
Not really hot, but today was a warm day. Lots of birds were bathing, dipping and splashing. This one was close enough to fill the frame and show lots of dripping and splashing. My other shots of this goose bathing are not as splashy.
This is a pure accident. The shadows are in the wrong places, and I saw the wiggle reflections, but I didn't notice them much., I was too busy fitting the bird into the frame.
I love that one little feather the pelican has probably pulled out during preening. Almost like that's the most important part of the portrait. But even without the silly feather, that's a lot of pelican crammed into a little space with room left over on that short log.
Today's challenge was to test my telephoto lens without the doubler. Nice of the sun to come out for that. A lot of contrast really makes a lens shine, but I got plenty sunshine when I tested my lens doubler the other day, and it was obviously not focusing well. I've already sent it to Nikon, who says they can't see anything wrong with it, but I do, and I guess I won't use it for awhile, although it might have been condensation on the glass. I'm happy that this lens is its usual bright and hi-resolution self without the doubler.
Pelicans were noticeably absent this morning. There were fewer than a half dozen around.
There'd be lots of possible excuses if this shot didn't turn out, but that it not only turned out, it's amazing sharp, contrasty, action-stopping, exposed and composed (although it is somewhat enlarged from a much smaller portion of the full image area) is just short of miraculous. It's also indicative that I'm worrying too much about this lens. But probably not nearly enough about the 2X extender.
Just as sharp down the duck's center line, just the wings are flapping, and we really can't see its eyes, so there's nothing to sparkle. But its head, tail and fuselage is plenty sharp. Its a bit smaller in the frame than that last one, but the shutter speed is a quick 1/2,500th second, my usual f8 at iso 400, which on this camera is really no problem, although I've had Nikon cameras that higher iso than 320 would give me noticeable grain even at this small size, which is 14% bigger than the jpegs on last month's journal.
But the contrast and composition on the one above it clearly makes a better picture, and that makes it appear sharper, even if it really isn't. Sorry about all this blather, I'm just trying to figure out what's wrong with the doubler, because I love photographing at 600mm rather than 300. But I probably won't do anything important that way till it miraculously gets better.
I have no idea what the cormorant was going on about, but it kept it up long enough for the pelicans to shuffle slowly away from the noisy tyke. These things, even between two member of the same species, usually have to do with who thinks who owns that space or fish, and since there's no fish in sight, it must be where they're standing doesn't measure up to the cormorants expectations.
This is up in what I call "the lagoon" up off Sunset Bay. And there's usually a couple dozen big, white pelicans there, so it was a surprise to see dark old cormorants instead. I assume the pelicans were off fishing. Lawther along the Arboretum was closed at the Garland Road entrance — although they never say why — so I couldn't see any big fishing parties this morning. Day before yesterday, when I was testing the double, there were as many as three, separate parties, cruising in often opposite directions, although all three occupied the water along The Arboretum
I'm calling them by their proper name lately, even though I'm still angry with them for trying to grab White Rock Lake Park land for their parking lot, which is now being dug deep on the south side of Garland Road opposite the Arboretum, at considerable expense, which serves them right.
White Rock Lake
Gray, gray day — and cold, but with an adventurous — or just downright contrary — mood, I brought my Micro-Four-Thirds camera instead of my trusty Nikon. Just needed to shake things up, see if that'd change what I do over and over. Would a different camera and lens a slow 200-600mm equivalent zoom — show in my work?
At the bottom of the hill, just out into the lake, we see birds on poles behind the dark sign we can't read and lighter birds on the diving platform.
I think it did, and this journal needs changes, so I'm glad I did it, but next time I will use the Nikons. This is Tom Orr's White Rock Lake Water Theatre, a site-specific installation whose vertical posts glow faintly when it's dark. The phosphorescent paint used to be comparatively bright when it was new November 17, 2001, but less so now. Originally, there were small, short disks just off the surface, but those were for turtles, and the turtles couldn't climb that high, so they're gone.
Birds species there changes by the season, right now it's Double-crested Cormorants. Sometimes hundreds of them, mostly crowding the platform that used to serve as a diving and resting platform when the area encircled by the poles was a swimming area — thus the need for a bath house. But that was before Integration and/or the Polio Scare, Pick one History of Dallas epoch.
I've seen hot humans cooling off in the water, and I've seen rowers and sailors and skaters — all previously on the water, fall in, get wet, and swim to get out, but mostly the swimming ban holds. I doubt if the water is particularly dangerous, because I see hundreds and sometimes thousands of birds and a few animals out there swimming, and they don't seem harmed by it, but if you are of a delicate constitution, I wouldn't try it. It's been awhile, but I've swum in the ocean, and who knows how many birds and animals and humans do their business in that.
I didn't mean to imply that only cormorants pole there in late autumn.
Pelicans and cormorants and a few gulls from a different perspective.
From Sunset Bay, at least, Winfrey Point actually looks like a point. Out there walking around the walking "path" that used to be a one-lane road, till almost immediately after they dredged the lake again. Dreyfus, whose community building burned down when the Fire Department couldn't find their way there, doesn't really have a point. It's round. When the social building was still there, there was more and more diverse bird species there. A murder of crow dominated the area, and they regularly ran off especially juvenile hawks. Echoes of their cawing drifted toward Stone Tables and Sunset Bay.
I wasn't at all sure my big telephoto on that little camera would shine with flying birds. But I was game for whatever showed up and caught my attention. This flying pelican doesn't have a lot of detail to it, but it's got contrast, and often that's the half the battle.
Same pelican. Same hilltop viewpoint. Same bay full of cormorants. The pelicans are mostly off to the left, up the lagoon. This might give some credence to my theory that the reason the pelicans choose to stay there during their annual winter vacation here, is because it blocks off weather coming from the north.
Like heavy fog.
Big fishing parties like this one and many larger, are a daily event at White Rock Lake.
The pool and Lower Steps Down
The Dam at White Rock Lake
Flying past autumn into winter, I suppose, except it almost looks green where it's going. So nice to have the opportunity for birds to be flying high yet not high above me. And having them comparatively close really helps, too. A little brighter light might have helped, also, but I let the camera handle the iso, which ranted from about 500 to 3,200, maybe a little higher.
Although I would not have gone down there if not for the birds, but sometimes a little change in scenery makes all the difference. It was, of course, cold that day, but where I stood looking down into the area under the car bridge on Garland Road (that those steel piers hold up) it wasn't protected from the wind, like it might be down where the egrets are here.
Sometimes I lose track of just how lovely the lake and its environs can be.
That sudden stop of this level of wet horizon is the top of the Lower Steps, whence the water rushes plunging down and below the car bridge, thence off toward I-30.
That's not a special species of Cormorants, it's just that they're up on dry land, when I most usually see them in the water or very close to it. For such a lousy, cold day, the colors sure were cooperating well. Low contrast lighting does that, and makes it worthwhile to go out in the rain or snow.
I didn't see any while I was there, but after I drove up Garland Road, then back down it, I noticed Black-crowned Night-Herons in the trees above where these cormorants had settled briefly.
Wings go up like that, it appears, to slow it down. The long splash attests to the speed, I think. I'm so rarely close enough to landing cormorants, I just don't know. Another reason to change landscapes.
Yup, it is a Double-crested Cormorant. And I love the look of all that splashing, which has helped it almost stop, before crashing into shore.
This looks more like winter's loss of colors, but the bird, especially, it's dripping feet are nice and sharp.
That large bird just above the middle of this image is, yes, an American White Pelican, and he was a big draw for me to stay — even before I realized the egrets would be flying back and forth to my heart's content. Nice to see the pelicans all around the lake these days.
Of course, calling it close is always a relative term when photographing birds through a 300mm lens. This bird seems to have a bit of feather stuck to the leading edge end of its beak.
I can't seem to get over how different the scenery is here, and how pleasant that is now, looking at it. When I was there, I was just photographing birds and trying to keep them in focus when they flew by or landed or whatever. Now, looking back, it's neat photographing them flying through trees nearly on my level. Those closely parallel lines on the horizon above are the metal fences along Garland Road that lead to both bridges, the car bridge and the walking bridge that's a little closer to the pond this egret is flying over.
From this side it's first, the Walking Bridge that bounces liquidly whenever a runner of bicycler flies by. There are, however, two places on that bridge, where that physical distraction is somewhat minimized, and that's where the spans join, which is most obvious along the top of the rails, where there's an obvious break. It's a lot less tummy turvy there, especially for holding a long lens stillish.
Just had to do some landscape without birds, too.
Bay in White Rock Lake Wholly
Enclosed by Dallas, Texas, USA
December 15 2013
Okay, obviously this pelican is landing. Sometimes they just stop short, but most of the time the skid.
This one and the next two are the same pelican taking off. I so often am looking or photographing in a whole other direction when they finally decide to leave the area to go off fishing or whatever. This time, I actually caught them waiting for me to leave, and when I started walking back the long, central walkway on my favorite pier in the world, they started up, but I just turned around and started photographing.
At least one more hop, and ...
It was in the air with a aerial trail of water falling back behind.
I remember backing up to shoot between those blurred-out bushes along the long entry to the pier at Sunset Bay and noticing these American White Pelican all lined up with a bit of sun backlighting their heads with a bit of halo lighting.
Close by is better.
Before he got into straight-line Boogie Woogie. West into the setting sun from the Pier at Sunset Bay. I often visit those paintings in the Dallas Museum of ARt, and it's remarkable how like those, this scene of Winfrey Point at Sunset is.
Earlier December 2013
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text and photographs Copyright 2013 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 know." I am, after all, an amateur. I've only birded for seven years as of June 2013, although I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally and almost always amateurishly since at least 1964. Thanks always to Anna.
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