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196 photos so far this month
Last 2015 bird pix
Always love to photograph birds in high action, like when a busy fishing party (usually Pelicans, Cormorants and Gulls) come close to the portion of shore I'm standing or driving on.
And splashing water is a sure sign of action. It's the cormorant spread-eagled on the far right who has a fish in its opened beak. Either showing off or just come up from diving for it.
The action in this fishing parties waxes and wanes. Here, it's waning a bit till they find a roving vein of many more fish.
Then they get all exciting again for awhile.
Then they veer off in a whole 'nother direction, which means I either have to put up with lousy resolution, because they're really getting too far away for good up-close sharpness, or go home and get the much-heavier Nikon cam and lens.
Hadn't seen the Ruddies in a while, but nice to have them back. I'm still hoping to photo some Buffleheads. Some photogs have seen them lately. I hope to.
I used to think that if I could get a bird in solid focus, I could figure out which species it was, but I am long in learning that latter part. I'm pretty sure I'm wrong about this identification…
Kala King to the rescue once again. Can't say I'm really surprised that I was, once again, wrong about my above identification. It was as captioned, a First-winter Ring-billed Gull, and the wrongness of my initial identification is that that I didn't trust it, although me not trusting my bird identities is probably a good thing. Did you follow me around all those double negatives? Yeah, me, neither. I had it right, and now I am confident, but I pretty much had to be wrong about something, and now I'm more confident that I often willl be. This is a very attractive bird for being a Ring-billed Gull.
I'd heard others talking and other others writing about Butterbutts in Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat, but I hadn't actually seen one till this one repeatedly lifted off the taller branches along The Spit today. No way I could get my Olympus OM-1 to focus on anything flying haphazardly like this, so I settled for a back-end shot of it just standing there. Butterbutt's proper species name is Yellow-rumped Warbler, and they are not at all uncommon around here around now.
One of whom is preening. They're all back from the Fishing Party earlier along DeGoyler Drive. I knew to expect them, then figured I had enough of pelicans flying in photographs for this year already, so why not try something a little more domestic.
The Trinity River is
Too Wet, Too
A Road I Want to Go Down
I started this, what I thought would be a regular feature, in 2007, then because I'd got caught back up with Dallas art, artists and art institutions, then birds, I did not continue it. I hope I will continue it this time. But I am impelled to seek birds to photograph, and that's what I was doing when I discovered today's places. I only saw a half dozen birds, but I got all these photographs.
I didn't just stumble onto this scene. I went there, again, looking for a way down. I had noticed all the water down there. And I didn't want to go there till it was dryer, but I still want to go down there. Unfortunately, I almost never think about it when it's dry, but let it rain, and I'll wander over again.
I have been down there before. It's called Trammell Crow Lake at Trinity Park. I took a boring photo of a sign that pokes up out of the river, so I would "remember" what that place is called, to tell you. Several years ago, when the bridge over the river was much lower and shorter, we just had to turn off it, and visit the park, where many bird species gathered. Some of which are still considered rare here.
Two categories of photographs today: Over the edge of the Sylvan Street Bridge. And up or down river with the camera lens more or less horizontal. This is it pointing nearly straight down.
One Building, One Tree
And for this, of course, the lens is nearly horizontal. I didn't plan these shots ahead. I showed up, parked The Slider into the turn down ramp that's chained closed on the west side of the bridge and walked around looking for something to photograph. Whatever the sphere, that's what I do. In art or documenting Dallas like this or the Bird Journal, I use my photos to remember what I wanted to tell you. Then I process them, park them on pages, and share.
iIn the first three shots of today's journal entry, I show the ramp down to the park that I keep hoping I will someday be lucky enough to drive down to that park again. I have been at the chained-closed place on top of the ramp down before. On bright sunny days when the park was not inundated, but the chain was on and I couldn't go through the gate. That was a Sunday. I don't remember to go back during the week when it's dry, only on weekdays when it's wet.
Some bright, sunny day when the river's back to it's usual skinny self and doesn't cover all the area between the levees, and the chain does not hold fast the gat to the down ramp, I still hope to coincide dry land beneath and above and have cameras, and I will discover the animals and birds I have seen there before, and others that I have told about about since.
Meanwhile, I go by to visit every couple of months to take pix of what is or is not underwater below, and try to make sense of it all.
I Actually Saw Five Egrets
But I didn't get good photos of those, but this is halfway decent of the trees that grow in the ocean down there.
I like the contrast of river/water and city/jumble. I liked being mostly alone on the bridge. I would rather have been mostly alone downstairs in the dried-out park, but that time will come.
I didn't notice thse elegant arcs till I walked back across the bridg to my car, then I had to photograph them. More human marks.
The White Bridge
And while I was up there, I might as well have photographed the White Bridge.
The Other White Bridge
Everybody liked the first one that Mrs. Texas Instruments donated a Million Dollars for, they're building another white bridge. This one is not designed by a big-time art guy from out of the country, so we don't yet know if it will be as beautiful and well received by the popularce as our first white bridge, but there it is.
Old White Bridge with Texas Flag
I was going to post these pictures and some of a new-to-me church in far West Dallas on a page nobody goes to anymore, but then realized nobody'd ever see them there, and this is about as much about birds as a lot of my other postings here lately, so I posted them here. Not sure I'll ever find a more appropriate or popular place to partk the church pix, though many of you might not recognize it as a church. I barely did.
Very Very Wet
Which is off to the left. That slant sign showing the various bird species to be seen there is on the left. This is a long telephoto shot, so I'm somewhat west of here looking back. The pier and the boardwalk to it are all underwater, thanks to our tornados and rains and more rains this weekend after Christmas. Very wet.
At the big, empty field, except today it was full, of water.
The lake beyond is usually there, but that creek near the bottom of this photograph is usually just land. They didn't park that picnic table in the middle of the creek. The creek grew there during and after the rains.
I think. I knew where I was when I took these photographs, but now, looking back at them, I am disoriented entirely.
Buckner being Loop 12 on the other side of all those trees, but first comes Lawther Drive. The lake around that raised concrete circle in the middle here isn't usually there. Then comes Lawther, then on the other side of the other side is Loop 12.
Water on all sides of the pier today. And I kept driving around somewhat disoriented. Well, more disoriented than usual. I like to photograph familiar objects. Like the pier, except it doesn't look much like a pier, and I know that Nature does not really abhor a straight line. She builds them all the time. Just not usually in wholly parallel pairs of them. I probably shot this from The Slider, because it was raining dogs and cats. Nice that you can almost tell where the pier stops and "The Spice Garden" starts, because the water color changes from the bluish of the water held by the pier to the muddish brown color of the rainwater beyond the pier.
The Upper Point in this photograph is Dreyfuss Point. It has trees and largish shrubs. The lower point is of The Hidden Creeks area that's on this side of Dreyfuss. I know exactly where this is and those are, and I'm still disoriented, but then I stayed that way, because there was so much water in so many places we usually don't have water in in Sunset Bay. There wasn't another car at Sunset Bay or Dreyfuss while I was there today, and there was so much more water than usual — even more water than there was there last time I and recent rainwater coincided there, and there was a cop who told me I couldn't go there, because there was too much water. Just there wasn't a cop there telling me that. No walkers. No bicyclers. No anybody but me. I liked that part.
Calling it "The Spit" just seems wrong, when there was so much water there, I couldn't see the land. Way beyond spit, I'd say.
I didn't see a log, but they were standing on something, just it was under water far enough I couldn't see or photograph whatever they were standing on.
I'm pretty sure there's a pier beyond this picnic table tableaux, because there's one post showing. I think. Water was on both sides of Sunset Circle, rain water on this side and flood water on the other side where there's eventually lake. It seemed precarious, but it never once was. Just a lot of water.
It just looked wrong, not being able to see The Spit and all the trees on The Spit.
Except the creek and The Spit and the lake had all grown together.
There were more birds, but I've shown all but the domestic ducks and gooses.
Wood and Real Birds
& an Injured Pelican
From the David McManaway Estate Sale I wrote about, from whence they came, I saw the great old craquelure metal box of them when they were checked out, and I complimented them. And for Christmas, I got 'em. Wow. I'd just "The Museum Putty"-ed them to a window shelf, so they wouldn't jump off and break their tiny, delicate features. And I took their pictures just before Anna came by to go off to the lake and photo whatever we could on Christmas Day.
At first I thought this was a little Blue Jay, but I kept thinking that if I, the great bird ID-er thought that, it must be some other bird. Then I thought it might be a Tufted Titmouse, carefully looked it up, and that's what it really is. I got it from Alex last summer. He is the Urban Archeologist who finds things. And I love some of them, like these cast and hand-painted, plastic — I think — birds, except I managed to let the hummingbird fall and beak its break, so we won't show it here.
Colorful little birdses that are hand-carved, assembled and painted. I assume in Mexico, and I wonder how long ago McManaway got them — and what he planned to do with them. They're exquisite, both bird-like and very unbird-like, with carefully-created details, but we instantly know them as birds. I do, anyway.
I wanted this to be a bird, too. But it is what it is, and I don't know exactly what that is. But it looks stormy and blue, all covered with stars, and it's breathing fire, so I put it up there with the new little wood birds today to help protect them. When Anna arrived, we went off to do the lake for Christmas:
Took Garland Road, drove down DeGoyler Drive, then parked at the bottom of Emerald Isle Drive and walked into Sunset Bay, where we walked a lot more, stopping along our ways to photograph whatever struck our fancies. Always, when I see people swimming (supposedly strictly prohibited at the lake) or operating a wind surfer or whatever this is, I assume that they know how utterly filthy the water is, because many of the feeder creeks carry sewage, some of it raw, and only some of that, diluted. Apparently good for birds, who seem to like it for the food it brings, but less appetizing for us humans.
I've photographed this scene thousands of times, but not often from this view before. The pier at Sunset Bay is off to the right from this view of the bay, which tends to look at it longitudinally, instead of the usual horizontal way of looking at it.
This is another oddly new view of very familiar objects not usually so obviously parallel. And there were only a very few pelicans around, one in particular, as we shall see, who really couldn't leave.
Warm day in the neighborhood, and this goose was enjoying a big, splashy bath. I should note that this goose and the one in the next pic down, are not the same goose, as I had previously assumed, without really looking.
This was a much splashier goose.
Lotta people and a few dogs were wearing fashion items they'd unwrapped that festive morning.
And everybody — birds and people everybody else — seemed joyous. Except this one pelican:
I watched it try to get up from the water below "the spit," as some call this long, thin island off to the right of Sunset Beach, several times. But its wings seemed incapable of powering it that far, as if everything wasn't connected right anymore. It slumped and fell back several times, then slowly gathered strength to try again, only to again fail and fall. It seemed able to swim slowly, just not get up where it wanted to go, and when it tried, its various parts looked like they were connected wrong, with its wings flailing behind it, as shown here.
Anna and I were going to call Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation to get their Dallas bird-rescuer out to save this bird, but we heard instead from Annette that the pelican had already been rescued. Another guy, who had seen it struggling, told Charles, who feeds the gooses there in the evenings, and Charles tried to call Rogers, but nobody answered. Then the guy who'd told Charles, called Animal Services, and a woman from there showed up.
Then David, the guy who honks back to the gooses, and the woman from Animal Services waded out into the shallow water (!) not far at all from where I'd seen and photographed it earlier [above], and they carried it back to and carefully held it on Sunset Beach to clip the big fishing lure out, although Charles says he thinks the barb was still in the bird. Animal Control took custody of the injured bird, so we think it's in good hands now.
Camera Note: All of today's shots were taken on my newish [See the next Bird Journal entry down] Olympus OM1, that I've been struggling with lately. Today, I had the devil of a time trying to get the focus square to hold still.
The camera seemed desperate to put it anywhere but where I needed it to be, especially when the injured pelican was flailing about trying to get up on the island, and parts of it seemed attached all wrong. I haven't learned how to fix that yet, although I've studied the manual carefully.
But I'm making a lot of progress learning other stuff, so I'll be keeping at it. It's sure a lot smaller and lighter than the Nikon — and it has more direct visual feedback, but it does not yet attach to my tripod, for which I'll have to pay someone in Germany who hand-manufactures such attachers a couple hundred bucks.
Not a New, Just a
I bought this camera new back in June. I have taught many people cameras neither of us had ever seen before, which seemed a lot like teaching new Mac-owners programs I'd never seen before. Once I figured out what the menu items offered, I'd just try them. Pretty much the same as learning or teaching a new camera. Until this one. But I failed utterly learning this new camera and its idiot organization of menu items. Utterly and miserably.
Unfortunately, its price kept going down as I considered selling it. Then, too, I knew people who love their OM1s, people I trust and whose writings about it on the internet I have read. So I just waited.
So here are some of today's (Thursday)'s photos from my six-month-old camera that I never learned, and pretty much gave up on till yesterday (Wednesday). Recently, I tried to buy a new Panasonic Lumix G7 camera, after owning two others in that same series, the G2 and the G5, and finding them comparatively cheap but very workable — although both started falling apart after two years, they were my light-and-easy Art and People cameras. And they were wonderfully easy White Balance setters.
I was attempting to set the focus on the birds beyond the trees, but I don't know how to change the focus target — that's one of those important aspects I just don't yet know.
So I bought a Panasonic Lumix G7 from Adorama, and they sent me one that had been opened and badly repacked. Years ago, I'd bought two "Canovision Hi8" video cameras from B&H that were both used. They even had other people's videos already on them. I wasn't wise enough then to just send them back.
But when Adorama sent me the used G7 when I'd paid for new, I got permission to and sent it back, then never heard from them again, even though I reminded them with all the tracking, checking and other numbers twice. [NOTE: I got an email from them tonight saying they'd refunded me December 18.] I expected better service, so [though I had thought about never buying from them again, I probably will. One glitch in many years is not the end of the world].
So instead of pursuing the notion of replacing my G5, I've been warming to the idea of learning my, as they cite it on my receipt, "Olympus OM_D E-M1 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Camera Body Only, Black, 16.8 MP Full, 3" Tilting Wide Monitor, 60-1/8,000 Shutt"[er].
Today, finally, after futzing with it around the house yesterday, and getting mostly halfway decent exposures, even though I never knew quite what I was doing, or how to change important things like White Balance, ISO or shutter speed, I took it to the lake to see what it could see.
In the pic one up from here, all we see of the cormorant was its splayed, dark black tail feathers over on the right, where American White Pelican's black feathers almost always are not. Here we can only see a blob of a cormorant with a fish in its beak. Apparently these pelicans are attempting to show the it that because they are bigger, and there's more of them, they get to take it, and so they try.
All the other cormorants have flown off to join all the other pelicans in a fishing melee off to the back and right of this little klatch of mostly white, orange and a little black, but this poor corm (on the left in this shot, and mostly underwater, didn't get to get away with the rest.
I believe the black lump just to the right of the second, maybe third, pelican from the left, is the unfortunate cormorant. I like to think that the escaping pelican just didn't think the other pelks were being fair to the last cormorant, so he was leaving, but it probably just didn't see any point in punishing the corm any more. More kept leaving.
That may be the sinking carcass of the cormorant at the front, under under what looks like the pierced lower mandible of the pelican on the right.
Not sunk yet. But it looks like all the pelicans left are dismantling the splayed dark shape of the offending cormorant. I.e., thugs stealing a fish somebody else caught fair and square.
Overall, I like what this camera did. None of these birds were close enough for action this close, so put that info in with the rest, and this is a nice camera. And its far images blow up rather well. The lens I used was my Panasonic 100-300mm zoom. In Micro Four Thirds, which is the format both my Oly and my Pany share, the focal length is doubled to get the same angle of view as lenses for full-frame cameras like my Nikons. The image is still somewhat smaller, but as you can see, this ain't bad, even if this lens is nothing spectacular. Not bad, not bad at all.
I am, however, used to different sets of colorations from my Nikon and Panasonic lenses. Their differing versions of colors seem to run together and somewhat opposite to the way this Oly (for Olympus) does. Apparently, Oly's lenses show a lot more green, and for awhile as shown down today's journal entry to here, I fought it. What you can more easily see is that the whites are whiter here (less green) and the water is more purple. I've been at a loss about how to compensate for that, and I may have to give it up.
Just as it takes awhile to learn a new camera, it usually takes awhile to figure out how to make the colors new camera systems make their images look right and real.
The absolutely best thing about mirrorless cameras is that we get to see the exposure without taking the pic first, then chimping it on the LCD. Unfortunately, these big pelicans more than halfway across the lake render pretty small in the viewfinder, so I had to chimp (look like a monkey with a new toy) them anyway.
I doubt I'll give up my big, heavy Nikon cam. lens and tripod for this cam and lens that does not yet attach firmly to my tripod, but the possibility exists, and that is why I got into mirrorless in the first place. Because they are smaller, and less complex, both the mirrorless cameras and lenses, are cheaper. I still don't know what I am doing with the Om1, but I seem already to be learning. Mayhaps I can build on that. There's much else to learn, and I'm past procrastinating, so I can give it more time.
I don't know what happened with the cormorant, because that's farther than I could see without a telephoto lens, and while it was happening, I hadn't a clue that was what was happening. There was just this klatsch of pelicans doing circles far out on the water, and it looked like an interesting thing to try to photograph, so I did.
Fog & Dog Off-leash
at Sunset Bay
If you like to take pix of mallards flying, almost any time is fine at Sunset Bay, even if there's a lot of fox around.
Pretty gray, even this close.
With the far side that we'd normally see, invisible.
Little did they know at the time.
We can barely see any color in the trees, the cormorants or the sky behind.
Just a few minutes later.
One of the reasons I was heading for Sunset Bay was the opportunity to make photographs of the usual objects while showing nothing on the other side of the lake.
Here, it looks like the dog could easily catch one or more of the escaping gooses.
Note the comparison of over-water travel. The majority of the domestic goose's girth was up over the water, while that of the chasing dog's were mostly down in the water, greatly increasing its friction and decreasing its likelihood of catching even a bird who could not fly, but sure could run.
Within a few seconds the dog seemed to lose interest in not catching any birds it chased. It may have just been playing, but the birds anywhere near it, all panicked and ran or flew away. Domestic gooses can't fly, so they ran, much faster than the dog. They had more at stake.
Everything was in flux. Birds flying around without any particular purpose. Fear was in the thick white air.
I couldn't get a clear shot of her as we exchanged hollered accusations. She insisted that we should know that she'd never loose her dogs on the birds, even though she had just done exactly that, while we watched in horror. We didn't know her or what she was capable of doing, although she was a pretty good screamer — more at us than at her dog. And I, at least, have seen people purposely loose dogs so they could try to catch and at least grievously harass ducks and other birds, right there in Sunset Bay several times before. But those were guys, and I didn't know what they could do, either.
And very much interested in chasing more birds.
All aflutter out toward Dreyfuss Point.
In those same Cormorant Trees [above on this page] as the fog dissipates.
A little more detail when they flew closer over the pier at Sunset Bay.
Probably heading off to go fishing in peace, away from scary dogs and people yelling.
I think this is Free Advice Point.
from 'round the lake
Today, it's Double-crested Cormorants. I sure hope I get to see one when he gets double-crossed — when his eyebrows grow long and high. Till then, I think they are just cormorants.
Handsome critters with the sky reflecting in the water.
Beauty is as beauty does. And corms get it sometimes. This place, across from the parking lot off north westish from Winstead and Garland Road, almost never looks this good.
That's the moat around Egret Island, where, today, there were actually Great Egrets in the upper branches, but most of the last pan of water down The Spillway action today was cormorants.
There weren't any birds at the bottom of the steps, which are not visible here, because they drop down, step by step, behind that strong horizontal line on this side of the steps themselves. It's illegal to be down there, and it's illegal to be fishing down there, although apparently, it is not illegal to use a net to catch fish at White Rock Lake. I've seen it done often. But then I've seen fishing done often along The Spillway where at least a dozen big and little signs all up and down that temporary body of water proclaim that it is illegal to fish from there.
While I was photographing cormorants, two GBHs flew over. This one I got, but I had to blow it up significantly.
… Just the most successful of those, so far. But I keep thinking all those Ring-billed Gulls who park themselves along the tip level of The Spillway these days don't stay there forever.
In a tree on the other side of the moat around Egret Island today. When I first saw it up there, I assumed it were a hawk. The colors were right, though not much else was.
In that same tree, only in profile this time, showing more details. Looks close, doesn't it? Well, it's not. This is a tiny detail of the full, 24 x 36mm digital frame, blown up and up and up to this size. Great detail, at least in part, because the camera and lens are on a sturdy tripod, since my hands have been shaking a lot lately. My mother's hands still do that, too. I remember wondering at what age mine would start. I guess the answer is about 70, give or take a few years.
Many, many, many cormorants flew over while I was looking for something to photograph at the Lower Steps way down the Spillway today.
I've read that whenever the Shakespeare fan who introduced into this new world all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's writings, those starling had no natural enemies here, so they thrived. But sometime last year, I think, I found a very prominent enemy of these birds in the Great-tailed Grackle, and I have proof in the photograph of a Adult Male Great-tailed Grackle smashing a nestling starling while its parent released blood-curdling bird screams, trying to get the much larger grackle to release their progeny, while the grackle continues to attempt to murder it, so it can feed it to its young.
It's a huge page with scads of pix, so give it time to load, but the Grackle trying to murder a Fledgling Starling is here.
This one's beak looks different, but it's the same color. Just that this one's beak is full of little dots of something starlings eat. None of my pix of Adult Nonbreeding European Starlings are even this good.
Diff'rent birds for Diff'rent Spokes
of the Round-the-lake trip today
Only two lake trips today. Once with Anna up and down the east side, then not long later to accidentally meet Erin and Tony on the pier at Sunset Bay. This shot was from that latter trip. We'll continue down the page, first-to-last with the shots down Yacht Club Row past The Big Thicket area, which is really quite small, so I have always thought maybe we should call it The Little Thicket.
It kinda looks like a tree. Had no idea when I started photographing it, then gradually, it became obvious.
There were others off to the left, and they weren't doing much, but I liked the trash pile they'd pick to do what birds are nearly always up to. Look for food..
These guys stopped short of coming up to The Slider when they saw my big camera stuck out the window. Then they just stared. But they did not come closer, and we'd seen them do often before.
I'd first noticed him on when we were on the other side of the lake, and I still thought I was going to find birds. But he was still high-energy push-and-coast skating through The Little Thicket past the Yacht Clubs. Spouting a constant stream of abstract gestures (nothing profane) and talking loud about people "about 800 years old who ought to be home watching Matlock," which must have been Anna and I driving slow looking for birds.
Just before he passed us again, we stopped, rolled down the window, and laughed and laughed loudly. As he did back after a brief pause. Another White Rock Lake character, but he is so much more couth and entertaining than the bicyclers who spit on drivers' windows, when they don't catch on that we're all in this together. I shot this looking back too far to see through the viewfinder, so I just winged it. Got nearly all of him, just cropped the skateboard, and there's all that space above him.
The lake's just on the other side of the low line of shrubs and trees behind and to the left.
We wanted to go back west on Northwest Highway, but around there, it's difficult. So I drove The Slider up past the swamp, where the two bridges parked themselves for the longest time. She explained where they went, but I never quite figured it out.
The Muscovy by one of the logs that washed up against the lake by Sunset Beach kept its beak in the water for a little while, but the background it chose was so abstract, I thought it looked great. Click.
I think it's the same one, or maybe just one that looks a lot like it [below on this page]. Maybe there's a whole, extended family at the lake. Now I'm back to do some more serious bird photos for today's journal entry. Kala King says this is a Swedish Blue Duck. I just assumed it was another Mallard hybrid. It has its beauty, and I was taken.
This is about a third of the width of the tele at its tele-most clicking a pic of birds near the far side of the lake. And I was thinking when all those hungry birds manage to feed themselves, it'd almost guarantee a stream of Pelicans Flying back home soon, so I waited and talked with Erin and Tony.
And not that far up. Ring-bills are our most populous variety of gulls at White Rock Lake. And no, they are not properly called "sea Gulls," although lake gulls might fit. They are who have been recently seen just under the dam on the Spillway, looking a lot like about a thousand or so big, bright white cotton balls.
Once the fishing party goes by, it's only a matter of time till we'll see pelicans and cormorants stuffed to the gills with fish and flying back into Sunset Bay.
Since I usually spend my time photographing them as they get closer and closer and finally "land" in the water out there, today I concentrated on mobs of them out a ways, while I could still photograph a bunch of them together …
… but it's just so difficult to stop photographing when they get much closer. I assume that sharing this frame are Ring-billed Gulls.
Birds ever which way. Lots of flying bird who needed to have their pictures took. I count at least 19 pelicans and an even dozen cormorants and two gulls and maybe two coots.
I remember clicking the shutter when I saw this American White Pelican do this, but I have no idea why it was doing that — or for that matter, what it was doing.
In close groups. Three pelicans swimming on the middle of the far right edge; approximately 15 pelicans flying across the lake and across the frame; eight cormorants and four gulls.
My Idiot Web Host removed All
My Web Counters Last Week
"Dream Host" has always been rude, but deleting all of my hundreds of web counters, one for each page on both my sites, in one swell foop, without prior notice was, I thought, incredibly rude. I used their file format for each. They had a page for that. I was very careful. I received no prior notice that they were going to do stop all of my counters. But they had some other use for the lines of code for counters, so they all went away.
And now, instead of knowing instantly, how well any of the hundreds of pages on either of my sites are doing, I have to do more involved sleuthing to learn such statistics. I've done those before, and they're a hassle of linear thinking, which I've never been good at.
It's upsetting to know that I've been recommending those AHs to others who needed web hosts. For each recommendation, I got a few free months of their "service." I don't remember the last time I paid them. I hope it's been a long, long time.
Some of my bird pages, like the Herons Egrets Herons or Egrets? Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelks Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Displays Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds & the 1st Bald Eagles here and Banding Info links at the top of every new page, have amassed hundreds of thousands of hits. It was comforting to know, at a glace, that people were looking at my pages.
Each new monthly page, usually draws just under or just over a thousand hits in its first month. Supposedly, only new visitors. If the same visitor comes back a day or few days later, they were not re-counted. Those hit counters that now look to me and to you like this on the bottoms of pages, are just junk now.
(if you allow such pop-ups on your browser — I have one browser that didn't and one that did) didn't even count each time someone hit a page with one of those counters on it. Just once. Ever. Supposedly — if I could believe anything The Nightmare Squad said, and I'm having trouble with that now.
And I'm seriously considering moving to a web host that will. Except most web hosts won't. I'm probably way behind the times. 71-year-olds web guys tend to do that. I don't have any advertisements on my pages — on either of my major sites (this birding one or the Dallas Arts Revue one). That was my deal with Google, who considers me a nonprofit entity. Which, of course, I am, though I am not organized as a 501 (c) 3 or any other form of nonprofit entity.
I get dozens of form letters a month from profit-motivated idiots who say they like my site, but if I hired them, they would make it so I zoomed ahead with hits. Except, of course, when my Nightmare Host hit counters still worked, I knew with a glance, that my pages were hauling down the hits, and since I'm not selling anything here, my "product," it seemed to them, wasn't selling.
I mostly just ignore those fools. They all seem to subscribe to the same, exact wording, that they must have learned on some site. They obviously do not read books. And they seem to think I'll jump at each new instance of their wonderful offers. To hire them to give me a readership. Except you readers and bird lookers keep coming back.
I must be doing something right. Now I have to learn to do site statistics again, even though they won't count all those thousands of hits I got before that yesterday, last week, last month or last year. Something else to bother with. It's been comparatively easy, not it's going to be another pain-in-the-ass job. Dream Host it's not.
I took bird pix yesterday. I'll probably take more today and tomorrow. I love doing that. I will continue, but there may be a glitch or two in the presentations, and there very well may be a glitch in the web host department. I have mostly been able to put up with all their prior rudenesses. I may be hitting my limit.
Anyway, that all's why I've been feeling a little lost lately. I just had to get it out somewhere. Unfortunately, the little boys at Dream Host can't read or write. I'm pretty sure about that because I've read their so-called "news" letters while they still bothered to do that. I didn't care, because when I could figure out what they were writing about, I still didn't care.
I keep telling myself I don't do this web stuff for the hits, but it's just so much more comforting when I see that somebody's out there looking at my pictures and words.
Another Day in Sunset Bay
Head and front very wet from tipping forward and dabbling (the correct term) for food. We've been watching these 'black" ducks for I think three years now. They were black when they were dumped at Sunset Beach couple summers ago. It's illegal to dump birds off at the lake, but it is a fairly common occurrence, and nobody enforces any of the rules at the lake. Not sure why there are any.
I've wanted to photograph this bird for two years now, and counting. I love that dappled look, but it looks even better with a head, which right now is getting wet like the Mallard Hybrid above's is already wet, dipping for food.
Seems to me this is winter or awfully close to it. I'm guessing male Mallards are in their best colors now to begin to attract the right female(s) to extend their species. Besides, those colors play louder in winter than among all the competition in spring.
Not floating, flatting. It was beautifully round on Sunday, but on Tuesday today, it was slumping into flat while still very wet. Inside, I bet it's rotting.
Don't know what frightened them out of Sunset Beach into the Lagoon, but they were scare and splashing fast over the water. Some of them can actually fly, but it takes so much effort they usually just do not.
It looks kinda like they're funning to get up speed to fly, but domestic gooses very rarely fly, and then only a few flaps' worth. But when they get all that girth going this fast, it's a wonderful spectacle to watch and photograph.
Well, it was when I decided to take this photo. By then, however, the sag and flap had stopped. The little black ones are Coots, and the medium-sized white one in the front is a goose.
And this is a whole different kind of flap. Probably because it feels good.
Cool weather, many birds
& Other Photo Ops
Starting many months ago, then procrastinated for their reasons till just yesterday, when it was cancelled, I was supposed to 'lead' a group for Dallas Photography Group to photo birds at White Rock Lake. I, of course, originally chose Sunset Bay as a place that would probably net us all good pictures of a variety of birds. Then last month when the pelicans began fishing in the spillway, I wondered where they'd actually be when the photographers showed up, but the crowd did not show up.
The actual date of the event kept being pushed back, but not by me. I had suggested a warmer month, but the calendar slid inexorably into winter. It was cold today — if you call 50 degrees Fahrenheit cold, but it was a good day to be in Sunset Bay, because there were lots of birds, and nobody put in their rowboat or kayak or canoe or shrimp boat to scare away all the birds, which happens every couple days here, even if that's not supposed to happen.
As you can see in today's photos, the day the meet-up was supposed to happen, even though weather reporters all agreed that it would be cold and rain all day, it didn't. Not that rain or cold are particularly good excuses not to go to the lake to photograph birds. I especially like snow days — for snow persons and odd bird behaviors. And rain is just normal.
I'd already seen a couple dozen pelicans flying into, circling around and landing in Sunset Bay from Winfrey Point's upper parking lot, as well as big fishing party near the dam, so I expected there'd be lots more pelicans flying back to Sunset Bay. And there were. Lots of fun birds to photograph. It would probably have, however, felt a little warmer with twenty or more photographers to talk with.
I brought two cameras. Which is always a hassle. My big Nikon with 500mm worth of tele optics and my little Panasonic Lumix mirrorless G5 that I tried to replace last week, but instead of sending me a new one, Adorama sent me a box someone had already slashed open and badly resealed. I'd accidentally bought used cameras that way before, and I didn't want to do that again.
So I brought my already-damaged Pany G5 with its swing/tilt LCD taped to the body with blue painter's tape, when I would have rather brought a new G7, but the G5 didn't do half bad, as we shall see farther down today's journal entry. If I'd had to explain to thirty photographers who all the birds were at Sunset Bay, what they did, and what they were up to, I probably could only have shot a few exposures.
Luckily I had my Nikon at the ready, but my Pany was usually wrapped up in both straps. I could deal with one or the other, but both was and always is a chore. So the Nikon was at the ready for shots like this.
And the Pany was less handy for this. I'm sorry those fair-weather photographers did not show today, but it was their choice. They opted out in the face of bad weather prediction. So they missed an amazing day of wonderful birds, bird diversity, lots of avian action and intriguing landscape opportunities. It was one of the few really good photo days we've had this winter. I'm sure glad I was there.
Pelicans flying alone, and in small and large groups were just a few of the many fly overs over the pier, where I'd hoped to meet the meet-uppers.
I see three birds. There could be more. Otherwise, this would just be a land- and cloud-scape. With three birds it's a bird study and a landscape. This is another Panasonic shot.
And a flight of pelicans flies north along the far shore. Can't you just sense the significantly smoother tonal range and subtle, luscious colors? This has to be a Nikon shot with 36 megapixels, even if this is a little cropped. I guess I don't understand planning a birding outing to deal with birds, then opting out because of what some idiot weather persons might say. I assume they are always wrong. They sure were today.
Plenty pelicans coming in over Dreyfuss Hill, then changing direction …
… to fly out to the Point of Dreyfuss.
Then turn left somewhere off the point, to fly across Sunset Bay …
… past the logs, where perched many pelicans and cormorants,
Then land out there.
Amazing, fairly close opportunities for all sorts of pelican photos.
And strange and wonderful lighting and flying and landing positions.
Once landed, they attempted to establish some sort of reason for having got this close.
They seemed organized, but not to any purpose I could see.
And not just pelicans, either, we had ducks swimming and flying in, cormorants of course, but not as many as last week when The City was cleaning Cormorant scat off the sidewalks in and through Cormorant Bay — See my Bird Annotated Map of White Rock Lake. Still, there were Mallards galore, as usual, coots up the yin-yang, lots of elegantly flying pelicans, gooses, other ducks galore, and for the first time this year, this fine specimen:
I enjoy photographing the male Scaups who attend Sunset Bay nearly every year. Usually there's either four of them, or six. It's an odd situation. Except for the solo Mandarin and the solo Pintail Ducks we've seen twice each, most species who visit, arrive with at least one male and one female. But we have not seen a female Mandarin Duck or a female Pintail Duck, and I have only ever seen one female Scaup at a time. And so far this year, I have seen only one male — this one, although I suspect there are or soon will be more.
Sooner or later while they're here, that one female Scaup will arrive. Once I saw her leading all the Scaups off toward the Hidden Creeks Area on the other side of Sunset Bay. One other time, I saw her leading one male at a time off in that direction. The female rarely stays longer than a few days, but the males spend months here.
The area with the large puddles between here and the lake proper are usually inhabited by grass, weeds, reeds and jungle-like plant varieties. When it's not this wet, swimming birds can not just swim in from the lake and around in the interior ponds. And yes, the pelicans swam in today, tried fishing for several minutes, then swam back out.
So just when the plants in the Spice Garden got their best chance to grow again, this happened. I guess we might as well depend upon it.
& a Fishing Mob
December 12 - 13
Shot these earlier this week. These birds look odd to me, because I'm used to seeing, watching and photographing Double-crested Cormorants, whose heads are shaped differently. They also have a more or less solid white line around their face and lores.
I don't know if they're playing or fighting. Nor do I know if they live around here or are just visiting. I suspect the latter, because we don't see them here all the time. Just sporadically.
I shot this Friday December 11. Note the difference in head shape from those above. Note, too, that Double-crested Cormorants only have double crests when they're in breeding form, and that is not now. In fact, it's only for a few weeks out of the year. Then it looks like their eyebrows grow immensely, and those two eyebrows are what whoever named this variety saw and decided these were "double-crested" cormorants.
I drove down DeGolyer Drive, as I so often do, coasting most of the way, so I could watch my miles-per-gallon indicator show way high mileage on that long, flat — till the Winfrey Point Rise — one-lane road. I doubt it helps my actual mileage much, but it seems to, and that's what's important in this life, after all.
I'd forgot all about that mileage stuff keeping the car — and me — warm earlier this week and knocked the mileage from higher than 50 to down in the mid-40s, and have slowly ratcheted it up to 49.9 MPG, then I forgot all about mileage, so it's probably down again. Lately, it's been warm mid-day, so I open the windows and play my music loud.
I did not, however, though Erik had, see the female kestrel. In fact, I haven't seen her in a long time. Erik recommended earlier in the day, which has been rough for me lately.
I'd driven down DeGolyer earlier but didn't see any interesting birds, caught Erik at Sunset Bay, and he talked about photographing a Kestrel pair on Winfrey, so I went back, assuming I wouldn't find it or them, but trying anyway, and I found him — though he was still elusive.
I know I said I was cutting back having to shoot bird pix, but I still go to the lake almost every day and take whatever bird pix I can find. Nice thing about thinning out my posts is that I can show better pix, which I've done all this month except December 7, and I've thought a couple times about thinning that entry down some.
While I was driving by on Garland Road, I noticed a humongous fishing party, so I stopped, parked up one of those streets up through the posh houses, but when I got down to the lake, I couldn't get a decent view through the trees on the edge, so I walked back to The Slider, slid over to DeGoyler Drive the first time today (Friday), and shot these kinda spooky views through morning fog.
Two Hawks in One Tree
My first several shots of these birds — even though all that time I only saw one bird way up over there — were too fuzzy to show here. But my own vision of it without the camera, was even blurrier. I remember being sure there was only one Red-shouldered Hawk over there, and I was sorta following it, and having a big challenge doing that, because it kept seeming to have gone back between flights, then fly over the same area again.
It didn't help that, when I first saw and started photographing it/them, there really was only one bird. A little soft and blurry and not facing the right direction to easily figure out who it was or what it was up to, but just one bird.
Which is to say I was confusing seeing two hawks with seeing just one — or the other way around. It wasn't till I got these shots up relatively large on my screen that I realized I had photographed and kept in fairly sharp focus for a good while — two separate hawks. No wonder I was confused. I shot more pix — but they're way lousier than these.
When I was photographing these, I was still confused, and I couldn't figure out what all those extra feathers were doing off its tail. Like most birders faced with the unlikely, I assumed it was a rare bird. My cam was already on a tripod, but I was even more careful to hold everything still for these. All birders have those thoughts, and we with truly lousy far vision may have more than most.
Note the tiny area of its wings compared with the much larger area of tail feathers in this shot. It might mean it needed more directional ability than thrust for this comparatively small lift.
After I saw the image of it jumping into flight [a couple clicks down], I deduced what it was doing here and named it in this caption. The other bird is just perched there, with all those feathers blurring into this bird. I assume one is male and the other is female, but I don't know who is the more aggressive of that species, and I can't find my too-precious-to-lose Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas.
From my viewpoint as I shot this, it just looked like one big, tall bird with way too many feathers, even though that didn't make any sense. Except right there it was. I could see it plainly, but also plainly, I did not understand what I was seeing.
Then one jumped into flight, and I lost it completely behind trees both near and far. The rest of my Red-shouldered Hawk Pair pix were motion-blurred or out of focus.
I seriously doubt these two are just passing through. We have several semi-permanent Red-shouldered Hawk nests in the area, so these very probably are from around here — from very close around here. The much more common Red-tailed Hawks also have nests around the lake. But if I've ever photographed Red-shouldered Hawks in pairs, it's been awhile.
Using the Site Search link atop most pages here to look back through previous monthly pages of this journal, I found a July 2010 instance of photographing one juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, and having it surprising me by turning into two. So maybe that's another one of this species' mostly unlisted traits.
Sunset Bay Sunsets &
Birds at Sunset Beach
I have a short telephoto lens that I haven't used as much as I thought I would when I got it. It's a Nikon E series, which means its maximum aperture is f1.8 and it's fairly inexpensive for a Nikon lens. And for an inexpensive Nikon lens, it's amazing sharp. Luckily, it almost focuses in the dark, but I wasn't thinking about that. In fact, on the way over I was thinking that compared to my usual 500mm setup, this 85mm was almost a wide-angle lens.
I was just looking for something different. Dunno how successful I was at that, but I was feeling experimental, and when I get that way, I find myself in the near dark at Sunset Bay or Sunset Beach, either of which often have nice people to talk with after or while I'm experimenting.
It's of the very nature of flash to fade off into the distance, and I hadn't planned it — I know better than to plan when I'm experimenting — but I like the way the sunset reflects in the flutter of dark water under these ducks and coots — especially on the west side. It brightens each piece of light tone and some of the darks. And all those semi-liquid eyes flash all the way back.
I did have in mind the Mandarin Duck, who has been seen there lately, but not by me. I've seen it plenty, and I have got great pix of it, but not, as I keep saying, recently. Use the Site Search link at the top of these pages and search for "Mandarin" like I just did, and you'll find several series of decent pix. But like I keep saying, not tonight.
I didn't have anything in mind but using that lens, so it was the only I brought (One's plenty.). I tried the sunset first, because it was there, and they don't last long. Then I remembered how lucky I have been (ever so rarely) over the years with random flash exposures of birds taking off or in flight. So I tried that repeatedly. I kept at it, because I hadn't got anything I thought worth keeping. The flash didn't even go off on this one, but it was better than all but one of those where the flash did fire.
I tried nine times before this — too dark, too blurry, too light or ugly. This one was good, which was great, because we were running out of Mallards, whom I knew would suddenly bolt into the sky every couple minutes, no matter what anybody did. When there's that many of them together, Mallards freaking out over something or nothing, then escaping up and out is something we can depend upon, and I saw it happen several times before I tuned in.
I think this may be the largest image I've ever posted on my Amateur Birder's Journal [Most wide ones here are 888 pixels wide, which seemed huge nine years ago when I started this journal, and the tall ones are 666 pixels]. When I first posted this entry, I made a big deal of how big this image is/was. It's the same size it always was now, but it looks like the same size all my other wide shots are, so it doesn't throw off mobile page sizes — if it ever did.
I probably need to make a really big print of it. Maybe I'll enter the White Rock Lake Conservatory competition one more time with it next year and feloniously claim I make half my income as a photographer (Ha!) so I can dishonestly enter as a pro, because they don't believe I'm really an amateur, even if it's the biggest word on this page and I adhere strictly to their idiot definitions of pro and am.
the day before yesterday
I thought it might be Snoopy's little friend, but maybe not. I was heading south it on Abrams, made the block, parked till traffic thinned, then made two shots. This was the second. This journal entry doesn't count as a whole new day, because it was too easy. But it is a bird, and a big bird, my favorite kind.
Seventy-four years ago today, my father was flying into Hawaii from Seattle-Tacoma in a bomber so new that the regular artillery gunners on the ground had never seen their outlines in any of the "safe/friendly" plane picture books they kept. So not only did 80 or so Japanese Zeros shoot at the planes Daddy was leading around trying to find somewhere safe to land, so were American gunners on the ground.
Everybody aboard the brand new B-17s lived to tell the tale, and as my father told us much later, they landed at Hickam Field and hid behind some hills at the end of the runway — that turned out to be ammo dumps. This is the first year in my memory that he did not participate in at least one speech somewhere or front-page local newspaper story. He died last May at the tender age of 101.
And everybody's in it for themselves.
Spot, Catch and Swallow are the three main events, and there was a lot of that going on on the far side of the lake.
The fish they were following kept moving, so pelicans, cormorants and gulls followed them crisscrossing the lake.
While I sat in The Slider watching this very large — altogether the fishing party was much longer than the dam is, which means it was very large indeed. And it kept following the fish — back and forth from far to near.
Interesting view of The Old Boathouse's newish metal and wood bridge and The Old Boathouse, from DeGoyler Drive.
When White Rock Lake was the source for City Water, the big pumps in this building pumped it to homes and businesses.
A ways right of the pier at Sunset Bay.
Apparently, autumn fell on Sunset Island, also, and its leaves seemed entirely missing for awhile. But now it's almost back in the tree business.
December 2, 2015
Erik and I had just been talking about Red-tailed Hawks, so who flies over us on the pier at Sunset Bay, but a Red-tailed Hawk. Erik also talked about Bluebirds and told me where, and I already expect to go back later this week. This one isn't really all that different or particularly, but whatever they are, the next few are different from what I've been photographing here lately. We both photographed Pelicans flying over, but my shots of those were rather ordinary.
Then, as I was walking past the earth end of the pier, I saw a little brown blur that, when it stopped nearby, looked like this. I had my exposure set to shooting big white birds (pelicans) flying over and I had not changed it to small stripey brown birds hiding in the shadows. This is not an experiment — except in the way pretty much every exposure is an experiment. While I was changing the settings, the yet-unidentified bird flew away.
When I left the pier, I told Erik I was going "to find some bluebirds." He said they might not be over there then, but they were, and although I saw a bunch, most of them were way too fast for me. My main issue with small birds is that they are difficult to follow with my old eyes looking through a long telephoto lens. If they hold still, I can usually capture their images. If they're flying or flitting, I usually cannot keep up.
With a twig I saw but chose to ignore, expecting the bird to move out from behind it. Instead, it flew away.
This small bird stayed around for two halfway decent shots, then it, too, jumped up and disappeared.
The caption is more my immediate verbal description than species name. I have no idea who it is.
One of the first usual birding overgeneralization I learned was "Little Brown Bird."
I assume it's the same bird as above and the three below, which look a lot like Yellow-rumped or Yellow-throated Warblers, but maybe not.
And this could be the same, too.
Erik mentioned Kinglets, which I suppose, this could be one of.
Looks like another experiment. It's just me trying to follow this bird through differing exposure areas.
I'm assuming (!) this is either a Downy Woodpecker or a Hairy Woodpecker. Wish I could see its head, but it was moving way too fast.
Lil' Bit Different Birds
December 1, 2015
Probably the best part of having a new month to photograph birds in is that this page downloads so much faster. The most challenging part, however, is that I need to find something different from what I've been photographing. And if I weren't by now addicted to going to White Rock Lake almost every day, it'd probably be a real challenge to get up out of bed or away from my various other projects and do that.
Then, just as I was attempting to get even more standing pigeons in focus, they all levitated into the air as if one. It might have been me who scared them. It might have been just about anything else. But up they went. I attempted to keep them in the frame, and I hoped focus would take care of itself.
Sometimes the camera does that automatically. Sometimes it doesn't. It helps if I can re-aim it fast enough
With my finger still on the shutter button half way, it refocuses itself. But by just about here, the pigeons were about to go out of focus by flying away. Fun while it lasted.
Nice thing about Kestrels, is that if they're hungry, they'll show up at their usual hunting ground. Even if, at first sight, they look like dark lumps against a dull gray sky. Open up the exposure, click, check; repeat process until it looks like this when it's turned around enough to show his face.
I actually did go to Sunset Bay today. Just I didn't find anything worth photographing there this time.
BCNHs and YCNHs (Yellow-crowned Night-Herons) are nocturnal, meaning by the late afternoon, they're probably asleep. If you know where to look for them, and you realize that gray and white and blue blobs in the trees are probably them, you can find and photograph them. First just a couple, then as one spends more time and attention, more and more of them slowly or suddenly become visible.
Nice of it to park itself near bright yellow leaves, and I can't really tell which way it's facing, but probably left, since its near wing shows on the right and the edge of the far one is left. That may be an occipital plume near the top right where one might assume its beak is, at first. But its beak is probably parked in its feathers.
I heard them rumbling over The Old Boat House's New Bridge, but I was busy trying to focus on birds, so when I turned around, all I could fit in my frame were the strollers and the kids.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2015 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964.
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