166 photos this month. The current Bird Journal is always here Cameras Used Ethics Feedback My Other Bird Pages: Herons Egrets Heron or Egrets Links & Bird Books Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Behaviors Banding Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JR's resumé Contact Dallas Bird Resources: Dallas Bird Chat Bird Rescue Info You want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Birding Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & Spillway & the Med School Rookery & Village Creek Drying Beds December's Best Pix: Back View of Northern Pintail Chiloé Wigeon, Kestrel In Flight, Beaking from Beneath. New map of the Old Fish Hatchery Area & Spillway On my other job, I'm an art critic but nobody reads my reviews anymore. I've also reviewed 2,345 movies this century. Please do not share my images on Pinterest, Tumblr or other image sharing sites.
Not White Rock Lake, for a Change, But Lotsa Birds
Photographed & Posted December 30, 2016
Anna'd told me about a very active Kingfisher her Master Birders' class had encountered here during the Christmas Bird Count, so I'd hoped to post a really nice shot of it right here for the last shot of the year and of December. But not surprisingly, it wasn't there while we were. But it was a lovely place, and I enjoyed exploring that bit of the extended park. We drove around getting lost a lot along the creek, but we never found as easily accessed a place on it.
The Creek Probably has a name, too. Oh. "Bachman Branch" winds all over the place from at least as north as Royal Lane down to Bachman Lake, just under Northewest Highway, where we found only a few gulls. The grebe on the left is a adult non-breeding.
I wasn't sure abut the one on the right till I looked at a lot of pictures online, but it's an Adult-Breeding Pied-billed Grebe who just happens to have its bright, contrasty black and white bill and neck nestled down in its breast feathers. Only Adult Breeding Pied-billed Grebes have white outlines (sometimes called 'spectacles') around their eyes.
The two Grebes on the left are Adult nonbreeding, and the one on the right is Adult Breeding.
I didn't wait around to see if it could eat the whole thing or if it would share it with the other coots, so that's still a mystery. In my experience, they don't share anything, if they can help it.
I spent a bit of time trying to track down the big brown duck, but I didn't find it in my Sibley's Guide to Birds or the Lone Pine Birds of Texas, but I posted this pic on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat, and I'm hoping one of the I.D experts there can tell me what it is.
I saw this happening up the creek a ways, and I never quite got the camera leveled out right, or focus set, but I just kept shooting and hoping. Great Egrets, of course. They're pretty much everywhere.
It's either my keyboards (both of them) or my right ring-finger that doesn't quite mash down hard enough to type the letter y. I often have to retype y words twice or thrice or more. Keeps happening.
With their unshared bounty.
I kept finding Robins partially hiding behind something high in threes. Till this one, who didn't mind showing itself off.
And, as I almost always have, I'm still leaning left.
This and the following two shots are an odd bit of sequence. Here we see the GBH heading straight toward the Cormorant on the log and the Great Egret beyond.
Then, once the GBH got everybody in the scene freaked and seeking escape, the Egret runs, the cormorant flaps and the other egret on the right, whom we didn't even see before looks up, where I'm assuming, the GBH is still flying.
Now I wish I could have got the Double-crested Cormorant sharp and not necessarily the two Great Egrets. I guess it's okay to have the big log/bridge sharp. But I'd rather have the real action bird here, the cormorant, sharp. Too bad, J R.
Everywhere But Sunset Bay
Photographed & Posted December 28, 2016
There's also a WRT (White Rock Trail) sign that's so out of focus I can't read it, but it's there. With people walking over the bridge. Till today, I'd never bothered to give that bridge I spend an awful lot of time on photographing the birds and turtles beneath and on either side of it and in the trees around it and the sky above it the time it deserves. Today, I've finally caught up. The Old Boat House is just off to the left here. There's likely some fisher persons near there, too.
This was taken somewhat north of the previous shot. The pair had just emerged from the slight tunnel to that other park on Williamson Road. Wish I could claim I got her hair flying like that on purpose. But nope, one click and hope. Only saw it later. Dog reminds me of an old friend named "rug."
This telephoto view is a little south of the previous shot. I decided since I was already there, I might as well look around. On my bird-annotated map of White Rock Lake, I didn't name this. Used to be I called it Kingfisher Park, but I haven't seen a Kingfisher there in years and years, so I need another name for it. Any suggestions? It's got beautimous trees all around and a green area off to the left here that peninsulas out to a disappearing flower and plant and tree place that in some seasons is just gorgeous.
And this tele scene is yet norther from that unnamed park with the flat bridge I spent much of my formative time with this journal at. Then I drove around to the east side of the lake.
I've been spending more time than usual here lately on the upper east side of the lake where are the Yacht Clubs.
I like the concerned look on the guy in the middle of the left side of this shot. I don't think I even noticed him when I shot this. I usually leave the focus point in the middle of frames, so here it was the woman in the wrinkly green blouse.
I have another shot of this same scene with the woman sharp and the birds and water fuzzy that I briefly contemplated superimposing just her onto this shot, so everybody's in sharp focus, but those things take so much time and patience I didn't think it was worth it. Even though I did a lot of people & things watching today, birds are more important.
I never know whether to call them Yacht Clubs or Boat Clubs. These are clearly more boats than yachts, but I don't remember ever featuring the grackles that gather there before. It's about time.
If I had had kids who also had kids, I might well have become known as "Grumpa." My best friend ever, the late Margarete Handy — and others — used to call me a curmudgeon. So I identified with 'Grumpas.' I was enraptured by all the colorful and black Grackles on the boats today. The slight different spelling, grampus, however is a cetacean of the dolphin family a.k.a. Orca.
I saw this one first, so I got out of my car and wandered closer to shore in the shoreline parking lot where the SMU Rowing Club parks their trailer full of rowing boats. I really didn't have much else in mind, but I thought it — then they — might come closer, and it'd be a treat to photograph pelicans somewhere besides Sunset Bay or behind the Old Boat House.
I believe the pink-billed one is younger, especially since it is showing those brown spots on its body. Perhaps the older one (closer) is teaching it how to fish. Or probably they've both known how to do that for almost ever, and this was yet another opportunity. I was surprised and very pleased they didn't shy away from me, although we were several times as close as a couple dozen feet away.
I've been watching for them, but this is the first time this year that I've noticed a ridge growing on the middle top part of the adult's beak. A fin-like growth that indicates that adult is ready to mate when the time comes, probably when they get back to their nesting grounds somewhere north of here.
They'd each — together or apart — stick their heads under, I assumed chasing fish I could not see.
In this shot the dappled one with pink bill seems noticeably smaller, which fits my surmise it's the juvenile.
Wish I could see underwater like they can when they push their heads down there.
While the other one still has its head underwater trying to catch something.
All Around The Lake Again — Only This Time With Birds
Photographed & Posted December 27, 2016
Erin Smith has been watching this particular pelican, as she points out in an email to me this evening:
Hi J R,
The pelican from today who is a repeat visitor is 0669-53861. She was originally banded as a juvenile (too young to fly) at Marsh Lake in Minnesota [near the west edge of the state near the Dakotas], in 2008. She is 8 years old, about to be 9. I call her "Copper Woman," because her band used to have a kind of coppery sheen to it.
Her band was put on upside-down, and it is old enough that the numbers have eroded down and are actually easier to read than numbers on newer bands.
This is the fourth year in a row she has visited White Rock Lake. It is possible that she has been coming here for longer than that, but I've only been observing the pelicans for four years. I am never sure how long she stays each time, as I only glimpse her occasionally, but I do tend to see her in the first part of the winter season, before New Year's. I saw her on 11-16 and 12-21 of this year as well, although I only got partial band numbers at those times.
Today's bird photos are in chronological order, just I don't remember where I was when I took each one. I thought this was behind the Old Boat House …
… and this was in Sunset Bay, but I didn't go to those places in that order, so I guess this and the two below it were all shot in the Old Boat House Lagoon.
All these birds have rather important aspects in common, and I'd guess they were all offspring of Mallards mating with some duck or nother. They are a female domestic white Mallard Hybrid, a male Mallard, another Male Mallard, a Mallard Hybrid and another Mallard Hybrid. Supposedly, Mallard hybrids with curly tails are males.
Most ducks are Mallard hybrids, I've heard, because "Mallards will mate with anybody." The is the last duck on the right in the photograph above.
It probably wouldn't have its feet like that if it weren't either going to land or fighting off those pointy tree tops. I'm pretty sure this bird was flying over the taller trees on the other side of The Old Boat House Lagoon where I had hand-held my camera.
And so was this.
This thick, wound wire goes across the same lagoon, where gulls and cormorants perch and look down on us mere mortals.
The Cormorant Tree is along the edge of the lake well off to the other side of T&P (Texas & Pacific Hill).
It's been eons since I photographed birds atop the Old Boat House.
I often stand on that bridge — especially when no one is jogging on it and shaking the whole length of it.
This is back at Sunset Bay where Erin was being guarded by this male goose and another one I didn't get a pic of.
I didn't see — and Erin hadn't seen — the female Pintail.
And she told me the Chiloé Wigeon I had called a female was probably the small male.
Shooting in the Dark with Fog
Photographed December 23 & posted December 24, 2016
I don't think I ever even looked at this shot until I got it home, or else it looked a great deal more boring than it does here. All today's shots are hand-held.
Looking back, I wonder at the notion of photographing gray fog at night, but it seemed an intriguing opportunity at the time.
The gray blob halfway up the left side is a reflection from the dashboard somewhere. Pretty much everything else is fog, or reflections from the headlights or somebody's tail lights. It's possible some darker gray blobs are birds, but it's highly unlikely.
Only the MPH sign, that much of the road and the concrete curbs on the left registered on the sensor. All else but the dash readout below right is nothingness. Felt like that a lot driving in the dark and fog.
Off to the right is the baseball field at the base of the hill (behind me here) up to the back of the Winfrey Building, where there was a small gathering in the large fog and some cars.
I don't know the names of any of the apartments around the lake, even though I know and/or used to know some people who lived there and there and there.
Using A Very Short Telephoto Lens, For A Big Change
Photographed & posted Tuesday December 21, 2016
Today, just for something a little different, instead of my long telephoto I brought my 85mm lens. Barely telephoto, it seemed more like a wide angle compared to my usual 500mm. I didn't know if I could even focus it, and in fact, I often did not. But in these shots, I managed.
Way back about a dozen years ago, when I first started photographing White Rock Lake for another journal (before my fascination for birds), I was drawn to The Old Boathouse area, where elderly fisher guys haunted the place, till it was declared a danger zone, and The City began to lock the place up, so those fisher persons — mostly Black — could not access it like they had been doing for decades. And so nobody would fall onto one of the sharp concrete corners, injure themselves, and sue The City, which had so long maintained that attractive nuisance.
Now, this side of it is thoroughly unlocked, but you'd need a boat… While the other side is mostly locked up tight.
The main trouble with using a slightly longer than normal lens instead of a proper telephoto is that everything has to be greatly enlarged. This is, and it still seems to be in focus. The second gull, off to the right, was a free bonus — and its focus didn't matter.
I last used an 85mm lens, which I believe was also an f/1.8 lens, back in the very early 1970s when I was a Staff Photographer for The Dallas Times Herald, shortly before I got involved in Dallas NOTES and HOOKA, which stood for the Humanitarian Order of Kosmic Awareness.
I lost that first lens while climbing the lower part of a mountain out west somewhere, after unduly unscrewing what I thought was the filter on the front of it. But what I really unscrewed was the front of the lens, so that when I pointed it down the mountain, its optical innards fell out and bounced down the rocks.
These photographs are not in chronological order, but I've reordered them, so they look naturally sequential. And even the background looks step by step correct. I didn't think it would.
This is a sequence that has, so many, many times over the last ten years plus, eluded me. And here, it was easy. Just across a bit of lake. I've long hoped to capture pelicans hopping to get up to speed, then taking off.
All today's photographs were taken from my favorite boat ramp, where I usually take long telephoto photos, so you couldn't quite tell where that is. Now you can.
Scattershooting Around White Rock Lake
Photographed & posted Tuesday December 20, 2016
First I stopped at — as usual — Sunset Bay and talked with Erin S and some guy. Eventually I realized and announced my departure saying, "I guess I can't really expect to find new birds by going to the same old place." I was hoping for something orange, but I said pink. I keep wondering who that orange bird might be.
Then with the notion of woodpeckers dancing in my head, I set out for my least-visited place on WRL, The Big Thicket, where I found this dragon boat moored well offshore.
And shot all these grackles flying north at too slow a shutter speed, but I like the effect immensely. Perhaps a little Hitchcockian.
I'm trying to remember where I saw these guys. Not where I usually — every year right at or after New Year's — find a great Egret Dance.
Probably a Double-crested Cormorant.
With Mallard about to take off and two Ring-billed Gulls. One just standing there, and the other up in the air, flapping its wings and getting the heck outta Dodge.
They'll hide for awhile, then swoop up out of those reeds, then go hide somewhere else. Toward spring the males will perch atop something higher and proclaim, "I am here. Where are you?" while popping up both brilliantly red epaulets.
Near the north end of the Thicket are some bridges. One to walk over called the Mockingbird Walking Bridge, then one to drive over. This and many other cormorants, egrets and even one Great Blue Heron I couldn't manage to focus were all under the one people drive over.
You can see the red car on the Mockingbird Driving Bridge very near the middle of the photo.
Oh, now I remember, the egrets were chasing and catching fish in the creek at the bottom of Parrot Bay, where is the lowest bridge on one of the more beautiful creeks through the flatlands there.
I think. Sure looks like a grack with that big honking beak. And that tail as long to grow.
It was flying fast just over that sunk-in creek (op. cit.) near the square parking lot by the road and the path to the other side of where the trestle used to be.
I remember the sky being yellow toward the setting sun, but I don't remember it being blue. But then photographs sometimes show blue when it's all just gray.
American White Pelicans Flying Back to and in Sunset Bay
Photographed & posted Saturday December 17, 2016
Even though there weren't all that many American White Pelicans in this one shot, what this meant to me was that if I'd get myself over to Sunset Bay pretty much forthwith, I could do what I — and most other WRL-area photographers really love to do: photograph pelicans flying in from outside Sunset Bay. I could dawdle a bit, but there'd be more pelicans joining this group and or or another of the other three fishing groups I saw on the west side of the lake as I drove along DeGolyer Drive toward Sunset Bay.
All of today's pelicans are American White Pelicans, the larger of North America's two pelican varieties. The other is the Brown Pelican, which can mostly be seen along coastal areas, although we saw one at White Rock Lake in October this year, but it didn't stay long. Sunset Bay keeps about 70 American White Pelicans from mid-September through mid-April, but as I love to say, they always leave right about Tax Day. Last year they left a couple days earlier.
I don't always, but today I am presenting all these photographs in strict chronological order. Together with me on the pier at Sunset Bay were Kelley and Tom. It was beautiful warm when I got there, but it gradually got cooler and cooler, till I left with a bit of a chill. But by then I had lots of pretty good pix of pelks flying.
I always kinda keep watch out for whom I often call "The Bay Gray," so when it started flying westward, I photographed along with it, although this is the only shot I think worthy of placing here on this page.
Love the stance. He's on southern edge of Dreyfuss Point, directly across Sunset Bay.
I was having trouble seeing the image in my LCD, so I mostly went with the tried-and-true exposure setting in the cam and shot to my heart's content. Some shots were entirely too bright, nearly none were too dark, and most of them rendered just about right. I wish we could see some texture in the top of this one's wings, but beggars who are choosers aren't as lucky.
One of the distinguishing features of a Double-crested Cormorant is its comparatively lengthy crown. I don't think I've ever seen it quite so eloquently exhibited as in this shot.
I love it when I can see the dimples and hairs on the lower side of a flying-over pelican.
Not bad for a photographer who's flying blind.
See my Rousing Page for many more species rousing, so you will know exactly what that means. Shake it!
We all itch, so we all gotta scratch.
Sometimes I try to make stories or a theme of the day's shots. Today — and I am indeed working this journal entry up the same day I photographed all these pelicans — I am just showing my favorites.
Too often when pelicans are flying in, I tend to start photographing too early, when they still don't entirely fill of the photographic frame, but when I let them get nearer to doing that, I sure dig it.
I usually pay way more attention to the bird than the sky behind it
At any one time all three of us photographers out on the pier were pointing our lenses en entirely different directions and birds. It was perfect weather and light and bird busy-ness.
These two shots are the closest today's journal entry gets to a sequence of images — a very short sequence.
Jillions of White Spots in Front of Our Eyes
I spent nearly all that day last Sunday driving all the way around White Rock Lake at least twice. I tried all my favorite photographing spots, several new ones and even some I have never particularly liked. My plan was to take lots of photographs, and see what happened, maybe sort them out later. I've already run some sub-sets of those images here, and I have a couple more to go.
Obviously, I shot this one from this side of the dam toward what is called "The Big Thicket" on the other [east] side of the lake. I've never known quite why exactly. This end of it sure doesn't look very thick. Lots of gulls, of course, plus cormorants, pelicans and a bunch of boats and sailboat masts. I didn't take my tripod, because there's so many iron fences and walls and stuff to rest the camera on in lieu of a tripod around the spillway. This shot, especially needed to be set solid on a fence. And if you could blow it up about eight times this size, you could easily see which of these white spots are pelicans, gulls, ducks or whatever.
Oh, and I keep reordering pics from the last journal entry to or from this one, so it all makes more visual sense.
Gulls flying up and looking terribly busy on the landscape.
Neighborhood landscape with gulls. I assume the gulls were seeking food. That's what birds do.
Looking down from the Winfrey Point parking lot at Western Sunset Bay through plants and bushes.
Across Sunset Bay to the houses along East Lake Highlands Drive on the other side of Sunset Bay.
It may just seem that these way too many gulls keep staying in this one place — at the top of The Spillway under the overflowing part of the dam [See my newly updated Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake with my even newer Map of the Dam, the Fitchery and The Spillway] — longer and longer every winter, but I always just try to ignore the gull encampment there and hope they'll go somewhere else, so all the other species I'd rather photograph — Little Blue Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets, Black- and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Great Blue and Tricolored Herons and various occasional visitors — can take their place when they stop there once in a while.
With trees on the far (east) side of the lake and more trees on this side of The Spillway. For the last month or so, there's been a growing gob of gulls on the Upper-most Spillway just under the dam. I usually wait to visit the Spillway till they're gone, but lately I've been visiting about once a week, always hoping to photograph something different.
What? No white spots? No gulls — for a different, calmer sort of landscape. Took me awhile to figure out where I'd shot this. I think it's from some segment of the Winfrey parking lot over the lowest spillway.
No spots, not any birds. Just trees, autumn leaves, other plants and lake.
Mostly BCNHs, a GBH, A Buncha Gulls & Everything Else
shot December 11 & posted December 14, 2016
Actually, it is winter on the island officially called Egret between the Upper and Lower Spillways. I saw one, photographed it, saw another, photographed it, then yet another. Clickety-click. Etc. Sometimes I got better at it, sometimes worse. It's always a crap shoot.
This is one of the day's favorite shots. Almost perfect exposure helps. Focus on target, too.
And the same perch, but I like both versions. And the light right there is scrumptious.
GBHs are still my favorite birds. They are somewhat taller that Black-crowned Night-Herons, but both are mostly gray. Both are magic in odd ways I should go into someday, but I'm not quite ready yet.
Male AND Female Northern Pintails, Chiloé Wigeon & Muscovies
shot & posted December 11, 2016
You'll probably recognize the guy on the right, but today, for the first time in the several years that Northern Pintail has been visiting us at Sunset Bay on White Rock Lake, a mate is with him now. Note the similarity in their dark beaks.
I've always wanted to show you this complex view of a Northern Pintail, but one has never obliged me till this pair of ducks climbed up onto "The Spit" that looks a lot like an island up the middle of the Sunset Lagoon.
I love the orange, brown, tan and white, side, top and tail patterning on the debuting female. This and the one above it were both photographed along The Spit.
The pair swam up and down the lagoon on both sides of The Spit. There was, in general, a route they took, but it was irregular, and while I tried to wait for them to get away from all the other ducks and coots and gooses, sometimes that seemed impossible. But I and my notorious [and/or renowned] patience kept at it.
The Muscovies I've seen flying lately look large but fly elegantly and without the huffing and puffing I once expected. They are very common in Greater Sunset Bay, in the lake and the land around it.
When I prepared this shot, I had assumed the Muscovy on the right was the same as the one in the photograph above, but now I see that it is not. Oh, well. The one above has fewer red bumps on its face and has a frame of white feathers around its face that this one does not have.
Originally from southern-most Chile, at the southern-most tip of South America. But they are sold in the U.S. and other countries, and we suspect this and its mate, whom we haven't seen in awhile, but whom shows up from time to time, are escapees from either a client of or the breeding farm itself. It's really a joy to see birds that look different from Mallards.
Very distinctive-looking, huh?
Oh, and I'm back with the 300 and the same old Nikkor 1.7x extender. After removing it, I fiddled with the springies and everything else that moved on the back of it, then put it back on the lens. And it worked! Dunno why, but I'm glad to have it back. 1.7x 300 is supposed to be 510mm, but all the info bits just say 500, which is fine by me. I briefly considered going back to the 2x, but that would only lose more light and smear the fine detail, but the 1.7x seems to work the same great, so I'm happy.
A Little of This & A Little of That
shot & posted December 9, 2016
The pelican on the right is very slowly turning around on the top point of the saddle, and it is balancing every few degrees of turn.
Then, when it gets close to where it wants to be, it begins to pick a fight with what looks like an older and larger pelican. Of course.
I wrote about American White Pelicans forming a wide island of fluffy white feathers a couple days ago. This is more precisely what that looks like.
"Highly tolerant of humans, the Ring-billed Gull is part of our everyday lives, scavenging our liter and frequenting our parks. This omnivorous gull eats almost anything and swarms parks, beaches, golf courses and fast-food parking lots looking for food handouts, making a pest of itself," says my treasured Lone Pine Birds of Texas.
That Birds of Texas also says it eats human food waste, spiders, insects, rodents, earthworms, grubs, waste grain, carrion, aquatic invertebrates and fish. I've seen a Ring-billed Gull carrying a fish almost bigger than it was, and I suspect it was fish these guys are after. I'm also pretty sure fish are why gulls join the big cormorant and pelicans fishing parties up and down and back and forth across White Rock Lake almost every day.
I assume they're after fish here, too.
And here, I suspect they are scurrying from one place fish were found to another across Sunset Bay.
Black & White all over. Cormorants are mostly black, even the juveniles with their white upper chests, while pelicans and gulls are mostly white. And here they all seem to be getting along together just fine.
Only the top, left-most duck here is female. Everybody else is a Mallard Drake. The splendid autumn colors in the background are all on Dreyfuss Point.
Coming down from Sunset Inn Hill, they are honking and bleating and employing all the other noises only gooses can.
Cold, Windy and Wet
shot & posted December 8, 2016
Very cold and windy, too. Just above freezing, so no ice on the roads, and lots of birds out looking for food. Zillions of cormorants, a smattering of gulls and just a few pelicans in this fishing party down by the dam. Photographed from early on DeGolyer Road, which affords a nice view of the top of the downtown Dallas skyline.
Looks like popcorn, but I seriously doubt that's what it is. Saw a lot of crows this early — about 8:30 A.M. — this morning, but none who particularly wanted to pose.
I didn't want to pass up any bird possibilities today.
When I first got to the pier at Sunset Bay, it was difficult to tell they had heads. Everything was battened down tight and fluffy white. Gradually, they came out of it. Mostly to preen.
Once awakened, pelicans gotta do what pelicans do.
I'm trying to get over my aversion to showing birds with their nictating membrane down over their eye(s).
I first saw this hawk high in a tree on a branch behind many other branches. Of course, I often see birds in trees behind branches, only to discover the birds aren't there, or what I thought I was seeing wasn't a bird, so it was a delight to actually see one who was there. I couldn't get my camera to focus on it, and I didn't think I had time to make the focus spot tiny, and I was right. It flew high and overhead enough I got several shots in the lousy winter light. This is probably the best of the bunch. I was really surprised it wasn't greatly underexposed like most unadjusted-aperture shots up into the shadow of flying birds are.
All of today's shots were taken with the lens at f/4.5 and without my usual 1.7X telextender, which has been squealing and squalling lately. I'd worried the appalling noises were coming from the lens, then as an afterthought tried it without the extender and I heard no noises. Telextenders aren't cheap, but they are significantly cheaper than lenses, so I was pleased. I was not experimenting, I was too cold to think. Or that's the best excuse I could think of. So today, my usual lens was just an ordinary 300mm lens. All of today's pix were shot @ iso 800-1300, mostly 800, which shouldn't be as grainy as this one is, but rainy days are very low contrast. And it was a lot easier to focus a fast-flying bird.
Far Out Pelicans & Up-Closer
photographs shot December 5 & posted December 6 2016
Start we up at Sunset Bay, my usual starting point for birding, except when I've gone there already too many times that day, week, month … But that pelican was the only one visible in the bay itself, although a few were piled up on the point of The Spit.
Driving down DeGolyer I noticed a prominent, long, white neck out among the reeds and weeds and treelets along the shore.
Not so far away, for a change.
Pelicans Up Closer
photographs posted December 6 2016
Can't always, but when I can get in close, I go for it, even if I can't get all the action in the frame.
Sometimes the framing is very very close, like this pelican who looks like it's in a hurry, bit it's not moving very fast.
Other times there's lots more breathing room around the star birds.
I've always enjoyed pix of things we've all got — like itches.
Pelicans Flying Back from a Big Fishing Party
photographed December 3 & posted December 5 2016
Last time I showed this view, we couldn't see anything in the water. This time there's a very active fishing party.
And it was moving slowly south past the dam.
Once birds have filled their gullets they head home to digest.
This is the most Northern Shovelers I've seen in one place this season. And I only jus barely noticed them.
Because I was following birds from the Fishing Party south.
I should note that there was an elapse of time between my leaving DeGolyer Road and arriving in Sunset Bay. Then even more time till the big white birds began to materialise out past the last cormorants in Sunset Bay. After awhile I wondered if they were really coming.
I love the black blobs of cormorants at the top edge of this photograph.
Splash down and skid.
Then when skidding is still too fast, drop down the body, splash up and really slow down.
Then more, and more, and more pelicans with bellies full of fish, returned to the bay.
It's always exciting to photograph American White Pelicans coming in this fast.
Male American Kestrel Chasing an Invisible Bug,
photographed December 3 & posted December 4 2016
Other White Rock Lake photographers find him elsewhere, and some even find him with his mate. But I haven't seen her in a couple years. Wrong places. Wrong times, I guess. But I love finding him on the wire at the edge of the downhill north to the lake behind the Winfrey Building, overlooking Sunset Bay.
Because with him up on the wire, there's always the possibility I can capture him taking of and doing some serious fast flying — usually after a flying bug. I never saw the bug, but I think he did.
He flew fast and directly to something out there, and he must have swallowed it while I was trying to keep him in focus.
Because I never saw the bug, but for a big change, I managed to keep him in constant near-focus.
All the way back to the wire. He looks wet, because it had been raining.
Avian Action in and Around Sunset Bay
photographed December 2 & posted December 3 2016
It's always amazing to watch this pile of pelicans writhing up from sleeping to do the all-important preen.
Pelicans are a social bunch until another one gets pissed off. Then they beak at each other, which can sometimes cause great harm, like poking a hole in the mostly flexible lower pouch area. And though we sometimes, rarely, see holes in the lower mandible, it hardly ever happens. They don't have hands and they need their feet to stand on, so it's seminaries to engage in beaking.
Beaking rarely lasts more than a few seconds, but a heated battle can last a minute, maybe. The Pelican with the longest beak often wins.
I think the pelican looks dismayed. This mount has become the most popular pelican perch, and here the cormorants, who have taken over every other perch in Sunset Bay, have also taken over this one. Pelicans often get into beaking wars over The Saddle. Inter-species warfare, however, seems unthinkable.
NEW Then Kala wrote to tell me of a photo Eric has in a FYI email:
"Regarding pelicans and cormorants competing for that favorite perch, next time you see Eric, get him to show you a pelican pooping on a cormorant that wanted the pelicans' perch. He has it on his phone… He said it looked like the pelican did it on purpose."
And the pelican heads off somewhere else.
I haven't seen a pelican attack a cormorant, but now I'll be watching for it.
I keep meeting new photographers at Sunset Bay, which is great, because it is my most effective social grouping.
Great Blue Herons sometimes look blue and some other times they look brown and here, most of it looks black.
About five minutes prior to this photo, I watched this comparatively comely Muscovy fly remarkably elegantly over the near-shore bay. I was too amazed to see it, because I remember the huffing, train engine sound other have made, and this one did not.
This was the first shot I got off as maybe six pelicans came in.
Several of us Sunset Bay photographers have developed the theory that pelicans returning to Sunset Bay suddenly materialize right at the point where all the "logs" are on the perimeter of Sunset Bay. We rarely see them before they get there, so it's magic when, poof! they materialize and we have to get our cameras in aiming and firing positions.
I was slow on the uptake and did not achieve focus again until they were near.
Meanwhile, even more cormorants were flying into the area. Like we needed more cormorants.
Lots of out-of-focus [oof] shots intervened. Cameras have more difficulty focusing in low light. Humans do, too.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2016 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.