189 photos so far in December Cameras Used Ethics Feedback My Special Bird Pages — many include eggs, just-hatched, fledgling and/or juveniles: Herons Egrets Telling Herons from Egrets Links & Bird Books Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Behaviors Banding Birding Galveston 2015 & 2013 The 2nd Lower Rio Grande Valley Birds page & the 1st Bald Eagles at White Rock Coyotes JR's resumé Dallas Bird Resources:Dallas Audubon Bird Chat Bird Rescue Info Want to use my photos? How to Photograph Birds Bird Places: Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake & Village Creek Drying Beds Please do not share these fully copyrighted images on Pinterest, Tumblr or other image-sharing sites.
NO ADs & NOTHING FOR SALE! sunsets below
Pelicans, Cormorants, Gulls, Terns, Ruddies,
Buffles, Pigeons, Coot, Crow & Hawk
photographed December 29 & posted the 30th
These are chrono-logically arranged.
It was cold but not as cold as I feared it might be. I wore my Thrift-Store fuzzy gray coat. And the lake was less populated than normal, but I'm not sure what exactly normal is in late December. I just go, doggedly, whenever I have nothing better to do. Or when I feel guilty about not having gone enough lately. Or when I get all het up about going to the lake.
The deal with this journal started out to teach myself to write. Better. Easier. Quicker. Etc. The deal gradually turned into teaching myself how to take better pictures of wild and tame life. I've been a photographer most of my life. I was a professional before I was an amateur. Which has something to do with why I call this journal that.
Usually, we cannot see their eyes in their dark red head-feathers, but here I made it so we could, and I don't know if that's a mistake, but I did it, and I'm glad.
Ruddy Ducks are usual early winter visitors to various edges — mostly northerly — of White Rock Lake. Since my favorite tranquil think-free drive is up DeGoyler that edges along the land mass mostly filled with trees but sometimes with loud, obnoxious music and big orange pumpkins and other colorful objects that did not grow there, I generally avoid looking right or listening, and I just bliss out driving that one-way (unless you're nuts, and I usually amn't; but I keep encountering others who don't understand the ONE WAY concept or signs.
In the past, there have been many more birds in the water along there. I don't know if what they pump out under the road and empty under the road bridge, then the walking bridge, then into the lake is thwarting — or killing — birds.
I didn't see any males this trip, and I looked. But it was nice that somebody arranged for a female. Comparatively close, too.
I seem to be getting better at catching them diving. The part of their downward escape that I'd really like to capture is the top of their arch up and over, then head-down underwater. I got the underwater part down pat. But the arc over is often ugly. And I'm not sure that phrase does not also define this, but I keep trying.
Trouble with Ruddy Ducks and Buffleheads is they are never a sure thing to pop up on that or the other side of the lake. Ya just keep having to drive slowly down with half a mind on scanning the water for interesting birds, and the other half blissing beyond. Buffles are usually closer to the shore, and Ruddies are usually farther out. But sometimes, if we're sneaky enough, we can catch either or both closer.
"Ruddy" means red-ish, and these ducks are that, and they will probably get more.
I'd been watching all kinds of other birds fly, and I kept seeing pigeons flying, but it took awhile to connect the two, so about the seventh time I saw the pigeons make their rounds, I clicked along and got these.
I think about photographing the pigeons flying past en masse every time I'm in their vicinity, but I usually don't, which is why, today, I did. The trouble with pointing a 500+ mm lens at a bunch of pigeons flying past is that not many of them will appear to be in sharp focus at any time. But it's fun trying.
I guess it could also be a bat. But when I first saw it, it looked very birdly. Then I backed up, so I was too close to easily see that in it, clicked, and this is what I got.
This may be a tad too dark, but in my opinion, the whole world was just then being a tad too dark, but at least it wasn't wet.
I kept trying to make this Coot look less red, but it may be very nearly perfectly exposed. You know you're close when there's still shading showing on their bright, white beaks — and you can still see modeling in their body and their gorgeous, little beady red eyes. I love coots. They embody so many opposites — and they run on water …
I was standing at the Culvert just up from Sunset Beach and could only see a dark silhouette here now flying beyond the upper branches of this tree. The hawk was invisible to me, probably because it wasn't moving. Crows are known to beleaguer hawks, both of whom believe wherever they happen to be is their territory. I had thought the dark bird might be a Great-tailed Grackle, but Great-tailed Grackles know better than to beleaguer a hawk, so it must be a Crow. They're big and strong and loud enough to get away with it. Usually.
One of the better ways to find a hawk is to listen for a bunch of crows telling it to get out of their territory.
There is no point in Winfrey Point. The whole-stick-out-into-the-water-chunk of land there is called Winfrey Point. All the way around until the water stops and the land starts again.
Except, of course, that shadow will move and get smaller.
Except there are various other terns whose dark areas around their eyes occupy differing shapes, most of which, in this case, is hidden under this one's wing currently in downward thrust.
Probably down into, or their wings would be blurred.
Black & White & Gray
Pho-toad & posted Dec. 27
This image started out too bright white (pelks) and too dark black (corms) with one grayish gull with a greenish-bluish-purple-ish other side of the lake. But American White Pelicans have gray and orange lines and shapes, and Double-crested Cormorants have brown and orange shapes & lines. And that gull is mostly grayish white with black wing tips and some gray other parts — though not quite as those you might see here. Adapting actual objective colors to silicon-saved image data is always a guessing game.
Would have been nice to have included that same gull in this shot, but there was elapsed time between the above two photographs, so that would have been quite a trick. This pic was shot from Dreyfuss Point using the same camera and lens, but there's a shorter distance between the birds and the background here. Those dark blue objects at the upper left corner are for Phys-Ed. I don't know what the orange diamond-shaped sign says, but the first word is probably "No."
Remarkably good exposure of the crow. All of today's shots were taken with my elderly Nikon, because I wanted more control over everything, plus higher resolution, and I thought I could do that better with a sensor that's substantially larger than the Micro Four Thirds sensor I've been using lately. That Nikon's sensor actually measures 36 x 24 mm = 864 square mm. Whereas my Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds sensor is 224.9 square mm, which is 1/3.75 the size of the Nikon Full-frame sensor. Or we might just call the Nikon's full-frame sensor 3.75 (nearly four) times bigger than the m43 (micro four thirds) sensor.
Essentially, the bigger the sensor, the better the resolution, although there's a lot more involved than just size and resolution. For a change here, we won't go into all that.
It's nice to know that the crow would have been in focus, but it wasn't altogether in the picture, because the crow was faster than I was. But then it knew when it was going to jump, and I had to rely on over-estimating..
I like to name things and places, and this is a duck at a place. It's in Greater Sunset Bay (which extends from the actual body of water called "Sunset Bay" out over (and including) a bunch of land to Buckner Boulevard — Loop 12), and these photographs were taken from the elevated concrete thingy down the middle of Buckner Boulevard (can't be a genuine boulevard without one of those) with my 1.7X TeleXtender and my 300mm lens.
I'd been wanting to photograph the place, which I'm now, finally, calling Many Trees Pond, even if the pond of which only shows up when it rains for a couple days, and the trees are almost always there. I've never — since a long time ago — not seen the trees there. The water didn't stay the first several times it rained night and day for awhile, but eventually the rain hardened the bottom, so the water stayed, and we got another probably unplanned pond — although whoever planned the circular grove must have dug out the sorta-circular pond area.
So far, I've mostly only really enjoyed having it there and watching it from inside the park and on or along Buckner Boulevard, and by walking over to it and standing there and watching it, but I'm hoping someone will be so kind as to place some benches along its irregular sides, so I can sit and watch the pond and the various birds it attracts.
These were shot over two days — the day before and Christmas Day, so they may not have the feel & look of chronology — I get that sometimes, so I'm not surprised. I get that feeling often.
I'm pretty sure this was shot out the window as I drove along my favorite drive at White Rock Lake …
I think I remember correctly, this one begins those of the second night of gloriodsky sunsets — the night of Christmas Day, when the sunset was more than swashes of dark red, but many other colors and shapes and tints, up there.
I dodged this image of the pier at Sunset Bay back in from the utter darkness, so there'd be some notion of place, as well as sky.
Despite my belief that most sunset photographs are boring, this shot is almost completely un-edited.
And I never once felt compelled to leave them in any kind of order.
I messed with several — but by no means all — of these images. But then I think that messing with images is what Photography is all about.
I'm always surprised when these turn out at all, but this looks pretty good, considering. Skyline aficionados may notice that those buildings on the lower left are all backwards.
I've always thought this place I shot this from needed a name, but as far back as I can remember (which varies), it hasn't had a one, and I never once before thought of it as "The Bend," but I'm not at all opposed to calling it that now. Yeah, those little verticals near the middle left horizontal that looks a little like a city scape in this picture actually is downtown Dallas. And the red solid is the lake reflecting the fiery sky.
Different trees. I thought 15 Sky- and Sunset-scapes would be way more than enough, and that I would very probably have to exclude several of these, because by now, they'd all begun to look too much alike, and I'm still very much afraid I might have cluded-in one or more doubled images. Two of today's shots include actual images of actual birds. None involve or include doubled or other added imagery — by me, at least.
Hope by next time I can find some birds.
American Kestrel Pair Mating on the Wire
over the Winfrey Point Parking Lot.
Photographed December 23
Posted later that evening.
Happy Christmas, Everybody.
I'd just driven down the main parking lot behind (beside, near … whatever) the Winfrey Building, when I saw a small flash of familiar colors on the wire down the lake side of the lot along Winfrey Point Drive down toward Emerald Isle Drive that goes up to cross Garland Road in front of Barbec's at Garland Road. First I saw the male on a wire, then when I looked up from maneuvering The Slider backwards back up the hill to get a better view of him — and carefully around three human adults standing on the side of the road looking up and wondering what species they were watching, an adult female Kestrel joined him up there.
I rolled down my middle-road window for when they asked their inevitable questions and continued photographing the colorful little birds, each about the size of a Killdeer, although The Lone Pine Birds of Texas calls it a "Robin-sized falcon." This is one of the most informative Kestrel page I found. U Michigan's Critter Catalog says "In the wild, American kestrels live an average of 1 year and 3 months, however, the oldest known wild individual survived 11 years. They live an average of 5 years and 2 months in captivity, although they have been known to survive up to 17 years."
He quickly mounted her, then within seconds, they separated. I got one shot. I was amazed I'd caught the peak of their action.
They stood together a few seconds — certainly less than a minute max.
Then the female flew down to hunt for insects in the grass below. Soon both were gone. Today's shots were taken with my Panasonic Lumix GX8 with a 100-300mm zoom on a Micro Four-Thirds format, which usually doubles focal lengths according to the angle of view. In bright, blazing sunlight — or I wouldn't have captured such bright, blazing colors, with everybody in sharp focus.
The humans came to my window, I told them who they'd just seen, and the guy kept saying he didn't bring his camera this time. I do go to the lake sans camera sometimes, but not often and almost never when the sun is shining.
The Perils of Focus & Exposure
in the Rain December 22
Part I - unintentional
But I don't see it now. If I ever did. Or I wouldn't have taken this picture. I mean, nice enough tree, but …
The Little Panasonic focuses pretty good in bright light, and here, the exposure is close to correct, though a little heavy on the color density. Just it doesn't always happen that way, and it really is too far away. But a longer tephaloto would only make the lens bounce the world around even more. I miss nearly everything about my heavy old Nikon 300, except the weight.
And the focus on the bird where it wasn't anymore was the best I'd got all rainy, dull day.
Can't hardly see the rain, but it's in there nonetheless.
Sometimes the rain is bright and the skies are still blue. Sometimes neither occupies the visual spectrum. Here, we see a Blue Jay kinda lost in the details of a tree. It may be Blue. Maybe not. It almost is not at all. In the previous shot, all those gray pigeons appear dark blue. Here the upper portions, which really are blue, blue, blue — just aren't anymore.
First saw it dark against the too-bright sky, hovering in the rain, scanning down for food. It was a dark silhouette — black on the bright white sky — I had to slowly squeeze the darkness out of till it looked like a big, hawkish bird. Then the car bounced some more, and the ball of feathers up there slid that way and this, as I tried to find it in the viewfinder as the car rocked to a stop on the side of the road.
Gradually, I figured out what I was doing in a nice, long nap at home, then began extending those patterns in more directions, then went back out in the cold wet rain, and extended the curves toward evening and night:
They're standing in the lowest Spillway flat. I think. It was raining dogs and cats by then, and most of my effort was in keeping my Pany dry while I hoped the rain wouldn't get in. My Nikon is Weather-Resistant but won't float. The Panasonic GX8's unprotected, but needs a raincoat.
I was futzin' with blue, so the trees would seem a little on the normal side when I zapped the gray sky.
This time I leaned into the hue and got every color way intense.
Then backed off the colors way more gray — Great Blue Heron in an standing odd looking a little down and off to our left. They mostly lost interest in us long ago.
Lakewood Park on Williamson Road, which more or less parallels, windingly, Williamson Branch, itself feeding into White Rock Lake at Parrot Bay (My Birding map of White Rock Lake shows where. I renamed some places but Parrot Bay had already been called that for years. This view is from the Williamson side of this lovely park with deep and dangerous water-worn ravines, and I let the colors go a little busy.
Then simpling out like geometry — add a bird, and it's bingo, though I may have aggravated the dirt too rad. Goes well with the water. Everybody knows water and skies are blue.
I've been thinking about this long, slowly undulating blue line up that hill past the road more than a week, and during the rain seeing was unrivaled. The plastic-wrapped craggy mountains, red dirt, grass, yellow gizmo & neo fences vivify that long-vapid mound.
The day before the day before the day before Christmas, and though I wasn't into that, I liked these lights and clicked them once.
Adding to the bicolor geos and wet rain in the concrete, the ghostly patterns and misaligned monochromed horizons …
The Egrets kept looking like puffs of smoke, so I wanted to stream some lights past, even if traffic was light and the evening not yet dark.
Up and over the hill and back into Elderly East Dallas as we sometimes acknowledge its existence. The neon signs past Mexico Lindo lead up, over and into an undulating landscape where everybody drives too fast.
Three Female & One Male Bufflehead Duck in Sunset Bay
photographed & posted December 21
As I drove The Slider into view of the lake at Sunset Bay, I noticed several Bufflehead (ducks), pulled into the side of the road, grabbed the little Panasonic and started shooting. Said camera has an electronic shutter, and a mechanical one, and though I'd rather use the mechanical one, I'm not really sure how to get it back in that mode, and really haven't tried very hard, because electronic shutters don't wear out.
The order of today's shots is not at all chronological, but it really doesn't matter. I just followed all four of them back and forth and up and down Sunset Bay and Lagoon, clicking and clicking and clicking away.
Since Scaup colors are so similar to Bufflehead colors, I was careful to capture them together a couple times.
Three female Buffleheads swimming. The three of them were almost always together.
With his iridescent colors, the male Bufflehead is handsome, but it's often a challenge to capture all those colors photographically.
I wish I'd shot this with a little more light coming from behind the one sitting up in the water, so we could all see more detail in her back and wings.
Shot moments later, this one has more light but less detail …
I'd love to have photographed them flying — I did that in 2013 [image above], but I think I've got much better at it since then, and I'd like another try. While I watched today, none of them ever flew. They only swam and dived.
People tend to say "Bufflehead Ducks," but their real species title is just "Bufflehead." And no, I don't think any of them look anything at all like a buffalo, which is the usual story.
When one dove, they nearly always all dove, also. They spent some time down there, although I didn't time them. The Lone Pine Birds of Texas book says: "Feeding: dives for aquatic crustaceans, insects and other invertebrates, also eats seeds of glasswort and other aquatic plants."
This is the ugliest I saw either sex dive in the hour or so I watched and photographed. Here, the male's got his head underwater, and its body curved up, to roll down. Cute pink legs.
And this is the most common end of diving that I captured.
As you can see.
I usually think of Coots as small. But Buffleheads are much smaller. My Lone Star Birds of Texas says they are 13 -15 inches long with a 21-inch wingspan.
Or in the process of having dived.
As I pour in the pix and fill the spaces between with I.Ds or text, I just realized these are not in any kind of order, and I'm just too tired to make them chron again.
Used to be If it were Raining, I wouldn't go Photographing
— Photographed & Posted December 20
Again with the little Panasonic Mirrorless cam, even if it isn't weather-resistant. But at least, I am.
It wasn't always raining.
I kept going forth and back to The Spillway trying different angles. Lots of water, not so many birds in it.
I saw some dark birds under the bridge a bit farther south from here, but I didn't go to the trouble of photographing them. I don't often, but I guess this day, I was getting off on landscapes.
With all the Trash Bikes taking up space for at least the second day — maybe a week, the bike renters probably think of that area as theirs to stash bikes, but it's often a gathering place for loners and small and large groups. Great view, too.
Big trees and trunks caught on the precipice of the dam.
I keep thinking there are three of those semi-round overlooks along the walkways down toward the Lower Spillway from the dam. But there's only two.
Lots of trees knocked down on the many water feeders to the lake.
I'd seen a bunch of Great Egrets in the trees on the lowest end of the Middle Spillway on what has long been called Egret Island while driving by, and I'd hoped to photograph them flying, but they had better sense in the rain.
The Street name is actually East Lawther, but it once was the home of some DeGoylers, and I like naming it that.
Another big chunk of tree caught in the water spilling into White Rock Lake.
I wasn't paying much attention to the birds on the other side of the lake, over by Lawther Drive (er… DeGoyler Drive) where were, unbeknowst to me, some cormorants, pelicans and a tern flying low over the dot between my name and the dot before com of my Copyright notice. I'm not sure which tern it is, but I've seen them here before. It's my favorite drive, but I think this day I skipped driving down it.
I hate that giant parking lot in the arboretum, but at least The People wouldn't let them take the hills around the arborectum for more parking lots.
More trees. All these are in chronological order, but sometimes there's no logic in chronological.
At least I think they're Cormorants.
Driving by, I kept staring at all that Modrian-like rectilinearity. So I had to turn around, stop, walk down fairly close and capture its soul.
Kala King's pix of a Juvenile Red-throated
Near the Dam
Says Kala: "It seems to preen by rolling on one side and sticking a foot up — quite comical." I'd have to add, "sometimes." Here's a YouTube vid of a Loon preening, which continues with more Loon info, some quite fascinating.
When I heard (Thank you, Anna) that Kala King had reported seeing and having photographed a Red-throated Loon near the dam yesterday, I wrote her and asked to use the pix here. Kala emailed back:
"Sure thing, here are 3 of the many I took, unfortunately it was in foggy weather so almost looks black and white. This is a juvenile red-throated loon, very rare here. Gavia stellata It seemed quite happy where it was. Prior to being here, it was way out on the lake and the shots being offered as proof by various birders were not too great as far out from the dam as it was. Happy it relocated and with some sunshine, great shots would be possible."
I tried to push Kala's grayscale pix back into just a little color, but though they were definitely color images, they don't even vaguely approach Technicolor.
My treasured original cracked and broken Lone Pine Edition of Birds of Texas lists the Red-throated Loon in the Appendix under Occasional Bird Species: "Rare winter resident on reservoirs in the eastern half of Texas and along the coast; casual on reservoirs in the western half of the state."
Everything Aperture Does to Your Photos on Photography Life, one of my fave photo websites.
Too Early; Too Cold; My Batteries Kept Dying.
Shot September 17 & Posted Later That Day
Thanks to my usual disassociation with time, I got there half hour early after maybe three hours sleep, which I caught back up with over noon after breakfast at Start with Anna. Because it was a walk as much as it was a bird search, I brought my light Micro Four-Thirds Panasonic instead of my heavy, full-frame Nikon, and it worked out well, because I managed artsy shots fore and aft and more than decent bird pix throughout. I've been pre-considering a full-frame (24mm x 36mm) mirrorless when Sony gets its bright telephoto act together sometime next year.
Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras have mirrors that flip up (the reflex part), then shutter curtains that open and close sliding across the sensor plane, all of whose masses move not just themselves but shake the camera. And the view the photographer sees is the same everything as just looking at the scene — only through the lens — it does not show the dark or light of exposure, altered colors from differing light sources or over or under exposure.
Mirrorless cameras let the photog see what the sensor sees without all those parts bouncing and sliding and making noise and vibrating the camera. My little Panasonic Lumix GX8 that I used today is adequate, but I want the twice-larger resolution of a full-frame mirrorless. My Nikon is already full-frame.
I'm still lusting for a Nikon Mirrorless, but they don't make them anymore — or Sony, when they get a bright (low f/number — wide aperture) long telephoto lens I can use to get a 600, 700, or 800mm tefeloto that shows me actual everything, so I don't have to keep chimping [monkey looking down at an LCD] after every shot to see if all those conditions were right this time.
Of course I never even considered that clutter of concepts today. Just point, see instantly if I'm over- or under- or just about right on everything important. Then click. As if the cam and I were working together. Such a joy, I even had time and disposition to make some artsy shots along the way. Only issue was I always pointed it too high, and eventually, I'll catch up with that, too.
The Nikon & lens is 7.2 pounds, and the Panasonic kit is 2.2 pounds. My Nikon attaches easily to my tripod. My Panasonic doesn't. The Sony will. I don't know how much it will weigh.
I wandered around The Lowest Spillway till Anna arrived on time. There were birds on wires, and a few flying over, but darned few out on the water yet. Gradually more and more joined the fray, and we drove around and around to see what we could see elsewhere after I drove home for a fresh battery.
I photographed a lot of BCNHs today — even one with five BCNHs in one shot, but this is the best.
I love the smeared and muted colors in the water somewhere close to the parking lot below the lowest pond down The Spillway.
Nice tree, great autumn leaves, lovely light-blue sky, and I know the juvie cormorants aren't really singing — They'd more likely bray like donkeys — but it was very much as if they were posing. Busy but colorful.
The highlight of the morning till breakfast was photographing this handsome critter out the driver's side window of The Slider.
Nearly the same view, out the same window. I probably backed up The Slider and turned a little a couple times. I shot maybe a dozen shots, but these were the best. Wish I was closer, but The Slider has not yet learned to fly. But I got along well with my little Pany this sleepy morning. Anna & I both dearly wished we'd got to photograph this bird flying away. I still remember its flurry of feathers and woosh of color as we watched it flee across the trees.
According to my treasured Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, Cooper's sizes are: "Male: L 15-17 in; W 27-32 in. Female: L 17-19 in; W32-37 in." Where L is length (as in height.) and W is wingspan. They're smaller than both our other, near-here bred hawks — Red-taileds and Red-shoulderds.
I'm guessing the one on the left is younger, but they're in the perfect place for their own drab colorations. There's several kinds of beauty going on here.
Checked traffic front and back, then stopped on the road to photograph some crows, even if this was the only good shot of the bunch. The road down, under the walkway, then past the Pump House, Filter Building, etc. was off to the fright from here, and The Leakey Boat House was beyond. But this was the prize.
I always wish that car wasn't there, but the autumnal trees and mad rush of dark cormorants brightens the view.
I love orange DayGlo construction fences, even if they steal focus from my subject. When I saw it, it was all sharp.
Back at The Egret Dancing Party —
Shot December 15; Posted Early December 16
It's pure happenstance that these two birds lined up so near perfectly with only one pair of legs holding them up, near and far.
It's not like I found that information somewhere. It's just that I thought it would be right. It may well be misinformation. But I've never seen Great Egrets lie down like this in any other situation.
After filling in the blue text in the image just below, I realized I had been placing these photographs in reverse chronological order all the way down today's journal entry. And I think it would be a shame and major waste of my time to rearrange everything into front-chronological order. Then after declaring that, I did it, and I still can't see any reason for having done so. My mother still likes to joke sometimes that I was born backwards, and I've been heading in that same general direction ever since. It always seems right to me.
I usually label these images by something that's going on in them. I called this one by the name under this image, then it didn't make any sense whatsoever, when I saw it and placed this image here. I've heard the cylindrical concrete objects called mains, so that must be what this one is. This particular main is placed on the right as one enters what the police — and probably others — call The Main Entrance to White Rock Lake.
Said Entrance is adjacent to South Williamson Road at West Lawther Drive. It used to be the only place where stood the official prohibition to necking at White Rock Lake or when the Lake Park is open — 6 AM till Midnight.
…that it just caught. Here, that fish is going down this Great Egret's just widened throat. Birds don't have teeth, so fish or any other food goes down the neck/throat access directly to their stomachs, where various chemicals act on them directly. Great Egrets poop white liquid, because there's so many bones in what they eat.
Of course, well more than half the time, I haven't the foggiest notion what's going on in these images — if anything at all. But I bet the birds have read all the rules for gatherings such as these — or learned them from since they were kits, which usually includes gathering a bunch of same-species birds around a fish-sourced body of water. It seems obvious it's for catching fish, but it seems like it'd be a good place to learn who's better at that than others, which might be useful in mate-picking.
Might also provide opportunities for future pairings of Great Egrets to prove to each other they'd be good at feeding their brood once it gets started next late-spring and early-into-middle spring. I can't tell males from females here, but they probably can. My newer camera that the lens I have been using lately tore the lens mount off of, doesn't have a built-in flash. But this elder D800E does, and that's why we can see a bright white, silhouette-like flash shadow most of the way around the bird in the center when I shoot this close.
It looks kinda wrong, but it's really right.
Two bright, white, Great Egrets — one flying down the stream; the other standing there not-even watching.
Notice how sharp and clear the one above this one is, and how dully blurred this one. Guess which Great Egret was moving, and which one the camera was unevenly following along. And which was just there.
I love caddywampus (= off-kilter) balances.
By some miracle, this one appears to be in focus. And we know it's flying, because nothing is holding it up. Besides staying aloft, this Great Egret's only real purpose right now, is to get that fish to someplace safe for it to eat it — and not have to share it.
It may be some sort of competition. It could be that the males do the racing, and the females do the judging. I don't really know. But I love photographing all the action from as close as I can get while keeping the birds wholly enclosed in the photo frame. In focus is nice, too, but hardly guaranteed.
My basic rule for these things is that if something moves, try to keep up with it panning and hope it's in some sort of focus. Sometimes the images tell their own story. Sometimes, that's not quite possible.
The surface drops away and down behind this running Great Egret. The egret behind — and down in the trough of water with oodles of fish — is an active stream. The posts with red tape are warning automobiles not to drive through and end up with one end up and the other sunk in the mud at the bottom of the by-then somewhat subdued stream.
I liked this shot better when I thought it was the first image I'd shot today, but those usually have to be built up to while practicing and allowing many mistakes. I thought they were racing 'round the bend. The one on the left sure looks like it's rounding a bend. But the one on the right seems to be caught up in landing more than racing.
Photographed December 13; Posted Late December 14 2017
I guess I kinda wrecked it when I accidentally set the grass to fuzzy. But I still like it.
I'm wondering if these two corms are about the same size.
Then I stumbled onto Great Egrets gathering in a meadow, and I attempted to photograph all the fighting and showing off and heads-up displays, and nearly all of them didn't turn out worth much. Mostly out of focus, because I was too far away.
I thought I'd got about a half dozen good, clean shots of egrets in mock battle. Turns out, I got this one, but it's set before the action, but part of the dance. I tend to call such gatherings of Great Egrets "Egret Dances."
Then I settled into my favorite boat ramp.
S'been awhile since I photographed a Monk Parakeet in peace and calm. This one did not know it was being photographed, so it's calm, cool and collecting food at the water's edge. I also saw coots, but they weren't doing much photogenic.
Or a Great-tailed Grackle showing off its really great tail.
Cormorants twice in a row, and whom I saw as I was hoving into view of Sunset Beach this cold day were pelicans deciding this end of The Spit wasn't good enough for them today, so they were circling around back toward Sunset Beach and settled inches off it — and I thought I could sneak up on them easy, albeit quietly and slow, and only two sets of people came by, each of whom I asked gently not to get closer, since it took me twenty minutes to get this close.
Now, I forget what was getting too close for the Pelicans' comfort.
Frankly, I was surprised, pelicans usually don't park this close. But it was cold, with not many of us humanoids wandering around. But at 500mm, it makes for amazing details if the lighting is right, and I thought it was pretty close.
I saw it, and I photographed it. End of story. All of today's 179 shots were taken with my lens attached to a tripod. Otherwise, we shake too much.
I liked this photo for showing the remarkably differing textures on one pelican.
The upper goose head is in the shadow of something.
Lots of different colors and tonalities of white.
I name them as I process them, but the titles don't have to be particularly prosaic, though sometimes I manage poetic.
I've photographed this simple act on many bird species from nearly every other angle.
It's a pelican in a tree. The tree happens to be floating in the water held up by its branches, but it's still a tree.
No Letters or Number Visible on this side.
I saw this much and captured it. That's all I know. Mayhaps more than.
Sometimes naming these pieces is the best part.
Today's pictures, of which these are my fave 13, were all taken between 3:39 PM and 4:11 PM December 12, 2017, and as usual, they are presented in strict chronological order. About three-quarters into today's shoot more pelicans swimming into the lagoon area decided that the spit was just fine, and they settled there instead.
Eventually, most of these pelicans swam off.
So I Went Back to Cormorant Bay for More Double-crested Cormorants
Photographed & Posted December 11
Searched all the usual places at WRL for birds, then ended up back at Cormorant Bay, because several of yesterday's shots didn't turn out as I'd hoped.
Subtle splash line across the surface of the water.
They do practically all the actions pelicans do, but pelicans have longer beaks, and they are white. I wonder how much color enters into why people love pelicans and often hate cormorants.
Handsome critters with a smelly reputation.
Sinking into the water now.
It is seldom, but sometimes I really do get tired of photographing pelicans. Today, this was a treat.
This is one of two, essentially similar photos of this particular bunch of cormorants. The other shot didn't seem quite so organized, and that corm in the middle didn't have both wings out and slightly up.
Tail-dragging slows them down. Feet dragging across the water will slow them even more.
Sometime it's tempting to get right up under some of those cormorants occupying the trees on the north end of Cormorant Bay. But beware!
One of the reasons they are up there is to rain white excrement on whatever is below. Joking about all that white in winters, we call it "hoar frost," but hoar frost is actually "a grayish-white crystalline deposit of frozen water vapor formed in clear still weather on vegetation, fences, etc."
What cormorants actually deposit is said to destroy trees, but I've checked in springtimes, and it does not. It might actually help the trees, but I don't know that. I do know enough about it that when I walk through that area at night in late autumn or winter, I listen for the loud sizzle and avoid it.
One Male Canvasback, a Gull and Some Cormorants
photographed and posted December 10
I was almost desperate to see somebody different, so I asked Anna to drive to The Bent Bridge on the northwest edge of the lake, where I've often seen red and crimson birds this time of the year — although the white egrets are beginning to congregate elsewhere.
There was only one Canvasback in sight, so I kept photographing it and maybe a few cormorants and other birds as they showed themselves.
I call it Cormorant Bay, because that's who flies into and out of and sits high in the trees all around that bay and scats till the trees beneath them all look like hoar frost. See my Bird-annotated Map of White Rock Lake to see that and other places on the lake whose names I've changed, I think for the better.
Life continues to be interesting as I made my second, many-hour-long stay in the Emergency Room at the VA Hospital in South Dallas. I knew I had to, but did not want to, but in the end, I let Anna drive me there and help me try to remember what all the doctor told me to do and not do, and now I'm nearing All Better Again. Again.
Thank the goods and goodnesses for Socialized Medicine, without which us Viet-Nam draftees and Officers Training School Dropouts might never heal from our elderly diseases. Why on earth everybody in America can't get it is an long-term mystery to me. Congress won't do it, even though they made sure to get it for their own…
Finally Published 4 art reviews, Visited WRL in the
too cold. Didn't want to Freeze. Posted December 8.
Possibly everybody else has, but I hadn't seen the female in awhile, so glad to see the pair of them — beauties both — sliding across the lagoon together.
No clue how to spell tousled, but here it is anyway. I got a project that will keep me too busy a little while, then too many more birds, I promise.
Seemed behemothic poofed out and tucked in for the cold that just got colder. But they're from the frozen north, west, and east, so our American White Pelicans can probably handle it.
Wasn't sure how to spell down, but it's the same as the other ones — "soft fine fluffy feathers." I love the dictionary's alliteration. And that eye barely above all its down looking out at us. Attempting to stay warm in there.
They didn't even wait for a car to stop, in such a hurry was the Sunset Bay Goose Squad.
Photographed & posted December 3rd
I love autumn's colors, and I'll take almost any excuse to show them here. I don't know what kind of flower this might be — or even if it is a flower. Kala King says, "Your first photo of a lapel rose must have been at Winfrey where they have weddings. Looks like some guy lost his boutonniére." I guess every season is wedding season.
Crystal clear American White Pelicans contrasted with barely out of focus trees and bushes along the edge of the lake. There is no real Winfrey Point. Winfrey Point is all the points around Winfrey almost to Sunset Bay.
Remarkably good exposure on the Pelicans, although the Cormorants, as often, are too dark.
A little overexposed, but grackles really are blue. Sometimes.
Left to right: Blurred male grackle, in-focus Male Grackle, Female Grackle and the legs of another male grackle. The pigeon is the closest bird that is mostly out of focus. Then comes the male, then the female Great-tailed Grackle.
Took me awhile lightening the grackles without lightening the tree or sky.
They were busy stealing bread from coots — and looking fierce.
Anybody know what kind of tree this is? I may have called it a Popcorn Tree …
Kala King responds: "The popcorn tree is actually called that as one of its common names. Better known as the Chinese Tallow. First tree to show autumn colors. Very pretty but considered invasive. It is not native and can take over and crowd out other trees that are native. Still, I love them for their colors and the popcorn seed pods attract a lot of little birds."
The pelican's on the left's beak seemed noticeably long, but it's probably normal-sized.
Or one female adult Red-winged Blackbird and a juvenile. Or something. Every year I mistake female Red-winged Blackbirds or some other species. My I.D. luck, these are somebody else entirely. Kala King says, "Yes, 2 adult female red-winged blackbirds, it is just the angle that makes one look smaller. Juveniles look different. Love the spraddle legged one in the next shot."
Note the narrow band of in-focus flooring. Both birds are in sharp focus, which at that close distance, means they are close to equidistant from the camera. The larger one is slightly farther than the smaller one. The one on the left is distinctly smaller than the one on the right, although their markings are nearly identical. The littler one also has smaller feet that are slightly out of focus and a small tidbit in its beak.
Beautiful color stripes.
Finally, an exposure with the bread not bleeding into a bright white splotch.
I shot a bunch of differing wing positions, of which I liked this one best.
Odd stance for an American Coot. Not sure why amber color splotches the photo.
Kinda handsome birds …
Same cormorants as in the photo above, just shot from a different direction — while being very careful not to be standing under any bloated cormorants or a large, splattered white stain on the sidewalk.
Autumn Visions including Birds
Posted December 1, 2017
On the other side of the lake, where we haven't seen Muscovies since dozens and dozens of them got poached. We got cops doing something, but they don't seem to ever catch poachers. Just put up signs.
I've been meaning to photograph this storm-upturned root and tree for several months. This day, I took my time to do it right. Got up close-enough to it to fill the frame with this.
It's always a little surprising to see white caps at White Rock Lake, but the sun was still shining.
Drying its golden wings.
It looked dead to me. I've watched a crow eat from dead squirrels in the middle of frozen, snowy winter, so it's probably a good food source for it. There may be more squirrels than crows.
Then it investigated much more closely — and what I didn't get on silicone was the crow nipping at the squirrel's nose, then suddenly jumping back …
But I did get the next great stance. I'd hoped the crow would investigate further, but instead, it flew back to the creek. Leaving me wondering whether the squirrel wasn't quite dead. Squirrel teeth are sharp!
Not far away.
Sometimes I go off into abstractions.
The best thing about the Year Ago link is clicking it early in the month to see what birds last September's change of season brought us and where to look for them this year.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2017 & before 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 the best of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online — see the links at top and bottom of every Bird Journal page. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. 53 years.