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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
Posted at least three times a week, but usually not on weekends

Early December 2013

The Current Journal is always Here  All Contents Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.  DO NOT USE photos without permission blue dot Photo Equipment Used blue dot Ethics green square Feedback green square Coyotes red diamond Bird Rescue Advice red diamond Name That Bird green square Herons green square Egrets green square Herons & Egrets green square Books and Links green square Pelican Beak Weirdness green square Pelicans Playing Catch green square Rouses green square Courtship Displays blue dot 800e Journal blue dot G5 Journal green square Duck Love green square Birding Galveston green square 2nd Birds of the Lower Rio Grande Valley & the 1st green square 14 seconds of Bald Eagle   How to Photograph Birds

ringt arrow This MonthFemale Scaups Visit  Great Egret Landing  Gadwall  Great-tailed Grackles Flying  Mute Swan Foot 

Later December Pictures

Cold, Cold Day in Sunset Bay

December 11 2013

 Look Who's Visiting - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Look Who's Visiting

Infrequent visitors to Sunset Bay are these two — of three, total — female scaups, who distinguish themselves from their male counterparts by having no white sidewalls or black front and back ends, while the males, on the left below, who have the sidewalls and sharply contrasting black front and back ends, just seem along for the ride. Both sexes have blue bills, and they are called Little Blue Bills sometimes, but the females have that white facial area around their bills, with overall brown bodies, like most female ducks. All the scaups I've seen at White Rock have been Lesser Scaups.

A lot about Scaups.

Three Female Scaups - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Three Female Scaups and Two Males

 

The males come and go in late autumn and through the winter. Right now there seems are three females and three males, which is the most even odds I've seen here. The group of them were swimming closer and farther from the pier today. Never quite close enough and ever farther away. I don't know where they were going, but the females, who will probably be gone by tomorrow or the next day, will come back again later. I assume this has to do with breeding, since they were more or less pairing up.

Today, the females, who seem to be in charge anyway, were fighting among each other. Biting and flapping. I'd never seen that before, and the three of us stalwart bird photogs were standing around talking on the pier today, and every time we'd get involved in that, the scaups would fight, then stop in plenty time before the cameras came up. Not the males, the females were fighting.. Curiouser and curiouser.

Another guy was braving the below-freezing weather out there today. He showed us the pic he'd got of the swan biting a woman who was trying to feed it on the nose. I'd never seen it so aggressive. One guy said he'd been able to pet it on the back a couple times. I'd never got that close.

Brown Spotted Duck - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Spotted Brown Duck with Multicolored Beak

I'm guessing Muscovy heritage, but it also looks like it was bred for meat, who knows. I like the coot guards, and there were a lot of ducks there this afternoon. A lot of ducks.

More Ducks - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Even More Ducks

Last week or some time not that long ago, I was going on here about "Indian Runner" ducks who stood up on feet more or less at the back ends of their bodies. Note the differences here between all the mallards — green heads, neck stripe, red-brown breast and upper chest, gray sides and black upper butts with white tails — and this one, dark brown body with green head and yellow beak tall hybrid standing with the gray/brown duck. He is the Indian Runner of the group.

A lot about Indian Runners.

Two More Indisn-runner type ducks - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two More Indian-Runner Type Ducks

I think these are the so-called "Black Ducks," six of whom were left off at Sunset Bay a couple summers ago. Interesting to watch them change colors like many ducks do from season to season, as they grow up.

One Taking Off, One Swooping Out - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

One Taking Off and One Swooping Out

I never knew exactly how I'd get it, but this shows a transition from pelicans short-wing hopping into wide-wing swooping outta here modes in one shot. I've been trying to figure out who's next when a lot of pelicans decide to leave the area, but I usually end up with butt shots instead of side views. This is the former, but it includes both steps, so I may have partially succeeded.

Pelk Swooping Around - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Pelicans Swooping Around a Curve

It's landing, and I can't say I waited for it to get just here, I just click away hoping for something interest. But this kind of weather may seem balmy to pelicans, so they're active and busy, which I always appreciate. It was gray, drizzly-looking afternoon, cold as cold can be in Dallas, but there were four photographers on the pier photographing big and little birds, like it was a lovely spring day.

Pelican Coming in for a Landing - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Coming in for a Landing

I assume they'd been out in one of those big fishing parties with cormorants and gulls, but I didn't want to sidle along that one-lane, former walking path along the lake edge of the Arboretum, because I didn't trust the long rise up to Winfrey proper in ice and possible snow.  Notice the three Scaups at the bottom right corner of this shot — two female and a male between them.

Pelicans Splashing Left and Right - crpy

Pelicans Splashing Left and Right in the Lagoon

The one behind is landing. The one on this side is just swimming along, not contributing to splashing.

 

The Lower Steps  and the Dam

December 5

 Buncha Corm Kids on the Edge = Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Buncha Corm Kids on The Edge

Saw a bunch of big white Great Egrets in the trees on the island facing the car and walking bridges over the lower steps down from the dam, made a 180, drove back down the hill and around the 7-11 corner, parked in and walked up the hill taking pix all along. Got my doubler back from Nikon a week or so ago, and they said nothing was wrong with it, but I'd put that off, and when I tried it today, it looked like nothing was wrong with it.

Great Egret Landing on the Edge - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Egret Landing on the Edge

Love the way all its top feathers seem so well separated in this landing.

Great Egret Sitting in Water - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Egret Sitting in Water

Well, maybe not exactly sitting. It's standing a little deeper than we usually see them standing in the water.

Thought it was a grebe - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Thought it was a Grebe When I Saw It

Then, after I got it big on my screen, well... maybe not. But it was doing grebe-like activities, diving, for long seconds and looking tiny in the landscape,

Pelk and Corm - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican and Cormorant Looking Up and Down Beaks at Each Other

I always enjoy a little interspecies interaction, and those noses pointed at each other was just too cute.

Pied Billed Grebe - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pied-Billed Grebe

Not much alike with the image two up from here. I know this is a grebe. I just don't know about that upper one, though.

BCNH toward Landing - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Black-Crowned Night-Heron Heading for Landing in the Trees

Nice feather detail, even if there's some feathers, toes and nose flapping in the wind.

BCNH Landing - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Black-Crowned Night-Heron Landing

Kinda wish I'd got it just a little sharper, but nice nonetheless.

Wings Out Drying on the Edge - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wings Out Drying on the Edge of The Lower Steps

Their wings get too wet to fly when they're diving down to catch fish, but the can't fly that way, so we often see them with their wings out, drip-drying.

Corm Crowd Flying - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Corm Crowd Flying

There were more cormorants flying by and in the frame, but spaced out too much. I wanted to concentrate on this one, whom I think is a Double-crested Cormorant because its face extends farther back than the Neotropic's whose face only , even if it does have that white outline of its lower face that always throws me off. I have four bird I.D. books open on my desk, and I still can't tell the differences for certain. Oh, well, it is a cormorant.

Another Juvenile Cormorant Flyby - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Juvenile Cormorant Fly-by

Have been wanting to get more cormorant detail, and the Lower Steps down from the dam, seemed the ideal place for that.

Great Egret on Tree - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Egret on Tree on the Island

There were about a dozen when I first saw them, then maybe twice that while I walked up toward the dam, then coasted back and photographed more.

Pelican and Egret - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American White Pelican with Great Egret Flyby

I've been hoping to find the pelicans out and about around the lake, but it's a treat to see them interacting with the other birds, even if it's just a flyby.

Three Distinctive Looks of Gadwall - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Three Distinctive Looks of Gadwall

Gadwalls are dabbling — that's what the male on the left is down to — ducks. The other two, left to right, are female and male Gadwalls. Distinctive in their own subtle ways.

Cormorant and Egret - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Corm Griping

More interspecies interaction, this time a juvenile cormorant who never let up griping at a Great Egret, who looks like could easily trounce the corm. But it did not.

Egret Flees Cormorant - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Looks Like the Corm is Chasing the Egret Off

But it isn't. I think the egret just wanted a few feet between them. The eeg stopped about five feet away, on the top of the steps proper, and the corm kept complaining, just farther away.

 

Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake

December 4

Five Gracks Over Log - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Five Grackles Over a Log

New software's slowing me down, but it seems to make better pictures, so I'll endure it. Lotta differences from the last one, but I've already got some semi-automatics that my hands and fingers know how, but my brain is somewhere behind.  Working well, so far.

Six Grackles Over Another Log - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Six Grackles Over Another Log

I love photographing grackles flying. Gradually, maybe, I'll get closer and with more details.

M. Grackle on a Pier - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Great-tailed Grackle on My Pier

At Sunset Bay, which used to be a restaurant. Still is, really, mostly for the birds now.

Red-winged Blackbird on a Tall Plant - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-tailed Grackle on a Tall Plant

Overlooking the lake, but looking back at me, just in case he has to suddenly disappear. Then, suddenly, he disappeared.

Grackles Bathing - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Grackles Splash-Bathing

No two grackles doing it the same or in any unison. Lotta splashing going on this day.

Layback Grack Bath - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Layback Grack Bath

She was moving around pretty quickly, splashing a lot, and I never noticed she was on her back, so she must not have been for long. I think I've seen gooses in this same position.

LInear Grackle Bath - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Linear Grack Bath

Almost like wet sculpture, the striations of rapidly moving white water flying in so many different directions.

Parade Float Pelicans - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Parade-Float Pelicans Drying their Wings

After a bath.

Mute Swan Foot - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mute Swan Foot

BIG foot.

Female Duck Over - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Duck Over

I keep wanting to guess its' a Mallard. Maybe it's the angle, but she just doesn't look all that much like a Mallard.

Ring-billed Gull Over - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ring-billed Gull Over

And luckily close, considering nobody on the pier was feeding them. Guess they gotta fly over, look carefully, just to make sure.

Anna says it's a Herring Gull, but it doesn't resemble any of the pix in The Sibley Guide to Birds gulls section. I like what that author says about identifying gulls, "Gull identification represents one of the most challenging and subjective puzzles in birding and should be approached only with patent and methodical study. A casual or impatient approach will not be rewarded." This one's whiter than first and second winter American Herrings, and the underwing pattern doesn't match this one's. Nor does it match the Eurasian varieties I see in Sibley's. But then, neither does it quite match any of the other gulls there. Hmmm. N

one of Crossley's photographs approach this configuration in either Ring-billed or Herring. Maybe Peterson's methodical up, down, head and around diagrams will rescue us. No white splash, spot or stripe at the tips like his Herrings or Ring-bills. Darn. I keep hoping someday to see a Kittiwake, if only because I don't know how to pronounce it. 

Many gulls are identified by the color of their feet, and we can't see that in this photo. It doesn't look brownish like many juveniles. Nope, nope and nope. I'll stand on my original i.d, even though I know how often wrong I can be, and our usual gulls are usually Ring-bills, but of course I don't know or pretend to.

In desperation, I hefted my large and ungainly National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, which appears to show this very bird's underwing design (since we can't see its uppers, as a Second Winter juvenile, except the tail isn't right. I think I'll go back to my Hmmm.

Neotropic Cormorant Over - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Neotropic Cormorant Flyover

I may still be identifying Neotropic Cormorants as Double-crested. I keep assuming most corms are double-cresteds, and that might just not be true.


Later December Pictures

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All text and photographs Copyright 2013 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to the writer or photographer.    My favorite answer is, "I don't know." I am, after all, an amateur.   I've only birded for seven years as of June 2013, although I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally and almost always amateurishly since at least 1964. Thanks always to Anna.

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