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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 Photo Equipment Used Ethics Feedback Coyotes Bird Rescue Advice Name That Bird Herons Egrets Herons & Egrets Books and Links Pelican Beak Weirdness Pelicans Playing Catch Rouses Courtship Displays 800e Journal G5 Journal Duck Love Birding Galveston 2nd Birds of the Lower Rio Grande Valley & the 1st 14 seconds of Bald Eagle How to Photograph Birds
This Month: Female 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The one behind is landing. The one on this side is just swimming along, not contributing to splashing.
The Lower Steps and the Dam
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.
Love the way all its top feathers seem so well separated in this landing.
Well, maybe not exactly sitting. It's standing a little deeper than we usually see them standing in the water.
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,
I always enjoy a little interspecies interaction, and those noses pointed at each other was just too cute.
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.
Nice feather detail, even if there's some feathers, toes and nose flapping in the wind.
Kinda wish I'd got it just a little sharper, but nice nonetheless.
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.
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.
Have been wanting to get more cormorant detail, and the Lower Steps down from the dam, seemed the ideal place for that.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
I love photographing grackles flying. Gradually, maybe, I'll get closer and with more details.
At Sunset Bay, which used to be a restaurant. Still is, really, mostly for the birds now.
Overlooking the lake, but looking back at me, just in case he has to suddenly disappear. Then, suddenly, he disappeared.
No two grackles doing it the same or in any unison. Lotta splashing going on this day.
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.
Almost like wet sculpture, the striations of rapidly moving white water flying in so many different directions.
After a bath.
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.
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.
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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text and photographs Copyright 2013 by J
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to the writer or photographer. My favorite answer is, "I don't know." I am, after all, an amateur. I've only birded for seven years as of June 2013, although I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally and almost always amateurishly since at least 1964. Thanks always to Anna.
since December 22 2013 when I created this page