Cormorant Flurry down White Rock Creek
We saw a flock of pelicans
and cormorants and other speices in the lake just off shore along Garland
Road on our way
to Sunset Bay. Sunset had no pelicans or cormorants or much of anything
else. So we went back toward the spillway, and they were gone.
Egrets Flock Down the Creek
Then we saw one pelican flying east toward I-30, over
Garland Road toward where the creek goes through the golf
course. I was trying to photograph it, but cars and windows were in the
way. Then Anna
bunch of big black and white birds floating in the creek.
We parked by the liquor stores and ran down
a long path trying to find a place where trees didn't block our view of
the creek full of birds.
Where were all those birds heading? What was their hurry?
Why did the four egrets just perch there watching?
Female Scaup — See male
Who is this beguiling
bird? It's our first female Lesser Scaup. I saw only one today, and this
is she. Note the brown chest and white patch behind her gray-blue bill.
I also saw, but was not quick enough to photograph her dive.
Speedy Female Scaup
But I did get pix of her racing so fast I thought she
might get up on the water and run like a coot. But she didn't. Not while
I was watching, at least.
Aggressive Goose Sex through the weeds
Gets Everybody Involved.
I shot these yesterday at Sunset, then got
caught up with the comedy of gooses diving and didn't have time to explicate
gooses engaging in sex. Like with ducks, it's an aggressive and community-involvement
activity. All the gooses gang together to keep the selected female subdued
and usually submerged.
A Male, A Female, A Community
seems almost tame in these photos. But it was very aggressive
with lots of splashing and her trying to escape all those wings and beaks.
Often, when people see such aggression, they get agitated,
and concerned. They sometimes even throw rocks at the "mean old ducks
It Takes A Village
When concerned witnesses learn that it's just sex, they
are dismayed and amazed. The battle to subdue the female takes
minutes. The act itself is over in a few seconds.
Goose Victory Flap
Afterward, the male arches its back and flaps its
wings as if in victory. (I've since noticed, that the male does the Victory
Flap even when it does not succeed.)
Pelican Flies Over - Frame-filling Close
I never know what's
going to happen. I pick a place, settle in and see what flies by or pops
up. I've been at Sunset Bay way too often lately, so today I chose
Lagoon, where I was rewarded with a close fly-over by an American White
Pelican and a long, aerial romp by two egrets that started out perched
in the trees on the far side of the lagoon. And ended in the drink, for
some stand-in-the-water-and-wait egret variety fishing.
While they were circling around over the lagoon, their
crisscrossing flight was marvelous.
Egrets Flying for Fun
Lest you think this day's entry is all about big white
birds flying, here's more of today's mix:
Pelican Stretches its beak upward
and its throat in an S curve.
Pelicans doing strange things with their beaks is hardly
novel. The one above is stretching — the pop-out neck, though, was a surprise.
The next is rubbing lanolin down onto its back feathers to
like the way that big ole long beak sticks out in differing directions.
elegant and fascinating than funny.
Pelican Rubbing Lanolin
The last of today's sequences involves gooses, which
are essentially large floatation devices with beaks, honks and attitude.
Another first. Today I saw gooses diving.
Heads Down is the Easy Part
They tip forward, pushing their heads into the water,
then flail about wildly till they splash and fight their way under the
surface. Which they accomplish remarkably well, although their dive is
a truly comical
to see. They only stay down a few seconds, maybe five.
The Real Battle is Getting Underwater
But that task is not automatic, unlike ducks and coots
or even scaups. Gooses diving is not elegant. Sometimes it take more than
just wanting to, and while getting the goose's head underwater
is not difficult, getting the rest to follow doesn't always
Often the push down leaves them in embarrassing
positions on top of the water. Head submerged, yes, but ...
Not Often An Easy Task
Once they do get down, and stay down, if only briefly,
they tend to splash up with all the force and wonder it took to get
to the surface
rocketing submarine in the movies. Sploosh!
An Undived Goose
Like I say, I never know what to expect.
Cold Day Christmas - Cormorants on Poles
Cold, cold, cold. I
was hoping for rain, because it'd be cold enough to snow. White
Christmas doesn't phase me — sorry, Bing.
But it'd make for great photo possibilities at the lake.
Solo Flyer with Noses All Pointing in the Right Direction
Cold enough maybe the pelicans would be flying. They
do that more when it's really cold and windy. I like it better when they
fly toward me or full sidewise, so I can get their eyes and noses, but
all these big white birds with black fringes took flight from this side
other, where they huddled behind the brushy brake.
So I got lots of chances.
I love the above shot for all those sharp noses pointing in one direction.
Into the wind. There's something deeply funny about that.
Pelicans Retreating to the Windlesser Other Side
Even low level, short-distance pelican flying is a wonder
to watch. They got style and grace. Smooth, not all flappy like gulls.
Powerful 12' wingspans with black fringes that don't show when their perched
or swimming, come out.
in a cold,
enough to blow me off the pier just on the off chance I'd get to photograph
it again today. Though I didn't stay long.
Crepe Myrtle Unsub: my best guess is
that it's a Curved Bill Thrasher, but I
have no security in that identification.
Driving up my driveway, I noticed something
move in the crape myrtle above. My camera was already out, so I quickly
shot this UNknown SUBject
through the sunroof and branches.
Smallish, overall light-colored body, slightly
curved light beak,
stippled head and neck. Some sort of cleft down its breast. Are those
black feet or dark stripey? I've been
through my bird books and watching my trees.
I thought only Grackles
lived around here. Oh, and that hawk.
Scaup Looks Surprised (unlikely)
as its pal goes under with a splash
Really was too
crowded, but Saturday or not, we went. Crowded with folks in hysterics
picked wadded bread out of the
air, who called Scaups and Coots ducks. Scaups are; coots aren't. Always
amazes me people don't notice the difference. Both are sorta darkish. Many
people can't discern. Or don't care.
Scaup Dive Arch
I was excited to see scaups (pronounced, my dictionary
says, "scopes." Anna's says "skawp")
dive. I've been watching these guys (apparently all males; females have
a white splash behind their blue bills) and never before saw them dive.
They arch up, dip head first, go under fast. Once one did, they all started
How'd I miss that before?
These Lesser Scaups only
stayed under a few seconds. The first one I saw dive, dove under a
quickly — and menacingly — approaching goose. Big goose. Later,
they dove gooseless.
Up from Dive
In the shallow water around the Sunset pier, it was
easy to see their bright stippled backs under the surface. My dictionary
tells me they are fond of shellfish. Must be how they get them.
The second time I saw a goose
veer into a scaup, the scaup won. Stood his ground. Ran
the goose off. Feisty little fellow. Wish I'd got
The Chase is On
Today's other notable encounter was between Ring-billed
Gulls (4) and Coots (1). Hard to say who won. Gulls chased the coots off.
But there was an exchange, very quick, lots of flapping, some
clawing, almost like fisticuffs.
Resulting in coots running away. On water. Always amazing.
Usually an effective escape. Difficult to determine whether
pain was inflicted. That coot was out of there fast.
Cormorant Balancing in treetop along Cormorant Bay
Not sure what I
was after today. I'd thought to catch cormorants speeding across the bay
throttle (and I did, but the results were just so predictable).
Or capture them doing something interesting in the trees, though I hardly
Flappy Cormorant almost landing in the tree top
It only occurred later that the pure shapes of them were
more interesting than specific activities. Though treetops turned out to
be an intelligent direction, after all. Lots of activity up there. Plenty
of shape-shifting as they landed and jostled for a perch, which likely
involved supplanting another cormorant already there.
I'd never noticed all this activity. At
the first dozen looks, cormorants seem to just perch up there, filling
scatting, waiting their turn
to swoop down and arch out into the sky.
Awkward Cormorant at Treetop
Today, I photographed lots of corms in normal cormorant
behaviors, flying, perching, looking regal or goofy. Shapes you'd probably
recognize. But I like these better.
Mysterious Pelican Wing-up Mode —
like holding their petticoats high.
We kept seeing pelicans
floating around in this mysterious, wings-up, high ruffled, fuselage-exposing
mode that seemed as elegant as it was strange. We couldn't figure
out quite why they were doing it, but they got our attention.
Coming and Going — front and rear views
Coming and going, it seemed that most of the pelicans
in Sunset Bay were affected by the mysterious condition.
Head-down Pelican Bathing Duo
Eventually, we noticed all the free-form bathing going
on and put it together. Sun-shiny day, temperature in the middle 60s. Not
hot like it can get here in Dallas even in late
But not cold as maybe it should be this close to Christmas,
either. Snow covering most of America, and our winter-resident American
White Pelicans are taking baths. They summer in the northern
states and southern Canada, so to them, this must be downright warm.
Warm enough to dunk all the way under and splash water
every which way, wings flapping and water splattering and splooshing. A
sight to see amid a fluttering sound like heavy wet applause.
Wing Splattering Pelican Bath
Something else, I keep seeing in these photographs —
I never noticed among the water-flinging flurry — is how slack their
big lower jaw, made of thick but flexible skin, gets when they're in the
throes of bathing.
Slack-jaw Bathers in Sunset Bay
Pelican Line in the Far Side Mist
Too cold and wet and misty to do anything but shoot what
birds I could find out in the elements from the relative safety of my car
driving along the shore. As the mist descended, my camera couldn't even
find a focus. Gray fullness everywhere. Darned few birds anywhere.
White & Brown Gooses at Tilley's Point
Our favorite fiercely goose pair.
More old friends today.
I drove nearly all round the lake. Had planned one stop,
one shot. Was tired.
this is too much fun. Exhausted my recovering sick self, crashed four hours
after. Worth every second just to see all my buddies.
New ones, too. Had been struck how handsome Lesser
Scaups were the day I shot everything
blue. Determined then to capture them in their
own hues. Today. Another new species to discover. Gradually,
I'll figure out what's special, how
their parts work, what they're up to. It'll be fun.
Journal readers, this is a Lesser Scaup. They summer
in most of Canada and winter here.
Dashing little Lesser Scaup — about
which I know almost
except this is a male. Females have
white patches behind their bills.
I'd swore off Sunset Bay — too easy. By
the time I got there though, I'd been everywhere else, even walked Singing
I saw lots of pelicans out in the middle from Tilley's.
Less than a dozen at Sunset but noticed some beginnings.
Note the little fin near the end of this guy's beak.
By spring it'll mark him as a breeding male.
And some more obvious — if quicker — changes.
The Full Lower Lip Inversion might have taken three seconds. I'd heard
flapping gurgle like bad plumbing that often precedes a stretch, so I was
paying apt attention. Then there this was. Ooof!
Hardly worth noting with evidence like this next image,
but American White Pelican's upper beak is mostly stable, but that lower
beak portion is amazingly malleable, like lips. I've seen them shake it
like loose cloth and stretch it like. Well, this.
Full Pelican Lower Lip Inversion
Then, while sitting on the pier watching the pelicans,
this amazing, red-faced drake hove into view and passed within a few feet
as I snapping away. Its eyes sparkling.
a close affinity with the wartoid Muscovies. It feels like family
when they're near. Such gentle creatures, for all their weight and facial
Muscovy Drake Swim-by
Too many people at the lake on weekends, so I
felt like I had to take it all in today, Friday. Probably won't do it again
till Tuesday, if then. That's Solstice, then it's winter, for sure.
Cormorant - The Usual View
Guess what I'm doing
is visiting the usual haunts that have turned unusual for me the last few
weeks of illness.
Today's stop was
The Boat House Lagoon. I'd hoped for herons and found lots, but most of
them were shy — and nearly invisible.
Splash - Dash Cormorant
getting up air speed
I didn't really expect a pelican, but was glad to see
one working fish up and down, mostly along the far side. And me with a
shorter than usual tele. But patience won out. It swam closer. Meanwhile,
cormorants entertained center-ring.
Low, Feathers Feathered Fly-by — Note Black-crowned
Night-Heron watching from the shadows on the far side.
I didn't get good shots of the Black-crowned Night-Heron
flock — more
than I've ever seen in one place, though nearly invisible. Larking,
I photographed the thick bramble of trees on the far side of the lagoon.
The resulting photos, though aesthetically dull, show at least a dozen,
maybe more gray and brown herons of various ages blended so perfectly into
they were invisible. I'll keep at that challenge but I might have
to wait till after Christmas for a longer telephoto.
Two of the Many Forms of Pelican Beak Stretching —
the partial Lower Lip Inversion and the Gaping Yaw
Meanwhile, my encounter with the lone American White
Pelican in the Boat House Lagoon was rewarding. I guess I must have used
that patience people keep attributing to with. I out-waited a gaggle of
photogs all keen
the Pelk up closer.
Just as I knew if I watch a pelk long enough, it
would do something funny with its beak, I hoped it would find
its way across the lagoon to nearly
frame. Eventually, about when my legendary patience had worn out,
These are the highlights of the great Pelican
Balance Beam Routine:
a tentative balance while
introducing the turtle judges at each end
B: Wings-out Balance
at Beam's End
D: Nailing the Three-
Yeah, a little silly. But an Olympic performance
with no broken limbs. Hooray!
First-winter Cormorant Fly-By
close fly-bys like this almost never work. They are the stuff of dreams.
I am blessed when this big a bird fills my frame at speed. Focusing
and exposure details usually don't work out, but I usually try anyway.
— unique in a series of five
— is a treasure. Every feather delineated. That rich riot of color
Regal Cormorant Flyover — Easy to see why so
use these birds on their seals and currencies
I'd rather it were a pelican or egret, but I've been
wanting to get closer to the corms this winter, and that was about
as close as I'll get. Older cormorants are darker, especially
beak. The lighter uppers on these mark them as first-winter one-year
Egret Flyover — close enough
I didn't want to drive all the way round to Sunset Bay
while running errands today. So I stopped at The Spillway.
For awhile, I sat on the rocks inside the big locked
fence near the parking lot. If anything flew close enough
over or by I shot it. I got lucky.
Jaunty Tree-top Dance
They're birds, of course, but I'm still not used to seeing
these big, brilliant white egrets standing in trees, let alone jaunting
off the top of the tallest pole in the forest. But there it was.
Abstract Landscape with Cormorant & Egret
My favorite, cheapo ($150)
zoom lens jumped off a shelf yesterday and jammed itself into my floor.
So I'm stuck with using the far superior IQ (Image Quality) lens I bought
17 years ago that still works well on my D200. All today's and tomorrow's
shots are that lens. I miss zooming, and the zoom zoomed nearly twice as
close, but the quality
Nikkor 180/2.8 is still astounding.
Egret Chaos Reveals Careful Fishing Procedure
with the last edge of dam spillway behind them.
Couldn't tell what these egrets were up to when I shot
this melee, but any semi-organized eeg chaos is a sure sign of
them fishing. Sure enough. Looking
the images on my monitor later revealed
Great Egrets catching fish after fish and taking turns doing it.
A little late in the
month or year to be starting again, but here I am, and I've got me and
my camera moving, sometimes in the same direction. See November for
I'm recovering from lately. But I am, and I'm glad I can still shoot the
birds at White Rock Lake.
I started at Sunset Bay, because that's where the widest
diversity is, and the birds were there in splendor this fine, warm day
in Dallas' December. Which species I most wanted to catch was, of course,
pelicans, and I was lucky to find them doing a variety of pelican things.
Best Gull Portrait
But other species were there in their own splendors,
too. I'm not a fan of greedy-gut gulls, but they have their own flashy
if not much grace. I wish their splashy polkadotted tails showed better
— that's their parts I like most, but those tiny eyeballs and dark
ring around the beak and spotty head and breast have their flair, too.
They are less shy than most birds.
I probably won't spend much time this winter on these
turkey gulls — who, among many other sins, often attack my precious coots,
so here's a flying shot showing off more detail.
The Elegant Coot in Swirling Water
Not often I can capture the vivie red eyes of the American
Coot in such stylish, swirling water. Still managed to overexpose the subtle
on its beak, but this gives us a tad of a notion of the variation of featheration
from head to tail.
Best Grackle Bird Wash
I always spend way too much silicon (temporary storage)
on Grackles taking splashing baths, and I usually endeavor to render the
bird recognizably. But that inevitably seems timid. This wild swirl of
is more like
the real thing. Yee-haw!
Urban Pelican Fly-by
My photography may be a tad timid this time out, but
I went out, took photographs and will again and again and again. This journal
is in gear and moving again. Watch this space.