Egret in a Tree
Near the Spillway
Drove up Lawther
again hoping for Buffleheads. Didn't see any. So I explored the Spillway
end of the hatchery. Starting with egrets watching and waiting to
catch fish. Catching them at it is a long-wait challenge, but
I hadn't photographed egrets in awhile. So it was nice just to visit, looking
forward to them activating the spillway later this spring.
Coots Running at My Approach
In the creek nearby were coots. I didn't
notice them — they're everywhere — till they began splashing
to a run, too late to check shutter speed or composition. Sometimes
blurs are cool.
Though I entered the maze differently, I met
the same duck couple I see every day, may be why I hadn't shot
them before. Though I had been thinking about them. Usually they're not
shy, going about their routine. Today they mostly hid. She slipped into the
water after my first shot.
Mr. and Mrs. Mallard
All shot through thin pockets in the thick
shrub lining the hatchery where a few fish probably still grow. I
like more wiggle room to get the right angle, wanted them together, so
we could see both.
But I want a lot of things. I did finally get
the exposure right but couldn't line them up. He's a handsome bird and
it's sad to hide his colors, but she's
the real beauty.
Egret With Fish — Not Always Elegant
Back out near the parking lot I photographed more egrets
evacuating the area, not seeing till later some of them carried freshly caught
Egret Standing Alone
And others waiting their turn.
Monk Parakeet with Branch for Nest
The plan was to revisit
Ron's Log to see what I could see. And photograph. On the way, I kept seeing
parakeets hauling branches. Deeper into the Fish Hatchery, I saw keets
gnawing off the ends of branches just the right length to carry back to the
electrical substation, where the recently sold electrical company, supposedly
"coexisting" (according to self-promo signs) with the parakeets, has recently
all but cleared their extensive nests.
Parakeet Cutting Nest Material
So the keets are rebuilding. Again. No wonder the electric
company complains of the nests' weight. The keets have brought whole trees
worth of wood to those humming metal
towers. I watched one parakeet gnaw for several minutes then drop its branch.
I was standing near there, so it wouldn't come get it, and I moved on down
Keet Nest Stick Carrier
Either our beloved Texas Power & Light destroyed most
of the large and extensive communal parakeet
nests in the electrical substation recently, or last week's wild wind did, and
the 'keets are busy building it back. They'll stay in position a few months,
then whoever bought the company will destroy the nests entirely. The Nature
coalitions will come down on the new bosses (same as the old boss) till they
see the wisdom of doing it the green way, and the keets will help thin the
Another of life's continuing
Carolina Chickadee Near Ron's Log
This visit I did not bring a chair or a monopod, but I
did sit closer to the log, hoping for better detail. Most of the birds I
shot were not, however, on the log. They were in the trees
all around, even closer than the grain salted log. Lot of activity in those
branches, but mostly old friends, few new species. I briefly saw a
Downy Woodpecker, but it never stopped long enough to click. I still hope
to render a Downy at least this good someday.
Female Red-bellied Woodpecker
I must be paying closer attention. Near the heart of the
Hatchery, I saw a flutter, looked up and was able to follow this woodpecker
till she held still and my lens could finally focus. Used to be woodpeckers
were exotic. Now they're almost every day. I'm either getting better or it's
Female Hole Bird
Another, way higher flutter, not just got my attention,
but was in clear sight. No intervening branches to confuse my lens. Another
unsub. Seems like I spend half my life paging through bird identification
books. I keep hoping this is not a family of European Starlings, but I don't
know them or other little black birds well enough to be sure.
Male Hole Bird
But I don't see anything else it could be. Those
books don't mention any proclivity for squatting in a hole in a tall tree,
but here they be. Was all excited about finding a whole family. Male (just
above), female (I'm assuming probably too much) abover, and baby (below)
Hole Bird Baby
Course, it could all be the same bird, just different angles
and positions. I shot dozens of shots. Turned out I got about eight of just
the hole. Thought I could see a bird in there, but it was empty.
Later: Anna told me starlings are best known for taking
over other bird species' homes, especially woodpeckers. So here we have a
Pappa Starling, Momma Starling and cute little Baby Starling, all squatting
in a woodpecker's carefully pecked and crafted home. Meaning the woodpecker's
not there, and thereby less easy for me to find. Evict those blankety-blank
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker
Another Red-bellied Woodpecker. This one a male. We know
that, because its red cap extends all the way over into the front of its
face, as we can barely discern in the photo above.
The Usual View of a Ruddy Duck —
bill buried and tail feathers up.
Went looking for Buffleheads.
Hoping, more like. Did not find any. Settled,
initially for those mysterious folded up shapes in
the background of the
fuzzy buffle shots from yester. These are Ruddy Ducks, whose tails
stick straight up and whose faces have usually / often / sometimes been buried
in their feathers.
Ruddy Ducks With and Without Beaks
But Always with Their Telltale Tails Up
It took a long time to show their beaks,
bluish — light on breeding males; dark on breeding females in the books — although
these photographs may fib about that. We assumed a 50-50 mix of males and
females, but my photos (and careful perusing of bird books) show mostly males,
whose cheeks are all white. Females have mottled horizontal stripes across
Ruddy Duck Male with Blue Bill Showing, Briefly
In one shot, supposedly of yet more Ruddys, I noticed a
Canvasback close. I did not, of course, see it when I was shooting,
only much later. Had I, I might have waited for the bill to come up or the
bird closer. I might still be there.
Ruddy Ducks: Unknown Gender upper right; Female bottom;
Canvasback upper left, All Assuming Beak-in-Feathers Position
Many ducks, gooses, pelicans, egrets and herons sometimes
assume the Beak-In-Feathers position, so it may be that Ruddy Ducks don't
always. I'll be watching, and I want to get closer, so
we can see more details. Mostly, I need to pay attention closer. I've got
used to the larger and less shy birds, who are easier to photograph
in detail. Most birders, I may be learning, don't need to get up close and
personal, seeing seems enough. I can't count a new bird — not that
I actually keep track, except here — unless I get a decent photo.
6 Pigeons on a High Branch
help show their diversity
I didn't just photo ducks today. I tried to avoid pelicans,
because this page is already replete with them, but I did have at Ring-billed
Gulls, a variety of pigeons, Lesser Scaups and one wild American Coot. Those
shots, at least, are sharp.
Another Blue-billed Duck — The Lesser Scaup
Not sure why, exactly, I shot those other guys, except
that the sun was bright and birds abundant. Except Buffleheads.
Coot Running On Water
The coot just happened to run through the broken field
of Ruddy Ducks. I hadn't planned, it just happened.
Up early enough to meet
George Boyd :) from Wild Birds Unlimited and other birders at 10:30. Grand
fun. Fascinating some of the birds that've been hiding in plain view
so close to places I'd been as recent as three times this week.
Though I learned
where to find new and fascinating
species, these shots are mostly from too far, so they're grainy/pixely/soft
(excuses, excuses…). When I come back later
or with Anna, we'll do our own stealth and get in close enough to fill frames.
For now we'll settle for these.
Buffleheads: Three Males and Four Females
Someone mentioned Buffleheads, but I had no idea
what that meant. Ducks, I thought. Why would I care about more ducks? Till
I saw these beautiful creatures. The littlest and perhaps best diving ducks.
Hope to see them again soon and closer, in more detail, maybe get some eye
glint and beak delineations. When they dived, they stayed under a long time.
shapes in both sexes. I'm embarrassed to say I have no idea what that is
off to the right and behind. I should know.
There's hundreds of them out there. George mentioned them, but did not point
them out in situ.
We'd wondered what "Ron's Log" was and why it
was special. Ron is who started leaving grain out for wild birds to visit
this felled tree. We watched from some distance, careful not to frighten
birds. This is full frame, not cropped. It took me long
minutes to distinguish the bird in the absolute center (where the focus brackets
appear on my viewfinder) of this image from the end of the branch
/ root. Everybody kept talking about the bird species
they were watching, and I was seeing wood and grass.
Downy Woodpecker Female
Eventually, I saw what became clearly there, but it took
some serious paying attention. First best visitor I captured was this lovely
lady. Another black & white wonder, even smaller, sharp-beaked for pecking.
More exquisite in the watching than the photographing, but I'll be
back. Possibly hauling chair and tripod, so I can get comfy, stay awhile
and when birds do drop in, twist into the sharp focus I kept losing in all
the branches and twigs between us.
Downy Woodpecker Back
We saw this pair of Downy Woodpeckers, another
Northern Cardinal; Butter
Butts, White-throated Sparrows,
some juncos, and probably a couple others I missed.
Those last three are already pictured on this page, so I won't
show you my blurry new shots of them.
I brought today's shots up on my monitor, I discovered several other
birds I'd never noticed on site.
The best I could do with the
male Downy Woodpecker.
The big difference in sexes is
spot on top of his head.
The free tour was wonderful fun, well worth getting up
for, and George was knowledgeable, a great conversationalist and fine teacher.
He knew his birds. Now, we know a little more.
Wings Up Heads Down — Like
Probably edited it out,
but I asked the Universe yester for an Esther Williams Synchronized Pelican
Fishing display. Imagine my startlement when I hove into view at
Sunset today, and there they were. Gray day made exposures strange, but I
met another photog and we talked about birds and photography — and
watched in amazement as pelicans in formation swept their target fish back
and forth across the shallows, dipping and gulping and straining. In unison
for awhile, then every pelican for itself.
Have more pictures
than anything to say for a change, so I'll just let them do my talking.
Beaks Angled for Entry
What Happens When You Drag Your
Pouch Through Shallow
the leaf came off in the next dip.
Two Pelicans in Fierce Conversation
I never know what these
things will be about until they're in place. Then I rewrite them
a dozen times.
Out there, I shoot what I see, rarely preconceiving, and it's way too difficult
to get any of these guys to pose. I do look for certain things, but today's
original targets were elusive. When I met Anna at the Boat House later,
she suggested we drive around to Sunset Bay.
Amazing Pelican Splash Bath
They hadn't been lately — busy fishing, I suppose,
but pelicans are who was there today, and I shot more than 400 frames. What
struck me most were these perhaps weirder visions of my favorite
birds. Pelicans being peculiarly pelican without me trying to make them beautiful
and editing out the shots where they don't. I'm sure their beauty comes
Aerodynamic Wing Dry Sharp
Warm enough again today pelicans were taking loud splashy
baths, then floating wings-up drying like long-nosed swans back and forth
across the inner bay. Some more aerodynamic than others, love the angles
accentuating their beaks in long low sloops.
Looking Less Weird Than I Imagined
Maybe not so weird as I originally thought, but I love
the do and such a nice bib, too. Odd the way its arms seem rounded stubs
among all that fluffiness.
Pelicans have really strange faces that look completely
different from differing angles. And they do peculiar things with their beaks
that make them more like lips. Both the bone supporting it and the pouch
of their lower jaw is amazingly flexible, flapping as
they shake their heads or turning inside-out over their chests when they
feel like stretching.
Pelican Mouth Open
TABJ readers have seen pelicans do lip stretches
before and will probably see them here again. I don't know anybody else who
can do anything like this, then fly away, and it's way too strange not to
shoot and shoot and shoot when they start.
Pelk Mouth Inversion
These shots are a little closer than usual, with more
"tongue" detail, and don't you just love that little hook on the end of its
beak that's usually not so noticeable?
Then this. Everybody's chin itches,
but not everybody can pretzel their bodies and reach their tiny orange feet
around to scratch it without toppling over. And look so elegant doing it.
Splashy Pelk Jump
We'll end this pelk-morph exploration with a minor
flap jump to a perch on a log. Great form as always, of course. A little
splashy perhaps, but impressive.
Splashy Jump Part Two
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker
with Pecked Hole
Sex determination based on several images.
Some days (like yesterday)
everything happens. Today not so much.
Wandering around the Fish Hatchery
I kept hearing the hollow knock-knocking of a woodpecker. I've heard that
sound before but never managed to track one down. Er, up. High up. Finding
Woody today, even when I could hear him somewhere close, very close, was
I radared my ears with cupped hands scanning back and forth,
up and down, standing in one place for many minutes. Then I got lucky. The
woodpecker flew to where I was looking, a place where branches didn't interfere
him. For a change.
Slate-colored Junco, Sub-species
of the Dark-eyed Junco
I knew I'd seen this bird (the species, not necessarily
the individual) before. Maybe next time I see it, I'll recognize it without
paging all the way through three bird books. One hopes.
I don't think I've ever seen one of these before. Seen
and known I was seeing this particular species. I saw and heard
lots of species today. Tree tops were alive with the noisy cacophony of avian
calls and responses, and plenty birds of several sizes and shapes flitted
from tree to tree and branch to branch.
I only managed to photograph a very few. These three few.
I'm partial to all of them, but I especially enjoyed the woodpecker tracking me down.
Puffed-up Pigeon with Mating on His Mind
Almost 80 degrees F in
Dallas today. Had to had to had to get out to the lake and shoot birds. Had
to. Several of whom I captured were puffed-up male pigeons letting
the nearby females know they were ready to mate.
They must think it's spring.
Feather-dragging Chase Behaviors:
Male left, chases
There's sometimes a hopping dance that goes with these
puffed chest, feather-dragging, chasing behaviors, but I didn't see any
today. I didn't even notice the feather-dragging while I was shooting, but
I did see some strutting —
all "see-me, feel-my-thunder" conduct, typical of males of many species.
Strutting His Stuff
Two other birds already linking — first
leaning heads together in parallel positions, then locking beaks, were engaging
in what looked very much like kissing. I know better, and what
fun would kissing be without flexible lips, but look at this next two images
and explain what's going on.
Another little mystery in the ongoing story of birds at
Beak Penetration — A Closer Look
Meanwhile, I photographed pelicans out in the middle of
the lake fishing with cormorants and gulls, but the visuals were tedious,
so I headed over to the lake's most diverse bird area, where I parked behind
the hill overlooking, then walked in through the wooded top of
Sunset Bay, deep into Cedar Waxwing territory.
When I Finally Snuck Close Enough
I'm getting better at this sneaking business. First
I stayed in the shadows some distance from the trees where the waxwings
gathered, thinking maybe they couldn't see me there. Then
slowly I sneaked out into the tall straw-like weeds still in shadow.
As I inched closer, I shot more photographs.
Meanwhile, the waxwings ventured back
into the trees, first singly, then in groups, till
they were teeming with little brown (and yellow and red) birds so
marvelously well camouflaged they melted into the dense
background. Then, one or the other would get antsy and fly off. Maybe a couple
more would flit off with it. Then another. Etc.
Cedar Waxwing Leaning
When the tree was empty of waxwings, I'd
sneak in a little closer, into full sun, where I'd think vague thoughts
about Deep Woods Off and whether they could see me. Waiting more, wondering
about that patience I'm supposed to have, the waxwings gradually recycled
back into the trees. One, a few, then a lot.
While they visited, the waxwings were their usual frolicking
selves, balancing on tiny branches, bending them over till they were completely
upside-down. Reaching for one more berry, then another. I tried to
show their colors as while rendering their acrobating. You may notice
this progression: upright, leaning over, then hanging fully upside-down.
Two Cedar Waxwings Hanging
Up-upside-down for Berries
They let me sneak closer and closer and when I was finally
about as close as I needed — enough to take the portrait
above, they all flew away. Again.
Once again, I'm not exactly sure what this bird is. If
it were gray, it would be a Northern Mockingbird. But this
reddish tan is wrong. It was early afternoon or I'd say it'd been ambered
by a setting sun. Fact is, I don't know. But I sure got lots of pictures
of it, including intriguing flying shots:
I can't imagine it as anything but a Northern Mockingbird.
But I don't call me an Amateur Birder for nothing.
I've been wanting to shoot a Mockingbird in Flight for
Maybe this is me finally doing it. The trick was getting some
distance. These are small portions of long telephoto shots.
Back down in Sunset
Bay proper, standing on the pier imagining (as usual) a pristine pelican
flying over close, I sighted what I first thought was a different kind of
gull (not a ringed beak), with an odd underwing pattern, floating from over
Wide Wing Pelican Soaring
It got bigger quick. From the twelve-foot
wingspan, incredible flying ability, long yellow beak and nose fin, we know
it's a breeding American White Pelican (Not necessarily a male, as earlier
noted on these pages).
Fun watching it soar. Flap wings a few seconds, then
keep them wide and straight, stretching feathers or moving one webbed foot
or the other to assist the turns, soaring (not just flying), round in great
wide circles, looking for a suitable place to splash down.
Foot-drag, Subtle-rudder Turn
First time I've noticed their small, black,
horn-like feathers on the leading edges, mid the forward curve of the pelican's
wings. Why this photo is here is that subtle widening of its right foot,
a little air drag to pull it to its right. Usually,
those little orange feet are tucked tight, aerodynamically pointing under
in back (as in the photo below).
Full-frame Pelican Flyover
Flying over so close I couldn't even get the whole of
it into my frame. Great speed. Great weather, heaven for this Pelk fan. Near
White-winged Dove at Speed Paralleling I-35
Sunny south again
(for my little brother's 6oth). Warmer in Austin and more birds.
I'm thinking this one charging across my landscape near the highway was a
White Winged dove.
The Elegant Swan Pose B
The rest of today's birds were photographed in Town Lake,
near downtown Austin. As often I do, I wanted just to stand on the shore
and photo birds. I've always thought of swans as elegant creatures, and from
some angles in some lights, they seem to be.
Swan in Combat Boots
When this one trundled onto
shore, however, I thought of what I'd always thought of as the ungainly gooses
of White Rock Lake. These swans, which someone no doubt introduced (read:
bought and deposited; there were rent-a swan-shaped paddle boats nearby),
were anything but graceful.
Less than Lovely Long-neck
Looking them up in my bird books, I see they are not normally
resident anywhere near this far inland or south. They are called Mute Swans,
and these were. Mutes often carry their wings arched over their
backs (Elegant Swan Pose A), much
like a pelican drying its wings after
a flapping bath, and that's their really elegant pose, though we didn't see
them do that — except in the much larger-scaled paddle-boat versions nearby.
Great-tailed Grackle with White Sidewall
When I see a bird with a body this color with a dark curving
beak and bright yellow-white eyes like this, I usually assume it's a female
grackle. But I wasn't so sure about this one, although it bears an uncanny
resemblance to a known female grackle. Anna
spotted her with her very distinctive one white tail feather, busy along
the shore of Town Lake. Without that singular, bright feather, we
would not have given her much notice.
White Feathered Whatsit
from the back
With that bright feather, however, this is a very distinctive
bird. The area we saw her was one of the most humanly populated areas along
the winding lake that I always think of as a river. A helicopter was up-and-downing
nearby raising ruckus and blowing dust on hundreds of people enjoying the
glorious Austin sun.
When I see scaups, I always look for a female. I'd seen
and photographed one, so far this
year at White Rock, but I counted four or five in this downtown lake, with
only a couple dozen males. Perhaps they prefer sunny Austin
(me, too) to cold and oft-dreary Dallas, especially this time of year. This
lady was sucking something out of the water and diving — though only a few
seconds at a time. In this widish-angle shot, her beak appears larger than
it is, as she charged about, in something akin to Coot
Escape Velocity Step 1.
Egrets and a Smallish Great Blue Heron
a little nauseous, my camera arm I thought recovering (side effect of a
Statin) ached and tingled past numb to swollen. Instead of my
monster Nikon and heavy zoom, I brought my elderly Sony F707
point & shoot. Half the megapixels, quarter the
weight. A dozen times slower with yellowed, darkened
and dinky viewfinder. Once an extension of my hand and mind, now
clumsy. Not nearly Nikon quality, but lithe.
Great Blue Heron
with Great (white) Egret
— both smallish
I was less than enthusiastically plotting a lake visit
later when, after our Irving run to
pick up art, Anna surprised us with a drive-by of our favorite lake, reviving
spirits. In the Lagoon we easily sighted far side trees full of herons
and a dozen egrets wading for food on this.
Gradually a poofy gray, naturally camouflaged heron
materialized in their midst. I tried to match
its image to photos of Yellow- and Black-crowned Night Herons (on
my Heron vs. Egret page),
because its shorter apparent size and squattish shape (Might have been that
we were looking down on them.) suggested it might not be all that Great. But
only the Great Blue Heron's head is striped like that or is as poofilly
feathered in front.
Leaving the park, Anna noticed an egret standing just under
a bridge we stopped on top of. By the time I'd fumbled
the Sony out (the Nikon is ready in nanoseconds and its zoom is
physical, ya twist it; the Sony takes its sweet time, zooms slow via buttons)
and rolled down the window, the eeg flew off, one large feather liberated
like a lilting halo as it landed along the creek. Anna said something,
but I didn't see it till this image was lit large on my monitor.
Still gray today but
a warmish 60 degrees with few of the thunderstorms predicted, and lots of
birds to be found, especially out on the lake, clouded with mist. Mostly
fishing. Singly or in groups. Alone or together.
Pelicans and Cormorants Fishing with
the Pump house in
Apparently great weather for fishing. Lot of that going
I've seen pelicans with fish (or something big
in their pouches, and lots of them out there splashing around this bright
gray day, but I'd probably have
to be under the surface to show them actually catching those fish. There's
a very dramatic picture like that in The Encyclopedia
of Birds I got in the
bargain bin for $8. Of a brown pelican. Page 82-83. Ooof!
Pelicans Dragging Their Pouches to Catch
Fish at and Just Below Water Level
I have photographed
them tipping back after dragging their pouches through water,
their catch sliding back and down their throat, and it's probably
the same with this cormorant. The reason corms have to stand out
drying their wings is that they spend a lot of time swimming under
water chasing fish.
Cormorant with Fresh-caught Catfish
Till this series, I'd never seen a fish a cormorant caught.
These images may be disintegrating like the landscape did in today's
fog, because there were such a tiny portion of photos waaaay out
in the lake. But that is definitely a catfish.
Washing it Off in the Lake
Good-sized, too. A keeper. I watched as the dark bird juggled
it around in its beak, washed it off in the lake, then slowly chunked, two…
three… down its gullet. Took it awhile to get the whole thing in. I
wonder how long till it needed to fish again.
Cormorants Airing Their Wings
particularly difficult to dry wet black wings in fog. They were out there a long time.
Up the hill to the right from the point disappearing into the condensing
vapor behind the log of cormorants used to be the Dreyfuss. Now
it's just a hill.
A Pair of Pelicans Flying Over
Where the Dreyfuss Used
If you've perused these pages previously, you know I don't
need much excuse to photo pelicans flying through upper or lower portions
of sky. Fog is yet another atmospheric condition to sail through.
Shortly after this shot, one of these two American White Pelicans went right
and the other left, both to skid to stops in different parts of the bay,
where they gathered with others of their species — they are a
social lot — who generally
like to fish in groups.
Cold again today. Silly
to complain. Texas winter is a wimp. No ten feet of snow. No arctic winds.
Might get down to freezing. Maybe. Yankees laugh at a place where the scent
of ice sends all the schools bumping into each other closing, and the freeways
swirl with idiots sliding forever. But that didn't happen again today.
Male Red-winged Blackbird
proclaims his territory
At cloudy and 50 F, it was
downright balmy. Lithe little red and black hints of spring take
deep breaths, then blow out their shoulders and make cries for territory.
Treetop Full of Red-winged Blackbirds
Treetops near the water teemed with chirps and
dark silhouettes showing the barest slivers of red and yellow.
Taking turns diving, tumbling stalling and falling, pulling out at the last
second down into the reeds. Fun to watch, nearly impossible to photograph.
Less fun, more traumatic was watching this gull, barely
move while I approached. Broken wing, dying probably. Resigned. Part of life.
As I write, a story
on the news shows guys shooting loud air cannons to ward off grackles north
of here. I don't mind the thunder, but I like grackles. Hardly
the only birds who defecate on my car.
I don't have millions of them, but those who do, must be doing something
to lure them. They come and go around the lake. Hardly omnipresent.
Female Grackles Dance
Cold again today. Bleak gray brings out the color in life,
if you can't see the sky. I didn't think I'd got any
worthwhile photos, mostly out windows. Then these blossomed. Kinda surreal.
Lazy Circles in the Dark Sky
Another TV show has silhouetted man shapes shooting
birds as nightmare imagery prefacing nuclear war. Later,
a bird against a blue sky brings the mood back, and the heroine flies
Too cold to wander far from my
warm car, despite windows down and top back, heat on max. I saw a woman
running in shorts and short sleeves, bare-legged. I shivered.
Texas' Indian Summer's gone missing. The weather people
procrastinate our one warm winter day. I expected it today. Now they say
Monday. No Vitamin D sunlight again. I had to adjust my camera to stop bird
feet and all but one starling from blurring.
American Robin in the Woods
I spent about an hour
in the Old Fish Hatchery area today, trying to find and photograph little birds.
The robin above was almost too easy. The dove was in the same category.
Nothing else was easy.
Easy White-winged Dove
Slowly, I got slower. Figured out the first two fly,
there's one waiting to see if I crash through or hold back.
Probably a couple more hiding in the grass. When I held back, I sometimes
could get one or two, almost in
focus. I need more practice.
Dark Unsub - a Slate-colored Junco?
Took a lot of sneaking to get this close. Wobbling
when I walked. Three - four inches a step. Like dancing slow down the path.
Not close enough to catch it in focus or sharp enough to get a little light
in its eye, so we know it's got one. We all look more alive when our eyes
Female Red-winged Blackbird
By now, this one I know. Female Red-winged Blackbird.
Shy. Almost always kept branches between us. But stayed in view. They usually
travel with other females, hardly ever with the guys. I'd seen them with their
This time, three females traveling together while I snuck closer. This shot's
not full frame or anything, but she's sharp and her eye almost sparkles.
At first I thought this was the same bird, but its beak
is longer, though at least as pointed. Similar colors and patterns on the
wings, but no white brow and those little spots on the head and shoulders
show us a winter plumaged starling, originally imported from Europe among
other birds Shakespeare wrote into his plays.
Habitation Destruction Machine
We call this a
Habitation Destruction Machine. One of several varieties at work.
It's removing the fallen trees pelicans use to perch on
in inner Sunset Bay. I've thought about joining a Eco Warrior tribe to
chain and anchor one of the bigger trees out a safe-from-humans
distance from the pier — but in photo range. Weighing it down, so none
but the wickedest storms can move it.
Moments After the
But there's no guarantee the City wouldn't pull
it out again. We've complained to the Park Department, but like their promises
to put up signs saying what's healthy to feed birds, nothing
stops them. The signs, promised for November, never went up. I wanted
others to warn idiots from killing snakes, too. But habitat destruction continues
as official policy.
Pelican and Gull Fleeing from the Machine
Do we really need a lake so clean there's no habitat
for our distinguished visitors?
Cedar Waxwing Head Over Heels for Berries
Calming some. I walked up the hill from Sunset Bay.
I'd seen non-black flapping wings in the woods, and wondered what besides
grackles were up there, and what they were up to. Dozens of
Cedar Waxwings after black berries, some hanging upside-down, necks
craned, reaching for more. A busy and comical sight of bright birds besotted
Cedar Waxwing - A Proper Portrait
While I was at it, I got a portrait of the species.
I'd rather catch birds in species-specific behaviors than proper portraits,
but it's nice to have both. Especially of this handsome bird.
No photos today. Just
corrections. I've gone back and replaced every instance of "Boat-tailed
with "Great-tailed Grackle" on this site, because our gracks
not "Boat" tails. I'd been wondering about that. Now,
finally, I know. Re-read the "Amateur" part of this page's
In an email flurry, she also identified my July
17 Rio Grande Valley mystery
a juvenile Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, the unsub from February
2 that I was still trying to differentiate from the Butter
Butt she'd identified in the field when we met (It doesn't look
like it but it's the same bird.), and the birds directly below
as — my
first guess, which I just knew had to
be wrong — American
She also told us about Dallas' rookeries, which
we will be exploring, although White Rock will always be the focus of these
Orange-breasted Unsub — now identified
— American Robins.
We returned to the Pump
House area, again, and again found lots of little bird, most of whom I cannot
identify. It's going to be like that for awhile, as I adjust to the smaller
birds — took me years to figure out the differences among egrets
Today's fave was this orange-breasted beauty that hung out in the tops
of trees thick with branches and brown berries.
These could even be a pair. I didn't see the darker one
till I had it up on the monitor. It's a small portion of a long shot, probably
fifty feet up, and the colors are probably affected by the setting sun. A
warm day in February. I had on only two layers. Lovely day with sunshine
and blue skies.
Butter Butt - The Yellow-rumped Warbler
Wandering around in the woods, we
saw this "Butter Butt." We
saw a lot of them flitting among the trees around the Pump House parking
lot (where a rentacop insisted we could not enter to look for birds,
because there was a sign saying we couldn't park there. We told him we weren't
cars, but I don't think he understood the difference).
Male Northern Cardinal
Comforting to find a bird I actually knew who was immediately.
I think this is the first Cardinal I've shot at the lake. Ever. I love the
variegated crosshatch of background here. That's the City of Dallas' parking
lot we wanted to walk around in back there. Lots of birds all around.
European Starling on a Spiral Wire
Here's another old friend. An adult European Starling.
Much hated and worried about in some communities. I think they're beautiful.
But then I like grackles, too.
Phalanx of Double-crested Cormorants
As we were leaving, three phalanxes of cormorants flew
over, all in near-perfect V shapes. Impressive sight. We'll probably go back
to that area during the week, when there are fewer people, so maybe more birds.
I So Wanted this Unsub to be a Mockingbird, but
it is, instead, a Loggerhead Shrike, one of which I
also saw fly over the trees past Duckfia
The bird on the Mockingbird
sign had striped wings when it flew, but a set of single strips, not pairs
like the mock's. They didn't flash, so I knew the cause was lost soon as
it flew off to the lake. Would have been neat, though. The mock of mockingbirds
come from their calls that sound like everybody else's. But it's their visage
that always confuses me. Now, I'm stuck with
yet another dark-eyed unsub that, if I'd been following the Little Birds
better, I'd already know.
I pour through my bird books every
time I'm sitting down working on DallasArtsRevue or
watching TV or whatever. Paging through tomorrow (seems like only yesterday)
I came upon the illustration of this dark-masked bird that I've never
even heard of before. Loggerhead Shrike? I wasn't even looking for anything
special, just paging through all those birds and saw something very familiar …
I should start an unsubs page and keep track, check back.
Still floundering in the realm of little gray and brown birds, but it's a
direction I've needed to fly off into for awhile.
Red-winged Black Bird Wing
Meanwhile, there's another new species to explore at the
lake today. Well, hardly new, exactly. Different from what
I've been photographing. What's flapping mysteriously above and spelled
out below are Red-winged Black Birds, and I learned more about their various
forms today than ever. Despite minor discrepancies in descriptions
and a lot of woggling, I'm finally pretty certain that last
month's last unsub is
I should probably update my Red-winged
Black Bird page you could see for more details about this species.
First-year Male Redwinged Black Bird
A sudden influx of which I shot in
Yacht Club Bay today, where I almost never find any birds worth imaging.
They were traveling — young, females and males — all together, so this was
the chance to check them all out at once. I especially enjoyed capturing
a first-year perched
atop a tallish tree, where he felt secure enough not to fly away.
Red-winged Black Bird Family Reeds
I associate Red-wingeds more with reeds than trees,
however, and was just today railing against the Park Department's Habitat
Destruction Machines for mowing down shore-line reeds. It's a booger
to capture them among all those intersticed lines. Wish I'd got more light
on this family tree. Look carefully at the female in the upper right, above.
No white postocular swash, but otherwise remarkably similar to the aforementioned
We can barely see the guy in the lower left's bright yellow
epaulets, but this is the best shot of a family in a long series of reed
family shots. The dark near-silhouette top center is another first-year.
I assume that's a female in the lower right, but she's well hid by the
I Know This Is A Female Red-winged Black Bird
Matching this image shows
them nearly identical. Even the swash is in here, albeit subtly. Xiao was
right. Despite the dark shadows in this shot, that's the same bird. Nice
to know you. I wonder if I'll I.D. it next time I see one.
Red-winged Black Bird as Bullet
Meanwhile, I'm off again on my annual quest to capture
a Red-winged Black Bird showing its brilliant red and yellow shoulder stripes
that are amazing when they fly right at us. I've not
yet been quick enough to capture that, but even this side-view,
though not particularly aesthetic, is remarkable.
Today's last shot is of a an American Crow, which
I first assumed was yet another Grackle (Tail's not big enough). Then we
wondered whether it was a Raven (Not from around here). It's not. It's a
crow. Of the variety that beat back the
young hawk last summer.
Instead, I went back
to the hill over the Pump House hoping to find another Cedar
Waxwing. Which, of course,
did not happen. While there, I sought the Monk Parakeets
this area is known for, and found plenty. I assume that's who were the unsubs
flying out of that tree.
Mob of 'Keets
A half dozen mobs of noisy, squawking parakeets flew by
during the hour I plodded through the mud around the hilltop
TXU substation. On their way toward the boat house, swirling among the trees
along the Pump House path or around and down into their big haystack nests.
Parakeets Flying Home
I'm guessing they don't migrate, wintering and summering
in the hum of the electric cage atop crisscrossing
mudpit roads overlooking the lake. Till we saw The
Parrots of Telegraph Hill movie, I'd always thought of 'keets as tropical
birds, but San Francisco's a lot cooler than Dallas, and there's that ocean.
According to the National Geographic
flocks of Monk Parakeets also inhabit the Northeast, the Midwest and Florida.
Basic Unsub turns out to be another Butter Butt
I heard high tweets from the trees above
the concrete path.
Edging closer I missed one smaller bird, then found this, whose name I probably
should know, eating berries. I haven't kept up with little birds, preferring
the easier-to-photograph big ones. Sometimes
I think I'd need an expensive super telephoto to get the littler ones.
Then I remember to creep closer, gentler, slower.
Oh, and the feather. I found nearly a bird's worth
piled near both of a widely separated pair of little black
sport shoes on my way down the hill through the weeds. Nearby was a bra and
some thoroughly soaked clothes. I assumed they were remnants of separate
acts, but you never know. My first guess was that the beautiful polkadotted
feathers came from a European Starling.
Snow Where I Was when the Sun Still Shined
& The White Boy at the Angelika (where it was colder inside
than outside, then when somebody complained, they baked us), it was nice
to get out in mere snow. I shot it, ate dinner, then skedaddled to
the lake, choosing a place where I didn't expect to find any birds (which
I've selected as my new modus operandi. How else find new birds?) That
was successful enough I went to a couple other places I didn't expect
and didn't find any birds, so that was pretty successful, also.
I drove blithely past Cormorant Bay, where the trees
were alive with the scat of cormorants I've shot so many times I didn't
even care anymore. Saw coots, ducks, but not much of anything else. Coots
were everywhere. I didn't see pelicans, and I didn't see them, and I didn't see
them, till I was about out of the park, well past dark.
What I saw from a distance was a white cloud of big chunks
of bird floating in the Boat House Lagoon. It could have been gooses,
I suppose. They
were big, but I assumed they were pelks. I didn't have a tripod
— or the inclination to stand out in the sleet. But I shot a dozen blurry
time exposures and hoped I held still enough. It's supposed to be sunny
by Satty, so I'm looking forward to finding more birds where I don't expect