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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
All Contents © 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. DO NOT USE images without permission & payment.
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February 28 2007

Egret In A Tree - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Mrs. Duck - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mrs. Mallard

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.

He's Handsome Enough - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

She's The Real Beauty - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Lady Duck

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 fish.

Egret Standing Alone - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Egret Standing Alone

And others waiting their turn.

February 27

Parakeet with Branch - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 Munching Branch - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 the path.

Keet with Branch - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 forest again.

Another of life's continuing cycles.

Unsub at Ron's Log - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 almost spring.

Hole Bird Female - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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) makes three.

Hole Bird Baby - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 starlings!

Gold Woodpecker - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

February 25

Ruddy Duck Blump - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 their cheeks.

Ruddy Duck with Blue Bill - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Canvasback with Femaile Ruddy - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Six Pigeons - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Lesser Scaup - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights reserved.

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 - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Coot Running On Water

The coot just happened to run through the broken field of Ruddy Ducks. I hadn't planned, it just happened.
 

February 24

Mr. Cardinal - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mr. Cardinal

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.

Mrs. Cardinal - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Mrs. Cardinal

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.

Bufflehead - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Elegant 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.

This Is Ron's Log - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Ron's Log

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

When I brought today's shots up on my monitor, I discovered several other birds I'd never noticed on site.

Male Downy Woodpecker - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The best I could do with the
male Downy Woodpecker.
The big difference in sexes is
the red 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.
 

February 23

Wings Up Heads Down - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Wings Up Heads Down — Like
Esther Williams with Feathered Fans

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.

Heads Under - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Heads Under

Mouths In - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pouches Under

Scooping - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Scooping

Pouch Ready - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Beaks Angled for Entry

What Happens - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

What Happens When You Drag Your
Pouch Through Shallow Water —
the leaf came off in the next dip.
 

February 22

Wild Pelican Lunge - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 Bath - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 through anyway.

Pelk Sloop Sharp - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Pelican Weird - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Pelk Face Flap - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelican Face

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.

Pelk Mouth Open - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Resereved.

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?

Chin Scratch - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Chin Scratch

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Splashy Jump Part Two
 

February 21

Woody Woodpecker

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 extremely difficult.

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 with photographing him. For a change.

Brown Over Tan - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Righs Reserved.

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.

Striped Unsub - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

White-throated Sparrow

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.

February 20

Puffed Pigeon with Mating on His Mind - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. all Rights Reserved.

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 Behavior - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Feather-dragging Chase Behaviors:
Male left, chases female, right

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.

Pigeon Chasing  - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Pigeons Kissing? - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pigeons Kissing?

Another little mystery in the ongoing story of birds at White Rock.

Pigeons Kissing - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Cedar Waxwing - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Upside Down Pair of Waxwings - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved..

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.

Tan Unsub - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Brown Mockingbird?

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:

>

Brown Flash - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.   Brown Flash - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

I can't imagine it as anything but a Northern Mockingbird.
But I don't call me an Amateur Birder for nothing.

Brown Flash - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.   Brown Flash - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

I've been wanting to shoot a Mockingbird in Flight for years.
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 the lake.

Wide Wing Pelican - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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).

A Pelican Too Close - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 perfect day.

February 18

Motel Dove - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Elegant Swan - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Slumped Swan - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

One White Tail Feather - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Female Scaup - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Female Scaup

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.

February 14

Egrets and a Heron - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Seven Egrets and a Smallish Great Blue Heron

Cold, 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.

Squattish Great Blue Heron with Great Egret - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Egret Feather Separation - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Feather Separation

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.

February 12

Lone Pelican - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Lone Pelican

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.

Cormorants & Pelicans Fishinig - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Pelicans and Cormorants Fishing with
the Pump house in the background

Apparently great weather for fishing. Lot of that going on.

I've seen pelicans with fish (or something big and sloshy) 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 Fishing - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved..

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 Catfish - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Cormorant with Fish - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Cormorants Airing Their Wings

Gotta be 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.

Two Pelicans Flying (still) - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

A Pair of Pelicans Flying Over
Where the Dreyfuss Used to Stand

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.

February 11

Red-winged Blow-hard - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Red-winged Announcements

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.

Red-wing Blackbird - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Red-winged Black Birds in the Treetops - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Dying Gull - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Dying Gull

Less fun, more traumatic was watching this gull, barely move while I approached. Broken wing, dying probably. Resigned. Part of life.

February 10

Shadows - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Shadows

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.

Grackle Dance - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Gulls Flying High - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 away.

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.

Starlings - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

starlings

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.

February 7

American Robin in the Woods - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 sparkle.

Female Red-winged Blackbird - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 whole family. 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. 

Mrs Redwing Blackbird

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.

February 6

Habitation Destruction Machine

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.

Pelks Away - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Moments After the Habitation Destruction Machine Began

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 & Gull Running - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 with berries.

Portrait of a Cedar Waxwing - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

February 5

No photos today. Just corrections. I've gone back and replaced every instance of "Boat-tailed Grackle" with "Great-tailed Grackle" on this site, because our gracks have "Great," not "Boat" tails. I'd been wondering about that. Now, finally, I know. Re-read the "Amateur" part of this page's title.

In an email flurry, she also identified my July 17 Rio Grande Valley mystery bird as 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 Robins.

She also told us about Dallas' rookeries, which we will be exploring, although White Rock will always be the focus of these pages.

February 4

Orange Breast - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Orange-breasted Unsub — now identified
as the obvious — 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 and herons. 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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved

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).

Cardinal - photograph coppyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

V of Cormorants - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

February 3

I So Wanted This to be A Mockingbird - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 Point recently.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 a Red-wing.

I should probably update my Red-winged Black Bird page you could see for more details about this species.

Immature RWBB in a Tree - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 unsub.

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 reeds.

Female Red-winged Black Bird - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 Bullit - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Crow - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

February 2

Feather

Unsub Feather

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 - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 Through the Powerstation - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 Field Guide, flocks of Monk Parakeets also inhabit the Northeast, the Midwest and Florida.

Eating Berries - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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.

February 1

Snow - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Snow Where I Was when the Sun Still Shined

After Idi & 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.

Coots - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Coots

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.

Cold Pelicans Huddling - copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

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 any.  

 

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All text and photographs
copyright 2006 and 2007 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved.

No reproduction without
specific written permission.

Formerly "The Addlepated Birder's Journal"


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