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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
The Current Journal is HERE  All Contents Copyright 2012 and before by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.   Cameras & Lenses Used.
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White Rock Lake

February 29 2012

 Ruddy Duck with Eyes Visible - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ruddy Duck with Eye Visible

For several years now, one of my main goals in life has been to photograph a Ruddy Duck whose eyes are visible. I'm not sure I've ever accomplished this before. They usually hang well out from shore in groups of up to a hundred birds, with their beaks in their feathers on their back, but this one had wondered into a bunch of reeds on the lake side of Arboretum Drive [See our White Rock Map].

Ruddy Duck wiht no eyes visible -  Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Same Ruddy with Eyes Only Barely Visible but Tail Sharp

Another challenge is that their dark eyes are set among dark feathers on the top of their head. So even with their heads held erect, there's often no eyes visible.

Grebe Preening Feathers - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pied-billed Grebe

Most of the photographs I've made of these guys over the last six years have been like the next image down. I like this one, because A) the bird is not just sitting on the water — or about to or just did — dive under the water. It's doing something all birds do, repairing feathers, seaming them back together, so it can fly well. B) because even if not everything is in the sharpest focus, a lot is pretty close. C) the colors are right.

Greve with Slight Splash - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Grebe with Slight Splash

But, just to show you what it looks like with its face and body visible and largely undistorted into preening position, here' s yet another one of the usual type of image I show here of these little divers.

Mallard Pair - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mallard Pair

Close to where I found the grebe and in the very same reeds the Ruddy Duck was just outside of when I photographed him, were these two Mallards. She's on the left. He's on the right.

Another Mallard Pair - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Couple of Mallards

Both of these are guys, and they've got their beaks buried in their wing feathers folded on their backs, pretty much like Ruddy Ducks seem to nearly always do.

Eratic Flight - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Erratic Flight

I thought, from recent experience, that if a gull-like bird flopped around up there then fell like a rock, it had to be a Tern. But I was wrong. I was having the usual challenge and chagrin trying to follow focus on this bird, who'd just made one of those amazing erratic turns, so I focused best I could, and at that moment realized it's not a tern, it's our usual variety of Ring-billed Gull. Playing dropsy. Drop and object, either catch it on the way down or pick it up from the water, drop it, catch or fetch it, and do it again and again and again.

Ring-billed Gull with Chunk of Wood - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ring-billed Gull with Chunk of Wood

Looks like burnt wood, but it could be almost anything. It's something this bird was playing Dropsy with. I wasn't able to adequately capture the action of the game, but when it held still a little too close to the pier, I got it this good, at least.

Aggressive Goose - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Aggressive Goose Position

On land or out in the water, when a goose lowers its lower neck but raises its head, it is about to attack some other goose — or at least try. I missed the fuss of this one chasing several other gooses, but I got the pose. I'm not convinced they're being mean. I've see the sometimes violent aggression in other birds, too. It might have something to do with mating season.

The New Goose - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The New Goose, which I believe is a Snow Goose

This guy has been variously identified as a Snow Goose or a White-Morph Ross's Goose, which have warted beaks, although this one's is smooth, so I'm believing it's the former — a Snow Goose.

We're in Sunset Bay now, and this was a goose I have not seen before. I don't pay as much attention to white gooses as The Bird Squad does. They assign names and know individual goose's proclivities and usefulness (if any). But the black lips and wingtip seemed new and different, so I photographed it. Most of our gooses are farm animals. I don't know who this one is.

Pelican Incoming - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Incoming

I still love photographing American White Pelicans as they fly back to Sunset Bay after they've done some fishing elsewhere at the lake. I've been playing with my old camera and my new camera, trying to figure out which does a better job with focus and which with exposure. This lens — my Shillelagh (pronounced "shill lay lee." has an effective focal length of 900 mm, although I'm not convinced I believe in effective focal lengths. If you don't, either, it's still a 600mm lens with a smaller sensor.

Sharp-eyeballed Pelican - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Flying By Much Closer, Sharper and in More Detail

This one was coming in fast, and I and my camera did not acquire sharp focus until it was way closer than just filling the frame.

Pelican With Beak Tip in Water - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican with Tip of Beak in Water

I rarely know why any pelicans is doing whatever it's doing, and I do not know why this one's beak was under water, but I have often seen and photographed them with water dripping off the end of their beak, so this must be how they get that effect.

One-legged Pelican - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

One-legged Pelican

This is not a one-legged pelican. Very probably, this is the other side view of a pelican standing up on one leg, so it can use the other leg to scratch its head or something else that itches.

Red-winged Blackbird in the Reeds - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-winged Blackbirds on the North Shore of Parrot Bay

After dinner we wound around the west side of the lake, because while I don't mind all that much going to Sunset Bay every day, I draw the line at going there twice in one day. I know it's better for me and for the variety of birds I can photograph if I do not go to the same place every time. But there are few places on earth that I like as much as I do the pier at Sunset Bay, even if I am not packing a camera. So I insisted we go somewhere else, and Anna chose the west side and when we were driving out of the extensive Parrot Bay parking lot, I noticed a wild, avian din coming from the north shore among the weeds just past the porto-lets there.

I pulled The Slider along the edge of the road, and Anna recorded the wild squawking, peeping and general loudness of the place as I attempted to photograph the Red-winged Blackbirds who were making most of the noise. Later in the summer, that same place will be even louder with the sounds of bugs. Really amazing loud.

 

February 28

 Odd Pelican Details - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Abstracted Pelican Details

All that fluffy white wing-top feather detail is the stuff that I almost always missed with my old blunderbuss lens, but the new Shillelagh (I love that name for my new lens. Essentially, it's Irish for a short club or cudgel, which is what I've been calling it, although it's a great deal better than any club. I only wish I could remember how to spell it.) renders such incredible detail. Obviously, I was way too close to this bird to expect the sort of shot I wanted, but this is what I got, and I'm liking it.

Another Artful Abstract - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Pelican Semi-abstract

Less detail, except in the splash kicked up by this pelican in the process of moving off from inner Sunset Bay to out in the middle of the lake to join another one of those fishing flotillas I so dearly love to photograph up close. The Shillelagh with the 2X tele-extender I've left on it for a couple weeks was a bit too long for most of the shooting I did today, but I really need to learn how to use it, so it'll probably stay awhile — even if it's 11 ounces I could shed easily enough. Except then it's only a 300mm lens instead of a 600.

Pelican Flying Away - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Hungry Pelican Escape

Yesterday I couldn't get the time of day from a flying pelican (except once). Today I photographed about a dozen of them, all leaving and flying out thataway.

Pelican Flying Past Winfrey Point - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Flying Out Past Winfrey Point

This is actually one of the best, classic photographs I shot today. Unlike too many others — I'm only relearning how to use a camera that got back from three months at the Nikon Fixit and before that its shutter had destroyed itself. Thom Hogan probably would sell me a manual for using the D300 like he did for my newer D7000, but Ken Rockwell has a D300 manual I already paid for, so I've been using it. Every day I fix something else in the menus.

 Up - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Up

Today's latest settings helped some. Tonight I figured some others that might help me out tomorrow. I keep working at it, and I keep learning. Nice the way that works out sometimes.

The Fishing Floatilla in Question - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Fishing Flotilla in Question

The big white birds are pelicans. In the air, they usually show their black wingtips. Maybe calling it the middle of the lake is incorrect. It looks more like it's closer to the far shore. Watching, and attempting to photograph the pelicans peel off toward there this afternoon, I wondered how they knew to leave just then. Then I followed some across the lake with the Shillelagh and saw what their keen eyes probably already saw, the fishing flotilla swimming and flying into view. Duh.

Egret Flying Away - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Egret Flying Away

Either I got too close to this Great Egret — it does look pretty good, doesn't it — in the shallows over by the Hidden Creek Woods across from inner Sunset Bay. Or it had got its fill of fishes and was heading home for the evening. I shot several times, and even got some shots in focus, but this was the only one I got that shows its face and feet.

Male Mallard Flying By - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Mallard Flying By

I also too the quick challenge of photographing the occasional mallard flying by.

Male Mallard Landing - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Mallard Landing

Or landing. I couldn't have got this in focus yesterday or the day before. I know, because I tried. This time, today, it worked. If it's not snowing tomorrow, I'll try it again. My latest menu settings might just get that tad extra of focus that this bird's face needs.

More Tern - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Forster's Tern

But my challenge left over from yesterday was an erattic-flying Forster's Tern, and today I got several of it very close to being in focus. I don't know why they turned out brownish like an old photo, although there were more clouds than sky, and that often does it.

Terning Away - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Forster's Tern

Before I got this shot down to size for this web page, I could see sparkle in its eye, even though it was facing away. At this size, however, the sparkle is gone, and all we got is Olde Timey Brown almost everything except for those exceptionally orange legs and feet. Oh, well …

 

February 27

 Forster's Tern - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Juvenile Forster's Tern

As usual in winter here, there were way too many gulls — up to their usuals. Stealing food from coots and picking fights, dropping stuff, either catching it on the way down or not quite or carrying something bigger than they could carry. But in all that mess of white and gray were a couple terns, eminently distinguishable, because they flew erratically. Gulls are easy to pan along with. Today's Terns flew like riding a pogo stick on a roller coaster, very difficult for me to follow or focus.

One Good Tern - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

One Good Tern

Although I did get a few.

Another Tern - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Deserves Another Forster's Tern

But this was the easiest of the bunch. I thought there was only one, but now I see this is another bird. I'm not very good at identifying terns any better than all those other birds, but this is my best guest.

Gull with More Than a Mouthfull - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ring-billed Gull with More than a Mouthful

Sometimes what I was interested in those few seconds was close up.

Gull with another dripping object - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Gull with a Dripping Something Else

I saw them pick up and inevitably drop a lot of objects, but I never saw any other them catch it dropping down, although they tried.

Coot Feet - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Splendor of Coot Feet

But most of today's shooting was attempting to fit that humongous lens around what little I could fit into it. Except faraway birds. Those close were generally too close.

Coot Dive - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Coot Dive

This, of course, was too good to pass up. Color in black & white.

Like Water Off a Duck's Belly - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Like Water on a Duck's Belly

Though sometimes it was just silly.

Breeding Adult American White Pelican - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Breeding American White Pelican

What I was waiting and constantly watching for were incoming pelicans. I'd seen a flotilla of them, cormorants and gulls out in the lake somewhere between the Arboretum and the Old Pump House, but all the time I waited on the pier in Sunset Bay, only one pelican flew in.  The fin-like protrusion up from pelican beaks shows this bird to be an adult breeding pelicans. It does not indicate gender.

Wigged Out - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wigged Out

But there was a log full of them just off the pier.

One of the Black Ducks - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Brown, Former Black, Duck

One of the treats of hanging out on the pier at Sunset Bay so much — not many places I'd rather be — is that I get to know the locals. This is one of the bunch of what we called "Black Ducks," because they used to be black when a women left them off at the lake.

One of Her Brothers - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

One of Her Brothers

They slowly turned colors — and shape, and in the last couple months, some of their heads have turned bright green, like adult male mallards. We've often seen young mallards grow from furry young quickly into brown, patterned juveniles, then into adult Mallards, who are the usual source of all duckly mutations.

 

The Fort Worth Drying Beds in Arlington, Texas

February 24 2012

Red-tailed Hawk - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-tailed Hawk

I'm beat, so I'll post a few of my favorite shots from today, then come back tomorrow after I've had some much-needed beauty sleep and maybe add a few more shots from today and a few days ago that I still like. I realize that if I called every hawk-like bird I ever saw a Red-tailed Hawk, I'd still be right more often than not, but I have my doubts about this white-tailed bird. Still, it matches up to the usual specifications for the usual suspects and looks enough like the pictures in three separate bird ID books that I'm calling it one despite my misgivings, but as usual, I wouldn't be surprised if someone else said it were something else. Let me know, and I'll change the text. But I love this photograph, more than I probably should.

Northern Harrier - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Northern Harrier

I realize this is not an absolutely great shot of this fast-moving bird, but that I got it in focus at all is a minor miracle, and this is the first harrier we've ever seen, so we're counting ourselves lucky.

Northern Harrier Jump - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Northern Harrier Jump

It took a while to get this bird in a semblance of focus as I was turned uncomfortably around almost backwards photographing out my driver's window on The Slider and my Nikon D7000 was being recalcitrant about focusing on anything, although just before this particular jump, it did finally manage to focus on the compost pile this harrier has just jumped off of into the sky.

Northern Harrier Flying Away Fast - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Northern Harrier Flying Away Fast

It was intent on getting away from that white car full of people pointing long black tubes at it, so it flew away rapidly, and I was again lucky to get it in this good focus, although the lens, at least, is capable of doing much better than this. It didn't help that, while handling it normally, I kept moving the dials on the outside of the camera and access to menus on the inside were much less readily available. Of course, I wasn't handling it as delicately as it seemed today to need. But, boy! am I glad to have these three shots.

Killdeer Out Standing in its Field - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Standing Killdeer

As killdeer go, they don't go all that fast, but they do go loud and flappy, so I'm mostly pleased I got this one, if only to remind me that my camera and lens can focus birds, if I hold it real still and aim it in the right direction. I had a lot of issues with aiming it today, but maybe tomorrow I won't. Pretty bird — and sharp.

Two Canada Gooses - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Canada Geese

I always want to call them a pair, but I really don't know these birds or how they've been relating lately, and I didn't pry, so we'll just leave it at that. Two of them. The only two we saw, so they are at least crossing state lines, but what they have done or plan is beyond my ken. I just love seeing and photographing them.

Ruddies and a - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ruddies and a ...

Fact is, my exposures weren't all that terrific, either. And it didn't help that I kept molesting the dial that might have helped that more if I hadn't kept sliding my thumb over it, but these are Ruddy Ducks and I'm not sure who that is on the far left sure looks familiar. I kept calling it a Gadwall, but then decided it didn't come close enough to the image in whichever bird book I picked up first. Now, however, I think it is a Gadwall, so that's what I'm calling it for now.

Thing about Ruddy Ducks is that at White Rock Lake, they almost always have their beaks turned back behind them and fluffed into the wing feathers folded back there, so having these fresh birds flaunting their faces was irresistible today.

Great Blue Herons on Nests - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Herons on Nests

We'll end today's foray into the Drying Beds with this photograph of Great Blue Herons standing next in the tall trees on the far side of the swamp that's nearly taken over the area on the left as we came down the entrance straightaway. They look close in this very long telephoto image, but they'll be a longish trek, maybe through some mud, to get back close enough to be closer than this and render more detail — and for me to actually be able to see what I'm documenting them doing. But that that, too, will be for another day.

I think the GBH on the left has its beak in and under feathers or wing doing preening or just hiding. I suspect it does actually have a head, we just can't see it.
 

White Rock Lake

February 21

Adult Eastern Male Downy Woodpecker - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Adult Male Eastern Downy Woodpecker

Could not get him to turn around and show his face and bright eyes. Not that I talked to him. I was quiet, although if he had turned around at any point — except at the end, when he did — he would have seen me pretty easily. I'm the one hovering down there aiming The Club up at him. Biggest trouble was that he stayed in the dark undershadow of that tree, which I've considerably brightened here

Wooding Hanging Upside-down - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Woody Hanging Upside-down on that Tree

He was way too busy eating to even notice me down there. He held still often, but this was the only shot I got in focus when he was showing full profile. I'd been hoping to find a woodpecker to photo with The Club. But I was kinda hoping to catch that glint on his dark eyes.

Mallard Pair Flying At Full Tilt - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mallard Pair Flying at Full Tilt

Twice, I think, today, I photographed ducks flying by. They were, generally in focus but not very interesting visually. But this one was all of those things. I just shoot at them out of habit, really. A little adventure / experiment, never really expecting anything, just something I do. Then this — wow. The full-size version is even sharper. Amazing lens.

First Great Blue Heron Sighting in a While - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

First Great Blue Heron Sighting in a While

And by the time I actually got a bead on it, it was about to disappear into the woods. I miss seeing "the Bay Gray" in Sunset Bay. This was shot from the Dreyfuss side of the bay.

Gulls and Sunset Bay Shore - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gulls and Sunset Bay Shore Toward Winfrey Point

Usually, when gulls gather like this, they are mobbing some goofy humans who are feeding them un-nutritious white bread, but these guys are after something in the water. I've seen a couple of them flying off hauling a large fish. Although I didn't see any of these guys picking up anything bigger than their beaks.

The Other Side of the Log - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Other Side of the Log

I keep hoping that somehow I will be able to photograph "the inner log" in Sunset Bay from another view. The view from the pier is slightly different, and I've shot at it from back on the pier, but this, finally, is it. Troubles is there's not much details. Just white blobs of pelican on the log itself, and gray and white and brown gooses beyond, back with the woman feeding something to someone.

Tufted Titmouse Nearly Upside-down - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Black-crested (Mexican) Tufted Titmouse Nearly Upside-down

The biggest challenge photographing this little guy was the fact that it was very small, well up into a tree that had hundreds of intervening branches that usually stayed in my way as I attempted to photograph it. Miracle of miracles, however, I knew who he was soon as I got him big on my monitor. Before that, in the field, he was just some tiny little bird in the forest of branches up there that mostly refused to be focused  and turning himself nearly inside-out and upside-down.

Female Tufted Titmouse - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Either a female of that species or a Northern Tufted Titmouse

Of course, I thought both of these titmice (tit-mouses?) were the same bird, but unless they changed head markings and hairdo mid tree-hopping, I don't think so. If I am reading Sibley's correctly, there's a Mexican variety and a Northern variety. Northern meaning United Statesian, I suppose. There doesn't appear to be a Mexican Titmouse in Peterson, although there's a Bridled Titmouse with somewhat different facial markings, although it maps to southern Arizona, New Mexico and down into Northern Mexico. This one, fairly obviously, lives in Texas at the moment.

Tufted Titmouse on the Treetop - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Tufted Titmouse

I believe this is the same bird as the shot immediately above. Looking very much like what Peterson calls a Tufted Titmouse. I like it when authorities disagree. Probably happens more often than we think. Maybe nobody really agrees. I was happier when I assumed this was the female of the pair hopping around that tree. Interesting turn on my usual inability to identify anything, huh?

It was a treat to photograph little birds, for a change. All because I did not want to go back to Sunset Bay again today.

Tufted Titmouse from the Back - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Tufted or Mexican Titmouse

Quite a chase. This one did not just stay in mostly the same place like the woodpecker, it hopped and flew and tumbled and hung upside-down and nearly tied itself in knots. My Lone Pine Birds of Texas calls these acrobatics, "amusing feeding antics and insatiable appetite," and I'd have to agree. I was amused and challenged.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Yellow-rumped Warbler — also known as "Butter Butt"

This one only held this still once. The rest of the time, it very busy moving and tree-hopping and getting involved.

Mean Goose - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mean Goose at Lake Ray Hubbard

No sense making a big "Lake Ray Hubbard" banner over this, although I might still. We were there in hopes of seeing a Snowy Owl, but it had been on Channels 4 and 5 the day before, and there were a smallish mob of birders from all over there also hoping to see it. It wasn't to be seen by any of us that day or the next.

In addition to a bunch of mallards, there were two gooses. A gray, I believe, and this goose, who spent a great deal of its time and energy viciously biting the gray.

Here's some video shot of our local visit by the Snowy Owl, and an interesting page on a Snowy Owl vs. a Peregrine Falcon. We talked to some Lake Ray Hubbard residents while wandering around looking for the owl anywhere else on but where all the other photogs were gathered, we learned that up to three Snowy Owls had been seen in the area. But not photographed. I would have loved to have photographed her, but there are other interesting birds around the area.
 

February 18

Kestrel Watching Out West of Winfrey - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female American Kestrel Watching Out from Winfrey Point

I still have a pile of pelican pictures to show, but Friday I took off from swimming to do a few errands, some of which took me right by the lake, and since I was packing [you know, I must come up with a better and more descriptive name for this longish telephoto I've been packing than] the club.

American Kestrel with a bug in His Hand - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American Kestrel with an Insect in Her Hand

Although I saw her three different times during my wide circle walk around the Winfrey Building on top of Winfrey Point today, I never once got her very close. My sharp new lens blows up birds pretty good, so we see lots of details hitherto unknown to this photographer, who is still in the very early stage of figuring out what he can do with this lens.

One of the Places I Saw the Kestrel Today - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

One of the Places I Saw a Kestrel Today

Several times today — and for the first time in years, really — I began to seriously consider the benefits of a light, portable, yet sturdy tripod. In bright light, I can usually depend on a low-enough ISO but plenty of light. Today, under cloudy gray skies, I could not. A couple times I braced myself on a nearby tree, and for the last couple days, I've been resting the kaboodle on a handy trash can or picnic table, but as many of those as there are at the lake, there's not always one where I want it when I need it. So I've been entertaining tripod dreams.

Kestrel Landing on Light Tower - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel Landing on Light Tower

This is a large enlargement of the image I shot just before I shot this image — at pretty much the same angle and the same magnification, although the kestrel moved. Nice that the lens doesn't noise-up feathers like it does extended areas of metal and sometimes sky, but still this is a startling good blow-up of a bird that far up and away. I'd seen it much closer, perched on one of the short fences around the baseball field these lights illuminate at night, but I couldn't stop and get out of my car, and when I slid The Slider into a shallow ditch, this kestrel took off for the light towers.

Kestrel or Somebody Flying in the Sky Past the Towers - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel or Somebody Flying in the Sky Well Past the Light Towers

I could not see the bird with my bare eyes this time. I could only see a blur up there. I always look for motion more than birds. If I have my glasses on, I can see pretty well at a distance. They're a great help when I'm driving. But if I have my glasses on, I cannot aim or focus my camera, which is a major drawback I am stuck with. I can look at the optical viewfinder, but not really put it to good use. Part of why I need a long telephoto lens, I guess.

Kestrel Eating Bug - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel Eating Bug

I still like to put what I momentarily think of as the best shot of the bunch on the top of the page, but there's so little difference between that and this, I felt I should separate them, and now I think that only makes it more difficult. We can almost see the bug, and we can almost see the kestrel's beak, into which she is about to put the bug. But it's the tree limb the lens saw this time, so it's sharp, but she is not quite.

Kestrel in a Tree Showing Off Her Left Claw - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Kestrel in the Tippy Top of a Tree Showing Off Her Left Claw

Most of the time, from where I was, at considerable distance from the Kestrel, I could not really tell what she was up to — or even that she was a she. That these shots show her eating a bug is pure lucky happenstance. I shot a lot of shots of her, sometimes blurry, mostly in-focus, but often her head is facing the other direction. I just kept shooting and hoping something would work out. It often does. But not always.

Three Grackles on the Downslope Behind Winfrey Hill - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Three Grackles Walking Down the Downslope Behind the Winfrey Building

I was hoping to catch somebody flitting in the trees down the hill from the parking lot behind the Winfrey Building, but I couldn't see them to even aim at them, although there was a lot of twittering and tweeting coming from those big bushy trees.

Crow in the Grass Facing Left - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Crow in the Grass Facing Left

Later, somewhere else around the lake, I found some crows, and since the sky was so dark, I knew it would be a good time to capture some of their usually too-dark bits, like their eyes and the hairs on their chinny-chin-chins.

The Same Crow Faces Right - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Same Crow Faces Right

Not sure there's enough difference between these two to show them both, but I think I just did.

Crow Flies Away - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Crow Flies Away

Then, of course, with me getting it in remarkable focus for me getting a crow, it flew off. They all did.

 

February 17

 Two Pelicans Landing Together - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Pelicans Landing Together

As readers can guess by now, I am eternally fascinated by American White Pelicans. You've also noticed I tend to take the same photographs of these amazing birds over and over again. Part of it's because I can't help myself. They come flying in like they do, and I'm glued to the shutter button. Clickity-click. I never know quite what I can expect or get, so I just keep shooting. My Nikon D7000 doesn't allow more than 12 shots in rapid succession — sometimes no more than three. I don't know why three, but I know why 12 (It has to do with having a very small buffer. Shots come in, there's not room for more, so the camera stops while it thinks about those already in). Lately, I've taken to taking as few shots as possible and to pick my moments.

Two Pelicans Landing Together - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Pelicans Passing By

But with a digital SLR camera, what I see is never precisely what I get. In fact, what I see has pretty much already happened, and milliseconds after I push the button is when the picture is taken, and in those fractions of a second I don't see anything. It's quick enough I hardly notice that when the shutter actually opened and exposed the sensor, thus creating the image, the mirror is up, and my view disappears for that fraction of a second, then it flips back, and I can see.

Ugly Juxtaposition - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ugly Juxtaposition

Here's one of the great things about that lens — and one of the issues involved in not getting to see exactly what's being shot in a fast-moving situation. I would have far preferred not to have that swimming pelican growing out of this flying pelk's breast. Nice there's that slight bit of halo lighting along the bottom of the flying bird, and I would have liked to see the entire bird, toes, wingtips and all. But I can't always get what I want.

American White Pelican Landing with Minimal Wing Extension - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American White Pelican Inches from Landing with Minimal Wing Extension

Essentially, I have to hope that what I see when I decide to click, is pretty close to what I actually capture when I do click. Experience counts and thinking ahead may help. But of course, the bird or birds, go a few more inches, flap up or down or in between, etc, pass something else on the ground or surface. So I only get what I didn't see, which means I just hope something visually interesting comes of it. I can't really pick my visual juxtapositions or composition, except in a hopish way. I'm lucky if I get or keep focus for fast-moving action.
 

American White Pelican - Maximum Wing Extension - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American White Pelican — Maximum Wing Extension

I've attempted this comparison of pelican wingspans previously, and I'll probably keep at it well into the future. The fact is, like some high-tech fighter jets, American White Pelicans can actually alter the shape and length of their wings as they fly. When they need more control, they make their wings longer, holding more air, which their experience has taught them how to control. The pelican landing with its short wings up, one image up, may not be the same bird, but all these birds can alter the shape of their wings minutely as they fly along. And I find that fascinating.

Maximum  Wing Length, in a V - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American White Pelican — Maximum Wing Extension — V Shape

Same bird, neighboring seconds, wings flapping up, still very low to the ground and flying fast. Not about to "land," or its landing gear would be down. Just taking careful advantage of the "ground effect," which I've discussed previously — fly very low and there's much less air resistance to slow you down. It looks to me like this bird is not only varying the length of its wings plural, but making its left wing shorter than its right wing.

A Gregarious Bunch - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Gregarious Bunch

They like to do things together, whether that's sitting on a log preening, swimming for fish Esther Williams synchronized-swimming style or flying. Since I'm learning how to use my new lens, I've kept it at the full 600mm extension all this week and some of last, even if that makes it 11 ounces heavier. At 300mm it's a nice lens — actually it's a fabulous lens, but I have other lenses that are that long. In fact, I have another 600mm lens too, but the camera that uses it, won't focus fast enough to make images like these. And that other 600mm lens is only just that. This is actually — if you believe in 35mm equivalences, and I have finally come down on the side of definitely not believing it — a 900mm lens. And I don't have anything else that's close.

Rounding Dreyfus Point - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Rounding Dreyfus Point

What I was going to say before I got lost in equivalencies and shutter blindnesses, was that I tried today, to show only photographs that I haven't shown here before. And with my favorite White Rock subjects, that's extremely difficult and unlikely, because I'd rather photograph anything a pelican wants to do than almost any other bird. It helps that I get to do it in my favorite spot in the universe — the pitching and yawing (thanks to the big flood of a couple weeks ago) pier at Sunset Bay.

Splash Bath Close - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American White Pelican Splash Bath Close

I'm finally over the urge to "zoom" in a little when I'm using this lens. It don't zoom. It just is. But I didn't think of that fact as a handicap. Just a way to see differently, and for a photographer who has photographed pelicans for many years, that's a blessing. If I can't shoot better, at least I can shoot closer …

The Other American White Pelican Splash Bath Shot - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Less Splash — More Detail

Sometimes maybe a little too close. And nearly no detail, but there are areas of interest exposed here. Love that distorted lower mandible with its veins showing.

 

February 16 2012

Goose Fuss or Something Splahsing - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.  

Goose Fuss or Something Splashing a Lot of Water

Over there near the shore at that little inlet where the creek comes into the lake. Not a big creek, just a little crack of a creek. Never figured out what the fuss was about. Ya' hear a bunch of gooses honking, and I mostly ignore it, 'cause that's what gooses do, but when I looked up and saw gooses awry and splashing, well something was going on, no telling what.

Goose Fuss II - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Goose Fuss Part II

These are fairly rapid-succession clickity-click shots, obviously, now, hours later, whatever's splashing is off to the left, but I'm shooting goose reactions, not having found anything that far away that looked like cause, only effect. Splashy, splash.

Gooses are always getting into one ruckus or another. They tend to mind other birds own business as a way of life. Two ducks having the strange, wild, push-the-female-under-the-water kind of sex they have, and the gooses will be all over the scene trying to break it up, as if only they get to cause any serious ruckuses around here. Gooses seem to think they are the interceders of everybody else's business, but nobody's big enough or well, busybody enough to get in on theirs.

So after not very long, humans tend to ignore them..

Goose Fuss Part III - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Goose Fuss Part III

But something's got the gooses in alarm mode, in their wing-flapping, tongue wagging hissy fit mode like only gooses can do.

The Usual Culprits Sneaking out the the scene of the crime - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Usual Culprits Serenely Escaping the Scene of the Crime

They were even quiet for a long time after that.

Oodles of pelican pix tomorrow, I promise, but sometimes I just gotta do something besides pelks.

 

February 15

Ring-billed Gull with Object Taking Off - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Ring-billed Gull with Odd , Non-Stick Object, Taking Off

As a general rule — and we all know what rules are best for — I don't photograph gulls very often. I'm not a fan of them. I love coots, and gulls are often horrible to coots — stealing their food, picking useless fights with them, and injuring them. Today, I watched as just such a Ring-billed Gull (our usual sort) dropped a black stick on top of one — though I'm not sure the gull did it on purpose. It missed.

But sometimes, like when they are doing incomprehensible things, like these sequences illustrate, I just have to tune in.

Gull Flying Low with Stick - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull Flying Low with Stick

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Gull with Stick - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull Flying with Stick

I don't think this gull is the same gull or with the same stick as the gull above, but it is the same gull with the same stick predilections as the ones that follow, although this stick does not seem like the same stick. Maybe which stick doesn't matter to this or other gulls this afternoon.

Gull Without Stick - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull Without Stick, Looking Down

This was hardly the only gull playing the drop the stick and pick it up again game this lovely warm afternoon in Sunset Bay.

Gull Seeks Stick - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull Seeks Stick

Gull without one, seeks stick, and it seems to know right where it can find one.

Gull Finds Stick - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull Finds Stick

And when it has it, it flies up and away with its stick.

Gull Drops Stick - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gull Drops Stick, Again

Then drops it again, and flies down to the surface …

Then Picks It Up, Again - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Then Picks It Up, Again

Picks it up again — well, by now you know how the game is played.

And Flies Away With It - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

And Flies Away With It, Again

My next half dozen images are out of focus. One of the games I was playing today had to do with focus settings. I was never completely satisfied with how the D7000 was acting and reacting with regard to focus, but a lot of the more than four hundred shots today had to do with pelicans, and I just wanted to show you a little something else for a change.

Another Ring-billed Gull with Another Object - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another Ring-billed Gull with Another Object to Fly Away With

Tomorrow, I might show you some of the goose shots I made today. And after that, I will be chomping at the bit to show the better shots I made of pelicans, who are, of course, the reason I keep going back to Sunset Bay.

 

February 12

Dam Birds Fly - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Dam, Birds Fly

I wanted to try the 300mm today, because it's 11 ounces lighter and easier to aim. Instead, I brought the full kaboodle all the way out to 600mm. I'm not going to learn it by not taking it out to play, and I need to learn in. For this shot, I'm standing on the shore, just east of the Garland Road Bridge, just onto East Lawther from Garland Road.  I don't think there are any people in this shot. Those are all birds.

One Pelican in a Million Cormorants - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

One Pelican in a Million Cormorants

Or so it seems. Probably it was more like several hundred little black, snake birds to each large white pelican with a bright orange bill.  I saw the fishing party come close to the Garland Bridge, parked in the first legal spot, and walked very fast (almost like running) back to where the fishing party was dispersing away from toward the dam side of the lake.

Pelican Not Nearly As Close As I Had Hoped - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Grande Pelican Not Nearly As Close As I'd Hoped

Going away faster than I could move in closer.

Herding Fish into the Dam - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Herding Fish into Shore

Once they ever-so-slowly escaped my immediate vicinity, they joined together along the rise up to Garland Road, herding fishes only they could see, info the weeded shore.

Chasing Fishies - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Chasing Fishies

Into the shore, then out along the road.

All Pointed in the Same Direction - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

All Pointed in the Same Direction

Eventually all going in the same direction, in parallel.

Flyaway Feathers - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission. s

Flyaway Feathers

Briefly. Then goes again the multi-directional wind over the water.

Gadwall Pair - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gadwall Pair Along Arboretum Drive

I'd hoisted The Club and aimed at some ducks I hoped were Gadwalls, and I was holding the lens in place till the birds arranged themselves close together, so each bird would be comparatively large in the frame, and neither one riding in its own shadow, so it wouldn't be rendered utterly black.

Gadwall Pair - back view - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gadwall Pair -  Back View

Then wait as they turn and scoot around in the cold water, till they parallel each other and show off their colors and patterns. Holding the Club just so is a chore, but it's probably the best exorcize I can perform, so I can hold it even longer the next time. Not a bad shot.

Six Pelicans on the Hidden Creek Side - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Six Pelicans on the Hidden Creek Side of Sunset Bay

Decent composition made almost extraordinary by that coot who wandered through.

Clouds with Eyes - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Clouds with Eyes

Enlarged even more, this feathery clot of pelican clouds kept their eyes out for intruders.

Birds on Rusted Poles - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Birds on Rusted Poles

And around the lake, behind the Bath House Cultural Center, Cormorants and maybe a grackle or gull or two, perched on the rusting poles that once comprised 3-D art.
 

February 10 2012

Blue-tailed Pelican Aloft - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Blue-tailed Pelican with Cohort and Gull

Carting the lead weight 600mm lens and extender around reminds me to not do that to myself again, but getting the pictures back reminds me to "Oh, go ahead. It's heavy, but OMG the images that are provided."

American White Pelicans - Wings at Full Extension - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American White Pelican Wings at Full Extension

These shots are just what I had in mind when I bought a lens that could be doubled but still remain sharp, and I love the doubling.

Pelican Up Near Winfrey Point - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Nearing the Point of Winfrey Point

In fact, these 600mm lens shots offer a new perspective and a new beauty. Yuma!

Pelican Wings at Full Extension - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican with Nearly Full Wing Extension

I may be settling into chunking the Club around with me just for these sorts of long perspective photographs.

Pelican at Spreadeagle Contracted Extension - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Nearly No Wing Extension

I like the looking and the seeing. So I've got my mind around the chore of lifting and holding it steady. I just haven't got my muscles around it yet.

The Point of Winfrey Point - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Point of Winfrey

Though when I do manage to manage the muscles, the resulting images are amazing. It seems to help that today, I used my Nikon D7000, whose own peculiar focus trips sometimes drive me toward insanity, but it actually does seem to be a better camera overall, than my comparatively inexpensively revived and resurrected D300.

Two Pelicans Across the Lake - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Pelicans Across the Lake

It's a perspective I've long longed for. Now I have to learn how to heft it and use it better for artistic purposes.

Help Keep Our Lake Beautiful - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Help Keep Our Lake Beautiful

Driving by this mess close is ugly. Photographing it from across the lake is ugly. The Arboretum, long known for its beauty, is just pain (!) ugly, ugly, ugly these days. Put our bamboo curtain back up, City of Dallas. Please. For The Love of The Lake (FTLOTL) tries to keep the lake free of portable toilets, which we diabetics find helpful and necessary, but what have they done about this egregious eye- and ear-sore?

Corm Line Out Past the Yacht Clubs - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorant Line Out Past the Yacht Clubs

Really, too far to photograph a line of cormorants, but just close enough to render a yacht club.

Male Grackle Jump - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Grackle Jump

I've been hoping and trying to photograph Grackles flying for years now. So did it take a long telephoto lens to accomplish this task or quick responses? Well, I was trying to photograph one just standing there, when it jumped. So the telephoto lens in question was all set to photograph one standing, and it was my slow response accomplished it.
 

February 9

Pelican Angling In - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Angling into the Inner Sunset Bay

Today's images are all about focus and an elderly camera. Sure, I got a newer one, but this is me trying to prove to myself that my elderly Nikon D300 (not only no longer made or sold, but since supplanted by a newer model that may itself go out of manufacture pretty soon. In fact, I've been waiting for the model (D400) that (I hope) will follow that one (D300S).

Gear Down - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Gear Down, Flaps Up

Meanwhile, my nearly four-year-old D300 just got back from three months (the usual span) in an official Nikon repair facility in Mellville, New York and cost me [insert smiley face here] $224 to have a bunch of major and minor parts replaced, including the shutter and aperture mechanisms and its external rubber skin — well more than a year after I gave it up for dead.

More info on my D7k Journal about learning that camera.

Skids Out - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Skids Out

I've been wondering and engaging in conjecture about whether it was worth it to have replaced my dead D300 camera with the D7000 last October, after Nikon endured a long enough string of bad luck (nuclear fallout near the factory in Japan and inundating floods near their factories in Thailand) to keep the D400 from being built. So now that I've got both the D7000 (generally considered an enthusiastic amateur's camera) and my resurrected D300 (semi-pro), I've been testing them against each other.

Skids Down - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Skids Down

They both have their superiorities and their failings. The d7k (D7000) has lousy battery life but you can leave it on and it won't wear out the battery, whereas the D300 has fabulous battery life — if one remembers to turn the darned thing off. I relearned that today after shooting these wonderful pelican and gull pix. The d7k only shoots 12 rapid-fire shots then pauses while it catches up. The D300 shoots and shoots and shoots, I think I remember.

Slow-down Skid - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Slow-down Skid

Etc. Et cetera Et cetera. Ad infinitum. So I've been mostly shooting the same old birds, but I've been having a lot more fun doing it, and I'm reluctant to try a lot of the same things on my d7k, because I've been waiting three months for it to come back from the shop, and before that I'd given it up for dead. I want to play with my old toy for awhile.

Skidding Stop - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Skidded Stop

But then I start missing my d7k. If you want more of this nonsense, tune into my d7k Journal, while I get back to the birds.

Fluffy White Gull - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fluffy White Gull

I'll save the few other sharp-looking pelican pictures from this morning for later. What I want to show now, is something I haven't done much photographing of lately. I think this is a Ring-billed Gull. That would be our usual variety. I've just taken my Sibley Guide to Birds, which I usually don't use much, because the Peterson's Field Guide to Birds has bigger pictures and except for the index at the end, which I always stumble over the several other indices to find,

Juvenile Ring-billed Gull - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Either a Juvenile Ring-billed Gull — or something else

Sibley's images are smaller and less colorful, but usually show more varieties. [… pause … while I page through that book] But nope, none of those look like the fluffy white one, either. Personally, I'd love for any of these to be a Black-legged Kittiwake, if only because I'm wondering how, exactly, that species is pronounced, and once I know that, it'd be fun saying it.
 

February 8

Another One of Those Fishing Parties - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Another One of Those Fishing Parties

I keep being amazed at the image quality (IQ) of my new lens. Sharp and contrasty from a third of the way across the lake.

Another Party - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Full View of Above Photograph

Maybe because all those dark Double-crested Cormorants are so close together in today's fishing party, this full view doesn't seem as sharp, but it would print well in a print 30 or 40 inches wide, if I were so inclined. I'm not. I'd much rather show my images online. Prints cost way too much.

Fishing Party - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fishing Party with Spread-wing Cormorant

Cormorants have the distinct advantage of being able to dive down beneath the surface to catch their daily fish. Pelicans have to reach and drag their stretchable lower mandible (lower jaw). Unlike the Brown Pelicans usually found along the coast, American White Pelicans don't dive, and they certainly do not dive from great height as if they were Kamikaze pilots.

Transition: Swimming to Flying - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Transition: Swimming White Pelicans to Flying Black Cormorants

I kept circling Arboretum Drive (See my map of White Rock Lake) to catch more views of this party, when it looked like these might have been the only birds I'd see in today's gray gray landscape.

Crow in the Tree Top - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Crow in the Treetop

But it turned out that, as I explored the lake more extensively on this cold, February day, I saw more and more and more species. Hooray!

If you want to photograph a crow, the best way is to wait for a gray day. In sunlight, they're deep, dark, black, sometimes even a little iridescent. But on a day like today, they show their secret details loud and clear.

Invisible Hawk - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Invisible Hawk Looking Down on the Photographer, Hoping I'll Go Away

It wasn't invisible to me; I saw it several times. Just it stayed behind a lot of brambly trees and branches whenever I aimed the Club at it. Or it blurred when I thought I'd get a quick, motion-stopping shot of it. My newer Nikon D7000 lets me set it so the camera decides what ISO it needs to set in order to stop the action. My elderly Nikon D300, which I finally got back from Nikon's fixit yesterday, does not. I have to decide before shooting just how high the ISO should be, and when the camera and lens is faced with a difficult exposing situation, it's up to me to have had the foresight to have included this possibility. Which I did not do.

Beak Up Pelican Lower Mandible Stretch - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Beak Up, Neck-stretch portion of an American White Pelican's Mandible Stretch

I don't know Brown Pelicans well enough — only seen them on several trips down to the South Texas Coast — to know if they stretch their lower mandibles, too. They must. They catch fish with them, usually under water. Keeping those portions of their anatomy is one of the more important things American White Pelicans do, repeatedly

Cormorants on Crisscrossed Wires - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorants on Crisscrossed Wires

I could hear these guys braying like donkeys when I turned into the Old Boat House loop this morning. Yes I was up that early. And as I moved gingerly across the bridge, they stayed right where they were, didn't even stop croaking.

Two Cormorants on a Fat Wire - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Double-crested Cormorants on a Fat Wire

Which meant I could get about as close as I cared to to some cormorants. Luckily the wires they were on were not directly overhead. So I got about as much detail in them as is visible in their dark coats.

Hee-haww - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Heeeee - Hawww!

My Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas says they are "generally quiet away from breeding colonies," so that must be what these corms were hanging around over the old Boat House's new wooden bridge for today. It is almost spring, and many birds think this is spring, and it just gets warmer later in the season. They probably don't acknowledge calendars.

Female Grackle on a Wire - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female Grackle on a Wire

Lots of wires crisscross the area around the Old Boathouse and its newish wooden bridge. This is yet another example of just how sharp my new lens is, especially compared with my old, nearly retired (What shall I do with the) Rocket Launcher that zoomed longer but never had a chance to be this sharp or contrasty.

Lilting Rouen - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Lilting Rouen

At least I think that's the correct spelling. I'm about as good a speller as I am a bird-identifier. Offshoot of the ubiquitous and opportunistic Mallards and somebody, these ducks have cute little poofy crowns on their heads, although this one's is down at the moment. I think he's sleeping, feet up and tail curly. Many of today's shots are seriously cropped. This is nearly full frame, thus that creamy smooth rendering by a lens I'm trying not to call The Club, even though it's still a little too heavy for me, even without the 2X telextender that closes it down two more stops, so I rarely bring it with, on gray days like this.

Muscovy - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Muscovy

Something's telling me this is a hen, not a drake, but I'm rarely sure except when their bouffant, and that may really shine in the coming spring. Most Muscovies are shaped pretty much like this lump of duck. They look and waddle like gooses, and when they get into the air — yes, they can actually get all that girth off the ground — they sound like a wheezing freight train, but they are definitely ducks.

Pied Billed Grebe - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Lone Pied Billed Grebe

On retrospect, I am surprised just how many different bird species were gathered around the Old Boathouse today.

Lone Ruddy Duck - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Lone — That I Saw Today — Female Ruddy Duck

Surprisingly close, although when she saw me watching her, she swam away, though not directly, and not quickly.

Female & Male Mallard - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Female and Male Mallard

Today's real startlement, however, was, not this female. She's a regular, ordinary, female Mallard.

But Who Is This? - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

But Who Is This?

I assumed she — if indeed she is a she — was a female mallard till I got these images up on the monitor, and then I realized, "That's not no female Mallard, J R. Who is this?" I tried looking her up in some bird books, but I did not find anything that looked like this. I only got one shot of her face, and even that from the back. Her beak, like her feet are, is orange. Help!
 

Downtown Dallas, Texas, USA

February 6 2012

Grackle, Pigeon, Starling, Cheetos - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Grackle, Pigeon, Starling, Cheetos Bag

I hadn't really planned to photograph birds in downtown Dallas, although it was a ripe possibility all along. But once I was there, birds, as almost always, were inevitable. They're everywhere. They're everywhere! Then when I saw the pigeon fright a little later, I was happy to be right where I was, although a little closer, and I might have figured out quicker what was going on right before my eyes.

One Female Grackle, One Cheeto - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

One Female Grackle, One Cheeto

These guys fought about the Cheetos bag, taking turns, almost, pecking at it. In the end, one grackle got one Cheeto, and the rest flew away.

First Downtown Hawk - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

First Downtown Hawk

I'd long heard that falcons nested in the tall buildings downtown, and of course I knew the movied story of Pale Male in New York City's Central Park, but I hadn't actually seen any in downtown Dallas. And if I had been looking for one this time, I might have missed this Red-tailed Hawk flying over the West Side of downtown.

Pigeon Crowning Glory - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pigeon with Scrolly Coat of Arms

Normally, I tend to agree with many people's assessment of pigeons as not altogether smart and their reputation for being "flying rats." Downtown is full of them, however, and it would be hard not to notice them.

Birds Are Everywhere - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Birds Are Everywhere

I didn't notice the bird, who had been farther left on that ledge, till after I sighted tis free-standing ladder on a ledge somewhere.

Birds on White Sign - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Birds Are Everywhere

And I didn't see these little guys till I'd posted this picture among my other downtown abstracts on another web page somewhere.

Frantic Pigeons - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Frantic Pigeons

Then when I saw these pigeons frantically flying left and right and left and right behind a building I was photographing, I couldn't help but pan along with them past the sliver of free-flight space between the tall buildings. I know pigeons fly around whenever they get nervous about where they are, so they can figure out where to go next, but these seemed just a hair too harried, but I had not yet a clue why.

Frightened Pigeons - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Frightened Pigeons

Flying every which-a-way, up, down, sideways and around. Pigeon panic.

Hawk Chasing Pigeons - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Hawk Chasing Pigeons

At least I think that might be a hawk approximately slightly high and in the centr of the knot of six birds in the lower central portion of this image.

Window Grid with Hawk - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Window Grid with Hawk

I couldn't see the hawk most of the frenzied back-and-forth of pigeons, but I eventually picked it out.

Hawk Up - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Hawk Up

And then, of course, it flew away. I'll be back downtown for more photographs, so I'll have my eyes peeled for more, non-pigeon birds.

 

White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas,  USA

February 3 2012

Too Close - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Peak Abstraction with Legs and Feet

The second biggest drawback of having a sharp 600mm telephoto lens is that sometimes it's just a little — or a lot — too powerful. The first big drawback is that it's so heavy and difficult to wrangle. But the images from it can be amazing. This, I think, approaches both conditions.

Wing-clipped Pelican - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Wing-clipped Pelican

I liked this one every run-through I did, just thought it wouldn't work here, because, well, we can't see its wingtips. Now I just don't care. Love the back-lighted and glowing tail feathers. Someday I'm going to have to watch those carefully during flights, to see if, like feet, they do a lot for bird flight stabilization.

Too Close, But Not That Bad - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

At First

At first, I didn't like this shot. On my third run-through, however, I started thinking, hey, this might be worth posting. Maybe. 

Till I Finally Got It Focused - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

When I Finally Got It In Focus

I followed this pelican in from way out. I managed to keep it in the frame almost all the way in, but never quite catching focus on it, but follow, follow. I wasn't on the pier, or I would have had a clear shot. I was on solid ground behind some weeds, trees, people and other obstructions. I finally managed full focus when it had touched down and was skidding in for a stop. But I need the practice.

The pier is no longer stable. I'm worried a crowd is going to be out there rocking and rolling, and it's going to tumble into the shallow dreck of all rotting that white bread and sugared pastry, getting everybody wet and probably hurting some of them. The pier at Sunset Bay's twists and turns change almost every day lately.

Three Pelicans and a Gull - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Three Pelicans and a Gull

It's not unexpected, since I've broken me in on a few other telephoto lenses over the years, and I expect this one might take even longer, because it's heavier and more difficult to handle. But eventually, I hope to be able to find little dots of birds high in the sky, pull them into sharp focus and capture them that way. These shots are the results of keeping trying without usually succeeding. They'd bob in and out of focus up there like a turtle playing with a fisherperson's float.

Cormorants Everywhere - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorants Everywhere

These guys were much easier to focus on, probably because they're all over the place. The pelicans above kept totally blurring out till the view looked just like all the other sky up there, then they'd unblur back into a semblance of sharpness, then blur out again while I struggled to hold the heavy thing up and get something in focus.

Corm Flyby - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorant Flyby

This one worked out pretty good. I'd like to have had more darkness behind and more detail under those wings, but photography is always a compromise or two or …

Pelican Takes Off - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Takes Off

It's hard to discern since the telephoto tends to make depth look compressed, but this wing-flapping pelican did the usual five or six hops on the water before it finally got up into the air.

And Away - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

And Away

It's always a surprise to me when I can follow a sequence of action

Over the Fishing Party - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Over the Fishing Party

So it flew over the rest of the fishing party, landed toward the front middle of it,

Landing Forward - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Landing Forward

But when it landed, it didn't catch any fish, but at least it was closer to the front of the pack.
 

February 2

Two Pelicans Sharing a Log - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Pelicans Sharing a Log

So I took the longer version of the lens today. For some things, it's great and wonderful and amazing …

Two Pelicnas Sharing A Log - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Pelicans Sharing A Log

Like these two pelicans sharing a space well out into Sunset Bay.

Fishing Party - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fishing Party

Or getting a little closer and more detailed with pelicans, cormorants and the occasional gull well out across the lake.

Where's My Fish - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelicans Looking for Fish

But especially when the fishing party comes a little closer — only halfway across the lake — so we can get a little better understanding of what all is going on out there. These guys are all up in arms — or wings — about finding them some fish. Kinda the whole purpose in being in a fishing party.

end of another fish skuffle - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Near the End of the Fish Scuffle

Well, maybe. Sometimes I just stare and stare, and I can't figure out much. It must be a situation of coalescing understandings and time spent.

20 of 38 Fishhg Birds - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

20 of 38 Fishing Birds This Day

Twenty of the 38 American White Pelicans I counted in this day's fishing party. A guy came up to me on the pier at Sunset Bay the other day, insisting that there were only 35 pelicans in the bay at any time. I told him I had counted up to 70 there.

Jet-propelled Takeoff - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelk in the Air and a Jet-propelled Takeoff

As you can see, when I'm behind the camera I tend to focus on birds taking off and sometimes landing, because I didn't see many fishes out there, just a lot of fishing action.

Reach and Face Sploosh - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Face Sploosh

Although that must be what's going on amid all the splashing and thrashing in this shot. I hope it got it, but I don't know.

Hurry - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Yet Another Cute Action Picture Title

More Fishing Party action.

Canvasback Ducks out near Dreyfuss - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Canvasback Ducks Out Near Dreyfus

Nice to have a 600mm lens when some birds this interesting skirt the perimeter.

Red-winged Blackbird Giving His All - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-winged Blackbird Giving His All
 

February 1

New Visitor to Sunset Bay - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

New Visitor to Sunset Bay

But we've seen them — if not this exact same bird — plenty before. Canadian Gooses seem to like Sunset Bay, and they often hang out with the more-or-less domestic gooses that live their year-round. 

Canada Goose Gargle - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Drink Water, Tilt Head Back, and Swallow

Big, built like our regular gooses but with a slightly different head and neck shape and color configuration, these distinctive birds are not at all uncommon this time of every year. Especially in Sunset Bay.

Grackle Stare - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Grackle Stare

I love it when these dark, shiny black birds show up as iridescent blue.

Beak-up Grackle on Weed Island - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Beak-up Behavior of Great-tailed Grackle on Small Weed Island

Grackles point their beaks up like this when they're challenging another male for — oh, whatever they usually fight about — breeding rights or territory.

Ready to Fly Away - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Pelicans Ready to Fly Away

One of my major goals lately is to capture images of the first few seconds of a American White Pelican take-off, so I've been watching the Peninsula Pelican Flock for any visual tip-offs that broadcast their readiness to fly off, and I think this is it. Kinda obvious, really. They step up into the very shallow water and line up in front of their compatriots in this position of alert readiness. Then the ones who are actually lined up front are the only ones who take off.

Not that I figured it out until after I'd shot this readiness shot, then watched kinda stupidly as they splashed hopping across the water in front of me, and took off. Maybe next time I'll figure it out before I see them hop into the air. Goals are important.

American White Pelican Flying Low and Fast - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American White Pelican Flying Low and Fast

I realize that many of you are tired of seeing pretty much the same shots of these superb flying birds, but they're still exciting for me to shoot, and I keep trying to get better at it. The new lens is a big help, since it's so much sharper than my old telephoto lens. Remarkably so.

Primary Feathers Touching the Water - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Primary Feathers Touching the Water's Surface

This pelican is coming in for a landing and needs to know exactly how close it is to the surface, or that's just what happens when wing feathers get that close.

Rudders Draggin Straight Out Behind - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Rudders Dragging Straight Out Behind

I'd never noticed this before. Its tiny, little feet forming dual rudders to keep it straight as it settled quickly into the water.

Quick Ankle Turn to Skids - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Quick Ankle Turns And Those Dainty Feet Become Skids

Then quickly turned 180 degrees and flattened out, so the bird could …

Flat-footed Skid - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Flat-footed Skid

… splash-skid in till all that energy dissipated …

Body Surf Skid to Stop - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Body Surf Skid to Stop

… and the pelican sloshed in to join the flock.

Feather Drying Machine - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Feather-drying Machine

After a loud-wing-slapping-the-water bath, American White Pelicans tend to raise their wings, so the wind can get in their and dry out all their wet wing and other feathers.

Pelican with Ruffles - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Float with Ruffles

They sometimes look like floats that have escaped the nearest flower parade.

Composition in Black, White and Gray - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Composition in Black, White, Orange & Gray

Where there are brilliant white pelicans, there usually are jet-black coots.

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All text and photographs copyright 2011 by J R Compton.
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from and payment to
the writer or photographer.

My favorite answer is, "I don't know." I am, after all, an amateur.
I'm not kidding. I've only been birding for three years,
although I've been photographing professionally since 1964.

Thanks always to Anna.

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